Civil society organizations meeting at the UN have condemned Apartheid Israel and called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state and for the prosecution of Israeli war criminals.
The International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People includes representatives from Palestine and all continents. In a strongly-worded statement, the conference condemned the Israeli occupation:
âTwelve years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, we are reminded that Israel continues to practice a system of apartheid and, further, perpetuates the longest occupation in recent history.
We civil society organizations and activists from around the world join with the United Nations once again to identify, condemn and commit ourselves to opposing these heinous crimes. As we were in the past, we are again determined that the perpetrators of that crime be brought to justice…”
In the statement civil society further committed itself
âto expand our global campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to ever broader sectors of our countries and regionsâ.
Delegates slammed the decision of the US and European nations to cut off funding from the democratically elected Palestinian Authority while continuing to pump money into the Israeli occupying forces. Since the elections in February this year, Israel has kidnapped forty-one members of the Palestinian parliament and eight cabinet ministers.
After decades of âinternational desertionâ of the Palestinian people, the speakers of the conference pointed at the urgency and possibility to involve growing sectors of global civil society within the struggle for a Free Palestine. In particular, contributions have been held to evaluate the role Palestine solidarity can play within the WSF.
The Conference drew up an action plan to work with Palestinian civil society movements and NGOs over the next nine months to mark the 40 year anniversary of the Israeli occupation; to expand the global campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions and to convene a new international peace conference for the Middle East.
(See full Plan of Action below.)
The conference schedule was divided in two plenary sessions and a series of workshops over two days.
Phyllis Bennis, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine, opened the speeches of the civil society at the first plenary of the conference with powerful speech:
âThirty years ago the United Nations recognized, condemned and committed itself to oppose the international crime of apartheid and defined it as a crime against humanity, not specific to the then-reality of South Africa. [â¦] âThe United Nations must uphold international law and its own resolutionsâ, she said. Chief among these laws and resolutions must be the implementation of those that called for an end to Israeli occupation and the realization of all human rights â civil and political, economic and social â of the Palestinian people. Once again, the crime of apartheid was being committed by a United Nations Member State. Civil society representatives called on its partner â the United Nations â to join with their call for the perpetrators of the crime of apartheid being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to finally be brought to justice. While the work of the Human Rights Council in investigating Israelâs use of prohibited weapons is to be commended, civil society calls on United Nations Member States to join them in imposing governmental sanctions to stopping the murderous arms trade between Israel and so many governments throughout the world. Moreover, civil society calls on the United Nations to move to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice calling for the Israeli Apartheid Wall to be dismantled.â
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, supported this view pointing out that âthere was only one way out of this situation, in effect to conduct what was successful in South Africa to shut down its apartheid regimeâ.
Achin Vanaik, Professor of International Relations and of World Politics, University of Delhi, spoke on behalf of the solidarity from the global south and underlined that âit was not possible for civil society organizations in the South to be able to fight effectively for Palestinian rights unless it recognised that there was a need to fight for more than Palestinian rights. Civil society organizations had to fight on a number of fronts: to try to bring to account the United States in Iraq, Israel and what had been done in Lebanon, how the United States was manipulating the nuclear issue in Iran, and the issue of the ideological banner of the global war on terror to provide a cover for larger geopolitical issues, namely the issue of State terrorism.â
During discussion time he further elaborated on the role Zionism played in quest for Justice in Palestine. Mr. Vanaik said that India was faced with a bitter struggle against those wishing to establish a Hindu State within India, and who admired the situation of Zionism. âTo be a Zionist is to endorse the principle of a Jewish State with special rights for Jews, and this is anti-democratic. It is no excuse to say that Israel is more democratic than most Arab States. The spectrum of what was possible, realist and pragmatic, is very wide. When changing the political relationship of forces, the impossible becomes possible, and it is important for this to be borne in mind.â He further argued that âthe Palestinian Liberation Movement is one of the most remarkable liberation movements of modern times, and its tragedy is that it had been strategically flexible, and tactically inflexible, when it should have been the reverse. With regards to changing the direction of political forces, there are two in this case, the larger geopolitical forces in the region, and there should be a shifting of the general forces globally, as well as work within the occupied territories and Gaza.â
A series of workshops discussed topics such as âbroadening, deepening and consolidating global constituenciesâ, âcampaigns targeting the occupationâ, âcampaigns to uphold international lawâ and âmobilizing public opinion, including media strategiesâ. Within the workshops the importance of BDS as a tool to reach the different aims was a recurrent theme. It was further remarked that there was also a need to remind activists that the end of the occupation would not be an end to apartheid.
