Palestinian and Arab Response to Mary Robinson

(forwarded from the Arab NGO Caucus, WCAR, Durban)

EXERPTS FROM THE NGO DECLARATION, WCAR Durban

Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has rejected a Declaration adopted by some 3,500 NGOs at the NGO Forum of the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa due to objections to the so-called "harsh" language in the document. Among other human rights issues, including Israel's ongoing military occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, the Declaration affirms the right of return of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced people to their homes of origin, restitution of properties, and compensation for damages, losses and other crimes committed against them, as guaranteed in international law and UN Resolution 194. The Programme of Action calls upon the United Nations to ensure the implementation of the right of return for refugees, and for the protection for Palestinian refugees by the UN High Commission for Refugees until such time as they may be able to exercise their right to return and in accordance with UN resolution 194. It also calls for the repeal of all discriminatory laws within the state of Israel, including those of return and citizenship, which are part of the institutionalized racism and Apartheid regime in Israel.

Excerpts on Palestinians and the Palestinian and Arab Response to Mary Robinson are attached below. The entire NGO Declaration and Programme of Action are available on the NGO Forum website, http://www.racism.org.za; and on the BADIL website, http://www.badil.org/Resources/WCAR/WCAR2001.htm.

I. Arab NGO Caucus, WCAR, Durban, 5 September 2001:

(Contact: Shawqi Issa, LAW, 00972-50-219747)

PALESTINIAN AND ARAB RESPONSE TO MARY ROBINSON

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Refuses to Receive and Endorse the NGO Forum Declaration and Programme of Action, World Conference Against Racism.

We are shocked and dismayed by the refusal of Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to receive and endorse the NGO Forum Declaration and Programme of Action. The International Steering Committee on 4 September 2001 reaffirmed the endorsement and adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action by the majority vote of the NGO Forum during the final plenary session on 1 September. In accordance with agreed procedures, at the final plenary session of the NGO Forum each caucus held one vote in adopting each section of the text, proposals made by individual caucuses, and for the final adoption and endorsement process.

As High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Robinson has an obligation to carry the message of the voices of victims throughout the world to the governments who will in turn implement mechanisms to address these needs. Her failure to support the Declaration and Programme of Action, which was voted in through a legitimate, transparent and democratic process, reinforces the position of those forces at the World Conference Against Racism (who were also present at the NGO Forum) who are seeking to pursue specific governmental political agendas.

In refusing to accept the document and pass it on the Government plenary, and thereby delaying receipt of the document by Government representatives, Mrs. Robinson has rejected the voices of all the victims of racism and the thousands of delegates who were present at the NGO Forum. Mrs. Robinson's action has prejudiced the ability of all the NGO communities to influence the processes at the on-going Governmental plenary through their agreed document. We voice our strong support and solidarity for all the victims of racism and their rights to be heard.

Mrs. Robinson has voiced objection to language used by Palestinians in the Declaration of the NGO Forum. Palestinians as victims of racism have exercised their rights at the NGO Forum to describe their experiences of racially-motivated human rights violations perpetrated against them, and have done so with specific reference to international human rights and humanitarian law standards and norms, including in relation to acts of genocide, systematic perpetration of war crimes, and the crime of apartheid.

Specific acts of genocide have included the massacre of 3,500 Palestinian civilians of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon of 1982, in respect of which the Israeli Kahan Commission found the then Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon indirectly responsible. The UN General Assembly itself in UN Resolution 123 (A/RES/37/123) and the UN Commission of Human Rights in a resolution (E/CN.4/RES/1985/4) have both described the massacre as an "act of genocide" and imputed responsibility to the State of Israel. Likewise, references of "acts of genocide" in the NGO Forum Declaration impute genocidal intent to those perpetrators of, or those responsible, for such acts, who have included individual Jewish Israelis and the State of Israel. These references do not impute genocidal intent to all Jews or all Jewish Israelis. No individual or State should enjoy impunity for their crimes - references to "acts of genocide" are an accurate reflection of specific historical incidents on the basis of the Genocide Convention of 1948. Accordingly, Palestinians should not be precluded from using such terms. The rejection of this term also preempts the outcome of any future prosecutions including the current investigation in the Belgium courts in which victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre are seeking the prosecution of those responsible.

Israel's systematic perpetration of grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 (namely war crimes) have been documented by a number of national, regional, international, NGOs, Governmental and UN bodies, including the UN Inquiry Commission in their report of March 2001.

