2006 World Social Forum, European Social Forum, and beyond: New energy for the quest for justice and freedom in Palestine

The World Social Forum (WSF) is an annual meeting held by members of the alternative globalization movement to coordinate world campaigns, share and refine organizing strategies, and inform each other about movements from around the world and their issues.

Awareness of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 and the need to restore the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees, and a principled and rights-based global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law, have come to represent the global social movements’ answer to the failure of international diplomacy in the Middle East.

At the 6th World Social Forum (WSF) convened in January in Caracas, Venezuela, the Social Movements Assembly adopted the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The Caracas meeting, one of three World Social Forums taking place in 2006 and bringing together civil society organizations and movements from all across the globe, was attended by well over 100 000 participants.

The Social Movements Assembly at the WSF-Caracas called for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel until it:

- ends its occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and dismantles the Wall;

- recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

- respects the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The body also called for global participation in the 2006 commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba on 15 May 2006. This year’s commemoration will mark the 58th year since the displacement of some 800 000 Palestinians and the depopulation/ destruction of at least 500 Palestinian villages and towns which accompanied the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

The World Social Forum has given rise to numerous regional social forums including the European Social Forum (ESF) which is scheduled to meet in Athens, 4 - 7 May. A call by 29 participating organizations emphasized the importance for the ESF to feature, among its themes, the situation in Palestine and the role of European civil society in the struggle for the realization of freedom and justice in Palestine.

An ‘Arab-International Conference in Solidarity with the Rights of Return and Self-Determination of the Palestinian People’ will be convened by a broad coalition of Lebanese and Palestinian civil society organizations and the global Palestine Rigth-of-Return Coalition in Beirut, 20-21 May, in order to strengthen ties between Arab and western civil society campaigns. It will be followed, in Geneva on 26-28 May, by the ‘International Conference for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel: Enforce International Law’ organized by the European Coordinating Committee of NGOs on Palestine (ECCP). This conference aims to strenghen and expand campaigns for building political and economic pressure on Israel, the European Community and states, in oder to bring them into compliance with their obligations under international law, as reiterated by the Intenrnational Court of Justice in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004.

Palestinian civil society organizations, nembers of the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI) and the Palestinian BDS Campaign participate in and contribute to these events.

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