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International Day in Solidarity with the Palestinian People
29.11.2007 Vienna
Statement of Mr. Fritz Edlinger, Secretary General of the Society for Austro-Arab Relations, on behalf of civil society organizations

 

 

Today we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the decision of the UN-security council resolution nr. 181 on the partition of the British mandatory territory Palestine between the Palestinian and the Jewish/Israeli People. Up to now this resolution, like many other UN-resolutions and similar decisions by international bodies, has not been implemented. And we are indeed very far from any implementation. Let me just recall the proportions, which have been suggested by this resolution: The Jewish State of Israel was supposed to make up 56,47% of the territory and the Palestinian State 42,88%, Jerusalem should be established as a separate entity. The proportion of people living in Palestine at that time was appr. 1.3 Mio Arabs and appr. 600.000 Jews. I think these facts should not be forgotten. Today we are talking about a Palestinian State – at it’s best –  consisting of 22% of the historic Palestinian land.

 

The diplomatic contacts, meetings and talks, which happened during the last months between President Mahmoud Abbas and Primeminister Ehud Olmert and others nourished high hopes for a breakthrough in the stalled peace-negotiations. Heavy US-American pressure was exerted on both parties and the Annapolis summit two days ago indeed seems to have created a new momentum. I think everybody in the region but also in the whole world should welcome any chance to reach a peaceful and consensual solution to  the world’s longest-lasting conflict since 1945. Too many attempts failed and too many sacrifices have been made on both sides. But especially this long list of failed negotiations should make us cautious and critical.

 

Let me use a rather blunt and undiplomatic phrase: Why should the trio George W. Bush – Ehud Olmert – Mahmoud Abbas solve a problem, in which many others have failed? What is the secret these three politicians hide and that was not known to Bill Clinton – Yitzhak Rabin – Yasser Arafat? I personally don’t know. And – frankly speaking – I have my doubts like many others in the region and in the rest of the world. I read the speeches of Bush, Olmert and Abbas carefully, also the short “joint understanding” – filling less than one page (!) –  , I collected lots of other information and I confronted all these words with the realities on the ground in Palestine. And I can’t resist saying, that I am rather sceptic of this new approach. To me it seems to be mearly a public relations event of three weak politicians without any vision.

 

If you take into consideration the number of participants and visitors to this short ceremony in Annapolis it was definitely a more spectacular event than Oslo. But if you remember the well organized and emotional signing-ceremony in front of the White House 1993, then in that perspective Annapolis was low-key. And yet, even this much better and professionally prepared attempt failed.

 

Everybody who follows the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict knows that there is indeed no lack of plans and suggestions and that even the content of most of these plans is rather similar. Hence, it is known what must be done to solve the conflict. What’s lacking is the will, the courage and the strength to implement. And since I am representing an NGO, that is working in the Middle East since 25 years, you surely won’t be surprised that according to my knowledge it is mainly the fault of Israel and its main sponsor, the United States of America, that nothing moved, on the contrary, that the situation for the people in Palestine has gotten worse and worse.

 

Time was wasted – intentionally and with cool blood. The Oslo process was sabotaged and even the Road Map, which I personally regard to be too short-sighted and security-oriented, should have already been fully implemented more than two years ago. And at the same time Israel changed –in clear violation of the relevant conditions of both plans – the reality on the ground systematically. I am sure that all of you will recall that between 1993 and 2000, during the outbreak of the First Intifadah, the number of Israeli settlements – all of them being illegal – doubled. Since then the number of political prisoners, among them children, women and even almost one third of the elected members of the Palestinian Legislativ Council, has in fact never been reduced. In that context it is indeed extremely cynical that the Israelis, shortly before Annapolis, released 441 prisoners as a so-called sign of “good-will” but in the short period between announcing Annapolis and November 27th arrested a total of 1.714 Palestinians, among them 95 children.

 

This is unfortunately the reality of Palestine and this is what the daily life of 3,5 Million Palestinians looks like. This and many other means of oppression, injustice and atrocities must be terminated. If the Annapolis-process is able to achieve this, fine. If not, we will face an extremely dangerous situation.

