Participants in UN meeting in Turkey call for boycotts against Israel

Thursday, May 27, 2010
ISTANBUL – Hí¼rriyet Daily News

During a UN meeting in Istanbul, Jennifer Tonge of UK”s House of Lords criticizes the organization for failing to press further on Israel. Arguing that the international media has failed to raise awareness of the violations of human rights in Gaza, Tonge calls on people to become involved in boycott campaigns since Israel does not comply with international law

The United Nations has failed to make Israel implement international law and people should take action with global boycott campaigns, according to a member of the U.K.”s House of Lords speaking at a U.N. meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday.

“There is much we could do, even without U.S. support, but our governments do not [act]. If they do not act, then we the people of the United Nations must,” said Jennifer Tonge at the U.N. International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process: Ending the Occupation and Establishing the Palestinian State held in Istanbul.

Tonge called for support for divestment and boycotts against Israel as was done against South Africa during the apartheid regime.

Riyad Mansour, the U.N.”s permanent observer of Palestine, agreed that Palestinians need wider support from the international community to end the Israeli occupation. However, Mansour said Palestinians are already resisting occupation, not only with violence as is commonly said, but also in everyday life. “We clean up the streets. We organize youth against drug and weapons smugglers in Jerusalem,” said Mansour, speaking at the meeting Wednesday.

Tonge said the international media also fails to raise awareness of the violations of human rights in Gaza.

“When I was in Gaza in January this year, I went with a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from all over Europe … You would think that 60 MPs visiting Gaza would have made the news, but no. The press do not report things like that,” Tonge said.

Palestinian children and women are suffering the most from the current situation and Israel is creating a situation that threatens its own security in the long run, she said.

“One of the most worrying aspects of the occupation is the treatment of children. It is terrifying enough to have a member of your family arrested … but the children themselves have been arrested, taken to detention centers and beaten up,” said Tonge.

Tonge said 335 Palestinian children aged 12-16 have been detained by Israelis as of the end of April, citing a recent report published by the “Defense of Children International.”

More than half of the detained children were reportedly beaten, verbally abused and threaten, whereas nearly 12 percent were sexually abused and over 30 percent forced to sign confessions in Hebrew, said Tonge. “In the last Israeli offensive on Gaza, among the 1,400 people killed 400 of them were women and 76 of them children. Also 1,600 children and 658 women were injured in these attacks,” said Tonge, adding that the contribution of Palestinian women to keep families and children together for so many years is usually ignored.

Palestinian people also face threats of air strikes, shortages of water, food supplies and shelter; many are still in tents with no proper access to schools and hospitals, she said.

Meanwhile, some participants said the Palestinian authority made progress in creating institutions and other instruments needed for state building.

Gí¼ven Sak, director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, a non-profit organization, said at the meeting that the progress in Palestine is visible when one looks at the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”s grave. “It was easier to visit Arafat”s grave seven years ago, but today it requires more procedures. To me it is a sign of institutionalization and progress.”

Sak was also optimistic that boycotts of products produced in Israeli settlements are successful. He said the boycotts are mentioned in Israeli newspapers even though many regarded as useless when they first started.

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