Перейти к основному содержанию

Panel 3 of the Conference of Civil Society Organisations Working on the Question of Palestine

Meeting Summaries

State Actions on Accountability: Discussing Best Practices

AHMAD ABUZNEID, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said the Campaign was dedicated to ending all support for the apartheid State of Israel. The situation was dire, and powerful testimonies had been heard during the Conference as to the reality on the ground, and the starvation, devastation and genocide was continuing. The United States was the greatest defender of genocide and apartheid in the world today, and had refused to act, offering only a slight shift in rhetoric whilst continuing the same actions, arming, defending, and covering for Israel. Tax dollars should be dedicated to funding healthcare, education and others rather than the death of Palestinians. This was the time of the largest grassroots movement for Palestinian rights in United States history: thousands of people in the United States had committed acts of civil disobedience in the interest of Palestine. Social media was helping to shift the perspective on Palestine.

USCPR had launched a campaign in 2023 with certain partners that was entitled “Not On Our Dime”, working to limit funds being made available to settler violence by charities raising millions of tax-exempt dollars that were used to evict thousands of Palestinians from their land. These organisations masqueraded as charities whilst funding illegal activities committed by settlers, working to entrench Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing Palestinians. Not On Our Dime aimed to remove charitable status from organisations providing these funds, and empowered Palestinians who had been impacted by settler activities to seek accountability. The Attorney General of New York had the power to strip any charitable organisation of its charity status when their activities were not in line with a charitable purpose, funded breaches of the Geneva Conventions or war crimes. Many organisations had already called upon the Attorney General to investigate New York-registered charities for activities in Israel and Palestine.

DIEGO KHAMIS, Executive Director of the Palestinian Community in Chile, said in Chile there were around 500,000 Chileans of Palestinian origin, who were increasingly integrated. There was a need for international solidarity, and those of Palestinian origin needed to maintain and keep that call alive everywhere. Since the Nakba there had been a significant role played and increased presence of the Palestinian community in Chile, with a historic involvement of Chilean Palestinians working together with Palestinians in Palestine. Chile had a State position on the Palestinian question, based on the strict respect of international law and international humanitarian law. That position had always been upheld, even through changes of Government.

In 2010 a new institutionalism had been sought to be generated, with the aim of creating impact, seeking effects and not just creating noise, and work was thus done to seek a single valid voice for Palestinians in Chile, in terms of the position vis-à-vis the public and the Government. To this end, Palestinian institutions and bodies across Chile had been unified, aiming to come up with a single political voice and express a single Palestinian position, aiming to raise a single, unified, trenchant voice from Palestinians across the world, in order to bolster the legitimate Palestinian claims and make them stronger than they would be otherwise. It was important to create a consensus across reality in order to create a structure, and to work together on common goals to this end.

A serious voice, with gravitas, must be created, and there were various options to this end, including political. The first thing done was to generate impacts and improve the situation for the legitimate Palestinian claims, to be effective and not affected. This work was fairly complex, as it needed to begin at the community level, whilst also looking at State policies on Palestinian issues in the public debate in Chile. The decision had been made to have an impact on decision-makers, whilst remaining party-neutral and secular, with a professional structure that did not depend on individuals, but was team-led, as well as being science- and evidence-based, working in a cross-cutting manner, and remaining independent. The conviction was that to have a lasting peace, there had to be the implementation of international law and legality, the application of the respect for human rights and humanitarian law. There must be an end to the Occupation, a solution to the issues of refugees, and an application of international law. To this end, States must meet their international obligations, and must pressurise States that were not doing so, taking tangible measures to oblige Israel to respect international law. The work of the Palestinian diaspora in Latin America must be strengthened.

On good practices, Israel State policies had affected Chileans, notably in the settlements which had been built expropriating land in the OPT from Chilean citizens. The attempt to separate Chileans from Palestinians that were still in Palestine had been made, but the community would not accept this, and worked to this end, working to maintain links. Very often in Latin America there had been valuable work done, but it was often voluntary work, and therefore there was a need to be more professional, with decisions taken by experts on the base of professional studies. Another important issue was to distinguish between the work of solidarity movements and Palestinian organizations.

RULA SHADID, Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, said that today was day 181 of the genocide in Palestine and in Gaza. She then requested a minute of silence for the 33,236 Palestinians who had been killed in the horrific genocide. Regarding best practices, it was difficult to discuss these when a mere ceasefire had not been achieved, however, an interesting thing that had happened, despite the horrific situation, was the improved comprehension of what was ongoing, improving the idea of what needed to be done. The focus had been on the narrative, and the opportunity was being used to explain that this was a situation of colonisation and blockade, a genocide, a settler-colonial project with the main aim of displacing Palestinians and replace them with another racial group. People were starting to comprehend this better.

