Description of events
Approximately one hundred international citizens living in different parts of Palestine came together to hold a peaceful march in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This is the first time since the start of the current uprising that such an initiative has taken place. A variety of countries were represented including Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States. The diversity of nationalities was reflected in the age range and the professional backgrounds of the demonstrators that included people working in NGOs, the health sector, business, emergency relief, researchers and students.
The solidarity march started at 11am from outside the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, and passed by various European Consulates located in Sheikh Jarrah before passing the As-Sumoud Refuge, the Palestinian National Theatre and Orient House and finishing at 12pm at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) head quarters where a delegation of 7 demonstrators met Mrs. Mary Robinson, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights.
The route was chosen in order to make a symbolic gesture to inform our respective governments that they are not doing enough to ensure that the Peace Process is based on justice for the Palestinians, as well as calling upon our governments to put pressure on Israel to stop the violence that Palestinians and we who are residing in their territories and subjected to on a daily basis.
Logic of action
The march was intended to:
Provide an opportunity for foreign nationals to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people and to reaffirm their continuing support to a just and durable Peace according to the UN resolutions.
Draw international attention to the current crisis that has resulted in more than 200 deaths and more than 7000 injuries, almost all of whom are Palestinian.
Protest the way in which the Israeli Army, Police and General Security Service are managing the crisis, using excessive and indiscriminate military force to repress demonstrations and riots.
Call for the end of the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian Territories by Israel. Despite Israels withdrawal from 60% of the Gaza Strip and 20% of the West Bank it still occupies the remaining percentages – partially or fully – and the whole of East Jerusalem, in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions 224 and 338.
Criticise the majority of media reports which present the events as if they were a war between two armies, despite the huge asymmetry of power between them and the fact that one side is an occupier and the other is being occupied.
Summary of the discussion with Mary Robinson
A delegation of 7 participants from different nationalities (US, Italian, German, Irish and Spanish) had the chance to meet the Human Rights Commissioner of the United Nations and former President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary Robinson.
Two questions and some remarks were discussed with Mrs. Robinson, who from the very beginning stated that her mission in the region was human rights and not of a political nature. The following is a summary of the main points of the discussion based on the recollection of the delegation participants.
1 The question was raised what Mrs. Robinson and the UN was currently doing about the implementation of the Security Council resolutions and international conventions that Israel is signatory of. Mrs. Robinson responded by expressing her support for the implementation of the resolutions, however also commented on the difficulty of realizing their practical implementation in light of the political context. She also commented on the difficulty presented by US support for Israel in the Security Council.
2 – The delegation expressed support for her mission and asked what they could do to help further spread the message of the need for a just peace and a call for the cessation of Israeli human rights abuses. Mrs. Robinson expressed appreciation for the work we were doing in the field and the effort we had made in the march. She encouraged us to continue to use our voice, whether in demonstrations, through the media and through our work. She pointed out that as internationals we had a unique position and could potentially bridge the gap of understanding in the conflict.
Our delegation then mentioned our concern about the mutual accusations between Israelis and Palestinians concerning the action that sparked the current wave of violence. The Israeli government claims that everything had been prepared and orchestrated by the PNA, which used Ariel Sharons visit to the Haram el-Shariff/Temple Mount in order to start a new Intifada. The PNA claims it was Sharons visit with hundreds of escorts that provoked a spontaneous reaction from the people who were very frustrated because of Israels delay in implementing the Wye River Memorandum and the Sharm el-Sheikh Protocol.
Despite these political claims, from a Human Rights perspective the important issue is to discern what exactly happened the day after Sharons visit. On Friday, September 29th, the Israeli Army, Police and Border Police used military instead of police methods of riot control, killing 7 people and injuring more than 200. Israel always claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, shouldnt it have used non-lethal methods of riot control as it does with its own Jewish citizens? In order to understand what sparked the violence it is very important to investigate what exactly happened that day, who gave the orders and bring those responsible to court.
Mrs. Robinson discussed Israels self perception as a democracy and commented on positive feed back she received from meetings concerning the treatment of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. However, she also expressed concern as to failings in extending those same democratic principals to dealings with the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. She encouraged those of us from democracies to use our voice and influence to continue to point out the bedrock principles of democracy.
The Ten Commandments for Human Rights enforcement
Ten points were submitted to Mary Robinson, summarizing the main issues the participants in the march wanted to address. Using a biblical metaphor, the following list of Commandments was drafted:
Israel should enforce the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that it is signatory of, as well as being a member of UNICEF
Israel should use non-lethal methods of riot control to stop the systematic violation of human rights of the Palestinians
Israel should stop all settlement expansion and construction of by-pass roads immediately
Israel should order its security forces to stop shooting at medical personnel and vehicles, instead of launching a disinformation campaign oriented at legitimising such attacks against the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and other emergency and medical providers
Israel should immediately end its continued illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories
Israel should enforce the IV Geneva Convention that it is signatory of, and provide security to the Palestinians instead of ignoring attacks by settlers living in the Occupied Territories
Israel should allow the United Nations to send a contingent of UN peace keepers to guarantee the security of the Palestinians
Israel should stop the bombing of civilian targets (private homes, TV and radio antennas, Casino, Fatah offices) as collective punishment and retaliation for shootings against its citizens or soldiers
Israel should allow an international Commission of Enquiry under the auspices of the UN, complementary to the fact finding mission agreed at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit to be created, with a mandate not only to investigate but also to bring those guilty of human rights violations to court
Israel should lift the siege and curfews imposed to the freedom of movement of people, workers and goods within the Palestinian Territories.
Israel must not be allowed to act with impunity. Israel should stop undermining international law and immediately implement the foregone points.