Countering Shrinking Space in Palestine

To mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People SOLIDAR, in collaboration with EuroMed Rights, hosted a webinar dedicated to the topic of Countering Shrinking Space and the promotion of human rights in Palestine and Israel. The webinar looked into the situation of the Palestinian people living under occupation, including the constantly shrinking space for their civil society organizations and human rights defenders, and the existing Campaigns and Initiatives to promote Human Rights in Palestine. 

Iratxe García Pérez MEP, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament gave an encouraging and committed speech, stating that “there is no status quo in this conflict”, and calling for  a prompt negotiation and implementation of the two-state solution, recognized as “the only viable long-term solution to this conflict.” 

Following her opening speech, Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, talked about her first report focused on the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, “a right they still have not had the opportunity to enjoy since the Israeli occupation started”, which “is engineered with the purpose of preventing Palestinian people to enjoy that right.” 

In the first panel of the webinar, “Shrinking space in Palestine and Israel”, we had the chance to hear the testimonies of Rula JamalAl-Haq representative in Europe, and Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.  

Rula Jamal gave us a deep insight into the challenges that Al-Haq, being one of the six designated organisations, is facing in its daily work. She encouraged everyone to “say things as they are and not to fear to take action” and advocated for the creation of a protection mechanism, whether it is legal protection, advocacy protection or freedom of expression protection, for people when they speak up about Israeli occupation. Hagai El-Ad, on the other side, echoed the words of Rula Jamal explaining that the targeting of CSOs and Human Rights organisations is a result of the Israeli’s government concern that, if we all keep doing our advocacy work, then eventually the international public opinion will be woken and people around the world will demand that their governments stop being complicit with Israeli crimes against Palestinians.  

Evin Incir MEP, member of the S&D Group in the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Delegation for relations with Palestine, called on the EU, and the Parliament itself, “to not be afraid of criticising any country for violating international law”, referring to the EU’s inaction when it comes to condemning and reacting to the severe human rights violations that Israeli is committing on a daily basis. 

On the second panel of the webinar, dedicated to Campaigns and Initiatives to promote Human Rights in Palestine, Bernardo Kaiser, Middle East Coordinator at EuroMed Rights, talked about the recent European-Palestinian Civil Society Forum that took place in Ramallah. Natalie Janne, Research & Advocacy officer on Middle East & North Africa at CNCD, who spoke about the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) #StopTradeWithSettlements, which asks to ban trade with settlements, not only in Palestine but in all occupied territories in the world. Then Natalie presented the “Don’t buy into occupation” Campaign, aimed at shedding the light on all the financial links between the European financial institutions and the companies directly involved in Israeli settlements. Then Laura Adam, from Unión Sindical Obrera, talked about the Spanish campaign for the Recognition of the State of Palestine. She highlighted that the emergency in Ukraine has made the Palestinian situation invisible and this has been a problem for the campaign, but there are also signs of hopes for the future: “The upcoming Spain’s presidency of the Council of the EU in 2023 may be an opportunity if we succeed in pushing for Spain to recognize the Palestinian state, as it could push other European countries to do so.” Finally, Patrick Itschert, Special Advisor from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) stressed that “resuming the dialogue between the concerned parties with the aim of a two-state solution and reaching peace and equal rights for the two countries is a fundamental demand of the international labour movement and the recognition of the state of Palestine is the first clear step in that direction”. 

The event was closed by Anna Sundström, Secretary General of Olof Palme International Center and SOLIDAR’s Board Member. She recalled that the current situation in the Palestinian occupied territories requires a political solution, and thereby also political will. Civil society shall continue showing solidarity with the Palestinian people and pushing governments to demonstrate political will; “silence is complicity, and we will for sure not keep silent.

Resources on the situation in the Palestinian Occupied Territories: 

The LO Sweden has recently published a report on poverty and unemployment in Palestinian Occupied Territories and the role of Trade Union solidarity.

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