The Symposium was attended by 158 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 92 of whom as observers. It was also attended by several observers from Governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations bodies.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was represented by a delegation composed of H.E. Mrs. Absa Claude Diallo (Senegal), chairman of the Committee, H.E. Mr. Shah Mohammad Dost (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman, H.E. Mr. Guennadi Oudovenko (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic), and Mr. Zuhdi L. Terzi (Palestine Liberation Organization).
The programme for the Symposium was elaborated by the Committee in consultation with the European Co-ordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine. Its main theme was "The Palestinian uprising and the European commitment to the International Peace Conference". A panel of the same title was held and presentations were made by the following experts: Prof. Ziad Abu-Amr (Palestinian); Mr. Robert Garai (Hungary); Ms. Luciana Castellina (Italy); and Mr. Ernie Ross (United Kingdom).
Four workshops were also held on the following topics: (a) Children under occupation; (b) Mobilization for a political solution of the question of Palestine; (c) Women for Palestine; (d) Actions to improve the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.
The symposium adopted a final declaration as well as action-oriented proposals emanating from the workshops. It also elected a new European Co-ordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine to co-ordinate the work of European NGOs from 1988 to 1990 (see annexes I and III).
Mr. Zuhdi Labib Terzi, Permanent Observer of the PLO to the United Nations in New York, pointed out that most of the regional conflicts were now being addressed through the good offices of the United Nations and under its auspices. The members of the Security Council had accordingly expressed their grave concern at the deterioration of the situation in the occupied territories and had reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, calling on the High Contracting Parties to ensure respect for its provisions. The Symposium had been convened to enable NGOs to consider effective and concrete ways and means to put an end to the underlying problem - the prolonged occupation - and in the meantime to demand, from the occupying Power, that it respect its obligations and from Governments that they act to ensure such respect.
Mr. Mikko Lohikoski, Chairman of the European Co-ordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine, also addressed the opening session and stressed that the changing political situation in the Middle East region and the uprising in the occupied Palestinian territories had created new challenges and new opportunities for solidarity action and for promoting a peaceful settlement of the Palestine question.
Palestinians had begun to search for mechanisms through which to maintain their national existence on their own land. Hence their persistent endeavours to organize themselves and build their own institutions. As a result, it might be argued that a Palestinian nation-State had already come into existence. Besides land and population, many requirements for existence of a State had been met, such as international recognition, existence of governmental and State institutions and a society with social and economic infrastructures and a national culture and tradition.
Since its inception, the Palestinian State had been the target of a war by Israel. In the occupied territories, harsh policies had been adopted, designed actively to destroy and impede the development of Palestinian institutions. Outside the territories, Israel had tried to crush the PLO and destroy its image. However, the recent uprising clearly indicated that Israel's war had failed and that its repressive policies had only resulted in greater self-reliance and consolidation of statehood prerequisites by the Palestinians. The process of Palestinian nation- and State-building had reached an irreversible point. The establishment of such a State would be the best guarantee for a durable peace in the Middle East.
Ms. Luciana Castellina (Italy) observed that the intifadah and King Hussein's decision to renounce responsibility for the West Bank had transformed the territories into an embryonic State and the PLO from a liberation movement to a State institution to which it would be much harder to deny sovereignty. General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, long ignored, had again become the main guideline for international political action and for the International Peace Conference on the Middle East.
Hopes for a comprehensive solution through that Conference were stronger. There were signs of unprecedented openness on the side of certain Israeli officials. The PLO had repeatedly declared its acceptance of all United Nations resolutions. The Security Council and Israel should now recognize the Arab State of Palestine in order to lay the basis for mutual recognition and the attainment of international legitimacy by both States.
NGOs, particularly in Europe, had an important role to play. They must persuade their Governments to recognize the Arab State of Palestine and a provisional PLO Government, and to request the United Nations to exercise interim responsibility in order to prevent Israeli repression. The European community must also commit itself to establish a special relation, economic and political, with both States, in order to facilitate peaceful coexistence between them and in the whole region. NGOs must also provide concrete, material and political support to the Palestinian people in building the bases of its new State. Finally, NGOs had the essential task of educating public opinion in Europe on the real nature of the Palestine question and of fostering a dialogue between Europeans, on the one hand, and Palestinians and Israelis, on the other.
Mr. Robert Garai (Hungary) expressed the view that conditions for a peaceful settlement had improved although important obstacles remained. The intifadah was a turning point in the conflict and had shown the unity and determination of the Palestinian people and the inability of the occupying forces to continue to rule.
The intifadah had also fundamentally affected attitudes in Western Europe and the United States, including in the Jewish communities there and in Israel itself. The Western European Governments had expressed their dissatisfaction and concern and the European Parliament had voted against trade and financial agreements with Israel. Despite criticism of Israel by the United States Government, however, the economic and military co-operation between those two States had been reaffirmed.
