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Nazareth meeting of the national institutions as a starting point for defending Palestinian rights in Jerusalem

On February 22nd, 2007, a meeting was held in Nazareth under the title “Defense of Palestinians‘ Rights in Occupied Jerusalem". The joint initiative was organized by the Arab National Societies Association ITIJAH and The Civic Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem. The meeting was attended by more than fifty delegates of Palestinian civil society institutions. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss strategic cooperation between these institutions and to activate their role to preserve the Arab character and identity of Jerusalem. The meeting included four sessions, dealing with networking between Palestinian organizations regarding Jerusalem, the strategic plan on human rights in the occupied Jerusalem, open debate on the strategies and program suggestion for future work.

The first meeting, was moderated by  Salma Wakim, board member of "ITIJAH" , speakers included; Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh, General Director of the Arab Thought Forum in Jerusalem, Suhail Mi‘ari, for the Welfare Association, Zakaria Odeh, The Civic Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem, Hussein Abu Hussein, Board director of ITIJAH. Salma Wakim has defined the goals of the meeting by continuing the struggle and having a clear vision about occupied Jerusalem.
Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh spoke on behalf of the National Coalition for Defending the Rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem. He regarded the meeting as an occasion for discussion leading to crystallizing joint initiatives which can be implemented, he stated that the initiatives have to be with the size of the challenges, farther he emphasized on the need to utilize three important occasions to draw attention the Israeli racist practices. These events include the 40th anniversary of the occupation in 1967 and the sixtieth anniversary of (An-Nakba) the catastrophe of 1948 and the Declaration of Jerusalem as the Arab Cultural Capital in 2009.
Suhail Mi‘ari called for disseminating the spirit of teamwork between the civil institutions and making every effort to contribute, through coordination, networking and strategic action for to Jerusalem needs. Zakaria O‘deh explained the structure and objectives of the National Coalition to defending the rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem. He declared that the coalition is composed of eighteen institutions aiming at coordinating the work to preserve the rights of the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Hussein Abu Hussein asserted that the goal of the meeting was to look for partnership, continuing work and understanding between the national institutions in Jerusalem, and those beyond of the Green Line on the issue of Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories. He called for a clear position on the issue of Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.

Khalil Tufakji who is Director of maps unit at the Arab Research Society gave a presentation of the Israeli plans for the future of occupied Jerusalem, which aimed to transform the ratio of the Palestinian population in the city to 12% of the total number of residents. He explained the issue of confiscation of land as pretext of public interest aiming at introducing tens of thousands of housing units for the Jews in the area to the east of the city.

Speaking at the third session, Iyad Rabbie Director of the lawyers Union for Human Rights, explained the prospects for Palestinian cooperation, lawyer Nizar Ayoub, Director of the Almarsad (The Observatory) talk about the role of civil society in regards to the issue of Jerusalem, Farid Haj Yahya Director of al-Aqsa Society talk about confiscation of land in Jerusalem. Iyad Rabbie asserted the legal discourse in Jerusalem as an occupied city under racist practices; Farid Haj Yahya affirmed that the present schemes did not meet what had been required. Nizar Ayoub insisted on the importance of the methodology Palestinian institutions of work and the need for follow-up and coordination. Wafa‘a Shaheen, Director of Azzahra‘a Society for Raising the Status of Women, confirmed the importance of collective coordination including the sectoral coordination.
The fourth session included an open debate on the work strategies and the creation of practical coordination mechanisms, focused primarily on the activities regarding the fortieth anniversary of the occupation. Amir Makhoul, Director of ITIJAH asserted the importance of dealing with Jerusalem as an occupied city and the fact that resisting the occupation can be achieved through collective coordination which should be developed within extensive coordination between Palestinian national organizations and networks both at home and among the Diaspora.
The meeting adopted the whole broad outlines and issued a position paper defining points of action, focusing on organizing an international conference.


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