International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem

International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem: Proceedings

Gershon Baskin believes that Jerusalem was a microcosm of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict and that conventional wisdom throughout years of the peace process had been to leave Jerusalem “until the end” when, in fact, it should have been the first issue on the agenda.

The “International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem,” held in Dakar, Senegal on May 3 and May 4, 2016, was sponsored by the UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The following are comments from conference participants distributed by the UN:

1st Meeting : Jerusalem Critical in Negotiated Two-State Solution to Palestine Question

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The historic and holy city of Jerusalem remained at the heart of any negotiated solution to the question of Palestine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today as the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem opened in Dakar, Senegal.

“We must strengthen and reassert collective international efforts aimed at preserving the two-State solution and shape a political horizon,” Mr. Ban said in a statement delivered by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA). Indeed, only through a negotiated solution could Jerusalem emerge as the capital of two States, with arrangements for holy sites acceptable to all.

Condemning the continuing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he called on all sides to de-escalate tensions and respect the sanctity of holy sites. He urged Israel to cease and reverse its settlement activities, describing that enterprise as illegal under international law, constituting a significant obstacle to peace.

Mankeur Ndiaye, Senegal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad

Mankeur Ndiaye, Senegal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad, said his country was hosting the International Conference against the backdrop of continuing Israeli settlement activity, which had increased by 250 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. In addition, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip continued with no clear political horizons. He warned that the upsurge in violence could jeopardize the efficacy of a number of new tools adopted by the international community — the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on development financing.

Riad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine

Riad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, declared: “There is no two-State solution possible without East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” The Security Council must shoulder its responsibilities by addressing the Israeli settlement issue after years of “deafening silence”, he said. Jerusalem was besieged, and Israel’s colonial war against Palestinians was led neighbourhood by neighbourhood, house by house and holy site by holy site, he said.

Samir Bakr, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Samir Bakr, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said Jerusalem was foremost among that body’s priorities and political actions, as the capital of the State of Palestine and the core of the conflict with the Israeli occupation. Warning against provocations that would take the conflict to a “religious dimension”, he said the continuation of Israeli settlement construction in spite of international condemnation constituted a flagrant violation of international norms.

Said Abu Ali, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Palestinian and Arab Occupied Territories Sector of the League of Arab States

Said Abu Ali, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Palestinian and Arab Occupied Territories Sector of the League of Arab States, said the situation in Jerusalem was becoming more complicated due to Israel’s policy of Judaization and its attempt to obliterate the city’s identity. Noting that Jerusalem was facing an “ongoing catastrophe” as Israel continued to commit gross violations there, he said residents of the city were subjected to coercive measures to displace them. The replacement settlement policy all over the Occupied Territories threatened prospects for peace and represented a violation of relevant international decisions, he said.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of Morocco, China, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa, as well as the African Union Commission.

Opening Remarks

MOHAMED IBN CHAMBAS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA)

MOHAMED IBN CHAMBAS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), delivering a message on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said recent weeks had seen continuing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the Occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Condemning the violence as well as attacks on civilians, which undermined prospects for a return to meaningful negotiations to end the nearly half-century occupation, he called on all sides to de-escalate tensions. He further reiterated calls on political, religious and community leaders to respect the sanctity of all holy sites, and reminded all parties that Jordan’s historical role as custodian of the holy places should be respected.

“The historic and holy city of Jerusalem remains at the heart of a peaceful settlement of the Question of Palestine,” he said, adding: “Only through a negotiated solution can Jerusalem emerge as a capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all.” All parties should refrain from actions and provocations that could trigger further unrest and deepen mistrust. It was important for all to uphold the status quo in word and in practice, in line with the recent understandings between Israel and Jordan.

Israel’s settlement enterprise, illegal under international law, continued in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and constituted a significant obstacle to achieving peace, he said, urging Israel to cease and reverse such activities. Expressing particular concern about the significant spike in demolitions since the start of the year, he said they contravened Israel’s obligation to protect the civilian population under its occupation.

Noting that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remained of grave concern, he stressed that all efforts should concentrate on helping the population there, which was still suffering the consequences of the 2014 conflict. Seventy-four per cent of affected families were still awaiting the reconstruction of their homes, while Gaza’s chronic energy, water and employment needs also required urgent and sustained attention. Integrating the West Bank and Gaza under a single democratic Palestinian government through genuine Palestinian reconciliation, on the basis of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) principles, remained a key priority.

“We must strengthen and reassert collective international efforts aimed at preserving the two-State solution and shaping a political horizon,” he said. Those included the efforts of the Middle East Quartet as well as the French initiative to build international support towards creating the conditions for the resumption of negotiations. Support by such partners as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the League of Arab States and the African Union was a strong asset to ensure the viability and promise of an independent State of Palestine.

SAMIR BAKR, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

SAMIR BAKR, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, reiterated that body’s commitment and constant support to Palestine and the city of Jerusalem. That city was foremost among its priorities and political actions, as the capital of the State of Palestine and the core of the conflict with the Israeli occupation. Israel continued with its plans to Judaize the city, actions which had recently seen a major increase. “The whole world has seen the increase in recurrent Israeli attacks against Muslim and Christian holy sites,” as well as the confiscation of Palestinian lands, he said. Warning against provocations that would take the conflict “to a religious dimension”, he said the continuation of Israeli settlement in spite of international condemnation constituted a flagrant violation of international norms.

For its part, the international community must shoulder its responsibility and provide protection to the Palestinian people, he continued. Referring to the outcome of the Fifth Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, held in Jakarta on 7 March 2016, he said that, among other things, participants had expressed its decision to support the French initiative to establish an international support group and to hold an international peace conference as a basis for the political process. He reiterated the position of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to support the State of Palestine and its people and to put pressure to bear on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian lands. He further reiterated the responsibility of the international community to allow the Palestinian people their freedom, independence and right of return within 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

RIAD MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine

RIAD MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, said that, at the very moment when the Conference was taking place, Israeli occupation forces might be executing another Palestinian civilian and bulldozers might be tearing down Palestinian homes. “A humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our eyes” in the Gaza Strip as civilians continued to suffer from a prolonged and unjustified siege. Palestine had been a standing item on the United Nations agenda since its inception, which was a signal of the international community’s inability to take the necessary action to bring about a solution by ending the Israeli occupation. “The solution is crystal clear and enjoys universal support,” he said, noting that it could be found in numerous United Nations resolutions. Only one country was destroying the two-State solution based on 1967 borders and with it the very hope for peace in the region. That State, Israel, did so at the expense of the lives and rights of the Palestinian people, and contrary to international will.

Indeed, he continued, the Israeli Prime Minister continued to reiterate his support for the two-State solution, while rejecting the 1967 borders. Any peace initiative must have as its basis United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative, he stressed; as such, any plan must be based on 1967 borders and aimed at ending the occupation of the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem. Expressing support for the French initiative, he added that any successful plan must hold parties accountable. “It is time to admit that Israel’s immunity and impunity are the greatest obstacles to peace,” he said in that respect, adding that those who wished to see peace prevail must support Palestinians in their pursuit of accountability, and not stand against them. Only a few weeks ago, Israel had announced plans to build hundreds of new settlements, he recalled.

