Conférence internationale de la société civile à l'appui du peuple palestinien - New York (septembre 2003) - Rapport Français
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United Nations Headquarters, New York
4 and 5 September 2003
2. The Committee was represented at the conference by a delegation comprising Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee; Bruno Eduardo Rodrí guez Parrilla (Cuba), Vice-Chairman of the Committee; Ravan A.G. Farhâdi (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee; Victor Camilleri (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee; and Nasser Al-Kidwa (Palestine).
3. The theme of the conference was “End the Occupation!” Twelve representatives of civil society organizations were invited to serve as members of the Steering Committee of the Conference (see the list of participants in annex III). The members chaired the different sessions of the Conference, conferred with other participants, and drafted the Plan of Action (annex I) in consultation with the Bureau of the United Nations Committee. The Steering Committee decided to constitute itself as the International Coordinating Network of NGOs on Palestine (ICNP) and to focus on the implementation of the Plan of Action. At the close of the conference, participating NGOs also addressed a letter to the Secretary-General and to the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council (annex II), calling for an international protection force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
4. Presentations were made by 21 panelists, including Palestinians and Israelis; and 350 participants representing 140 civil society organizations participated in the conference. Representatives of 64 Governments, Palestine, 3 intergovernmental organizations, and 10 United Nations system entities attended as observers.
6. He stressed that settlement expansion and the construction of bypass roads remained serious impediments to the Road Map, which clearly called for a freezing of all settlement activity and for settlement outposts erected since March 2001 to be dismantled. The construction of the barrier in the West Bank separated Palestinians from their farms and from other Palestinian communities, creating facts on the ground and running contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Road Map. Those activities tended to predetermine the outcome of future negotiations on permanent status and threatened to undermine the vision of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel. The Palestinian Authority must act decisively to halt terrorist attacks. It was also important for the Palestinian Authority to continue its reforms in a transparent manner in close consultation with the international community.
7. He said that the humanitarian situation was a cause for great concern. Closures and curfews remained. Palestinians were still unable to move around freely, to seek medical care, to take their children to school, or to attend to other aspects of their lives. The United Nations had stressed the need for international and local humanitarian staff to be allowed full access to Palestinian areas. The Palestinian people needed to see real and tangible benefits in their lives. The work carried out by civil society organizations individually and in partnership with the United Nations greatly contributed to efforts for peace and provided much-needed humanitarian assistance. Of particular importance were joint grassroots initiatives between Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, as well as between Jewish and Arab groups in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. If the vision of the Road Map was to be achieved, civil society must play its part.
8. Papa Louis Fall , Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that despite all the efforts by the parties and the international community, confrontation and violence reigned on the ground and the political process reset in motion by the Road Map of the Quartet had once more come to a halt. The human toll of almost three years of violence and devastation had been absolutely devastating for both Palestinians and Israelis. The tragedy of the situation was compounded by the fact that many of the victims had been innocent civilians, including many children. The economic deprivation of the Palestinian people had reached crisis proportions. Thousands of Palestinian families had been left without any source of income, increasingly dependent on emergency relief. The destruction of towns, villages and agricultural lands had rendered large numbers of Palestinians homeless and had led to their internal displacement - a very dangerous development. The regime of closures and curfews had been the most important cause of economic decline.
9. He expressed concern that despite international condemnations, Israel had continued to expand its settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, a clear violation of international law and contrary to the requirements of the Road Map. In defiance of growing international protest, the Israeli Government had decided to bring its policy of creating facts on the ground to a new level and to construct a separation barrier, with large parts of it cutting deep into the Palestinian Territory. For that purpose, Israel had confiscated a vast area of Palestinian land and destroyed the inhabitants’ properties, including hundreds of olive trees, and with them an important source of income for Palestinian farmers. Phase 1 of the Wall alone had turned some 70 towns into enclaves, infringing the rights of more than 210,000 Palestinians.
10. He recalled that a period of relative calm following a ceasefire declaration by Palestinian factions in June had ended with the resumption of the cycle of violence in August 2003, when Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities had continued, and Palestinians had carried out suicide bombings in revenge for the killings of their leaders by Israel. The Committee had condemned such acts of vicious violence, which not only harmed the personal security of Israelis and Palestinians, but also dealt a grave blow to efforts at achieving a peaceful solution of the conflict.
11. He expressed the Committee’s believe that, in the months to come, civil society should support initiatives, such as the Road Map, with a view to restoring a political process that would eventually lead the parties back to the negotiating table. Civil society should become an active facilitator in implementing the Road Map. Major obstacles to that Road, such as the expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation barrier, needed to be brought to the attention of public opinion and political decision makers alike. Providing emergency relief and other assistance to the Palestinian people and rehabilitating the devastated Palestinian economy should be another important priority for civil society work. Given the current grave situation, particular attention should be given to mobilizing wide support to deploy international monitors or even a multinational stabilization force to assist the two parties in implementing the political agreements. Parliaments, NGOs and public opinion must do their utmost to ensure that immediate and effective steps would be taken to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In view of the urgent need for more intensified efforts in support of peace for the region, efforts and initiatives by national and regional platforms should be coordinated at the international level. He said that the Steering Committee of the Conference could play a useful role in that regard and should consider practical measures to be taken in that direction. The Committee was ready to support all serious initiatives to mobilize and coordinate activities geared towards a peaceful solution to the question of Palestine, to end the occupation peacefully.
12. Nasser Al-Kidwa , Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, pointed out that the Security Council had recently taken a courageous initiative to adopt a clear resolution on the protection of personnel in the humanitarian field, including representatives of the United Nations. Unfortunately, a similar initiative to protect those who had been working for the United Nations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had met the usual US veto at the Security Council last December. He described the campaign conducted by Israel over the past three years, which had involved war, arbitrary executions and extra-judicial killings. The excess of an arbitrary use of force had been evident, such as the unjustified destruction of homes, infrastructure and agricultural land and widespread collective punishment, including restriction of movement of persons and goods. This had undermined the economic and social situation of the Palestinian people and had brought about a tragic humanitarian crisis. All the components of that campaign had been aimed at destroying the results of the Oslo process and preventing the establishment of a true, independent, sovereign Palestinian state on the territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem. This policy meant the destruction of the national Palestinian movement and its central authority, the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been turned into a question of terrorism, not a question of foreign occupation and of settlement policy.
13. Mr. Al-Kidwa stated the Palestinian position against terrorism. Suicide bombings did an injustice to the Palestinian cause and they had to come to an end. He recalled, however, that the first bombing had occurred 27 years after the beginning of the occupation and after Israel had established 350,000 settlers in the Occupied Territory in clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Palestinian Authority wanted to put an end to this violence and preserve a peaceful negotiating process. Palestinians remained committed to all international initiatives - to establish peace and to achieve a peaceful and lasting settlement based on the presence of two States. Therefore the obstacles would have to be identified: first, Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the Palestinian Territory and rejection of the creation of a Palestinian State. Both parties must accept the rights of the other party: the establishment of Palestine as a sovereign State and also the recognition of Israel by Palestine.
