United Nations 5 September 2003
Civil society organizations committed themselves to pressure their governments to condemn the construction of the “wall” by Israel as part of its pattern of illegal settlement activity, according to the Plan of Action adopted this afternoon at the conclusion of the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People.
Agreeing on the outline for the “Bring Down the Wall” campaign contained in the Action Plan, civil society organizations also committed themselves to combining resources to educate the public, increase pressure on governments to condemn the wall’s illegality and demand its immediate destruction. Governments would be pressed to table Security Council and General Assembly resolutions in conjunction with the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November each year.
Meeting under the theme “End the Occupation!”, the two-day Conference, convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, aimed to provide civil society representatives an opportunity to discuss the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and to coordinate their activities in support of the Palestinian people. The Conference was convened as a result of the Committee’s deep concern with the latest cycle of violence on the ground and the urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian people.
Also according to text, civil society organizations stated their support for a central United Nations role to end the occupation, as well as the international community’s obligation to protect Palestinians living under occupation. The increasingly desperate crisis facing the Palestinian people was symbolized by the construction of the wall, as it confiscated Palestinian land and resources, separated towns and isolated Palestinians themselves.
This afternoon’s adoption of the Plan of Action also committed civil society organizations to build support for an International Week of Action Against the Wall to be held from 9 to 16 November 2003. Working with the Palestinian Rights Committee, civil society organizations would supply speakers and other resources to build events surrounding the campaign.
In a letter addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council, also adopted this afternoon, civil society representatives pledged to work with governments to ensure the authorization of an international protection force as a first step to ending the occupation and implementing outstanding United Nations resolutions. With a well-defined mandate and clear timeline, the force would spare Palestinian civilians further death and destruction at the hand of the occupying Israeli military forces. It would also protect Israeli civilians from acts of violence, which were a consequence of the brutal 36-year occupation.
Prior to concluding, the Conference held its fourth plenary on the topic “Civil society initiatives to end the occupation”. The discussion raised several strategic points. The chief concern, however, centred on making more information available, via the Internet, to the public.
This morning, participants discussed the theme, “The international community, civil society and the political process to end the occupation”. The discussion was mainly characterized by responses to the proposal by one of the panellists of a “single State” solution and called for the conference to issue a strong statement supporting an international protection force.
In closing remarks, Committee Chairman Papa Louis Fall (Senegal) said Palestinians and Israelis should take home the message that a growing number of civil society groups supported efforts for a peaceful end to Israeli occupation. New facts on the ground had to be acknowledged. Israel’s settlement policies were making political progress impossible, and the separation wall was a powerful symbol of that impasse. The Committee supported the “Road Map”, which had raised many hopes among Israelis and Palestinians, as a practical tool, despite sceptical voices.
Also in a concluding statement, Nasser Al-Kidwa, Observer for Palestine, said the wall not only embodied the Israeli occupation but the entire international colonization process. It, thus, had to be fought and brought down. Moreover, he did not condone a bi-national or one-State policy. Such a policy would only legalize the presence of Israeli settlements in Palestine.
Phyllis Bennis, Co-Chair, Steering Committee of the Conference, said it was fitting to hold the Conference at the United Nations because the Organization’s centrality in global peace efforts needed to be reaffirmed. Peace was not merely the absence of war; it was the presence of justice.