oPt + 1 more

Speakers at UN Asian meeting call for international presence in occupied Palestinian territory

News and Press Release
Originally published
Question Why Palestinians Live in Ethnic Segregation

(Reissued as received from a UN Information Officer.)

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 December -- The audience in Kuala Lumpur heard of the continued segregation caused by the construction of the West Bank wall and Israeli settlement expansion, and a people colonized for 40 years. Palestinian, Israeli and other speakers painted a picture of long-term suffering and urged a rights-based approach.

Member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and Secretary-General of the Hadash Party, Mohamed Barakeh, said an international force, deployed in Gaza and along the Green Line, would go a long way to consolidating the ceasefire, and would be a major step toward a successful peaceful solution.

Board Member, International Peace and Cooperation Center, Omar Yousef, said urban planning was being used by Israel as a tool of ethnic segregation and control and a weapon of physical and psychosocial fragmentation. "The space of Jerusalem has been slowly and quietly killed," he said.

Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Sahar Qawasmi, said Israel was trying to make Palestinians starve and had confiscated major sections of Jerusalem. Member of the European Parliament and Chair of its Development Committee, Luisa Morgantini, said the Palestinian people's basic rights were being violated through the lack of basic infrastructure and services.

Plenary I: Situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem

SAHAR QAWASMI, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hebron, spoke of the effects of Israeli presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on the human development and everyday living of the Palestinian people.

She said the wall was just one layer: Israel was expanding settlements and corridors across the West Bank. Aside from the religious and cultural significance of East Jerusalem, this area was economically vital. Israeli road, tunnel and settler population expansion had confined the Palestinian people. Palestinians continued to be killed, wounded, expelled or taken prisoner and homes were destroyed by Israel. "Our dream is to end the occupation, not to see tanks in our streets, and to live peacefully," she said.

OMAR YOUSEF, Board Member, International Peace and Cooperation Center, Jerusalem, spoke on the geography of oppression and exclusion using land maps and interviews with Palestinian people. He said Jerusalem occupied a place of central importance for the Palestinian people. "It was a major hub, but now it's fragmented through a matrix of checkpoints," he said.

"It has been destroyed by urban planners through the confiscation of land and dislocation of residents. Urban planning is a tool of power, and a weapon used by the Israeli authorities for the control and ethnic exclusion of the Palestinian people. It limits opportunities for the Palestinian people. It makes it easy for the expansion of borders and ethnic segregation. We share no common areas with the Israelis. We have refugee camps next to new settlements," he said.

The Palestinian people were denied a homeland, and also homes. This was a dangerous psychosocial construct, when Palestinian people were feeling that whatever they did was always illegal, he said. He painted a picture of severely constricted civil life where people had had their normal lives turned into an illegal pursuit, where there was escalating poverty, insecurity and a pervasive experience of always sneaking around and climbing over walls and checkpoints just to access schools and medical care.

"Checkpoints are a continual invasion," he said. "If you talk of homicide, then speak also of spacicide, because the space of Jerusalem has been slowly and quietly killed. Urban space is an arena of daily resistance. Young people were born in refugee camps and have never left. They are living in claustrophobic circumstances, and they are pessimistic and frustrated. We owe Israeli activists for their help, but in daily life, they are invisible, and we only see the bullying Israeli soldiers," he said.

He said the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem needed home loans. Human security was more important than anything. A civilian interviewed by Yousef said: "Where do you want to make the Palestinian State? Everything is taken."

MOHAMED BARAKEH, Member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and Secretary-General of the Hadash Party, asked "What does Israel really want?" He listed the damage done by Israel to the peace process, Israel's refusal to negotiate and destruction of Palestinian institutions as major contributors to the ongoing conflict. He said Israel was evading a negotiated resolution or compromise, and sought to worsen the situation in the region through aggression. The Israeli side, he said, justified its actions as a solution to a demographic problem and also as a "protective war."

He urged the following prerequisites for "a just solution for the Palestinian problem to end the terrible suffering of the people and achieve peace, stability and prosperity for all."

He said an international presence should be deployed along internationally recognized lines to consolidate a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel, he said, must stop evading negotiations. Palestinians, he said, must be protected from continuous daily attacks. The entrance of bread into Gaza should not rely on one soldier's mood. He said an end to Israeli aggression could only be ensured by an international presence, a united Palestinian stand and a united Arab stance. This, he suggested, was the only path to a genuine solution.

LUISA MORGANTINI, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of its Development Committee, said the Palestinian people were still living under an active colonial regime, after 40 years of reciprocal insecurity. She questioned why there were so many United Nations resolutions, yet so little compliance. "The problem is how to provide a solution, rather than enumerate steps that no one takes. We have to comply with what we say," she said.

The last six years, she said, had seen the deterioration of living conditions for the Palestinian people. She spoke of Palestinians dying for lack of medical care because of movement restrictions. New Israeli rules were separating married couples where one spouse was a non-Palestinian. She urged a rights-based approach, such as the right to found a family, to education and to a home. Features of daily life, she said, like basic infrastructure, were an urgent matter because people were suffering every day. "Families are trapped in small rooms," she said, "their movements are severely restricted and domestic violence flourishes."


The meeting, which is convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will be divided into three sessions.

Plenary I, recorded above, is on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Plenary II, which will meet tomorrow morning, will explore the possibility of a "shared vision of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians", covering such topics as ending the occupation -- a key prerequisite for achieving peace; preserving and building on prior achievements in the peace process; current approaches to encouraging dialogue and negotiations and strategies to garner public support for renouncing violence and returning to political dialogue.

The theme of Plenary III will be "International efforts at salvaging peace in the Middle East -- Support of the countries of Asia and the Pacific for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people". Specific issues to be explored are supporting the voices of reason and peace -- the Arab Peace Initiative, the efforts of the Quartet; supporting international peace efforts through the United Nations -- the central role of the Security Council and action by Asian and Pacific States within the United Nations system.

Invited to the meeting are eminent personalities, including high level officials from the Host Government and the Palestinian Authority, international experts, including Israelis and Palestinians, representatives of United Nations Member States and United Nations Observers. Also invited are parliamentarians, representatives of the United Nations system and other organizations, academics, non-governmental organizations and the media.

On Sunday, 17 December, the United Nations Forum of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People will be held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. It will look into initiatives by civil society in Asia and the Pacific in solidarity with the Palestinian people, with a particular focus on the Malaysian experience, and meet with the experts invited to the Asian Meeting. Participants will discuss legislative and political advocacy; efforts by non-governmental organizations religious groups and the media aimed at mobilizing public opinion in support of the Palestinian people; and the impact and educational responsibility of academic institutions and think tanks.

For information media - not an official record