FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
13 December 2007
Palestinian Delegation Withdraws from Madrid Just Peace Forum
Protesting Serious Violations
The Palestinian civil society delegation to the Forum for a Just Peace in the Middle East, planned for December 14 to 16 in Madrid, has decided not to participate in the Forum due to serious last-minute violations. Coordinators of the delegation, which was to be led by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), learned last night that due to unprecedented pressure from the Israeli establishment, a substantial Israeli delegation (different from the progressive civil society Israeli delegation led by the Alternative Information Center, AIC, scheduled to participate in the Forum) was undemocratically and underhandedly “invited” to participate in the Forum without endorsing the Forum's Reference Document . This is not only a significant breach of the key rule of participation; it is a contravention of the express will of the overwhelming majority of the International Committee, the decision-making steering committee of the conference.
The International Committee, which includes representatives of PNGO, AIC, and other key Arab and international civil society networks, decided as far back as July that any group that wishes to take part in the Forum must first endorse the Reference Document as a necessary condition of participation. This Reference Document articulates the consensus principles agreed upon by the diverse international groups organizing the Forum, and projects an alternative vision for justice and peace based on international law and universal human rights. We, and virtually all of our partners, view the violation of this basic criterion as an undemocratic, unprofessional and utterly unacceptable attempt by some to impose governmental will on a distinguished civil society initiative. Protesting this infringement of democratic principles and recognizing that it effectively opens the door to the possibility of imposing an agenda at odds with the Forum’s vision, several of our local and international partners have also decided to withdraw. These include the Israeli delegation led by AIC, the Occupied Syrian Golan-Heights delegation, as well as many Arab and international figures and institutions.
We are deeply disappointed, saddened and surprised by this not-so-innocently-timed turn of events. We sincerely regret that an otherwise truly inspiring and democratically-organized initiative advocating peace based on justice and solidarity between nations has been hijacked by outside groups that, after failing to influence the progressive and visionary political platform of the Forum, resorted to an undemocratic coup to impose their will. Their political agenda essentially contradicts the basic principle that only peace built on justice, international law and human rights, as outlined in the Forum’s Reference Document, can be viable, equitable and sustainable.
We deeply appreciate the Spanish civil society organizations' noble and untiring efforts in organizing this Forum in the most professional, progressive and inclusive way. They are our partners for the long haul in the struggle against the forces of occupation, racism and imperial hegemony. We share with them our aspirations for a just peace.
Contact: PNGO, the Palestinian NGO Network