AFRICAN REGIONAL NGO SYMPOSIUM
ON THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE
Centre International D'Echanges
5 7 August 1985
I. DECLARATION ADOPTED AT THE AFRICAN REGIONAL
NGO SYMPOSIUM ON THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE
1. We, the group of non-governmental organizations which participated from 5 to 7 August 1985, at the Centre International d'Echanges, Dakar, in the United Nations African Regional Non-governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine held in implementation of paragraph 3 (b) of resolution 38/58 B on the Question of Palestine, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 1983, wish to thank the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for convening this meeting. We are indeed honoured by the presence of the Chairman, members and observers of the distinguished United Nations body.
2. We also wish to thank the Chief of the Division for Palestinian Rights, the NGO liaison officer, the staff of the Division, the Department of Conference Services, for their valuable assistance in the preparation and execution of this Symposium. We believe this meeting marks a pivotal point in the constructive interaction between the United Nations and the African NGO community concerned with the question of Palestine and we look forward to increasing levels of understanding, appreciation and co-operation.
3. Special thanks are extended to the Government and people of Senegal for hosting this Symposium and for the "Teranga", generosity and co-operation extended to the participants. We were honoured by the presence and perceptive statement of His Excellency Mr. Ibrahima Fall, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the official opening of the Symposium, representing His Excellency President Abdou Diouf, current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity. We record with pride and genuinely appreciate the long standing and unfailing militant and effective support that the Government and people of Senegal, as tireless pioneers, have given to the just cause of the Palestinian people.
4. We also wish to sincerely voice our appreciation to the distinguished experts who spoke here and offered valuable historical, political as well as practical insights into the question of Palestine and the potential central role to be played by NGOs. The practical suggestions assisted us in formulating future plans for effective collaboration in Africa and in linking our efforts to a broader, global network.
5. We emphasize the richness and depth of the exchanges of information, views and experience which ensued, and which all converged on support for the Palestinian cause.
6. We resolutely reaffirm the international consensus that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. We affirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self determination without external interference, to return and to the creation of an independent Palestinian State on its own national territory under the Palestine Liberation Organization, in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions. We call especially upon the United States of America to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self determination, because the right to self determination is a sacred right of all peoples. we condemn Israeli rejection of all peace initiatives adopted by the international community to put an end to the Middle East conflict. This militaristic policy of Israel increases tension in the world and is leading the Middle East to a cycle of perpetual war.
7. we strongly approve and support the convening of the United Nations sponsored International Conference on Peace in the Middle East as specified in the United Nations resolution 38/58 C. The Palestine Liberation Organization strongly supported this resolution. We condemn the unjustified opposition to this initiative by Israel and the United States of America, which constitutes a serious obstacle to world peace. We urge that more pressure be exerted on both States to join in the global consensus on the issue. We urge those undecided States, especially members of the Security Council, to lend their support to this resolution. In this manner, we also uniformly support the declaration on this issue adopted by the International NGO Meeting on the Question of Palestine held in August 1984 in Geneva.
8. we express our grave concern over the protracted Arab Israeli conflict. we recognize that the basic cause of that conflict is the denial by Israel and its allies of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and their refusal to recognize the PLO as the sole and authentic representative of that people. In particular, we regret the record of successive Administrations of the United States of America which have encouraged and supported Israeli State terrorism.
9. The convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East, as endorsed by General Assembly resolution 38/58 C, offers the only realistic and practical way towards a solution to the problem of Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian State and of a global, just lasting solutions for all the parties to the conflict.
10. we further reaffirm our belief that only a full and comprehensive solution involving the Palestine Liberation Organization and all concerned countries, in particular the United States of America and the USSR, can create the basis for a just and lasting peace. we reject partial and piecemeal agreements as such agreements have proved to be counterproductive and not conducive to a comprehensive peaceful solution and have totally ignored the core of the Arab Israeli conflict.
11. This Symposium further asserts the close connection between the struggle of the Palestinian people and every struggle in each part of the world of peoples fighting for their independence, defending their freedom and building their life on the basis of their sovereignty. The cause of the Palestinian people is interconnected with the struggle of all peoples for world peace and against colonialism, in particular, the struggle of the peoples of southern Africa. In this connection, we condemn with all the force at our command all the injustices and violations of human rights perpetrated in South Africa, Namibia and the front line countries by the illegal colonial and racist apartheid regime.
12. we affirm the close solidarity in their struggle of the African and Arab peoples in the face of the military and political collusion and nuclear collaboration between the Zionist State of Israel and the racist State of South Africa. we strongly condemn the imposition of the state of emergency in South Africa, and demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees.
13. This Symposium of the NGOs of Africa positively points to the growing support in the United Nations for Palestinians and the Palestine Liberation Organization. It stresses the very significant role played by the Organization of African Unity and the movement of Non-Aligned Countries representing over two thirds of the world's Governments in awakening global public opinion to the urgent need to resolve this issue and in exposing the parts played by the Governments of the United States of American and Israel.
14. We call on African Governments to implement all the resolutions of the Organization of African Unity on the question of Palestine, particularly that relating to the diplomatic isolation of Israel. We note with satisfaction that the majority of African States have broken off diplomatic relations with the Zionist State, and urge them to remain faithful to that position.
15. We further endorse the global signature campaign to increase popular support for the international peace conference on the Middle East and will endeavour to co-ordinate our efforts with the Interim Co-ordinating Committee for NGOs throughout Africa, culminating in the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November 1985.
16. we concur that influencing world public opinion is a key factor in the just and lasting resolution of the question of Palestine. As NGOs, we have access to local populations, the grass roots, in our societies and are determined to work to increase their understanding of the question of Palestine and to effectively mobilize their potential political, social and spiritual power.
17. Beyond these principles, we firmly believe that non-governmental organizations are a unique asset in securing the rights of the Palestinian people, for we can present the issue in its vital human dimension to all people and to non-governmental organizations.
18. we are aware of the forces opposed to our efforts. But the inherent justice of our cause and the sound construction of a genuine regional and global NGO network will be mutually reinforcing and demonstrably advance our endeavours.
19. We have reviewed and considered the initial activities of the Interim Co-ordinating Committee for NGOs (ICC) established at the International Meeting on the Question of Palestine convened in Geneva in August 1984 and regard it as a suitable transitional mechanism for the initial co-rdination of the world wide NGO effort on the question of Palestine. We look favourably upon its transformation from an interim to an international co-ordinating committee after the scheduled consideration of its future structure and composition at the International Meeting on the Question of Palestine to be convened from 9 12 September 1985 in Geneva.
20. we strongly urge the United Nations, through the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to assist the ICC in every possible way in its worthwhile efforts to build a viable, global network of NGOs active on the question of Palestine. The central co-ordination of all common NGO activities on this issue is a necessary condition for influencing domestic and global public opinion.
21. We, African NGOs present here for this Symposium see ourselves as a nucleus of a broader, regional effort. We must reach out, identify and involve many other NGO committees in the search for a just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine. To accomplish these worthy goals, we are requesting United Nations assistance, including financial help, to establish a regional interim co-ordinating committee of NGOs to serve as an initial focus for our regional efforts we visualize such an African co-ordinating committee establishing close links with the work of ICC and its successor.
22. The African region is an area of increasing political importance. As a result, forces opposed to the Palestinian cause are attempting to neutralize the traditional commitment of the peoples of this region to the Palestinian cause. Such attempts, notably by the State of Israel, the United States of America and the world Zionist movement, as well as by imperialism, must be resisted as they constitute impediments to achieving a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution of the question of Palestine. We distinguish between Judaism as a religion and political zionism as manifested by Israel, an unjust, undemocratic, racist and dangerous ideology. In combating the forces opposed to the Palestinian cause, African NGOs must play a key role as molders of public opinion in the region.
23. To ensure proper representation of this region at the forthcoming International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, we strongly urge the United Nations, through the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to fund the participation of a representative number of NGO delegates from the region. To be effective, such aid should include transportation to Geneva and accommodation during the conference.
24. In co-operation with the stated objectives of the ICC, we African NGOs call for the compilation of a regional data base of information on NGOs in the region active on the issue as a potent addition to global networking efforts.
25. we are determined to cultivate an expanding regional NGO constituency linked to a world wide NGO network that will emerge as a significant complementary force in the campaign for the just resolution of the question of Palestine. We firmly believe that we can most effectively express our solidarity with the Palestinian people in this way. We call upon the United Nations, through the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to offer all necessary assistance, including financial support, to achieve these ends.
26. we note with satisfaction the results of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for women: Equality, Development and Peace, held at Nairobi (Kenya) from 15 to 26 July 1985. The Conference particularly emphasized the situation of the Palestinian people, and increased awareness of the question of Palestine on the part of the international community.
27. we note with interest the activities in solidarity with the Palestinian people conducted in the context of the International Youth Year, particularly on the occasion of the Twelfth World Youth and Students Festival held at Moscow from 27 July to 4 August 1985, and earnestly invite the young people of the world in general, and of Africa in particular, to increase their support for the Palestinian cause.
28. We express the wish that the Arab Summit which opens on 7 August 1985 at Casablanca, Morocco, will contribute to the strengthening of Arab unity and solidarity with the cause of the Palestinian people. We also hope that the Arab Summit will adopt appropriate means of putting into effect the principles of Fez and of the International Conference on Peace in the Middle East, under the auspices of the United Nations and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.
29. we decide to establish the Interim Co-ordinating Committee for Africa, composed of representatives of organizations which participated in this Symposium, in order to expand and strengthen the activities of solidarity with the Palestinian cause undertaken by African NGOs.
30. we applaud the convening of this Regional Symposium and strongly request the United Nations, through the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to plan at least two follow up symposiums in the region as soon as possible, but hopefully within the coming year.
II. OPENING STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY MR. IBRAHIMA FALL,
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF SENEGAL
The ceremony we are present at today is symbolic in several senses. First, because we are at Dakar, in Senegal, a country which, in black Africa, was the first to open a representative office for the Palestine Liberation Organization and then an embassy. This country throughout the international community has been the subject of confidence since 1975 when we assumed the responsibility of chairmanship of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People through its successive Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, Mr. Medoune Fall and Mr. Massamba Sarre. A country which, on behalf of the international community and on its confidence, a few years ago presided the meeting on the international Middle East conference which was held at Geneva. A country which welcomes you today on the grounds that you have deliberately made your choice, and on behalf of our President, I wish to welcome you here today. I want to assure you that Senegal, faithful to its commitments to the Palestinian people, will continue to deploy every effort so that the struggle of a just people, the Palestinian people, will be better known throughout Africa and will receive ever greater support from the people of Africa.
The meeting is symbolic also not only because we are in Senegal, because we are in Africa, but because the Head of State of Senegal is the Current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Therefore on behalf of the Current Chairman of OAU, I welcome you to Dakar.
Africa is a sounding board in the struggle of the Palestinian people as Mr. Terzi has so ably suggested, working in the southern part of Africa where apartheid flourishes and this cannot be compared with the occupied West Bank and the occupied territories. We must not forget that in two days' time, in Morocco, Inshallah, God willing, there will be an extraordinary summit of Arab States which will basically be focused on the question of Palestine. Finally, Africa, because we must not forget that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has deliberately chosen to establish its headquarters at Tunis. This symbolism, Africa and Senegal, must serve as an international symbol too because the United Nations, which organized this Symposium is, so to speak, the international community of States and the United Nations has also committed itself through various resolutions since 1947, resolution 141 (II), through its own activities, the activities of the General Assembly, the Security Council and, also since 1975, the Special Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Through all this, the United Nations has truly committed itself to the Palestinian people.
It is most fortunate that this Symposium is taking place after those which have recently taken place in New York and New Delhi. After New York and New Delhi, we cannot talk of New Dakar because such a Seminar has been organized here but we can talk about the new conference at Dakar. The situation that prevails in the field at present is characterized by apprehension and by a thin thread of hope; apprehension because the people of Palestine, in addition to their being in refugee camps, are being subjected to the joint aggression of the Zionist State and also, unfortunately, certain political forces within a country or perhaps without that country which, lamentably, because of their joint force, are trying to establish a state of disarray within the ranks of Palestinian people. Apprehension also because one super Power is deliberately obstructing the holding of an international conference on Palestine which is claimed, sought by the international community at large, and is opposing the right offered by the United Nations to any initiative promoting such a conference. Apprehension also because another State, allied to this super Power, is deliberately obstructing, refusing any initiative for peace in the Middle East. And yes, it is on behalf of peace in the name of peace, that after the Second World War, a homeland was organized precisely on the land of Palestine.
Let us not be carried away however by apprehension. Faced with the image of heroic resistance of the Palestinian people on all sides and its constant struggle for life, organization and the creation of a State of Palestine and the right of the people to self determination, we, the international community must show our hope because the gloom of aggression, the difficulties of the economic situation, show that the time is ripe for a peace initiative and other problems that exist within the ranks of the Arab countries should give rise to an initiative ardently sought by the international community, courageously supported by the PLO at whose head tenaciously and always, is gasser Arafat. We must support, and in any event, Senegal certainly supports such a peace initiative so that tomorrow, the people of Palestine reconciled with themselves, reconciled with history, will find themselves once more in Palestine with a State of their own. It is on this note of hope that I wish to declare open the United Nations African Regional NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People.
III. OPENING STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY MASSAMBA SARA,
CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE OF THE
INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People it is a very great honour for me to welcome you to the Symposium organized by the United Nations for NGOs in Africa on the question of Palestine. My pleasure is all the greater because the Committee has chosen Senegal, my own country, to bast this symposium. Three years ago we also had a seminar on this question held right here in Dakar. These considerations underscore the interest that Senegal and its distinguished President, His Excellency Mr. Abdou Diouf, have always taken in the just cause of the Palestinian people. I would like on behalf of the Committee to express our gratitude to RAE. Mr. Abdou Diouf and to the Senegalese Government and people for their kindness in hosting this meeting. Senegal, through the words and deeds of its President, has always distinguished itself on the international scene for its defence of just causes. This only strengthens its credibility and the hearing it receives in the international community. The recent nomination of President Abdou Diouf as bead of the Organization's work to the satisfaction of his peers bear eloquent witness to this fact.
Since this is the first occasion at which we are holding a meeting of this nature a meeting of NGOs from various parts of Africa perhaps I should give some background as to what our Committee is endeavouring to do and why it has felt it necessary to bring NGOs from the various regions in Africa together on this occasion.
You will recall that ever since 1947 the United Nations has attempted to find a solution to the problem of Palestine, and, in the course of these many years, has adopted several resolutions which, if implemented, would provide the basis for a just and lasting solution of the problem. The slow progress made in implementing those resolutions led the General Assembly to the establishment in 1975 of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The Committee was entrusted with the task of formulating a programme capable of enabling Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights in their own independent and sovereign State. The Committee accordingly adopted recommendations which were designed to facilitate the exercise of the recognized rights of the Palestinian people and to endorse the role of the PLO as its representative; to bring about a peaceful solution satisfactory to all States and peoples in the Middle East; to utilize all the possibilities of the United Nations for promoting peace and guaranteeing security in overseeing the recommended process of change; and to ensure strict observance of international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
Its recommendations have been endorsed by the General Assembly at each of its sessions since 1976 when they were first submitted. Despite their fundamental legal and moral authority, however, their implementation has been blocked, since the Security Council, the guardian of international peace and security, has come up against the veto of one of its permanent members.
Faced with this deadlock, the Committee has tried to overcome the obstacle placed in its way by the lack of political will to adopt its recommendations.
A highlight of the Committee's attempt to break this deadlock was the initiative it took in convening the International Conference on the Question of Palestine in Geneva in 1983. That Conference, which was attended by 137 nations, concluded with a Declaration and a Programme of Action which our Committee is making every effort to implement.
A major proposal at that Conference was that an International Peace Conference on the Middle East should be convened under the auspices of the United Nations with the participation, on an equal footing, of all the parties to the Arab Israeli conflicts including the Palestine Liberation Organization, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This proposal has since been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and efforts are being made to convene such a Conference. However, this approach has also met with obstacles. While the majority of the Member States of the United Nations are in favour of such a conference and regarded it as a possible path to a lasting solution of the problem, two Member States which moreover are concerned and involved have to date shown reluctance to hold, indeed opposition to holding, such an international conference.
A second feature of the Geneva Conference which is of relevance to our work here was the presence of over 100 NGOs who participated actively in the Conference and clearly demonstrated the importance of the NGO committee in the search for a solution. It was their active participation that led our Committee to make every effort to get NGOs from every region of the world who were interested in the question of Palestine, and had hitherto worked individually, to work together and to harness their potential in influencing public opinion and, consequently, government positions. We are convinced that if NGOs, which are a powerful force in themselves, could co-ordinate their efforts, their influence would make an important and decisive contribution to the search for a peaceful solution.
With this in mind,the Committee has, over the past two years, adopted a programme of work in which the NGOs have a significant role to play.
On the one hand it has, as the focus of its work, the International Peace Conference on the Middle East; on the other hand, it is making every effort to harness the potential inherent in the NGO movement. We have, therefore, in the past two years, initiated a programme aimed at bringing NGOs interested in the question of Palestine together. To achieve this, we have organized a series of symposia. The present one falls within this framework. Last month we had a similar symposium in New York aimed at bringing together NGOs in the North American continent. In May this year, a similar symposium was organized in New Delhi which brought together several Asian NGOs. Last year, another for North America was followed by an International Meeting of NGOs. It is our plan to hold similar NGO meetings in Latin America and Europe.
