First Palestinian Human Rights Week breaks new ground in Europe

Helsinki - One of the most vicious anti-Israeli activities over the last few years has been the so- called ”Israel Apartheid Week”, which began in Toronto many years ago. The campaign, which makes the claim that Israel is an apartheid state, has influenced a new generation of university students to the point that college campuses are now seen by some as a no-go zone for Jewish advocates and friends of Israel. Last month, the Israeli Deputy Ambassador to London was physically assaulted while speaking at an event at a British university.

At the European Coalition for Israel, we believe the time has come to take back our university campuses!
This month, a Palestinian Human Rights Week was initiated in Toronto, Canada, with the objective of informing students of the suffering of the Palestinian people under their own governing bodies.

"Palestinian Basic law incorporates and affirms international principles of human rights. Even so, under the PA Government, human rights violations of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and degrading treatment are regular occurrences and the freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and the rights of minorities are routinely impaired”, writes Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice in the report ’Hidden Injustices’. (Link here.)

The campaign was initiated by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, and the European Coalition for Israel has taken on the role as coordinator in Europe. Despite many warnings against entering college campuses in Europe, a first prototype event was organised at the University of Helsinki last week. The event gathered both friends of Israel and friends of the Palestinians, to an interesting debate where Calev Myers, Tomas Sandell and MP Jouko Jääskeläinen spoke alongside two Palestinians, Ahti El Massri from Finland and ”Christy” from Britain. The event was moderated by Ina Litma.

Most people who came to the event had no idea that
- this year two Palestinians have been given jail sentences for making jokes about the PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas on their own personal Facebook pages
- Palestinians who sell properties or land to Jews can be sentenced to death
- PLO leader Abbas has stated several times that ”no Jews can be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state”

The full list of human rights violations would be a great deal longer, and at the meeting both Christy and Ahti gave personal examples of what it means to live under a repressive Palestinian regime.
However, it is only the Israeli Government that gets the blame in Western media. ECI had contacted the major media outlets but none of them showed up!

Palestinian Human Rights Week could become a powerful tool for those who truly care about the suffering of the Palestinian people, while at the same time being supportive of the legal rights of the Jewish people to their own ancestral homeland. As speakers at the event pointed out several times - there is no contradiction in being a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinians. Polls show that most Palestinians would prefer to live in Israel, even if they were granted their own state.

Tomas Sandell concluded the event by saying, ”Creating a new repressive Islamic state will solve nothing. If we truly care about the Palestinian people, we need to work together to enhance their human rights and standard of living. In order to do so more effectively, we need to hold accountable, both the Palestinian governing bodies and the European Union which is financing them.

Foreign Minister requests more information

Helsinki - Whilst a number of nations were approached, the first annual Palestinian Human Rights Week ended up being organised in Helsinki, Finland.

Many were open to the message of the hidden injustices by Palestinian governing bodies which deny their own people their most basic human rights and freedoms. These injustices are also perpetrated by neighbouring states who refuse to give the Palestinian refugees citizenship, and instead keep them in conditions similar to apartheid.

Several meetings were organised in the National Parliament, where members promised to look into ways in which the Finnish Government could use more leverage on the aid being sent to the PA, either bilaterally or through the EU. The Finnish Government has been criticised for financing Palestinian textbooks which promote a culture of hatred.

The most remarkable outcome arose through an exchange of e-mails with the Finnish Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja, where he stated that he agreed with the objective of the campaign and would like to personally receive copies of any documentation or conclusions from the seminar.

ECI also met with representatives of the organisation, Finn Church Aid, who last year initiated a campaign to label Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories.  The discussion was open, constructive and frank, and despite many differences of opinion, discussions will continue.

In the meeting, Calev Myers shared about the many human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority, something never before highlighted by ecumenical organisations. Myers stressed that settler violence is unacceptable and is being condemned by the Israeli Government and IDF.  ”The main difference is that I have challenged Israeli violations through our judiciary system, whereas the Palestinians who are suffering under their own governing bodies, have no judiciary system to use.  What have the western human rights organisations done to defend these Palestinians?”, he asked. Finn Church Aid listened and promised to stay in contact in order to share more information.

ext year we hope to organise more events and also make use of video conferencing to spread the message. The co-organiser in Toronto was Faytene Grasseschi who spoke at the ECI Annual Conference in November. The idea of a Palestinian Human Rights Week was first launched at the conference. By organising these events, ECI helps to build new networks and connect people around common projects. By reaching out to new institutions in society, we are able to get our message across much more effectively than by ”preaching to the choir.” Many comments were made by people who were anti-Israel, but who had never had the opportunity to hear arguments to the contrary.

