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6 Jul, 2012

Dr Mahathir, Israeli Columnist to Speak at Palestine Rights Confab in Bangkok

Bangkok – A meeting of the United Nations committee on Palestinian Rights, due to take pace in Bangkok between July 10-11, will give the Asia-Pacific travel & tourism industry a major chance to pursue ways to visit Palestine without seeking a visa from the occupying Israeli authorities.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad will join Israelis such as Ha’aretz newspaper columnist Gideon Levy, a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation, on the panel of the two-day committee meeting, which is being held for the first time at the headquarters of UN’s Asia-Pacific commission in Bangkok.

Other speakers include:

Shun-ichi Murata, Deputy Executive Secretary, ESCAP Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Pichet Wangtepanukhor, Advisor to the Foreign Minister of Thailand,

Abdou Salam Diallo, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Riad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority (Keynote speaker)

Ray Dolphin, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Barrier Specialist at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jerusalem

Diana Buttu, Joint Fellow with the Middle East Initiative and Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Programme and former Legal Advisor at the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, Ramallah

Kamal Hossain, jurist, former member of the Inquiry Commission of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Dhaka

Walden Bello, Member of the House of Representatives, Philippines

Abdelaziz Aboughosh, Ambassador of Palestine to Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam

Hasan Kleib, Director-General for Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia

Nick Ferriman, Vice-Chairperson of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Thailand

Iain Scobbie, Sir Joseph Hotung Research Professor in Law, Human Rights and Peace Building in the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London

Hind Khoury, former General Delegate of Palestine to France and former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs of the Palestinian Authority

Li Guofu, Senior Research Fellow at the China Institute of International Studies

Taro Kono, Member of the House of Representatives of Japan

Nidal Foqaha Director-General of the Palestinian Peace Coalition – Geneva Initiative from Ramallah,

Gadi Baltiansky, Director-General of the Geneva Initiative in Israel

Registration forms can be obtained by e-mailing: <dpr-meeting@un.org>. There is NO REGISTRATION FEE. For further information, please contact: Ms. Laura Bologna at T:+66-2-288-2913 or E: bologna@un.org.

The meeting comes as global activists prepare for yet another attempt to cross over into the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories between August 24 to 31, 2012 as part of the “Bienvenue Palestine” initiatives. According to a statement posted on their website, the activists are seeking global support “to continue the fight for freedom of movement in Palestine and against the closure of the Palestinian people.”

Says the statement, “The new mission, like its predecessors, is to allow the defense of human rights and national rights of the Palestinian people to travel freely in Palestine. We call on governments to support the Palestinians’ right to receive visitors, and the right to their respective nationals to freely visit Palestine.”

This time visitors will try to arrive in the West Bank through Jordan and the land crossing known as the Allenby Bridge. Says the statement, “Since Israeli officials have said publicly last April (see video on this site) that we had been blocked because we wanted to go through the Tel Aviv airport to make us in the West Bank, while the passage would have been appropriate, according to them, to pass through Jordan and the Allenby Bridge, so we decided to take their word.”

Women, men and children from several countries have already responded to this latest call and will be flying to Amman. Those who wish to join can write to contact@bienvenuepalestine.com. More information about this initiative on http://www.bienvenuepalestine.com!

Open Opportunities

The Palestine rights meeting in Bangkok will open several opportunities to support the Bienvenue Palestine call. Indeed, the meeting has assumed considerable importance this year due to the ongoing changes in the Arab world, the continued stagnation of the peace process and the growing influence of the Israeli lobby in the political machinery of the United States, especially in an election year when the support of the Israeli lobby becomes a life-and-death issue for the presidential candidates.

Wolfgang Grieger, Director, Division for Palestinian Rights, Department of Political Affairs, [email: grieger@un.org] who is already in Bangkok to prepare for the meetings, said that the committee meets four times a year in different capitals. Every three years it meets in the Asia Pacific. Previous meetings have been held in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Said Mr. Grieger, “One unique feature of this committee is that is not just a UN conference. The meetings are open. We want to get the word out about issues such as advocacy of Palestinian statehood and the right to return. We will discuss specific political issues that are (obstacles) in the way of implementing these rights and the opportunities to break the status quo.” He invited NGOs, parliamentarians and academics to register before 9 July. There is no registration fee.

Asked if the committee was just another “talk shop” Mr. Grieger replied that by definition, the role of the committee as an advocacy forum could be taken to mean “talk-shop”, but he also pointed out that all forms of action had to be first preceded by talk.

He said several ambassadors from regional governments have confirmed participation, along with a large number of NGOs and groups such as the World Council of Churches.

He said the meeting should help facilitate the formal recognition process of Palestine by the Thai government which has been confirmed but still needs to undergo Parliamentary approval. This is what happened after an earlier meeting in Montevideo. “More countries recognise Palestine than Israel,” Mr. Grieger said.

He noted that neither the Israeli nor the U.S. governments recognise the committee and do not cooperate with it but both have the right to attend its meetings.  “Sometimes they (Israel) send an observer who sits there silently in the back. The U.S. explicitly demands that the committee should receive no share of the U.S. contribution to the UN budget.”

Said Mr. Grieger, “Israel follows these meetings and is concerned. It puts pressure on them to recognise the Palestinian state. If we get a good attendance, it will help.”  He said the committee also makes an effort to reach out to speakers from Israel, and this year there are two Israelis coming.

The meeting topics include:

PLENARY I: Illegal construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land: the reality on the ground

The expansion of Israeli settlements since the Oslo Accords to the present day: an overview

The adverse consequences of the construction of the Wall on occupied land

The impact of settlement building on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

PLENARY II: Settlement building as the main obstacle to the two-State solution

The illegality of settlements in international law: General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council, International Court of Justice

Ensuring the future viability of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital

Political efforts at breaking the status quo

PLENARY III: Support by Asia and the Pacific for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine

Diplomatic recognition of Palestinian statehood by Governments of the region

Action by Asian and Pacific States within the United Nations and other intergovernmental mechanisms to uphold international law

The role of civil society and parliamentarians in raising awareness and promoting the two-State solution

An award-winning documentary “This is my Land….Hebron”, will be shown from 13:30 to 15:00 on 11 July.  The film by Giulia Amati and Stephen Natanson explores the difficult cohabitation of Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the town of Hebron.

For further information on the committee and its activities, pls click on this link.