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First Annual International Conference 2018 "Palestine Where To?" - First Session

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Dr. Riyad Mansour

Thank you Dalal. Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the Arab American University and to the organizers of this conference for providing me with this opportunity to meet with you this morning and to share with you some of the thoughts and ideas particularly related to the work of the state of Palestine in the international arena. I am so honored to be able to speak for the second year in a university in Palestine. I often speak in universities in the United States of America and I haven’t done the same thing in Palestine except for last year in which I gave a speech at Birzeit University and I’m honored that this year I’m doing the same at this very prestigious institution.

Of course I read the concept paper and the concept paper gives a clear analysis of the global, regional and local situation. I will not dwell very much on that picture but that picture speaks very clearly about extremism of the current US administration and extremism of the Israeli government under the leadership of prime minister Netanyahu. Of course such two extremist administrations would reflect themselves in a very aggressive policy towards the question of Palestine and towards the Palestinian people. Of course you should add to that the fact that the entire regional situation is living in turmoil, you know the situation in Syria, in Yemen, in Libya just to mention a few. So therefore we are dealing with the Palestine question at this particular moment in history taking into account all these elements that they come into play and effect the situation regarding the question of Palestine. Now for us, the Palestinian people and their leadership knowing this situation, we need not only to describe it, not only to understand it, but more importantly to articulate our own policies and our own strategies and tactics of how to respond to it with a view of advancing our cause forward, the least that we should do, not to retreat in the phase of the so-called Trump صفقة القرن.

Now this in my opinion would require from us to concentrate on three dimensions. The first dimension, which is not in my domain, it is in the domain of the leadership of the Palestinian people and you have three members of the executive committee sitting, facing me. We cannot deal with this complicated situation with the division among the Palestinian people to continue to exist. We need to put an end to this division politically and geographically because we need to maintain the historical accomplishment of the unity and territorial integrity of all of the components of the land of the state of Palestine. That was a historic accomplishment by the Palestinian movement in defining the unity and the territorial integrity of the land of the state of Palestine composed of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip and the unity of the political system under the leadership of the PLO. That is of a historic dimension and it needs to be accomplished and that is what the Palestinian people, I see, are demanding and that is what the Palestinian leadership need to elevate itself to the level of accomplishment.

The second dimension, our brothers and sisters, the Palestinians from Israel, and I’m delighted that on the podium we have a member of the Knesset from the Arab united block. They are undertaking a massive responsibility in these days in facing the belligerency and the racism of the current extremist Israeli government and they are fighting against all the legislations in the Knesset that is trying to deprive them of their national rights as a national minority inside Israel which at this stage are playing a historic extremely important component of the total struggle of the Palestinian people.

The third dimension, which I am related to extensively, is the international arena dimension or the role mainly in the international organization led by the United Nations. In the international arena I believe that after the historic evolution into more or less the recognition of the state of Palestine by the United Nations and therefore changing our status to an observer state, we entered into a new arena or a new era, a new stage in which that development allow the state of Palestine to enter into a stage where we were able to join so many treaties, international treaties and conventions as a state party to these treaties and conventions which strengthen the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena. It allowed us to join for example the ICC meaning to try to seek remedies and to seek the utilizing, the legal dimension in pursuing the accountability and going after those who commit crimes against the Palestinian people including war crimes especially and more specifically the continuing war crime of settlements to pursue them through the legal system of the ICC. That option was not available to us before joining the United Nations as an observer state so that, as I said, that historic turning point on 29 November 2012 when we changed our status it allowed us to do these things.

Currently in facing the attack against our national platform and against everything that the Palestinian people are doing led by the PLO, we are defining four areas of our strategy as we move forward. One is related to the work of the committee that should be established, hopefully soon, by the Council of Human Rights, to investigate the crimes that have been committed against the civilians who have been demonstrating since the 30th of March in a peaceful way against the Israeli occupation specifically in the Gaza strip. Of course that endeavor is not easy because forces on the other side led by Israel and the United States are opposing that effort very vehemently. We are not yet successful in the forming of that commission but I believe that we will succeed in forming that commission soon and that commission should investigate and submit its report about those who were responsible for massacring more than 120 Palestinian civilians, large number of them are children, and injuring more than 13000 people so that’s one dimension of our strategy.

