Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Conférence internationale de la société civile à l’appui du peuple palestinien (Genève, 7-8 septembre 2006) - Communiqué de presse Français
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
General Assembly
11 September 2006




UN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN SUPPORT

OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE ADOPTS PLAN OF ACTION



The two-day International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People this afternoon adopted a Plan of Action and concluded its annual meeting.

The Plan of Action commits civil society organizations to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieving the still unrealized rights, including the rights of self-determination and return of the Palestinian people. It acknowledges that the war against Lebanon and the continuing assault on Gaza have created new realities and that the conditions of Palestinians under occupation continue to deteriorate and Palestinian refugees continue to be denied their international rights, including their right of return.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Conference discussed strengthening civil society initiatives, hearing from Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Michael Warschawski, Co-founder and Former Director of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem; and Jamal Juma’ Ja’afreh, Coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in Jerusalem.

Rapporteurs for the workshops that were held on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning also presented the conclusions of those four events. The workshops were entitled broadening, deepening and consolidating global constituencies; campaigns targeting the occupation; campaigns to uphold international law; and mobilizing public opinion, including media strategies. Phyliss Bennis, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine, introduced the draft Plan of Action, and participated along with the other speakers in the discussion that followed.

In a closing statement, Na’eem Jeenah, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine, said there was a critical, urgent and dire situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where there was a determined and deliberate war against the civilian population. The Plan of Action which had been deliberated was not enough. These were harsh words, but history would not forgive the international community if it did not make an even greater commitment to strengthen its sacrifice and contribution to the Palestinian struggle and the attainment of justice for the Palestinian people.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said in his closing remarks that there was a tremendous amount of frustration in the Middle East, and the situation could no longer continue. As a result of the frustration, all should shift gears and maximise efforts to do what needed to be done. The moral power of the international community clearly supported the cause of the Palestinian people, as was shown in the resolutions that were adopted every year within the United Nations. But there was a need for a will and a strict timetable, overseen by the Security Council, to make progress and resolve the situation.

Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People which convened the International Conference, said in concluding remarks that it was commonly agreed that the end goal of the participants was an end to the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian State within the 1967 borders. This was a legitimate right based in international law and United Nations resolutions. For its part the Committee would continue to provide civil society partners with opportunities to come together and hold periodic consultations with civil society representatives to incorporate their suggestions and recommendations into its programme of work.


Plan of Action

The Plan of Action commits civil society organizations to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieving the still unrealized rights, including the rights of self-determination and return of the Palestinian people. It acknowledges that the war against Lebanon and the continuing assault on Gaza have created new realities and that the conditions of Palestinians under occupation continue to deteriorate and Palestinian refugees continue to be denied their international rights, including their right of return.

Participants of the Conference call on the United Nations and its Member States to provide international protection for the Palestinian people living under occupation; to bring to justice in the International Criminal Court, or in another international or national forum, those guilty of war crimes against the Palestinian people; and to encourage and impose sanctions, in the form of ending the murderous arms trade with Israel, and to end sanctions that had been imposed against the elected Palestinian Authority and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

The Plan of Action also commits the Conference participants to work in the coming months, with the Palestinian civil society movements and non-governmental organizations to mark the 40 year anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It also commits them to expanding the global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions to ever broader sectors of countries and regions, based on building a non-violent movement of opposition to Israeli apartheid and occupation, including an urgent campaign to end the sanctions against the democratically-elected Palestinian Authority. It also demands that governments urgently provide international protection to the Palestinian people living under occupation, including efforts to bring to justice those guilty of war crimes against the Palestinian people.


Statements on Strengthening Civil Society Initiatives

Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said there were two concrete issues. The human rights organizations believed that universal jurisdiction should be used, and this implied close coordination with international lawyers in order to raise various issues. There were 86 Israeli statesmen and generals in various States that were followed by international jurisdiction cases, and this was a reason for panic among the Israeli leadership. There should be increased cooperation and coordination in this regard, as hunting Israeli war criminals was a strategy which should be adopted and worked upon in a stubborn, effective and strategic way. There were no illusions with regards to the solutions to these cases, but nevertheless the tactic should be pursued. Civil society should be more aware of this issue, and in each State lawyers should be encouraged to commit to such causes.

Another issue was the need for a conference at the beginning of November 2006 which would include international human rights organizations, regional human rights organizations including Palestinian and Israeli ones and representing all areas of the world, bringing participants closer. The current situation was at the peak of suppression and yet there was no reaction coming from supposed partners, and there was a need for new blood and an exchange of ideas in a deeper way, along with precise issues to be raised with the various concerned parties. Israel had never recognised since 1967 the de jure applicability of the Geneva Conventions. The conspiracy of silence should be broken, and the situation put the right way around. The Palestinian people should be protected from sanctions, and the belligerent occupation should no longer be given privileges.