State responsibility was to State-only interests, and it had been extremely clear and disturbing to see that many States that had claimed civilisation and to be pioneers in the rule of law had been the first to become and to continue to be supporters of an ongoing genocide. Some Palestinians knew the colonial project was inseparable from the Western States supporting it, but it had become clearer that even those States who had claimed respect for the rule of law, including civil liberties, did not live up to this commitment with regard to Palestine. It was interesting to see how the situation had actually affected the liberties of Europeans within their own countries. This was no longer just about Palestine, it was about democracy itself, and the freedoms of expression and assembly, all of which were being undermined in many European countries.

What had happened and how the situation had been dealt with had highlighted that there could be no solution whilst side-lining Palestinians. Palestinians would not submit and the right to resist was one of the main core rights that would not be abandoned. The incapacity and incapability of the United Nations and its institutions to even deliver aid was a third issue of concern, unprecedented in the Palestinian cause. Important voices had been coming out in support of the Palestinian people, and these voices had now become heard in a bigger mainstream, which was a best practice.

Because of the failures of the system and the ceasefire, all these efforts had been ongoing, but very little had been achieved in terms of the immediate needs of the Palestinian people who were now being killed and massacred. There had been a domino effect, to a certain extent. It was clear that there was a need to build bridges between those participating in the Palestinian struggle and those in the global majority. The ban on settlers traveling was developing across Europe, increased funds were being made available to UNRWA, and some countries had recalled their ambassadors to the Israeli colonising State, suspending diplomatic ties. Some countries had threatened to refer others to the International Court of Justice if they did not cease weapons transfers to Israel.

Regarding justice and accountability for Palestine, an initiative had begun examining what could be done in domestic courts, whilst using domestic legislation, aiming, among others, at State officials that supported genocide. Work was being done across the world at a grassroots level to raise awareness of State agreements with Israel, calling for sanctions, ending the relationship with Israel, and imposing an arms embargo.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers raised such issues as would it not be advantageous today to discuss emergency assistance being given to patients in the medical context – could the United Nations bring pressure on the blockade to allow a more rapid transfer of medical resources to come to the aid of patients in an immediate and urgent fashion? How could United Nations Conventions be leveraged to bring aid to patients?

Another speaker referred to the United States and its involvement in the ongoing struggle for justice, noting that many United States political parties had high levels of funding, and asking to what extent had the growing opposition to the genocide reduced the influence of pro-Israeli parties in the United States, and had the voices of Palestinians been heard in such places as the United States Congress. Another speaker asked what was needed for the “Not On Our Dime” initiative to pass into legislation, and what was needed to push that forward so that it had wider impact on State policy and sanctions the world over.

Referring to activity within the General Assembly and Security Council to recognise the State of Palestine as a Member State of the United Nations, a speaker said this was not necessarily a priority at this time, as it was much more important to address crimes ongoing in the West Bank and Gaza, and asked why there was focus on this issue when the international community should instead be focusing on sanctions, and on forcing Israel to abide by the International Criminal Court’s measures. The speaker urged instead a focus in the General Assembly on the rights of Palestinians and on forcing Israel to abide by international law, similar to that witnessed in the past with regard to South Africa.

The world was witnessing an unprecedented situation with regard to human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, another speaker said: the world had sat and watched this human tragedy, a speaker said. This Conference was the type of event that the international community needed to put an end to these events. The international community needed to defend all human rights, 75 years on from the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How could civil society stakeholders strengthen their actions and reinvigorate national opinion in those countries that continued to support Israel in this conflict, the speaker asked, noting that the United Nations and its international organs had failed to dissuade Israel, wondering whether national pressure could compel States to change their position on this human tragedy.

Another speaker asked where the greatest return on investment had been found in terms of shifting political will, and whether it had been in the economic, social or cultural sphere. Which ones had had the greatest success?

AHMAD ABUZNEID, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, responding to the questions and issues raised, said that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was particularly pernicious in the United States, but the Campaign had been working to impede its influence, not only explicitly rejecting AIPAC as an agent of the State of Israel in the United States but also highlighting that it was anti-democratic. Many organisations rallied after 7 October to form a united front, with the liberal Zionist organizations falling in line with the AIPACs of the world. Both main United States parties were beholden to the Israeli lobby, but there was growing minority voice within the Democratic Party that was extremely critical of the State of Israel and was calling for a ceasefire. There were also some exciting independent candidates, but the dominance of the two parties did not allow for such a candidate to aspire to the Presidency. Regarding “Not On Our Time”, there was no precedent in the United States with regard to such legislation, and for it to pass there was a need for New York legislature to be overhauled – and even for Congress to be overhauled.

