On the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, Mai 17th, 2008, the solidarity conference "Gaza Must Live" took place in the hall of Regina Hotel in Vienna, attended by the Palestinian MP Gamal Elkouday (independent, Gaza Strip), the European MP Karin Resetarits, the president of the Islamic Community of Vienna, Dr. Anas El-Shakfeh, and other representatives of the Austrian civil society and the Arab community of Vienna.
The conference is a part of a campaign having the same name, which was launched by a committee of persons, among them independents and members of Austrian and Arab organisations, such as Leo Gabriel, Wilhelm Langthaler, Paula Abrahms-Hourani, Peter Melvin and Fritz Edlinger. In the frame of the European network of the campaign already two delegations were dispatched to Gaza and were blocked while attempting to enter the strip.
After the return of the Austrian participants of the delegation, a campaign was launched by the name of "Let Gaza Live", to collect endorsing signatures on a statement demanding the Austrian government to recognise the democratic choice of the Palestinian people and to work on lifting the embargo on Gaza. Until now, more than 800 persons have signed this statement, including politicians, artists, academics and other components of the Austrian society.
Success inspite of Zionist pressure
The conference could take place inspite of the Zionist attempts to hinder it. It should have taken place in the hall of "Albert Schweitzer Haus" (ASH), which belongs to the Lutheran Church and has been often used for similar political occasions. One week before the conference, the organisers have been surprised by a letter from the ASH administration canceling the reservation with the pretext, that this conference would be "pro-Hamas propaganda", and some "anti-Semitic" components would be among the organisers. All discussions, explanations and empathise on the humanitarian character of the conference, and the fact that the speakers are considered as moderate could not convince the ASH administration of the ridiculousness of the "Anti-semitism" accusation, made to the conference and its organisers.
Pro-Zionist organisations applied pressure on other Viennese institutions to block the possibilities to find an alternative place. The "Arbeiterkammer" (Worker Chamber) annulated a hall reservation 2 days before the date. Finally, the organisers were able to hold the conference at Regina Hotel, which was kept secret until the last moment to avoid Zionist pressure on the hotel administration. The fact that the hotel is nearby the ASH, where a manifestation against the position of the administration tool place, eased diverting the attendants to the new place.
The position of Albert Schweitzer Haus: A dangerous incident and a direct participation in the Gaza blockade and a support to the collective punishment performed by the Israeli occupation army against the civil population of Gaza, especially when considering the fact, that non of the conference speakers was known to have any positions in favour of armed resistance or supporting Hamas. This is a shocking example of the Austrian institutional support to Israel's war crimes.
Nevertheless, the fact that the conference could take place, and that all speakers insisted to attend despite the pressures, and also the impressing number of protest letters sent to the ASH administration, all this is a positive indication of life signs from the Palestine solidarity movement in Austria.
This emphasises the need for further political actions in order to create a new solidarity pole with the Palestine issue on a pluralistic democratic base, which can resist pressures and blackmails.
Mohamed Aburous, Vienna