14. He added that although the Road Map represented a reasonable option to arrive at a solution, problems had arisen from the very beginning. Israel’s reservations had been accepted completely, undermining the Road Map and its contents. The Israeli side had refused to comply with the demands of the Road Map, as contained in the text itself: acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, and secondly a declaration to put an end to all attacks on Palestinians. The settlement policy continued, as did the confiscation of land and the building of the expansionist wall. The Road Map needed a new beginning involving a genuine commitment by both sides. At the same time, it was necessary to preserve international legitimacy, the role of the United Nations and the important work being done by its agencies and by its different bodies. He expressed concern about a new campaign by Israel aimed at the United Nations and the resolutions of the international body. The aim was not to withdraw from the Palestinian Territory and not to see the birth of a Palestinian State. He called upon the international community to remain committed to international law and to the principles of the United Nations Charter for establishing the conditions for creating a just and lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
15. Finn Martin Vallersnes , Chairman of the Committee on Middle East Questions, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that the IPU Committee had traditionally urged both parties to the conflict to take steps conducive to reaching a full settlement of the conflict, including by putting an end to terrorist attacks, ending the occupation and halting the construction and expansion of settlements. The Committee had received a specific mandate to organize working group meetings with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Israeli Knesset. The first meeting had taken place in Paris, in 2001, and the second one had been held in Geneva, in July 2003. The delegations included members of the Knesset, representing different political parties, and members of the Palestinian Council. A statement had been adopted after the second meeting and it was agreed to establish a working group of elected Israeli and Palestinian representatives. The next meeting of the working group would be at the end of September 2003.
16. Mr. Vallersnes pointed out that it was essential to realize that no peace would ever be achieved unless the negotiations solved the basic problems that concerned both sides of the conflict. The IPU’s efforts were but a small by-track compared to the main negotiations on the governmental level, but the process would only move forward in a sustainable manner if everyone concerned moved simultaneously and in the same direction. That included Governments, civil society organizations and, most importantly, the ordinary man and woman in the street. It was decisive to deliver visible improvements in the daily lives of the Palestinian people and to create the necessary motivation and trust in a political solution. The present economic and humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza was man-made, and the main reason was the Israeli policies of closures and curfews. The parties as well as the international community must renew and strengthen their efforts to ensure that the Road Map would be implemented.
17. Thomas Neu , Middle East Representative, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), and Chairperson, Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), spoke about the complex difficulties encountered by international NGOs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He quoted some statistics to illustrate the socio-economic situation: officially recorded employment rates had been well above 40%; real per capita incomes were 46% lower than before the start of the intifada; a rate of poverty (defined as $2.10 a day) officially estimated at 60%; and fully 55% of the population depended on external assistance.
18. He also drew attention to the situation as regards water, nutrition and mobility: 150 Palestinian villages were not connected to a water network and relied on water trucks, which had encountered problems over the past three years, due to the policy of closures, roadblocks, and concrete and dirt barriers. The water cisterns had dried up, the water boilers were empty and the difficulties in transporting the water had led to a rise in the price of each cubic metre. Concerning nutrition, a newly released study by two international NGOs, Ard el-Insan and Acción contra el Hambre, gave cause for concern, especially as regards children. The coping mechanisms developed by the population were not sustainable and had severe long-term consequences for the households. Furthermore, those options were currently nearing collapse and could not last much longer. Mr. Neu also gave a few examples as regards the lack of mobility. The town of Qalqilya was encircled by an 8-metre-high wall; Bethlehem was split in two and isolated from Jerusalem by newly erected walls and checkpoints; and the Arab population in Hebron had been placed under curfew as a result of settler attacks.
The situation on the ground: obstacles to peace
20. Jamal Juma , Coordinator, Palestinian Environment NGO Network (PENGON), made a power- point presentation to show that the wall was designed not to implement Israel’s security objectives but rather to advance its illegal policies. There were two kinds of walls being built; the first was the 8-metre-high wall with concrete watchtowers, built in Tulkarem, Nazlet ‘Isa, Barta’a, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The wall’s buffer zone was yet to be built and would tremendously affect the lives of people in the area. The second kind of barrier, a complex of fences, barriers, roads and deep trenches, would be 60-100 metres in width. Some 1,680 dunums of land had been razed for the footprint of the wall. In addition, some 11,550 people from 16 villages had been trapped between the wall and the Green Line and 102,320 trees had been uprooted, some of them over 700 years old and a source of livelihood for generations of people. The area around the wall was a closed military zone comprising 121,455 dunums of land — 2% of the West Bankthat were de facto annexed. Most of the fertile lands of some 50 villages would be affected and isolated from other West Bank communities. To date, some 200 buildings had been demolished and 36 groundwater wells had been isolated from their communities. Qalqilya, one of the richest cities in the West Bank, where in the past some 85,000 people had come to shop, mostly from Israel, was totally isolated, its population of 41,600 was sealed off on all sides. 75% of the inhabitants now depended on humanitarian assistance which would lead to mass emigration in one year’s time.
21. Mr. Juma continued his presentation by showing a slide of the wall already 2 km inside in the West Bank, where Israel had decided to build another wall along the Green Line to besiege people from every direction, disconnecting them from the rest of the West Bank and Israel, leaving Palestinians without sources of income and services. The first phase, part A, had been completed. The second phase would be in the central West Bank, going deep into the heart of the Palestinian territory, 16 km inside. The third phase would be the southern wall, which was encircling Bethlehem and Hebron. The fourth phase would be the eastern or Jordan Valley wall, which would go along the current Alon Bypass Road. The final map of the West Bank would show areas A and B besieged within walls in order to facilitate a massive confiscation and annexation of land occupied by settlements. The West Bank would then be divided into three ghettos. In addition, in the areas to be directly controlled by Israel, over a half million Palestinians would be living outside the walled areas, within 10 enclaves designed to separate them from their surroundings and area C. The length of the wall would be some 650 km. It would annex to Israel 90% of the settlements (135 settlements), with 97% of the settlers.
22. He concluded his presentation by pointing to the socio-economic consequences of the wall. The wall would isolate and confiscate the primary resources of the West Bank - land and water - which were the most important sectors that a future Palestinian State would depend on for economic growth. Major Palestinian cities were to be surrounded by walls, thus ensuring that population growth and area expansion would be impossible. From the economic point of view, denying the West Bank any borders with the Arab world would mean that its economy would be totally dependent on Israel. The fragmentation of the West Bank meant no economy, which meant by definition no independent State. Israel had found the solution: roads, tunnels and bridges were to connect the pieces. The so-called “painful concessions” of Prime Minister Sharon would be the dismantling of a small number of settlements located in the Palestinian cantons. In addition, the new outposts and settlements that had been built since Mr. Sharon had come to power, aimed to connect the settlement blocs to solidify the division of the West Bank.
23. John Reese , Coordinator, US Campaign to Stop the Wall, focused his presentation on the environmental effects of the wall on the Palestinian people. Since settlements were often located on top of hills, pipes of effluence carried down directly into Palestinian land. Over 200 Israeli industries had moved to the West Bank, turning waste and pollution into chemical and biological weapons against their Palestinian neighbors. In the Tulkarem area, there was a fertilizer company that was a major air polluter and discharged major quantities of liquid waste. Palestinians living nearby experienced elevated rates of cancer. Also, in the Berkan industrial area, with 50 settlements and pipes leading into Palestinian land, streams and farmlands had become polluted. In addition, garbage was being brought into the West Bank from Israel.
24. He said that the construction of the wall itself was having a major impact on the flora and fauna, destroying habitat and claiming acres of land. In the first stage of the wall alone — some 70 miles —Palestinians had lost over 100,000 olive trees, which had been dug up and then replanted on the Israeli side of the wall. Hundreds of greenhouses had been lost in the buffer zones on either side of the wall. Some 250 greenhouses had been destroyed in the first phase of the wall. The construction of the wall was a massive construction project moving enormous amount of dirt, blasting away hillsides, creating erosion and stream sedimentation. Once completed, the wall - just the footprint of the wall - could entail a loss of 50,000 dunums (12,500 acres). He opined that the control of water was of the greatest importance to Israel. Israel controlled some 85% of the water resources in the West Bank. In the first phase of the wall, water-producing wells had been profoundly affected. In the Jayous area, 50 wells had been lost, in addition to piping and water storage systems. Communities had to rely on water tanks, but checkpoints and closures were slowing movement of the tankers. The wall was a tool by which Israel could confiscate more land and control the water.
