UN Meeting on Middle East Peace concludes with Adoption of Action Plan (2/2)

Civil society organizations believe that the need to pressure their governments to enforce the ICJ decision regarding the illegality of the wall remains. (Arjan El Fassed)


Discussion of Action Plan

NAEEM JEENAH, Spokesman, Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa and President of the Johannesburg-based Muslim Youth Movement, who had participated in reading the draft, said the plan had focused on activities to be engaged in as a unified collective.  It had taken too long to reach unanimous agreement on the issue of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.  Just three or four years ago, a meeting such as this would not have achieved that level of agreement.  It had taken too long for Palestinian groups and the Palestinians, themselves, to call, in a unified way, for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, as they had now done.  He quoted from a statement released on 9 July on the anniversary of the advisory opinion by nearly 200 Palestinian organizations in the West Bank and Gaza and within and outside Israel and Palestine calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complied with international law and international human rights principles. 

He said that the statement’s signatories had been inspired by South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and resistance to injustice and oppression.  Similarly, the representatives of Palestinian civil society had called on international civil society organizations and people worldwide to impose boycotts and implement divestments against Israel, much like those applied against South Africa during the apartheid era.  They had also invited conscientious Israelis to support that call for the sake of justice and genuine peace.  Those campaigns should continue until Israel fully complied with its obligations, including dismantling the wall, and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.  That call was one which solidarity activists could not ignore.

Within the South African context, in which the 9 July call had occurred, the struggle against apartheid had been based on four pillars.  Two concerned internal resistance to apartheid and the international isolation of the apartheidState.  It was those pillars which were crucial to bringing about an end to the apartheidState, and particularly relevant had been South Africa’s international isolation. 

It had taken some 30 years for that call to take root.  Palestine and the Palestinian people did not have 30 years. But, there had already been a response to that call, including by the media. 

The Action Plan should be the main focus for the coming year.  It was the year to campaign at all levels across the world against Israeli products, academic institutions, and so forth.  It was the year to divest from Israel and from companies that supported it.  It was the year to pressure governments to implement a sanctions regime against the Israeli state until it fully abided by international law and relevant United Nations institutions.  From this Conference onward, it was time to intensify those issues in a more coordinated way.  He called on those Palestinian groups that had issued the call this week to lead the campaign at the global level. 

PHYLLIS BENNIS, Political Analyst, Fellow, Institute for Policy studies, Co-Chair, International Coordinating Network for Palestine, Washington, D.C., said that the Network gained its strength from representing groups around the world working together on unified campaigns.  It represented those components of the Palestinian rights movement whose work fell within the framework of international law, human rights, United Nations resolutions and the United Nations Charter.  Everyone should work now on building a viable, international, non-contiguous movement in support of a viable, contiguous sovereign state of Palestine. 

She said that lessons could be learned from the extraordinary global movement against the war in Iraq.  Within that movement, which was the broadest, most visible and most powerful since the war in Viet Nam, the issue of Palestine remained very much at the centre.  The new occupation –- the United States’ occupation of Iraq -– matched the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  There had even been collaboration between those two occupation forces, militarily speaking.  Still, much work remained to be done to keep the issue of Palestine very much at the centre.  Activities had to be coordinated, but more importantly, a global movement had to be built which everyone understood. 

After the world said no to the war in Iraq on 15 February 2003, for a brief moment, the world’s governments stood with the world’s people and said “no” to war, she said.  Because so many governments said “no”, the United Nations was forced to abide by its Charter and say “no” to the scourge of war.  True, it had not been possible to stop the war, but there could be no question anywhere in the world, that it had no legitimacy, no credibility, that it had been waged in violation of the United Nations Charter and based on lies. 

She said that that was the kind of movement that had to be built around the movement for Palestinian rights –- a movement of the people, of governments, and the United Nations.  The world body had the potential to play an extraordinary role on the question of Palestine, but it was now under attack, ever more so than before.  Those forces trying to undermine the work and legitimacy of the United Nations were focusing, first, on the question of Palestine, seeking to undermine the United Nations’ ability to enforce international law and its Charter, to stand up against occupation and against illegal invasion.  The United Nations must not be even-handed between occupied and occupier.  There was an obligation to ensure that the United Nations stood on the side of the occupied in the struggle against occupation. “We have an obligation to make the UN part of our movement”, she stressed.

After a brief discussion on the Action Plan, the Meeting adopted it by acclamation.

Closing Meeting

Committee Chairman RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan) assured Senator Galand that the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights would be informed of his comments concerning the delays in sending out invitations to the Conference.  He trusted that, next time, there would be more efficient preparations and invitations would be sent out in a timely manner.  He also hoped for more international media coverage next time. 

Ms. BENNIS said that, as campaigns were launched, everyone needed to take seriously what happened in the case of success – namely, the need to monitor the end of occupation.  She was confident that the campaigns for boycotts, divestment and sanctions would lead to the end of occupation and bring Israel into compliance with international law.  And, as it ended occupation, those campaigns would also be ended.  Thus, the process of ending occupation must be monitored closely.  After thanking everyone, she said that, yesterday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had become the newest honouree of an important sword –- the relationship between the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the struggle against apartheid and discrimination in Palestine -– when Nelson Mandela became a Special Ambassador of UNESCO.  Given his long-standing support, not only for the anti-apartheid movement, but also for the Palestinian movement, it was fitting that the Meeting had taken place here in his honour at UNESCO, she said. 