He stressed the need for States to translate the policies enshrined in Security Council, General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions as well as those of other bodies into concrete measures — and to avoid abstaining in international votes on the issue. States should prohibit ties between their Governments, entities and citizens with the settlement regime. They must link their relations with Israel, the occupying Power, with respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.

For its part, the Security Council must shoulder its own responsibilities as the main body responsible for international peace and security, by addressing the settlement issue after years of “deafening silence”. Jerusalem was besieged, and Israel’s colonial war against Palestinians was led neighbourhood by neighbourhood, house by house and holy site by holy site. Each Palestinian was a target, subject to arbitrary arrest and extrajudicial killing. Israel, the occupying Power, used an arsenal of administrative and legal measures to forcibly transfer Palestinians out of Jerusalem and to create and expand illegal settlements, he noted. Only a few days ago, two Palestinians — including a young pregnant woman — had been savagely executed at a checkpoint in Jerusalem, he said, noting that the extrajudicial killings had gone unchecked. Jerusalem and Palestinians must not be left alone to face such crimes, he emphasized. “There is no two-State solution possible without East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” he said, calling on States to deepen relations with the city, and for the creation of an “international coalition for Jerusalem” with lasting and structured support.

SAID ABU ALI, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Palestinian and Arab Occupied Territories Sector of the League of Arab State

SAID ABU ALI, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Palestinian and Arab Occupied Territories Sector of the League of Arab States, said the situation in Jerusalem was becoming more complicated due to Israel’s policy of Judaization and its attempt to obliterate the city’s identity. Noting that Jerusalem was facing an “ongoing catastrophe” as Israel continued to commit gross violations there, he said the number of violations had been unprecedented since the start of 2016 and increased on a daily basis. Residents were subjected to coercive measures in an effort to displace them in a serious Judaization scheme known as “Jerusalem 2020”. The replacement settlement policy all over the Occupied Territories threatened prospects for peace and represented a flagrant violation of relevant international decisions.

The Israeli Government was fully responsible for the crimes it had committed, he continued, adding that its responsibility also extended to the repercussions on the city, which faced major challenges on a day-to-day basis. The League of Arab States, in response to the French initiative to rescue the two-State solution, was exerting all possible efforts to provide protection to the Palestinian people and their holy sites and to help establish an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. The international community should forge ahead and carry out its commitments in providing protection to Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, the Security Council should carry out its responsibility rapidly and effectively to put an end to the settlement policy and to provide the necessary security for civilians, while working in earnest to put an end to the occupation itself.

MANKEUR NDIAYE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal

MANKEUR NDIAYE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, hailed the fact that the themes of the present meeting dealt with resilience and development that could be addressed from the angle of sustainable development. The meeting should place itself in the context of continuing efforts to support the Palestinian people and to establish an independent Palestinian State. Welcoming the capacity-building round table organized in Amman, Jordan, in April, he said that such initiatives deserved support and demonstrated the Palestinian Rights Committee’s unfailing commitment to a two-State solution.

He said that, in the difficult context marked by continuing Israeli settlement activity — which had increased by 250 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 — as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the absence of any clear political horizons, the new upsurge in violence had created many victims and jeopardized the efficacy of the new tools adopted by the international community — namely, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Special attention should be given to the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference and the Arab Peace Initiative, among other relevant plans. He expressed hope that the recent efforts of the Middle East Quartet and the report on the state of play in the peace process would spark the resumption of negotiations.

To that end, he hailed the firm willingness of the Palestinian authorities to commit themselves to creating conditions for a lasting peace. He further welcomed the activities of the Committee’s Working Group and invited African civil society to serve the Palestinian cause. Finally, he invited the Committee to continue its watchdog functions and its sensitization work, while expressing hope that the present meeting would contribute to solutions to the complex question of Jerusalem.

Statements

The representative of Morocco said the questions of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif was the essence of the Arab—Israeli conflict and a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East. Morocco had always called for giving peace a chance, which could only be achieved by putting an end to the settlement policy practiced by the occupying Power. Indeed, no peace could be negotiated if the two-State solution was buried by continuing settlement activities and Judaization. Morocco accorded the Palestinian question high priority and had adopted a practical approach that combined a political stance with diplomatic endeavours to preserve Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

That defence of Jerusalem required all peace lovers to mobilize their efforts to defend the city on the political, legal, diplomatic and humanitarian levels, he said. While there was no harm in having various peace initiatives, all must have genuine “added value” and employ all existing institutional mechanisms that had already proven effective. Morocco supported the call by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to hold an international peace conference, and to support the relevant French initiative to form an international group of countries that would follow up on implementation of peace plans emerging from that conference, he said.

The representative of China said tensions between Palestine and Israel had recently been increasing and the resulting conflict had caused a significant loss of life. Expressing deep concern in that regard, he said the recent conflict over the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites was extremely complicated and delicate. The parties must resolve the question of Jerusalem on the basis of appropriate United Nations resolutions. China supported the just cause of the people of Palestine in seeking the restitution of their legal rights as well as the establishment of an independent State on the basis of the 1967 borders, while respecting Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

In that regard, he called on the two parties to re-establish mutual trust and to halt Israel’s colonial settlements, as well as its continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Noting that Palestine had recently undertaken a series of diplomatic actions on the international stage, he expressed his country’s support for such activities and for efforts to push the Security Council to adopt a resolution on halting Israeli settlements. China had advanced a proposal to help resolve the question of Palestine, he said, recalling that the country’s President had recently called on the international community to support Palestine as a factor of regional stability.

The representative of Zimbabwe said the 49-year occupation of Palestinian territory continued, in violation of international law. The killing of innocent civilians and the destruction of Palestinian property continued, while the “wall of shame” remained in place and the siege of Gaza persisted. There were constant attempts to change the character of East Jerusalem, she said, adding that, despite numerous Security Council resolutions, the occupying Power remained defiant because of the support it received from certain powerful countries. The only basis for long-term peace was a two-State solution, based on the 1967 borders, she said, calling on the Security Council to hold Israel accountable for its crimes. It was apparent that Israel would not willingly surrender territory, and the Council must therefore act, in accordance with its own resolutions.

The representative of Cuba reaffirmed his country’s full support for the Palestinian people on the basis of the “clear and unequivocal” principle of self-determination. The Palestinian people were still victims of aggression by Israel, he said, adding that the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip had led to terror, death and destruction. Such crimes would continue as long as some States provided weapons to Israel and threatened to wield their veto power in the Security Council, he cautioned, emphasizing that Israel’s impunity must also stop. It was critical that the Council live up to its Charter responsibility and compel Israel to stop its aggression against the Palestinian people.

He went on to condemn Israel’s settlement campaign, its occupation, aggression, extrajudicial killings, use of force and confiscation of Palestinian land through “massive colonization”, while noting continuing arbitrary detention, imprisonment, torture and other internationally-forbidden practices also continued. Only action to end such policies, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and recognition of legitimate Palestinian rights would help to bring about peace.

