After four days of conferences, workshops and cultural activities, the World Education Forum in Palestine ended this afternoon with an assembly bringing together Palestinian and international educators and social justice activists from diverse sectors. Participants at the Assembly reflected on the past few days and discussed how to take the various proposals coming out of the Forum forward.
Three main topics were discussed: how to build an education movement in Palestine, the future of international solidarity with Palestine, and learning from the experiences of other social forums.
Fareed Murah from Al Quds Open University opened the Assembly by inviting participants to discuss a proposal to establish an education forum in Palestine that is linked to the international processes of the World Education Forum and World Social Forum. Palestinian educators and organizers emphasized the need to strengthen dialogue among national organizations and movements and it was agreed that the National Organizing Committee of the WEF would continue as a temporary body responsible for taking the Palestinian process forward.
Feroz Mahdi of Alternatives International initiated the discussion about the future of international solidarity by highlighting the important role played by international activists, not only by working in Palestine as volunteers but also by raising awareness and putting pressure on governments in their respective countries. Palestinian activists emphasized the worsening situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and highlighted the urgent need to raise international awareness and build permanent, grassroots based international solidarity.
The need to strengthen communication between international and Palestinian movements was raised by many participants. International activists talked of the need for more concrete information about the situation on the ground in Palestine and how they can best intervene, while a Palestinian participant made the important point that Palestinian organizations are not always aware of international solidarity initiatives. There was general agreement about the importance of strengthening international campaigns like Stop the Wall and the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions campaign. Regarding the BDS campaign, several speakers argued for the need to take a holistic approach, boycotting not only products from settlements but all Israeli goods and services, and strengthening the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
Michel Lambert from Alternatives Canada presented a proposal to organize a forum on international solidarity with Palestine in order to take discussions around these issues forward and consolidate the connections between international and Palestinian movements that were made during the WEF.
Finally, Hamouda Soubhi shared some of the experiences of shared some of the experiences of the Maghreb Social Forum, the first social forum organized in the Arab world. He highlighted the important role of social forums as spaces for cooperation and networking, and spoke about efforts to include more Arab organizations and movements in the World Social Forum process.
The proposal to hold the World Education Forum in Palestine was first put forward at the last World Social Forum in 2009 in Belem, as a direct result of the attacks on Gaza and consequent recognition of the need to strengthen solidarity and cooperation between Palestinian and international movements. The simple fact that such an event has been held in Palestine, despite all the obstacles that organizers face due to the continuing Israeli occupation, is an enormous victory in itself. The next World Social Forum will take place in Dakar in February 2011 and will present an important opportunity to build on the progress that has been made during the WEF and strengthen links between Palestinian movements and people who struggle for social justice and peace all over the world.