Second dimension of our strategy is related to pursuing legal options and the ICC, specifically the prosecutor, have been dragging her feet for almost three years through the stage of preliminary exploration and not shifting the gears and moving into an official investigation that forced us to submit a referral as a result of the last meeting of the Palestine National Council and as you all know we did submit our referral with emphasis on the continuing crime of settlements and we hope and we should be working very actively in seeing some specific concrete results moving in the direction of beginning the official investigation particularly with regard to the continuing crime of settlements. Of course there are examinations and studies of exploring things related to our situation including Jerusalem by the ICJ, the International Court of Justice.

Now the third arena is related to our work in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. We started with opposing the illegal, provocative, unilateral action by this current US administration in challenging international law and Security Council resolutions with regard to Jerusalem and we succeeded in unifying members of the Security Council, 14 of them, to defend Security Council and international law in opposing this new development of the US administration’s new policy, vis-à-vis Jerusalem by recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of the state of Israel and therefore deciding to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and in fact in May 14th they have moved officially or symbolically the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem then after that we went to the General Assembly and we acquired 128 votes versus nine against in the General Assembly and after the massacre that reached the peak level on the 14th of May against our people in Gaza, we went to the Security Council again, demanding from it, to shoulder its responsibility and to adopt a resolution in providing protection for the civilian population living under occupation. International humanitarian law and specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention determines the responsibility of the occupying power and the rights of the people who live under occupation with regard to protection. International humanitarian law would stipulate that it is the duty of the occupying power to provide protection for the civilian population under its occupation under all circumstances all the time but when the occupying power becomes the party that slaughters and kills the people that it’s supposed to protect then it abdicates its responsibility and therefore it becomes the responsibility of the international community to provide protection. Under that legal understanding we moved to the Security Council demanding protection for our civilian population and we were able to secure ten votes in favor of the draft resolution that we put before the council and it was denied by veto, one single veto vote which means that that party, the United States of America, obstructed the Security Council from shouldering its responsibility in providing protection for the civilian population because they have been under the mercy of the occupying power and its getting them and injuring them left and right. After that we went to the General Assembly and we succeeded in the General Assembly in securing 120 votes in favor of the resolution to provide protection versus eight who voted against. Let me just say in this connection of what is really significant for the Palestinian leadership to pay attention to.

In the past it was relatively easier for us to mobilize the largest number of countries to stand with us against Israel in violating our rights, our inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people but this time from December 6 of last year moving forward the United States of America changed its policy fundamentally. In the past they used to endorse and support Israel, but Israel was in the forefront and the international community was very strongly supportive of the rights of the Palestinian people. Since December 6 of last year now we are dealing with the United States of America and Israel is a footnote behind the United States and to be able to go ahead against the United States, not because of our choice but because of the selection of the United States of America. They decided to go and to challenge us and to be more royalist than the king and to be more Israeli than the Israelis and to be able to secure the support that we were able to secure in the two rounds when we went uniting for peace to the General Assembly of securing 128 versus nine and 120 on the protection versus eight is something beyond the capacity of the state of Palestine to undertake because there are many countries at the United Nations of a larger size than the state of Palestine or medium size still larger than the state of Palestine, would not dare even to go through the path that we are going through but that has to be taken into account in the analysis of what we are going to face as we move forward and I must also tell you that if want to analyze the behavior of the United States of America with regard to Jerusalem which has very clear resolutions in the Security Council that stipulate that any legal changes of the status of Jerusalem is null and void and has no legal validity and resolution 478 demands from all states to move their embassies back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv so that was of a certain nature but protection is a new subject and to be able to secure 120 votes is remarkable but this is putting us at a new stage. A stage of, we have 60 days, of trying to engage the Secretary-General and all of his teams with ideas of a practical nature, creative ideas, that truly can contribute to provide protection for the civilian population under occupation until the end of occupation and enjoying the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capitol. It is not sufficient from us the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership to demand protection without beginning the process of thinking of details and concrete ideas that we should share with the Secretary-General, engage with his team. He has the responsibility in one hand to submit ideas but we have double responsibility from our side to come up with ideas that could be reflected in his report and when the report is submitted with recommendations to the General Assembly and when we go back to the General Assembly we need to adopt these concrete ideas and I must tell you these concrete ideas are of a complicated nature. We are not talking about the formation of peacekeeping force that is required from the Security Council under Chapter VII but that does not mean in what we are requiring from the Secretary-General we cannot submit specific and concrete ideas that can contribute in a creative way to providing peace and security to all people.

