There is so much to say about the first complete day of the second annual SJP national conference, I don’t know much where to start. And, since it’s late and I’m tired, I don’t think I’ll get to most of it. The opening plenaries were fantastic. Noura Erekat gave a rousing talk (it really could have been at a rally) about the importance of not playing the normalization game. Hatem Bazian talked about the history of SJP and the context in which Palestine solidarity organizing grew up. I was most surprised to learn that part of the Oslo agreements was the PLO agreeing to disband its international political structure to support Palestinians all over the world, and that between 93 and 96 there was almost no Palestine activism in the diaspora that was not within the discourse of Oslo.
The pleneries were followed by the political development workshop. I picked “bilad al sham”, which focussed on Syria and the question of the Arab context. The talk was very sophisticated, and there was a lot of involvement by the participants, but overall my impression was really quite depressing. Not because the talk was bad, but because there just seems to be nothing redemptive in the Syrian struggle. This attitude that the FSA is not worth supporting because there are a few groups inside it which are highly problematic – I don’t like this. And I still don’t understand why unconditional support for Hezbollah because of 2006 justifies opposing the removal of a regime, when most of the groups calling for the downfall are doubtfully less politically messed up, at least internally, than Hezbollah. Also, I find it strange that we can talk for hours about Syria without ever talking about the PLA or Ahmed Jibril’s group. For me, what is crucial about Syria is that it is a dictatorship which tries to co-opt liberation struggles for its own glorification and self legitimization. I don’t personally see how Syria’s support of Hezbollah is so different from its attempt to destroy and take over the PLO for its own purposes back in the 80s. I am trying to write something about this – about Syria, Palestine and agency, hopefully I can put that up soon.
The rest of the sessions for the day were taken up with trying to organize some kind of SJP national list serves, some kind of national structure which is not an intellectual leadership. The discussions I took part in were all too short, too abstract, and did not come to very satisfying conclusions. Still, I signed up for the “making connections in Palestine” list serve because I think these kind of connections could be productive to coordinate on a national level.
The evening’s cultural event was really something special. So many hip hop artists, singers, spoken word artists – all amazing. I think I have some new names for my playlists. I don’t have a list of the performers right now, but when I get a hold of one I will make a post just on that – there are really some worthwhile things here. It was truly an all-star line up.