As organisations dedicated to the
protection and promotion of human rights—including those acting as legal
representatives for war crimes victims—we are disappointed by B’Tselem’s active
participation in an upcoming event at which former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert will be fêted as a keynote speaker.
Olmert has been implicated in the
commission of war crimes and other serious violations of international law for
his role in Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Israel’s winter 2008-2009 onslaught on the
Gaza Strip. A court in the U.K. has already issued an arrest warrant for one of
Olmert’s alleged co-conspirators in these acts, former foreign minister Tzipi
Olmert will speak at a gala dinner on
Monday hosted by J Street, a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group
in Washington, DC. Olmert’s speech will
be the keynote for J Street’s annual conference. Last week, B’Tselem sent an email to its
supporters announcing that it was “proud” of its role in the conference,
explicitly mentioning Olmert as a featured speaker.
B’Tselem’s active participation in this
event sends a dangerous message. It undermines the fundamental importance of
accountability for international crimes, disregards victims’ right to dignity
and justice, and implies that political processes may override human rights
standards. B’Tselem should be
protesting, not celebrating, an event welcoming Olmert.
The decision to release this statement was
not taken lightly. We highly value the relationship between Palestinian,
Israeli and international human rights organisations, and can look back on many
years of successful professional cooperation. For some Palestinian
organisations – particularly those from the Gaza Strip – the relationship with
Israeli counterparts is often the last remaining link with Israeli society.
This is a link which we all wish to see strengthened and developed.
However, as human rights defenders, we are
united by our standards: by our belief in the universality of human rights and
the rule of international law. Our legitimacy derives from our unwavering
commitment to these principles, and our obligations to act in the best
interests of the victims we represent.
We call upon B’Tselem to withdraw from
this event, and to use this opportunity to highlight the need for
accountability, justice, and the enforcement of the rule of law.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Dameer Association for Human Rights
The Palestinian NGO Network (representative of 132