The representative of Indonesia said Israel’s policies continued to defy the will of the international community as well as international law, while there were recent examples of international support for the Palestinian people, including the raising of the Palestinian flag at United Nations Headquarters in New York, he underscored the need for Palestine’s supporters to avoid fragmentation. “We need to connect the dots” and apply synergistic approaches to the question, he said. There were several important elements of any strategy to support the Palestinian people: establishing a common narrative for a sustained peace process; formal recognition of the State of Palestine among the community of nations; interfaith and inter-religious dialogue as part of a comprehensive peace process and a means to protect religious sites; and enhanced capacity-building for the State of Palestine. Highlighting regional initiatives in that regard, he said Indonesia had committed to extending further support to the Palestinian people.

The representative of Malaysia reaffirmed her country’s support for a solution that would recognize the legitimate right of Palestinians to an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Malaysia was gravely concerned by Israel’s attempts to alter the character and legal status of Jerusalem, including by building settlements and through provocations and encroachment on the city’s holy sites. Such actions threatened the viability and prospects of a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders, she warned. The international community should ensure Israel’s accountability and work to halt its illegal measures, in accordance with international law. Expressing hope that the Middle East peace talks would resume soon, she nevertheless emphasized that the question of Jerusalem must not be treated separately from the peace process.

AISHA LARABA ABDULLAHI, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission

AISHA LARABA ABDULLAHI, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, recalled that, through the African Union — formerly the Organization of African Unity — the continent had been successful in eradicating colonialism, apartheid and other human rights violations. The African Union had paid attention to the social, political and economic situation of Palestine, focusing particularly on the issue of human rights. Through its Department of Political Affairs and other relevant departments, the regional bloc had conducted monitoring and prepared regular reports on the situation in Palestine and the Middle East, she said, noting that those reports covered several thematic areas, including the political and peace processes, the situation in the city of Jerusalem, the apartheid wall and colonial settlements, Palestinian prisoners, and conditions in the Occupied Territories.

The reports had been presented to the African Union policymaking organs for consideration, deliberation and decision-making, culminating in the African Union Declaration on Palestine and Middle East, she said. In addition, the bloc had engaged in advocacy in defence of human rights in Palestine and the Middle East, with the goal of promoting and protecting them in line with the shared values of the African Union and the United Nations.

The representative of South Africa recalled that, last week, the city of Johannesburg had donated a statue of Nelson Mandela to the city of Ramallah in order to inspire Palestinians to continue their struggle for freedom. South Africa continued its unwavering support for the Palestinian people and believed that the only way to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East was a comprehensive negotiated settlement and the establishment of a Palestinian State living in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Indeed, a solution must be reached on the question of Jerusalem, in accordance with Security Council resolutions, he said, emphasizing that Israel must not “change the facts on the ground”, and should abide by international resolutions.

Until a final agreement was reached on the question of the holy sites, both sides should maintain the status quo, he continued. Urgent action and practical steps by the international community — and the Security Council in particular — were needed to compel Israel to cease its settlement activity and abide by international law. Expressing disappointment over the Council’s inability to act in a timely manner in order to avoid increased violence, he condemned all forms of violence, regardless of the perpetrators.

2nd Meeting: Jerusalem Divided by Walls of Fear, Hatred, Experts Tell International Conference on Palestine Question, Addressing Occupation’s Legal, Psychological Aspects

The International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, which opened in Dakar, Senegal, this morning, held its first plenary session in the afternoon, examining life in East Jerusalem under Israeli occupation.

Daniel Seidemann, Lawyer and Founder of the Israeli non-governmental organization Terrestrial Jerusalem

Daniel Seidemann, Lawyer and Founder of the Israeli non-governmental organization Terrestrial Jerusalem, said the city today was divided by walls of fear and hatred. It was seeing a popular uprising unprecedented since 1967, due in large part to the “horrendous and savage” murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014. The incident had conveyed the message that “in the eyes of official Israel, Israeli blood is blood, and its red; Palestinian blood is water”, he said, adding that Palestinian youth felt themselves adrift, while Israeli society was in a state of clinical denial about the occupation.

Nabil Al-Kurd, member of the Sheikh Jarrah Committee and Jerusalem resident

Nabil Al-Kurd, member of the Sheikh Jarrah Committee and Jerusalem resident, described the 2009 confiscation of half of his home by Israeli settlers. The occupied portion had been converted into a barracks, and the settlers frequently beat his family, including the women and elderly members. Any Palestinian who complained about such abuse was arrested and taken into custody, he said, noting that children suffered psychological trauma as a result and many dropped out of school.

Khalil Tafakji, Director of the Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department of the Arab Studies Society

Khalil Tafakji, Director of the Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department of the Arab Studies Society, described Jerusalem’s geopolitical situation, pointing out that Israel’s “Judaization” of the city had begun long before 1967. The confiscation of Palestinian lands, withdrawal of Palestinian identification cards and demolition of Palestinian homes had become common over the last half century, and an “apartheid wall” had been built, he said. “Every millimetre [of the city] is a cause of conflict.”

Brona Higgins, International Component Coordinator of the Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine

Brona Higgins, International Component Coordinator of the Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine, recalled that in 1967, Israel had granted “permanent residency” to Palestinians in Jerusalem — a status typically granted to immigrants. It was not fixed and could be easily revoked, meaning that Palestinians were in effect treated as “second-class citizens in their own home”. Expressing deep concern over that worrying trend, she said such revocations rendered Palestinians Stateless, in contravention of international law.

With the floor opened for an interactive discussion with the panellists, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as civil society raised issues relating to international law, psychological barriers to ending the occupation, and the use of education for peace programmes in both Israeli and Palestinian societies.

The International Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 May, for a plenary discussion on international support for reliance, protection and development.

Plenary I

The first plenary segment featured presentations by Khalil Tafakji, Director, Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department, Arab Studies Society; Daniel Seidemann, Lawyer, Founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem; Brona Higgins, International Component Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine; and Nabil Al-Kurd, member, Sheikh Jarrah Committee and resident of Jerusalem.

Khalil Tafakji, Director, Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department, Arab Studies Society

Mr. TAFAKJI, describing Jerusalem’s geopolitical situation, said the city was not only about its holy sites, but also about the people living there. Judaization of the city had begun long before 1967, and Al-Quds Al–Sharif had been the name for the old city, he said, exhibiting a pre-1948 map. To the present day, no country in the world recognized the city as Israel’s capital because it enjoyed a special status. After 1967, Israel had significantly expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem municipality, and the policy of land confiscation had begun shortly thereafter. Justifications for confiscation included the expansion of green areas and the building of roads.

He went on to state that Israel had subsequently begun withdrawing identification cards and demolishing Palestinian homes. An apartheid wall had also been built to get rid of Palestinian inhabitants. A number of rights had been forbidden to Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, and today they held only 13 per cent of the land they had occupied in 1967. Showing charts of the demographic changes since that date, he said there were Israeli settlement outposts in the old city and “every millimetre is a cause of conflict”. However, Palestinians remained in Jerusalem despite all those obstacles, and it was to be hoped that the international community would continue to support them.

