Saturday, January 21, 2006

Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance

I wanted to write about the Celebrating Nonviolence Resistance conference in Beit Lehem – but all I can remember of it clearly is a chaotic endless blur of running, a freezing cold building, three days of working from 7 -11 and then drinking beer before turning around and doing the same thing again. It was good.

I think, overall, the conference was a success, although we definitely a few less than graceful moments that could have been avoided with better planning and a little foresight. I ended up working really hard – I was running the schedule and schedule updates for 300+ people by de facto . . . I was also creating/ running the film festival and then working as everyone else’s personal slave. I also became the coordinator between HLT and Abuna Marwan (Father Marwan) who was in charge of the facility we used for the conference. It paid off though, both literally and figuratively. Holy Land Trust decided that I did such a great job as a volunteer that they are going to pay me for my time – WOOHOO – and I was encouraged to apply for a paid internship when I get back to DC by the VP of the NGO. All in all, I think the slave labor paid off.

We had a good turnout for the conference, between 350-400 people, about half of the participants were internationals and about half were Palestinians. I managed to convince the ISM kids to come, even though there is bad blood between HLT and ISM (someone said something ages ago and no one can remember who said it or what it was but now they don’t get along), and I helped get two of them time on panel discussions, in order to inject the ISM experience into the dialogue of nonviolence resistance at the conference. After all, ISM utilized nonviolence in Palestine on a daily basis, and is arguably one of the best known movements in Palestine. It just didn’t make sense to have the conference without them.

We also had some big names: Gene Sharp (the academic heavyweight on Nonviolence), Bernard Lafayette Jr., Mary King, Cindy Corrie (Rachel’s mom), and Mubarak Awad. I didn’t get to participate in most of the conference activities because I was working, but I did manage to sit in on part of Gene Sharp’s workshop and all of the Corrie discussion. On the last day of the conference the participants marched from the conference hall to the main checkpoint in Beit Lehem and managed to march into the checkpoint without being stopped by soldiers. The next day, ISM managed to march completely through the checkpoint in Nablus. Funny, I don’t think any of this made the news.

High points

  1. Satisfaction of a job well done, and getting paid for my efforts
  2. Internship offer
  3. Meeting Rachel Corrie’s parents
  4. experience in planning/holding an international conference (now I know why everyone groans at the thought)
  5. They used some of my photos of olive trees as the background for the program/ info booklet and all of the big banners and displays.
  6. I know have the contact info of people in Gaza who can help me get inside the next time I am in Palestine
  7. My Arabic was actually very useful on several occasions

Low Points

  1. When the woman from the American Friends Committee screamed at me (so much for nonviolence) because her movie wasn’t on the film festival list).
  2. When Michael Beer blamed me for a mistake that he made to the VP of the company that later told me to apply for an internship.
  3. The building was so cold that by the last day my feet were swelling (lupus) and I couldn’t go on the march to the checkpoint
  4. There were a lot of speakers that I wanted to see but couldn’t.
  5. When I was told to stop speaking Arabic because it is easier for everyone if I stick to English. That really hurt my feelings. (it is frustrating because one minute I’m complimented on my Arabic, and the next insulted.)
  6. I’m glad I was there, but I would have liked to spend my last couple days in Palestine traveling, and not working my butt off.

Honestly, I’m relieved the conference went as well as it did – I was envisioning total disaster (as was at least one employee at NI). It also makes me feel better about the status of my thesis – a positive professional experience was in order after all of my difficulties with Palestinian academics.


Blogger Marcy / مارسي said...

habibti: estana! did you get the internship or not? I hope so! I hope you did & I hope it will fulfill your grant money requirements...


7:43 PM  

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