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KARACHI: Peaceful campaigner for Palestinian cause

March 30, 2006

KARACHI, March 29: Among the many guests who participated in the World Social Forum, one man who stood out for his tireless efforts to bring his cause to everyone’s attention was Jamal Juma, the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

The campaign, which began about four years ago, is a resistance against Israel’s “ghettoisation” of Palestinian areas.

In an interview with Dawn, Jamal Juma spoke about the anti-apartheid movement, describing it as a coalition of 54 different groups working for the Palestinian cause inside Palestine. The main objective of the coalition is to organise peaceful demos and brief media on the issues concerning Palestine.

In Mr Juma’s opinion apartheid in the Palestinian territories is a lot worse than what it once was in South Africa. “Here, apartheid is not only isolating the Palestinian people in ghettos but is also targeting their very existence by making their life miserable,” he remarked.

Racism and military rule runs rampant in Gaza Strip and injustice reigns supreme. Citing an example, Mr Juma described how Israelis went scot-free even if they committed the most heinous crimes, while the Palestinians met harsh punishment for the same. “This is our struggle against apartheid. We are fighting for our right to self-determination,” he said.

When asked if his movement favoured any political party, Mr Juma claimed that it did not. He emphasised that the movement encompassed all the groups that worked towards the liberation of Palestinians, including the political parties. “We do not come close to any political party, but we do identify with parties that come close to our ideals,” he remarked.

About election of Hamas in the recent polls and the peace process led by world powers, the Palestinian activist categorically said that there was no peace process, adding that what was often described as such was the Oslo agreement which totally went against the rights of the Palestinian people and gave Israel a clear advantage. Mr Juma was of the view that Hamas was led by people who were capable of taking the Palestinians out of difficult situation they found themselves in.

“Hamas victory has given us hope, which is why it was elected in the first place,” he said adding that Hamas election could disrupt US plans, which was the reason that Israelis and Americans had intensified their campaign against it.

He asserted that the ideal solution for Palestine would be the creation of one democratic state. “We will make no deal with Israel. Israel as a Jewish state shouldn’t continue as the idea of a Jewish state is wrong from the very beginning. Based on this idea the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians began. If Israel won’t accept this solution, it’s their choice,” he said.

However, Jamal Juma did clarify that by Israelis, Palestinians did not mean the entire Jewish community, but mainly the Zionists who had occupied Palestine. He explained that certain Jews had been living in Palestine for thousands of years and the Palestinian people had no problems with them.

“Our conflict is not against religion. It is against the racist colonisation of Palestine.” He added that he would like the world to regard the Palestinian issue not just as a political one but as a universal symbol of people’s struggle for their rights.

About the Palestinians’ reaction to a change of stance on Israel by the Pakistani government, Mr Juma acknowledged that it came as a blow to them. But he emphasised that this was where people-to-people interaction could make a difference.

Speaking of the reaction to the anti-apartheid movement in Muslim states, Mr Juma expressed confidence that given time, empathy and interaction within different international groups on regular basis would bring fruitful results. He described the movement as a small power that contributed to the Palestinian struggle. He felt that the time was ripe to extend this ideology to other Muslim states. He hailed the WSF, saying that this platform should be used well.

However, he was clear that the Palestinian struggle should strictly remain away from governmental influences, unless a suitable government could be shaped. “The only way political involvement can be allowed is to find a government that cannot be pressurised. But it should know how to influence international politics,” he said.