World Social Forum Global Day of Action
On Saturday, January 26, Rome, Italy took part in the Global Day of Action called by the World Social Forum with a number of events. The morning kicked off with a panel discussion, 'The Will to Resist, The Courage to Refuse' featuring Palestinian and Israeli activists. Basel Mansour of the Popular Committee Against the Wall - Bil'in spoke of the non-violent campaign against Israel's “security fence” in this West Bank village, and the weekly protests held every Friday for the past three years, despite violent repression from Israeli forces.
Lama Hourani of the International Women's Commission agreed with comments that the two state solution is vanishing as Israeli settlements increase, however she said that was no reason to fall back on the idea of one nation, two peoples asking, “How can we expect the Israeli government to assure equal rights for Palestinians under one nation considering the way Palestinians are currently treated?” She also encouraged as many as possible to travel to Palestine to experience the situation first hand but more importantly because of what it means to Palestinians to know that someone outside their country cares about what is happening.
Noam Livne of Courage to Refuse, an organization of Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories, talked about the way fear is exploited to push through the policies of the government and how soldiers are revered and have become a sort of brand, with some even used in advertisements for everyday products such as cheese. There were many parallels to be drawn with the current situation in the U.S.
Through a telephone hookup, we heard from activists participating in protests as part of the Global Day in Israel and Palestine who reported on the turn out (2000 on the Israeli side) and atmosphere there, and thanked Italy for the solidarity expressed.
Later that afternoon, two back-to-back protests were held, the first near the Italian Defense Ministry where banners reading No Military Bases, No Military Spending and No Military Missions filled the square, though the turnout in general was disappointing. Our group held signs and U.S. peace flags and we wore large 'End the Siege of Gaza' stickers, attracting many photographers.
We then walked on a mini-march to the second protest in front of the U.S. Embassy, or rather on the side of it as the police refused to allow us to cross via Veneto. The Palestinian community was present with a huge Palestinian flag and the “End the Siege” banner from the morning event. We all lit candles for Gaza.
The highpoint of the afternoon, however, was meeting Orlando, a World War II veteran from the U.S. on holiday in Rome. He came over and asked to have his photo taken with us and commented, “I can't wait until we kick his sorry ass out of office!” His timing couldn't have been better, as we were just about to do a radio interview, so we managed to get him on the air. When asked about current military policies, Orlando replied, “These people in power have never seen war, they know nothing of war!” The journalist then asked if he had been in contact with veterans of more recent wars. “My cousin was killed in Viet Nam. Another in Korea. My two brothers served right here in Italy and landed at Anzio." At that point, the memories were too much for Orlando. He choked up, was unable to continue, but smiled and thanked us as he walked away.
He knew war.
For reports on events around the world, see the World Social Forum web site: www.wsf2008.net
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