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Toward the Establishment of a Palestinian Civil Society Defragmentation Strategy PDF Print E-mail
Nov 02, 2007 at 12:45 AM

Final Statement of the Palestinian Civil Society Conference,
Cyprus, 16–18 October 2007

As part of the effort by the Palestinian civil society organizations to overcome the state of forced Palestinian fragmentation and consolidate the national role of the Palestinian NGOs in all their places of residence, a conference titled "Toward the Establishment of a Palestinian Civil Society Defragmentation Strategy" was held in Agros, Cyprus, between 16 and 18 October 2007 at the initiative of Ittijah-The Union of Arab Community Based Associations. Forty-four participants representing a broad sector of Palestinian civil society networks, coalitions, and associations in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait, in addition to a number of international partner organizations supporting Palestinian rights, attended the conference. The Israeli occupation authorities banned the travel of a delegation representing civil society organizations in Gaza.

The conference discussed a number of issues, notably: The Palestinian situation and Palestinian, regional, and international developments, including the Annapolis conference; the collective Palestinian strategy against the forced fragmentation; the endeavors to rebuild terms of reference and assert the constant Palestinian principles; the strategy of collective Palestinian advocacy; Palestinian media strategies; and local and international coordination on the Palestinian question.

The participants in the conference set bases that would help strengthen the overall Palestinian struggle for liberation in all its contexts: the occupation, the displacement and uprooting, and the assault on Palestinian existence in the 1948 areas.

A draft of a collective organizational structure and an action plan were also devised, and a follow-up committee to implement this plan and lead the agreed process was set up.

 

The conferees underlined the following:

First: The Annapolis Conference and the Palestinian Situation

  1. The conferees warn against the disastrous consequences of the proposed Annapolis conference, which seeks to take advantage of the Palestinian and Arab weakness and division to implement the hostile regional schemes of the United States and Israel, specifically to strike at Iran, and the forces of resistance and liberation movements in the region. In this regard, we hold the Palestinian leadership in the PLO and the Palestinian NATIONAL Authority responsible for their involvement in any plans that might lead to the liquidation of the Palestinian people's right, especially the right to return, self-determination, and the establishment of an independent and fully sovereign state.
  2. We draw attention to the fact that the Annapolis conference, which US President Bush called for, seeks to divert attention from the Israeli occupation and aggression and to push the peoples and countries of the region toward a domestic conflict between the so-called axis of moderation and axis of radicalism. It also seeks to deny people the legitimacy of their struggle to attain their rights and their legitimate right to resist the occupation.
  3. Based on this, the conferees call on the Palestinian leadership to refrain from participating in the conference and to boycott it. In the same vein, we appeal to the Arab countries to refrain from participating in the conference. We also underline the need to launch popular campaigns against the Annapolis conference.
  4. We call on the United Nations to withdraw from the International Quartet and to liberate the international legitimacy from the hegemony of the United States in order to consolidate this legitimacy on the basis of the principles of international law and conventions.
  5. We hold the international community responsible for the humiliating siege on the
    Palestinian people, a siege that amounts to war crimes and collective punishment in response to the exercise of Palestinian democracy and the adherence to its results. We call on the international community to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip.
  6. We stress our commitment and role toward the Palestinian National Liberation Movement to regain the elements of its historical role toward the entire Palestinian people in all their areas of residence based on the unity of the land and the people and the sanctity of the land and its indigenous Palestinian people.
  7. We condemn the internal fighting in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and call for a comprehensive national Palestinian dialogue to resolve the crisis and overcome the state of division and fragmentation.
  8. We stress the unity of the Palestinian people and the unity of their national cause, and we demand that any agreement over issues affecting the national destiny reflect the entire Palestinian will and the representation of all the Palestinian people in the homeland—the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—the Palestinians in the 1948 regions, the refugees, and the Palestinians in the Diaspora.

Second: The Collective Palestinian Strategy to Overcome the Forced Fragmentation and Build Consistent Palestinian Terms of Reference

A. The Relationship with the Political Movement

While underlining the distinction between the political movement and parties, on the one hand, and the civil society and nongovernmental organizations, on the other, we emphasize the important political role that the nongovernmental organizations play as a common bearers of national responsibility to uphold the rights of our people.

In the absence of an effective PLO role as the common framework for the Palestinian people, we assume a double responsibility in creating such a framework toward self organization as civil society for to protect the Palestinian people and sustaining its national achievements.

The Palestinian situation requires concerted efforts and sharing of responsibilities. In this respect, we call for dialogue and permanent cooperation between the civil society and the organized political movement in all its national trends—both secular and religious—on the basis of reciprocity, equality, and the adoption of a single standard.

B. The Civil Society and the Building of Authorities

Out of the sense of responsibility that dominated the deliberations of the conference, we in the Palestinian civil society shoulder the major responsibility of launching practical and creative initiatives to unify the components of the Palestinian cause and maintain its essence as a national-liberation cause.