At these symposia we have certain targets in mind. The overall target, of course, is that NGOs in a region should devise ways and means of working together on this question. The first step then would be a co-ordination of effort within each region. The International Meeting, which will be organized annually, and, indeed, one will take place in Geneva next month, will offer an opportunity to co-ordinate the initiatives of all the regions and to produce an overall co-ordinated plan of action.
Last year's International Meeting came out with several important decisions. Among these were a proposal to launch a signature campaign calling for the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East. The campaign was launched on 29 November 1984 and is expected to conclude on 29 November 1985. I am sure the NGOs gathered here will join in this movement of solidarity.
A second initiative taken at the International Meeting last year was the formation of an Interim Co-ordinating Committee. The formation of that Committee facilitated communication between NGOs worldwide and the United Nations on the one hand, and on the other, within the NGO movement worldwide. Since then co-ordinating Committees have been set up by the North American community of NGOs and the Asian NGOs. The Committee suggests that a similar co-ordinating committee should be established for the NGOs in the African region. Such a committee would facilitate co-ordination amongst yourselves and with the Interim Co-ordinating Committee, as well as with the United Nations.
These are just some of the suggestions which you may consider in the course of this meeting. The whole purpose of these contacts is to enable you to form a network a powerful network which will enhance your activities and make you a potent force in policy making on this question.
Your participation and the interest which you have demonstrated in this question is especially welcome as it will complete and sustain the efforts made by Governments in the United Nations. This determination will mobilize greater attention and participation throughout this continent in the implementation of policies which will assist in the solution of the problem. It is the hope of the Committee that you will utilize this opportunity to co-ordinate your efforts and that you will participate in the International Meeting in Geneva next month. It is essential that as many of you from Africa should participate at that meeting, and it is our hope that you will make every effort to do so.
I need hardly add that the Committee is pleased with your co-operation and stands ready to assist you in your efforts and initiatives. It is our hope that this Symposium is only the beginning of a long and close collaboration founded on a common interest in the cause of the Palestinian people.
I trust that your collaboration will result in a useful contribution towards the cause of the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
IV. MESSAGE FROM MR. YASSER ARAFAT, CHAIRMAN OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF
THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION, CONVEYED BY MR. ZEHDI L. TERZI,
PERMANENT OBSERVER OF THE PALESTINE LIBERATION
ORGANIZATION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
It gives me great pleasure, on this day of the convening of your NGO Symposium on the rights of the Palestinian people, to express to you, in the name of our Palestinian Arab people, in the name of my brothers, members of the Executive Committee of the PLO and in my personal name, our heartiest greetings. We express to you our high esteem and profound gratitude for your efforts to promote the legitimate struggle of our people and for your infallible support to the national inalienable rights of our people, including their right to return, to self determination without external interference and to the establishment of their independent state, and to the attainment of those rights.
Dear brothers, it gives me also great pleasure to express to you the tremendous pride that we feel for your continuous efforts in defence of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and for the fulfilment of peace in one of the most dangerous, tense and explosive regions of the world.
You are fully aware that our Palestinian cause is presently witnessing a dangerous phase as a result of the intensification of the Israeli aggressive policies which receive the support of successive American administrations. The convening of your NGO Symposium among brothers and sisters on the African continent comes at a time when the racist regime in South Africa intensifies its repressive and brutal measures against our brothers and sisters and comrades in arms in Namibia and in the illegally occupied South Africa. It is not merely accidental that the two regimes, the apartheid and the Zionist regimes, are simultaneously conducting similar policies.
The Government of the Zionist Israeli enemy is intensifying its repression, oppression and terror against our Palestinian people inside and outside our occupied homeland and persistently exercises illegitimate racial practices by dispossessing them of their basic human rights, paralysing civilian life, destroying the Palestinian economy, expropriating land and water resources, establishing armed colonial settlements in the occupied territories encouraging, supporting and financing the terrorist Zionist gangs whose aim is to perpetrate criminal actions against our people.
All these acts are being perpetrated with the sole aim of expulsion and forced deportation of our people from their land and homes, for the implementation of the Israeli plan of Judaization of the occupied Palestinian areas and achievement of their ultimate annexation to the Zionist enemy entity.
The Zionist parties compete in the expression of their hostility and racial extremism against our Palestinian people by granting protection and by preserving and activating rules and regulations based on the Zionist racist ideology.
Additionally, there is the declared policy of Israel of non-withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian Arab territories, the non-recognition and non-respect of the right of self determination of the Palestinian people, the non-return of Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty and the non-establishment of the Palestinian State in Palestine and the rejection of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
On the other hand, the American Administration is intensifying its hostile policies and stands against our Palestinian people, and continues to increase its support to the Israeli enemy entity and to its aggressive expansionist policies by establishing with the said enemy a strategic military alliance aimed against our Palestinian people and the peoples of our Arab nation.
The American Administration also establishes with the Israeli entity a free trade tone•o support its deteriorated economy which is basically devoted to war, to expansionism and to establishment of colonial settlements. This is in addition to the financial and military aid provided to Israel in the form of non-refundable grants and the moral, political and diplomatic support granted by the United States Administration on all international levels to the extent that it hinders the implementation of the international laws of the international community and impedes the condemnation of the crimes and aggressive measures against the Palestinian people under occupation.
The American Administration similarly denies our people their inalienable rights as endorsed and reaffirmed by the resolutions of the entire international community and permanently attempts to bypass the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and attempts to distort its image by all possible means.
In face of these enormous challenges imposed on our people, our people nevertheless continue their struggle and resistance to the oppressive and aggressive Israeli policies and to the hostile United States policies.
The ordeals and hardships will never dissuade nor impair our people's resolve in their struggle, which meets with the support of the peoples of the world and of their democratic, peace and justice loving forces. The heroic resistance and challenges against the Pretoria apartheid racist regime make us proud of the joint struggle of the Palestinian and the South African peoples.
Similarly, the PLO has availed itself of every opportunity in the search for peace. This emanates from its firm belief in the need to achieve justice, peace, stability and development in our explosive area, in the interest of international peace and security.
This feeling of responsibility has prevailed among our people and their representatives in the consecutive Palestine National Councils, which have repeatedly reaffirmed the determination of our Palestinian people to attain a just peace based on the fulfilment and exercise of the national inalienable rights of our people, including their right to return, to self determination without external interference, and to the establishment of their independent Palestinian State in Palestine.
Based on the resolutions of our consecutive Palestine National Council sessions, and in particular the sixteenth and seventeenth sessions, and also based on the principles of the Fez summit,which reflect the peaceful will of our Arab nation, and in accordance with international resolutions, the PLO continues its efforts to achieve a joint Arab political plan which aims to contribute to the attainment of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict.
We are happy to state that our efforts have met with the positive response of our Arab brothers who will meet at the summit level during this week.
In the name of our people who are suffering the immense ordeals of war, oppression and occupation and who strive to achieve peace, in the name of the Executive Committee of the PLO, and in may own personal name, I wish to express to you our profound gratitude for the valuable efforts deployed by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and by holding symposia and international conferences which have greatly contributed to clarifying and unveiling the justice of the Palestinian cause and in informing the peoples of the world of the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle for liberation as well as in acquiring the respect and esteem of the peoples of the world to the struggle of our people.
I wish to express here my profound gratitude to Mr. Javier Perez de Cuellar, Secretary-General of the United Nations, to Ambassador Mass Inaba Sarre, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and to all those who have contributed to the success of these seminars in the service of the Justice of the Palestinian cause.
I wish to recall with pride the personal involvement and dedication of the representatives of Senegal at the United Nations. In particular we are proud of the personal dedication of His Excellency Medoune Fall, the founding Chairman of your Committee and the principal architect of its recommendations. Ambassador Felilu Kane has greatly contributed to the achievements of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
All this has been achieved thanks to the constant position of their excellencies President Senghor and Abdo Diouf. On behalf of our Palestinian people I wish to express to the people and Government and our brother President Diouf our high appreciation for their hosting of this Symposium and for their constant firth show of solidarity and identification with the just struggle of our people for the regaining and exercise of our national inalienable rights in Palestine. The fate of our people, of our country, our homeland Palestine, and our Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Sanctuary of Al Harem Al Shareef, the Mosque Al Aqsa and the Rock of Al Ism, the Church of Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the redeemer. The fate of all these as well as the fate of peace is at stake.
As your Symposium is convening our Palestinian brothers in the refugee camps in Lebanon, in Beirut and other localities, are being subjected to brutal acts bordering on mass extermination and genocide. We have addressed an appeal to His Excellency Secretary-General Perez de Cagllar to find ways and means to put an immediate end to violence committed against our brothers and to prevent yet another mass displacement of Palestinians. The United Nations, and the international community are historically responsible to provide protection, security and safeguards to the Palestinian refugee camps.
We wish to convey a special message of appreciation and gratitude to the "grassroots" to the representatives of NGOs the African continent and we are certain of their unconditional support and solidarity. Their contribution will only complement the support confirmed by their respective countries at their latest summit in Addis Ababa only a few days ago.
On the eve of the convening of the international NGO meeting scheduled early next September we reiterate the expression of our gratitude and appreciation, and say "En avant".
I extend to you my sincerest wishes for the success of the work of this symposium.
Revolution until victory.
V. PAPERS PRESENTED AT THE SYMPOSIUM
A. The International Peace Conference on the Middle East
1. Amadou Dieng, Director, Senegalese Press Agency, Dakar
Ever since the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, which sought to obtain a Jewish homeland for the Zionists in Arab Palestine, the question of Palestine has become one of the most serious and troubling problems that the international community has had and still has to face. It is a critical problem whose solution in the legitimate interest of the Palestinian. people is certain to. have a positive effect on international relations. and, consequently, to constitute a determining factor in the preservation of international peace and security.
The Palestinian problem, which came into being towards the end of the First World War, has, from the League of Nations, at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, right up to the present, met with countless vicissitudes and attempted settlements, all of which have failed. solely because of the arrogant intransigence of the Jewish State, supported by a few major Powers. As a result of its long existence, its complexity and, in particular, its many implications (war in Lebanon, Arab quarrels, geopolitical and economic interests at stake), the Palestinian question will, if we are not careful, continue to be a problem whose prospects for solution will grow daily dimmer.
But what is the nature of the conflict? It was in fact in 1967 that the Israel Arab conflict took a new turn. The unleashing by the Hebrew State of the 1967 war proclaimed the beginning of a new phase of the presence of zionist colonialism in Palestine and in the Arab world. During this war, the third between Arabs and Israelis, the latter occupied the left, west bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip, which had formed part of Palestinian territory, as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai, belonging respectively to the Syrian Arab Republic and Egypt. The area occupied by Israel thus increased fourfold.
Profiting from this war, Israel conquered the eastern sector of Jerusalem and made great efforts to encourage more Jews to emigrate and come to settle there, as well as in the occupied Arab territories where it set about the building of settlements for them. Starting with "secure frontiers", it began to refer to "greater Israel" and to invoke the frontiers of the Torah and the "historic frontiers".
At this time, the Israeli conglomerate was subject to delusions of. grandeur and feelings of racial superiority whose effects could have been more serious but for the renewed resistance of the martyred Palestinian people to occupation and the launching of the Arab response in the form of a war of attrition. Israel subjected the inhabitants of Palestine, the Golan and Sinai to a terrible trial of colonialism, thus revealing the true nature of the colonialism by settlement which the Zionist movement sought to establish. One of the aspects of this trial was the daily increasing expulsion of Arabs, to some cases the inhabitants of entire towns. The reaction of the Arab resistance grew fiercer in proportion to the losses caused by the 1967 war. The Arabs faced the Israeli aggression with courage, and this gave rise to the war of attrition. The struggle of the Palestinian people against Zionist aggression, which had continued uninterrupted since the beginning of the invasion, was stepped up, and. became of major significance particularly after its victory La the battle of Karame in 1968, which compelled recognition that the Palestinian people were a real presence on the international scene, where, at the same time, far reaching and important changes were taking place in international relations.
By its acts, Israel showed that it was the embodiment of its unique colonial truth: a purely colonial phenomenon based on injustice, a colonialism based on religious fanaticism, a colonialism which was at one and the same time strategic, economic and based on settlement. And also an expansionist colonialism. Then, in October 1973, came the Ramadan war. Following this war, which would have been fatal for Israel but for the massive aid it received from abroad, there came the systematic continuation of the struggle of the Palestinian revolution in all spheres, the Palestinian revolution that on the military level, fought honourable battles which yielded gains both by giving the Palestinian entity exposure and by promoting recognition within the international community of the Palestinians' right to a. homeland.
The conflict has taken anew turn to the extent that it embraces, in terms of its implications and its scope, the greater part of the Arab world. For the first time in the history of this Mot, we are beginning of the countdown to the failure of the Zionist invasion of Palestine. Among the many signs which augur this, the most conclusive is the major change in the international position of the State of Israel; it is suffering from an increasing isolation which daily becomes harder to bear, at the very moment when the Palestinian cause, the Palestine Liberation Organization and, more generally, the weight of the Arab countries are becoming increasingly important factors on the international chessboard.
The best illustration of this state of affairs lies in the recognition by almost all nations of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to recover its land, exercise self determination and form an independent State.
Among other indications of this influence, reference may be made to the recognition of the PLO by an increasingly large number of nations, and the hearing extended to the voice of the Arab nation in international circles, especially when the countries making up that nation speak as one.
The nature of the conflict between this Arab nation and the Israeli enemy means that this change is of paramount importance,. because of its. effects on the conduct and outcome of the struggle.. For the conflict has never been a local conflict, but a. world wide conflict which over the years has continued to grow more intense in the land of Palestine. The Zionist invasion comes from abroad, and, enjoys support from abroad. Constructed, with foreign backing, the State of Israel has not ceased since its establishment to draw its strength from the undeniable support of foreign Powers…
This is why when its situation deteriorates at the international level and it no longer has a. fair wind in that quarter, it loses at a stroke one of the foundations of its power, indeed of its very existence. If in addition the Palestinians show that they are fighting, if Palestinian national unity is strengthened. and if aid to the PLO by the Arab countries increases, and if to these is added the reinforcement of solidarity between the Arab countries and the other developing countries, them the. balance will finally tilt in favour of Palestine and the Arab countries, and things will begin to take their normal and inevitable course.
By all accounts, this is at once a problem whose solution depends solely, in our on the: establishment of a genuine just and durable peace, as demanded_ by international law, and, above all, on the recognition of the Palestinian people's right to self determination, the existence of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. In addition, the international community must fully recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole, and authentic representative of the Palestinian people, for whom it symbolizes the struggle to regain their inalienable national rights.
This is what is involved in solving the Palestinian question. Attempts to solve the problem outside the Palestine Liberation Organization constitute a systematic refusal to face reality. Unfortunately, this is. what is currently being done by many nations that strongly desire to see the Palestinian question solved once and for all but who quickly "forget" the PLO or its role in any such solution. Some of then, let us frankly admit it, blithely view it, without any attempt at understanding, as a terrorist movement and not as an authentic and legitimate national liberation movement.
In other words any peace process which is to result in the establishment of the inalienable national rights of the martyr people of Palestine must of necessity take these basic facts sincerely and responsibly into account. Wilfully to ignore them or misinterpret them is ultimately to try to turn the Palestinian question into a problem without solutions and perhaps even a denial of justice under international law, since, once again, the Palestinian problem is a problem of international law whose solution. tugs at our consciences daily.
The international community, and the United Nations in particular, whether in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Organization's subsidiary organs or other bodies or organs, has worked to come up with. suitable proposals for solving this distressing problem, proposals whose implementation has always: been in opposition to the deliberate and systematic blocking action taken by certain countries or organizations. Any proposed solution must involve or include an open, direct and official dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which, in the final analysis, seeks only recover the land from which the people for whose destiny it is responsible have been driven and a democratic and secular Palestinian State where Palestinians and Jews might live together. In the view of Ibrahima Souss, the PLO representative at Dakar, this is a solution that is ahead of its time, a solution of the future, which ensures that everyone, communities, all peoples and all interests, will be protected.
In fact, most of the solutions that have been submitted thus far to decide the future of the Palestinians, and particularly Security Council resolution 242 (1967), the Camp David. accords and the Reagan plan, fail to address the realities described above and have consequently failed because they took special note only of the intransigent positions of Israel. They emphasize security and force to the detriment of peace, law and justice.
Any peace plan or other proposed solution to the Palestinian problem must, if it is to have any chance of succeeding, incorporate the following essential data into an analysis of the Palestinian problem.
The evacuation of occupied Arab territories this is the crux of the Palestinian question. The occupation of Palestine by Great Britain in December 1917, following the publication of Lord Balfour's Declaration referred to above and the abandonment by the English of their commitments to the Arabs, enabled the Israeli invasion to penetrate deeper into Palestine. A phenomenon of colonialism by settlement of unprecedented breadth then began to appear, thus consolidating the Hebrew State which had been artificially created. Down through the successive wars, the Israeli policy of occupation and annexation persisted unchanged.
The withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied Arab territories and the elimination of all the consequences of the aggression are essential for the solution of the Palestinian problem. Security Council resolution 242 (1967), adopted following the 1967 war, has already reaffirmed the principle proclaimed in the United Nations Charter of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory as a result of aggression or occupation.
It is regrettable, however, that this resolution links Israel's withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967 to its recognition by the Arab States. Thus benefits have been conferred on the aggressor as a counterpart to its eventual withdrawal after the aggression. But it is a rule of international law that recognition is a voluntary act of States. Moreover, Israel is currently refusing to evacuate the occupied Arab territories while at the same time insisting that it be recognized in good and due form by the Arab countries. Israel's evacuation of the territories occupied in 1967 and of Lebanon is thus a fundamental element in the solution to the Palestinian question, as is the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their own homeland.