Daniel Seidemann, Lawyer, Founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem

Mr. SEIDEMANN said “Jerusalem today is divided” by walls of fear and hatred that had become more intense than at any other time since 1967. During the popular uprising of the last year-and-a-half, the Israeli authorities had arrested more than 950 Palestinian boys — more than 1 per cent of all Palestinian youth under the age of 18. No mayor or prime minister in the world was more “utterly detached from the reality of the city they purport to run” than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mayor Nir Barkat, he emphasized.

Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem felt themselves adrift, cut off from the Palestinian hinterland in the West Bank and not a part of Israel, he continued. Living in a society that denied the right to any significant political expression — increasingly resorting to arbitrary enforcement and collective punishment — those young people witnessed an adult Palestinian society incapable of fulfilling the basic obligation towards its children: giving them a future that could be lived in dignity. The ensuing loss of respect for adult authority had had a devastating impact and was one of the major manifestations of the current uprising, he said, noting that East Jerusalem was in the grip of a popular uprising unseen since 1967.

Questioning the reason for that, he said the “horrendous and savage” murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014 was far more significant than the isolated event it appeared to be. Israel demolished the homes belonging to the innocent families of deceased Palestinian terrorists, while doing no such thing to the Jewish terrorists who had murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Palestinian youth heard the following message: “In the eyes of official Israel, Israeli blood is blood, and it’s red; Palestinian blood is water.” Israeli society was in a state of clinical denial about the occupation, he said. Today, there were three very clear threats to establishing a “reasonable” occupation-ending border in Jerusalem: settlement-construction activity, a lack of plurality among Jerusalem’s religions, and the existence of a “state of acute disequilibrium” that could lead to a major catastrophic event. “There is no greater threat to the Israeli people than continued occupation,” he stressed.

Brona Higgins, International Component Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine

Ms. HIGGINS said the Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine was extremely concerned about the high rates of displacement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an estimated 263,000 in 2015 before the escalations of tensions in 2016. “The trajectory is extremely depressing,” she said, highlighting the “push” factors of displacement such as wanton destruction of civilian property, forced evictions, land expropriation, obstruction of humanitarian assistance, settlement expansion, settler violence, the construction of the wall, revocation of residency rights and others. Israel planned to advance a bill that would greatly restrict residency rights with the explicitly stated aim of minimizing the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and to retain a 70 per cent Israeli to 30 per cent Palestinian presence.

She went on to say that while Palestinians had enjoyed “permanent residency” in Jerusalem since 1967 — a status typically granted to immigrants — Israelis in the city, on the other hand, could have citizenship. Furthermore, permanent residency status was not fixed and could be easily revoked; Palestinians were in effect treated as “second-class citizens in their own home”. That system had evolved in a number of ways, including the introduction of a “centre of life” policy requiring Palestinians to prove that their centre of life had remained in East Jerusalem for at least seven years. Between 1967 and 2014, more than 14,400 residents of East Jerusalem had had their permanent residency revoked, she said. Furthermore, on 21 January 2016, the interior Minister had revoked the residency of four Palestinian youths suspected of having carried out attacks against Israelis, despite the fact that no guilt had yet been legally established. Such revocations rendered Palestinians stateless, in contravention of international law, she said.

Nabil Al-Kurd, member, Sheikh Jarrah Committee and resident of Jerusalem

Mr. AL-KURD said 2009 had seen an increase in attacks by settlers against Palestinian residents of the city, adding that three houses in his neighbourhood had been taken, including half of his own home. The pressure on the neighbourhood continued, with two families in the process of being displaced and nine others under imminent threat of expulsion. Palestinians could not invoke the same laws used by settlers to claim their houses and were therefore pushed out of Jerusalem. He said that he had fought for 10 years to obtain residency, “to live on my own land”, whereas Israelis had immediate citizenship.

He went on to say that the occupied piece of his home had been converted into a barracks, and the settlers frequently beat his family, including the women and elderly members. Any Palestinian who complained about such abuse was arrested and taken to the police station. Children suffered psychological trauma and many dropped out of school. Describing settlers as an arm of the Israeli occupation, he said they received salaries for taking over Palestinian homes, adding that other methods used to push Palestinians out included the imposition of fines and taxes as well as expropriations and document searches.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, a number of intergovernmental, non-governmental and civil society representatives discussed those presentations, and several asked questions to which the panellists responded.

Several speakers noted that besides the Palestinians, many others around the world were suffering the effects of the occupation. For example, one journalist said, Senegalese religious leaders were no longer able to make their pilgrimages to Palestine, and journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were imprisoned and unable to transmit information to the rest of the world.

A lecturer at Dakar’s Université Cheikh Anta Diop said that a challenge for both the Palestinian and Israeli sides related to education and awareness, asking whether the two populations were fully informed through education-for-peace programmes, and whether there was a way forward through the current impasse.

Meanwhile, a Senegalese filmmaker said the Israeli State had forgotten that the whole world had risen as one to liberate Jews from Hitler’s forces. “We have to do something,” he said, noting that the United Nations was “just standing by” as Israeli forces continued to oppress Palestinians. He proposed that each State close its embassy in Tel Aviv until the Palestinians had their State.

Khalil Tafakji, Director, Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department, Arab Studies Society

Mr. TAFAKJI, responding, said the present Israeli mentality was anchored in a belief that there was only one Israeli State and that Palestinians were “invaders”. That mentality needed a force to stop it, but no such force existed, and the international community could only look on. There was likely to be more bloodshed in the future, he predicted.

Daniel Seidemann, Lawyer, Founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem

Mr. SEIDEMANN, recalling that his father had escaped from Nazi Germany, said both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples had been scarred by tragedy. Reiterating that many Israelis lived in denial of the occupation, he said that a “process of mutual humanization is critical”, but it was not taking place. The forces of moderation had been destroyed in both societies, and a dose of reason was needed on both sides.

Brona Higgins, International Component Coordinator of the Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine

Ms. HIGGINS, while agreeing that the whole framework of international law was being delegitimized and eroded by Israel’s actions, stressed that no one was more brutalized by those actions than the Palestinian people. Third States were obliged to take actions to counter Israel’s grave breaches of international law, she added.

Nabil Al-Kurd, member, Sheikh Jarrah Committee and resident of Jerusalem

Mr. AL-KURD said his people had been forced out of their own territory while Jews migrated from all over the world to live in Israel. Palestinians were treated like foreigners in their own land, he said, calling on the international community to better understand the conflict’s historical dimension.

In the second round of comments, the representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) agreed with Mr. Seidemann that many Israelis were engaging in “wilful myopia” about their treatment of Palestinians. They believed that they were the chosen people, and that they could “do whatever they like”. He asked the panellists whether an agreement could be reached between the parties when such attitudes persisted.

Other speakers, affirming their support for the State of Palestine, asked how the United Nations could better enforce its own resolutions on the question of Palestine. Other questions raised included whether Muslims and Jews could marry in Palestine, and whether Muslim States were really working to support the Palestinian cause.

