Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

1 June 1998


(Delayed in transmission.)

SANTIAGO, 26 May (Division for Palestinian Rights) -- The bleak daily life of Palestinians and Israel's use of Jewish settlements to expand its territory and separate Palestinian towns were described today by participants at a seminar on the question of Palestine in Santiago, Chile. The meeting, which began yesterday, includes panels on the current status of the Middle East peace process and on the role of Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting a fair and lasting solution to the question of Palestine through solidarity and assistance.

Fathi Arafat, member of the Palestine National Council and brother of the Palestinian leader, described the difficult day-to-day existence of Palestinian populations, where children lack toys, food can be scarce, and Palestinian ambulances cannot circulate into East Jerusalem. "In Palestine, there is no love, no human rights, the children have no toys", he said, prior to issuing a call for donations. "We need technicians and psychologists to confront the daily problems of our people." Still, he trusted a solution could soon be reached with Israel. "I am sure peace is coming because I trust the intelligence of the Israeli authorities."

Ghassan Andoni, President of the Rapprochement Centre for Dialogue and Understanding and scholar at Birzeit University, said that 80 per cent of Palestinians live on only 3 per cent of the area of the West Bank. Since 1967, some 600,000 cases of imprisonment have been filed against Palestinians, meaning almost every single male adult in the Palestinian territories was arrested at least once. Not only must the peace process include a freeze on all expansionist colonial measures by Israel, but also active popular resistance to the same.

Sarah Kaminker, a planning consultant in Jerusalem for the past 31 years, described the various rules and strategies used by Israel to restrict the construction of new Palestinian neighbourhoods and separate existing Palestinian populations. "It takes about three years to prepare and approve a plan for a new Jewish neighbourhood in East Jerusalem; it takes an average of 10 years to plan an existing Arab neighbourhood, although the Arab plan is relatively simple by comparison", she said in a paper presented at the symposium. She described the network of "bypass" roads constructed by Israel aimed at consuming vacant land and removing it from the inventory of lands available for Palestinian housing. "The main purpose is to integrate settlements into Israel, bypassing all the Palestinian populations."

On the subject of Jerusalem, Marzouq Bishara Hanna Marzouqa, member of the Municipal Council of Bethlehem, decried that the holy sites are closed off to Palestinians. "Palestinian residents of the city are continuously subjected to harsh measures, such as house demolition, heavy taxation and closure of Palestinian institutions", he said. Latif Dori, Secretary of the Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue, suggested a compromise for the city. "The one solution which is both just and practicable, the only solution which deals fairly with the demands and aspirations of both sides: Jerusalem -- two capitals for two states."

The economics of Palestine were explored by Jaber Omar, Professor of Economics of the Catholic University of Pelotas.

Following the presentations, a discussion ensued between panellists on the adjectives used to describe Israel. Knesset member Dedi Zucker called it a disappointing setback to have the Israeli people described as of expansionist nature, "if both sides return to that type of stereotyping then forget about negotiations". He called for more unity and action among Palestinians to fight unfair Israeli practices.

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