Whereas Israel authorizes Jews from countries where they have lived for centuries and centuries to enter Palestine ( the most recent example is that of the Ethiopian Falashas), at the same time refuses Palestinians the right of return to their own homeland. The Israeli policy of expelling Palestinians and establishing settlements is aggravated still further by Israel's refusal to repatriate the. Palestinian refugees, currently numbering more than 2 million, who fled the horrors of war and the brutalities of the Israeli occupation during the 1948 and 1967 wars. This refusal violates not only the Universal Declaration of Human. Rights (article 13) and the International. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 (article 12), but also dozens of General. Assembly resolutions which reaffirm the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The General Assembly has moreover recognized in various resolutions the correlation between the Palestinians' right of return and their right to self determination. These two rights, quite clearly, are essential conditions for a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli Arab conflict. As long as the Hebrew State disregards these fundamental rights, any multilateral peace negotiations will have little chance of succeeding, for the Palestinian people cannot continue to be despoiled indefinitely. What is more, this right to self determination, which is recognized by the vast majority of the international community, must be recognized by the State of Israel and exercised in the occupied territories and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is at the centre of the question of Palestine. The annexation of the old City and the proclamation by the State of Israel in July 1980, of Jerusalem as its capital was; formally condemned by the: Security Council in resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980. Moreover, in the resolution, which was adopted by 14 votes to none, with one abstention (the United States), the Council determined that all measures which have altered the geographical, demographic and historical character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem are null and void and must be rescinded. From 1947 onwards the City of Jerusalem, whose specific importance and interest to believers: in the monotheistic religions is well known, was to enjoy a special international regime and to be administered by the United Nations.
Nevertheless, this special regime did not come into being, for the Israeli authorities annexed the new city in 1950. The old city, which was an integral part of Cisjordan, was in turn annexed under an Israeli decree of 1967.
Considering on the one hand the plethora of resolutions, recommendations and appeals by the United Nations and: the majority of the world's countries, as well as by broad sectors of world opinion, which condemn the legislative measures and Israeli acts relating to Jerusalem, and, on the other hand, the position taken by the Israeli authorities of ignoring all approaches made to them, one cannot but conclude that more effective measures must be taken by the international community to put an end to the crime being committed against the Palestinian people, against the three revealed religions and against civilization by the annexation of the City of Jerusalem to the State of Israel, the expulsion of its inhabitants and its Judaization.
Within UNESCO in particular, an in depth study has been made of the Israeli threat to Jerusalem. The world takes a special interest in safeguarding and protecting cultural property, especially during armed conflicts, since such property is regarded as a heritage of the whole of mankind. This interest is reflected in the conventions concluded, the congresses and meeting held, the recommendations issued and the resolutions adopted which all aim at safeguarding and protecting cultural property, which is regarded as an inherent part of civilization. Apart from the deliberate pillaging of the occupied territories, with their wealth of archaeological and historical sites, which Israel has undertaken, while at the same time proceeding with illegal searches and transfers of relics, the most clearly apparent manifestation of the abuses by the occupying authorities is the constant violation of human rights.
Since 14 June 1967 the United Nations has adopted in various bodies, mare than 20 resolutions dealing with Israel's violation of human rights in the occupied territories and of the fourth Geneva_ Convention of 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian. Persons in Time of War, against the acts of destruction and forced transfers, and against the violations of the laws in force, the collective punishments, the maltreatment of civilians, etc. Israel continues, as we saw above, to refuse the essential right of the Palestinian people to self determination.
Terrorism and repression are continuing without respite in the occupied. Arab territories. Following the 1967 war, villages were destroyed and their inhabitants compelled to leave. The confiscation and expropriation of Palestinian: land has been continually on the increase since 1967. The restrictions on freedom take many forms, including house arrest, internal exile, restrictions. on movement, supervised residence, mass arrests, close surveillance and administrative detention, firing on demonstrators, etc.. These measures. violate the provisions of the fourth Geneva. Convention. In addition, bannings, seizures and supervision of Palestinian. newspapers take place. The Hebrew States failure to respect human rights was once again made manifest recently with the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese men and women were killed or wounded by the Israeli bombing in Lebanon between 4 June and 31 August 1982, the most tragic period in the history of the Israeli Palestinian war. The 40 hours of the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut from 16 to 18 September 1982 claimed more than 3,000 victims, men, women. and children, in addition to tie interminable and vicious extermination which took place after the departure of the PLO from Lebanon. Israel's responsibility for massacres is patently obvious.
Indeed, the circumstances in which this atrocious act was committed irrefutably demonstrate Israel's direct or indirect responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of defenceless people. This massacre, the most monstrous in the history of the Israeli Arab war, was vigorously condemned by the Security Council and. by the General Assembly, but the Hebrew State is accustomed to using violence, and knows that it runs no risk because it enjoys the diplomatic, moral, financial and military support of certain. major Powers which seem to sanction the "enfant terrible" role played by Israel in the region.
In view of everything stated above, the international community, in one final effort, must endeavour to bring Israel and the United States of America to accept reality, and must seize this moment of history by courageously assuming their responsibilities in a sincere search fora global and definitive, just, equitable and lasting solution to the Palestinian question, whose violent manifestations continue to strike against the conscience of mankind today.
It can never be repeated enough that this solution depends primarily on a true peace in accordance with international law and on fall recognition of the full range of inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people.
2. Dr. Ahmed Osman, former Ambassador of Egypt Since 1983, the concerted opinion of the United Nations is that the path to a just and genuine peace in the Middle East is through the convening of an International Peace Conference on the Middle East.
Much has been said about this Conference, and it is worthwhile today to put this important Conference in its right perspective.
How did the idea for this Conference come about in the United Nations?
After a period of indifference and neglect of the question of Palestine, the United Nations finally decided to take a bold initiative to settle the question of Palestine in all its aspects. This was achieved just two years ago in the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, held in Geneva from 29 August to 7 September 1983, under the auspices of the United Nations. The era of concentrating only on such action as relief measures for the refugees, or just proposing partial or provisional measures, or coping only with the dangerous side effects of the question after each successive war was gone.
A comprehensive and coherent plan to deal with all aspects of the question of Palestine was finally adopted by consensus in this Conference and embodied in two historic documents:
(a) The Geneva Declaration;
(b) A programme of action for the achievement of Palestinian rights.
The settlement emerging from these two documents is characterized by the following elements:
(a) The settlement should be comprehensive, just and lasting;
(b) The United Nations is the place to achieve such a settlement;
(c) The convening of an International Peace Conference on the Middle East is the most appropriate procedure to put such a settlement into effect, and under its terms operative.
Since the call for the convening of this Conference was made, many saw in this Conference a wise and practical measure to make the concept of a just, comprehensive and durable peace in the Middle East at last operational. The General Assembly of the United Nations endorsed the idea and 14 members of the Security Council supported it that the United Nations Secretary-General should prepare for the Conference. All the Arab States, the PLO, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African group, and almost all the geographical groupings in the United Nations welcomed the idea.
In addition to this official backing, many non-governmental organizations supported the Conference whether in Western public opinion or elsewhere.
The question which comes to mind is why did the international community opt for the formula of the International Peace Conference in the Middle East instead of the Israeli version of direct negotiation exclusively between Israel and the neighbouring Arab States.
We would like first to underline that the United Nations choice for the peace conference formula was not a result of a mechanical majority, in the United Nations, as Israel likes to propagate, nor is it motivated by simple desire to oppose United States views on the. matter. On the contrary, the choice of this Conference came as a result of a strong conviction based on a number of objective facts, which became slowly and gradually known to the world after the Israeli aggression of 1967.
Fact No. 1
After 1967, the image of Israel, as a small peaceful country struggling desperately for its survival, vanished, and instead, the world found itself faced with a powerful Israel bent on aggression and expansion and determined to annex its neighbour's territory.
Fact No. 2
Developments after 1967 have made the world realize that the crux of the matter in the Middle East is not, as Israel wants the world to believe, to establish peaceful and normal relations between the State of Israel and the neighbouring Arab States. The world discovered that genuine peace cannot be achieved without addressing the core of the problem, which is the infamous injustice inflicted upon the Palestine people, a people whose land is usurped, whose rights are violated and is subjected daily to torture, expulsion and massacre, without distinction between men, women and children, civilians or others.
Fact No. 3
It became evident that the Palestine question is not a simple bilateral problem between two minor local actors, or even just a regional problem, but it is an international problem in the fullest sense of the word. It is a problem which has world wide implications, militarily, politically and economically. Already, the question of the Middle East has twice, in 1956 and 1973, threatened to engulf the world in a nuclear confrontation between the two blocs, East and West.
In the political and economic field, developed countries in Western and Eastern Europe, or in Asia like Japan, together with developing countries in Africa and Asia, have high political and economic stakes to see peace, stability and prosperity in this vital area of the world. The vital interests of the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia cannot be left forever dependent on the exclusive mood of Israeli leaders and their desire to build a greater Israel. The individual, unilateral approach to settle the problem on the basis of the military superiority of Israel would not lead to genuine peace collective procedure has to be tried. This is why the United Nations had to step in and proposed the International Peace Conference on the Middle East.
Fact No. 4
The world today is full of dangerous and explosive problems and it became impatient in the face of Israel's manoeuvres and delaying tactics. The world could not believe at the beginning that Israel would ever think or manage to frustrate the peace efforts and wreck the various peace initiatives and missions with regard to the Palestine question. This had been done in the case of the four Power talks proposed by France in the United Nations in 1969, the Rogers initiative of 1970, the famous Yarring initiative of February 1971, accepted by Egypt and rejected by Israel, the Peace Conference of Geneva in December 1973 and the American Soviet Declaration on the Middle East of October 1977. Even Mr. Reagan's initiative of 1982 was rejected outright by Israel.
The world community has become firmly convinced that the remedy to the situation in the Middle East is through a just, comprehensive and lasting solution and that the practical formula to put such a solution. into effect is through an international Conference, as proposed by the Geneva Declaration.
The merit of this formula is that it takes care of the legitimate concern of the international community, the basic interests of all the peoples of the area without discrimination and corrects the serious flaws and shortcomings of the Israeli formula to settle the problem on its own exclusive terms.
This will be manifest when we review and evaluate together the main aspects of the proposed Conference as envisaged by the Geneva Declaration.
1. The first aspect is the fact that this Conference will be under United Nations auspices. This is a normal course of action to take for the following solid reasons:
(a) Historically speaking, the United Nations inherited the problem at the time of its establishment and since then it has been seized with the problem.
(b) From an institutional point of view, the United Nations, as the trustee of the common interest of mankind, acting according to its Charter, to resolve international conflicts by peaceful means, is perfectly qualified to deal with the problem. The United Nations cannot just discard its responsibility in this matter because one or two States do not like the United Nations role in the Palestine question and prefer a unilateral solution of their own outside the United Nations.
It must be very clear that the United Nations, in intervening in the explosive Palestine question, does not do that as a meddling intruder, or an ambitious despotic super Government or for some selfish personal gains; it does so because it has historic, legal, political and moral responsibility to achieve peace in the area and save humanity from the risks of a third world war.
The basis of United Nations action rests on a legitimate authority and the respect for the common interest of mankind.
2. The second aspect of the Conference relates to the aim of the Conference. The aim of the Conference has been clearly defined. It is not left to the participants to waste their time quarrelling upon it. It is the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Arab Israeli conflict, an essential element of which would be the establishment of an independent Palestine State in Palestine. We may add that it is the right of every independent state to enter into any form of union with another independent State, in implementation of the recognized right of self determination. How can anybody refuse to participate in a conference having such an aim:
3. The third aspect of the Conference refers to the organization of the Coreference. The organization was entrusted to the Security Council, which is requested to do two things:
(a) Make necessary arrangements for the convening of the Conference;
(b) To guarantee and carry out the accords of the International Peace Conference.
The United States as a permanent member of the Security Council will have its say in all steps leading to the actual convening of the Conference, so why, does the United States object to the very idea of the Conference?
We strongly urge the United States, for the sake of a genuine and guaranteed peace, to come forward and actively participate with the rest of the world in the Security Council efforts to convene this Conference.
4. The fourth aspect of the Conference deals with the designation of the parties participating in the proposed Conference.
The carefully drafted formula dealing with the issue of participation in the proposed Conference was flexible enough to include:
(a) All parties to the Arab Israeli conflict, including the PLO;
(b) Both the Soviet Union and the United States;
(c) Other concerned States.
The merit of this formula is that in handling the Palestine question, the United Nations does not substitute itself to any of the parties, or resolve to exclude any of them, on the contrary, it protects the right of all concerned parties to be present at the settlement on equal footing. This is fair play. The Israeli version of negotiating directly and exclusively with neighbouring Arab Governments is intended to eliminate the Palestinian people and its representative; the PLO, from the concert of interested parties. By this, Israel hopes to settle the question of Palestine behind the back of the Palestinian people. This will be simply and purely a dictate, not a negotiated settlement, a capitulation, not a peaceful solution. We should not forget that the United Nations was created after the defeat of the Axis power precisely to prevent any more dictate by the powerful on the weak. This is the secret behind Israel's insistence on settling the Palestine question outside the United Nations, where the conqueror can deal freely with the vanquished and extort territorial concessions or otherwise. Moreover, the United Nations formula designating the participants to the Conference specifically includes the Soviet Union and the United States, while the Israeli formula keeps the super Power of its own choice, which is the United States, and excludes the other super Power. The United Nations was wise to include both super Powers.
First of all, from a realistic point of view, both super Powers have an influence in the area, whether we like it or not.
Secondly, Israel has no real basis for excluding the Soviet Union from a settlement, especially since the Soviet Union is on public record supporting the right of Israel to exist, and is officially committed to a peaceful solution through the United Nations according to its purposes and principles. Moreover, Israel will need the guarantee of the Soviet Union for any acceptable settlement arrived at.
The Arab side, on the other hand, cannot say the same thing about the United States' attitude towards the Palestinian people, nevertheless, it does not object to the inclusion of the United States in this Conference; on the contrary, it insists on its participation.
The coexistence of both super Powers in the Conference has an extremely important and practical effect for the success of the Conference. This coexistence does away with the apprehensions which each of the super Powers harbours towards the other regarding the achievement of peace in the Middle East. Indeed, the Soviet Union accuses the United States of trying to impose its own unilateral solution to score strategic gains in the area at the expense of the Soviet Union. The United States, for its part, accuses the Soviet Union of trying to block any peaceful solution, so that the continuation of the tension in the area facilitates the imposition of its hegemony in the Middle East. The result of these reciprocal accusations between the two super Powers is that the peoples of the Middle East are suffering heavily.
So, the participation of both super Powers in an open United Nations International Conference will make it difficult for them to block the peace so vehemently desired by the peoples of the area. It will make it also difficult for the two super Powers to exploit the Palestine question for their own interests. World public opinion will know for sure, which is for a just and genuine peace, and which is for the continuation of tension, war and destruction in the area.
Another merit of the United Nations formula designating the parties to participate in the Conference is that it includes other concerned States. This formula opens the way for the remaining permanent members of the Security Council to join in the Conference. This is a good idea which should be supported.
5. The fifth and last aspect of the Conference we will deal with here is the political and legal framework within which negotiation between the parties is to take place.
Negotiations between parties are to take place, not in dark rooms, but under the United Nations umbrella, within a legal and political framework accepted by the overwhelming majority of the international community.
So it is not true what Israel claims, that it opposes the idea of the International Conference because it is a substitute for negotiations. The International Conference does not exclude negotiation between the parties, but the negotiations will take place under the umbrella of the United Nations.
This formula eliminates serious flaws and pitfalls in the vague and loose Israeli version of direct negotiations, as we shall immediately explain.
First, the Israeli formula for negotiations is based on two elements:
(a) Direct negotiation;
(b) Negotiation undertaken under Israeli occupation.
What is wrong with this formula is that such negotiations between Israel and a party like the Palestinian people under duress create a flagrant imbalance in the negotiating position of the parties. The Palestine side is summoned to sit at the negotiating table while its territory is occupied, and therefore through that sitting the Palestinian people would have given Israel automatically and gratuitously the card of recognition. Negotiation under United Nations auspices would tend to redress this imbalance and make it easy for the Palestine side to negotiate under more equitable conditions.
Secondly, in the International Peace Conference, the political and legal umbrella for the solution is respect for, and application of, the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the resolutions of the United Nations relevant to the question of Palestine and the observance of the principles of international law.
The meaning of this element is very important because the drafting and implementation of the settlement will be controlled by an international legal order whose content is accepted by the overwhelming majority of the international community.
This means also that what is right or wrong, legal or illegal, feasible or not feasible is not decided by realpolitik, or the weight of conquest or the military superiority of one of the parties or of its ally, but by what is prescribed in the United Nations Charter, United Nations resolutions and in the principles of international law, which shall apply in the same way to all the parties without discrimination.
From the previous analyses of the main aspects of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East, one can easily see its many positive sides and merits.
The Conference is not an exercise in public relations but it represents the democratic will of the international community. By advocating the convening of this Conference we are not opposing rhetoric to geopolitics; we are engaged in a serious and objective move, which will bring genuine momentum to the cause of a just peace.