ECI Prayer Summit emphasises need to get involved
No-one can do everything – but everyone can do something

Brussels – People from many parts of Europe who came together to the 11th Annual European Prayer Summit, sensed that ECI is entering a new season. During the conference, the delegates heard about unique activities in parliaments and international institutions in Europe, Africa and Japan.

Despite many new doors are opening, the leaders felt that the time had come to consolidate and mobilise prayer groups in Europe and the world. The first Friday of the month has been declared a day of fasting and prayer. ECI will do what it can to strengthen communication with the intercessors. As one delegate stated: ”We do not want to wait until the next Prayer Summit to be connected with you.”

”Modern information technology has made connections much easier and we need to make better use of it”, says Tomas Sandell.

Any group or individual who would like to have more regular information in order to pray, can contact the office on info@ec4i.org
The same applies to local churches who want to get involved in prayer or wish to consider supporting the work financially.

Reaching out to the leaders of the next generation

Oxford – The European Prayer Summit gathered a growing number of young leaders who want to think globally, but work locally, to support Israel throughout Europe.  In an effort to reach out to leaders of a new generation,Tomas Sandell also spoke at the Wilberforce Academy in Oxford, organised by Christian Concern in the UK. The meeting proved that many young people are willing to become involved if they can just be given the tools to use. Tomas also spoke at a leaders’ meeting in the South of France, where ECI continues to build a strong foundation.

If you wish to become involved in the work with young leaders, in prayer or advocacy, please feel free to make contact with the office so that we can put you in touch with the right people. Together we can make a difference!


First Palestinian Human Rights Week in Europe:First Palestinian Human Rights Week in Europe:

Helsinki 11th April, 2013 – The first annual Palestinian Human Rights Week in Europe concluded on Wednesday night with an open seminar in the University of Helsinki. At the seminar the organisers, European Coalition for Israel and Jerusalem Institute of Justice, challenged all those who care about human rights violations in the Middle East, to demand the same scrutiny of the Palestinian governing authorities as they demand from the Israeli Government.
The keynote speaker, Calev Myers from the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, pointed out that he has consistently challenged the Israeli Government on human rights and justice issues. He has been able to do so successfully, as Israeli society has an independent judiciary system. 
“What have the Palestinian or the European human rights organisations done in the meantime to demand the same rights from the Palestinian authorities?” he asked.  “The simple truth is that those living under the Palestinian authorities lack the most basic human rights and have no independent judiciary system to challenge their own leaders.  Instead, the society is controlled by violence, fear and intimidation. Earlier this year, a Palestinian activist was sentenced to one and half years in jail for making a joke about the PLO leaderMahmoud Abbas on his Facebook page.  

“This is a grave concern for me because this takes place only 40 kilometres from where I live”, Myers explained. “Why are my human rights protected but not his?”
The theme of the seminar was Hidden Injustices, pointing to the fact that Western media mostly chooses to ignore human rights violations in the Palestinian territories, including arbitrary imprisonment, torture and degrading treatment, since these are committed by the Palestinian authorities. The major media outlets in Finland were invited to the event but failed to show up.
Co-organiser, Tomas Sandell of the European Coalition for Israel, pointed out that the EU has failed time and time again properly to address these human rights violations, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority receives over 500 million Euros in aid every year from the European Union.
“This level of financial support requires proper accountability and greater respect for fundamental rights. Today we are failing on both counts”, Sandell said.
“Those who want to promote human rights in the Middle East should not only focus on trying to discredit the only democracy in the region - Israel, but try to build new ones. The creation of another suppressive radical Islamic state does not help anyone”, he said.
The conference moderator, Ina Litma, reminded the audience of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which applies to all people, including the Palestinian people. As Christian friends of Israel, we want to support these rights for the Palestinian people as well.
At the event, the audience heard from Member of Parliament, Jouko Jääskeläinen, and two Palestinians, one who now lives in Finland and one in Britain. One of them, ‘Christy’, had to appear giving just her first name, as she fears for her life and that of her family if her criticism of the Palestinian leaders becomes known at home. In a Skype interview from Scotland, she asked the delegates to ask their government leaders to demand more freedom and greater respect for human rights in the Palestinian territories, in order to make an open debate possible.
Ahti El Massri, who grew up in Gaza but now lives in Finland, also welcomed more involvement and support from the outside world to help solve the crisis in the region.  Despite the Palestinian leaders putting the blame only on Israel, he admitted that they themselves have caused much of the suffering.
“Sadly it is mostly the leaders who have benefited from generous international support and not the people.” While being highly critical of his own leaders, he also warned the West not to see every Arab as a potential terrorist but as a fellow human being. “The solution to the conflict is to love, and not to hate anyone.”
Palestinian Human Rights Week in Helsinki was organised by the European Coalition for Israel and Jerusalem Institute of Justice. In addition to the open seminar on Wednesday night, the week included meetings with members of parliament, government officials, media and church representatives.