Let me in this regard remind you in the African cases, the African Union was able to form a combination of missions, some of it of a military nature as peacekeeping African force, other it could be a mission of providing international protection or international protection mechanism that could include a variety of presence that can contribute to the providing protection to the Palestinian people. Of course I was not here yesterday to listen to the speech of Mr. Mladenov but I’m familiar with his ideas to suggest humanitarian and economic package for Gaza. Of course we always want the best thing for our people in Gaza. They need economic help, they need humanitarian help, they need all kind of help. But without adding the dimension of protection and political dimension then these ideas will be of a limited nature and I will meet with him and I see my brother there, Khaldi, and I will continue engaging him and the Secretary-General with all kind of ideas but the most important thing is specific concrete ideas of how to provide protection for our civilian population.

If we keep all these dimensions, and I said the African example, also I can add the Arab dimension. Some of it painful but nevertheless something that one should take into account. We had more than one example in which Arab League was able to form certain groups, even forces sometimes, like the Arab Deterrent Force in Lebanon for those of you who remember during the civil war in Lebanon. So what I’m trying to say it does not have to be a UN mandated. We mandated the Secretary-General to come up with ideas. We have to give him the ideas. Others or combination of many others, Arabs, Muslims, Europeans, whoever are ready and willing to participate, could be solicited by the Secretary-General to engage in such an exercise that can produce something that is realistic, possible, does not require a mandate from the Security Council. It would be sufficient to be endorsed and supported by the General Assembly and these are some of the ideas of what I mean by being creative and being concrete and being positive. It is our duty. We have to take the lead in articulating these ideas in relatively short period of time and to make them possibly implemented and in my opinion that could be a game changer and could play a very important role in fending back the ideas of Trump and those who support him in trying to sabotage our national platform and also in my opinion with regard to Gaza if we succeed in doing something like that, that would be concrete in defending our people in Gaza and concrete in paving the way for returning the situation in Gaza to the way it should be with regard to the empowerment of a legitimate government in exercising its role and control in the Gaza Strip as it does in the West Bank. These are creative ideas. We need to engage in them. We need to tackle them if we are serious about protection.

We legislated in the General Assembly offerizing (38.27) the Secretary-General of the United Nations to come up with concrete ideas for protection. It would be shameful if we do not engage in a serious way as Palestinians to contribute in a significant way in this regard. Maybe I’m jumping the gun since there are three members of the Executive Committee of the PLO here, but I am intending to discuss these ideas with President Abbas and with other leaders among the Palestinians because we have a short period of time to come up with these ideas and to engage significant Arab countries to engage other countries, maybe from Europe, to make them see that we are dead serious about providing protection for our people. Let me add another small idea. Maybe Gaza is a burning issue today but in the back of our mind Jerusalem is the big issue. In Jerusalem the Secretary General has at least 300 individuals of the UNTSO arabic 39:20 from the 1949, UN Observer Force. They have a mandate open ended banded from the General Assembly and they have funding open ended from the budget of the UN so the Secretary-General does not need to go to the Security Council or anyone. We need to be creative in terms of possibly utilizing them. God forbids if the conflict in Jerusalem takes an ugly religious dimension but if you succeed in beginning in one area in Palestine and in an area we can provide protection for our people is good and then to be ready to build on it for other areas specifically Jerusalem.

