Optimistic that future for justice lies with growing
Palestinian solidarity movement
April 25, 2016, Ramallah, Gaza City, New York – Two of Palestine’s most prominent human rights defenders – Raji Sourani from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Shawan Jabarin from Al Haq – just concluded a two-week tour in the United States that provided an extraordinary opportunity for U.S. audiences to get a first-hand account of the situation in occupied Palestine. Sourani and Jabarin presented in detail the caustic effects of the nearly 50-year Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians, in both Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the extraordinary efforts that they and so many other sectors of Palestinian society undertake to preserve and protect Palestinian human rights and to deter future crimes against Palestinian civilians through pursuit of accountability for serious international law violations.
“We are here with a simple message: Israel's criminal, belligerent occupation, including and most urgently the nine-year siege of Gaza, must end,” said Raji Sourani, Director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. “The U.S. has supported Israel through its nearly 50-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It has supported Israel through three wars in six years where Palestinian civilians in Gaza were in the eye of the storm. It continues to support Israel unconditionally through its collective punishment of two million Palestinians in Gaza who have no freedom of movement, no freedom to rebuild their homes, no ability to treat their drinking water. The U.S. is fully complicit in Israel's crimes against the Palestinians, and it must stop giving legal, diplomatic, military and economic cover and aid to Israel’s unlawful occupation and violations of international law.”
More than a year of planning – and twice postponed due to challenges arising from U.S. imposed travel restrictions and the nine-year closure of Gaza which makes it impossible for Sourani to leave Gaza at will – the human rights defenders took full advantage of the opportunity to engage directly with American audiences, and spoke at eight public events in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. at law schools, think tanks and public fora; held a press conference at the UN and met with national and international journalists; hosted an interactive webinar with student groups across the country; met with numerous missions to the United Nations and U.N. officials; and spent some time on Capitol Hill, notably meeting with Representative John Lewis.
Unfortunately, but maybe not surprisingly, the State Department did not take advantage of the presence of these two world-renowned human rights defenders in Washington, despite meeting requests.
“Support for the Palestinian cause is growing, and Israel’s alleged need for security, resulting in the suppression and denial of Palestinian rights, is being questioned more than ever before,” said Al-Haq Director, Shawan Jabarin. “There is still a long road ahead, and the international community must live up to its legal obligations to ensure justice. But justice always prevails, and despite Israel’s efforts to destroy Palestinian resistance to its illegal occupation, Palestinians and the growing Palestinian solidary movement, both in the United States and elsewhere, remain steadfast. We will continue to work together to bring an end to the occupation and ensure that Palestinians enjoy the most fundamental human right: self-determination.”
The visit reached hundreds of people, providing information and perspectives that they otherwise would not have access to and inspiring them to do what they can to support the human rights struggle in Palestine.
“As Raji and Shawan said throughout their visit, change will come from the ground-up,” said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and Vice-President of FIDH. “And, as they also made clear, the time for that change must be now. We, in the United States, must take what we learned about the critical situation on the ground in Palestine to build our movement and press our government to end its unconditional support for Israel.”
The two-week tour to the United States was organized and coordinated by the Center for Constitutional Rights, supported by numerous human rights and advocacy organizations, and made possible through generous support from the Bertha Foundation. CCR’s work with Sourani and Jabarin is part of its long-standing support for and solidarity with the Palestinian human rights struggle and its efforts to challenge the impunity of the Israeli government’s violations of international law related to its illegal occupation of Palestine and U.S. complicity in the occupation.
Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation based in Ramallah, West Bank. Established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) through legal research, documentation and building capacity to address violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians under international law, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator. Visit www.alhaq.org and follow @alhaq_org
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is a non-governmental organisation based in Gaza City, and dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Founded in 1995, it holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations Visit www.pchrgaza.org and follow @pchrgaza.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.