In the closing plenary, Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza highlighted the power of legal prosecution and the need for civil society and legal experts and lawyers to work closely together. âThere are 86 Israeli statesmen and generals in various States that are followed by international jurisdiction cases, and this is a reason for panic among the Israeli leadership. There should be increased cooperation and coordination in this regard, as hunting Israeli war criminals is a strategy which should be adopted and worked upon in a stubborn, effective and strategic way. There are no illusions with regards to the solutions to these cases, but nevertheless the tactic should be pursued. Civil society should be more aware of this issue, and in each State lawyers should be encouraged to commit to such causes.â
Michel Warschawski, co-founder of the AIC, pointed at the newly created situation within the global movements. âSince the victory of the neo-conservatives and the global strategy of unending war, and since the turn of the century and the events of the Battle of Seattle, which was an example of the changes within the solidarity movement, there had been a radical change in the perception of the situation [in Palestine].â
Mr. Jamal Juma’, Coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, further elaborated on the relationship between Palestine solidarity and the broader struggle for social justice all over the globe. âThe signing of the Oslo agreements had led to the most serious crisis in Palestinian solidarity since people globally had become aware of the struggle of the Palestinian people. It was at this time when Palestinian civil society grew stronger. It was in 2000 during the second Intifadah when there was a further reawakening of Palestinian civil society. This reawakening was noted at the Durban international conference on Racism in 2001. Moreover, the building of the apartheid wall and the subsequent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice helped the civil society movement in Palestine to reform its strategies.â He highlighted how this had gradually as well influenced the statements of the social movementâs assemblies within the WSF that have taken up since 2005 consistently the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
He further called on Palestine solidarity to engage with the social movements. âChief among the challenges that remain for the World Social Forum is ensuring that organizations leading the process and participants of the events are stimulated to deal with the issue of Palestine and to see the centrality of Palestine for the entire region and globally. He further reminded the audience that âthe World Social Forum offered an opportunity for Palestinian activists to hold seminars and coordination meetings and to meet with other social movements and civil society groups, with the eventual aim of engaging them actively in solidarity efforts. The question of Palestine is not an issue for experts or specialists but touches core questions present in many struggles.â Discussing the need to open the spectrum of partners and cooperation, he stressed the importance to involve and encourage the Arab organization to join the Forum. Moreover, there was a need to acknowledge that a number of the Islamic resistance groups and movements formed part of the broad anti-globalization forces.
Finally, Naâeem Jeenah, co-chair of the ICNP from South Africa, in his concluding words reminded all that the Plan of Action which had been deliberated was not enough: âNo words can be enough to express what should be done in moving forward. The current conjuncture requires genuine and sincere solidarity, wholehearted sacrifice, and untiring commitment to the Palestinian people and the cause of justice, and even this will not be enough. The international community will never be able to make up for its desertion of the Palestinian people whilst they were robbed and continue to be robbed of their land, and were tortured and battered in an attempt to make them submit.â
He concluded that âthe Plan of Action is a minimum, and the next nine months should be spent ensuring it came to fruition, with a truly global Day of Action at the end of those months, which will make those in Tel Aviv and in Washington shiver in their boots, and make it clear that the international community will no longer continue to desert the Palestinian people, but will stand by them until the attainment of their legitimate rights, self-determination, and State.â
(Quotes taken from: https://www.unog.ch)
THE CONFERENCE ACTION PLAN IN FULL:
International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People
United Nations Office, Geneva
7 – 8 September 2006
Plan of Action
We meet again, civil society organizations committed to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieving the still unrealized rights, including the rights of self-determination and return of the Palestinian people. We anchor our work in human rights, international law, the United Nations Charter and resolutions, and a commitment to internationalism and a just peace and the belief that the UN remains central to ending the occupation.
