I recently participated in the UN forum to mark 50 years of occupation, “Ending the Occupation: Creating the Space for Human Rights, Development, and a Just Peace.” Delegates gathered from around the world to discuss the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel — the longest occupation in modern history.
As we were getting settled, the woman sitting next to me asked how I came to be there. I explained that I had spent time in Palestine/Israel as a United Church of Canada volunteer with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel. Our “job” was to accompany Palestinians in their daily lives in order to experience the effects of the occupation, and on our return to Canada, to inform others of our experiences and continue to work towards an end to the occupation and a just peace. I further explained that we have pockets of solidarity across Canada supported by returning United Church volunteers.
I then asked her how she came to be there. Her abbreviated reply was “My name is Jodi Williams. I won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for working towards the elimination of land mines. I now chair the Women Nobel Peace Prize winners committee.”
I was more than a little awed at the company I was keeping — Jodi was to give the keynote address the next morning on the topic “The role of civil society in achieving an end to the occupation, conflict transformation and a just peace.” To my surprise and delight, she presented our United Church example of civil activism. Jodi felt it was an excellent example of citizens of the world moving an agenda forward to elicit change.
This is one of the conclusions of this forum: we cannot depend upon our governments to lead the way toward a just resolution to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Governments change their positions when pressured by their constituents. Our Canadian government has yet to put pressure on the Israeli government to end their occupation of Palestine.
Change will come only when we, the people, insist upon it.
United Nations Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation - video record of sessions