The occupied territories would be a central issue in the Israeli elections in November 1988. Regrettably, the forces of extremism appeared to be gaining strength. Both major parties refused to recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination, to withdraw from all occupied territories, and to talk with the PLO. However, increasing sectors of Israeli public opinion had begun to see the territories as a liability and there was growing support for a United Nations-sponsored peace conference. All efforts must be made to ensure that such a conference be constructive and successful. The United States and the Soviet Union, as co-sponsors of Security Council resolution 338 (1973), should strive to create acceptable conditions for a lust, permanent and durable solution of the Middle East crisis.
Mr. Ernie Ross (United Kingdom) also pointed to the effects of the intifadah in exposing the injustice of the occupation and in bringing unprecedented international criticism of Israel. The Palestinians had achieved a renewed sense of national identity and purpose and the negative image attached to the Palestinian cause and to the PLO had been reversed. The urgent need for a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, through the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East, had become evident and Western Europe had an important role to play in this respect.
The United Kingdom was now in a position to make a more useful contribution towards peace in the Middle East. For the first time in forty years, both major parties in the House of Commons were in agreement on convening an international peace conference. Such a conference should be held under the auspices of the Security Council, where the United Kingdom and France, as permanent members, could bring to bear the combined weight of the European community. The differences in positions between the super-Powers had narrowed somewhat recently on the convening of an international conference. Recent developments in the region and the failure of bilateral initiatives had made it clear that the PLO should be a full participant in the peace process.
Apart from the possibility of security guarantees and international aid, an international conference would help overcome the psychological and procedural problems arising from decades of hostility and violence. The progress toward settlement of other regional conflicts left the Middle East problem as the most outstanding regional conflict. In conclusion, Mr. Ross appealed to the Governments of Western Europe and the United States to recognize the need to talk directly to the PLO in order to pave the way for a just solution.
DECLARATION ADOPTED BY THE UNITED NATIONS
EUROPEAN REGIONAL NGO SYMPOSIUM ON THE
QUESTION OF PALESTINE AND WORKSHOP REPORTS
1. Children under occupation
We request that a United Nations committee be organized to investigate injustice and maltreatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli settlers.
NGOs, in co-operation with local Palestinian NGOs, will engage in projects co-financed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) or EEC if the NGO is from an EEC member country. Services and aids which can be supplied are medical centres, fully equipped medical emergency vehicles, medical supplies, psychological services, educational material, kindergartens, playgrounds, youth centres, etc.
We condemn the closing of schools. We demand that schools be allowed to open and function normally without military intervention. Educational material should be given to aid the children in making up lost time due to Israeli closure of schools.
We condemn the closing of all Palestinian institutions and particularly those which provide for children. In cases where institutions and societies have been closed, NGOs should co-operate and co-ordinate activities to provide these services and supplies to Palestinians via UNRWA, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), etc.
The situation of constant violation of human rights in all territories occupied by Israel, and in particular the violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, must be underlined. Such an approach would attract other organizations to work with us, e.g., trade unions, peace movements, churches, youth movements, even though they do not have a specific Middle East focus.
We must emphasize the worsening situation of the press in the occupied territories as well as in Israel: the closure of press and information offices, most recently the Palestine Press Service, the Alternative Information Center, the Arab Studies Society and the Ha-Nitzotz. We must get the support of the relevant professional organizations in mobilizing against the administrative detentions, arrests and tortures of Palestinian and Israeli journalists.
Proposals for concrete actions:
(a) Study the possibility and prepare, together with the European Co-ordinating Committee, a peace march from Europe to Palestine in conjunction with the re-launch of the Palestinian Boat of Return (Al-Awda Peace Ship) in 1989;
(b) Campaign to abolish in all countries the tax exemption status of Zionist fund-raising organizations, in particular the Jewish National Fund, which are recognized as charities. This status must be changed;
(c) Appeal to all Governments, as contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take all necessary measures to secure Israeli respect for this Convention. In particular we refer to the recommendations of the Secretary-General of the United Nations of 21 January 1988 concerning the protection of civilian populations in occupied territories and we stress the need for the Security Council to approve these recommendations;
(d) Mobilize urgently all our members to write personally to their representatives in the European Parliament to express their opposition in the present circumstances to the ratification of the new EEC-Israel trade protocols which are once again submitted to the vote on 12 October 1988. Further mobilize for the boycott of Israeli products so long as the Israeli authorities deny equal rights and facilities for the export of Palestinian products to Europe in conformity with the EEC legislation;
(e) Campaign for governmental recognition of the PLO by European countries;
(f) Urge all European NGOs to launch campaigns in defence of the rights of Palestinian NGOs which were closed by the Israeli authorities;
(g) Address a message of welcome to Chairman Yasser Arafat on the occasion of his visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 September 1988.
Substantial part of their work is to take care of prisoners, to support financially the families of martyrs; to organize visits to see wounded people in hospitals; to work in women's home-economy projects, to organize day-care and schools for children and participate in the night-watch to warn when settlers try to attack; to work in popular committees in order to take care of the daily needs of the population.
Women in the occupied territories should be given full assistance by all, particularly women and their organizations.