A representative of the Palestine Committee of Senegal said Africa owed a debt to Palestine, recalling that Nelson Mandela had said that Africa’s freedom would not be complete until Palestinians were also free. There must be a distinction between Jews and Zionists, he said, emphasizing that there could be no peace in the Middle East until Palestinians had their own State.

Khalil Tafakji, Director, Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department, Arab Studies Society

Mr. TAFAKJI said in response that Israel enforced its own law — the law of power. Among Muslims, it was permissible for a Muslim to marry a Jew, but the same was not true in reverse. Furthermore, countries like the United States continued to pursue colonial policies in support of the Hebrew State, he added.

Daniel Seidemann, Lawyer, Founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem

Mr. SEIDEMANN agreed that many Israelis suffered from major psychological barriers that prevented them from giving up the occupation, and that they were dehumanizing Palestinians. On the question of whether there was a way forward in that context, he said: “If we stop believing in the ability of the human spirit to regenerate itself, let’s just pack our bags and go home.”

Nabil Al-Kurd, member, Sheikh Jarrah Committee and resident of Jerusalem

Mr. AL-KURD said Palestinian Jews had once coexisted peacefully with Palestinian Muslims until Zionism had taken hold. That ideology sought to obliterate Palestinians and all their supporters.

Brona Higgins, International Component Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council–Palestine

Ms. HIGGINS said Palestinians were being asked to swear allegiance to their occupying Power, in contravention of international law.

3rd Meeting: Speakers Underscore Close Ties, Long-Standing Support of African States for Palestinian People

The International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, entering its second and final day in Dakar, held a plenary session this morning on international support for resilience, protection and development in East Jerusalem, with many speakers focusing on the long-standing support of African nations to the Palestinian cause.

Babacar Diop, Professor of History and Member of the Senegalese Palestine Solidarity Association

Babacar Diop, Professor of History and Member of the Senegalese Palestine Solidarity Association, provided an overview of the history of his country’s support for the Palestinian people under occupation. He recalled that Senegal had been the first African country to open an office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and in general Africans had stood beside many countries living under foreign occupation. There were especially strong links between Africans and Palestinians, he said, adding that the two people were united by demography, history and blood. “We will never insist enough on the support of Africa to Arab struggles,” he said in that regard.

John Ikubaje, Senior Political Officer of the African Union Commission

John Ikubaje, Senior Political Officer of the African Union Commission, said the fact that Senegal was hosting the International Conference was a demonstration of Africa’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. Citing his Organization’s African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, he said the continent espoused an ideology of mobilizing against colonialism and apartheid. The African Union’s aim was to ensure that Africa spoke with one voice and that the bloc advocated for Palestine’s right to engage meaningfully with regional organizations.

The session also focused on living conditions in East Jerusalem, as well as ways that development could be used to reverse the negative impacts of the Israeli occupation.

Ahmad Rwaidy, Former Chief of the Jerusalem Unit of the Palestinian Presidency

In that regard, Ahmad Rwaidy, Former Chief of the Jerusalem Unit of the Palestinian Presidency, provided an overview of the geographic nature of Jerusalem. He noted that the city’s inhabitants had to follow Israeli law in all areas of their lives. Palestinians were not owners of the land, as there were regulations in place aiming at their removal; the city was also besieged by the separation wall and by Israeli settlements. That siege had increased rates of poverty and unemployment, while the recent popular uprising had exacerbated the situation by leading to many layoffs among Palestinian workers.

Lubna Shaheen, Senior Urban Planner of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

Lubna Shaheen, Senior Urban Planner of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), described a number of urban planning challenges facing Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. They had to contend with restrictive construction policies and demolition threats. She said that Palestinian neighbourhoods were overcrowded and many homes were in need of repair. Over one third of East Jerusalem had been expropriated to build Israeli settlements.

Nur Arafeh, Policy Fellow at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network

Nur Arafeh, Policy Fellow at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, said East Jerusalem was in a kind of “development limbo” as Israel’s development policies were aimed at building Jerusalem as a Jewish city with a marginal Palestinian presence. Those strategies particularly used urban planning as a geopolitical tool to constrain the urban expansion of Palestinians. In that context, she said, the current Palestinian uprising should be viewed as an act of resistance and desperation against ethnic cleansing, forced displacement and economic marginalization.

As the floor was opened for an interactive discussion with the panellists, a number of speakers echoed the close links between Africans and Palestinians, with some calling for the continent to “take things up a notch” in its support for the Palestinian cause. Many speakers, expressing support for Palestinians living under the harsh conditions described by the panellists, stressed the need for individual and collective action to bring the occupation to an end, including through boycotts of Israeli products.

Plenary II

The second plenary segment of the conference featured presentations by Ahmad Rwaidy, Former Chief of the Jerusalem Unit of the Palestinian Presidency; Nur Arafeh, Policy Fellow at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network; Lubna Shaheen, Senior Urban Planner, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); John Ikubaje, Senior Political Officer, African Union Commission; and Babacar Diop, Professor of History and Member of the Senegalese Palestine Solidarity Association.

Ahmad Rwaidy, Former Chief of the Jerusalem Unit of the Palestinian Presidency

Mr. RWAIDY, providing an overview of the geographic nature of Jerusalem, said the people of the city had to follow Israeli law in all matters related to their lives. Palestinians were not owners of the land, as there were regulations in place aiming at their removal; the city was also besieged by the separation wall and by Israeli settlements. He noted that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza could not reach areas of worship in Jerusalem and that only 12 per cent of the area was afforded to Palestinians. Each month, 7 to 10 Palestinian houses in the city were threatened with demolition by the Israeli authorities. Describing other strict regulations, including difficult requirements for building and work permits, he said the siege had increased rates of poverty and unemployment. In addition, the recent popular uprising had led to the laying off of a number of Palestinian workers.

Israel still refused to hand over the bodies of martyrs killed by Israeli security forces, he continued. “What we need in Jerusalem is a scheme to support resilience,” he said, describing a multisectoral plan that had been prepared with support from the European Union and other partners. Some of the sectors addressed by that plan included the Palestinian education sector, which was being attacked by Israel. Thousands of Palestinian children were in need of school enrolment, but there were numerous restrictions imposed, including a requirement that Palestinian children obtain an Israeli high school diploma. He also described efforts to boost the tourism sector, particularly tourism to the holy and historic city of Jerusalem. Calling for official support to the Palestinian cause in the city, he went on to invite States to contribute concrete support for building their resilience.

Nur Arafeh, Policy Fellow at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network

Ms. ARAFEH, asking whether the current development approach should be reconsidered in the context of the Israeli occupation, noted that East Jerusalem had historically been the cultural and economic centre of Palestinian life. However, Israel’s policy of annexation and separation had left the Palestinian part of the city in a “development limbo”. Recent statistics indicated a 75 per cent poverty rate in East Jerusalem, and most sectors were functioning well below their potential. East Jerusalem was also absent in the Palestinian Authority’s development plan for 2014-2016. The development approach approved in the plan took the Israeli occupation as a “given”. That lack of genuine official interest in the city and the absence of a Palestinian political leadership in Jerusalem had left Palestinians feeling abandoned and resentful of the Palestinian Authority.