Michael Warschawski, Co-founder and Former Director of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem, said when the International Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ICCP) was founded two decades ago, a very simple formula was heard, as it was a single people, led by a single organization, fighting for its independence against a colonial power, and the role of the solidarity movement was to support this just cause of the rights of the Palestinian people. The movement of solidarity, of very dedicated and highly politicised people, usually from the left, was engaged in supporting the struggle as part of the anti-colonial struggle. Since the victory of the neo-conservatives and the global strategy of unending war, and since the turn of the century and the events of the Battle of Seattle, which was an example of the changes within the solidarity movement, there had been a radical change in the perception of the situation. The struggle for Palestinian independence, statehood and rights was no longer an Israeli-Palestinian issue: it was part of a global war, and part of a whole process of re-colonisation. Palestine was today part of the new wave of colonisation, and Israel was the vanguard of something much bigger, pre-figuring the events in Iraq, and maybe in other countries when whole States and nations could be identified as a threat, as terrorist States, against which pre-emptive war was authorised.

There was a mass movement towards increased solidarity, as evidenced by the composition of the delegations to Palestine, and in the demonstrations in support of Palestine. The World Social Forum was the place where these movements could meet and exchange information, strategising together in the context of the global war. This generation had new ways of making politics, and some of the ICCP’s agenda of the last twenty years was no longer relevant. The global war was causing a feeling of mass solidarity among the citizens of the world, who felt as though they were actors, and this was a new responsibility. The new movements were motivated by feelings of fairness and unfairness, of justice and injustice, and this had great implications for the work of the ICCP and for its future relevance. Palestine was one chapter in the global situation. The ICCP was no longer the leading solidarity movement, it was now merely maybe the most politicised one, and was a tiny part of a much broader movement of tens of millions who suffered with the Palestinians and shared their hopes. It was what civil society could be convinced of as right which would move things forward and change the world.

JAMAL JUMA’ JA’AFREH, Coordinator, Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in Jerusalem, by way of providing background on the World Social Forum, said the Forum came into being at a moment when solidarity with Palestine had just re-awakened with the eruption of the second Intifadah and had been slowly organizing itself again, locally, nationally and internationally. It was believed that any successful engagement with the World Social Forum meant making a constructive contribution to the building of strong global movements, and ensuring that Palestine was a priority for the Forum. The signing of the Oslo agreements had led to the most serious crisis in Palestinian solidarity since people globally had become aware of the struggle of the Palestinian people. It was at this time when Palestinian civil society grew stronger. It was in 2000 during the second Intifadah when there was a further reawakening of Palestinian civil society. This reawakening was noted at the Durban international conference on Racism in 2001. Moreover, the building of the separation wall by Israel and the subsequent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice helped the civil society movement in Palestine to reform its strategies. The meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005 called for economic sanctions against Israel and a meeting in Caracas this year called for increased support for Palestinian civil society.

Chief among the challenges that remained for the World Social Forum was ensuring that organizations leading the process and participants of the events were stimulated to deal with the issue of Palestine and to see the centrality of Palestine for the entire region and globally, Mr. Ja’afreh said. The World Social Forum offered an opportunity for Palestinian activists to hold seminars and coordination meetings and to meet with other social movements and civil society groups, with the eventual aim of engaging them actively in solidarity efforts, he said. The question of Palestine was not an issue for experts or specialists but touched core questions present in many struggles. There was a need to involve and encourage the Arab organization to join the Forum. State terror practices by the United States and Israel should also be highlighted more strongly in response to their so-called false war on terror. Moreover, there was a need to acknowledge that a number of the Islamic resistance groups and movements formed part of the broad liberalization and anti-imperialist forces; and that civil society organizations close to or linked to Islamist groups in Palestine be invited to civil society forums.

Presentations by Rapporteurs of Workshops

RABAB KHAIRY, European Coordinating Committee of NGOs on the Question of Palestine, presenting the conclusions on the workshop entitled broadening, deepening and consolidating global constituencies, said most participants in the workshop agreed that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign was nowadays the main framework to ensure the consolidation of a global solidarity movement. European movements had called for the suspension of the association agreement with Israel and in South America there were calls against the free trade agreements with Israel. Other organization representatives also said that the war against Lebanon opened the possibility to broaden and consolidate constituencies with global anti-war movements.