25. Naomi Chazan , former Member of the Knesset, said that the Road Map was on the verge of failure but it could be salvaged, in particular its vision. There would be no amelioration on the ground unless there was a political solution and a political settlement. The situation on the ground was appalling because of the recurrence of violence after a brief period of two months when both Palestinians and Israelis had seen that there was a possibility of some relief from the cycle of violence. Terrorism was an abomination and a crime against humanity on all sides. The wall had created unacceptable facts on the ground with broad political implications. She highlighted the situation around Jerusalem as particularly problematic, because it represented downright annexation and precluded a political settlement. Boundaries were being drawn in the wrong place and in the absence of negotiations. Moreover, the continuation of the policy of closures, checkpoints, and curfews was a sheer humiliation on a daily basis for the Palestinians. As stipulated in the Road Map, Israel had to dismantle the illegal outposts immediately — about 106 or 107 of them — but Israel had not dismantled one outpost since the Aqaba summit and, most importantly,had not frozen settlement activity. She suggested the idea of creating a compensation fund for settlers and beginning a compensation-for-relocation scheme. Eighty per cent of the settlers were economic settlers and could be compensated, by Israel or the international community. The humanitarian crisis and the economic crisis had reached new heights or depths. Ms. Chazan expressed the view that the effort to deal with the humanitarian issues was, in reality, unconsciously perpetuating the occupation.
26. She identified four major obstacles on the ground. The first was the crisis of leadership on both sides. On the Israeli side, the Ariel Sharon Government was the most right-wing Government in the history of the State of Israel; and on the Palestinian side, there was a leadership crisis, a power struggle and a danger of a power vacuum, which would make it very difficult to reach any kind of understanding. The second obstacle was the extremists on both sides that had taken control of the political agenda. On the Israeli side, the Israel Defense Forces and the settlers controlled most of the agenda; on the Palestinian side, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and some factions of Fatah provoked the political agenda. They were both opposed to a political settlement and to a two-State solution and were devoted to stopping the process. The third obstacle was the breakdown in trust of monumental proportions: most Palestinians and Israelis who in the past had been in contact were no longer talking to each other. The fourth obstacle was that the United Nations, the international community, the Quartet and the United States had not fulfilled their obligations. If the international community continued to stand idly by it would have to bear direct responsibility for the deterioration of the situation in the next few months or even years.
27. Ms. Chazan made a few suggestions for salvaging the vision of the Road Map and put forward two possible alternatives: First, the Road Map should be moved directly to phase 3, permanent settlement negotiations now, which would include two States for two peoples along the 1967 boundaries, two capitals for two States in Jerusalem, the evacuation and dismantlement of settlements, appropriate security arrangements and a just solution to the refugee problem in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III). Over the past several months, the leadership of the Israeli peace camp and major Palestinian players had been drafting a permanent settlement text. It was crucial to place this alternative on the public table. The second alternative for the immediate future was to reconsider the possibility of an international trusteeship over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was necessary to bring Israel to withdraw, which was crucial for Israeli security and would permit Palestinian elections and socio-economicrehabilitation. She cited the example of East Timor as a good precedent. In the interim phase, an international force on the ground would maintain order. Civil society did have a role - to extend its linkages horizontally and to decision makers.
28. Claudette Habesh , Secretary-General, Caritas Jerusalem, said that Israel’s occupation and its policy of closure, curfews, incursions, judiciary executions, imprisonment, home demolitions, tree uprooting, checkpoints, roadblocks, dirt ditches, barbed wire and concrete walls had not succeeded in providing security for the people of Israel. It had only succeeded in creating the worst humanitarian, economic, political and social crisis ever with long-term negative effects on the fabric of Palestinian society. It had also succeeded in impoverishing the population, with more families living under the poverty line that could be supported by international aid. The current circumstances allowed extremist camps on both sides to gain strength, promising results by means other than political negotiations.
29. According to a World Bank report, unemployment has risen to more than 50%; and 60% of the population currently livedbelow the United Nations poverty level of $2 per day per person, tripling the number of the poor from 637,000 prior to the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, up to approximately 2 million. Gross national income continued to fall, reaching 50% of its level of two years ago. Palestinian exports were in decline, while tourism was non-existent. Malnutrition was on the rise, up 30% from September 2000 levels. In Gaza, 13.3% of the population suffered from acute malnutrition. Access to medical treatment had been restricted by the closures, causing severe complications and in some cases death. More than 1,135 schooldays had been lost due to closures and curfews since September 2000. In a few years’ time, those students would enter the workforce with no formal or informal training and skills, making it difficult to escape the cycle of poverty. Since the onset of the intifada, more than 2,572 Palestinians had been killed, 19% of these were children.
30. She pointed out that the construction of the wall had raised many detrimental issues for the future Palestinian State. The wall was not being built on the internationally recognized boundary, the Armistice Line of 1948, between Israel and the West Bank. Large parts of it had been constructed deep into occupied Palestinian land, separating villages from their agricultural land and water resources, as well as allowing Israel to engulf illegal Jewish settlements, fertile land and valuable subterranean water resources. The construction had been preceded by the destruction of Palestinian land located nearby or in the way of the wall, centuries-old trees had been uprooted, irrigation systems damaged, and homes and community buildings had been demolished. More than 200,000 people had been affected.
31. Maha Abu Dayyeh Shamas , Director, Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, Jerusalem, said that the most serious problem was not only the absence of the political will to ensure the enforcement of the rule of law, but the systematic effort to subject the principles and rules of humanitarian law to bilateral political negotiations between unequal parties. Ten years ago, during the Washington negotiations, Palestinian negotiators had been urged not to insist on international legal principles, because of Israel’s resistance to beginning political negotiations with those rules in place. Political expediency had overpowered the basic principles essential for confidence-building. Israel wanted to subject everything to bilateral negotiations, without the active involvement of third parties.
If the settlement activities had been curtailed and the transfer of civilian population into the Occupied Territory been prevented, Palestinians would not be facing a second intifada, the separation wall and all the related human tragedies. Ten years later, not only was there no political solution, but war crimes had become more brutal and more frequent, eliciting, quite naturally similar illegal responses from Palestinian elements who felt that Palestinian society had been left at the mercy of the powerful Israeli military machine supported by an increasingly racist ideology and sustained by some of the most sophisticated media machinery in the world.
32. She said that more international effort had been invested in dealing with the ensuing humanitarian crisis than in forcefully dealing with the political problem that was creating and escalating it. In the background of all this brutality and total disregard for human life and dignity, both the Palestinian and the Israeli societies seemed to be intertwined in a bloody spiral. Cynical politicians were exploiting the anger and ensuing hate to maintain their own power control. The international community could do a lot in elevating, developing and maintaining the legal discourse based on justice and respect for human dignity while both parties seek a political solution for the joint existential problem. Political expediency should not be allowed to override the accumulated human experience and wisdom gained in dealing with conflicts.
