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.