In this regard we seek to:

  1. Rebuild the PLO and reform its institutions on the basis of the democratic Palestinian national principles and popular representation.
  2. Build a permanent encompassing framework for the Palestinian civil society in all its places in the homeland and the Diaspora.
  3. Develop our own strategies depending on the Palestinian masses and popular work for steadfastness and the protection of institutions.

C. Partnerships

Partnerships include several components: empowerment and advocacy to develop the discourse and influence policies; reattracting empathy and solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and prompting the international community to shoulder its responsibility of forcing Israel to respect and implement international law.

In this regard we seek to:

  1. Interact with the Arab civil society in its capacity as a strategic dimension of Palestinian action, and work to institutionalize this partnership.
  2. Turn attention to and develop partnership and cooperation with the civil society in the South.
  3. Develop partnerships with the donor agencies that support Palestinian rights on the basis of independence, equality, and reciprocity.
  4. Develop partnerships with the solidarity movements and expand their scope of work to include the Palestinian people everywhere.

Third: Advocacy and Media Strategies

The righteousness and ethical weight of the Palestinian cause and the expansion of solidarity with it call for the voice of the Palestinian civil society to be united. This is a basic condition for the development of successful and effective advocacy strategies influencing the concerned parties. In this regard, we stress the following:

  • The integrated unity of the Palestinian land, people, and cause based on the principles of international law and global legitimacy.
  • The need to deal with the root causes of the conflict; namely, the uprooting and displacement of the Palestinian people in 1948, and to see the conflict as basically a conflict between the Zionist movement and its racist colonial racist enterprise and the Palestinian people, the indigenous owners of the land, and their existence in their homeland.
  • Adherence to the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which are the rights to return, reparation and self-determination.
  • The need to work to secure the basic human rights for the Palestinian people and provide temporary protection for the Palestinian refugees in all their places of residence until they return to the homes from which they were expelled by Israel.
    The need to benefit and learn from the experiences of the international liberation movements in the areas of advocacy, support, and mobilization.
  • The need to unify the concepts and terminology used in the Palestinian discourse on the basis of the national constants and the justness of the cause, and to entrench these concepts and terminology in the advocacy campaigns and the media language.

In this respect we stress the adoption of the following strategies and mechanisms:

  1. Developing our discourse against Israel so that it covers the Israeli establishment in all its components and security and civil institutions, including the judicial and academic institutions that help legitimize and implement the repressive Israeli practices.
  2. Turning utmost attention to the boycott, dinvestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel and its instiutions and pursuing the parastata Zionist organizations worldwide.
  3. Engaging in judicial and criminal pursuit and accountability against, and applying pressure to remove the charity status and tax exemptions from, the Zionist organizations worldwide, including the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, and the Jewish National Fund, and dealing with them legally as racist, colonial institutions.
  4. Strengthening interaction with the international movements of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, on the one hand, and supporting the just causes of the world nations, on the other.

The above points should be implemented through the following mechanisms:
Forming a follow-up and coordination committee to follow up the conference recommendations, implement its resolutions, and seek to establish a collective framework for Palestinian civil action in all areas where Palestinians are.

Forming expanded coordination committees in all Palestinian action arenas. These should include the largest possible number of
concerned civil society organizations.

Developing partnerships and reciprocal alliances with all local, regional, and international parties.


Fourth: The Action Plan

There is a need to draw up a long-term strategic plan and an effective executive action plan to coordinate and activate the efforts of the civil society in defending the rights of the Palestinian people on the basis of complementary and multitrack work.

In order to realize this objective, the follow-up committee emanating from this conference will adopt the resolutions, recommendations, and proposals that emerged during the deliberations of the conference.

We believe that the plans should be based on the following two basic elements:

1. Outlining the goals clearly and building a structure capable of implementing them, based on a specific timetable;

2. Specifying priority issues.

Finally, this conference, which comes seven years after the Larnaca Palestinian NGO Networks Conference in 2000, constitutes an advanced step toward the building of a unifying strategy for the Palestinian civil society, enabling it to overcome the state of fragmentation and, consequently, serve the national interests of our people and the whole Palestinian cause.

Participanting NGO unions and partners:
*Ittijah-The Union of Arab Community Based Associations * The Palestinian Non Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) * Forum of Palestinian NGOs in Lebanon * The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) * Aidoun Group, Lebanon and Syria * The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians' Rights in Jerusalem * The Grassroots Palestinian Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign * Al Awda Palestinian Coalition * Coalition for Jerusalem * The Right of Return Congress, London * Housing and Land Rights Network-Habitat International Coalition * Palestine BDS Campaign * ACSUR LAS SEGOVIAS * Christian Aid * CCFD * Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine * The Welfare Association

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