I think maybe I took more than my time. I wanted to share these ideas with you. I am in the forefront of all these things. I am proud to be the representative of the state of Palestine at the United Nations. I am proud of the support of the international community to our just cause and the reason why we have that support is because the great majority of nations at the United Nations are defenders of international law. They are defenders of UN resolutions and the great majority of nations in the United Nations can defend themselves by being so much defenders of international law therefore when they support us, they support themselves. So we have a concrete objective base for our unity with them.

Let me conclude with the four dimension. We are not retreating because there is an onslaught by the Trump administration. The beginning of next year the state of Palestine will be leading the great majority of nations of what is known as The Group of 77 and China. It is a group of 135 countries. The state of Palestine will be the chair of that group beginning on January 1st 2019. We will be leading humanity in negotiating 70% of the agenda of the UN on issues that are so important to humanity. Climate change, eradication of poverty, better education for everyone, nobody to be left behind, finance for development, transfer of technology. Big issues that people think that we the Palestinians are fixated only on our political subjects. We are going to shoulder a huge task of trying to lead the negotiations of humanity on subjects that are so huge to humanity and to prove to those who think that we are not a state. We are a state. We walk like a state, we are a responsible state, we quack like a state. Therefore, we definitely are a state. For those who are not yet recognizing us as a state, we will show them what we are able to do in the year 2019 and hopefully during that year those who are still hesitating about recognizing us, they will know what we are made of and we will even dig deeper the roots of the state of Palestine in the international arena, and in my opinion these are details to be added to the steadfastness of our people on the ground in Palestine and to the struggle of our people everywhere in the occupied territory of Palestine including East Jerusalem and in the refugee camps in the diaspora. We all complement each other and we struggle in many fronts and the objective is one. To end the occupation and to attend the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. I thank you very much.

Dr. Tamara Essayyad

Thank you. Good morning. I want to thank the University for hosting me. It’s a pleasure and an honor and thank you to the president who unfortunately had to leave. Thank you so much for having me, also its my honor and my pleasure to be on this very prestigious panel, I thank you for that. I also want to thank Dr. Riyad Mansour for providing us with a really great instruction and framework in terms of the Palestinian internationalization strategy and what I really want to cover today is basically to delve more into the things that he discussed from on a procedural matter to talk about the legal mechanisms of that so rather than, I had initially wanted to discuss the more into the ICJ and the ICC and all of the tribunals but perhaps maybe we can tailor it more to discuss this concept which is more pressing in the current legal and political climate that we have.

So basically the legal options that we will cover are the main four, and it’s great to hear that Dr. Riyad and I are on the same page on this, and then touch a little bit on a fifth element and mainly they are through the ICC, the ICJ, the United Nations in general and then through the national tribunal systems and national courts through the concept of universal jurisdiction so bear with me, this is going to be a lot of legal concepts, and law is quite bland to most people so I apologize in advance for the dryness of the legalese. Ultimately we did talk about the ICC referrals so just really quickly the difference between the ICJ and the ICC for many of you that don’t perhaps understand is that the ICC talks about the criminal culpability of individuals within the crimes, international crimes, international wrongful actions whereas the ICJ, The International Court of Justice, delves into state culpability on certain matters and when we talk about the ICC, and as Dr. Riyad very eloquently put it, the office of the prosecutor was in fact sort of dragging her feet perhaps not because of her own intention but because of the makeup of the ICC itself so the referral ultimately afforded Palestine the opportunity to skip the prosecutor’s way to go to the pretrial chamber and ultimately what you do is that you have to wait through this preliminary examination phase, ask the judges for permission to move forward on an investigation if they give you the okay then you can go to the system.

