Gro Harlem Brundtland, Hina Jilani and Archbishop Desmond Tutu,Three of the worldâs leaders, members of the group called âThe Elders,â spoke on the conflict between Israeli and Palestine over the weekend in Honolulu, Hawaii
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Three of the world's leaders, members of the group called "The Elders,"
spoke on the conflict between Israeli and Palestine over the weekend in
Honolulu, Hawaii. Each of the Elders has had extensive experience with
As the first woman Prime Minister of Norway, and its youngest Prime
Minister at age 41, Gro Harlem Brundtland directed her government to conduct
secret talks with the Israeli government and Palestinian leadership which led to
the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
As a human rights lawyer in Pakistan, Hina Jilani created the first all
woman law firm and established the first Human Rights commission in her
country. She was the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders from
2000 to 2008 and appointed to United Nations committees to investigate
violations of international law in conflicts in Dafur and Gaza.
Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a leader in the movement
against apartheid in South Africa, advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions
against the South African government and has been a vocal critic of Israeli
apartheid actions in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Elders are a group of leaders who were brought together in 2007 by
Nelson Mandela to use their "independent, collective experience and influence to
work for peace, poverty eradication, a sustainable planet, justice and human
rights, working both publicly and through private diplomacy to engage with global
leaders and civil society to resolve conflict and address its root causes, to
challenge injustice, and to promote ethical leadership and good governance."
The Elders include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former United
Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, former President of Finland Martti
Ahtisaari, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, former President of Mexico
Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso,
grassroots organizer and head of the Self-Employed Women's Association from
India Ela Bhatt, former Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs and United Nations
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Grace
Machel, former Mozambique Minister of Education, United Nations investigation
of children in war and co-founder of The Elders with her husband Nelson Mandela.
During their speaking engagements August 29-31, 2014 in Honolulu, the three
Elders spoke directly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Archbishop
Desmond Tutu said when he goes to Israel and then through the checkpoints to get
into the West Bank, his heart aches at the parallels between Israel and
apartheid South Africa.
He noted, "Have I been caught in a time warp? This is
what we experienced in South Africa." With emotion he said, "My anguish is what
the Israelis are doing to themselves. Through the truth and reconciliation
process in South Africa, we found that when you carry out unjust laws,
dehumanizing laws, the perpetrator or the enforcer of those laws is
dehumanized. I weep for the Israelis as they have ended up not seeing the
victims of their actions as human as they are."
In 2009, Hina Jilani was a member of the United Nations investigative team
on the 22 Israeli attack on Gaza that was documented through the Goldstone
Report. Jiliani, who also investigated military actions in the Dafur, said,
"The real problem is the occupation of Gaza. There have been three offensive
actions by Israel against Gaza in the past five years, each bloody and
destroying the civil infrastructure need for the survival of the people of
Gaza. No one party can use the right of self-defense to avoid international
laws. There can be no peace without justice for the Palestinians. Justice is
the goal to achieve peace."
Jilani said the international community must keep the Israelis and
Palestinians engaged in talks so hopefully neither side will kill more persons.
She added that the international community must also give strong statements that
violations of international law with impunity will not be allowed -- international
accountability is demanded. Jilani said there are three parts to ending the
conflict between Israel and Palestine. First, the occupation of Gaza must end.
Second, there must be an Israeli commitment to have a viable Palestinian state.
Third, both sides must be made to feel that their security is protected. Jilani
added that "Both sides must comport to the norms of international
Dr. Gro Brundtland said that in 1992 when she was Prime Minister of Norway,
she instructed her government to have secret talks with the Israelis and
Palestinians that resulted in the Oslo Accords, sealed with a handshake between
Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and PLO chief Arafat in the Rose Garden of the
Brundtland said, "Now 22 years later, the tragedy is what NOT has
happened." The Palestinian state has not been allowed to be established, but
instead Gaza has been blockaded by Israel and the West Bank occupied by Israel.
Brundtland added. "There is no solution except a two state solution in which
Israelis realize that Palestinians have a right to their own state."
Two other Elders deeply concerned about the Israeli actions against
Palestinians have spoken out again. Elders former Presidents Jimmy Carter and
Mary Robinson, wrote in a recent article in Foreign Policy
titled "Gaza: A Cycle
of Violence That Can Be Broken"...
"This tragedy (of the third conflict in six years)
results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the
region, when a
reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced
in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control
under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new
government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the
Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the
European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to
past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has
succeeded in preventing the new government's deployment in
Robinson strongly condemned Israeli use of force on civilians...
"There is no
humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are
conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverised
large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More
than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of
Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to
water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian
catastrophe."There is never
an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes.
This is true for both sides. Hamas's indiscriminate targeting of Israeli
civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been
killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600
Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The
need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these
violations of international law should be taken very
Robinson suggest the European Union Border Assistance Mission, an international
effort to help monitor border crossings that was launched in 2005 and suspended
in 2007, should return to Gaza. They note that EU High Representative Catherine
Ashton has already offered to reinstate the program, covering Rafah and all of
They add that...
"The international community's initial goal
should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and
from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States
and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political
force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise.
Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor -- one that represents a
substantial portion of the Palestinian people -- can the West begin to provide
the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the
internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in
Palestine, the West's approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite
The speaking events in Hawaii were sponsored by Pillars of Peace and the
Hawaii Community Foundation.
experience of The Elders and their independence from governments' political
agendas, offer the world avenues to peace and justice -- but only if citizens force
their governments to listen!