2. On the Ground News from Palestine
3. Developments in Durban
4. Frequently Asked Questions
This is the second bulletin from the Media Team of Palestinian non-governmental organizations attending the World Conference Against Racism,Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance to be held in Durban, South Africa, this month. From Durban, this newsletter will be sent on behalf of the secretariat of the Arab Caucus. The Palestinian NGOs WCAR Media Team consists of delegates from various Palestinian NGOs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In Durban this bulletin will be issued on behalf of the secretariat of the Arab Caucus and will appear in English, Arabic, French and Spanish and disseminated to various organizations, institutions, delegates and the international media.
2. On the Ground News from Palestine
Yesterday, as Palestinians were absorbing the news of two more dead Palestinian children in Gaza, Israeli cranes demolished two Palestinian homes, including eight apartments, a kindergarten and six groundfloor stores, in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem. Recent months have seen a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinian homes being demolished by the Israeli government, both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as inside Israel. Israel's racist policy of home demolitions constitutes a violation of Palestinian human rights and international law; it is a policy based on discrimination: Palestinians are targeted simply because they are Palestinians.
Since 1987, Israeli military forces have demolished more than 3,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to Amnesty International, between 1987 and 1999, at least 16,700 Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been made homeless and tens of thousands of Palestinians currently live under constant fear of their homes being demolished by Israeli authorities.
Together with other policies - such as massive land confiscations, the building of Jewish-only colonies and by-pass roads connecting them, and the expulsion of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem - home demolitions are designed to strengthen Israel's grip on Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
But the policy of home demolitions is not only applied in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Palestinian citizens of Israel have also been amongst its victims. Successive Israeli governments have used legal and administrative measures to restrict building in Palestinian communities. While these restrictions affect Palestinians in mixed (Arab-Jewish) cities and recognized Arab communities, the problem is particularly acute in the so-called unrecognized villages. These villages are Palestinian villages denied official recognition by the State and therefore deemed "illegal". Almost 100,000 Palestinians (approximately 10% of the Palestinian citizens of Israel) live in unrecognized villages and are therefore excluded from all development and infrastructure planning as well as all government service provision (including roads, electricity, water, schools, hospitals etc.).
In many cases, the land on which the unrecognized villages lie has been classified by the State of Israel as "agricultural land", and all homes erected on these lands have been retroactively deemed "illegal" and "unlicensed" - even though many existed prior to the establishment of the Israeli State. According to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, there are 24,000 "illegal" buildings in the unrecognized villages. These owners of these homes live in constant fear that they will be evicted and their homes will be destroyed. In 1998 alone, at least 370 Palestinian homes inside Israel were destroyed.
By contrast, the Israeli government has taken no steps to demolish about 16,000 "illegal" structures in Jewish localities. On the contrary, in many instances, policies and practices have been implemented to legalize the status of these buildings retroactively.
For more information:
For more information on Unrecognized Villages, visit the website of the Association of Forty, http://www.assoc40.org. For more information about land and housing rights in Israel, visit the website of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, http://www.adalah.org.
An in-depth report on Israel's policy of home demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, "Demolition and dispossession: the destruction of Palestinian homes", Amnesty International, can be found at http://www.web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/index/MDE150591999
3. Developments in Durban
Israel's institutionalised system of racism, apartheid and colonialism and the issue of slavery will definitely feature on the agenda of the World Conference Against Racism. South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said recently that it was unrealistic to expect delegates not to discuss these issues. "Whatever forms of discrimination, particularly as they relate to racism, will be discussed", she said, adding "I think it is very unrealistic to expect that you can completely be silent, [that] the conference can completely ignore what is going on in the Middle East" (Reuters, 19 August 2001).
Meanwhile, several representatives of Palestinian non-governmental organizations have already traveled to South Africa in preparation for the start of the WCAR. Victoria Metcalfe from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza and Diane Luping (LAW) are currently in Johannesburg, and Sasha Evans (LAW) is in Durban. The three are there to raise awareness about the situation of the Palestinians and network with various South African activists and community leaders including Trade Union and political party representatives in order to facilitate greater cooperation during the conference.
In Durban, Sasha Evans witnessed yesterday's rally at the Durban City Hall in support of Palestinian rights organized by the South African Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Durban Social Forum. An estimated 3000 participants, including South Africans of all religions and races, were there to show their solidarity with Palestinians under occupation and to support their right to independence. Specifically, they demanded that the international peacekeepers be send to Palestine, an end to the killing of innocent civilians and the international isolation of Israel. A similar rally is planned for today in Cape Town.
Dr. Uri Davis, (Al Beit: Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Israel) is also currently in South Africa on a lecture tour to promote the publication of the abridged edition of his book "Israel: An Apartheid State". The book is being published in an abridged form by the Media Review Network, a South African NGO, in advance of the WCAR. The tour was organized and coordinated by the Media Review Network.
4. Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we answer frequently asked questions related to the World Conference Against Racism and the Palestinian NGO position.
Today, we answer the following question: Doesn't tackling Israel at the World Conference Against Racism, jeopardise the peace process?
No, on the contrary. The Declarations and Programmes of Action adopted by the first (1978) and the second (1983) World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination noted "with the gravest concern that racism, racial discrimination and apartheid, which continue to afflict the world, are crimes against the conscience and dignity of mankind, and constituteserious dangers which will inevitably lead to greater conflict with enormous repercussions on international peace and security."
Moreover, the programs of action declared that "all forms of discrimination and, in particular, governmental policies based on the theory of racial superiority, exclusiveness or hatred are a violation of fundamental human rights and jeopardize friendly relations among peoples, co-operation between nations and international peace and security" and that "apartheid, the extreme form of institutionalized racism, is a crime against humanity and an affront to the dignity of mankind and is a threat to peace and security in the world" (see E/CN.4/1999/WG.1/BP.1, 9 March 1999).
As in the case of Apartheid South Africa, Israel's institutionalised system of racism, apartheid and colonialism is destabilizing the entire region and poses one of the greatest threats to international peace and security. In the past 10 months, this threat to regional and world peace has become more acute, and the need for international action to end it more urgent, because of the escalation of Israel's unilateral war on the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestinians in the OPTS are suffering from an ever worsening humanitarian crisis and a considerable escalation of Israeli violence against them. There have also been recent reports in Jane's Foreign Report, a British newsletter specialised in intelligence matters, that hard line Israeli generals plan an even more intensive offensive against Palestinians in theOccupied Palestinian Territories, threatening the lives of thousands of Palestinians (see Agencies, 13 and 14 July 2001).
If the peace process to succeed, it must have as its aim the creation of a real peace based on the principles of freedom and justice for all. Ignoring Israel's institutional racism can only compromise these efforts and jeopardize the peace process.
For the declarations and programmes of action of the previous two conferences check http://www.unhchr.ch/html/racism/index.htm
This bulletin is prepared by the Palestinian NGOs WCAR Media Team consisting individual delegates from Palestinian NGOs attending the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance. Members of this Media Team are: Arjan El Fassed (LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Jerusalem); Victoria Metcalfe (Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza); Sasha Evans (LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Jerusalem); and Ghassan Aghbariah (Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Shfa Amar); Annet Meeuws (Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights).
Note: The contents of this Bulletin do not necessarily reflect the official positions of all of the organizations with which members of the Media Team are affiliated.