What the referral does is sort of bypass this whole system and although it sounds like a great opportunity there are a lot of risks associated with that for Palestine which I believe is one of the biggest reasons why the Palestinian leadership took so long to move toward a referral and it also as we saw in previous situations with Palestine and the political climate with other states was that we didn’t necessarily want to take that step so as to maintain perhaps maybe naively so positive relations with those states that had been fighting certain support and aid for the Palestinian people. Ultimately the International Court of Justice, there’s two things what we are talking about with the ICJ and one is a contentious case and one is an advisory opinion. I’m only going to briefly talk about the contentious case only because although it is an opportunity for Palestine it’s probably not the best opportunity especially now in the current situation that we have especially following the United States’ actions in regard to Jerusalem. A contentious case basically as I said is where Palestine for example have to bring a case against Israel. Unfortunately, because of standing, standing is a legal concept where you have to have the ability to enter the court, it is likely that it will be perhaps a little bit difficult for Palestine to enter based on the standing issue which means that we have to have a third state enter into the ICJ proceedings on our behalf and whether or not Palestine would truly believe that another state could present the Palestinian case as well as Palestine remains to be seen by the Palestinian leadership. The second question is an advisory opinion. We saw the advisory opinion in 2004 in regard to advisory opinion on the Apartheid Wall and that was very successful. Unfortunately, it stopped short of talking about the legal ramifications of the occupation or the occupation itself. It just mainly discussed the wall and whether or not building a wall on occupied territory is legal or not and to be able to access an advisory opinion is much easier than a contentious case and would be a great opportunity for Palestine. Unfortunately, the nature of advisory opinions versus a contentious case is that a contentious case is binding whereas an advisory opinion is non-binding. However, they do hold a lot of weight. The strategic benefits of requesting an advisory opinion would actually in my opinion be really great in regard to Jerusalem, the question of Jerusalem, and what you would ultimately do is that you would ask or you would have the General Assembly or the Security Council or one of the 16 specialized agencies request an advisory opinion on the legality of actions in Jerusalem or perhaps more specifically the legal status of Jerusalem as a city itself especially under occupation and ultimately what that would do is seek a legal responsibility on third states for their actions.

We saw this previously in Namibia in regard to applying international responsibility for the continued occupation of Namibia and those apartheid policies there and placing it in a context of the internationalization strategy of Palestine, what it does is it places the onus not only on Israel to justify the occupation but it also creates a responsibility on the international community so that they are on notice, that their actions are also illegal based on the concept of Third State Responsibility which is a legal principle which ultimately stresses that states are not allowed to recognize the legal situation created by the state of Israel. In addition, probably one of the most positive things that could come out of the ICJ versus the ICC is that Israel and the United States cannot reject the legitimacy of the ICJ as they have been rejecting the legitimacy of the ICC and more specifically their lack of signing of the Rome Statute ordering 52:56 the United States to sign and then unsign the Rome Statute but with the ICJ we’ve seen time and again that the United States has not only eveled 53:11 itself to the ICJ but to its own benefit gone to the ICJ on numerous cases therefore by rejecting the ICJ’s legitimacy really places the United States in a position that I don’t think that they really could afford especially in the current United States administration because I do anticipate as we’ve seen with the World Trade Organization and the cases between the United States and China and now you see the question of whether or not Canada will move forward on cases in the World Trade Organization’s arbitration mechanisms and the EU is that ultimately we may find ourselves in a situation where the United States is under attack at the ICJ so I don’t think it would necessarily be very beneficial to the United States and ultimately by extension or proxy Israel to really reject that legitimacy which brings us to the third legal mechanism that Dr. Riyad had really touched on which is international protection and I think that there is a lot of confusion on what international protection is, so perhaps we can package that and put it into context within the realm of international law.

So ultimately when we’re talking about international protection we’re really talking about five issues: the deployment of a protection force, deployment of a monitoring force, direct government intervention, economic and political sanctions and monitoring through an international organization. So these are the frameworks that we have under this package that we talked about which is international protection.

