Palestinian Protests against Italian "Community Peace Initiative": "We Demand Respect for Palestinian Rights, for our Heritage and Struggle - We Do Not Need Commercial Initiatives Aimed at Normalization with Israel"

An Italian community initiative for peace in the Middle East, organized by Flavio Lotti on behalf of Italian community institutions (municipalities, NGOs), has brought some 1,000 Italian tourists to the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area. Between September 1-9, the Italian visitors, hosted by Israeli and Palestinian institutions (municipalities, NGOs, Bethlehem 2000) are participating in a program which aims to promote the current Middle East peace effort by means of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian community organizations.

Palestinian institutions and community activists were shocked to learn, on 4 September 2000, that the Italian program included visits to the Israeli holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and the grave of assassinated former Israeli prime minister Yitzhaq Rabin, while the program on the Palestinian side included neither reference to the Palestinian victims of the historical conflict, nor a visit to one of the Palestinian memorials of the martyrs of the Palestinian people's struggle for its basic rights. 

"Deir Yassin, located only several hundred meters from the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, is the symbol of the some 500 Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in 1948 and a symbol for all Palestinian refugees in the world. There are no monuments or signs indicating Deir Yassin, the site of the massacre committed by Zionist forces against innocent Palestinian villagers on 9 April 1949, but for the Palestinian people, whose culture and history has been passed from generation to generation, the memory of Deir Yassin will always remain alive," wrote Kamal Al-Qeisi/Popular Committee of the Beit Jibrin ('Azza) Refugee Camp in a statement of protest to the organizers of the Italian initiative. 

An Italian delegation visited the remainders of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin on 4 September, following the Italian visit at Yad Vashem, in response to the popular demand addressed to the Italian organizers, as well as Faisal Al-Husseini/PLO Jerusalem portfolio and Palestinian Legislative Council member Hatem Abdelqader. 

Based on the evaluation that the current Italian initiative promotes Israeli views and positions on the historical conflict in Palestine on the expense of Palestinian rights and understanding for the requirements of a just and durable peace, several Palestinian community organizations in the refugee camps of the southern West Bank and BADIL Resource Center have decided to abstain from cooperation with the current Italian initiative and with similar international initiatives planned in the future.