On behalf of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, the Mission’s Chargé d’Affaires, said that the deliberations of the past two days had addressed the very dire situation of the Palestinians under occupation.  After listening to the two interventions, including at some of the workshops, she had concluded that the situation in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories was deteriorating, and that Israel was escalating its racist oppressive measures of killings, building and expanding the illegal settlements, and constructing the separation wall, making the lives of thousands of Palestinian people unbearable.

She said that the description of the situation actually called for more serious action, with a specific programme to be implemented by various actors, according to their specific mandates and fields of operation.  She endorsed civil society’s Action Plan and the outcomes of the workshops.  Those activities should be taken seriously, including pressure on governments to adopt effective national campaigns of support for boycotts, divestment and sanctions in any areas appropriate to their countries and societies.  That should be gradual and sustained. 

Turning to the quest to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons, she said that mission should start with Israel, as likely the only country in the Middle East that possessed such weapons. 

It was civil society’s job to apply pressure in that regard, as well as to pressure their governments to require that Israel respected human rights and international legal agreements.  On the first anniversary of the General Assembly’s endorsement of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, an emergency special session was being called for 20 and 21 July.  Many countries, however, were opposing the convening of such a session, including some European nations.  She asked participants to pressure their governments to support the meeting’s holding.

For the Permanent Mission of Palestine, another issue of supreme importance, in light of the reform of the United Nations under way, was the issue of foreign occupation in the context of that reform, she said.  To date, that had only been included in the context of terrorism, but the issue of foreign occupation should be addressed in the outcome document of the 2005 World Summit in an appropriate and serious way, and not only as a cause of terrorism.  The Mission, with the support of the non-aligned movement of countries, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Arab League, was also fighting those aspects of revitalizing the Assembly, whereby governments would be restricted to tabling only new resolutions, and ignoring those that had not yet been implemented.   The Mission would also request the creation of a monitoring mechanism for implementation of General Assembly resolutions.  The Assembly’s problem did not lay in the rules of procedures, but in the lack of implementation of its resolutions. 

On behalf of the Palestinian leadership, HIND KHOURY, Minister of State of the Palestinian Authority, said that in those bleak days for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, she had been heartened by the energy, determination and creativity of the participants, who so clearly had expressed the will and the responsibility to pursue the struggle for Palestinian rights.  She assured them that the Palestinian leadership was ready to support them in any way possible, despite its limited resources. 

She wished them the best in implementing the ambitious action plan, adding that it was easier to prepare the text and much harder to do the work.  They would face lots of obstacles, as they knew. But, they had to do it for the sake of all humanity, for the achievement of all civilization.  Hopefully, the breakthrough would come sooner, rather than later.  She expressed the Palestinian leadership’s concern and anxiety regarding the threats to the Palestinian Rights Committee, and hoped that everyone would stand firm behind it to maintain its good work, for the sake of peace, justice and human rights. 

Chairman’s Closing

Thanking participants for their insightful opinions and creative ideas, which brought the two days of deliberations to a successful conclusion, Committee Chairman FARHADI said that the Action Plan had highlighted issues of focus requiring the urgent attention of the international community.  It also enlisted detailed plans that should guide civil society organizations in their strategy planning. 

He said that the Action Plan could be the “navigator” for all civil society actors in the world determined to bring peace to the region, including those who might not have been able to be at the Conference, so he urged everyone to make every effort to disseminate the Plan as widely as possible.  Undoubtedly, more important than those discussions and the adoption of the Action Plan was the implementation phase, he said.  A piece of paper did not feed the Palestinian children, or halt the construction of the wall.  Nor could it urge the parties to implement the Road Map obligations.  “We need to keep alive the energy and momentum we acquired during the two days so that all those important goals will be realized”, he urged.   

He said that one key was to create a series of influential international movements by bringing together those working on the same subject and ultimately transforming them into one “global force” in support of the Palestinian people.  He was convinced that the International Coordinating Network for Palestine could play a major role in that regard.  Maintaining contacts and coordination was sometimes difficult, but there were many tools available to link all the organizations and the United Nations together. 

First, and foremost, there was cooperation on the ground, he said.  Then, there were the numerous international meetings and conferences of the Committee, and, of course, there was the Internet and the e-mail list maintained by the Division for Palestinian Rights, through which information was provided about the latest activities of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine (ICNP) and civil society organizations worldwide working towards the common goal. 

Of course, he stressed, the Committee needed civil society’s support and input.  He asked that it continue to provide the Committee with information about activities, new initiatives and any thoughts and suggestions through the Division for Palestinian Rights, so that, together, it would be possible to develop the most effective network to help the Israelis and Palestinians to take another step towards the achievement of peace, safety and happiness.


Related Links

  • Kofi Annan speaks with civil society representatives in support of Middle East peace, UN DPI (12 July 2005)
  • United Nations: Question of Palestine