This second newsletter contains a translation of the concluding press statement of the United Civilians Peace delegation which visited the area in the period 22-25 November, 2001.
14-27 November 2001
This second newsletter contains a translation of the concluding press statement of the UCP delegation which visited the area in the period 22-25 November, 2001.
Please note that UCP now has its own website (largely in Dutch): http://www.unitedcivilians.com/
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Toine van Teeffelen
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By a visiting delegation of prominent Dutch citizens
The Palestinian people: occupied, dispossessed and humiliated
In the context of the campaign United Civilians for Peace (UCP), a delegation of prominent Dutch citizens conducted in the period of 22-25 November 2001 a working visit to Israel and the Palestinian areas. Since October 2001, eight Dutch civilian observers are present in the area. UCP represents a cooperative effort of the Dutch organizations Cordaid, ICCO, IKV, Kerken in Actie, Novib and Pax Christi. The delegation visited various Israeli and Palestinian development, peace and human rights organizations that strive after a sustainable and just peace in the Middle East. Four days of intensive traveling and long conversations with the local populationn and as well as with the UCP civilian observers, partners and representatives of the Palestinian National Authority and members of the Knesseth have brought the delegation to the conclusion that Israel continues to violate international law while at the same time the international community refrains from political action.
The practice of occupation
The visits to various places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip created more understanding of what the Israeli occupation means for common people:
* There are many dozens of checkpoints as a result of which the West Bank and Gaza Strip are divided in some 60 mutually closed-off pieces of land. Palestinians sometimes have to wait for hours at such checkpoints or are totally imprisoned. People can sometimes not go to work or school. Even ambulances are stopped. This implies a great restriction on the freedom of movement and daily humiliation.
* Many dozens of houses and acres of agricultural land have been destroyed. The delegation visited a demolished water well and destroyed strawberry fields in Gaza.
* Due to the closures and the economic strangulation the unemployment in the Palestinian areas has increased to over 50%. More than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line.
* There are frequent extra judicial executions of alleged terrorists.
* During demonstrations it often happens that civilians are shot without reason. This has caused over 800 deaths, among them many children, and tens of thousands of injured, among whom many are inflicted with permanent handicaps. During the first day of the delegation visit five young children in the Gaza Strip died due to an Israeli bomb.
Many of these measures and actions from the Israeli side are justified by reference to security. In practice, however, it each time turns out that they have nothing to do with security and that they boil down to a collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population. The delegation observed that Israel continuously provokes the Palestinians. The provocation of violence seems to serve the purpose of preventing that there will ever be a ceasefire and that the Mitchell Report will be implemented.
This all happens with a routine, systematicity and frequency that clearly betray a purposeful direction and command from the side of the government. This most clearly shows itself in the settlement policy. Land and possessions are expropriated, and enclaves created for specific groups – of sometimes up to 40.000 persons – on locations which entail a continuous burden for Palestinians. Settlers receive their own roads, security arrangements, and socio-economic services which are realized at the cost of the freedom and the rights of the Palestinians. There is a systematic policy which nearly precludes the realization of a full-fledged Palestinian state. This policy has continued unabatedly for dozens of years. All this implies a systematic violation of human rights and international (humanitarian) law.
The way out of the conflict
On both sides the leadership clearly fails and barely seems to be able to break through the spiral of violence. The lack of a solution for the deplorable situation of this moment is however primarily caused by the absence of action from the side of the international community. Israel has been allowed to negate various international conventions since no political action followed. A solution to the conflict will only be possible when there will be an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory. The international community must
* put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and to respect the borders of 1967 in accordance with UN resolutions, to dismantle the settlements and to search for a solution for the problem of the Palestinian refugees
* send international observers to supervise the fulfillment of human rights and/or a UN force for the protection of civilians
* take concrete measures to convince Israel to comply with these demands. Israel can be forced by economic and political means to change its policy. The first step which can be taken now is the suspension of the EU Association Treaty with Israel.
In each step that it may take, it is important that the international community takes into account the inequality of the parties. There is one party which dominates economically, politically and militarily, and another which has almost no access to resources. With regard to future peace negotiations the parties should be led by the standards of international law and not by the power equation.
Initiative of civilians
The visit has underlined the importance of sending civilian observers. The delegation has concluded that the local Palestinian and Israeli organizations assign much importance to the presence of these Dutch civilians. Since their arrival six weeks ago, the observers have quickly familiarized themselves with the local situation and extensively reported about their findings.They will remain in the area until the beginning of January and then be replaced by a new group. At the same time, the organizations strongly advocate the international expansion of the initiative within Europe and elsewhere. The delegation has concluded that the popular view in the Netherlands does not offer sufficient insight in the daily practise of occupation. After their return, the observers and the members of the delegation will continue to work for the dissemination of factual information about the situation. Finally, the members of the delegation consider it important to contribute to a broad societal coalition which is needed to express opposition against the occupation and the oppression, and to support a just and peaceful future of Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
Hedy d’Ancona (Chair Novib, leader of the delegation)
Farah Karimi (Member of Parliament for the Green Left Party)
Anton Westerlaken (Ex-chair CNV, director ‘s Heerenloo)
Hans Kruijssen (General Director Cordaid)
Jack van Ham (General Director ICCO)