There should definitely be creative ideas and I wish more lawyers could think more outside of the box to reach these creative ideas and I would be more than happy to work with Dr. Riyad and my fellow panelists and others on those ideas. The current legal frameworks as they are and sadly so quite rigid really asks the international community, there’s the two aspects, there’s a territorial aspect and then there’s the population aspect, and what we’ve seen is that the territorial aspect is generally the most successful in terms of international protection mechanisms because they do in fact encompass the civilian population method and what it ultimately means for an international protection mechanism is that it asks the international community to take the reins for a little while either because that country or state or population is unable to take the reins themselves or are in a position where perhaps they’re unwilling as we’ve seen with the belligerent military occupation and what it does is it restores calm and order for a little while until that state is able to get back on their feet and in most situations when a state asks the United Nations to sort of step forward, they do and in the case of Palestine as we’ve seen time and again. Perhaps they’re not as willing based on sort of political reasons and just sort of briefly the history of that really with Palestine was, there was initially a protection mechanism since the days that we saw in the League of Nations and then we had this move away from the status of refugees from going from the high commissioner for refugees to the creation of UNWRA which is the initial sort of protection mechanisms that we had seen previously but ultimately the legal basis since structure of the territorial protection really had the legal basis and the structure which we really need to pay attention to.

If this is in fact what we are asking for, we really need to look to history to understand what has been the most successful and in my opinion I think we’ve seen two sort of main examples in that, and one being Kosovo another one being perhaps even more relevant to Palestine which is East Timor which I’ll get into and what it really requires is movement by the Security Council to work under Chapter VI and VII as Dr. Riyad had mentioned and ultimately the structure of the territorial protection ensures that how will the governance be administered, who will administer it, will there be a peacekeeping force, will there be boots on the ground as we say, for how long, who will be leading it, how involved will NATO be, how involved will the local population be and that’s what we talk about in terms of international protection. Will we allow for this foreign force to come in and enter and control things for a little while? Or is there as Dr. Riyad preferred to say more creative ideas in terms of an international protection mechanism? So for example in East Timor the legal basis was built on a Security Council resolution and it was an agreement between Portugal and Indonesia on the question itself of East Timor. In that case Indonesia had invaded East Timor and subsequently declared East Timor as an Indonesian province and they imposed a military occupation over East Timor and similarly we’ve seen that with a 51-year belligerent military occupation of Israel over Palestine so ultimately within three years of deployment of this international protection mechanism, East Timor was able to rid itself of a military occupation, gain its independence, it had a referendum and ultimately they were asked “would you like to remain under occupation or not?” and I can understand that perhaps a population would see occupation from a different force as an opportune situation and others would not obviously I think as well in the case of Palestine we would not want to remain under Israeli belligerent military occupation, settler colonialism. However, the case of East Timor was really indicative of the opportunities that Palestine would be able to have under an international protection mechanism.

Something else that I think I have floated around within the PLO on numerous occasions is a possible suspension of Israel from the work of the General Assembly and ultimately it’s a procedural matter. We’ve seen it in the past with South Africa and not really much to discuss there because it is a temporary fix to push, to place more pressure on Israel and I do hope that perhaps that would be a move that other Palestinian leadership and indeed our mission to the UN would consider as a creative fix to facing the occupation.

And then finally the last thing I wanted to discuss as a legal mechanism would be cases under universal jurisdiction in national courts. This is not to be confused with cases within the Israeli courts. Obviously those lacking legitimacy as ultimately kangaroo courts created to oppress the Palestinian population but really those international courts around the world for example in Europe and what universal jurisdiction does for those that don’t know is that it ensures that basically any state that is in a situation to apprehend an individual for an international crime can go ahead and do so. As we’ve seen for example with the arrest warrants for Bibi Netanyahu in Spain. Spain being a state that moves forward, uses this tool of universal jurisdiction and something that I think Palestine could really benefit from would be moving on the question of universal jurisdiction in national courts under for example the genocide convention. Anyway these are all options and tools that we do have at our disposal but they ultimately do take a political tinge to that in that there needs to be a decision by the Palestinian leadership on how best to utilize these political or these legal tools to move forward and ultimately the PLO is a liberation movement. It is not a legal movement and it is not a charitable organization. The question is to put all of these pieces together in a liberation strategy that ultimately works best for the Palestinian populations whether it’s in Palestine or in exile and in the refugee camps. Thank you.