In conclusion, one can say the following:
1. The United Nations, through this Conference, will be a peacemaker between two peoples with equal rights. The chance for achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace is far better than that of a unilateral peacemaker captive to its narrow strategic interests and Purely domestic concern.
2. An International Conference will not anal/the aggressor to reap the fruits of its aggression.
3. An International Conference will make it possible to secure the necessary guarantees for the accords arrived at the Conference.
The United States is a permanent member of the Security Council; it is a great Power which undeniably has a great influence in contemporary international life. We would like to appeal to it to join the democratic will of the majority of nations and lift its veto on the Conference and act constructively in the convening and success of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East.
The role of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Delivered by Mr. Zehdi Terzi on behalf of Mr. Shafiq Al-Hout,
Representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon
The international community is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the defeat of fascism and the victory of justice, human rights, freedom, etc. The United Nations is commemorating its fortieth birthday. The world feels proud of its greatest achievement namely the Charter of the United Nations which starts with the following:
"We, the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights."
In its very first article the Charter spells out the purposes of the United Nations and stresses the need "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of peoples". Yet the ink had hardly dried when the Members of the United Nations violated the first of its purposes and denied the Palestinian people its inalienable right to self determination.
The Member States subsequently ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It took more than 10 years to secure the minimum of 35 ratifications, but by 1976 both covenants were brought into force. Both covenants start by agreeing that:
"All peoples have the right of self determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
These covenants transformed the principles of the Universal Declaration adopted on 10 December 1948 into treaty provisions which establish legal obligations on the part of each ratifying State.
Against this background the Palestinians were almost certain that their rights, according to the Declaration and Covenants, would be guaranteed and any and all injustice would be redressed.
The Palestinians had only to remember that they were betrayed a couple of decades earlier. The British Mandate was entrusted with the task of providing the Palestinians with administrative advice and assistance to establish the mechanism and the means for expression of their existence as independent nation. This provision was clear in the Mandate of the League of Nations in 1922.
Yet in 1985 almost 5 million Palestinians, those who were born in Palestine and their offspring who were born in other areas of their dispersion, neither enjoy nor exercise any political rights as Palestinians anywhere in the world. The Palestinians have a deep sense of political obligation to realize their political status which is reflected in their struggle to attain and exercise their national inalienable right of self determination without external interference, including the right to their national identity and the right to designate their own representative, their right to independence and sovereignty in their homeland in Palestine.
The right of the Palestinian to return to his home and property from which he was uprooted is non-negotiable. It is a principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has been reaffirmed by every General Assembly session since December 1948 (resolution 194 (III)). The exercise of this right and the enabling of the Palestinian refugees to exercise this right is one of the conditions imposed by the United Nations General Assembly for the admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations in 1949.
Since 1948 the Palestinians largely succeeded in maintaining their national identity despite the forcible measures carried out to obliterate it. In 1964 the Palestinians succeeded in proclaiming the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the embodiment and concrete manifestation of the Palestinian people. This was only the first step in the struggle for the realization of the other components of the right of self determination. Thus the first role of the PLO in the political development was to assert the unity of the Palestinian people and the attainment and exercise of the right to designate and sustain their own representative.
The endeavours to realize the other components have met with partial political success. Today the Palestinians demonstrate their absolute resolve to press for the attainment of those rights despite many adversities. The existential political reality of the Palestinians has been a fact since at least 1922, namely the Mandate of the League of Nations and the enactment of the Palestinian Citizenship Regulations by the Mandatory Power. The existential reality of the Palestinians today is rooted in a concrete event, namely, the dismemberment of Palestine in 1948.
In the period 1948 1967 Palestine as a political entity ceased to exist. Only in the Gaza Strip was the term Palestine used without incurring political opprobrium or punishment. Palestinians who continued to live in Palestine became Israeli citizens in the area known as Israel and are known as Israeli Arabs. The Palestinians living in the remaining part of Palestine (referred to as the West Bank) became Jordanian citizens. But those who found refuge in Egypt, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq became stateless but under the control and subject to the rules of the countries in which they resided.
There are no exact figures but a rough estimate shows that almost 2 million Palestinians still live in Palestinian territory (about 700,000 in pre 1967 Israel; 460,000 in Gaza; 840,000 in the rest of Palestine). Of those who have acquired Jordanian nationality, 1,110,000 reside in Jordan (east of the river Jordan) and 800,000 reside in other Arab States. One hundred and ten thousand acquired other nationalities. Almost one million Palestinians are still stateless and reside in Egypt, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq.
The dispersion after fragmentation and the distinct political status and type of political and juridical control exercised on the Palestinians had practical effects on their lives. As a people they ceased to possess a national authority to guide, direct and sustain their national life. Their cultural, social and economic institutions were no longer under their own control or volition. Whatever rights (social, economic or political) were so acquired as a result of the new status. Until 1964 Palestinians, when wishing to organize themselves for national Palestinian endeavour (social, cultural or humanitarian), did so in semi legal or even illegal fashion. But even today, with the assumption by the Palestine Liberation Organization of the leadership of the Palestinian people, specifically Palestinian political activity designed to enhance their social, economic or cultural rights is proscribed in most States where Palestinians reside.
Palestinian movements are essentially organized for the specific purpose of liberating Palestine and for the most part exist on the margin of legality in the States where they function.
The role of the PLO developed and assumed further responsibilities to realize the political status of the Palestinians. In due course the PLO acquired its legitimacy from the Palestinian consensus. This in turn made it possible for the Arab States collectively, at the Rabat summit conference in 1974, to recognize the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Also in 1974 the General Assembly of the United Nations (resolution 3210 (XXIX)) invited the PLO, the representative of the Palestinian people, the principal party in the question of Palestine, to participate in its deliberations. This later led to the adoption in the General Assembly in 1974 of two resolutions. One, resolution 3236 (XXIX), affirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property in Palestine and it also affirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self determination without external interference and to independence and sovereignty. The other, resolution 3237, extended a standing invitation to the PLO to participate in the works of the Assembly and agencies and organs of the United Nations in the capacity of Observer.
At the Security Council the PLO acquired an advanced status in December 1975 when an invitation bestowed on the PLO the same rights bestowed on member States invited under the same rule. Politically, the role of the PLO was to develop recognition and respect as well as political stature. A further step was achieved when more than 100 States extended recognition and, in a number of cases, invited the PLO to establish representative offices, a good number acquiring full diplomatic status. (Senegal is among the first in Africa to extend such a status.)
The Palestine National Congress proclaimed the establishment of the PLO in 1964 and adopted a national charter which outlined the general principles and ideas 'which should guide Palestinian action. However, in 1968 and later, the Palestine National Council projected a solution to the question of Palestine that was consistent with Palestinian self determination as well as the reality of an Israeli Jewish presence in Palestine/Israel. The vision of a democratic secular polity for Palestine was projected. The vision rejected any sectarian or national or religious basis for the future Palestinian polity. Underlying that vision was the concrete existence of two peoples on the same land, one Palestinian Arab, the other Israeli Jewish. The vision was predicated on the assumption that Palestine was to be constituted of persons whose individual rights were primary and equal. In itself the vision was a challenge to both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs to accept coexistence in the same polity on the basis of full equality.
Israel, as an extension of European/American imperialism, did marshal its resources to resist the new formation. The PLO thus knew that the democratic secular polity in Palestine could only be realized by Palestinian masses engaging in armed struggle. The PLO succeeded in re organizing the Palestinian people in refocusing their loyalty as well as in challenging the legitimacy of the Arab States' exercise of control over Palestinians within their domain. This sowed the seed of the independent and free Palestinian political decision making. The PLO also undertook that Israel's control of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 must be challenged by all means, including armed struggle. It renders material, political and economic support to Palestinians to resist and terminate Israel's occupation.
This role in the national liberation and resistance of the military occupation is another aspect in the role of the PLO in the political development of the Palestinian people. The political role of the PLO was to carry out tasks assigned to it in three different arenas:
(a) Among the Palestinian community regardless of its locale;
(b) Within the region of the Arab States among which a majority of the Palestinians now live and whose connection with the Palestinians is national and political;
The PLO represents the embryonic Palestinian State and government. Its constituency is the entire Palestinian people, whose consciousness of themselves as a distinct national community has become the justification of their consideration as a nation. In a formal sense the Palestinian National Council (PNC) is the highest policy making body of the PLO. The Council is composed of members presumed to represent all sectors of the Palestinian people: militant and armed organizations; popular and mass organizations; independent individuals.
The composition of PNC reflects Palestinian pluralism. The Council debates all Palestinian issues at its annual meetings. It elects an Executive Committee including the Chairman, Brother Yasser Arafat. The major political programmes become binding on the Executive Committee only when so mandated by PNC.
The infrastructure of the PLO is that of a Government. Each member of the Executive Committee is responsible for the functioning of his department (political, military, finance, economy, social, education, health). Ideologically the PLO views the struggle of the Palestinian people as a struggle of a colonized population against a form of colonialism known as settler colonialism, and views Israel as a colonial settler State implanted on a part of the Arab national homeland with the active support and sustenance of the European/American system of power. To resolve the question, the Palestinians will have to obtain the support of States that reject colonialism, ideologically, structurally and culturally.
Perhaps the most difficult of the ideological roles is that of a solution to the conflict between Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jews. While affirming that Palestine is the natural homeland of the Palestinian people, that it is part of the Arab national homeland and that the European Jewish settlers were colonial intruders, the PLO recognized the need to address itself to Palestine's Jewish community now constituted as Israel. While as a State based on zionism it is therefore an apartheid State, engaging in violence, oppression and aggression against Palestinians and Arabs, and it must therefore be combated, it is possible for the Jewish people of Palestine to coexist with the Palestinian Arabs peacefully and productively; that coexistence is possible within the framework of a unitary State that is non-confessional, non-ethnic and is premised on full equality of individual rights. That conceptualization became the basis for the democratic non-sectarian State for which the Palestine Liberation Organization has struggled from 1968 onwards. Having elaborated that solution, the Organization recognized the difficulties of its acceptance not only by Israel but by other States as well. Without fully renouncing its as an ideal solution, the PLO elaborated its provisional solution that became the basis for its diplomatic and political initiatives. It articulated the possibility of de facto coexistence of two States on the historic soil of Palestine, one principally Jewish and the other Palestinian Arab. That formulation made it possible to accept General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX) of 1974 affirming the right of the Palestinians to independence and sovereignty in Palestine. While the Palestine National Councils of 1977 and 1981 went further in their explicit acceptance of the principle of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza, the PLO in fact never abandoned the principle of a democratic non-sectarian State in Palestine as the basis for an enduring and just peace between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews.
Another important historic role which the PLO played is essentially political/diplomatic. On the national (Palestinian) level, the PLO mobilized the Palestinian people themselves towards the goal of national liberation, encouraged the political functioning of Palestinians regardless of local conditions and assisted in articulating the political struggle of the Palestinians under Israel's control. Furthermore, the PLO's principal political struggle, particularly between 1967 and 1974, was to assume the primacy not only in identifying Palestinian national goals but additionally in wresting the right of representing the Palestinians from others and in maintaining its independent decision making. It should be obvious by now that the PLO largely succeeded in accomplishing both, although its primacy and independence are occasionally challenged by a hostile power. Thus when the Arab States extended recognition to the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians, they signified that the PLO had become the sole national authority of the Palestinians and the authoritative allocator of values. It was subsequent to the Rabat summit recognition that the international system excepting the United States and a number of West European Powers recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
It was this national, regional and international consensus that was ratified by the United Nations when it extended its observer status to the PLO and when it accepted the principle of PLO participation in all United Nations conferences on the question of Palestine on a footing of complete equality with all other States involved in that question. Thus when international initiatives for peace are launched by the United Nations, it is usual for the United Nations to call for the participation of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Through its diplomatic/informational missions abroad and through special missions and conferences, the PLO has utilized its political legitimacy to mobilize diplomatic support for its policy of national liberation and peace. Thus, beginning in 1969 when the United Nations defined the struggle of the Palestinian people as a struggle of a colonized people like the struggle of the African people in South Africa and through its efforts in the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the socialist system, the PLO has been reasonably successful in obtaining the sympathy and support of the majority of States and peoples of the world. An important index of this support is the repeated affirmative votes of the majority of Member States in the United Nations for Palestinian rights, of the extension of political, economic, military, educational and cultural support which many States Arab, Asian and socialist extend to the Palestinian people through the PLO. In short, it would be inconceivable for the vast Afro Asian and socialist support for the Palestinians to be extended without the crucial political/diplomatic role which the PLO has played over the past two decades.
It is precisely because the PLO has played these comprehensive state/government, ideological and political/diplomatic roles that it maintains its legitimacy with its constituency the Palestinians who stand firmly with it as their sole legitimate representative. The fact that the Palestinians reject any idea of associating any other authority with the PLO as the interlocutor for their policy of peace through national liberation testifies identity and representation. The eventual realization of these goals necessitates the variety of roles which the PLO will continue to play nationally, regionally and internationally.
So much for the role in the political and the militant and infrastructure as well as organizational fields of development. But there are other fields such as education, health and economic structures. Palestinian freedom fighters. A project to self help of the children and families of Palestinian martyrs was started on a small scale but developed into a major project known as SAMEDI The aims have been defined as "to ensure a respectable life with dignity through work opportunities". The project aims first at establishing a factory or a workshop in each and every refugee camp, but developed into providing vocational training and co-operative institutions. The output developed into a major production line that sought and found outlets where the products could be marketed. A carpentry shop for example exports its produce to a number of States in the region and overseas. This developed into an industrial production line that made it necessary to regulate trade with a number of States through the signing of trade agreements.
As the Palestinians feel proud of the high percentage of university graduates, SAMED proceeded to enlist the experts in the different fields to help in the development of agriculture, poultry, husbandry, cattle breeding and dairy produce in a number of developing countries. A number of Palestinian medical doctors are contributing and working in many developing States. It should be recalled that as a result of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, SAMED suffered losses in investments totalling 142 million LL, nearly $50 million, at the then current rate of exchange. In Lebanon, SAMED used to export 90 per cent of its products which ensured for the country much needed hard currency in addition to providing work for both Palestinians and Lebanese workers.
Through special channels, SAMED is providing opportunities for work to Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. Handicrafts produced there are marketed almost worldwide through SAMED. This helps the Palestinians to remain in their homeland and frustrate and defeat the Israeli plans to force them to evacuate.
In a word, SAMED is an economic expression of the Palestinian people, a network and constitutes an aspect in the economic development of the Palestinian people.
Health. In his reports to the General Assembly, the Commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) gives credit to the role of the Palestine Red Crescent Association, an integral part of a national liberation movement, the health aspect is a responsibility and a duty. The Palestine Red Crescent Association, an integral part of the PLO, was established in 1968 to provide medical attention to the masses of our people in the refugee camps. This developed into a major process of enlisting the services of medical doctors, nursing staff, administering of their own hospitals, providing specialized medical attention, surgery, maternity, child care, dentistry, orthopaedic and other services. To those freedom fighters and the innocent victims of Israeli aggression, special surgery was performed and arms and legs were provided to those who had lost their limbs. In Beirut, the Palestine Red Crescent Association administered the Laga Hospital, the Akka Hospital, as well as Ramleh Physical Therapy Centre, the Ramallah Gynecology and Obstetrics Clinic and the Nazareth Infant Hospital, in addition to the Haifa Health and Social Training Centre.
In South Lebanon, the Palestine Red Crescent Association established near Sidon the Jerusalem Medical City with a specialized surgery centre and a nurses' training college. Hospitals and medical centres were established in Tyre, Nahatiyeh, Damour, Barr Elias, Baalbek. All these hospitals provided almost free medical treatment to all Palestinians and non-Palestinians alike.
In the Syrian Arab Republic, in Egypt and in Jordan, the Palestine Red Crescent Association runs hospitals and dental clinics in different cities and provinces.
This is what the PLO views as its role in the social development of the Palestinian people.
Finally, the PLO considers education as the most important investment and obligation. Schools are provided all over the locales of the diaspora. Scholarships, fellowships and financial aid are provided to Palestinians wishing to further their education and learning. In the occupied Palestinian territory, one of our main concerns is to help the schools and universities in fall operation despite the repressive Israeli measures to close down these schools and haul down the students. Furthermore, the PLO knows its duty to provide work and sustenance for the students, teachers and the graduates so they can remain in their own homes, and to defeat the Israeli plan to empty the land of Palestine of the Palestinian human element.
The Zionist slogan was that "Palestine was a land without a people" but when the Palestinian people demonstrated their presence and deep and strong attachment to their land, the Zionist policy now is to make Palestine "a kind without the Palestinian people", but we are determined to stand firm and we shall win.
C. The question of Palestine and African public opinion
1. Bukar Bukarembe, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs
Besides its moral rectitude the question of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people is still perceived from different perspectives. This is a factor of the felt sense of identification with the Palestinian people and the territories in question. That is to say, beyond objective recognition and acceptance of the rights of the Palestinian people, there are additional factors which make the issue more poignant to some even among the committed. This, for example, is true of the Arab States which constitute the first concentric circle of the Palestinian people under the banner of pan-Arabism. An added sense of racial and socio cultural affinities not only enjoins but even mandates the Arab States (at least in part) to assume a more significant role in the pursuit of Palestinian rights.1/ Their alignment in the Arab Israeli conflict since 1948 attests to that. Under this gradation, other States post their commitment either alone (e.g. the super Powers or in concert (e.g.the African States).
Among the African States, a distinction can be made between the Arab and sub Saharan States. In all attributes, the former fall under the Arab banner. As such they are both enjoined and mandated and are therefore integral to the Palestinian endeavour. The latter group, on the other hand, are enthused by another set of factors that are complimentary without being identical.