FLORENCE GIARD, Platform of French NGOs for Palestine, presenting a summary of the workshop on campaigns targeting the occupation, said a lot of things had been discussed, including the various charactistics of the Israeli occupation, the Separation Wall, and various things which could be done to launch campaigns targeting the occupation, and this included information campaigns, and the need to broaden the information available to the Israeli public. There was also a need to remind militants that the end of the occupation would not be an end to apartheid. Economic sanctions had been discussed, and the different options addressed. Mobilisation to abolish the Paris Protocol was also discussed, and the importance of using existing laws to take criminal action against Israelis who had committed war crimes, and the effect this could have on the Israeli establishment.

ARLENE CLEMESHA, Sao Paolo University, presenting a summary of the workshop on campaigns to uphold international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the construction of the Wall, said the Palestinians were paying heavily in Gaza, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and refugee camps. The loss of faith in international law had increased largely, as it was disregarded in various parts of the world, just as it was disregarded in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The strengthened applicability of international law was an irrefutable and unquestionable benefit to all. To this end the following should be considered: a joint opinion of council as a follow up to the International Court of Justice ruling; to mount pressure for the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council to discuss the application of the Geneva Conventions; to take Israeli leaders to court, for crimes against Palestinians; and to strengthen the mechanisms to convene an international diplomatic conference of the countries party to the Geneva Convention. Finally, the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion was still considered to be the strongest instrument for civil society to take forward in the growing world campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel until it fully complied with international law.

ANGELA GODFREY-GOLDSTEIN, Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, presenting a summary of the workshop on mobilizing public opinion, including media strategies, said participants in the workshop underlined that the media had changed considerably during the past five years. Today, people’s news and media sources came principally from broadcast media. In the war in Lebanon, the biggest single problem Israeli spokespersons had to contend with were the images coming out of Southern Lebanon as it had been difficult to disassociate themselves from these images. There was an increased desensitization in the media of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. One of the workshop participants called for a campaign entitled “Free Gaza” in order to raise public awareness. In order to remobilize public opinion, there was a need for a long-standing campaign to rebuild the world’s image of the situation, and even the language. There was a need to reaffirm that there was an occupation and to admit that that was the core of the problem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Discussion

PHYLIS BENNIS, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine, introducing the draft Plan of Action said the proposed Plan, among other things, committed the participants of the meeting to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories and called on the United Nations and its Members States to provide international protection to the Palestinian people living under that occupation. The Plan of Action acknowledged that there was a crisis where Palestinians suffered unjustly due to this occupation under which the living conditions of the Palestinian people had continued to deteriorate.

In response to a question on what should happen to the text of the Plan of Action, Ms. Bennis responded that all present should take it back to their Governments and countries. In response to a further question, she said that they should also put pressure on their countries to participate in the United Nations work with regards to Palestine.

Among issues raised from the floor during the discussion was the work of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and whether this would be of any help to the Palestinian case, as technically Palestine was not a State.

Ms. Bennis responded to this question, saying that the intervention of the ICJ was not a given, and would have to be fought for, and there should be a broadening of the jurisdiction of the ICJ. Mr. Warschawski made suggestions amending the text. He also referred to sanctions, raising the issue of the suspension of the Israeli-European Union trade agreement, in particular in the context of the arms trade. Mr. Sourani said with regards to the four high-contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, they should take the lead. Universal jurisdiction and all related tools should be used to bring to accountability all Israeli war criminals who had participated in war crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Ms. Bennis pointed out that “universal jurisdiction” was a complicated concept, which required clarification for many people who were not legal specialists. Therefore adding the term to the text was fine, but it should not be limited to such specialised language. The obligations of the Geneva Conventions required elaboration. Mr. Sourani disagreed with this.

A question from the floor was posed on what context was missing for the Plan of Action, in particular with regards to the global war on terrorism and whether this should be incorporated within the document, and what actors were missing from the Plan, namely those responding violently to the occupation. The document was, a speaker from the podium said, a call to civil society, and that there might be factors missing from it was a given, but it was impossible to include everything. The issue of the war of terror could not be ignored, but there was only a passing reference in the text. There were more than two actors missing from the document, but there was no need to be too specific in the text, but to craft something that could be used as a global document.

Another speaker from the floor also raised the issue of the need to educate civil society as to the Geneva Conventions. Issues of language were also raised, and speakers from the podium clarified that the text had been carefully written in order to not preclude either a one-state or a two-state solution. Perhaps the text was too open, but language had been chosen allowing the broadest possible range of civil society to adopt and support the text.

The Plan of Action was adopted by acclamation at the end of the discussion.

