In the presence of the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Dr. Husam Zomlot, leaders of the Palestinian community in Britain stressed the importance of unified action in Britain. They called for the abandonment of differences and the strengthening of coordination mechanisms to meet the challenges facing Palestine solidarity work in the United Kingdom
The Palestinian Forum in Britain, in partnership with the Palestinian Community Association, held an online webinar on Thursday evening under the title: ‘The role of the Palestinians of Britain in strengthening national unity to face the challenges facing work for the Palestinian cause’. The webinar featured leading Palestinian community leaders across Britain.
During the discussion, Dr Husam Zomlot, the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to the United Kingdom, stressed the importance of Palestinian unity, describing it as an ‘existential issue’. ‘Palestinian unity is an existential issue, and division is the loophole of the occupation, stressing that elections are the best way to return to the people, to make its decision and determine its fate’, Zomlot noted. He added that ‘despite America objection, we held the elections in 2006 because we consider the elections to be a tool of struggle’.
With regard to the Palestinian role in Britain, Zomlot emphasised the significance of the British milieu and platform in playing a central role in remedying the wrongs of British colonial history in historic Palestine. Zomlot noted that Britain is a positive environment for change insofar as public opinion in Britain as a whole supports Palestinian rights.
As for Muhammad Sawalha, a founding member of the Palestinian Forum in Britain and former head of the Islamic Initiative in Britain, he expressed his concern about the future of Palestinian reconciliation. ‘Reconciliation this year looks like previous failure trials , as elections without Palestinian consensus and unifying the work of institutions is not conducive to resolving the division’, he noted.
Sawalha called for reforming the PLO first, followed by an end to the causal factors behind internal division, such as stopping arrests, lifting the siege on Gaza, handing over salaries, and agreeing on a popular unitary program that includes all factions.
In relation to Palestinian efforts in Britain, Sawalha noted: ‘It is necessary to engage in British politics, as our efforts are still unframed, and the members of the community must unite under one political body and leave every disagreement and discord to gain influence in Britain’. Under this umbrella, he noted the necessity of reforming the internal Palestinian situation given its direct reflection on the reality of the Palestinian experience everywhere.
In her part, Palestinian academic and writer Dr. Ghada Al-Karmi stressed that Palestinians should use their presence in Britain to come together in opposition against the attacks perpetuated by the Zionist movement toward Palestinians’ history, cause and existence. Al-Karmi added: ‘Unfortunately, the Zionist movement succeeded in obtaining support in Britain, and if the members of the community cooperated in standing as one entity, we would have achieved a lot for our cause, but our problem lies in the dispersed individual work and our need for a unified Palestinian leadership that we can trust’.
The chairman of the Palestinian Forum in Britain, Dr Hafiz Al-Karmi, spoke about the need for the members of the Palestinian community and institutions in Britain to work together absent of disagreements.
Al-Karmi added: ‘Palestinian institutions in Britain face a challenge to maintain the attractiveness of the issue in the hearts of their children and supporters, and here lies the importance of transferring the issue from personal concern to institutional awareness’. Al-Karmi called for more effort at the university level and with student bodies in Britain due to their capacity in transforming the scattered community work being done into a movement that has the capacity to exert political pressure in Britain.
‘Palestine brings us together’ was the phrase that Professor Kamel Ishaq Al-Hawash, head of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain (PSC), used to start his segment in the conference. Hawwash, in turn, emphasised the importance of institutions that communicate well thought out and unified messages to obtain support and empowerment for the Palestinian community in Britain. Regarding the latter, Hawwash said that ‘there is no real representation of Palestinian institutions abroad, and there is a need to consolidate and develop the idea of institutional work’.
Hawash added, ‘To sustain institutional work, cooperation with other Arab and Islamic institutions must be deepened and solidarity with their causes so that they stand in solidarity with our cause, in addition to the importance of this in obtaining financial support to ensure that Palestinian institutions continue to operate’.
‘Political differences should not prevent us from coordinating among ourselves. We must look for common denominators, even in a minimum, and think in a strategic way to develop work for Palestine in Britain’. This is what British-Palestinian journalist Zaher Birawi concluded the webinar with, adding: ‘We are not copies, and everyone has his/her mind; And his/her political or even organisational background, but when working for Palestine in Britain, we must not take these contentious issues with us as we do not want this difference to deprive us of the unified work among us’.
After welcoming his guests, Birawi explained the biggest reason for holding this conference, saying: ‘The level of hope rose amongst the Palestinian people after an atmosphere of reconciliation prevailed among the leaders of the factions, and after the factions realised that national unity is the most important component of steadfastness in the face of conspiracies’.
Birawi praised the distinguished role that the Palestinian community plays in Britain, and the level of competence that makes the community an effective and significant role in Britain and London in particular. Regarding the latter, Birawi noted that London is the both the UK’s capital, but also a key political centre ground for solidarity movements.
Commenting on the outcomes of the conference, the Chairman of the Palestinian Forum, Dr Hafiz Al-Karmi, said that the Palestinian community in Britain today is in dire need, more so than ever, for the unification of its energies and efforts in order meet the great challenges it faces, especially the challenge of the Zionist lobby. The Zionist lobby, Al-Karmi charged, works cheek by jowl with Israel’s internal organs such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and the security and media agencies in Tel Aviv, to promote the Zionist narrative of the conflict, to influence British public opinion. This, he argues, maintains the official political position in its favour and at the expense of the Palestinian national rights.