The Political Failure of the Euromed Civic Forum: Marseille 3-4 November 2008
By: Ameer Makhoul
General Director, Ittijah – Union of Arab Community Based Associations
As a co-founder of the Euromed NGOs platform since 2002, and as an active figure in the process of building it up and encouraging its foundation, I was very disappointed with the Final Statement and Plan of Action issued by the Forum in Marseille, 3-4 November 2008.
I was shocked by the marginalization Forum's political voice on the core issue of Palestine including the case of Palestinian refugees and the right of Return. It was even more shocking to witness the absence of the jointly Israeli-world crime of the siege on Gaza, the Zionist apartheid wall which blocks and tears apart Palestine's lands and people, the 11,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and the Israeli criminalization of any linkage between Palestinian people in the homeland and Diaspora and even within our homeland (Gaza, Jerusalem, Palestine48 areas and the West Bank). All of these issues were 'forgotten' in the CIVIC forum under the title of: "MOVING and living together in the Euromed space"??
How could civil society representatives adopt such a statement whose language and tone suit more the language of the Israeli political voice and their President Shimon Peres (the initiator of the Israeli nuclear armament and the official responsible on Qana 1996 massacre in Lebanon) who would consider such a declaration too moderate!!
On which basis would the declaration call for the independency of civil society if the platform adopts the governmental voice? Ironically and in certain cases the civil society's voice is perceived to be more governmental than governments and more diplomatic than diplomats!! However, what is the political need for the platform and the Civic Forum if it doesn't lobby for civil society's agenda? What can Palestinian Refugees seek for from the platform when it doesn't mention their right of return to their home and properties in Historic Palestine?
Before I deal with the marginalization of Palestine, I think that the language regarding immigration in Europe ignores the historical root causes; I mean the colonial legacy of European countries in the Arab region. The European responsibility is not only based on human rights values, but one of the components of Europe's wealth is the colonization of Africa, the Arab region and the whole world in the past. It is an obligation that Europe deals with its direct historical responsibility on the imposed under-development of the South. The civil society is expected to call for historical justice and for the compensation of the colonial un-justice. Of course the Arab regimes are responsible but this doesn't deny the real historical root causes. Therefore, does the Civil Forum consider the civil society an actor within the governmental frame or an independent entity?
It was appalling to see the loss of the spirit of civil society's independent voice and so I beseech all civil society organizations to urge the EU presidency and all EU governments to stop collaborating with the Israel-US strategy in the region and to respect the results of the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council based on the votes of Palestinian community in West Bank and Gaza; The EU must not become a partner in the collective crime against the Palestinian population in Gaza.
What does the declaration mean by the statement: "We call on International Community and particularly on the European Union to implement immediately UN resolutions"? is this the platform and civil society's plan of action? The siege on Gaza is a crime against humanity with international support and there is no UN resolution issued on this subject.
Where is the voice which Arab civil society should be the first to raise to sanction Israel not the Palestinians and to boycott Israel as a colonial racist entity? Where is the voice to share responsibility with the solidarity movements worldwide in support of Palestine, just peace and challenging the siege on Gaza??
The Declaration, in the 2nd paragraph, states the following: "These values (of the universal declaration for human rights) are universal norms that each people, all men and women, have the right to benefit from. Ignoring or weakening these values, in the North and the South Mediterranean alike, will reinforce dictatorships, the worst injustices and indiscriminate violence". Again, the problem is with what's not mentioned. Israel is not considered as a dictatorship but a 'western democracy' and represents more than 60 years of ongoing war and racist crimes and violations of human rights. This aspect which is the most negatively influential in the Euromed process is not mentioned.
In the 4th paragraph, it is mentioned: "This implies that each State be recognized within its borders", how is this applied to Palestine and to the Israeli occupation. This doesn't mean at all self determination; in addition such a position opposes by definition the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their home lands, homes and properties. But more than that is the 'language' of states borders representing a governmental voice, while civil society in its nature is expected lobby for rights – and in this context people's rights.
I expect some colleagues to argue against this critic and claim that Gaza and "colonial occupation" are mentioned within the declaration, but in fact both are mentioned within a wider context, while excluding the "Wall" and the Palestinian refugees' right of return. All what is mentioned isn't stated within the framework of the plan of action meaning that they are not issues for focus and follow up.
Based on the above I believe that the declaration reflects political dimensions which are totally unfamiliar to the independency of civil society. As a co-founder of the platform I see that the internal structural changes imposed on the platform through weakening the position, the representation, political impact of national networks (especially the Palestinian representation) and shifting the platform into thematic EU dimensions are highly reflected in the outcomes of Marseille Civic forum 2008. I also believe that this specific declaration urges civil society structures to double-check their need for the platform.