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Home Press Releases 2004 Letter to Arab Summit: Reforms must address Palestinian issue, meet genuine Arab needs

Letter to Arab Summit: Reforms must address Palestinian issue, meet genuine Arab needs

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Reforms must address Palestinian issue, meet genuine Arab needs

Responding to external demands for reforms, Arab civil society organizations are calling for a reform plan made by Arabs, meeting Arab needs and taking a firm stand in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.

For Immediate Release

No. (E/20/04) 21 May 2004

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Reforms must address Palestinian issue, meet genuine Arab needs

Responding to external demands for reforms, Arab civil society organizations are calling for a reform plan made by Arabs, meeting Arab needs and taking a firm stand in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.

 

The call is made in an appeal to the upcoming Arab summit in Tunis by the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition (ROR). The Coalition is a partnership of Palestinian community organizations and ROR initiatives in Palestine and in exile.

 

A recent BADIL seminar in Cairo concluded that an Arab-made strategy for human rights and democratic reform must include recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Such a strategy would not only benefit the refugees but also address one of the major political concerns in the region: the unresolved conflict Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Its resolution will pave the way for broader efforts for democratic reform and respect for human rights in the region.

 

Full text: Appeal from Palestinian & Arab Non-Governmental Organizations

 

The Arab Summit is taking place under the shadow of an unclear and complex environment at international, regional and Arab levels. The Middle East still suffers the effects of the war on Iraq and its political, social and economic repercussions for the entire Arab world. In the course of the war, the U.S. administration introduced the concept of a “Greater Middle East” aimed at exporting its form of ‘democracy’ to the region. Ironically, the United States considers waging war and occupying Iraq as a basic first step on the road to this promised democracy.

 

Confronting attempts to redraw the geopolitical map and the US Administration’s demands on the people of the region in the guise of ‘reform and democracy,’ we call on the League of Arab States and states represented at this summit, to adopt a genuine reform program guided by the actual needs of the Arab nation and able to address the unique Arab dilemma. Any true and effective reform program must build on the energy of civil society, remove constraints on its independence and efficiency, and facilitate its efforts for real democratic development. This will enable Arab societies to meet the challenges from external political and economic domination. It will also help Arab nations meet internal development demands based on public participation, respect for human rights, political freedoms, good governance and the equality of men and women.

 

An indigenous Arab reform program must stand up to the Israeli occupation without ignoring key issues in the region, foremost the Palestinian issue, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Here we specifically refer to the initiative of Amr Mousa, Secretary-General of the Arab League after 11 September, which refers to the importance of Arab civil society participation, including Arab intellectuals, in forming a strategy for Arab dialogue with the West. Such dialogue must be based on respect for the rule of law in international relations.

 

Majesties, Excellencies, and Presidents of Arab states:

We, the undersigned Arab and Palestinian civil society organizations, wish to draw your attention especially to the Palestinian refugees and to the plans and initiatives regularly put forward to deal with the refugee problem. These ‘initiatives’ have the goal of eliminating the refugee issue and the refugees’ right to return, a legal right and part of the basic national rights of the Palestinian people.

 

Based on the above, we affirm the following:

Initiatives and models promoted for solutions that avoid implementation of the right of return as enshrined in international law, human rights conventions, and UN resolutions, in particular UN Security Council Resolution 194 must be rejected. Res. 194 provides for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes of origin which they were forced to leave in 1948, housing and property restitution and compensation. In addition, UNGA resolution 3236 of 1974 directly ties the right of return to the right to self-determination and the right to national sovereignty and independence. In this context, we express our deep concern about the “new Balfour promise” made by U.S. President Bush to Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon limiting the right of return and legitimizing occupation and colonization. We call on you to take a clear and firm stand against this promise.

International law also requires provision of temporary daily protection for Palestinian refugees wherever they live, until they return to their homeland. Arab states, especially host countries, are therefore obliged to adhere to their commitments enshrined in the relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States, especially the Casablanca Protocol of 1965. At this juncture, we emphasize that providing Palestinian refugees with adequate and humane treatment and social, economic and cultural rights does not contradict in any way efforts at fighting refugee re-settlement, preserving Palestinian national identity, and preventing refugees from absorption into their host societies in exile. On the contrary, minimizing the suffering of refugees will further enhance their ability to confront re-settlement plans and work with greater determination for the right to return to Palestine.

To provide temporary protection for Palestinians in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories, we must pressure the international community to implement the Geneva Conventions, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. While the State of Israel escalates oppression of the Palestinians and its military institutions ignore international law and conventions, we must strive to put in place an international mechanism that will guarantee protection to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Especially given Israel’s war crimes currently being committed in Rafah. The Arab League cannot simply continue to condemn and denounce. Effective, practical and tangible steps are needed to pressure the international community to provide international protection and stop ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine.

 

Finally, enhancement of legislative and constitutional reform in Arab states, and closing the gap between national legislation and international standards and human rights laws in general and refugee rights in particular, will result in a more dignified life for Palestinian refugees under Arab patronage until they return to their homeland.

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The appeal is endorsed by the following organizations:

 

Palestine:

Alternative Tourism Group (ATG)

Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced in Israel/1948 Palestine

Association of Residents of Occupied and Destroyed Palestinian Towns and Villages-Ramallah

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights-Nablus

Coordinating Committee, Committees for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled-West Bank

The General Union of Public Service Workers in Palestine, Gaza

Ittijah – Union of Arab Community-based Associations in Israel/1948 Palestine

Jerusalem Center for Human Rights

Jaffa Cultural Center-Nablus

PNGO-Palestinian NGO Network, 1967 occupied Palestine

Popular Committees-Gaza Refugee Camps

Popular Committees-West Bank Refugee Camps

The East Jerusalem YMCA

Union of Women’s Activity Centers-West Bank Refugee Camps

Union of Youth Activity Centers-West Bank and Gaza Refugee Camps

 

Jordan: High Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return, Jordanian Women’s Union

 

Lebanon: Aidun-Group, Consortium of Voluntary Organizations in Lebanon, Forum of NGOs in Palestinian Communities in Lebanon, National Society for Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Services, Network of Arab Development NGOs, Organization for Solidarity and Development

 

Syria: Aidun-Group

Algeria: African Youth Network for Sustainable Development-Algeria

 

Iraq: Iraqi Hope Society

 

Europe: Right-of-Return Coalition-Europe (London, Copenhagen, Sweden, Norway, France, Poland, Netherlands, Germany)

 

North America: Al-Awda Canada, Al-Awda Palestine Right-to-Return Coalition

 

May 2004

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