Civil society under siege
34. Thomas Neu , Chairperson, Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), and Middle East Representative, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), gave some examples of obstacles encountered by NGOs in their daily work: food trucks, water trucks and even ambulances were being turned back at many checkpoints; some NGO staff members were denied permits; international staff members of some NGOs were unable to obtain visas to enter Israel or to work in the Palestinian areas; local and international NGOs could never be sure they would be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, where much of the needy Palestinian population resided. He said that in the course of the year, in view of the urgency and importance of access issues, a group of AIDA members had taken an unprecedented set of steps including issuing a joint press release, holding a press conference with subsequent appearances on CNN and the BBC, joint meetings with foreign diplomats, and scheduled meetings with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. Local NGOs had become more effective in demonstrating the need for change. Protests against the wall had been continuous and protests against house demolitions had acquired greater momentum. The Palestinian NGO Network and other local NGOs had called for an end to the forced politicization of development assistance such as the required signing of the “Certification against terrorist financing” form.
35. He recalled his address last year, when he had read out two paragraphs from AIDA’s “Joint Statement on Humanitarian Access” released on 4 July 2002. The situation had not much changed. The same appeal could be issued today. The question inevitably arose as to whether NGOs could be more effective somehow and whether they could organize themselves differently. Civil society related primarily to ordinary people and their daily life. Unfortunately, that part of civil society was the most seriously “under siege”. Farmers of Jayyous could no longer walk to their fields, but had to travel a circuitous route to be let in by the soldiers who controlled the gates to their fields; Arabs from the West Bank who were married to Arabs in Israel were now being told that they could not live together in Israel. The most basic functions of life in the West Bank still depended on the mood of teenage soldiers.
36. Cindy Corrie , Member, Peace and Justice Studies Association, Olympia, Washington, United States, recalled the Declaration of last year’s conference which stated that non-violent activists of non-governmental and civil society organizations from around the world, at extraordinary personal risk, had mobilized to provide human protection to Palestinians facing the onslaught of military occupation and commended the work of those brave activists. The necessity of their presence, as the only buffer between helpless civilians and a powerful military machine, stood as an indictment of the international community’s failure to provide serious protection for Palestinian civilians living under occupation that was required under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
37. She said that her daughter, Rachel Corrie, had been one of those brave activists who had made the journey from the safety of their own countries and homes to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Rachel had connected with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group of Palestinian-led international activists who used non-violent methods and strategies to confront the Israeli occupation. On 16 March 2003, Rachel, 23 years old, had died when she was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah. On 5 April, another American citizen, Brian Avery,
24 years old, had been shot in the face in Jenin, and on 11 April, Tom Hurndall, from the United Kingdom, had been shot in the head. They joined the ranks of those who had died or had been severely injured while assisting the Palestinian population. The Israeli military had assumed no responsibility, as with so many other killings of unarmed civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She pointed out that Rachel had stood there that day protesting Israeli military actions that her own country was on record as opposing, yet had failed to stop. The United States, in fact, contributed to such actions through its funding of the Israeli military.
38. Since Rachel’s killing, Mrs. Corrie continued, she had had the opportunity to talk with other ISM volunteers from the United States and from other countries. They were young and old as well as in between - college students and retirees, teachers, accountants, lawyers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers. They were Christians, Jews, Muslims and from other faiths as well. They had gone to the Occupied Territory because in 2001, the United States and Israel had opposed a United Nations resolution calling for international human rights monitors. Mrs. Corrie ended her presentation with the words of Robert F. Kennedy, who had spoken of the power of individuals like Rachel, Brian, and Tom to create something greater than themselves, saying that it was from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history was shaped. Each time a man stood up for an ideal or acted to improve the lot of others, or struck out against injustice, he sent forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples built a current that could sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
39. Allam Jarrar , member of the Steering Committee of the Palestinian NGO Network, described the many difficulties the Palestinians had been facing since the start of the intifada in September 2000. Palestinians had tried to respond to an unfair situation after seven years of long, unfruitful negotiations. He identified two major causes of this intifada: First, Israel had used the interim period to establish new political facts on the ground that would dictate the final political solution; and second, the Oslo process had not contributed to the creation of a political environment that would lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). On the contrary, it had created a very frustrating situation where Palestinian territorial integrity had been severely damaged, leading to the creation of a Bantustan system where Palestinian areas had been divided in areas A, B and C. The Government led by Mr. Sharon had used the tragic events of September 11 to start a strategic and massive offense against the Palestinians, with the aim of portraying the just struggle of the Palestinian people as terrorism, Palestinian resistance as terrorist acts, and of undermining any possibility to create a viable Palestinian State.
40. He described to the current situation on the ground, the ongoing daily violations of the human rights of the Palestinian civilians, including degradation and humiliation, which took place all over the West Bank and Gaza through sieges, closures and curfews. The poverty level had reached unprecedented dimensions, where almost 2 million out of 3 million people lived below the poverty line, at $2 per person per day. Although there were currently on the ground 900 Palestinian NGOs providing services to the Palestinian population in addition to thousands of international agencies providing humanitarian services, they were inaccessible to a large part of the needy population because of the restriction of movement of goods and people not only between Gaza and the West Bank, the West Bank and Jerusalem, but also between villages within the West Bank and Gaza. The building of the wall signaled the undermining of any possibility to establish a viable Palestinian State. In addition, the Israeli army had invaded Gaza, Jenin, Nablus and Hebron. The political process had been brought to a standstill by Israel.
41. Mr. Jarrar concluded saying that the only way out of the current impasse, which constituted a real humanitarian catastrophe, was through the direct, active and immediate involvement of the international community. The United Nations had the responsibility to uphold international legitimacy, as had the other members of the Quartet. He proposed that NGOs and civil society organizations should implement the following strategies: mobilize forces to end the occupation; more immediately, mobilize forces to stop the building of the wall; continue the campaign of grassroots international protection for Palestinians, such as the work of the International Solidarity Movement, which should be intensified and supported; support the work of Palestinian NGOs to provide humanitarian services; encourage the work of international agencies and international NGOs; strengthen the work of solidarity groups, such as the European NGO Coordinating Committee on the Question of Palestine (ECCP) and national platforms; and finally, bolster the peace movement in Israel and promote relationships between civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the peace movement in Israel.
42. Avia Pasternak , representative of Ta’ayush, a Jewish-Arab Israeli peace organization in Tel Aviv, described the struggle of the peace camp in Israel. The main program of her organization was to strengthen the Palestinian hold on the land, to express Israeli solidarity and to deliver the message to the Israeli public that the main purpose of the current Government was to undermine the infrastructure of Palestinian existence. It engaged in constant harassment, institutedcurfews, closures, roadblocks, erected impediments to agricultural work and denied everyday means of livelihood, leading to unbearable living conditions and causing a “crawling transfer”, meaning, the desertion of Palestinians by moving further into the West Bank, and facilitating the annexation of land by settlers closer to the Green Line. The organization had addressed the issue of economic inequality within Israeli society and had attempted to point out to the Israeli public the deep connection between the continuation of the occupation and the exploitation of the weaker strata of Israeli society. The organization had also sent solidarity convoys to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with food and medical supplies, and had created connections with the Palestinians. It was not a humanitarian organization, because it believed that humanitarian assistance facilitated the Israeli occupation; it aimed rather at suggesting a different narrative of possible relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
43. Despite the good will at the grassroots level on both sides in the past six months, Ta’ayush had been facing growing resistance by the Israeli Government, which had denied access to the Palestinian cities and villages. The Government had declared the area closed to political activists, thus preventing the organization of big operations except for aid convoys, and this had given rise to frustration. It seemed that the idea of developing grassroots connections between Israelis and Palestinians frightened the Israeli Government. She opined that civil society was not strong enough and would need political backup and the intervention of the international community. At the level of the international community, she supported the idea of boycotting international companies that maintained production facilities in settlements. The international community should show more presence in the Israeli media, because the Israeli public was either unaware of or indifferent to Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She expressed the view that the Israeli public was suffering from the occupation as well, even if not knowingly, because the deterioration of the economic situation in Israel was a direct result of the occupation.