The workshop, after active discussion, decided to make the following concrete proposals:
(a) Send more women fact-finding missions to the occupied territories - prominent women with different expertise and specialization;
(b) Organize tours for women from occupied territories to visit several countries in Europe;
(c) Organize special delegations of prominent women with Palestinian women to visit Government ministries, EEC, the European Parliament and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to give information about the situation of women in the occupied territories and present concrete proposals for assistance. We call on the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to assist in organizing these delegations;
(d) Organize campaigns calling for immediate release of all political prisoners and detainees, women and men;
(e) Organize campaigns against the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories;
(f) Organize women lawyers, specialists on international law, to visit the occupied territories and to collect legal facts about detainees and take their cases up internationally;
(g) Appeal to national and international women's organizations so that they react to and protest against Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949;
(h) Organize campaigns to protest the torture and intimidation of political prisoners and the assassination of prisoners by beating or tear gas;
(i) Organize protest campaigns in defence of the right to life. The deliberate and illegal firing of tear gas into enclosed areas, including hospitals, prisons, schools and maternity centres, has led to the death of the very young and very old, to miscarriages, and may lead to sterility;
(j) Appeal to national and regional women's organizations to protest against the demolition of houses, the burning and burying of Palestinians alive, the poisoning of drinking water;
(k) Urge organizations to campaign against the closure of charitable societies like In'Ash-El-Usra, Friends of Patients, Environment Protection Society, and others;
(l) Find donors to grant scholarships for kindergarten teachers from the occupied territories for further specialization;
(m) Collect and send financial aid and medical equipment for hospitals in the occupied territories;
(n) Contact governmental health agencies or hospitals in European countries for funds to finance the treatment of people wounded by Israeli soldiers during the intifadah;
(0) Call on women's organizations to provide assistance and/or to sponsor needy families in the occupied territories;
(p) Call on women's organizations to adopt women prisoners and detainees;
(q) Assist Palestinian women in refugee camps in Lebanon to rebuild their camps;
(r) Organize campaigns to boycott Israeli products;
(s) Have women NGOs co-ordinate to organize simultaneous demonstrations all over Europe in support of the Palestinian people;
(t) Ask the workshop on "Women and children" of the Fifth United Nations International NGO Meeting on the Question of Palestine, to be held from 31 August to 2 September 1988 at Geneva, to consider ways and means to implement some of these proposals and follow up with an international seminar on 8 March 1989 - the International Women's Day;
(u) Organize campaigns to support the demand of the Palestinian people for the establishment of its own independent State and for the International Conference on the Question of Palestine.
It is urgently necessary to create employment opportunities in production for local consumption, to strengthen the Palestinian boycott of Israeli products. Cottage industries should be encouraged. Technical expertise should be provided in administration, marketing, manufacture, irrigation, food production and processing. All European Governments are urged to help in these fields and to combat Israeli restrictions on such help. Israeli products should be boycotted and trade unionists encouraged not to handle Israeli products.
NGOs should encourage volunteers to maintain a presence in camps and in villages as observers and witnesses. We note that, in Italy, families have been successfully twinned with families in the West Bank and Gaza. This should be extended.
The aim of all operations is to create the infrastructure for the production base to sustain the future economy of a Palestinian State disengaged from dependence on the Israeli economy and from reliance on Jordan.
In all our decisions we have to remember that actions must serve the aims of the Palestinian people.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON PRACTICAL WAYS
TO SUPPORT THE PALESTINIAN TRADE-UNION MOVEMENT
(GENEVA, 28 AUGUST 1988)
Finnish-Arab Friendship Society
Bulevardi 13 A 3
00120 Helsinki 12, Finland
Representative: Mikko Lohikoski
London Friends of Palestine
21 Collingham Road
London SW5, Great Britain
Representative: Liz Rolfs
Centro Internazionale Crocevia
247 Via Merulana
00185 Rome, Italy
Representative: Stefano Fedeli
Solidarity Committee of the
German Democratic Republic
Otto Grotewohl - Strasse 19 D
German Democratic Republic
Representative: Willi Sommerfeld
Parliamentary Association for
Ave. d'Auderghem 33-35
B-1040 Bruxelles, Belgium
Representative: Hans Peter Kotthaus
Alternate: Jean-Michel Dumont
Greek Committee for International
4, Solomou Street
10683 Athens, Greece
Representative: Maria Gazi (provisional)
Paris 75160 Cedex 04
Representative: Isabelle Auran (provisional)
Asociacibn Pro Derechos
Humanos de Espana
Ortega Y Gasset 77, 2.A 28006
Representative: Jesus Corral Fuentes
z.H. Jan Muntinga
Berlin Platz 1
5300 Bonn 1
Federal Republic of Germany
Representative: Jurgen Reentz
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS AND OBSERVERS
of the-Inalienable-Rights of the Palestinian People
H.E. Mr. Shah Mohammad Dolt, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations in New York and Vice-Chairman of the Committee
H.E. Mr. Guennadi I. Oudovenko, Permanent Representative of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to the United Nations in New York
Mr. Zehdi Labib Terzi, Permanent Observer of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United Nations in New York