First, there is the factor of the Afro Arab composition of the African continent. This signifies the intersection of pan-Africanism and panArabism as reflected in the membership of OAU and the Arab League. From the geographical reality of the two systems 2/ stems a certain sense of community feeling and shared aspirations. Thus, the Palestinian question acquires a sub Saharan African dimension through OAU, The position of the organization as a collective forum makes the endeavour of either a single member State or a set of member States the legitimate concern of all the rest.
This is reinforced by the second factor i.e. colonial experience and the similarities between Israel and apartheid South Africa as defined within the framework of two regional or systemic conflicts. For some member states, this has an ideological undertone as well. Both Israel and South Africa are seen as imperial outposts which serve the interests of the United States and Western European metropolitan centres by proxy. Thus, the pursuit of inalienable rights African against apartheid South Africa and Palestinian against Israel unites Arabs and Africans. This is increasingly strengthened by the growing co-operation between Israel and South Africa, especially in the military field. 3/
Third, there is the less systemic but still complementary factor derived from the membership of some African States in bodies like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Islamic Bank. 4/ This strengthens the sense of identification for the States involved by providing another positive reason. Within the sub systems, the impact is created through the increase in the number of States with more felt sense of obligation.
And fourth, since 1973, increase in oil wealth has given the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) sufficient financial capacity to engage in project financing in sub Saharan Africa, bilaterally and through institutions like the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA). 5/ Over the years, this has served to generate economic co-operation between many African and Arab States.
In the process, that created an economic stake which increased anew the efficacy of political co-operation. In effect, it tends to give the systemic factors additional power by forming new structures.
Collectively, these constitute the strands upon which African public opinion is formed. As such it is articulated mainly at the government level. The attitude towards the Palestinian question forms part of the national outlook through the combination of these interrelated factors. Hence the policies are smoothly co-ordinated in forums like OAU and other international organizations. Non-governmental involvement tends to be low generally. Where it appears, it is mostly governed by sentimental and religious views. In a given country some citizens or groups might cast the belligerents along Christian (Israel) and Muslim (Arab) lines and identify with either one on the basis of their own beliefs. The greatest impact of that is in opinion formation as to what the official policy of a country should be towards the Middle East conflict and how long the boycott of Israel would continue. 6/
In form, such non-governmental involvement tends to be latent and subordinate to the core factors that constitute the structure of Afro Arab relations. So much so that its inspiration and mass appeal are often linked to the judgement of Arab attitude towards the core factors. In essence, this signifies a pattern of expectation and endearment engendered by a sense of shared interests. Where Arab behaviour is deemed to be contrary to the spirit of the shared interests, then disenchantment leads to debates evaluating the relationship. This does not need a concerted Arab action to inspire it. Rather it depends on the context of the action e.g. perceived Arab support for Eritrea and Somalia as part of a design to Arabize the Red Sea. 7/
But in terms of orienting State policy, Cairo's initiative of November 1977 which led to the Egypt Israeli peace treaty has been the most significant. Largely on account of that, Liberia and Zaire reversed themselves and re established diplomatic relations with Israel which were severed in unison in the wake of the October 1973 war. 8/ In many States that has rekindled debates as to whether Egypt's peace policy has not relieved others of their obligations. But Arab rejection of the. Camp David accords and Egypt's failure to score any substantial progress in its peace drive helped to sustain African solidarity.
In effect this establishes two points. First, the primacy of the core factors in shaping African opinion and attitudes towards the Palestinian question. And second, how solidarity within the Arab ranks (or lack of it) would affect African behaviour towards the Palestinian question. This point derives from the fact that the Arabs constitute the first concentric circle of the Palestinian people. And to those like the sub Saharan African States, operating at secondary or tertiary levels, there is a tendency to judge themselves from observed Arab behaviour.
Thus the outlook of African public opinion towards the Palestinian question depends on the cross currents within the Middle East theatre. There are two dimensions to that. First the attitude of Israel towards the resolution of the conflict. Victory in successive wars has put Israel in a situation where it has to give up its gains (i.e. spoils) in order to create a lasting peace. This involves what would constitute Israel's borders, how much of occupied territories would be returned and how far the Palestinian question would be resolved. These, along with how Israel handles its relation with apartheid South Africa, would continue to determine African perception of Israel, especially in terms of how fair it is. And second, how the Arab States show unity and co-ordinate their policies in the search for peace and the resolution of the Palestinian question. The resilience of panArabism as observed from the pattern of inter Arab relations will be a strong determinant in the orientation of African public opinion. There is always the potential that discord among Arab States would have ripple effects on African public opinion. The crisis within the PLO, the Hussein Arafat initiative which is largely outside the Arab framework, conflicts in the Maghreb and the Persian Gulf and the network of sour relations between a number of Arab States can all be viewed against this background. In as much as they pose a threat to concerted Arab action towards the resolution of the Palestinian question, then they are also a source of breaking up a united African front.
1/ On the strengths and weaknesses of pan Arabian, see: Gaul Abdul Nasser, the Philosophy of the Revolution (English Edition, Buffalo 1959); Fouad Ajami, "The End of Pan Arabian." Foreign Affairs, Winter, 1978/79.
2/ On the nature of the trans-Saharan definition of pan-Africanism, see: All A. Mazrui, Africa's International Relations. The Diplomacy of Dependence and Change. (London: Heinemann Books, 1979) P. 68.
3/ See James Adams, Israel and South Africa. The Unnatural Alliance (London. Quartet Books 1984). See also The Middle East (London), April 1981 pp. 27-30, and May 1983, pp. 30-32.
4/ For a list of African members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Islamic Bank, see: The Middle East and North Africa, 1984-85 (London. Europa Publications Ltd.), pp.1196 and 204.
5/ Anthony Syvester, Arabs and Africans Co-operation for Development. (London. Bodley Head Ltd. 1981); see also, The Middle East (London) June 1983, pp. 42-46, and West Africa (London) 6 June 1983, p. 1347.
6/ Such, for example, was the debate in Nigeria under the Second Republic, 1979-1983.
7/ Said S. Samatar, "The New Imperial Rivalry in Africa: America and Russia in the Recent Crisis of the Horn." The Pan-Africanist (Evanston, Illinois) No. 8, July 1919, P. 43.
8/ The Middle East (London) January 1985, p. 37. Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland did not join the general boycott. With Liberia and Zaire, this brings the number black African States having diplomatic relations with Israel to five.
2. Mr. Al Diallo, Under-Secretary-General,
Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU)
African workers and their trade unions have always demonstrated their solidarity with all Peoples struggling for freedom, independence and national sovereignty. This solidarity is based on the fact that the struggles the African peoples and workers have engaged in to win independence and dignity are identical in nature. In this upsurge of solidarity, trade unions have played and continue to play a leading role. The struggle being waged by the peoples and workers of Palestine has always aroused the broadest sympathy in Africa and has given birth to a powerful movement of solidarity.
Since its establishment at Addis Ababa in 1973, OATUU has constantly and vigorously demonstrated, in many ways, the solidarity of African workers which we regard as a natural duty with the workers of Palestine and the valiant Palestinian people. The OATUU Charter unequivocally proclaims that the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, racism, apartheid and zionism remains one of the organization's fundamental objectives. In addition to this position of principle, the collaboration and many sided co-operation between the regime of the Zionist State of Israel and the white racist and fascist minority in Pretoria are legitimate justifications for the solidarity of African workers and their trade unions with the people and workers of Palestine under the leadership of the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In this respect it is appropriate to recall that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a whole series of resolutions which rightly identify apartheid, racism and zionism as crimes against mankind.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU), for its part, has adopted many resolutions whose practical implementation has taken the form of breaking off diplomatic relations between Israel and the vast majority of African States.
Main expressions of solidarity
It has become standard practice in OATUU to include the question of solidarity with Palestine in the agenda of all meetings of its statutory bodies (Congress, General Council, sessions of the Executive Committee). Thus all our Congresses, held every four years, and all the sessions of the General Council and the Executive Committee, held annually, have adopted resolutions which reaffirm the solidarity of African workers and their trade unions with Palestine. The implementation of these resolutions has enabled OATUU and its member organizations to undertake and participate in numerous initiatives for Palestine at the African, Afro Arab and international levels. These activities include:
(a) International Trade Union Conference on Solidarity with the Peoples and Workers of Southern Africa and Palestine. Held on the occasion of the ceremonies to mark the tenth anniversary of OATUU, at Addis Ababa in April 1983, this demonstration of solidarity was attended by the vast majority African national central trade union organizations, OAU, the Arab Labour Organization, the International Labour Office and many national, regional and international trade union organizations from other continents. It was an occasion for the international trade union movement to renew its full support for the workers and peoples of South Africa, Namibia and Palestine. The Conference called for the stepping up of the international solidarity campaign and for the complete isolation of the apartheid and Zionist regimes, which constitute a severe threat to international peace and security;
(b) Exchanges of delegations between OATUU and the Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions. In implementation of the resolutions adopted by OATUU bodies and of our co-operation agreements, regular exchanges of delegations take place between OATUU and the Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions. These visits culminated in the meeting at Tunis in December 1983 between Comrade Denis Akumu, Secretary-General of OATUU, and brother. lesser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO;
c) Afro Arab co-operation. By reason of their common objectives and the solidarity that is required in the struggle against apartheid and zionism, the fruitful co-operation between OATUU on the one hand and the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and the Arab Labour Organization on the other is constantly marked by demonstrations of solidarity with the peoples and workers of southern Africa and Palestine. A number of Arab African workshops, symposia, conferences and seminars have been held, notably at Algiers in 1983, at Luanda and Harare in 1984, etc.
OAU and the Arab League should, for their part, do everything possible to give impetus to this Afro Arab co-operation, so needed at a time when, on the one hand, the minority white racist apartheid regime has proclaimed a state of emergency and is stepping up its repressive measures and violence against the African majority, and on the other hand the Israeli Zionist entity is increasing its acts of provocation and terrorism in the occupied Arab territories;
(d) Participation in international demonstrations of solidarity. OATUU plays an active part in all solidarity initiatives organized at the international level. At each annual session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, OATUU has supported all draft resolutions and all initiatives for Palestine which condemn the violations of human and trade union rights in the occupied Arab territories. What is more, thanks to action by OATUU in co-operation with all progressive trade union organizations, the Israeli workers' delegation lost its seat in the ILO Governing Council in the June 1984 elections.
Prospects for solidarity with Palestine
Today, certainly, African workers are facing immense difficulties, and our continent is going through one of the most critical periods in its history. Famine, disease, unemployment, economic recession, deteriorating terms of trade, debt, desertification and drought all these are problems which impede our development, not forgetting the colonialist and racist oppression, domination and exploitation in South Africa and Namibia.
But this difficult situation must in no way impair the spirit of solidarity with struggling peoples, particularly in southern Africa and Palestine. It must indeed be strongly emphasized that the underlying causes of the deteriorating international political and economic situation are the persistence of colonialist and imperialist domination and exploitation of the peoples of the third world, the drive for maximum profits by monopolies and transnational corporations, the continued existence of and increase in areas of tension, the arms race, etc.
Faced with this dangerous and complex situation whose negative feedback is blocking the process of political liberation and economic development and creating a feeling of being turned in on themselves, the workers and their trade unions, battle hardened by their experiences in the struggle and firmly cast in the mould of solidarity, must mobilize themselves more fully than in the past to take up the challenge and bear high the banner of co-operation and solidarity.
The proofs of the satanic alliance and diabolic co-operation between the racist apartheid regime and the Zionist State of Israel, with the active complicity of the transnational corporations and the forces of reaction in the Western countries, are sufficiently well known, and must activate workers' reflexes of solidarity to thwart the plans and actions of the enemies and exploiters of peoples.
OATUU, embodying the deep seated aspirations of the peoples and workers of Africa, advocates the stepping up of solidarity with Palestine and the search for just, lasting and acceptable solutions to the Middle East crisis based on recognition of the lawful and inalienable right of Palestinian people to create•on their own soil an independent sovereign State under the leadership of the PLO.
Our organization calls for greater mobilization of all peace loving forces to denounce the crimes of the Zionists, demand the release of all prisoners, condemn the establishment of settlements and force a withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories. We appeal to all Governments, particularly those of the Western world which support Israel and the apartheid regime in South Africa, to put an end to that support and implement the United Nations resolutions, for these two regimes constitute a threat to peace, security and détente.
While welcoming the measures and actions taken by the United Nations and its specialized agencies, we suggest that NGO participation in the activities of specialist bodies such as the Committee against Apartheid, and the Division for Palestinian Rights should 'be intensified.
We wish the work of this Symposium every success, and hope that recommendations will emerge from our meetings which will help to stimulate on the part of the international community and boost solidarity with the peoples of southern Africa and Palestine.
3. Mr. Bara Diouf, Director,
"Le Soleil", Dakar
I. FROM THE BRITISH MANDATE TO THE UNITED NATIONS EFFORTS:
A HISTORICAL SURVEY
The question of Palestine, brought before the United Nations in 1947, continues to mobilize the community of nations. It affords an excellent illustration of the difficulties the defunct League of Nations had to face. Unable to find a just solution to the Middle East after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, the League had no other solution than to entrust the administration of Palestine, in 1922, to the United Kingdom. Since then, the question of Palestine, an extension of the Eastern question (the secret Sykes Picot agreement), 1/ has not evolved in a satisfactory manner.
By undertaking, in the declaration made by Lord Balfour, then Foreign Secretary, to promote the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, Great Britain was not only to permit a change in the demographic reality, but also to lay the foundations for the State of Israel under pressure from the world Zionist Organization. With the massive immigration of Jews (from 9 per cent it 1917, the Jewish population rose in 1948 to 35 per cent of the total population) and the introduction of weapons, another colonization of Palestine was to be put into effect.
History will recall that, after the refusal of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab States to recognize the validity of the partition, 2/ the mandatory Power declined all responsibility for the maintenance of public order and completed its withdrawal on 15 May 1948, leaving Palestine prey to chaos, immediately after the proclamation of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948.
From that year onwards, Israel Was to strengthen its territorial base. At the same time, the Palestinians were driven from their land and massacred under the complaisant eye of the great Powers which, according to Lord Balfour, had made commitments to the World Zionist Organization. 3/
The violation of the status of Jerusalem as a corpus separatism, the occupation of Arab territories, especially after the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, the massacres committed in Bourj El Barajneh and in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in 1982 and the obsession with a "final solution", all constitute proof of Israel's constantly reaffirmed will to flout the universal. conscience of mankind.
Faithful to this policy since the birth of its State. Israel tramples under foot the principles of international law, violates the Charter of the United Nations, constitutes a destabilizing element in the Middle East and poses a serious threat to world peace.
The United Nations, seized with the Palestine issue at a particularly unfavourable time, has never had elbow room. From the first meeting of the General Assembly on the subject, on 2 April 1947, to the meetings of the Security Council, many resolutions have been adopted.
It is as if, in order to salve their conscience after the holocaust, the pogroms and the persecutions to which the Jews were subjected in Europe, most of the Western countries had a moral obligation to cover up for Israel's crimes. The solicitous attitude towards the Hebrew State, the East West confrontation and the repeated violations of the Charter of the United Nations slow the impetus of the United Nations in its patient quest for a solution.
The constancy with which the community of nations seeks to make Israel admit the legitimate claims of the Palestinian, people must nevertheless be commended.
The establishment in 1975 of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, under the chairmanship of my country, the invitation to Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole and authentic representative of the Palestinian people, to make a historic address to the General Assembly in 1975, the granting of observer status to the PLO. the creation in 1949 of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the granting to Palestinians of the status of a sovereign people and not of refugees, and the holding of international conferences on Palestine, among other initiatives, demonstrate the will of the United Nations to contribute to the satisfaction of the just claims of the Palestinian people.
Its efforts have not been reciprocated. Tension is increasing in the region. Each manoeuvre to postpone a negotiable solution to the conflict is reflected in the increased arrogance of the Israeli Government, which is pursuing the genocide of the Palestinian people with unrivalled cynicism.
The olive branch in one hand, the freedom fighter's gun in the other. In his resounding address to the United Nations General Assembly, in New York almost within sight of the Statue of Liberty, Yasser Arafat requested the world assembled at the glass palace in Manhattan not to let the olive branch, the symbol of peace, fall from his hand.
We must recognize today that the only alternative open to this martyred and peace loving people is to fight to regain their sovereignty.
Why, then, should we be surprised that the men and women of Africa, who are suffering from the cancer of apartheid in their flesh and have lived through the misrule of the colonial order, should show great sympathy for the Palestinian people?
Before giving you the benefit of my reflections on African public opinion's relation to the question of Palestine, let me say a few words about that opinion.
I will not seek to define its status, but I wish to assert here that this public opinion, taken in its primary sense of a set of viewpoints, awareness of particular problems, judgements and assessments, has always existed in our societies. Diffuse and versatile like public opinion everywhere, it cannot be reduced to what some people, with cultural condescension, call the African "bush telegraph".
It is not fragmentary as it is in the West, where the claims of cultural minorities introduce into human behaviour the reflexes of autonomous groups.
In comparison with Western public opinion, it admittedly plays a lesser role, but this is due less to its inability to make its voice heard than to the difficulty it encounters in finding a framework within which to express itself.
II. AFRICAN PUBLIC OPINION AND THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE
In the motivations underlying African public opinion with regard to the question of Palestine, a number of dimensions have to be taken into account. I will deal with two: the political dimension and the religious and cultural dimension.