There has been evidence of the use of ethnic cleansing methods to drive out Palestinians including during the 1948 war, and since 1967 to date from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ethnic cleansing methods used have included uprooting by military attacks; arbitrary arrests and detention/unfair trials; attacks on specific vulnerable groups including women and children; destruction and confiscation of property, land and homes; and harassment designed to make life so unbearable that people leave.

Palestinians have called for acknowledgement that what underlies these violations is racism, and have called for solidarity in their struggle to fight all forms of that racism including Israel's brand of apartheid. Israeli practices fulfil the elements of the crime of apartheid as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, including by racial segregation and discrimination, and inhuman acts designed to establish domination of one group over the other. In addition, South African governmental and civil society representatives have drawn clear parallels with the system of apartheid practiced in South Africa with that used by the Israeli apartheid regime.

We condemn in the strongest terms any and all anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish materials including any that may have been circulated during this conference. Those materials that condemn the State of Israel for its systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law or condemn those racist practices conducted in the name of Zionism are not anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish.

We call for the Government plenary to accept the document endorsed at the NGO Forum as the voice of the victims of racism from around the world. The victims of racism cannot be blamed for the ultimate success or failure of the World Conference Against Racism by seeking to have their daily suffering from racism addressed, whomever they may be, including the Palestinians and those victims seeking reparations. The responsibility lies with the Governments to hear the victims. Governments should not derail the Conference in order to avoid responsibility for their racist practices.

II. EXCERPTS from the World Conference Against Racism

NGO FORUM DECLARATION and PROGRAMME OF ACTION (Issued on 3 September 2001)

20. Affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood, independence and freedom and the right of the return as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

98. Recognizing further that the Palestinian people are one such people currently enduring a colonialist, discriminatory military occupation that violates their fundamental human right of self-determination including the illegal transfer of Israeli citizens into the occupied territories and establishment of a permanent illegal Israeli infrastructure; and other racist methods amounting to Israel's brand of apartheid and other racist crimes against humanity. Recognizing therefore that the Palestinian people have the clear right under international law to resist such occupation by any means provided under international law until they achieve their fundamental human right to self-determination and end the Israeli racist system including its own brand of apartheid.

99. Recognizing further that a basic "root cause" of Israel's on going and systematic human rights violations, including its grave breaches of the fourth Geneva convention 1949 (i.e. war crimes), acts of genocide and practices of ethnic cleansing is a racist system, which is Israel's brand of apartheid. One aspect of this Israeli racist system has been a continued refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees to exercise their right as guaranteed by international law to return to their homes of origin. Related to the right of return, the Palestinian refugees also have a clear right under international law to receive restitution of their properties and full compensation. Furthermore, international law provides that those Palestinian refugees choosing not to return are entitled to receive full compensation for all their losses. Israel's refusal to grant Palestinian refugees their right of return and other gross human rights and humanitarian law violations has destabilized the entire region and has impacted on world peace and security.

160. Appalled by the on-going colonial military Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (the West Bank including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), we declare and call for an immediate end to the Israeli systematic perpetration of racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing (as defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court), including uprooting by military attack, and the imposition of any and all restrictions and measures on the population to make life so difficult that the only option is to leave the area, and state terrorism against the Palestinian people, recognizing that all of these methods are designed to ensure the continuation of an exclusively Jewish state with a Jewish majority and the expansion of its borders to gain more land, driving out the indigenous Palestinian population.

161. We declare that this alien domination and subjugation with the denial of territorial integrity amounts to colonialism, which denies the fundamental rights of self-determination, independence and freedom of Palestinians. Condemn this process of settler colonialism through the on-going collective punishments, expropriation and destruction of Palestinian lands, homes, property, agricultural land and crops; the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements, the mass transfer of Israeli Jewish populations to the illegally expropriated Palestinian land and the development of a permanent and illegal Israeli infrastructure, including by-pass roads.

162. We declare Israel as a racist, apartheid state in which Israel's brand of apartheid as a crime against humanity has been characterized by separation and segregation, dispossession, restricted land access, denationalization, bantustanization and inhumane acts.

163. Appalled by the inhumane acts perpetrated in the maintenance of this new form of apartheid regime through the Israeli state war on civilians including military attacks, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, the imposition of severe restrictions on movement (curfews, imprisonment and besiegement of towns and villages), and systematic collective punishment, including economic strangulation and deliberate impoverishment, denial of the right to food and water, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to housing, the right to education and the right to work.

