Over the weekend of October 27-28th, 2007, 54 delegates from Palestinian community organizations across Canada participated in a two-day convention in Hamilton, entitled the Palestine National Voice Preparatory Conference. The convention was the third in a series of preparatory meetings toward the founding of a national organization representing the Palestinian community in Canada. Previous meetings have been held in Ottawa (March 2007) and Mississauga (January 2007). Representatives were present from cities including Vancouver, Toronto, Mississauga, London-Ontario, Montreal, Hamilton, Brantford, St Catharines and Ottawa. The following declaration was adopted at the convention.
The Hamilton Declaration
October 28, 2007
An Open Letter to Mahmoud Abbas,
President of the Palestinian National Authority
We the Palestinian Canadian community assembly at the Palestinian National Voice Preparatory Conference in Hamilton, Canada, issue this letter out of profound concern regarding the present state of the Palestinian national struggle and the November 2007 “peace” conference to be hosted by the United States in Annapolis, Maryland.
While Palestinians still suffer from the disaster of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian National Authority has now agreed to attend another round of flawed negotiations. This time it does so under the pressure of North American and European nations that have actively collaborated with Israel to divide the Palestinian people and inflict collective punishment and other war crimes against them. Even now Israel is being allowed to deny the Palestinians the basic necessities for a functioning society through a humiliating siege against the Palestinian people in response to the exercise of Palestinian democracy and the adherence to its results.
It is our belief that the purpose of the Annapolis round of negotiations is to extract further critical concessions from the Palestinians while further delaying final status agreements. In particular, we believe that Israel will attempt to redefine the conflict with the Palestinians as being only about ending the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, or parts thereof. Such a redefinition leads the Palestinians into the trap of the “two-state” formula which subverts our legitimate rights under international law. We stress that the central issue in the Palestinian conflict with Israel has always been the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land and property caused by the Zionist ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the Israeli denial to Palestinians of the basic human right to return and to live in peace and security as equal citizens on their land.
We further specifically caution you against any recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state. Such a recognition would give Israel the façade of moral and legal legitimacy while critically compromising the full implementation of the inalienable Palestinian right of return. In addition, it would contradict the struggle by Palestinian citizens of Israel to maintain their identity and gain equal rights as citizens. We point out that Israel was established through United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (Partition Resolution) which does not envisage or consent to the establishment of states on a religious or ethnic basis. In addition, we underscore that Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on the basis of its having recognized the full right of return of the Palestinian people on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (Right of Return Resolution).
Today it is more apparent than ever that the only basis on which peace can be brought to the historic land of Palestine is through the establishment of a unified secular democratic state in which all citizens are equal and share the same rights and responsibilities regardless of a citizen’s religion.
Palestinians can only be properly represented through a delegation representing the united Palestinian people. Accordingly, it is essential that the internal dispute between Ramallah and Gaza be resolved before Palestinians participate in any negotiations with the Israelis. In addition, the ultimate decision on what Palestinians can accept can only be determined by a fully elected and democratically effective Palestinian National Council (PNC) representing all of the world’s 10 million Palestinians. Palestinians who are denied the right to participate in elections to the PNC cannot be regarded as having consented to any agreement made in their name. The re-activation of the PNC as a fully elected and democratically effective body would also have the effect of re-energizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as a legitimate instrument of the Palestinian people.
We stress that any attempt to establish peace and security in the land of Palestine can only be successful if it is firmly based on natural justice and the principles of international law. We reconfirm that the right of the Palestinian people to return to their homes and property and to receive full compensation for all damage done to their property as well as for all other losses associated with the violation of their rights by Zionist forces is both an inalienable individual and collective right. Any Palestinian leadership that suggests that the inalienable Palestinian right of return can be negotiated away abrogates any legitimacy it may have had to speak in the name of the Palestinian people.
LIST OF PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS ALL OF WHOM ENDORSED THE ABOVE DECLARATION
- Al-Awda (Toronto)
- Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians – Capitol Region (Ottawa)
- Canada Palestine Association (Halifax)
- Canada Palestine Humanitarian Appeal (Mississauga)
- Canadian Alliance for Palestine (Mississauga)
- Canadian Palestinian Association of London (London)
- Canadian Palestinian Foundation – Quebec (Montreal)
- Coalition Against Deportation of Palestinian Refugees (Montreal)
- Jerusalem Community Services of Ontario (Ottawa)
- Niagara Palestinian Association (St. Catharines)
- Palestine Community Society (Vancouver)
- Palestine House (Mississauga)
- Palestinian Association of Brantford (Brantford)
- Palestinian Association of Hamilton (Hamilton)
- Resistance Art (Toronto)
The text of the declaration was first published in Socialist Project‘s E-Bulletin The Bullet (No. 70) 3 November 2007.