MR. SOURANI, in concluding remarks, said the discussion over the last few days had been extremely interesting and important. It was vital to look ahead for the future. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was very grave, and this could not be under-emphasised, and it had never been this bad. Many were not aware that the Government of Palestine was existing as a skeleton, and its functioning was almost an impossible mission. Its situation was almost unprecedented, as the Palestinian nation was split in two, and the crossings had been closed for almost five and a half months over the last year. The number of home demolitions and sieges was very high, as was the number of killed, but the main issue was the chemistry of the situation and what was going on. Al Qaeda had some cells in Gaza, and this was not a secret, and where the situation was going in this regard should be on the minds of all. Europe had no right to ask Palestinians not to commit acts of suicide bombings. This was a war against civilians, and from there the set of values departed. From here, civil society should do a lot, and Mr. Sourani hoped that the future would see greater work by civil society, breaking the conspiracy of silence and working to change attitudes before it was too late.

MR. WARSHAWSKI, in concluding remarks, said there was a call, and now it had to be transformed into action. This call was a good framework to work on for the next year. All present were urged to bring the Plan of Action out into the public domain and to raise the issue of the global war on terrorism and the issue of Palestine and for all to be at events wherein they could do this. Broad social movements should be convinced, as should be the real actors of solidarity with the Call of Action, to take it upon themselves and to work to mobilise global opinion and to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Occupation, its continuation and aggravation.

MR. JA’AFREH, in concluding remarks, said there had to be implementation on the ground of what was being called for in the Plan of Action. Coordination, better networking, and the involvement of different groups were all required. The Conference should be connected to the International Council of Social Movements, in order to put more pressure and more strongly mobilise the campaign. Work should be done to involve movements from the Arab countries in the international social campaign, and this was very important. Thought should be given on how to support the Islamic resistance, to fight globalisation, and support the greater Middle East that had been defeated on the borders of Lebanon.

Closing Statements

Na’eem Jeenah, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine, said there was a critical, urgent and dire situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where there was a determined and deliberate war against the civilian population. The Plan of Action which had been deliberated was not enough: no words could be enough to express what should be done in moving forward. The current conjuncture required genuine and sincere solidarity, wholehearted sacrifice, and untiring commitment to the Palestinian people and the cause of justice, and even this would not be enough. The international community could never make up for its desertion of the Palestinian people whilst they were robbed and continued to be robbed of their land, and were tortured and battered in an attempt to make them submit. They had even been denied the right to be called a people.

These were harsh words, but history would not forgive the international community if it did not make an even greater commitment to strengthen its sacrifice and contribution to the Palestinian struggle and the attainment of justice for the Palestinian people. The Plan of Action was a minimum, and the next nine months should be spent ensuring it came to fruition, with a truly global Day of Action at the end of those months, which would make those in Tel Aviv and in Washington shiver in their boots, and make it clear that the international community would no longer continue to desert the Palestinian people, but would stand by them until the attainment of their legitimate rights, self-determination, and State.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said, on behalf of the Palestinian people and their leadership and in particular those who were suffering immensely in Gaza, the level of frustration and pain that they were feeling for many reasons was immense, especially due to the massive military onslaught that had been going on since the end of June, and to which there was no end in sight. There was a tremendous amount of frustration in the Middle East, and the situation could no longer continue. As a result of the frustration, all should shift gears and maximise efforts to do what needed to be done. It was not useful to engage in abstract discussions, and people should respect the position of the Palestinian people and their leadership. The essence of the struggle was to put an end to the Israeli occupation, including to free the land occupied since 1967, and East Jerusalem.

The major point was that all needed to intensify the work to do what needed to be done. At the governmental level, there was no isolation within the United Nations - the Palestinian people were extremely powerful within the United Nations system, as they were upholding the higher moral ground and were standing on the side of justice, and this was made clear every year. The moral power of the international community clearly supported the cause of the Palestinian people, as was shown in the resolutions that were adopted every year. A big battle would be entered into at the Security Council later this month, and the issue of the conflict in the Middle East would be raised again. This would highlight, to the entire international community, that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, after 39 years of occupation, could not continue. But there was a need for a will and a strict timetable, overseen by the Security Council, to make progress and resolve the situation. The situation of the Palestinian people could not tolerate another failed exercise.

PAUL BADJI, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said it was commonly agreed that the end goal of the participants was an end to the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian State within the 1967 borders. This was a legitimate right based on international law and United Nations resolutions, which could not be denied by anybody. The path to achieving this goal was laden with many and huge obstacles, some of which were reflected in the adopted Plan of Action, and could be surmounted only through civil society initiatives. More important than the Plan of Action was its implementation, and the energy and momentum acquired over the past two days should be maintained. For its part the Committee would continue to provide civil society partners with opportunities to come together, as at the Conference, and hold regular consultations with civil society representatives to incorporate their suggestions and recommendations into its programme of work.



* *** *

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter