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LAW Conference, June 5-7 2000

21 June 2000

On June 5-7, 2000, LAW: The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, hosted an international conference on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The conference, Culture and Community in Jerusalem: Strategies to Protect and Promote Human Rights, which took place in the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, attracted over 700 participants from twenty-six countries.

Throughout the conference, participants condemned Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, involving measures that deprive non-Jewish residents of such basic human rights as their right to housing and adequate health care. Attention was further drawn to Israel’s policy of creating “facts on the ground” in Jerusalem, in a bid to predetermine the outcome of the peace process with regard to the status of Jerusalem.

In addition to pinpointing issues specific to Jerusalem, the conference focused attention on Israel’s continuing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law with respect to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Israel and the Diaspora. Participants emphasized that there was no room for complacency.

Despite the gravity of the situation, however, it was stressed that the prevailing sense of “pessimism” among Palestinians, as well as the “boredom” of the international community regarding Palestinian issues, are not irreversible. Advocacy groups in Israel, the European Union and the United States must coordinate their activities around a coherent, integrated strategy based on aspirations articulated by their Palestinian counterparts. This, it was noted, constitutes the most potentially effective means of achieving a just, peaceful solution for the Palestinians.

In this regard, the conference also highlighted the importance of democratic reform and the strengthening of civil society in the Occupied Territories. The weakness of civil and democratic structures, it was argued, hinders the solidarity movement and obstructs the Palestinians’ pursuit of their right to self-determination.

The conference was also successful in illustrating the complexity of Palestinian society. Any advocacy strategy, participants showed, must take into account the specific needs and grievances of different social groups, particularly women, youth and Bedouin. To this end, the working groups provided valuable opportunities for conference participants to delineate the most cogent issues and formulate recommendations.

LAW will be publishing a compilation of conference papers and the proceedings of the working groups soon. LAW shares the hope of many that the insights and recommendations generated at this conference will be adopted by NGOs and governments as part of their long-term strategies for safeguarding the human rights of Palestinians, including their right to self-determination.
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection for Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy.
LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), The Federation Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l'Homme (FIDH), The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and is a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)

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