Danny spoke in Brussels, so they've cancelled his invitation to London
THE United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israel Palestinian Peace opened in Brussels on Thursday, with an address from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, read for him by Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
Praising the work of civil society actors, (i.e. non-governmental), the UN secretary said they were helping build bridges between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, strengthening institutions and providing critical humanitarian and other assistance. In every aspect of their work, they were contributing towards a just solution to the decades-old conflict.
The continued occupation of the Palestinian Territory prolonged hardship and injustice for millions of Palestinians, yet it had also failed to ensure the security of Israeli civilians, he said. While recent efforts to get the Palestinians and Israelis back on the negotiating track were encouraging, movement on the political front could not obscure the dire humanitarian situation on the ground. The unsustainable division of the West Bank and Gaza had grave humanitarian and political implications.
Opening the Conference, Paul Badji ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, recalled that June marked 40 years of the Israeli occupation, noting that civil society organizations had helped attract public and media attention to the reality of the longest military occupation in modern history. That effort should not be abandoned, considering that Israel's expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank continued in violation of international law, often neglected by major media organizations and rarely noticed by the public. Israel had failed to fulfil its obligation to dismantle settlement outposts as required in the very first phase of the "Road Map". It had further expanded existing settlements, while constantly demanding that the Palestinian side fulfil its obligations as a precondition for even starting negotiations. The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the separation wall in the occupied West Bank and around East Jerusalem had never been heeded since it was issued nearly three years ago and, for the past four decades, the occupying Power had essentially disregarded its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The human rights of the civilian Palestinian population were routinely violated as they frequently became victims of Israeli military operations in their towns and villages.
The Committee strongly condemned any activities indiscriminately targeting civilians, either by the Israeli army or by Palestinian groups firing rockets at Israeli towns, he said. The Committee had called upon the parties to resume without delay the political process aimed at establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State in the Territory occupied since 1967, comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Civil society, for its part, continued to help the Palestinian people cope with the daily hardships, and bring to the forefront of world attention the urgent need to resolve the conflict.
The conference also heard a message from Palestinian Austhority president Mahmoud Abbas, who has been in talks with Israeli prime minister Olmert.
Edward McMillan Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament, said it was regrettable that some news organizations had published reports labelling the event as anti-Israel. “Today marks the opening of my inquiry into the role of parliaments in the Middle East peace process. I am not anti-Israel or anti-Palestine, but I am pro-democracy and pro-dialogue,” he added. “A Palestinian State with sustainable borders would also bring Israeli citizens greater security and stability. The fact that their barrier now almost encircles Bethlehem and Jerusalem is not propitious for peace,” he added.
Danny Rubinstein, of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, said that, even if the wall followed strictly the line of the pre-1967 border, it would still not be justified. The two peoples needed cooperation rather than walls because they must be neighbours. The principle of two States for two peoples was the only alternative to one State for two peoples. Israel today was an apartheid State with four different Palestinian groups: those in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli Palestinians, each of which had a different status.
He said since the disengagement from Gaza and the dismantling of its settlements, it was clear that Israel could survive without the settlements and without East Jerusalem because it had done so even before 1967. However, it could not survive the right of return because there were about 4 million Palestine refugees wishing to return to their property. The right of return was a “red line” for Israelis just as the denial of Jerusalem was a red line for the Palestinians, who could otherwise even the wall.
Labour MP and ex-Overseas Aid minister Clare Short spoke about her recent visit to the Occupied Territories with a delegation from War on Want, which had included a briefing from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on the way the wall, closures, settlements and separate roads were imprisoning the Palestinians.
More on conference speakers at:
The UN conference has been held in the European Parliament building in Brussels, despite a well-publicised campaign by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and its friends protesting that by allowing it to take place there the parliament was "legitimising" an "anti-Israel" movement. It was claimed the conference would be "one sided", and that the committee calling it was a continuation of the UN "Zionism is Racism" resolution from 1975. For some American Zionists it was yet another manifestation of the antisemitism and anti-Americanism of both the UN and Europe.
The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
Having failed to stop it, the Zionists - at any rate the Zionist Federation of Great Britain - have had to make do with retribution against one of the participants, Danny Rubinstein.
" Haaretz columnist Danny Rubinstein's participation in this weekend's Zionist Federation (ZF) conference in London has been cancelled by mutual agreement.On Thursday evening,the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Rubinstein, who has taught at HebrewUniversity in Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University in the Negev, told a UN conference in Brussels: 'Today Israel is an apartheid state with different status for different communities.'.
"In a meeting on Friday with ZF officials, Rubinstein confirmed he made the statement. The ZF said in its statement that it regularly holds meetings where a wide variety of views are expressed, and while there is no question that Rubinstein has every right to express his views about Israel, it was mutually agreed that his participation in the Zionist Federation conference became untenable.
"ZF Chairman Andrew Balcombe said, "Criticism of Israeli policy is acceptable. However, by using the word 'apartheid' in a UN conference held at the EuropeanParliament, Danny Rubinstein encourages the demonization of Israel and the Jewish people. I believe he was naïve to attend the UN conference. Indeed, his own newspaper had earlier reported that Israeli and EU lawmakers had attacked the UN meeting for having a completely one-sided, anti-Israeli agenda."
The ZF conference, entitled "Israel at 60", is being held from 31 August to 2 September in London. I hope Danny Rubinstein will manage to get over his disappointment at being left out of this august gathering as he reflects on the admonishment from Andrew Balcombe. Note how Balcombe manages to drag "the Jewish people" into his argument, when nobody else has mentioned us. When there's no antisemitism about the issue the Zionist has to invent it. By taking part as an Israeli in a reasoned debate about peace, Rubinstein was letting the side down, irrespective of what he said.
The man from Ha'aretz is billed to speak at a public meeting in London on Monday, and I hope the withdrawal of the ZF invitation will not prevent this going ahead:
Monday, 3 September 2007, 8.00 pm
Can Israel Make Peace with the Palestinians?
A talk by Danny Rubinstein followed by Q & A’s Danny Rubinstein is a renowned Israeli journalist, columnist
and Editorial Board member at Haaretz, specialising in Arab Affairs. He is also a teacher at Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva in Communications and Middle Eastern Studies.
The Manor House, New North London Synagogue, 80 East End Road, London, N3 2SY
Tickets: Free but for security reasons you must register in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Israel Fund, the Spiro Ark, the Zionist Federation (?)
Thanks are due to Paula, of European Jews for Just Peace, for sending me information from the UN conference, and to Mark Elf for drawing attention to the ZF decision to cancel its invitation to Danny Rubinstein. See "Well Really! What do Israelis know about Israel?" in his blog http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/