44. Ahmed Bouzid , founder, Palestine Media Watch, recalled some major “journalistic failures” that had led to misinformation or unbalanced information: CNN had aired a five-part special focusing on the toll violence was taking on Israeli society, and had established a web memorial of Israeli victims who had perished since 1 January 2002. A petition from 79 organizations to CNN to air a similar five-part series on the Palestinian victims and to establish a parallel web site for them had been rejected by CNN. Despite all the Israeli attacks in the past two years, the Associated Press “list of Israeli attacks” described only five incidents, accounting for 48 deaths - only 2% of the total number of Palestinians killed during the period. Not one single newspaper had ever published a map depicting the so-called generous offer at Camp David from former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. In almost every story that referred to the Barak proposal, the figure 95% was used to characterize those proposals, giving the impression that Palestinians balked over 5%, when in fact the story was as much more complex.
45. Mr. Bouzid also criticized the over-reliance on official sources from the perspective of government officials and, to a lesser extent, human rights organizations or international bodies. In addition, the United States media were terrified of being seen as “biased” in favor of the Palestinians. If the media were to report all attacks on Palestinians, the coverage would seem to be harshly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. The basic narrative was that Israel was acting primarily in a complex effort to ensure its security, and fighting a defensive war. The competing paradigm that Israel was engaged in a colonial war of expansion and domination was rarely given serious consideration. Suicide bombings occurred on average once every few weeks (although in one two-week period in March 2002, suicide bombings had taken place every few days), while the killing of Palestinian civilians took place almost every single day. This had the effect of rendering the killing of Palestinians as non-events in the eyes of the media, especially since journalists were rarely around on the ground to cover the aftermath of the killings, while suicide bombers grabbed the headlines almost every time.
47. He said that Palestinian civil society believed that the aim of the Road Map was not a real settlement of the conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State in 2005, but the realization of the American aspiration of reaching a relative calm in order to serve other goals in the region unrelated to the settlement of this dispute. The official Israeli side maintained, through its actions and declarations by its officials that the conflict could only be settled by force. Violence generated violence and extremism on one side promoted extremism on the other. The losers were the common people: 60% of the Palestinian people were reported to be dependent upon assistance, and 22% of the Israeli population was unable to find sufficient food, as indicated in a recent report issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health. Unless the United Nations assumed its responsibilities and rectified this explosive situation, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would go on to an escalation of unpredictable dimensions.
He opined that although the American side had at first transformed the Road Map into an international initiative in the name of the Quartet, after the invasion of Iraq, it had resumed exclusive possession and supervision. It had effectively accepted the Israeli reservations with regard to the Map, which practically nullified its real content. The American side alone had presented the Road Map to the Israeli Government. In addition, the United States had organized two summits at Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba without the presence of the other Quartet members. President Bush had declared at the Aqaba summit, which brought together the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, that his country considered Israel to be a Jewish State rather than a State of its citizens, which meant that the Americans had dropped the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.
48. After the 29 June 2003 ceasefire, the United States had concentrated its pressure on the Palestinian leadership. Meanwhile, Israel had continued maintaining the siege which strangled Palestinian life, continued building settlements and construction of the wall, destroying the confidence-building measures that represented the first phase of the implementation of the Road Map. In addition, Israel had also continued the extrajudicial killings and invasions as a tool to provoke and incite Palestinians to acts of revenge. The destiny of the Road Map would be no better than that of its predecessors, the Tenet, Mitchell and Zini plans. He concluded by suggesting that the Quartet could supervise, as a joint team, the different phases of implementation of the Road Map; international civil society could strengthen and activate its solidarity; and international forces should be stationed as soon as possible, under the auspices of the Quartet, to ensure the real cessation of violence between the two sides, until a final and permanent settlement could be achieved in accordance with international resolutions. The conflict was an international one and international forces had been successfully deployed in other regions of the world.
49. Lev Grinberg , Professor, Ben-Gurion University, the Negev, said that in the absence of an organized and empowered civil society, the public space was occupied by the military society. The problem was that under military occupation and given the existence of Palestinian violent resistance it was very difficult to build an effective and powerful Jewish-Palestinian civil society. Freedom was a precondition for an empowered civil society, not only freedom of thought and speech, but also freedom of movement and organization. However, under military occupation, the civil society could not prevent violence. He pointed out that some Palestinians had reacted to the violent Israeli repression by killing innocent Israeli civilians in suicide attacks. That was a reaction, not a strategy. The two sides had been trapped in a vicious circle, and could not escape it without international help. The Israeli Government, with active aid of the US Administration, had succeeded in defining the conflict as a question of security and terror, rather than one of occupation and resistance. The Palestinians had not developed an effective strategy of resistance. When the Palestinian resistance used violence, the Israeli citizens felt threatened and supported the expansion of the occupation. He emphasized that the crucial problem was not security, but the uneven power relations between Israelis and Palestinians and the ascendance of the military society over the civil society. The trap lay in the definition of the problem as one of absence of security, detached from the fundamental issue of occupation. The Israeli Government had the right to continue the occupation if the Palestinian Authority did not cooperate in protecting the security of Israeli citize ns. Moreover, Israel could still continue the occupation even if and when the Palestinians provided security, since there was no full agreement on all the other issues, such as refugees, Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
50. He said that ending the occupation was a matter of international responsibility. The Road Map had somewhat legitimized the continuation of the occupation, while it demanded from the Palestinians the building of effective and transparent democratic institutions as a precondition for independence.
Mr. Grinberg noted that he had never heard before about “democratic conditionality” for independence and sovereignty, and also did not know of a single case of transparency and efficient democratic institutions under military occupation. The Road Map had not worked because it had created an impossible situation. It was no accident that the most extremist parties in Israel had remained members of the current coalition Government after the adoption of the Road Map. They had understood that there was no chance that the Road Map would reach the second stage. The first stage had been designed to stop violence; however, it neglected the essential fact that the occupation was in itself violence.
51. He opined that in order to implement a ceasefire, the active participation of the United Nations peacekeeping forces was needed, aiming to separate the Israeli forces of occupation (IDF and settlers) and the Palestinian population. Only when Palestinians felt protected from the everyday humiliation and killings and were granted freedom of movement could they produce substantial support among civil society to restrain the extremists. The United Nations peacekeeping forces should be large enough to be effective. In his opinion, the Palestinians must declare a new and longer Hudna , Israel must withdraw from the areas occupied since September 2000, and the United Nations must deploy its peacekeeping forces in the Palestinian areas until the end of the occupation. These three moves should be carried out simultaneously and unconditionally, within a time frame of two or three weeks, and coordinated by the United Nations forces. Ending the occupation must produce a permanent Hudna , after dismantling the settlements and the redeployment of Israeli military forces, and the establishment of a Palestinian State. Only then would the parties be able to launch negotiations on the issues related to 1948, such as recognized borders, refugees, Jerusalem, the Holy Places and the rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel.