164. We recognize that targeted victims of Israels brand of apartheid and ethnic cleansing methods have been in particular children, women and refugees and condemn the disproportionate numbers of children and women killed and injured in military shooting and bombing attacks. Recognize the right of return of refugees and internally displaced people to their homes of origin, restitution of properties, and compensation for damages, losses and other crimes committed against them, as guaranteed in international law.

165. Appalled by the discrimination against the Palestinians inside Israel which include: The imposition of discriminatory laws, including the discriminatory laws of return and citizenship, which emphasize the ethnicity of the Israeli state as a Jewish state; the granting of benefits or privileges solely to the Jewish Israeli citizens; the imposition of restrictions on the civil and political rights of Palestinians because of their national belonging or because they do not belong to the majority ethnic group; The negation of the right of Palestinians to equal access to resources of the State and civil equality, including affirmative action policies, which recognize the historical discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel.

326. The Palestinian Citizens of Israel should be recognized as a distinct national minority group based on Article 27 of the ICCPR. We call for the implementation of the recommendations and concluding comments regarding Israel issued by UN Human Rights treaty or Charter based bodies such as the CESCR, the Human Rights Committee and the Commission on human rights, which emphasized the Palestinian citizens' collective rights regarding lands, absentee property, uprooted villages and the unrecognized villages.

418. Call for the immediate enforcement of international humanitarian law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through the adoption of all measures to ensure its enforcement including all measures employed against the South African Apartheid regime. Call for the immediate convening of the High Contracting Parties to implement this process in fulfillment of their obligation to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances. Also call for the immediate deployment of an independent, effective international protection force for Palestinian civilians and the dismantlement of the illegal Jewish Israeli colonies (settlements) and a complete withdrawal of the colonial military occupation.

419. Call upon the United Nations to ensure the implementation of the various UN resolutions on the Occupied Palestinian Territories including the withdrawal of the Israeli colonial military occupation (of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem), the right of return for refugees, and for the protection for refugees of the UN High Commission for Refugees until such time as they may be able to exercise their right to return and in accordance with UN resolution

194. Also call for the reinstitution of UN resolution 3379 determining the practices of Zionism as racist practices which propagate the racial domination of one group over another through the implementation of all measures designed to drive out other indigenous groups, including through colonial expansionism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, including Jerusalem), and through the application of discriminatory laws of return and citizenship, to obliterate their national identity and to maintain the exclusive nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state to the exclusion of all other groups. Also call for the repeal of all discriminatory laws within the state of Israel, including those of return and citizenship, which are part of the institutionalized racism and Apartheid regime in Israel. flatbed tow truck service specializing in the Riverside / Moreno Valley / Perris area

420. Call for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to investigate and bring to justice those who may be guilty of war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing and the crime of Apartheid which amount to crimes against humanity that have been or continue to be perpetrated in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

421. Call for an increased awareness of the root causes of the Israel's belligerent occupation and systematic human rights violations as a racist, apartheid system, through relevant UN agencies working closely with international civil society networks to widely disseminate information including educational packs for schools and universities, films and publications.

422. Call for the establishment of a UN Special Committee on Apartheid and Other Racist Crimes Against Humanity perpetrated by the Israeli Apartheid regime to monitor and to report Apartheid and other racist crimes, and to recommend the implementation of measures to combat Apartheid and other racist crimes.

423. Call for the establishment of programmes and institutions to combat the racist media distortion, stereotyping and propaganda, including the demonizing and dehumanizing of Palestinians as all being violent and terrorists, and undeserving of human rights protections. Call for the correction of misleading information surrounding their status as indigenous peoples, the history of the violations perpetrated against them, and the on-going distortion of the facts and nature of the peace negotiations.

424. Call for the launch of an international anti Israeli Apartheid movement as implemented against South African Apartheid through a global solidarity campaign network of international civil society, UN bodies and agencies, business communities and to end the conspiracy of silence among states, particularly the European Union and the United States.

425. Call upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel. Call upon the Government of South Africa to take the lead in this policy of isolation, bearing in mind its own historical success in countering the undermining policy of "constructive engagement" with its own past Apartheid regime.

426. Condemnation of those states who are supporting, aiding and abetting the Israeli Apartheid state and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide.