First, join the boycott of Israeli goods and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Check the labels in shops: you’ll be surprised to see just how much food – fruit, herbs and vegetables in particular – we import from Israel. Make sure you tell the shop manager what you’re doing and why. M&S and Starbuck’s are among the high-profile companies to avoid. Visit the Boycott Israeli Goods website for further information.
There is also a specific campaign against the Caterpillar company, which supplies the armoured bulldozers used to clear Palestinian homes during army incursions, in reprisal demolitions and along the route of the so-called security wall. It was a Caterpillar bulldozer that crushed international peace activist Rachel Corrie to death as she tried to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes. For further information, visit Stop Caterpillar at www.catdestroyshomes.org.
More positively, try to buy Palestinian goods to support the Palestinian economy. For example, Zaytoun is a non-profit business established to support marginalised farming communities in Palestine. Use it for your olive oil supplies: details of stockists are on the Zaytoun website.
You can also shop online at the Olive Coop for fair-traded Palestinian goods. Goods on offer include books, candles, ceramics, glass, carved olive wood, soap, textiles and embroidery. The Olive Co-op also organises rewarding small-group guided tours around Palestine/Israel, enabling visitors to learn about the situation first-hand and meet inspiring Palestinian and Israeli groups working for peace and human rights. If, when you return, you want to set up more permanent links with a place you’ve visited, then consider the various twinning projects that are being established all over the country – Tower Hamlets is twinning with Jenin, Camden with Abu Dis, and Stirling University Students Association recently voted to twin with Berzeit university.
To keep yourself informed and get together with other campaigners, join your local Palestine Solidarity Campaign group. You’ll be part of a fast-growing movement that has a strong voice in the international struggle for Palestinian justice. If you are a trade union member the likelihood is that your national union is affiliated to the PSC and you should make sure that local branch activities reflect its policies.
For an alternative view of the news from Israel, Arab Media Watch might be worth hooking up with. The Stop the Wall campaign website is also an excellent source of regularly updated news about the campaign against the West Bank wall, grassroots activism and other events in the occupied territories.
If you are a Jew who wants to see an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands, then you may want to join up with Jews for Justice for Palestinians. And to get involved with nonviolent protest against the occupation join the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) campaign.
Since 2001, the ISM has attracted thousands of activists from all over the world to join and support Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the occupation; demonstrating against the Wall, against home demolitions, closures and curfews; joining in solidarity with prisoner hunger-strikes; accompanying ambulances through checkpoints; taking part in the removal of roadblocks; and generally supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle for survival.
On 16 March 2003, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American, was crushed to death by an Israeli Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to prevent it from demolishing a house in Rafah, Gaza. Two months later, another ISM volunteer, Tom Hurndall, from the UK, was lethally shot in the head by an Israeli sniper in Gaza as he shepherded children away from Israeli gunfire. Brian Avery, an American, was also shot in the face in Jenin but miraculously survived the ordeal.
Shortly afterwards, UK journalist James Miller was killed in another targeting of international observers in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, the Israeli military machine began systematic arrests and deportations of ISM volunteers. Countless hundreds of volunteers have since been prevented from entering the country.
Nevertheless, large numbers of volunteers have continued to arrive to support the ISM and they are prominent today in areas where Palestinians are resisting the seizure of their land with demonstrations and protests. New volunteers are always needed and training is provided by the London branch (details on the ISM London website).
While being aware of the risks, Red Pepper encourages readers to go to see with your own eyes the peaceful Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. Send us your diaries clearly marked ‘for publication’ if you’d like to share your experiences with other readers.
Max Watson is branch chair of London Metropolitan University UNISON (writing here in a personal capacity).