New Israeli plans for Jerusalem used urban planning as a geopolitical tool to constrain the urban expansion of Palestinians and Judaicize the city, she said. The basis for the Israeli 2020 and 2050 visions of Jerusalem included developing it as a Jewish city with a marginal presence of Palestinians. They focused on the areas of tourism, biotechnology and academia. In that context, the current Palestinian uprising should be seen as acts of resistance and desperation against ethnic cleansing, forced displacement and economic marginalization. However, development plans in Jerusalem were usually disconnected from the city’s political realities, and did not address the root cause of the problems. She held that the development approach should be rethought and embedded in the larger Palestinian liberation struggle against Israel’s occupation and settler colonial regime.

She recommended some steps, including the promotion of domestic tourism, as well as creation of a national employment strategy, especially for youth; a coordinated media strategy to challenge Israel’s authority; and creative solutions that were proactive rather than reactive. Noting that the international community had a responsibility to turn its rhetoric into concrete actions, she said the Security Council and the Human Rights Council could be used as platforms for advocacy to remind the international community of its legal obligations. The European Union should advocate full compliance with the principle of non-recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem and greater coordination with the Palestinian diaspora and countries that had shown solidarity.

Lubna Shaheen, Senior Urban Planner of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

Ms. SHAHEEN, giving an overview of the urban planning challenges facing East Jerusalem, said all related activities were regulated and managed by the Israeli Jerusalem municipalities. Palestinians faced restrictive construction policies and demolition threats for building without permits. Palestinian neighbourhoods were overcrowded and their houses were in need of repair. Over one third of East Jerusalem had been expropriated to build Israeli settlements. Meanwhile, around 50 per cent of East Jerusalem was allocated for green spaces and public infrastructure, where Palestinians were not permitted to build. Israeli policies also aimed to control the demographic balance of the city, including by confiscating Palestinian land and limiting the possible expansion of Palestinian neighbourhoods. There was also clear discrimination in basic infrastructure and services in the city.

United Nations agencies working in East Jerusalem had developed a plan focusing on three areas: the provision of humanitarian assistance and protecting the vulnerable population of East Jerusalem; support for increased Palestinian physical presence in East Jerusalem; and advocacy to preserve the Palestinian character of the city. Turning to UN-Habitat’s specific programmes, she said more than 210 hectares in seven communities were being planned and the agency was working to freeze the demolition of more than 750 homes. Rehabilitation projects were also under way to support vulnerable Palestinian families and to protect Palestinian culture and civic identity.

Among other plans, UN-Habitat was working through small-scale interventions to create public spaces that helped to improve the urban environment and living conditions in general. It also worked to advocate for the right of Palestinians to develop in East Jerusalem. Among conclusions and lessons learned from such work was the need for sufficient land planned and zoned for Palestinian construction and the need for a comprehensive “master plan” for East Jerusalem that linked the Palestinian neighbourhoods and promoted economic development opportunities.

John Ikubaje, Senior Political Officer of the African Union Commission

Mr. IKUBAJE said the fact that Senegal was hosting the International Conference demonstrated Africa’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. The issue of Palestine had been on the African Union’s agenda for over a decade and the President of Palestine had addressed African Union Summits several times. In addition to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the African Union had an African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and it espoused an ideology of mobilization to combat colonialism and apartheid. That solidarity extended beyond the continent, which was why the question of Palestine was a matter of international concern. One of the aims of the Charter of the then-Organization of African Unity, which came into force in 1963, was to eradicate colonialism and foreign domination. Then there had been a paradigm shift to include issues of development and protection and promotion of human rights.

The African Union’s Department of Political Affairs studied and issued annual reports on the Middle East and Palestine that tackled the themes of political and peace processes, the situation of the city of Jerusalem, the apartheid wall and colonial settlements, the situation of Palestinian prisoners, and conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, he said. The African Union’s decision-making bodies deliberated on those reports and issued declarations on the issue of Palestine. The African Union’s aim was to ensure that the continent spoke with one voice and that the bloc advocated for Palestine’s right to engage meaningfully with regional organizations. Finally, he underscored the need for the Committee to hold a strategic meeting with the African Union on how to support the Palestinian cause going forward.

Babacar Diop, Professor of History and Member of the Senegalese Palestine Solidarity Association

Mr. DIOP, noting that Senegal had been the first African country to open a domestic office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, provided an overview of the history of the country’s support for the Palestinian people under occupation. Africans had supported the struggles of many peoples under foreign domination, including Viet Nam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia and other nations, and there were especially strong links between Africans and Middle East peoples. “We will never insist enough on the support of Africa to Arab struggles,” he said in that regard and stressed that Africans and Palestinians were united by demography, history and blood.

In conclusion, he made a number of proposals, including removing checkpoints and barriers, allowing for a free movement of people and goods; providing education that promoted respect for diversity; improving employment opportunities for Palestinians; and preserving and enhancing Palestinian culture. Finally, he underscored the need for an international economic boycott of Israel.

Discussion

During the ensuing interactive dialogue, a number of speakers echoed the close links between Africa and the Middle East, with some citing Egypt’s geographic location as an example of that relationship. Many noted that, while there was much rhetoric on the part of African States in support of Palestinians, it was time for Governments to turn their words into action.

In that regard, a representative of the Democratic League, noting Israel’s “disgraceful attempts” to exterminate the people of Palestine, said the time had come to “take things up a notch” in Africa’s support for the Palestinians.

A Member of Parliament suggested that, after the closure of the International Conference, all Senegalese participants should convene to discuss how Senegal could better support the Palestinian cause.

Meanwhile, a Professor of Arabic, recalling that the United States was a strong backer of the Israeli occupation, called on Arab organizations — including the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — to “go beyond words” in combating the occupation.

Speakers also stressed that it was up to individual Africans to take action to compel their Governments to act. Among particular proposals made were calls for a boycott of Israeli products and for the closure of all African embassies in the Israeli capital until the occupation ended.

A representative of the Solidarity Action Commission focused on the issue of awareness-raising, which he said was an act of solidarity. “You have to have the masses behind you,” he said in that regard.

Ahmad Rwaidy, Former Chief of the Jerusalem Unit of the Palestinian Presidency

Mr. RWAIDY responded to those comments, further underscoring the links between Palestinians and Africans. Inviting greater practical interactions between the two peoples, including educational exchanges, he also noted that there was a proud African community in the city of Jerusalem.

Nur Arafeh, Policy Fellow at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network

Ms. ARAFEH agreed with the need to put pressure on Governments to shoulder their responsibility to combat the Israeli occupation. Boycotts of products, besides being a deterrent for Israel, would help the Palestinian economy build its productive capacity, she said.

Lubna Shaheen, Senior Urban Planner of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

Ms. SHAHEEN said any support — including tourist visits to Jerusalem and boycotts of Israeli goods — was welcome.

