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shirabe's report from palestine:

From Dheisheh to Durban

Dheisheh delegation to the World Conference Against Racism

Shirabe Yamada

28 Aug. 2001, Durban, South Africa

Dear Friends,

Sorry for being out of touch again for a while. Today is the first time I got in hold of Internet access after we left Dheisheh over a week ago.

A group of us - Jihad Abbas, Ziad Abbas, Susanne Abu Tair and Wafa Khatib from Ibdaa Cultural Center, and Barbara Lubin, Executive Director of Middle East Children's Alliance and myself - are here in Durban, South Africa, to participate in World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). As I write this, the opening ceremony of NGO Forum of WCAR is taking place in Kingsmesd Stadium outside of this computer room. The crowd - NGOs and activists from around the world - is cheering to the speech by President Mbeki.

Prior to arriving in Durban 2 days ago, our group spent several days in Johannesburg where Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) of South Africa organized many events on Palestine. Our group was busy being on radio interviews and meeting with human rights activists and community organizations. There is very strong solidarity and support of Palestinian cause here in South Africa. South Africans see the Palestinian struggle parallel to theirs - the injustice, exploitation, oppression and apartheid at hands of colonialists- racists. When we visited the Soweto uprising memorial, our friend and Soweto activist Selva said: "When I see a 9-year old Palestinian Hector Peterson (the first victim of Soweto uprising) standing in front of a tank with a stone in his hand, I see myself."

The US boycott on the conference and flat-out rejection of the discussion on Zionism as racism only worked in favor of Palestine solidarity organizing here, by putting the subject on the agenda in the media. PSC already has organized many successful public events, including a Palestine solidarity march in Cape Town attended by 25,000 people. One evening in Johannesburg, PSC organized "Cultural Evening" where Palestinians from Dheisheh and South Africans shared speeches, poetry, music and commitment to fight against injustice. It was an extremely moving and inspiring evening when over 300 people packed the venue.

Here at the Durban conference, the Palestine question is one of the most important on the agenda. So many people - Arabs and non-Arabs - are wearing kaffiya and T-shirts with various Palestine solidarity or anti-Zionism messages. Each time the word "Palestine" is mentioned in the opening ceremony, cheers and clapping fill the whole stadium. Right now, the entire crowd is singing and dancing with Bob Marly's "One World." After this song, we will have a meeting to organize a mass Palestine march on the 31st, when PSC is planning for an official kick-off for the Anti-Apartheid Campaign Against Israel.

more later.

best,

shirabe

 
 

Human rights worker Shirabe Yamada is part of the Middle East Children's Alliance.