Tom Hurndall died in 2004 at the hands of an Israeli Defence Force sniper. At the age of 21, he took a break from his journalistic photography course at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to work as an activist in the Middle East. The coming of the Iraq war pushed him in to Jordan, and a positive encounter with the International Solidarity Movement led him into Gaza. Here he met his tragic end in an illegal killing that saw the responsible Israeli sniper jailed for six years on a manslaughter charge.
Every year MMU holds a Tom Hurndall memorial lecture to mark his passing, and honour the time he spent honing his craft at MMU. John Dalton building – the venue for this year’s lecture – the atmosphere felt different from that at any other lecture I have attended.
The host, MMU’s Dr Christian Klesse, thanked all for attending and introduced the night’s speaker, Daniel Machover.
Machover is a lawyer who specialises in international human rights law, civil actions against the state, and representing bereaved families at inquests into deaths in custody. As the lecture made clear, he is something of an expert in the field when it comes to Israel, Palestine, and the pursuit of justice. The title of his lecture was Are some or all Palestinians victims of Israeli apartheid?
“I’m going to spoil the plot straight away,” said Machover, “Yes, all Palestinians in Gaza are victims- to varying degrees- of something that we could accurately describe as apartheid.”
Machover began his argument with a careful, legalistic definition of apartheid, which reached the conclusion that apartheid is not a phenomenon strictly linked to twentieth century South African society, but a condition that manifests under any state that actively legislates and implements policies of social separation and discrimination along national, ethnic, or racial grounds. Without a doubt, argued Machover, this describes what is going on in Gaza and the West Bank right now.
After making his case Machover took advantage of the lecture hall screens and projectors, and showed the audience pages from adalah.org, a site which documents all Israeli legislation that discriminates against Palestinian Israelis in favour of Jewish Israelis. He began his questions from the floor by asking the crowd if they had ‘any favourite laws’ that they would like to see displayed onscreen. The first choice from the floor was ‘intermarriage’, and the second ‘citizenship’.
The floor questions followed. Many among the crowd were keen to engage, and Machover answered as many questions as possible in detail before closing. John of Palestinian Solidarity wanted to know what Daniel though of the Jewish National Front. Mike, a climate campaigner, wanted hear his thoughts on the current Turkey/Israel/Cyprus/Palestine oil conflict, and if the alienation of one group from economic resources could lead to further discrimination.
Daniel answered all questions as best he could, but occasionally had to defer. As is often sadly not the case with political speakers, Machover never made pretension to expertise or knowledge that he did not actually have.
“I’m not a public prosecutor,” he explained, “That’s not my day job. My day job is to represent families of the victims of state violence. My life would be a whole lot easier if our government and others like it were to do their jobs, and stand up and prosecute the criminals who create and perpetuate apartheid and oppression.”
Angus is an aspiring writer, hobbyist photographer, and undergraduate student of English and Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
He is originally from Dundee, Scotland and has been living in Manchester, England since the summer of 2011. You can find all of his online hiding places here.