John Ikubaje, Senior Political Officer of the African Union Commission

Mr. IKUBAJE said the way forward was for Africa to organize and strategize on the issue of Palestine. He called for the use of both horizontal and vertical measures, including advocacy, to support the Palestinian cause.

Babacar Diop, Professor of History and Member of the Senegalese Palestine Solidarity Association

Mr. DIOP agreed that unity must be constructed around strategies of support. He proposed that Senegalese leaders meet with the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations in order to coordinate ways to move forward.

4th Meeting: After 23 Years of Negotiations, New Approaches Needed to End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Amid expressions of frustration, calls for new approaches to end the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian stalemate took centre stage this afternoon as the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem concluded in Dakar.

Among the initiatives highlighted was a recent French proposal, which called for an international conference to kick-start progress towards a two-State solution.

Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine

“We need to shift gears and do something different,” said Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, adding that, after 23 years of negotiations, “we cannot wait any longer”. Calling on the Security Council to accept the French plan, he said the sooner that collective process was unleashed, the sooner it would no longer be up to Israeli leaders to deny Palestinians their liberty.

Noting that experts had, over the past two days, presented moving testimonies and brilliant insights into the current conflict, he also noted “tremendous anger” and frustration in the meeting’s discussions. Palestinians were fed up with empty promises from the international community. Expressing pride in the steadfastness of the Palestinian people’s heroic resistance, he went on to say that colonial occupation had not worked in Africa and it would not work in Palestine.

Coly Seck, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal

Coly Seck, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, said the meeting — the first of its kind to be held in Africa — had illustrated the critical nature of the question of Jerusalem in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speakers had issued calls to the Security Council to take action to end the occupation and to allow for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, he said. The International Conference’s plenary presentations had made practical proposals to end the occupation and resolve the question of Jerusalem, he noted, calling on all States to defend the Palestinian cause.

Fodé Seck, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Fodé Seck, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said discussions over the past two days had demonstrated the commitment of the participants to the Palestinian cause. Thanking those participants and the meeting’s organizers, he noted that Senegalese civil society had been particularly well-represented at the event.

During a plenary session that focused on scenarios for a solution to the question of Jerusalem, panellists discussed a number of ways forward. Among those were plans to share and not divide the city with sovereignty assigned to different neighbourhoods based on demography.

Speakers during the ensuing interactive discussion underscored Israel’s disconnect from the reality of the occupation on the ground, calling for interventions by the international community rather than waiting for change to come from within. A debate also emerged about the nature of joint Israeli-Palestinian projects aimed at peace, with some speakers noting that such projects were based on a “false symmetry” and that they did not address the root of the problem — the Israeli occupation.

Plenary III

The third plenary session of the International Conference featured presentations by Hiba Husseini, legal adviser to peace negotiations, Al-Mustakbal Foundation; Rami Nasrallah, head of the Board of Directors, International Peace and Cooperation Centre; Gershon Baskin, co-chairman of the Israel-Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives; and Catherine Cissé van den Muijsenbergh, expert consultant on transitional justice, lecturer, vice-president of the Centre for Long-Term Strategic Studies and board member of the Institute Schumann.

Hiba Husseini, legal adviser to peace negotiations, Al-Mustakbal Foundation

Ms. HUSSEINI said the issue of negotiations had been an intractable one, with Jerusalem at the centre. That city had not gotten the attention it deserved because a host of ancillary issues had arisen. Negotiations had from the beginning been based on a territorial exchange, or “land for peace”, she said, noting that holy sites still remained at the core of the question of Jerusalem. Briefly describing past negotiations on that question, she said the issue had frequently been side-lined. The Clinton Parameters had proposed Jewish neighbourhoods under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty. However, that proposal was not viable due to the city’s geographic layout and disputes over what constituted those neighbourhoods.

Turning to the Old City, comprising Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarters, she said Israel wished to bring the Armenian quarter under its control. Moreover, Palestinians and Israelis differed on issues related to geographic definitions, scope, sovereignty and the status quo. While those complex elements had made negotiations difficult, Palestinians had nonetheless been eager to engage in talks, though not on the issue of the 1967 borders. Israel had not taken the question of Jerusalem seriously and had made excuses for its non-involvement in peace talks. Any compromise must be entertained within the context of the entire negotiation framework, she said, adding that “we cannot agree to a piecemeal approach” to the question of Jerusalem.

Rami Nasrallah, head of the Board of Directors, International Peace and Cooperation Centre

Mr. NASRALLAH said there had been an informal track to diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians prior to 2000. Prior to 2000, a shared city was being discussed. After 2000, there had been a shift towards an Israeli discourse of “full separation” calling for a physical border between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem. Israelis had begun to consider how policies on Jerusalem could better serve Israel, he said, describing the evolution of negotiations over recent decades. As an urban planner, he raised the issue of the functionality of Jerusalem, asking how the city could better serve its people. There was a huge gap between East and West Jerusalem, and that asymmetric structure needed to be addressed, he said, adding that there was also a need to establish an equality-based dual urban system.

He went on to say the geopolitical solution for the future of Jerusalem should not be based on the current Israeli demographics and settlements. The division should be based on a distinct border between a contiguous East Jerusalem — a Palestinian capital city — and West Jerusalem. The territorial contiguity, urban functions and expansions of Palestinian East Jerusalem must be prioritized. Turning to the worst case scenario, he said Jerusalem could either be a centre for humanity and a link in a network of global cities, or a “cauldron of clashing civilizations, religions and people” that would lead to an all-encompassing conflict and inconceivable loss.

Gershon Baskin, co-chairman of the Israel-Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives

Mr. BASKIN said Jerusalem was a microcosm of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict. Conventional wisdom throughout years of the peace process had been to leave Jerusalem “until the end” when, in fact, it should have been the first issue on the agenda. Having launched a working group on the issue in 1989, he recalled that in 1992, his organization had published its first plan for Jerusalem. Stressing that the plan spoke of “sharing” the city, not dividing it, he said sovereignty in Jerusalem could be assigned to different neighbourhoods based on demography. The plan had also proposed that the city remain an open one without walls or fences.

There were some 360,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem today, most of whom were not Israeli citizens, but who were city residents, he continued. Most Palestinians in Jerusalem demanded to be part of the Palestinian State with the city as its capital. No Palestinian Jerusalemites had agreed to a divided Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Israel had claimed the city as an undivided part of the Jewish State. Palestinians had no official role in the city, he said, noting that there was a void of local leadership that Israel had systematically undermined. Describing the history of the city’s geography, he said Israel had illegally annexed all of East Jerusalem. The Palestinian position was that the entirety of the Old City would be under Palestinian control in any peace agreement. It was relatively easy to assign sovereignty to all of the city’s neighbourhoods, he said, due to their highly segregated nature, noting that Jerusalem was a unique place that required unique solutions. Finally, he said, the recent decision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to ignore the Jewish history and presence in Jerusalem was neither scientific nor educated and should be reversed.