We face a new crisis of war and occupation, a crisis in which Palestinians continue to suffer, even beyond the suffering imposed by decades of brutal occupation and apartheid.
The war against Lebanon and the continuing assault on Gaza have created new realities. Israelâs unilateralism has been exposed, and its Gaza âredeploymentâ has been shown false. The conditions of Palestinians living under occupation continue to deteriorate and Palestinian refugees continue to be denied their international rights, including their right of return. Palestinians in Jerusalem and elsewhere face ethnic cleansing.
The current crisis has undermined the United States effort to reorder the Middle East within a U.S. plan justified in the name of âdemocratization.â If democracy had any meaning at all, the United Nations and, indeed, every member state, would accept the recent Palestinian election, and establish full relations with any democratically elected Authority in the Occupied Palestinian Territory â regardless of who the Palestinian people select. Instead, the international community, and the United Nations itself, have stood by, paralyzed in the face of the U.S.-orchestrated boycott of the Palestinian Authority, and of Israelâs blatantly illegal kidnapping of 41 democratically-elected parliamentarians and eight cabinet ministers of that government. It is a badge of shame for us all.
Thirty years ago, the United Nations recognized, condemned and committed itself to oppose the international crime of apartheid. Crucially, it defined the crime of apartheid as a general crime against humanity, not specific to the then-reality of South Africa. Today, 12 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, we are reminded that Israel continues to practice a system of apartheid and, further, perpetuates the longest occupation in recent history. We civil society organizations and activists from around the world join with the United Nations once again to identify, condemn and commit ourselves to opposing these heinous crimes. As we were in the past, we are again determined that the perpetrators of that crime be brought to justice.
Despite the two-year old Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice which held Israelâs Apartheid Wall to be illegal, the construction of the Wall is nearly complete. The Wall encircles Palestinian towns and cities in the most massive land-grab since 1967. We call on the UN to implement the totality of the ICJâs Opinion â especially the section calling for the illegal Wall to be dismantled. We, civil society organizations, take seriously our responsibility regarding the Wall. We have engaged with the issue of the illegal building of the Wall and will continue to do so in order to effect the implementation of all components of the ICJ Opinion and the General Assembly resolutions on enforcement.
Our meeting here in Geneva, at this time, takes place in a critical and historical moment. We can either shut our eyes to the urgent crisis facing the Palestinian people and the obligations of the international community to end it, or we can seize this moment to push for a real movement forward in order to achieve a just peace. We have decided to be part of those working towards creating a new reality, based on justice, human rights and international law â to end the occupation and realize the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination and the right to establish an independent, sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. We thus make the following call:
Call to Action
We call on the United Nations and its member states:
1) To provide international protection for the Palestinian people living under occupation.
2) To bring to justice in the International Criminal Court, or in another international or national forum â based on universal jurisdiction, those guilty of war crimes against the Palestinian people.
3) To encourage and impose sanctions, especially in the form of ending the murderous arms trade with Israel, and to end sanctions that have been imposed against the elected Palestinian Authority and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
As for civil society, we commit ourselves to the following:
1) To work in the coming months, with the Palestinian civil society movements and NGOs to mark the 40 year anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. That commemoration will include a wide range of education and cultural campaigns, all culminating in a global Day of Action on June 9, 2007, the 40th anniversary of that occupation, under the slogan âThe World Says No to Israeli Occupation.â
2) To expand our global campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to ever broader sectors of our countries and regions, based on building a non-violent movement of opposition to Israeli apartheid and occupation, including an urgent campaign to end the sanctions against the democratically-elected Palestinian Authority.
3) To mobilize to demand that our governments urgently provide international protection to the Palestinian people living under occupation, including efforts to bring to justice those guilty of war crimes against the Palestinian people. We will also support efforts to enforce the Geneva Conventions and all United Nationsâ resolutions, and to convene a new international peace conference for the Middle East with the United Nations at its center.