Public opinion in the United States had shifted, and polling was showing that a majority of Americans, from both sides of the political aisle, were calling for a ceasefire. A lot of the work was done through mass protests and mass political action, but social media was also playing an important role, reaching a broader audience. On political will, cultural work continued to be extremely important: the arts, poetry, music, and film, had an ability to cross borders that political speeches did not, transcending boundaries between the peoples of the world.

DIEGO KHAMIS, Executive Director of the Palestinian Community in Chile, said with regard to what had been the most effective solutions, there was a need for a social and political majority supporting the legitimate claims of Palestinians, a cross-spectrum work involving everyone on the political spectrum, as long as they were willing to listen to the Palestinian position, generating a consensus on State policy, and in Chile at least the Palestinian position had been defended by the Right because of local conditions, and then defended by the Left. However, the Community said that the issue could not belong to any part of the political spectrum. After 7 October 2023, Chile’s diplomatic position was to put pressure on Israel to respect international law, and did so by recalling the Ambassador. In the midst of this problem, Chile had increased its support to UNRWA. What was important was that the Chilean position remained consistent, regardless of the Government.

There was a need to take wider view: when looking at the situation in Chile and the United States it was clear that a number of positions had been taken up, all of which were valid, but as Palestinians, Mr. Khamis said, there was a different obligation to those of solidarity movements; there was a need for a national strategy, which could not be based on solidarity or other Government’s pressure on Israel. The issue was how to generate a common position, and Palestinians needed to overcome their organisational crisis, with a guide containing tangible points, including the recognition of the Palestinian State. Palestinians had to look at a new structure: Oslo led to a provisional agreement that was to last for five years, but today there was the same structure. Governments and civil society needed to examine the issue further, and generate a valid strategy for action around the globe. Before thinking of the right to return, all must return to rights.

Palestinians were victims of circumstances, but they also had responsibilities. It was important for Palestine to be recognised as a full member of the United Nations, with a global strategy allowing them to work towards tangible objectives.

RULA SHADID, Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, said with regard to the United Nations and humanitarian aid, there was a huge failure, and this needed to be recognised and considered when addressing the work that needed to be done in terms of system reforms. It was all about what were the political changes needed. It was very unfortunate that nothing could be done. There had been many attempts to circumvent the United Nations in providing humanitarian aid, which was proving dangerous, as there were increasing attacks even on the United Nations bodies providing aid. More needed to be done – but there were many initiatives, even on an individual level, that were actually working better than the United Nations institutions in terms of getting food into Gaza. It was very important to focus on having the context and putting the narrative first: when talking about Palestine as a colonisation, then the next natural thought was to put an end to that colonisation. This was where the political unwillingness to deal with the situation as such caused the entire confusion between ending colonisation and liberalisation, and building State institutions. The question was whether having a State would end the genocide and colonisation, and the answer, based on history, was No.

The Palestinian Authority was a non-elected authority, it had not been reformed, it had not worked for the advantages and rights of the Palestinian people per se, and there were no elections, with no political life or political parties – no wonder there was no national project. This was the root cause – in addition to colonisation, there were also a need for internal work. This did not mean that the recognition of the Palestinian State would be disliked: it would give Palestinians access to different spaces, making it a tool, but not one that solved anything. What was very obvious and what should be the focus was that everything happening was due to the coloniser and the colonisation project. It was much easier to be united on the issue of colonisation than it was to jump into building institutions.

Best actions with effect were seen when those actions were coordinated; this was a challenge, due to the fragmentation of the Palestinian people, but once it was done it was clear that results were greater and more influential. After the International Court of Justice’s decision, bilateral talks had been much smoother. The actions of States were also very important, as they influenced the actions of other States. Public opinion was also vital, creating a form of awareness, opening doors, allowing for engagement with journalists and trade unions representatives in other countries, working with the Palestinian diaspora to multiply voices, and engaging with others to allow them to lead within their own countries.

In further questions and comments, a speaker raised the issue of different measures being taken by the different national and international organizations and different governments in terms of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, noting that there appeared to lack a common strategy with regard to the achievement of that outcome. Did the panellists believe it was necessary as part of a common strategy to progress in terms of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to integrate the various solidarity movements, the speaker asked.

Another speaker said the combat of racism, colonialism and inter-related activities was the shared responsibility of all: what was being seen was not only a military occupation but also a colonial regime. States should take a common, firm position, and move from words to action, recognising that there were States that had not even taken a position on the tens of thousands of civilians that had been massacred in the Gaza Strip. Another speaker said that all that had been said was making no difference to what was happening in Gaza right now: the United Nations Charter stipulated that all United Nations Conventions were legally binding, and that States should respect resolutions passed in the United Nations- and yet Israel was ignoring this. It should be expelled from the United Nations, as it behaved like a rogue State within it.