A. The political dimension
One of the foundations of the awareness of African public opinion about the question of Palestine lies in the complicity between Israel and South Africa.
The similarities between zionism and apartheid are indeed striking. They rest on three constants: repression, occupation and expansionism. To apply their policy, Pretoria and Tel Aviv resort to murder, assassination and genocide.
The persecuted outcasts of yesteryear have become today's tormentors of the peoples of Palestine and southern Africa. The collusion between Israel and South Africa is apparent at the diplomatic level.(collaboration in 'major international bodies), the military level Israel co-operates closely with South Africa in the nuclear field, in training, in arms supply and in information) and the economic level. Trade between these two countries is increasing. South African exports to Israel amounted in 1983 to more than $180 million, and Israel channels products manufactured in South Africa into the European market).
Israel's founding fathers sought, moreover, with the help of resources supplied by the World Zionist Organization, to give the Jewish people a destiny in conformity with, their view of history. This is the foundation for the renaissance of Eretz Israel, the third kingdom of David extending from the Nile to the Euphrates. For his part, Malan, the spiritual guide of the Afrikaner world, emphasized that the installation of the Afrikaners in South Africa was divinely ordained, and that their history was the greatest masterwork of the centuries. Through the bantustan policy (the Bantu Land Act) and the reservations law, the white minority has indeed carved out a vast territory for itself.
The attention of African public opinion was caught above all by the attempt of the proponents of zionism and apartheid to give their doctrine a religious foundation drawing on Calvin and Protestantism and on Zion and the Torah.
In the one case as in the other, theoreticians of zionism A/ and apartheid have sought to justify their policy, if necessary by falsification and by mixing heterogeneous elements. The fanaticism of people like Rabbi Kahane and the integrating effect of a certain understanding of the religious facts have done the rest.
This search for a religious justification could ultimately prove distracting if other facts did not enlighten opinion as to the colonial nature of the two entities.
It was the same colonial Power, the United Kingdom, which decided in 1910 in South Africa to grant political rights and the best land to the white South Africans, to the exclusion of the blacks. Lord Balfour was at the time colonial minister.
In 1917, the same Lord Balfour gave his name to the declaration which authorized the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Now, 68 and 75 years later respectively, in South Africa and Namibia as in Palestine, men and women are fighting to regain their rights.
B. The religious and cultural dimensions
Religious and cultural factors play a large part in forming African public opinion with regard to the question of Palestine.
Apart from the fact that Africa,. the northern part of which is Arab, is immediately adjacent to the Middle East where the struggle of the Palestinian people is taking place, the common membership of the black and Arab Muslim communities in the Islamic Ummah, the links between Christians in Palestine and those in Africa and the increasingly fruitful relations between Christians and Muslims engaged in the Islamo-Christian dialogue create support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people for the full exercise of their rights.
This strong sympathy which African Muslims and Christians feel for the martyred people of Palestine finds a focal point in the occupation of the holy city of Jerusalem (Al-Quds al-Sharif to Muslims) by Israel, which has made the city its eternal capital.
Common to the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem was according to General Assembly resolution 181(II) on the partition to constitute a corpus separatum under a special international regime and to be administered by the United Nations Security Council for an initial period of 10 years.
The Israeli Government has not contented itself with violating the international status of the city. It has restricted the freedom of worship and permitted the desecration of the holy places. Supported by the Israeli Cabinet, Jewish extremists trained in the methods of the Haganah, Irgun and Stern gang terrorists who made themselves notorious during the British Mandate have set fire to the Al Aqsa mosque and committed murders in the Dome of the Rock and in the Omar mosque in this same city of Jerusalem.
These barbaric acts had a profound impact on the community of believers in Africa. They afforded the religious communities a telling example of how Israel behaves, and have succeeded in creating a negative image of the Jewish people.
On another level, the common fate in recent times of Arabs, Jews and blacks, 6/ persecuted as no other race has been from the origin of mankind up to the present day, strengthens the condemnation by African public opinion of the racist practices of the Israeli regime.
How can a people which has had to suffer from racism, and during its wanderings throughout the world has lived a miserable existence in ghettos, now, as the twentieth century draws to a close, turn the same weapons against its companions in misfortune? Indeed, Africans formerly held Jews in high esteem. The Jewish community's hard working qualities, its moral strength and its organizing ability won the hearts of African combatants on the European front during the two world wars.
Jews, Africans and Arabs have lived together in perfect harmony in north Africa, where Jewish communities have grown up in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Ethiopia. 7/
Let us also recall that Afro Americans, who in 1947 were in favour of the establishment of a Jewish State and were mindful of the role played by Ralph Bunche 8/ in the conclusion of the Israeli Arab truce of 1949, stepped up their support for the Palestinians following the resignation of the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Andrew Young. 9/
Thus African public opinion is responsive to the Palestinian cause for many reasons. most significant among which are the similarity between the question of Palestine and the question of southern Africa, the collusion between Israel and South Africa and the religious and cultural dimension of the problem.
It has understood and this is important that the question of Palestine comes down to the struggle of a people fraught by various feelings to regain its rights to self determination and independence. In this fight for freedom, the people of Palestine can count on the support of African public opinion. This solidarity is all the stronger in that southern Africa and Palestine are the rare cases on which unanimity exists. The parties in power as well as those in opposition, the managerial class, the working class and the peasantry, in short African men and women in all walks of life, are of one accord when it comes to defending these causes which they regard as sacred.
III. THE IMPACT OF RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS ON AFRICAN PUBLIC OPINION
Before reviewing the impact of the resolutions and recommendations adopted by international organizations on African public opinion, permit me to make a few remarks on the support of African States for the Palestinian cause. 10/
Africa was until recently the most solid bloc in the support for the Palestinian people and the rejection of all forms of collaboration with Israel. With the developments that have taken place since the signing of the Camp David agreements (1978), the resumption of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel and between Zaire, Liberia and Israel, and the discreet but real opening up of certain countries to Israel, the bloc which was formed following the Yom Kippur and Ramadan war 11/ is showing cracks for various reasons, the most fundamental of which lies in the fact that support for the Palestinian cause has not often been extended on the basis of clearly defined principles.
Surprise has been expressed, though wrongly so, that a country like Senegal should show the firmest support for the. Palestinian country (Senegal was the first African country south of the. Sahara to open, on 1 November 1972, an office of the Palestine Liberation Organization) 12/ and is regarded as the leader of the group of countries opposed to any resumption of relations with the Hebrew State.
Senegal's position is clear. My country does not contemplate any resumption of relations with the Hebrew State as long as Israel fails to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State on their territory. On the basis of, among other texts, General Assembly resolution 1514(XV) on the right of peoples to self determination, and of the justice of the Palestinian people's struggle for recognition of all their inalienable national rights, Senegal is constant in its position. The countries members of the United Nations, respecting this attitude' which reason dictates, have demonstrated their esteem for Senegal by requesting it to fill the chairmanship of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People since it was established.
Unlike Senegal and the vast majority of African States, other countries on our continent, arguing from the fact that Egypt has re established links with Israel, have exchanged ambassadors with Tel Aviv, taking care however to specify that their recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people maintained. It is not for us to pass judgement on the policy of sovereign States. However, in the service of truth, we must state that African public opinion questions the underlying motives for such decisions. It notes with disappointment that these. States have not been able to induce Israel to take account of the rights of the Palestinian people, still less to put an end to its policy of aggression.
This same public opinion realizes that Israel has a very good deal going for it. Without changing its policy by one iota, it is reducing its isolation and creating division. Indeed, new trends towards the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and the African countries have begun to appear in certain sectors of opinion.
Moreover, the division of the Arab world into moderates and hard liners still confuses opinion, which does not understand why, on such a vital question which constitutes the key to any solution of the Middle East conflict, the Arab world should hesitate to use its economic power and its political force in the concrete service of this cause. The Camp David agreements which opened up this breach by separating the largest Arab country from its brothers also remain, in the eyes of African public opinion, an unfortunate initiative. Egypt, it feels, has paid too much and received, in terms of the exercise of the rights of the Palestinian people whose most ardent defender it was, absolutely nothing.
It has also been thought that the relative slackening of support for the Palestinian people by certain African States and by public opinion is due in large part to the stumbling nature of Arab African co-operation.
This is clearly to misstate the problem, to reduce to mere bargaining an act of solidarity which is rooted in the great and noble tradition of Afro Asian solidarity dating from Bandung in 1955. The relations between Africa and the Palestinian people are above all a matter of human solidarity, an alliance in the. national liberation enterprise the third world is engaged in.
This solidarity is particularly apparent in international bodies in the adoption of relevant resolutions and recommendations for the imposition of sanctions against Israel.
African public opinion welcomes these initiatives. It sees in them the constantly reaffirmed will of the United Nations to ring down the curtain on the drama of the Palestinian people. The United Nations has neglected no aspect of this question, be it the full exercise of the rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent sovereign State in Palestine, the right to return, the right to education, etc.
But adopting resolutions and proposing sanctions. whether at the level of the United Nations. its specialized agencies, OAU, 13/ the League of Arab States or the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries or of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, is one thing. Implementing them is another.
African public opinion is increasingly doubtful about the effectiveness of the resolutions. Noting Israel's arrogance and the scorn it affects after the vote on a resolution or the elaboration of a peace plan, 14/ it asks the question whether, with the intemperate exercise of the right of veto by the protectors of the Hebrew State, a solution is in sight.
How can we help the international organizations, particularly the United .Nations, to implement the decisions that are adopted?
The answer to this question is certainly not to be found at the level of the United Nations which, given the dynamics of its operating procedures, has already exhausted its possibilities; rather, it lies in public opinion in those countries which in the Security Council, through the protective measures of every kind with which they surround Israel, have brought the question of Palestine to deadlock.
It is appropriate first to emphasize that African public opinion generally retains the advantage over public opinion in the West in that it has to deal with Governments who are totally devoted to the Palestinian cause.
As an advocate of the Palestinian cause, African public opinion has, however, to date confined itself to supporting the African Governments which have come forward as defenders of Palestinian legitimacy, denouncing Israel and demonstrating its militant sympathy with the freedom fighters in the Middle East.
It is, however, capable of mole, if it is given the chance. The opportunities for this exist not in inter State relations, weighed down by ideological burdens and often distorted by the protection of special interests, but among men of goodwill.
African public opinion has come to the conviction that the solution to the problem is to be found largely in Western capitals, where the importance of public opinion and its ability to influence significantly the course pursued by Governments with an eye to their election prospects is well acknowledged.
Why, then, should it not reach out to Western public opinion by making more judicious use of the outstanding platform offered by the media, those crossroads of ideas which have made a decisive contribution to the awareness Africans have gained of the daily reality of the people of Palestine?
African newspapers could, for example, launch together with Arab, Israeli and Western newspapers forums along the lines of the world press supplement.
In this way journalists and readers could engage in useful dialogue and gradually induce Western public opinion to show firmer support for the Palestinian cause.
To make support for the Palestinian people more cohesive, the supporters of its just struggle would also benefit from organizing themselves into loose knit structures which might take the form of associations for friendship with Palestine, social organizations and committees like SOS Palestine twinned with organizations pursuing the same objectives in the West.
Through such mechanisms, Western public opinion could press more strongly its insistent request to the United States Government, Israel's main ally, that it hold talks with the PLO. 16/
The great American people, with its feeling for the exercise of human rights, and the West, which has distinguished itself by its attachment to the defence of freedoms in Chile and in the people's democracies and by its indulgence towards Israel and the Republic of South Africa, could also have their awareness enhanced through these great links of human solidarity.
Action aimed at the West should also be prolonged, sustained and oriented towards the Arab world, even if the difficulty in this part of the world lies in the near absence of public opinion in certain States.
But where public opinion does make itself felt, action could be undertaken to break down the artificial barriers which divide the Arab world and do great harm to the just struggle of the Palestinian people.
Within the framework of these linkages between African and Arab associations, the initiatives to be taken might comprise, apart from organizing campaigns of support with the active backing of the media, the preparation of memorandums to Governments, approaches to the United States authorities, to organizations in Israel like the "Peace Now" movement and to the Israeli authorities, and the establishment of a solidarity fund to support the struggles of the Palestinian people and the freedom fighters in southern Africa.
By virtue of its great understanding of the drama the Palestinian people is living through, African public opinion is capable of helping solve the problem. It has the will to do so. It is available. The absence of a structural framework through which it can. give expression to this ardour for the defence of just causes is its only handicap.
Imbued with the spirit of Bandung which set the seal on Afro Asian solidarity, and devoted to the principles of non-alignment and Arab African solidarity, it is ready to take its place alongside those States which are working to find a solution which will preserve peace in the Middle East, in southern Africa and throughout the world.
1/ The victorious allies had decided by the Sykes Picot agreement of 1916 to assign the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire to various European spheres of influence ("The international status of the Palestinian people", United Nations, No. 36248, 1980); this agreement was made public by the Soviet Government after the 1917 revolution.
2/ By resolution 181(II), adopted by a two thirds majority as is required for important questions, the General Assembly recommended the United Kingdom as the Mandatory Power, and to all other Members of the United Nations, the adoption and application of the Plan of Partition of Palestine into two independent States, which were not specifically named, but were referred to in the resolution as "the Jewish State" and "the Arab State", together with a "special international regime for the town of Jerusalem.
3/ Almost at the same time., the U.K. Government had entered into commitments with the Arab leaders concerning the independence of their peoples after the War in exchange for their support against the Ottomans. Where Palestine was concerned, the United Kingdom had asserted that no people would be subject to another. It will also be noted that this declaration had been preceded in 1916 by a resolution adopted unanimously by the South African Jewish Congress of Johannesburg in pursuit of the same objective ("Seventh Seminar on Palestine". Division for Palestinian Rights, United Nations, 1982).
4/ The true meaning of Zion is theological, not political. Balfour was one of the main advocates of white supremacy in South Africa.
5/ Leopold Sedar Senghor, the former Head of State of Senegal, spoke of Arabs, Jews and blacks as a trinity of suffering peoples.
6/ The Falashas, Ethiopian Jews clandestinely repatriated to Israel but not integrated in their new country, have begun to rebel against the discrimination to which they are subject.
7/ A black American who served as Acting Mediator of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine after the assassination of Count Bernadotte.
8/ In 1979, Andrew Young was forced to resign as a result of pressure brought to bear on the Carter Administration by the Jewish lobby after his unauthorized meeting with the PLO Observer to the United Nations, Zehdi Labib Terzi.
9/ Eighteen of the PLO's diplomatic missions in Africa are headed by ambassadors.
10/ The October 1973 war. This war between Israel and Egypt took place at the time when Israel was celebrating Yom Kippur (the Feast of Atonement) and the Muslim were observing the Ramadan fast.
11/ The PLO office in Dakar has been upgraded to an embassy.
12/ Since September 1968, OAU, which has granted the PLO observer status, has constantly hardened its attitude towards Israel. All the resolutions adopted by OAU follow the wording of the most relevant resolutions of the United Nations
13/ The recent Arab summit at Fez drew up an eight point plan designed, inter alia, to settle the question of Palestine.
14/ "Le troisieme millionaire" published since 1979 by Le Soleil in collaboration with 16 major news dailies; this world press supplement enables newspapers as different as LI.lie Warsaw (Poland), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), Le Soleil (Senegal), Le Monde (France) and Politika (Yugoslavia) to engage in a dialogue, every three months, on the basis of articles on selected subjects.
15/ The Amsterdam News, a New York daily, pointed out on 18 August 1979, quoting the words of a public office holder, Mary Pinkett, following Andrew Young's resignation, that the United States which spoke to the Germans during the Second World War, to the Japanese after Pearl Harbour, and to the Vietnamese after the war should be able to talk to the PLO.
4. El Kheidr Saleh El Hamzason,
on behalf of the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization
AAPSO takes pleasure in participating in this Seminar on the Palestinian issue organized by the United Nations at Dakar. Moreover, it gives me pleasure on behalf of the permanent secretariat of AAPSO to express gratitude and esteem for giving our organization the opportunity to take part in this gathering. We also thank Senegal, the host country, for its co-operation for making this meeting a success.
Our organization was requested to prepare a paper on the Palestinian issue and African public opinion; a matter of utmost importance owing to the continuous attempts made by Israel to infiltrate into Africa and try to influence African public opinion by alleging Arab African conflict of interests and stigmatizing established relations between the Arabs and Africans.
Such attempts perpetrated by Israel have met with intense failure. Africa considers that the Palestinian issue is also its own problem.
OAU has reaffirmed this statement on many occasions. We can say also that nearly half of the Arab countries are situated in the African continent and 75 per cent of the Arabs are Africans. The relations between Israel and South Africa have definitely indicated to the Arab African peoples that the Pretoria Tel Aviv axis is the immediate threat which jeopardizes security and stability in Africa and the Arab world.
When dealing with the Palestinian issue and African public opinion, the organic relationship between the racial discrimination system (apartheid) in South Africa and the racist Zionist entity in occupied Palestine must be mentioned since colonialism and imperialism have established these régime to protect their interests in Asia and Africa and to occupy the peoples of these nations with a continuous state of war and tension.
This was evident when relations, under the patronage of American imperialism, developed between Israel and South Africa and their co-operation in political, economic and military fields. Both countries need each other because Pretoria believes that Tel Aviv defends the northern gates of Africa whereas Israel regards that South Africa protects the southern gates of Africa.
