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US Campaign Address to the UN International Conference on Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People

September 24th, 2002

Presentation on Behalf of the Steering Committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Many of us are involved in solidarity actions to support the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, so hey can survive and resist until the occupation is ended. At the same time, we understand that we must act in our own countries to change the balance of power in favor of an end to occupation. We need a global movement that puts its weight behind just peace and the implementation of UN resolutions to this effect.

The question is: how do we build a global movement? We must start where we are. Each one of the countries in which we live has ties with Israel. And each one of these countries has signed on to UN conventions and resolutions that apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We must organize to ensure that the governments of our countries use every non-violent means possible, including trade and aid, to apply international law and end the occupation.

If the rule of law is not applied, people take the law into their own hands and resort to violence. We will wake up one day and find ourselves living again under the law of the jungle. Our only protection is the rule of law. By seeking to apply the rule of law to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we will not just be protecting the rights of Palestinians and Israelis, but preserving global peace for all humanity.

I want to share with you some ideas about ways to build a national movement that we have developed in the US Campaign the End the Israeli Occupation.

First, the Campaign framework is international law and human rights. This has several advantages. People resonate to the language of human rights—especially when it is not presented in the language of lawyers and diplomats. Human rights are grounded in the principles and values that all human beings hold dear.

The framework of law and human rights enables a diversity of groups—whatever their background—to sign on to the Campaign. Our Campaign includes civil and human rights activists, both Arab groups and Jewish groups against the occupation, Christian, Muslim and other faith-based groups, student activists, labor activists, anti-globalization and fair trade activists. Any individual or organization can sign on to the Campaign if they accept the Campaign principles of freedom from occupation and equal rights for all.

Moreover, by calling for the application of international law to the conflict, we avoid getting entangled in discussions of whether the outcome should be two states, one state, three states or many states. Our aim is the application of the rule of law. There are clear resolutions applying to the conflict, the key ones being GA Resolution 181 regarding partition, GA Resolution 194 regarding the refugees' right of return or compensation, Security Council Resolution 242 calling for withdrawal of Israeli forces based on the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, and the Geneva Conventions which forbid changes in the character of occupied territories and spell out the rights of people under occupation.

Second, we have focused our Campaign on changing US policy from policies that support occupation to policies that promote peace and justice. Focus is essential to success. Many of us are involved in other activities with groups working to support Palestinian rights on the ground, but we are careful not to sidetrack the Campaign, which goes to the heart of citizens' responsibility for the policies of their country.

The specific US policies on which the Campaign focuses are:

• Continuing military aid to Israel, in spite of the violation of US and international law, • The role of US corporations through sales of arms and equipment to Israel in spite of the ongoing occupation, • The use of the US veto at the UN to prevent a greater UN role and the possibility of an international protection force that could protect Palestinian as well as Israeli civilians until the occupation is ended.

Focus is also important because it means that the Campaign can serve as a channel or an umbrella for many groups working on peace and justice in the US, without being seen to replace or supplant any one of them. Groups can continue their existing work and come together on US policy through the Campaign.

Third, the Campaign strategy is education for mobilization. We realize that the majority of the people in the US—as well as in other countries—are either uninformed or misinformed about the basics of the conflict and the role of their government. We are investing in a long-term process of education based on human rights and international law in order to mobilize people behind change of policy.

Such an approach has benefits not just for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but for other foreign policy and domestic issues. Understanding how national law and international law developed, and the role of the law in protecting individuals and humanity is ever more vital in today's world.

Think, for example, of a world that has a strong International Criminal Court as opposed to a world where such a court is hobbled and leaders can get away with crimes against humanity. Or a world with strong international conventions on the environment as opposed to a world with agreements watered-down to please corporations in spite of visible evidence of global warming, vanishing biodiversity, and disappearing forests. Or think of nations in which discrimination based on ethnic or religious divisions lead to civil war.

Investing in a long-term education based on rights and the law gives people tools for analysis not just of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but all other domestic and international conflicts. People can relate specific human rights violations to discrimination that has affected them in their lives, or the lives of those they care about at home and abroad.

Moreover, grounding people's knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in clear principles means they are less likely to be swayed by emotions based on who is dying today, the victims of an assault on a refugee camp or a suicide bombing. They will be able to see their way clear to take action. The Campaign is producing fact sheets on the conflict within this framework, and is working on other educational materials for workshops and discussions.

Finally, the fourth feature of the Campaign is support of direct actions to address the levers of policy. Our members are working at the district level to get their Congressional representatives to support just peace. They are also working in their districts to stop corporations from selling arms and bulldozers to Israel as long as the occupation continues.

The Campaign itself is growing—we now have over 500 organizations and individual members, and more are signing on each day. Major organizations such as AFSC, CESR, IPS, and others have signed on. Through its members, the Campaign can also serve as a clearinghouse, putting people in touch with resources and with each other. By making these links, the Campaign strengthens the channels to exercise influence over US policies.

Through the support of the UN, we can establish networks between national campaigns in different countries, and exchange experience, expertise, and information. In this way, we will build a global movement for just peace in Israel and Palestine. Thank you.