52. Mary Rose Oakar , President, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Washington D.C., said that although the Road Map was an imperfect document, if implemented as written, it did provide the basis for the negotiations which could bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. Israel did not accept its principal responsibilities under phase 1 of the Road Map. A charade involving the supposedly “dismantling” of three unoccupied settler outposts could not hide the fact that there were now more outposts than before. Compounding all of this was Israel’s insistence on building a giant wall which, if all three phases were completed, would pen in the majority of the Palestinian population of the West Bank in a giant ghetto surrounded on all sides by Israeli occupation forces. This wall, if completed, would render the Road Map and President Bush’s vision of two States a practical impossibility. There could be no viable and independent Palestinian State as a physical and practical possibility with a massive concrete barrier encircling the majority of the population in the central part of the West Bank. The United States Government had not fully acknowledged that the wall meant, in effect, an end to the Road Map and the President’s vision. The symbolic gesture of cutting loan guarantees to Israel by the same amount that Israel had spent in building the wall signaled annoyance, but no determination to end its construction. No significant pressure had been applied to the Israeli Government. Israel had been allowed to accept the Road Map with more than a dozen “reservations”, which was the same as not accepting it at all.
53. She continued that the Bush Administration must be much more willing to challenge the domestic constituencies, including some major Jewish organizations, the evangelical Christian right, neoconservatives and some powerful liberals, all of whom demanded uncritical support for Israel and opposed the Road Map, because it required Israeli concessions. Those special interest groups and powerful individuals represented neither the majority of Israeli public opinion nor that of American Jews. It was in the best interest of Israeli, Palestinian and American security to pursue support for a two-State solution to end the current conflict. Fortunately, there were other Jewish, Arab, and interfaith organizations that had the ability to be objective and were making their voices heard. But it was up to civil society to challenge the powerful interests in favor of the occupation and war and to provide cover, advocacy and political support for those in the Administration who wished to play a more constructive role in the process. ADC intended to do this through its lobbying efforts with Congress and the Administration, their grassroots activism with more than 60 chapters across the country, in the mass media, and work with broad coalitions in favor of peace and justice in the Middle East. American public opinion, which overwhelmingly supported an end to the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State, should be translated into public policy. Without responsible and proactive political advocacy in favor of peace in all three societies, the Palestinian, Israeli and American leaderships might not be able to find the political space and support necessary to truly confront those favouring war and the continuation of the violence into the indefinite future in the futile hope of one day achieving a decisive military victory.
54. Jeff Halper , Coordinator, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD), said that given the unwillingness of the international community to force Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied Territory and in particular the American Congress’s refusal to exert meaningful pressure on the Israeli Government, Israel was on the brink of emerging as the world’s next apartheid State. He pointed out that the Road Map had a goal, the establishment of a viable Palestinian State, instead of the vague and open-ended negotiations of the Oslo Accords. But the will to make it work was lacking. Russia and the United Nations had never entered into the process, and Europe had passed on all responsibility to the United States. President Bush had announced in Aqaba that the US would once again assume the role of the sole mediator. Only the Road Map, the last dying breath of the two-State solution, stood between the hope of Palestinians for self-determination and the de facto one State controlled by Israel, after a three-decade campaign to create “facts on the ground”. Israel had entered into the last phase of fully and finally incorporating the West Bank into Israel proper, of transforming a temporary occupation into a permanent state of apartheid. The Israeli settlement blocks were extensive, their incorporation into Israel proper by a massive system of highways and bypass roads complete. The Separation Wall physically confined the Palestinians to tiny cantons so as to render any genuine two-State solution impossible. With the de facto apartheid State, Israel would be permitted to continue its incorporation process, the United States would enter into an extended electoral period in which no pressure would be applied to Israel at all, and another year or two would elapse before the next initiative would be formulated. By that time even the illusion that a viable Palestinian State could be achieved would be finally gone. By its own hand Israel would have prevented the emergence of a viable Palestinian State and would create a single State. The great danger facing Palestinians was the limbo of a non-dead Road Map and Mr. Sharon’s version of a Palestinian State, a truncated Bantustan with no control of its borders, no freedom of movement, no economic viability, no access to its water resources, no meaningful presence in Jerusalem, no genuine sovereignty, one that would leave Israel with 90% of the territory, “sold” by the United States as a viable Palestinian State, the successful outcome of the Road Map.
55. Mr. Halper presented the possibility of the creation of a single State in Palestine-Israel, offering equal citizenship for all and based on the slogan one person one vote, where Jews would be in the minority. This possibility should provide a common mobilizing call for an international campaign that should reach the scope and effectiveness of the campaign against South African apartheid, which would make organizing much easier. Meanwhile, NGOs and the international community should continue to oppose the occupation and all its manifestations. He suggested some intermediate steps, such as aninternational protectorate over the Palestinian areas, in order to freeze Israel’s ongoing process of incorporation while protecting the civilian population. The central message should be that apartheid and occupation constituted fundamental challenges to a world ruled by human rights and law.
56. Naomi Braine , member, Jews against the Occupation, pointed out that her organization, founded in October 2000, was committed to community education, visibility through demonstrations and other forms of direct action; in particular, the opposition to United Statesaid to Israel, the end of the Israeli occupation and support for the Palestinian right of return. United States involvement in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory was a domestic issue with several layers. The Jewish lobby and the war on terrorism were coming together, encouraging Americans to identify with Israel as another Euro-American country and, since 9/11, identifying the citizens of the United States and Israel as “victims” of Islamic/Arab terrorists. Another layer, more covert in its support for Israel, was that of the Christian fundamentalists in the United States, who believed that the creation of a Jewish State in historic Palestine indicated that their messiah would soon return, after a period of apocalyptic war. The current Administration had strong ties to this branch of Christianity. At a more material level, there was a large weapons industry in the United States, which made substantial profits from the aid to Israel. A substantial amount of the annual United States aid budget never left the United States: it went directly to American corporations, particularly weapons manufacturers, which then shipped their products to Israel. This created a powerful corporate interest in United States foreign policy and military aid to Israel, even aside from the interests of oil companies in the Middle East.
57. In her opinion, these more covert layers of interest — weapons manufacturers, military cooperation and Christian Zionists — were far more powerful than the Jewish lobby, but those forces were relatively invisible in the discussion of United States aid to Israel. It would be much harder to sell American policy towards the Middle East on the basis of corporate interests and apocalyptic Christianity. It was easier to talk about the power of the Jewish lobby and American support for Israeli security. There were some very visible and active political action committees that advocated, in the name of Jews, a close alliance between the United States and Israel. There were also some highly placed Jewish members of the current Administration with long ties to right-wing think tanks and close ties to the Israeli military and security establishments. Actual Jewish public opinion was far more diverse than the beliefs expressed by those organizations and individuals. Ms. Braine said that Jewish organizations and activists played a significant role in the American solidarity movement with Palestinians. It was vital to have a visible and clearly identified Jewish voice within larger coalitions against the occupation. This disrupted the political equation between Jews and Zionism, which was fostered by both Jewish institutions and the larger American political culture. At the same time, it was vital to insist that United States support for Israel, particularly tax-funded foreign aid, was in fact not a Jewish issue; it was an issue that all Americans of conscience needed to be concerned with. Coalitions that visibly included both Jews and Palestinians were particularly important for challenging the United States policy.
58. Ms. Phyllis Bennis , fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D.C., said that although the Road Map was functionally over, it was very important to understand why the Road Map had failed and, beyond that, why Israel had refused to implement it. A lack of political will was obviously the key, but in broader terms, it was not a viable proposal that could bring a just peace. There were a couple of important gains in the Road Map vìs-à- vìs earlier peace initiatives sponsored by the United States. The most important was the acknowledgement of the goal of ending the occupation. The definition of ending the occupation, however, had been left out thereby providing the possibility for Israel to include among its 14 reservations the idea that ending occupation should be taken off the agenda and that the goal should rather be ending the conflict. The reasons for the Road Map’s failure lay in three areas: The final status issues, as in the case of Oslo, had been divided into stages with the critical questions of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and settlers put off until the last stage. This equation had not worked with Oslo and had not worked this time either. Another problem was its narrow identification of which United Nations resolutions would be applied. It was to be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002); other United Nations resolutions, most particularly General Assembly resolution
194 (III), which dealt with the question of refugees and the right of return and compensation, had been ignored. She said that the Quartet was not a quartet, but a solo act. The United Nations, Russia, and the European Union had been brought on to provide political cover for a United States policy and an American-led process. President Bush had been able to announce on 14 March 2003 his personal commitment to the Road Map, thus sidelining the Quartet. The international monitoring team, which was to monitor compliance, was to be made up of CIA and Pentagon staff and headed by an Administration official. To the Aqaba summit, in June 2003, the other members of the Quartet had not even been invited.
