UN CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM ON THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE JAKARTA, 16 DECEMBER 2015

AVENUES FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ACTION & COORDINATION

ADVOCATING & ADJUDICATING– – CONCOMITANT GOALS OF ENERGISING PEACE & CRIMINALISING WAR

Dr Zulaiha Ismail

For too long, international bodies and nation states have looked upon war as an acceptable fact of life and at best only address violations in the conduct of war, neglecting to confront perceived justifications for war. Let us remind ourselves of the opening statement in the UN charter, which unequivocally states, “We the people of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…..” and move on from here.

The Palestinian case, spanning almost a century, if one can look back at the Balfour Declaration as the seed of this entire process of violating and alienating Palestinian rights, has been a tragic and sorrowful tale of a paralysis of international action and incapacity of international players to solve a problem that it in itself has created. Despite written volumes and reports and innumerable calls for indicting the genocidal onslaught on the Palestinian people, the world remains catatonic and continues to be in a state of paralysis.

Given now this new era of technology and social media that is parallel to the nation state control of dissemination of information or rather massive disinformation, civil society has evolved a morphing network from a ground up perspective to offer alternatives to surface the truth. In this regard, the multifaceted and complex historical and present conditions of Palestinians can hopefully see the surfacing of agendas that can counter if not stop a regime of oppression and repression without parallel in modern history – the infliction by an apartheid state against an occupied people in an occupied land.

For too long too, peace negotiations which ended major world conflicts have compromised on the issue of justice with amnesties granted to perpetrators of war crimes, not to mention that it was based on the victor’s concept of justice. It follows therefore that should a country invade and successfully occupy another, and commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in the process, it need not be subject to International Law as practised by the International Criminal Court and other national courts espousing International Law.

When the Perdana Global Peace Foundation was established with the aim of advocating for peace and criminalizing war, its founder, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad felt that something was missing in this endeavour. The pursuit of peace has to go hand in hand with the pursuit of justice, along with accountability and efforts at restitution. To be sure the twin goals of peace and justice are inextricably intertwined. It was felt that we needed to go beyond “Truth Commissions “ which merely document human rights abuses. Thus the KL Foundation to Criminalise War was formed as a sister foundation to adjudicate war crimes and crimes against humanity. This foundation is one of several entities around the world which conduct “peoples’ tribunals” or “tribunals of conscience” in the name of social justice, the Russell Tribunal being a notable one.

This is a good example of civil society losing confidence in existing august legal establishments, international or otherwise, to conduct investigations into cases of gross human injustice. We are proud to state that our Tribunals are conducted in accordance with norms and procedures in keeping with international law. The last Tribunal held in 2013 found Israel guilty of genocide against the people of Palestine. We are encouraged that many NGO’s around the world supported and disseminated the information emanating from our Tribunal hearings. It is our fervent goal to bring the findings and accompanying verdict to a higher more visible international platform like the ICC.

As long as heinous crimes committed against the Palestinian people are not addressed and victims’ cries of human rights abuse are not heeded, we can expect renewed opposition with people sacrificing themselves in the process. What is tragic with this recent Intifada is that children and youth have taken it upon themselves to sacrifice their lives to resist this oppression under occupation. And of course the Israeli forces have no qualms killing or maiming children as young as 5 years old. Is this not collective punishment tantamount to genocide?

Avenues For Civil Society Action and Coordination
That the Palestinian cause is an incontrovertible one rings loud and clear with civil society around the world. There is a need to create a proactive network of civil society and nongovernment entities that can build bridges across islands of efforts to present a more concerted and comprehensive view premised on peace and justice for the Palestinian people. Let us pay heed to Martin Luther King’s statement that Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere!

Where Malaysia is concerned, there is generally wholehearted support for the Palestinians from all communities and the government has been a major donor for our solidarity and humanitarian missions. Please bear with me as I quickly run through the efforts of the Perdana and KL Foundations as well as our other NGO partners from Malaysia:
• Advocating and enlightening the Malaysian public regarding the Palestinian cause through forums, dialogues, social media, written media.
• Promoting and sponsoring publications on Palestine.
• Solidarity missions including Viva Palestina land convoys.
• Breaking the Seige of Gaza with the Freedom Flotilla and the Spirit of Rachel Corrie mission to Gaza.
• Humanitarian aid missions during the Israeli onslaughts.
• Medical aid missions.
• Sponsoring advanced medical training for doctors from Gaza.
• Sponsoring academic research in effects of illegal weapons of mass destruction on the Palestinian population.
• Infrastructure building support – sewage system reconstruction, desalination plants, kindergartens, university computer laboratories.
• BDS campaigns.
• Ongoing food and clothing aid to dispossessed Palestinians from Syria living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Conclusion
Please permit me to conclude here with reference to the UN supported International Conference of Governments and Civil Society Organisations in Support of Palestinian Rights which was held in December 2014 in Seville, Spain. The Parliament of Andalusia played host to this event. I was personally amazed at the initiatives and endeavours carried out by European civil societies in solidarity with Palestine with a view to ending the impunity and establishing accountability on the part of Israel. We here in Asia can learn a lot from our European counterparts and we can count on the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) to provide access to these entities.

One thing that was pointed out to me in our ongoing networking was that while there were many twinning arrangements between Israeli and Asian towns or cities, the same could not be said for such arrangements between Palestinian and Asian towns. Why don’t we involve our local councils and governments to pursue such twinning relationships.

Finally, please allow me to share the Olive Declaration that was mooted and signed in Seville on December 3, 2014. This Declaration has been translated into 9 languages and I have taken the liberty of translating it into Bahasa Malaysia for the benefit of our Indonesian hosts and friends here today.

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