Catherine Cissé van den Muijsenbergh, expert consultant on transitional justice, lecturer, vice-president of the Centre for Long-Term Strategic Studies and board member of the Institute Schumann

Ms. CISSÉ, describing her experience working on the history of the current situation, said the question of the legal status of Jerusalem was central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That complex question was far from being resolved. “The dead end we find ourselves in leads to despair” and to violence, she said, asking how the world could tolerate that more and more young Palestinian men were being unfairly jailed by Israel in contravention of international law. Moving forward required looking at the past, no matter how heavy and difficult it was. The shattered identities of the past must give way to new identities based on truth and empathy. Recalling that 1948 was known as the Nakba or “catastrophe” by Palestinians and as the date of independence by Israelis, she said those opposing interpretations demonstrated the long-standing differences between them.

Today, it was important for historians to work together in a peaceful environment, she said. Moderators of any peace talks should preferably be impartial foreign persons and the human being should be placed at the centre of the issue. She said there was a need to get young Palestinians in Jerusalem involved in an archaeological exploration of the city’s heritage. Educating the youth on that complex history would reinvigorate their links with Jerusalem’s history, she said, calling for the creation of an “encyclopaedia of Jerusalem” by a joint group of Israeli and Palestinian historians. The international community could also facilitate the creation of an interactive website on Jerusalem’s history and it should promote relevant documentaries and other related art products.

Discussion

In the ensuing interactive discussion, speakers raised questions about whether it would be possible, given the current impasse, to bring to life the dream of Jerusalem as a peaceful, multicultural and multi-ethnic city.

In that regard, some said Israel was not ready for peace, with one speaker saying that shared projects were problematic because they were based on a “false symmetry” and did not address the root cause of the conflict – the Israeli occupation. Instead, she called for projects of “co-resistance” to combat discrimination against Palestinians.

A representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said the total disconnection of Israeli society from the reality of the occupation meant that Israel had lost interest in finding a resolution to the conflict. Outside interventions were needed, instead of waiting for a change from the Israeli side. He asked the panellists if Palestinian claims to property in West Jerusalem had ever been addressed in any international forum.

Other speakers queried specific panellists, with one asking Mr. Baskin whether different groups could go into a sporting arena or a cinema in Jerusalem or if there was segregation in public places.

A number of civil society representatives also questioned the commitment of States, in particular Arab States and Western Powers, to the Palestinian cause, pointing at empty seats in the conference hall.

Catherine Cissé van den Muijsenbergh, expert consultant on transitional justice, lecturer, vice-president of the Centre for Long-Term Strategic Studies and board member of the Institute Schumann

Ms. CISSÉ, responding to the comment on joint projects, said there was no incompatibility between such initiatives and other approaches to peace.

Gershon Baskin, co-chairman of the Israel-Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives

Mr. BASKIN said the result of a failed peace process and violence was that both sides had lost confidence that peace was possible. Nevertheless, a large majority on both sides wanted a two-State solution. While individuals could go anywhere they wanted in Jerusalem, people did not mix and stayed within their ethnic neighbourhoods because there was a clear “geography of fear”. He opposed blanket condemnations of all joint Israeli-Palestinian projects.

Hiba Husseini, legal adviser to peace negotiations, Al-Mustakbal Foundation

Ms. HUSSEINI, noting that Israel had presented conflict-related issues as political ones to be dealt with at a bilateral level, said international law should become the basis of negotiations. The Zionist idea to dominate the area from the Nile to the Euphrates was well known, but Israel realized that the two-State solution would not take it in that direction.

Rami Nasrallah, head of the Board of Directors, International Peace and Cooperation Centre

Mr. NASRALLAH said the issue of the rights of Palestinian property owners in West Jerusalem had been raised in negotiations.

Closing Remarks

FODÉ SECK, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

FODÉ SECK, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said discussions during the International Conference had demonstrated the commitment of participants to the Palestinian cause. In particular, Senegalese civil society had been well represented and he invited such representatives to become accredited with the Committee in order to continue their involvement in the future.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, spotlighted Senegal’s good work in chairing the Committee over the past 40 years. Thanking the speakers, in particular those from Israel who had had the courage to come to the International Conference, he said the Palestinian people were telling their narrative “in the most effective way possible”. The Conference had heard a sampling of the tens of thousands of stories of Palestinians who were suffering on the ground and of the insights of a number of brilliant academic thinkers. All those voices were telling the story of justice, heroism and the Palestinian determination to end the occupation.

In addition, he said, he had heard “tremendous anger” emerge in the discussions, noting that such a frustration was justified as Palestinians were tired of the international community’s empty promises. He was proud of the steadfastness of the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people, he added, calling on civil society representatives in particular to continue pressuring Government representatives to act. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory today was worse than it had been 23 years ago, when negotiations had begun. “We need to shift gears and do something different,” he said. Since the international community was not shouldering its responsibility to provide justice to the Palestinians, it was their destiny to blaze a trail forward. Colonial occupation had not worked in Africa and it would not work in Palestine, he stressed, noting that without ending the occupation, the cycle of frustration would continue.

Humanity was evolving in such a way that complex issues could not be resolved through the two parties themselves, he said. Third parties from around the world must take part in ending the occupation and granting independence to the State of Palestine. “We cannot wait any longer,” he said, calling on the Security Council to put an end to the illegal occupation and to accept the French initiative. The sooner those collective processes were unleashed, the sooner it would no longer be up to the Israeli leaders to deny Palestinians their liberty. He went on to announce that the Palestinians had succeeded, along with a group of friendly States, in initiating an Arria-formula meeting in the Security Council to discuss international protection for the Palestinians. The International Conference had been the most successful of the three similar events on Jerusalem so far, he concluded.

COLY SECK, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal

COLY SECK, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, recalling that the International Conference had been the first of its kind in Africa, thanked the organizers and civil society participants. The meeting had illustrated the critical nature of the question of Jerusalem in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, adding that many speakers had strongly condemned violence against civilians. In the opening session, speakers had issued calls to the Security Council to take action to end the occupation and to allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

Turning to the Conference’s three plenary sessions, he hailed the quality of the presentations and testimonies and the subsequent discussions. The presentations had made practical proposals to end the occupation and to resolve the question of Jerusalem. Reiterating Senegal’s full support for the Palestinian people, he went on to call on all States to defend that fair cause.

MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS)

MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS)

MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS) provides independent, custom-tailored analysis and recommendations to some of the world's leading decision makers, corporations, governments and non governmental organizations. MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS) offers a Speakers Bureau; Business Consulting and Strategic Investments Advice including Portfolio Strategies, Fund Research and Recommendations and Asset Allocation; Diplomatic Services; Conference, Meeting and Event Organization; and Political Advocacy.
MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS)

About MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS)

MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS) provides independent, custom-tailored analysis and recommendations to some of the world’s leading decision makers, corporations, governments and non governmental organizations. MidEast Advisory Services (MEAS) offers a Speakers Bureau; Business Consulting and Strategic Investments Advice including Portfolio Strategies, Fund Research and Recommendations and Asset Allocation; Diplomatic Services; Conference, Meeting and Event Organization; and Political Advocacy.