The urgent matter of the value of human life in Gaza was pointed out by another speaker, noting that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians not only violated human rights but also the sanctity of life itself. The speaker proposed the adoption of a standardised value of human life, with a monetary value put on Palestinian lives and development, and that Israel should be held responsible for providing compensation for lives lost and the devastation caused by its aggression.

A speaker addressed the issue of evicting Israel from the United Nations and economic sanctions, and said that cross-cutting actions were an important point. The United Nations had fallen off the pulse of the era in terms of the democratic situation: the asymmetries at the international level weren’t being addressed as various legal loopholes were being exploited and leveraged, with a lack of compliance with resolutions and sanctions. There was a certain verticality in how hegemony was imposed throughout the world, highlighting the importance of civil society. What could be done was first to query the role that the United Nations currently played around the right to veto, which set up an impunity, and Israel had enjoyed that impunity over the years, leading to a form of racism in democratic governance.

On the catastrophic use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by Israel in Gaza, and what civil society could do to ensure a legally binding instrument was in place to hold Israel to account for using AI to annihilate Gaza, there had been discussions on this issue at the United Nations for the last ten years, a speaker said. There was a situation where the use of these weapons systems was morally repugnant, and there was an urgent need for new international law, and yet some States, in particular Israel, were developing these systems without restraint for the last ten years. Experts in AI had been warning that this would be the new generation of warfare, with not only States but also non-State actors, including criminals, using these systems. The Human Rights Council had taken on board this issue and was writing an opinion, and it was vital for all to express themselves.

The main problem in Palestine, a speaker said, was occupation and the siege of Gaza and other parts of Palestine, a final speaker said. A relief flotilla was going to be sent, and the speaker requested advice on how to break the siege and how to protect those who were supporting the Palestinian people.

RULA SHADID, Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, responding to the questions and issues raised, and in concluding remarks, said the use of AI was growing, and this was very scary. Israel was using it as a tool to build relationships with other States and intimidate them to this end. On expelling Israel from the United Nations, Ms. Shadid said she could not believe that this had not been done or asked for, and it was important to make it part of accountability, but many Western States would not allow this to happen, which was why reform of the system was very important. Palestine was a cause that had become a test to all the tools for accountability, discussions, debate and papers, and what was actually working and what was not. Every single action of everybody was extremely important, and should not be underestimated. Do not let the momentum be lost after the ceasefire, she urged, noting that it would not mean the end of the situation. Genocide could not be unpunished. States should put forward a resolution to expel Israel from the General Assembly.

DIEGO KHAMIS, Executive Director of the Palestinian Community in Chile, said with regard to responsibilities, when looking at the lack of elections in the West Bank, Palestinians could not forget the fact that they did not have a State. How to hold elections in Jerusalem was an issue, but there was a need for an organisational structure to set out the true positions: this was for the Palestinian Authority, the PLO, and the diaspora. Solidarity movements would be the leading stakeholders of Palestinian issues at local level, and had that duty in their hearts. The national strategy was needed to develop plans and work together. Many of the questions about sanctions and expelling Israel were important, but something else came first: when looking at the international order after World War II, it was rules-based and based on international law, but this required political will to be implemented. Israel had not respected international law and violated it more and more, but if there was no political will among the international community to compel Israel to bring its behaviour in line with international law then everything discussed here was moot. The fight was for political will in the international community and for the rules-based system. Without enforcement of international humanitarian law, then no progress could be made. The legitimate claims of the Palestinian people had not been at the forefront of State’s priorities. Palestine was a cause that went beyond Palestinians, and was an ethical and moral duty of all societies now. Some States were meeting their obligations, using international law and diplomatic tools to try and force Israel to respect international law, but at the same time there were signs that in some countries that were traditional allies of Israel that progress was being made, particularly in civil society. The only solution would be a peaceful solution, and the only way to achieve this was through international humanitarian law and political will between the two main stakeholders.

AHMAD ABUZNEID, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said the call for the ceasefire was being co-opted in the United States now, with a weakening of that call. Civil society had to ensure that it continued to demand it, without returning to the status quo: there must be no blockade, no occupation, and the right to return must be guaranteed. Israel must be isolated in every single avenue, not just at the United Nations. Any nation standing with Israel as it continued its genocidal assault must be isolated, including the United States. In addition to new international law regarding AI, then something must be done with regard to weapons manufacturers, whose profiting from human deaths was despicable. All should join together to make sure that “never again” was truly meaningful.