59. Ms. Bennis pointed out that civil society as a whole had been ignored in the Road Map process just as it had been ignored in the earlier peace initiatives, as had been the United Nations. It was this potential partnership between those ignored two parts of world opinion, civil society and the international multilateral organization of the United Nations, that had to be created. It was now asserting itself to challenge American dominance of the process and demand a new initiative led not by Washington but by the United Nations itself. There was no need for a new Road Map. The Geneva Convention and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations were sufficient. Ms. Bennis said that a public campaign had to be created that would demand United Nations centrality and a campaign that looked at the wall as an example of the occupation. The wall was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel was a signatory to it. Also, civil society needed a campaign to demand of the United Nations to take on the responsibility for international protection. The United States consistently used vetoes in the Security Council. There was a potential to move the issue out of the Security Council to the General Assembly, where the United States did not have the veto. There was an extraordinary example, a period between 2002 and 2003 when for eight andahalf months the United Nations stood defiant of American pressure in defense of its own Charter, which said that the United Nations stood against the scourge of war and made the United Nations more relevant than ever before.
Civil society initiatives to end the occupation
61. Joshua Ruebner , Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said that the United States, by providing Israel with virtually unlimited diplomatic, economic, and military support, had made itself complicit in Israel’s 36-year-old military occupation of the Palestinian lands in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. During the current intifada, the United States had used or threatened to use its veto power to prevent the international community from deploying a protection force to the Occupied Territory. The economic aid that the US gave annually to Israel went directly into its treasury, freeing up money to spend on the construction of illegal settlements, bypass roads, and the separation wall in the West Bank. US military aid to Israel entrenched the occupation of Palestinian lands by providing the Israeli army with indispensable material that it needed to enforce its daily subjugation of the Palestinian people.
62. He pointed to three distinct, but overlapping special interest groups that contributed to the formation of US foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the so-called Jewish lobby, represented most prominently by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); Christian Zionism; and the arms industry. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular and the instability in the Middle East in general had created lucrative business opportunities for the arms industry. He discussed the American political system which was increasingly resulting in apathy of the electorate. The non-participation of citizens in the political process was a troubling sign for the health of democracy in the United States and an indication to grassroots activists of how difficult it was to engage the general public. In addition, very few voters were concerned enough about foreign policy issues in general and in the Middle East in particular to organize to exert pressure on their elected representatives.
63. Mr. Ruebner elaborated on his organization’s approach for achieving a coordinated, sustained, and effective grassroots pressure on the respective elected representatives. Since its outset in summer 2002, the coalition had been utilizing this strategy in order to try to change American policy. It had been somewhat successful in congressional districts where the coalition had been able to tap into existing grassroots activist networks and coordinate those networks with others, eventually building enough strength to be able to exert serious grassroots pressure on the American political system. The network of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and other national partner organizations had brought about, for example, the coordination of “ ;Washington Wednesdays” as well as other legislative alerts. Through this partnership, thousand of activists around the country were coordinating the coalition’s political outreach efforts through agreed-upon issues and messages, to build a type of national movement that wouldeventually be strong enough to reverse United States policy.
64. Gretta Duisenberg , Chairperson, Stop the Occupation, Amsterdam, said that she had been exposed to the daily face of Israel’s occupation when she visited Gaza and the West Bank in November 2002. She had had the opportunity of talking to shop owners and inhabitants of Nazlat’Isa, concerned about the fate of their houses and shops which were slated to be demolished because of the construction of the wall. Indeed, on 21 August 2003, Nazlat’Isa had been razed and virtually 100 shops had been destroyed by the Israeli military forces for the construction of the wall. The market had been the commercial center for the entire region. The ceasefire had collapsed, largely as a result of Israel’ ;s continued policy of targeted and extrajudicial assassinations. That policy had provided a pretext to Palestinian militant groups to resume violence. The Israeli-administered collective punishment of the Palestinian population had intensified this dynamic. The first phase of the Road Map required Israel to freeze its settlement activity, withdraw to its pre-September 2000 positions and ease the closures, but none of those obligations had been met. In addition, the Palestinians lacked the capacity to carry out a full crackdown on militant groups.
65. She stated that beneath those immediate obstacles lay a more fundamental problem. Just like the Oslo process, the Road Map had lacked a human rights component and had repeated past mistakes. As a result, human rights abuses and the disregard of human rights were destined to destroy the very process that was meant to lead to a resolution to the conflict. Israel’s humanitarian law obligations and the human rights of the Palestinians should not be treated as if they were negotiable and dependent on the performance of the parties. She expressed regret that Russia and the United Nations as part of the Quartet had been silent. The United States had persisted in its traditional pro-Israel stance, under the disguise of the war against terror, and Europe had done little more than to follow the American lead. In her view, the European Union had a unique chance to formulate a unified foreign policy, and if necessary to apply sanctions, such as the suspension of the Treaty of Association between Israel and the European Union.
66. Her organization, Stop the Occupation, founded in September 2002, had started out with a declaration requesting European politicians to assume their responsibilities, and a call for the international community to promote Israeli withdrawal from all the Palestinian Territory occupied in 1967. Several well-known persons, a former Prime Minister, former ministers, members of national Parliaments and the European Parliament had signed the organization’s appeal, and more than 50,000 people until the present day. In conclusion, she made some suggestions for civil society advocacy. NGOs should expand their social base, as the conflict was to a large extent about human rights violations. Also, political advocacy in the European context should demand the enforcement of international law. The commitments made under international law also applied to the external agreement that the European Union had signed with Israel. It was up to the lobby groups to suggest concrete, non-belligerent ways to promote respect.
67 Pierre Galand , Senator, Belgian Parliament, pointed out ways to strengthen the NGO network. Those networks had to be reinforced to exert pressure on institutions. NGOs must realize that an important event had occurred, the emergence of a movement towards a new world, the anti-war world, and anti-globalization forces were gaining ground throughout the world. The European NGO Coordinating Committee on the Question of Palestine (ECCP) would organize the European Forum from 12 to 14 November 2003 and prepare a strategy on how NGOs could engage in a dialogue with the anti-globalization movement. The ECCP was also preparing for the Bombay Social Forum that would take place in January 2004, and for the Mediterranean Social Forum, in March 2004. European groups should focus on placing the Palestine question at the very core of any discussion about international relations that Europe would be entering into. Contemporary Europe was particularly devoted to moving and to expanding towards the East. There would soon be 10 new States joining the European Union. That new European section would change the balance in Europe bas ed on the States of the East, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Right now the Mediterranean foot had been cut off. The Europeans had to be aware of the fact that the Palestine question was also a key to their own relations. Peace in the Middle East was a matter of general balance in Europe and European strength. It was not merely a matter of militancy, but a question of geopolitics. With regard to the Palestine question, Europe maintained a policy of equidistance and left the entire responsibility to the United States. NGOs in Europe were exerting pressure on their Governments to shoulder their responsibilities with respect to Palestinian rights.