 

To give you another example on the Israeli attitude: The same time in which Annapolis took place there were 4 Israeli air strikes, 33 various attacks, 59 raids, 1 curfew, 6 Palestinians were killed, 22 injured and 44 were taken prisoner – all within 48 hours! I really don’t believe that this is the right way to create trust in the seriousness of the Israeli Government.

 

As I already mentioned before, I read all speeches and publications from Annapolis very carefully. And I have to confess that I was negatively impressed by the purely pragmatic and superficial wording of most statements. This in my eyes is absolutely not the proper approach to solving the most serious and dangerous world-conflict. I saw only few references to international law and justice. But that’s exactly the core of the problem.

 

Let me quote in that context some paragraphs from an open letter, which was written by Al Haq and other 11 Palestinian human rights organizations to the so-called negotiating parties:

 

“As Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations, we the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the lack of a clearly articulated legal framework for the upcoming diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to be held at Annapolis on 27 November. While the process of negotiation is inherently political, the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people to dignity, territorial sovereignty and self-determination as enshrined in binding international law may not be made the subjects of negotiation.

Following 40 years of occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and numerous rounds of failed diplomatic initiatives, international law must at last be understood to be the essential over-arching framework for negotiations.”

 

(Second quote)

“Throughout the 40 years of the occupation, Israel has used its effective control over the OPT to implant some 149 settlements, currently home to over 470,000 settlers, which control over 40% of the West Bank, including essential agricultural and water resources. The current planned route of the Wall will incorporate some 69 settlements, home to 83% of the settler population, on 12.8% of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that will remain on the western side of the Wall. Under Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an Occupying Power is prohibited from transferring parts of its civilian population into occupied territory. Israeli settlements in the OPT are in flagrant violation of this prohibition.”

“In this context, we urge the parties to approach the upcoming negotiations with a renewed sense of purpose, giving due recognition of the international legal obligations incumbent upon them, including UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions addressing Palestinian refugees. The task which they face is a heavy one, as any final agreement must reflect a commitment to the principles of international law, justice in addressing wrongful acts, and respect for human rights. The fundamental rights of the Palestinian people are matters of binding international law, not political bargaining chips. Their implementation must not be left to Israel’s beneficence, but rather established as the foundation of any just and durable solution to the conflict. “

(Third quote)

“In this context, we urge the parties to approach the upcoming negotiations with a renewed sense of purpose, giving due recognition of the international legal obligations incumbent upon them, including UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions addressing Palestinian refugees. The task which they face is a heavy one, as any final agreement must reflect a commitment to the principles of international law, justice in addressing wrongful acts, and respect for human rights. The fundamental rights of the Palestinian people are matters of binding international law, not political bargaining chips. Their implementation must not be left to Israel’s beneficence, but rather established as the foundation of any just and durable solution to the conflict. “

 

Al-Haq
Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights in Gaza
Addameer Prisoner’s Support and Human Rights Association
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Defence for Children International – Palestine Section
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center
Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Palestinian Counselling Center
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Women’s Studies Center

*The letter was sent on 26 November 2007 to key negotiating parties including the President of the PNA, the Israeli Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and  EU and UN Officials.

 

 

I apologize for this lengthy quote but I think, it’s very important to also hear the voice of the Palestinian Civil Society.

 

Before concluding I would like to make a short comment on the internal Palestinian situation. I think, the split between the two main political factions is very regrettable and weakens the chances for the Palestinians to reach an acceptable solution. Therefore every effort should be laid upon the revitalization of the National Dialogue, with the goal to reestablish a Government of National Unity.

 

Let me conclude by saying, that – even if we don’t expect too much from the so-called Annapolis-process – all of us should do our utmost to raise our voices publicly in order to put pressure on the concerned parties to tackle the important key-issues in a legal, just, transparent and democratic way. Too much time has been wasted and after almost 60 years of suffering from expulsion and dispossession the Palestinian People deserves a just, fair and viable solution. And the minimum – must be without making any further major concessions - an independent Palestinian State including the whole Westbank, Gaza and East-Jerusalem/Al Quds as its capital.

 

Thank you!

 

 

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