Edward W. Said London Lecture 2018 – Amira Hass

I mostly focus on Syria on this blog, but the issue of Palestine is also one which I follow with some regularity. A friend of mine invited me to attend the Edward W. Said London Lecture for 2018 last night, which had Amira Hass as its speaker.

The event was titled The Preventable: Israeli Fantasies and Techniques of Population Expulsion.

‘The Oslo process precipitated an internal compromise in Israel: between the urge to make Palestinians vanish and the realization that the geo-political circumstances do not permit a repetition of the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinian civilians. This compromise is best expressed in the systematic policy of creating Palestinian enclaves, which successive Israeli governments have meticulously pursued in tandem with the internationally sponsored negotiations process. The enclaves best exemplify the way in which Israel divorces the Palestinians and their very existence from land, history, space and movement – both mentally and physically. As Israeli politics loses its last traces of shame and sheds the final, tattered remains of its liberal pretensions, the danger of more audacious mass expulsions of the Palestinians from their land is growing.’ – Amira Hass.

Amira’s talk was so incredibly powerful – she pulls no punches in describing Israeli policies that seek to constrict and constrain Palestinians, and she was incredibly forthright in discussing the spectre of antisemitism that always arises whenever anyone criticizes Israeli policies.

I will try to find a video and upload the talk if they recorded it. In the meantime, definitely follow Amira on Twitter, and read her news articles on Haaretz.


Haringey Migrant Support Centre

I just started volunteering with a local organization called the Haringey Migrant Support Centre, a drop-in centre which provides free immigration advice from legal professionals, and advice and signposting services on welfare and health issues.

I’m still going through their training course now to become a volunteer advocate, which works to understand the issues of the visitor to the centre, sit with them with the legal advisor to make sure they understand the legal advice given, and to also signpost them to other organizations for help. It seems like it will be a really interesting role.

On Monday we did some training on immigration issues and common things that we will be seeing with visitors who attend the drop-in. As an immigrant myself to the UK (first as a student and now on a two-year working visa), I had absolutely no idea how hostile the immigration environment actually is here. Cuts to legal aid, really harsh Home Office decisions on leave to remain, right to family life, and even asylum and refugee claims are just making life absolutely terrible for so many people. We can argue about the right kind of immigration policy and what “kinds of people” should be “allowed” into countries, but honestly, at the end of the day, people are people, and are deserving of respect and dignity. This article was just published today, which I think really encapsulates how hostile the situation is now.

Also, a point that I think isn’t mentioned enough in the immigration debate is about the people who self-select to migrate. There are always going to be chancers and cheats who want to take advantage of benefits (from people born in a country to the people who migrate to that country), but by and large, the people who move are ambitious, driven, intelligent, and searching for a better quality of life and better chances than are available in their home country. These are absolutely positive attributes, and we should be celebrating people who are brave and adventurous and courageous enough to pick up, leave everything behind, and travel to the great unknown in search of prosperity. We should be providing more opportunities for people to succeed, not putting restrictions on their capabilities.

Anyways, rant over! I think volunteering at HMSC will be a really good way to learn more about the immigration situation in the UK, and the kind of housing and welfare issues that also face migrants and other people here. And hopefully, I’ll be able to do some good work too.

Help Refugees Choose Love Shop

I just started volunteering with Help Refugees at their Choose Love shop down in SoHo. It’s a fantastic idea – you go into the shop, and instead of buying a gift for your friends or family for Christmas, you can actually purchase an item that a refugee would need, like sleeping bags, tents, blankets, hygiene packs, school supplies, and even mobile phones and accommodation.

There’s been some excellent coverage on it already (see here, here, and here) and it’s open for all December until Christmas. If you’re in London, you should definitely swing by, or you can also purchase items on the virtual shop too.

STAR Conference

So…. in case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m interested in the situations and experiences of refugees. Who knew?!

This weekend I went to the STAR (Student Action for Refugees) Conference entitled: Refugee Crisis? What Crisis?. I’d heard of STAR before, and wanted to learn more about the organization and the type of workshops they would be running during the conference. The impetus behind the conference was to bring people together to learn about how the UK had handled previous refugee flows, and to discuss how the UK can manage the current “refugee crisis”.

It was a really interesting day – I think one of the most interesting points made during the conference was just the historical amnesia people have in relation to past refugee flows. The current situation isn’t completely unprecedented and it’s not impossible to manage, but we just have so many fear-mongers who are trying to frighten the public about the “invasion” (BREXIT, anyone??), without actually contextualizing it.

It was really inspiring to hear from Gulwali Passarlay, and I definitely have his book (The Lightless Sky) on my reading list.

Here’s the conference program, if you want to take a look at the other speakers that were there: STAR Conference Program.