2. On the Ground News from Palestine
3. Developments in Durban
4. Frequently Asked Questions
This is the third 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.
2. On the Ground News from Palestine
As the United States prepares to veto a United Nations Security Resolution dispatching international observers, Israeli occupation forces have intensified their strikes against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Yesterday, Israeli occupation forces killed seven Palestinians.
The daily headlines of the Israeli agression against Palestinians, however, do not describe the complete reality of the entire Palestinian civilian population. One aspect of Israel's institutionalised system of racism, apartheid and colonialism is the separation of Palestinian communities. Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been separated from Palestinians inside Israel. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip from Palestinians in the West Bank and from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. For a detailed description see the Palestinian NGO Position paper at http://www.hri.ca/racism/Submitted/Country/palestinian.htm
One of the most visible measures taken by the Israeli government to separate these communities is the siege on Palestinian towns and villages, the closure and the military checkpoints and roadblocks that have become the daily reality of Palestinians. At this moment there are 97 Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank. Roads are also blocked with piles of earth, ripped up, or cut across with trenches. These measures have literally divided the West Bank into over 100 separate isolated Bantustans that have no connection to the outside world. Supplies are hardly getting through. In Gaza, Israeli forces have implemented many of the same measures. In Gaza there are currently 32 Israeli military checkpoints. The internal closure of Gaza disallows any travel between the North, South, East, West, and Central regions of the Gaza Strip. Additionally, the closure of the Territories from Israel and East Jerusalem has been tightened as well.
From 1993 onwards, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza have to a large extent been prevented from entering Israel, as well as East Jerusalem. It became illegal for them to enter or pass through East Jerusalem and Israel without obtaining an individual special permit for the purpose specifically designated. Since the beginning of the Intifada in September last year the closure of the Palestinian Territories has been tightened with longer and more comprehensive closures, including restrictions on movement from village to village and village to city. All major roads have been blocked. Access to cities has been cut off, and villages have been isolated. The ability of Palestinians to travel, work, and go to school have been restricted.
Since March 2001, a number of trenches have been dug into main roads cutting off all movement for villagers to any other areas, including urban centres upon which they rely for work, education, humanitarian aid and assistance including medicines, field clinics and hospitals, and crucial supplies including food and water supplies. The use of trenches instead of checkpoints in certain points prevents civilians from negotiating passage with soldiers, including for humanitarian reasons. Since June 2001, further trenches have been installed and gates are starting to be erected closing off villages and cities with keys held by the Israeli military.
The reality for Israeli settlers living in Occupied Palestinian Territories is a totally different one. They have almost exclusive use of by-pass roads, on which Palestinians are forbidden to travel. These by-pass roads also operate to control and restrict Palestinian movement. Israel justifies closure on the basis of security risks. However, this system does not serve its purpose as it does not prevent attacks in Israel from taking place as is shown several times during the past months.
These Israeli state practices are a blatant violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws and regulations. It also violates Palestinians' basic human rights such as the right to an education, the right to free movement, the right to medical care, and the right to work. At this moment, more than a third of Palestinians are living below the poverty. According to UNSCO, described the situation as "the most severe movement restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population and territory since 1967".
For more information, see Closure Reports from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza at http://www.pchrgaza.org/new_reports.htm#Closure
Reports and "Closure as Collective Punishment", a report by LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, at http://www.lawsociety.org/Reports/reports/2001/closure.html
3. Developments in Durban
U.S. should halt its support to apartheid regimes
Yesterday, the Arab Caucus Secretariat for human rights NGOs participating in the World Conference Against Racism sent a message to U.S. President George W. Bush in which it denounced the U.S. position and its refusal to discuss Israel's racist crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people and the legitimate African demands of reparation for practices of slavery. The secretariat also denounced the US threats to boycott the conference if the latter does not respond to the American veto. The secretariat hopes that the American administration would regard the Durban conference as an opportunity to improve its record of combating racism and not to assert its role as a sponsor of apartheid regimes throughout history.
On the Streets
Tuesday, in Cape Town, thousands of South Africans marched to protest the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. The demonstration which was organised by the South African Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) stretched several city blocks had drawn at least 25,000 people.
Dianne Luping, a human rights lawyer who works at LAW, one of the Palestinian NGOs attending the World Conference, addressed the crowd before they set off from District Six, an empty area near the heart of the city from which Muslims, mixed-race Colored people and Indians were evicted under white apartheid rule nearly 40 years ago.
"I come to you as a witness that villages are being flattened, hospitals are ill-equipped and Red Cross trucks are turned away daily. The identities of the people are being obliterated in Palestine just as they were during the apartheid years in South Africa," she said. In her speech, Luping reiterated the demands for immediate international protection. Other speakers addressing the crowd included Mercia Andrews, President of the South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) and a representative of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which organised a march on 19 August, attended by members of COSATU and the South African Communist Party, in which the secretary-general of the party called for an end to Israel's apartheid.
Tuesday's march in Cape Town, which was one of the biggest marches in Cape Town since the end of apartheid in South Africa, led to the gates of the South African parliament where a memorandum was presented by Achmat Sedick, the MJC secretary-general, to African National Congress MP John Jeffery, Deputy President Jacob Zuma's parliamentary counsellor. The memorandum condemned Israel's state practices against the Palestinian people and demanding South Africa to break economic ties and end its arms deals with Israel. The memorandum included calls to join the international anti-Israeli apartheid movement which will be launched in Durban.
The march coincided with a torch-lighting ceremony in Pretoria designed to symbolize the country's opposition to racism. On the occasion of the "Torches of Tolerance Day" in South Africa citizens were encouraged to light torches or turn on car headlights to show their commitment to racial tolerance. The Pretoria government asked churches to ring their bells Tuesday and hold anti-racism services.
The english version Palestinian NGO Position Paper is available at the website of Human Rights Internet (HRI) at http://www.hri.ca/racism/Submitted/Country/palestinian.htm
The Cairo Declaration Against Racism, adopted at the Arab Regional Preparatory Conference for the World Conference against Racism- held in Cairo with the participation of 65 Arab, Asian, African and international NGOs, can be found at http://www.lawsociety.org/Apartheid/updates/cairodec.htm
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: Don't you think that tackling Israel at the World Conference Against Racism, is anti-Jewish or anti-semitic?
Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racial discrimination, is completely unacceptable. However, criticism on Israel's human rights record and on Israel's institutionalised system of racism, apartheid and colonialism is not "anti-Jewish" nor "anti-semitic". The criticism is on the state practices and policies of Israel towards the Palestinians, both inside Israel as well as those living in the Occupied Territories.
It must be understood that when the international community finally effectively combats and ends Israel's discriminatory gross violations of human rights and holds Israel to account, it will not be "anti-Jewish" but ending Israel's institutionalised system of racism, apartheid and colonialism. These are Israeli state-, and not "Jewish" policies and practices.
This bulletin is prepared by the Palestinian NGO WCAR Media Team consisting individual delegates from Arab human rights NGOs attending the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance. Members of this Media Team are:
Arab Caucus Secretariat consists of Nazar Abdelgadir, Said Bakri, Shawqi Issa, Ameer Makhoul, and Yousri Mustafa.
Editorial Team: 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.