The Government of South Africa has always seized the opportunity of announcing its support of Zionist efforts. The following statement was made in September 1926:
"The Government of South Africa which follows with interest and sympathy the efforts of the Zionist Organization to establish a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine wishes it total success and pledges that its government will give its full support through its representative in the League of Nations or by any other means."
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the ruling Federation Party in South Africa collapsed and was replaced by the National Party with fascist ideas and trends and Mr. Vorster became Prime Minister. He was the one to say in 1942 "We believe in Christian nationalism allied to Socialist nationalism which is called in Italy fascism, in Germany nazism and in South Africa Christian nationalism."
Some are amazed at the close co-operation between Israel and South Africa, deceived by the strange insistence to link between hostility to Jews and hostility to Zionists whereas in reality it is quite different. The Zionist movement is basically established on racism,: superiority and discrimination and automatically to serve its interests net with movements and organizations with similar ideology and practice. Hence its relations were established with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and racist South Africa as well as all dictatorships which condone discrimination regardless of policy or course.
It can be said that the racist components of Israel and South Africa appear to be as follows:
(a) Both systems stem from one historical basis which is colonialist settlement policy and which is one of the forms of racism in the service of global imperialism;
(b) Both rest on the psychological basis of racial superiority which attributes particular superiority to one race over mankind. Racial discrimination in South Africa and Palestine are an indication of racial superiority which constitutes the philosophical basis of both systems;
(c) Practices perpetrated by both entities lead to one conclusion namely racism. While South Africa carries out its apartheid policy which depends on racial categorization of the inhabitants and geographical division of races giving total priority to the white minority over the black majority, Israel evicts Palestinian inhabitants from their country and seizes their lands.
Thus the organic relationship between both racial entities is clear as well as their aggressive intentions against the peoples of Palestine and South Africa particularly Namibia and against the Arab African peoples in general. However, both regimes could not have lasted and could not have continued their racist, expansionist and aggressive policies in violating human rights had it not been for the unconditional support given by American imperialism at all political, economic, military, information and technical levels.
Under such circumstances it is only natural that Arab African efforts and sentiments should unite in the face of this common danger represented by the racists in Pretoria and Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian issue has gained and continues to gain the deep sympathy of African public opinion despite Israel's efforts in this respect and by every means to dissuade Africa from sympathizing and supporting the Palestinian issue.
OAU supports the national inalienable rights of the Arab Palestinian people particularly their right for self determination and to establish an independent national State and recognizes that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of this people.
Therefore, the African continent supports the Palestinian issue on the basis of the following factors:
(a) Similar political, economic and social Circumstances in Africa and the Arab world since the newly independent Arab and African States have been for a long time under colonialist domination as well as national struggles waged by the African Arab peoples. These peoples are aware of the importance of their solidarity in order to achieve their common objectives in confronting colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, Zionism and imperialism and for economic and social development, progress and independent evolution;
(b) Africa is convinced of the justness of the Palestinian issue which it considers its very own and is the basis of the Middle East problem. Furthermore it endorsed the justness and legitimacy of the national Palestinian struggle which is a part of the peoples struggle under the yoke of occupation and colonialism which is recognized and endorsed by international law, the Charter of the United Nations and other international charters and conventions;
(c) Some Arab countries are situated in Africa therefore the threat of Israel is not only confined to the Palestinian people or Arab countries in Asia but extends to endanger Arab countries in Africa and consequently the Whole of Africa;
(d) Both racist in Palestine and South Africa are similar in their racist and aggressive policies against the Arab and African peoples and consolidate their bilateral relations in many fields, the latest was in the nuclear field. Both are totally supported by the United States and some Western countries to deny the national and inalienable rights of the peoples of Palestine, Namibia and South Africa. They continue to perpetrate their expansionist, aggressive and occupation policies against the Arab and African countries and the general feeling of these peoples is that both racist entities are identical, planted by imperialism by force in Africa and the Middle East to jeopardize security and stability in these areas and protect imperialist interests.
African public opinion is not confined to the Palestinian issue but goes beyond that to the necessity of activating Arab African cooperation, to widen common interests between Arab and African countries to indicate a genuine expression of the depth of historic links between both nations, to unite their efforts and consolidate their solidarity, secure their progress and independent development, safeguard their independence and sovereignty on their territories and resources.
Affording Arab African solidarity in its true picture represents a embodiment of the support to the struggle of the peoples of Palestine, Namibia and South Africa. It is a solidarity needed by the Arab nation as well as the African peoples.
In order to ensure this solidarity, it is necessary to be aware of American imperialist schemes in Africa and Arab countries and to be armed with a militant spirit in the face of aggression and racist pressure and to consolidate the common struggle between the peoples of Africa and the Arab countries.
The new Secretary General of OAU, Mr. Eid Omar, after having been chosen by the last African summit, summarized in a meeting published in the Al Abram Egyptian newspaper on 30 July 1985 the African position on the Palestinian issue saying: "There is a consensus at the level of OAU concerning the problems of the Middle East. We support the Palestinians and are against the occupation of the Arab territories by force. Moreover we are against Israel's occupation policy of Lebanese territory and its actions in Lebanon. We support our Arab brothers so that they may reach a solution in the Middle East on the basis of restoring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. The Middle East problem is just as important to us and we are struggling to find a solution to the problem of southern Africa. We will co-ordinate our efforts with our Arab brethren so that each side may strive respectively in order to harmonize our decisions and work together positively for the liberation of the Palestinian people."
5. Masao Benjamin Masilonyane,
Director of International Affairs,All Africa Conference of Churches
We are aware that Palestinians lost their homeland in 1948 after the creation of Israel. Since then, half of them are refugees, 340,000 live in the State of Israel (i.e., pre 1967 borders), while a further 670,000 live under Israeli occupation on the West Bank, and 340,000 are also under the occupation in the Gaza strip. Denying 4 million people a homeland in our opinion is an inexcusable act which has no justification whatsoever.
We question the statement of Mrs. Golda Meir, then Israeli Prime Minister, when she said in The Sunday Times of 15 June 1969: "There was no such thing as Palestine … It was not as though there was a Palestinian people … and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist." But history tells us the opposite. In any case, how could they have thrown them out and taken their country from them if they did not exist?
After the October 1973 war, OAU showed its strong disagreement with Israel by asking its member States to break diplomatic relations with it. This stand was not intended merely to isolate the State of Israel, but it was also taken to show that Africans believe that Palestinians have a right to exist, a right to life and a right to a homeland.
The action of OAU is clear indication that Africans who fought colonial rule, appreciate and sympathize with the aspirations of Palestinians, to once again belong to a land that they their own.
The 1967 and 1973 wars have not solved the Palestine question despite great loss of life they brought about. Instead, they have complicated issues because Israel subsequently occupied Arab land, which prior to the war belonged exclusively to Arabs. The 1982 massacres of Sabra and Shatila which are still fresh in our minds have also failed to ease tension in the Middle East conflict. To the contrary, they increased bitterness and hatred between Palestinians and Israelis.
We would like categorically to declare our condemnation of war and any forms of destruction of human life. On this issue we are on the side of nobody. Actually, we are speaking only in favour of the displaced and the dispossessed. We speak for fairness.
Our conviction is that the Palestinian problem can only be settled through dialogue based on mutual respect and trust. We also contend that when preparations for such dialogue/conference are worked out, each party involved in the conflict should be represented by its authentic representatives. It is our assertion that as long as others feel qualified to decide who should represent who in such dialogue/conference, it will take many more years before a lasting solution is found to the Palestine question.
The efforts of the United Nations in working for a just solution to the Palestine question, which date back to 1947, when it suggested partition of Palestine are commendable. We specifically support the Geneva Declaration on Palestine and Programme of Action for the Achievement of Palestinian Rights, as adopted by the International Conference on the Question of Palestine held at Geneva from 29 August to 7 September 1983.
We hope that Powers change their obstructive so that the Palestinians as people who will enjoy that hold the key to the strategy, and join hands may, after many years of the fundamental right to Palestine question will with the United Nations, suffering be recognized self determination.
It is our fervent hope that the Arab leaders summit which takes place in Casablanca from 7 August 1985 among other things will come up with proposals which will be amenable to a lasting solution to the Palestine question.
D. NGO collaboration on the question of Palestine
and the role of the United Nations
1. Victor J. Gauci, Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations and
Rapporteur of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
The paper I have presented for the record, which will be distributed, and the opening statement by the Chairman of the Committee, provide sufficient material to indicate the historical background and the scope of the co-operation between the Committee and NGOs. I therefore do not propose to read my paper, but only to offer some comments on important points which I feel should be highlighted for the benefit of participants.
In the first place, I am pleased that the meeting is taking place here at Dakar. As the distinguished Foreign Minister stated in opening this meeting, many symbolic aspects emerge from this occurrence. The Committee is particularly pleased and derives great encouragement from the fact that Senegal now has taken on the additional responsibility as Chairman of OAU and we are confident that this will in turn ensure even greater understanding and support for the just cause of the Palestinian question among African countries, splendid as it already is.
On my way to the meeting this morning, I was struck by a quotation from ex President Senghor, found outside the entrance to this building. I do not recall the exact words of the quotation, but it is something to the effect that, in order to achieve one's objective, an in depth process of exchanges of views and consultations is necessary. We, the Committee, have gone a long way in this process over the past 10 years. We have still work ahead of us. This should be our priority area of concentrated discussion, now and in the future.
It is of course true that not all developments in the past have been positive. Too many mistakes, too many lost opportunities, occurred in the past 40 years or so since the question of Palestine came before the United Nations. Our task, as I see it, is not to look back in anger on the past, even though we cannot ignore it, but to see what we can do to achieve progress in the direction of justice and peace.
Because some progress there has been. Let me mention a few of the more important elements. The conspiracy of silence that prevailed for 30 years over the rights of the Palestinian people has been permanently shattered. The distortion in information provided by a prejudiced Press has been rectified through the 20 or so objective and factual studies published by the Committee. The voting record in the United Nations has progressed impressively from about 90 positive votes in 1976 to around 130 in 1984 approximately a 50 per cent increase. The negative and abstention votes have decreased from 30 in 1976 to 3 in 1984 a 100 per cent decrease. There is also agreement on what are generally referred to as the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self determination, and the role of the PLO."
Those three elements combined constitute dramatic evidence of progress within the United Nations. We have had parallel progress in galvanising public opinion throughout the world, thanks to an intensive programme of seminars and symposia in all continents, aided by the valiant efforts of NGOs. We are so appreciative of your work that we have published a report about it as a United Nations study entitled "NGO activities on the question of Palestine at the United Nations", to which I draw your particular attention. I understand that copies of this report are available. It provides much detailed and valuable information. In addition, the Committee publishes detailed accounts of NGO activities in its bulletin, which are published an average once a month, so as to keep all NGOs fully informed of activities and developments.
But I think the most significant aspect to be underlined and to be stressed in your own efforts is the fact that the recommendations on the question of Palestine made by the Committee, as defined in the Geneva International Conference, constitute a truly representative international consensus. The Committee itself is composed of members from all quarters of the globe. Its recommendations were drawn up by consensus, not in a panic response to some unexpected emergency event, but as a result of an impartial study, solidly based on previous decisions of the United Nations and on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. They have international backing as no other approach can claim. What is more, all other approaches advanced have a number of elements contained in the Committee's recommendations. We welcome similarities in approach, but also point out deficiencies. In the final analysis, no other approach is as detailed, as comprehensive, and as widely supported as the recommendations of the Committee. This is a great source of strength.
Permit me then to stress that there is much solid common ground for us to work, and to build, on. Our main task is to unite and hence to strengthen our efforts for the future. The Committee's task is to continue to provide peaceful ammunition to those who support us, and to exert more peaceful efforts of persuasion on those countries that still need to be convinced to join the United Nations approach for a just solution to the question of Palestine. We know where we still have to make progress. We need your continued help in these remaining efforts. We welcome what you have done. We follow with interest your future efforts.
Mr. Don Betz will provide you with first hand knowledge of the many positive steps taken together by NGOs in previous meetings of this nature. The experience gained should stand to our benefit. The Committee itself has been particularly encouraged to note significant changes in public opinion in many important countries which so far had not been as forthcoming as others in the voting record in the United Nations. I refer to such countries as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, and even Canada, the United States and Israel.
For instance, I was agreeably surprised to learn from last year's North American seminar that, in the United States, a shift in public opinion is already discernible. A slight majority but a majority nevertheless feels that the Palestinian question is the key to the Arab/Israeli crisis, and that Palestinian leaders should be involved in a negotiated solution. My language here is based on memory. Professor Betz will correct me if I am wrong. But I think that these are elements on which we should capitalize. So should we encourage peace movements within Israel itself. It may also be time to engage in less name calling and aggressive generalities, and to come down to specifics for a solution.
The theory of democratic constitutions on which the United States, Canada and Western European countries particularly pride themselves is government by the people, of the people and for the people. It may take some time for public opinion to be translated into governmental action, but eventually it is. At yesterday's meeting, mention was made of the recognition of China by the United States, and the ending of the Viet Nam war. This is, I believe, where the role of NGOs is of paramount importance, not only in the countries that still need to be convinced to change their policies, but by concerted, pragmatic action throughout the world both at the United Nations, and through NGOs, each in its proper sphere of competence. In terms of the old adage, united we stand, divided we fall. We know that it is in Western Europe where more progress is required. But let us not forget that, for instance, such Western European countries as Austria and Sweden participated in the Geneva Conference on Palestine, and contributed actively to the final Declaration. My own country, Malta, has raised the question of Palestine in such fora as the Council of Europe, and in the Socialist International, where previously such discussion was opposed and hence excluded. Now the question is taken up every year, and the Council of Europe has established a Parliamentary Commission to investigate the matter and to review developments. Slow progress perhaps, but again progress under adverse circumstances, and it is gaining momentum.
It is my hope that we will succeed. As was stated by one of the participants yesterday, what the United Nations is proposing is based on justice, reality and peace – peace for the region, dignity and honour for the Palestinian people, and a peaceful lasting solution to one of the most complex, most long lasting and most dangerous problem with which the world is faced. The world, literally, cannot afford a failure on this question, and the procedure envisaged by the United Nations is the only viable course of action.
* * *
I am pleased to speak to you today about the role of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and its collaboration with the non-governmental sector. Perhaps some historical background will be useful to you.
Since its inception in 1975, the Committee naturally was fully conscious of the paramount importance of non-governmental organizations in enhancing objective public awareness of the Palestinian cause, and in forming public opinion in favour of a speedy, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine. The Committee feels that NGOs have the ability to reach "grass roots" and to galvanize public opinion which will ultimately influence national policies in favour of the Palestinian people.
In General Assembly resolution 34/65 of 1978, closer co-operation by the Division for Palestinian Rights with NGOs was envisaged and first steps were taken. The Committee actively participated in meetings,
conferences, symposia, colloquia, solidarity events, and other gatherings organized by various NGOs throughout the world in support of the Palestinian cause.
However, it was not until the holding of the International Conference on the Question of Palestine (ICQP) at Geneva in August September 1983 that a very determined effort was made to bring together as many concerned non-governmental organizations as possible, not only for an expression of solidarity, but also for the purpose of co-ordinating their future activity among themselves and their co-operation with the Committee. It will be recalled that over 240 persons representing 104 NGOs attended ICQP. The NGOs participants included a broad spectrum of interests parliamentarians, jurists, lawyers, educators, church groups, women's organizations, youth groups and solidarity groups among others. Nine organizations from Israel representing Jewish and Palestinian communities also participated.
The Programme of Action for the Achievement of Palestinian Rights adopted at ICQP declared that the role of NGOs remains of vital importance in heightening awareness of, and support for, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self determination and to the establishment of an independent sovereign Palestinian state. Closer liaison with NGOs, the media and other groups interested in the question of Palestine was planned.
Section 3 of the Programme is almost entirely devoted to the role of NGOs. Convinced of the important role of world wide public opinion, the International Conference urged and encouraged NGOs to increase awareness by the international community of the economic and social burdens borne by the Palestinian people as a result of the continued illegal Israeli occupation and its negative effect on the economic development of the West Asian region as a whole.
The Conference also urged and encouraged non-governmental organizations and professional and popular associations the media, the institutions of higher education, parliamentarians, political parties, organizations for solidarity and intellectuals particularly in Western Europe and North America to intensify their efforts to support the rights of the Palestinian people in every possible way; to undertake exchanges and other programmes of joint action with their Palestinian counterparts; to investigate the conditions of women and children in the occupied territories; to disseminate relevant information to increase public awareness and understanding of the question of Palestine; to promote the study of the question of Palestine in all its aspects; to establish special investigative commissions to determine the violations by Israel of Palestinian legal rights and to disseminate their findings accordingly; to initiate, with their Palestinian counterparts, consultations, research and investigations on the juridical aspects of problems affecting the struggle of the Palestinian people, in particular the detention of political prisoners and the denial of prisoner of war status to detained members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); to join their counterparts in other parts of the world in giving their support, where it has not been done, to an initiative which would express the desire of the international community to see the Palestinian people at last living in their independent homeland in peace, freedom and dignity. We must express regret that so far Israel has not heeded the calls for moderation, and that on the contrary repression has increased. This should only spur us to redouble our efforts.
The 104 NGOs present at ICQP also asked the Committee to call consultative meetings of NGOs in New York and Geneva to examine the possibility of co-ordinating in implementing the Programme of Action adopted by ICQP. NGOs further adopted a recommendation for action that, inter alia, emphasized the dissemination of the results of the Conference.
