Beirut, 29 November 2011 (UN Information Service)-- Beirut, November 29, 2011 (United Nations Information Sevices at ESCWA) -- ESCWA organized its yearly official ceremony to celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, under the patronage of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati. The event was attended by U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCWA Rima Khalaf, U.N. Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon Robert Watkins, Lebanese Minister of the Displaced Alaaeddine Terro representing Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Advisor to the President of the Palestinian Authority Sabri Saydam, Palestinian activist Horriya Ziadeh, Active Member in South Africa Ronald Kassrils, in addition to several Lebanese officials, U.N., Arab and foreign heads of diplomatic missions operating in Lebanon, and civil Lebanese and Palestinian representatives.
The event started with Palestinian children choir songs by “Atfal Al-Somoud,” followed by a speech by Rima Khalaf, who said that despite the suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation and in refugee camps, they did not get tired of being persistent, their will and determination did not weaken, and they did not give up their right to their land and identity. The UN Executive Secretary added that the children of Palestine “invent new ways to exist, every day, accepting the science and knowledge, sing, generation after generation, as we heard today: “We are the children of persistence, and we were brought up to love Earth.”
Khalaf also said: “The Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people comes this year, as the Arab region witnesses a massive awakening, where the winds of change blow at the region in every direction, asking “What do we say to the Palestinian youths when they demand their rights, freedom, and dignity, like other Arab youths?” I say to them today: “You are not any less merit or deserving than mankind. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to you and everyone equally. Whoever believes that he/she could continue to exclude Palestine from its rights and exclude Israel from abiding by international laws is wrong.” Khalaf ended her word saying: “History is full of stories about colonizing countries and people, and all that ended, with the last occupation remaining in Palestine, which will also end, for there is occupation that lasts forever.”
Sabri Saydam also delivered a speech in which he said “It’s sad to continue talking about the occupation in Palestine when all occupations have ended and many have started singing others’ spring, democracy and human rights, whereas Palestine is prevented from its independence and freedom… We are heading towards statehood with our constant diplomatic moves, successful unity efforts, and strengthening the justice of our cause, in the hearts of everyone and their solidarity with us.” Saydam concluded his speech by presenting ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf an olive wooden model of the Palestinian seat in the United Nations and a copy of a Palestinian narrative by Author Khalil Baydass, after it was recently returned from the Israeli Knesset to be re-printed and re-published.
In his speech, Alaaeddine Terro said that Lebanon, officially and as a population, is in solidarity and has been engaged in the struggle with the Palestinians to return to their homeland and establish a state with Jerusalem as the capital, from Lebanon’s Late President Suleiman Franjieh’s time till today.” He added: “Lebanon is looking forward to accepting Palestine’s full membership to the United Nations, in order to achieve justice for its people and their dreams, and the return of refugees to their homeland after being dispersed in the world over the years.” Terro also delivered the Lebanese Prime Minister’s promise that Lebanon will stay in solidarity with Palestine until the end.
On the other hand, Ronald Kassrils started his speech with: “We in South Africa are impressed with the Lebanese and Palestinian’s persistence. It is important that we see that this region that has passed through a lot of problems is still perseverant.” He stopped at the similarities between the Zionist project and the system of apartheid, saying that “dealing with people’s lands in South Africa as in Palestine’s case is not only an aspect of human rights abuse, but the persons who are abused have the right to resist,” citing the words of former American President John F. Kennedy who said in the sixties that peaceful change is not guaranteed, but change through violence is inevitable. Kassrils added: “Our first democratic president Nelson Mandela said to Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat that we cannot be free unless you Palestinians are free, and when all people are free.” He ended his speech saying: “We see now the seeds of freedom in the Middle East. We will not be liberated until every inch of your land, and with the establishment of liberty and justice for all mankind.”
For her part, Hurriya Ziadeh spoke about her experience as a Palestinian activist and the Palestinians’ suffering of displacement, division and detainment. However, Palestinians stand united in resistance to gain freedom and justice. Ziadeh hoped that “Atfal Al-Somoud” will sing victory songs soon on Palestinian land after they return.
At the end of the event, Robert Watkins read the Secretary-General’s message for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
A series of cultural events will take place on the sidelines of the ceremony at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, encompassing poetry reading by Tamim Al Barghouti; four photo exhibitions from Palestine, Thakira: Pictures of children from Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Turath exhibition for Palestinian handicrafts, and a poster exhibition: the Palestinian cause through posters. The American University of Beirut will also show the “Road 181” film.