68. Mr. Galand gave some examples of recent initiatives in Europe: the ECCP had invited the mayors of Nablus, Gaza and Tulkarem to meet in the European Parliament the mayors of Turin, Barcelona and Marseilles, who had come to defend their colleagues. In December, there would be an international conference of jurists to discuss and strengthen the international legal principles and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Action had also begun to demand a halt in the construction of the wall. NGOs were requesting that fruit coming from Israel be boycotted. He pointed out that at the Mediterranean level, nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction had to be removed from the area. Demilitarization and denuclearization of the Mediterranean area would lead Israel to enter into a nuclear-free peace and security system which would facilitate a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He concluded his presentation by saying that NGOs could work together with peace organizations in Israel, even on the subject of sanctions, to make sure that public opinion understands that when apartheid was fought, sanctions were adopted against it in the United States and in Europe. Such sanctions would make Israel respect international law and would lead to a solution to the conflict and lasting peace in the Middle East.
69. Silas Cerqueira , member of the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization and the International Secretariat in Solidarity with the Arab People and their Central Cause, Palestine, Lisbon, said that the powerful advance of the global peace movement should make NGOs consider the new international and regional context of the Palestinian struggle and respective solidarity campaigns.
He recalled that past “peace processes” had not improved the situation of the Palestinian people; on the contrary, it had become worse, because they were fundamentally flawed. Out of those processes had come, instead of independence, more sophisticated forms of occupation, culminating in the construction of the wall. Israel, the more powerful side, had resorted systematically to state terrorism and violence. Palestinians were in a weaker position, crushed militarily and struggling for survival. The full responsibility for the loss of lives, on the Palestinian side as well as in Israel, lay with the Governments of Mr. Sharon and Mr. Bush, who was using Israel as a pawn for geopolitical and economic domination.
70. He concluded by hailing the steadfastness of the 3 million Palestinian people living in the Occupied Territory and their leader, Yasser Arafat, in refusing to bend to colonialism and imperialism.
In view of the difficult situation on the ground with no solution in sight that would provide for genuine independence of the Palestinians, NGOs should intensify their moral, material and political solidarity with the Palestinian people. The United Nations had to assume its “permanent role” in a principled process to achieve independence for the Palestinians and just peace in the region.
72. Nasser Al-Kidwa , Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, supported the decision of NGOs to make the wall the focus of the Plan of Action. That wall embodied the Israeli occupation and settler colonialism, the efforts to negate the national existence of Palestinians and prevent their independence. Outlining the official Palestinian position, he said that the Palestinian national programme had the goal of establishing an independent State of Palestine on the territory occupied by Israel in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital, and with a just solution of the refugee problem based on United Nations resolutions, including General Assembly resolution 194 (III). It was not useful to raise different ideas such as the one-State, bi-national State solution. This was neither the national Palestinian position nor the position of the United Nations. Furthermore, the only practical result of such a proposal would effectively legalize the presence of settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In the long run, it would not be a good idea for the Palestinians, nor for the Israelis. The only alternative was a steadfast upholding of international law, international legitimacy and the national rights of the Palestinian people. Settlements had to be dismantled, settlers had to return to Israel and Palestinians had to build their national State of Palestine.
73. He reiterated the Palestinian commitment to the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the Palestinian willingness to cooperate with any efforts aimed at bringing the Road Map to life again. The Road Map must be restarted from square one, for there had been no first step. Prime Minister Sharon had been allowed to escape his first obligation to declare Israel’s acceptance of the independent sovereign State of Palestine and to declare the cessation of Israeli attacks against Palestinians.
74. He expressed his agreement with NGOs on the importance of the United Nations, its resolutions and the need for its continuous role in the Middle East peace process. Resolutions would be defended, updated and reflective of the reality in all United Nations organs, including the Security Council. When there would be a veto in the Security Council, there would be an emergency special session in the General Assembly, and then the debates in the regular sessions. The 21 resolutions adopted last year would be kept and would be complemented by important issues related to the wall, Israeli war crimes and the need to ensure that the Israeli representation at the United Nations is in conformity with international law. He proposed to work together with NGOs to ensure that Israeli credentials to the General Assembly would not cover the territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem. That would be a real achievement for the Palestinian people and for the cause of peace in the Middle East.
75. Papa Louis Fall, Chairman of the Committee, welcomed the presence of so many NGO representatives, observers from Governments and intergovernmental organizations, and different agencies of the United Nations system that shared with the Committee the common concern about the situation on the ground and the common goal of working for a just and lasting solution of the conflict, despite all the setbacks and difficulties. In particular, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs should take home the message that an ever-growing segment of civil society, the United Nations itself and the vast majority of its Member States supported their efforts for a peaceful solution of the question of Palestine.
76. The creation of new facts on the ground had not been conducive to the resumption of the political process, and in fact contradicted international law. Israel’s settlement policy continued unabated with the expansion of existing settlements and the appearance of new outposts. The separation wall had become a very palpable case of the same policy of colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as did repeated military incursions into Palestinian towns and villages. Action against these illegal measures by the Occupying Power should be an immediate priority of all actors of the international community, Governments and civil society organizations alike.
77. The Road Map had raised many hopes, especially among average Palestinians and Israelis who were longing for normality and peace. The Committee firmly supported such important initiatives as the Road Map as a practical instrument for implementing United Nations resolutions, ending the occupation and achieving the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. NGOs, by maintaining principled positions and explaining to their constituencies the root causes of the conflict, namely the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel and the suffering of the Palestinian people, would contribute to ensuring that this plan would not swerve from its declared final goal: two States, Israel and a sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Governments and civil society had to combine their weight and act together; only concerted efforts would deliver tangible results.
END ISRAEL’S OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE
Non-governmental organizations /Civil Society Plan of Action
The crisis caused by occupation and settlement, by militarization and escalating repression, is more desperate than ever before. That crisis is symbolized by the construction of The Wall, as it confiscates Palestinian land, water and resources, cuts off and separates Palestinian towns and cities, and isolates Palestinians themselves.
We are resolved to work with Governments, parliaments, multinational organizations, and especially the United Nations itself, to mobilize against The Wall and its inherent violations of international law.
To that end, we commit ourselves to the following actions:
UNITED NATIONS RESOLUTIONS
WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST THE WALL
Letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations
We, non-governmental and civil society organizations gathered in this international forum, commit to joining our efforts and resources to uphold international law, end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and provide international protection for the Palestinian people.
We will work with our Governments and parliaments to ensure that the United Nations Security Council and/or the General Assembly authorize an international protection force as a first step to ending the occupation and implementing outstanding United Nations resolutions regarding a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Such a force, with a well-defined mandate and within a clear timeline for an end to occupation, will spare Palestinian civilians further death and destruction at the hands of the occupying Israeli military forces and the illegal acts of successive Israeli Governments in the occupied Palestinian territory. It will also protect Israeli civilians from acts of violence which are a consequence of the brutal 36-year-old occupation. At the same time, we will continue to support and participate in the important work of the international citizens movement to provide protection for and solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation.
We recognize that Israel’s occupation, and particularly its settlement process, has escalated significantly with the creation of the Wall in Palestinian territory, effectively confiscating thousands of acres of Palestinian land and separating Palestinians from their farms and orchards. We condemn the construction of the Wall, and its violation of international law. We are committed to work with our Governments and parliaments to mobilize against the Wall. We urge each of you to use all the resources available to you, including the power of your voices on the international stage, to demand that Israel dismantle the illegal Wall. We attach for your attention our Plan of Action for this year, which focuses on mobilizing international opposition to the Wall.
Encl. Plan of Action 2003
List of participants