Since the Geneva Conference, the Committee has made provision in its work programme to co-operate more actively with NGOs interested in the question of Palestine and to encourage them to work together in these tasks. The first step taken by the Committee was to request the Secretary-General to increase staff resources adequately to respond to the envisaged new assignments. In addition, the Committee requested that regional symposia for NGOs be held as well as an annual international meeting for NGOs.
The first such 'NGO Symposium was held in New York last year. This was followed by an Asian Symposium in New Delhi in May this year, a North American Symposium in July and now our first African Regional NGO Symposium. Members of the Committee who attended the NGO Symposia have been impressed by the quality of participation by NGOs. The declarations adopted by the symposia reflect the basis on which NGOs intend to play their important role promoting a just solution of the question of Palestine.
These gatherings constitute a pool of experience and information pertaining to the question of Palestine. The participating NGOs benefited and so did the Committee. Together we have drawn valuable conclusions for the future expanded co-operation and co-ordination of activities. The discussion has invariably been open and wide ranging. New ideas and insights constantly emerge. Reports are published and disseminated.
Above all, the conviction is shared with the Committee that the International Peace Conference on the Middle East offers the only realistic and practical way towards a solution to the problem of Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Committee itself is giving priority in this regard. We were therefore greatly encouraged by the following paragraphs from the Declaration of the Asian Symposium which sums up the role envisaged for NGOs. I quote:
"We concur that influencing world public opinion is a key factor in the just resolution of the question of Palestine.
As NGOs we have access to local populations, 'the grass roots', in many societies and we are determined to work to increase their understanding of the question of Palestine and to effectively mobilize their potential political, social and spiritual power.
"Beyond these principles, we firmly believe that non-governmental organizations are a unique asset in securing the rights of the Palestinian people, for we can present the issue in its vital human dimension to individuals and other non-governmental organizations.
"We are aware of the forces opposed to our efforts. But the inherent justice of our cause and the sound construction of a genuine regional and global NGO network will be mutually reinforcing and will demonstrably advance our endeavours."
It is the Committee's hope that these regional symposia will bring together NGOs in the various regions and will result in closer co-operation amongst themselves and with the United Nations, as well as more active participation in the annual International Meeting. At last year's International Meeting it was remarked that the bulk of the participants were from the North American continent and from Europe. It is the Committee's endeavour to increase the participation of NGOs in the other regions as well, and it is hoped that the regional symposia will assist in achieving this objective.
Following the International Meeting in September last year, the Committee has co-operated closely with the 15 member Interim Co-ordinating Committee (ICC) established at that Meeting. In the past months it has enabled the ICC to meet twice in Geneva in November 1984 and March 1985 when the members of ICC were able to get together and to finalize plans for the signature campaign on behalf of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East and for this year's international meeting. In both these projects, the Committee has extended, through the Division for Palestinian Rights, the best assistance it could. In addition, a section on NGO activity has been incorporated into the Division Bulletin. Information has been selected through a questionnaire which should be useful to NGOs in developing a resource directory. Recently a study entitled "NGO activities on the question of Palestine at the United Nations" has been issued.
The Committee hopes that the regional symposia will afford the opportunity to the NGOs in each region to agree on a common approach which they will take to the International Meeting in September. This will provide guidance for those representatives of the African region who are able to participate at that meeting. In addition it will be useful to the meeting if delegates from this region are able to assess the outcome of discussions on the situation of Palestinian women which took place at the United Nations Decade for Women, recently held at Nairobi.
We encourage NGOs themselves to take the initiative in their co-operation, both regionally and internationally, and increase the network of NGOs interested in the question of Palestine. The Committee will do whatever it can to support these initiatives and the Division for Palestinian Rights shall implement Committee decisions in this regard.
The question of Palestine has been before the United Nations for almost 40 years. Although the United Nations' search for a just and comprehensive solution which would ensure justice to the Palestinian people as well as to all other peoples in the region has not yet been successful, there has emerged broad agreement on the principles which should serve as a basis for a just solution to the question of Palestine. Unfortunately, the lack of political will has presented obstacles to the implementation of these principles and the Committee's programme, drawn up in 1976, for the exercise of the inalienable rights by the Palestinian people remains unimplemented. This is why public opinion to be translated into governmental action is so vital.
It is our hope that this symposium will adopt proposals which are conducive to more fruitful and productive collaboration on this issue of common interest. I wish your deliberations every success. In Africa, we are in fertile soil, and we already have the impetus given by the Asian and North American symposia to guide us in our work. I am therefore convinced in advance that we will secure further progress in this beautiful city, whose country has been in the forefront of the peaceful quest for Palestinian self determination since the matter was first raised in the United Nations.
2. Donald T. Betz, Assistant to the President and Professor of Political Science at the North-eastern
State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, United States of America
It is a great pleasure for me, a non-African, resident and citizen of the United States of America, to stand before such an august body of dedicated persons who have involved themselves in the struggle for liberation, not only amongst their own peoples, but for us here today, on the question of Palestine. And I think we are all honoured by your presence and by the fact that the United Nations and its Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People have gone ahead with a programme of work which includes meetings such as this. I have been quite fortunate over the last several months representing the Interim Co-ordinating Committee for Non-governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine to have spoken and participated in a number of regional meetings such as this and I can tell you each one is unique and each one is inspiring and this one, unique and certainly inspiring. The distinguished chairman mentioned that I was from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and I would like to put that into some sort of perspective before I make my few comments this evening. Tahlequah is not the largest city in the world. It may be the smallest. But it is the capital of the Cherokee Indian Nation, a people who have suffered the kinds of indignities and the kinds of trauma that many of you know first hand and are certainly also known by the people of Palestine. In the 1830s, the Cherokee Indian Nation lived in the eastern part of the United States and they were forcibly removed by the Government a distance of 1,200 miles from their native land and deposited in an area at that time called "no man's land". On the way through the winter of 1838, 35 per cent of the entire Cherokee Nation perished. Once they were deposited on this land, they began to build a society that was more advanced than the whites' societies around them but in 1907, when the State of Oklahoma was organized, the Cherokee Indian Nation and its brother nations were dissolved and became part of the State of Oklahoma. Today I teach at what would be considered a medium sized university but it is a very special one because it was founded as the Cherokee male and Cherokee female seminaries back in 1846, which make the institution one of the oldest in the United States.
I am not going to attempt to review the entire history of the non-governmental organization (NGO) activity on the question of Palestine at this time. The hour is late, we have talked a great deal, we have learned a great deal. But I do think I can offer a few points.
From 1982 until the present time, there has been a unique transformation in NGO activity on the question of Palestine world wide. I believe that someday when the story is written, once we are all able to visit Palestine and its capital, Jerusalem, as Palestine, we will find that this period from 1982 until that happens will be considered the most important period of the struggle because I believe we are seeing the mobilization of, as Ambassador Terzi refers to it, the grass roots: the grass roots people individual people involved in the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people not because it is politically convenient for them to do so but because it is morally right, because the injustice that have been done to the Palestinian people are finally becoming known. I listened with some amazement to your discussion about the role of the media. I come from a nation which probably has the most advanced media in the world where you can literally turn on a television and have 50 channels before you and yet you would be amazed, you would be appalled to know how many persons in a country such as the United States are simply ignorant of the facts related to the issue of Palestine, who do not know that, in 1948, the Palestinian people were dispossessed of their land, who have never understood or realized the Palestinian people are not terrorists and are not simply refugees but they are men and women, children and teachers, engineers and doctors and, above all, people. There has been the convenient step taken in my country, thanks to the media, to reduce this people, this 5 million people, to a stereotype and, unfortunately, it has been a difficult one to crack. But I see hope on the horizon. I see hope everytime I attend a meeting like this. I see hope when I realize that, through the diligent efforts of the United Nations and its Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, there has been organized over the past three years the beginning of a global network of NGOs, very active and vital on this issue. I am not talking about one or two organizations. I am not talking about a region. I am referring to hundreds of organizations that exist world wide that are doing something beyond words on this issue. Some of the most important organizations in that struggle are in this room today. Unfortunately, up to this point, many of the NGOs active on the question of Palestine have been unable to contact or to be in some sort of communication with other NGOs active on the issue. I recall in working on the preparation for the International Conference on the Question of Palestine and spending some time in the United States, Canada and Europe, in those two areas, North America and Europe, that I would meet organizations that did not know of other organizations in the next city, or perhaps an organization that existed across the boundary.
It was then in 1983 at the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, I would say, that the international movement of NGOs came to a kind of climax. I believe that one of the most important results to come out of the International Conference on the Question of Palestine was the new consciousness on the part of NGOs. And the meeting of NGOs at that Conference was a rather turbulent one. It was composed of 104 organizations from 25 countries. There were 10 organizations that came from Israel. The debate was heated, the discussion was considerable, and the results were very gratifying. The results were that we found each other and we have realized that we did not have to stand alone. We could not be isolated by the forces that oppose Palestine any longer and that we had, as they say, strength in numbers. But even at that point, in 1983, we were unaware of the dimension of the grass roots movement in this issue, unaware of the possibilities that existed in the future.
It was after the International Conference that the United Nations, urged again by the Committee, took very important action to establish a series of regional symposia and seminars on the question, symposia that would reach out to groups like yours. This is the first time that the Committee has organized an NGO symposium in Africa but, having a peek at least at the draft of the final declaration, I think it would not be the last time. I think your representation at this meeting, that the spirit which you have demonstrated and the important work you are doing, will convince anyone that this particular region will become organized, more organized, and can work diligently with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
I believe that NGOs have such a unique contribution to make to this issue. But we can only be as strong as we are united. And last year, at an international meeting, again called under the auspices of the Committee, at the United Nations at Geneva, there was formed the beginning of a global network, and I believe this is going to be a significant mechanism for the realization of our common aspirations. It is called the Interim Co-ordinating Committee for Non-governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine and it has assisted the United Nations in preparing for this year's International Meeting on the Question of Palestine to be held in Geneva, from 9 to 12 September 1985. This Interim Committee is composed of 15 organizations drawn from various parts of the world but each motivated by the common idea that we must form a global network on the issue. If there is one organization active on Palestine that is not in touch with the Interim Committee, then the Committee is not doing its work and obviously there are many that are not in touch yet. But the dream, the ideal, is to reach out and contact those groups and to have them come together in a co-ordinated phalanx, a mechanism which will truly be powerful.
We have learned, time and again, how we have been able to touch and move the policies of our various countries once we were united. We have been told that some problems are insoluble and yet we see that is not the truth. A few years ago, a meeting like this would have been impossible. A few years ago, an organization like the Co-ordinating Committee would never have existed. But it does exist, and beyond that, it is going to help to create a consciousness that the organization should be perpetuated and should continue its work.
I do not believe that as NGOs we can come together here and ask the United Nations to do something for us. But I believe what we can do is that we can inform the United Nations that we are fully prepared to participate as a vibrant member of the international community in realizing the quest that the Committee and ourselves have taken upon ourselves. And that quest is quite simply the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people and a homeland in Palestine.
I believe that NGOs have a tremendous role to play and I believe that they have to do it in a very concrete way. The statements that have been made over the last days have been important. But as several of you have said, there must be action beyond those statements. One of those actions was taken last September in the form of an international signature campaign organized by the international NGOs at last year's meeting. It has in it a statement which says that it is important that the International Conference on Peace in the Middle East, as called for in United Nations resolution 38/58 C, in fact be held and this petition is being circulated around the world at this point.
The petition is designed to bring out the grass roots, to have the world sign its name to this particular document and then for NGOs to collect the document and on 29 November next, Palestine Solidarity Day, to present the mass of world opinion to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York City. I think it would be a powerful statement as to the world's feeling and understanding of the issue. But not everyone has signed. We are lacking a couple of billion signatures. And that is where each NGO has to decide on the basis of its own internal policies, whether this particular statement which calls for the holding and the convening of the conference, in fact fits its policy and in fact it can offer it to the rest of its constituents. But what better organizations, what more effective organizations, to take on such a responsibility than to tap international public opinion than NGOs, the veritable grass roots of our societies. Beyond that, beyond the signature campaign, we must find out who we are and where we are. We must devise a global directory of NGOs. We must be able to put together a data base of information about the Palestinian people that cannot be denied by the forces opposed to Palestine so that when we are confronted by our detractors, we can oppose them with the most recent data and information.
One of the best ways we can deal with one another today and convince others of the question of Palestine is through the audio visual possibilities the media particularly television and all that implies. And yet do you know that there is no single source today, no single list that lets us know how many cassette tapes, audio visual media cassette presentations, there are; there is no single source, no single list, which we can in fact have our hands on to let us know what is available. So NGOs, through the International Committee, are attempting to put together an international master list. What is available? What have we not produced yet that we must produce in order visually and graphically to show the world's population, the importance of solving justly and equitably, the question of Palestine.
I wish it were possible for all of you to attend the International Meeting this September in Geneva. I am hoping that I will see representatives from all your organizations. But I think it is important also that your organization send some of its publications to Geneva, send the fruit of its labour on the question of Palestine to Geneva so it can be displayed and seen and absorbed and understood by other groups. There are many organizations that are waiting and ready to know you and the work you are doing. They simply do not know you are out there. Through your information, through your circulars and bulletins, you can help them to know what you are doing.
And I think we have a special challenge, a special challenge to those courageous groups that exist in occupied Palestine, that exist within the changing borders of the State of Israel, which have decided that the current policy of the State of Israel is not conducive to long term peace and security. Those courageous non-governmental groups are going to try to come, many of them, to Geneva and their efforts should not only be applauded but should be assisted as much as possible because they can be great help amongst their own constituencies.
So as we leave here tomorrow night, I hope it is not with a series of highest platitudes. I hope it is not remembering pretty words. But I hope it is with the notion that something special has happened here, that the sense of unity which exists amongst so many of you on the issues facing your continent will also bind you together on the question of Palestine so that we will have a plan of action which we can take to the United Nations and say, "This is our plan, we would like you to assist us. We are not asking you to direct our sails or asking you for assistance." Lucille Mair was the Secretary-General of the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, and in her closing statement to that massive international gathering, she spoke about something unique that had happened at that meeting and I believe that that unique sense has continued. What it is, is the sense that something extremely positive can be accomplished on this issue because we are gathering together the world's decent people. And from that, she saw a faint glimmer of hope, a fragile kind of possibility for the future. I wish Lucille were here today because I think she would see that that faint sense of hope has grown, that we now have more than a faint sense. We are truly doing what we have said we would do. We are uniting the world in a common plan on the question of Palestine. And we get discouraged that every time it happens, I remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a great American, who said that "we, when faced with impossible odds, have to learn to carve out a single stone of hope from a mountain of despair." Well our stone has grown. We have become a vibrant alternative source of ideas and action on the question of Palestine and I look forward with great eagerness to the future and to the co-operation between NGOs in Africa, world wide and the important work of the United Nations and this Committee.
VI. LIST OF PARTICIPANTS AND OBSERVERS
African Bar Association
Afro Asian People's Solidarity Organization
All Africa Conference of Churches Association
Africaine d'Education pour le Developpement Association des Etudes Internationales
Association des Femmes Juristes Senegalaises
Association des Juristes Democrates Senegalaises
Anti Apartheid Federation
Senegalaise des Clubs
Unesco Institut Africaine des Droits de l'Homme
Mouvement Pan Africain de la Jeunesse
Palestine Committee for NGOs
Tanzania Palestine Solidarity Committee
Union Interafricaine des Avocats
Union Nationale des Femmes Algeriennes
Union of African Parliaments
United Nations Association of Senegal
World Federation of Teachers Union
Federation mondiale des Associations pour les Nations Unies
Members and observers of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
H.E. Mr. Massamba Sarre (Senegal) – Chairman
H.E. Mr. Victor J. Gauci (Malta) – Rapporteur
Mr. Zehdi L. Terzi (Palestine Liberation Organization) – Observer
Mr. Al Diallo (Ghana)
Mr. Shafiq Al Hout (Palestinian)
Dr. Donald Betz (United States of America)
Mr. Baker Bukarambe (Nigeria)
Mr. Amadou Dieng (Senegal)
Mr. Bara Diouf (Senegal)
Mr. El Kheidr Saleh El Hamza (Egypt)
H.E. Mr. Victor J. Gauci (Malta)
Mr. Masilo Benjamin Masilonyane
Dr. Ahmed Osman (Egypt)
States Members of the United Nations represented by observers
Algeria – Messrs. Mokrane Djouadi and Mosbah Khaled
Nigeria – Mr. John Kayode Shinkaiye, Counsellor
Senegal – Mr. Amadou Ndiaye, United Nations Division, Foreign Ministry
Syrian Arab Republic – Mr. Mamdoul Haidar, Charge d'Affaires
Zaire – Mr. Mewabi Tshibasu, Counsellor
Zimbabwe – Mr. George Vengesa, Counsellor
League of Arab States – Mr. Mohamed Dabbab, Counsellor
National liberation movements
Palestine Liberation Organization – Mr. Amir Al Hosseini
United Nations agencies
World Health Organization (WHO)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Agence Algerie Press Service
Agence Chine Nouvelle (Xinhua)
Agence de Presse Senegalaise
China News Agency
Non-aligned News Agency
Document symbol: 85 34179
Document Type: Declaration, Meeting report, Publication, Report
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
Subject: History, Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, NGOs/Civil Society, PLO/Palestine, Palestine question, Peace conference, Public information
Publication Date: 07/08/1985
Document Type: Declaration, Meeting report, Publication, Report
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
Subject: History, Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, NGOs/Civil Society, PLO/Palestine, Palestine question, Peace conference, Public information
Publication Date: 07/08/1985