Live reporting from the OSCE 2007 Mediterranean Seminar
December 17 to 19, 2007 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The 13th Mediterranean Seminar brings together participants from the OSCE participating States, OSCE partner States, and international organizations and institutions.
On the eve of the seminar, invited Mediterranean NGOs will had the chance to discuss the role of NGOs in combating intolerance and discrimination, and in promoting mutual respect and understanding in the OSCE participating States and the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation, with particular reference to the role of women.
Civil Society Preparatory Meeting
The OSCE Seminar was preceded by a Civil Society Preparatory Meeting on 17 December 2007 on the same premises as the Seminar (Hilton Tel Aviv). Additional information on the preparatory meeting is available on the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) website for the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System (TANDIS). For further information please contact the ODIHR at firstname.lastname@example.org
To ensure visibility of all recommendations you have made are visible in your own words, you can send them to email@example.com. We accept recommendations in English, French and Spanish (Word document or pdf), clearly naming the organisation they come from. In the subject line please mention 'recommendations Mediterranean Seminar'.
Quotes of the day - Editorial: it's a good start, surely. - Opinion: the Obligatory - Reccomendations of Civil Society - Video Byte: interview with Milica Pecic
Quotes of the day
'I'm Arab, I'm Israeli, I'm a muslim, I'm a woman, I have Palestinian roots and I'm a lawyer. People tell me the latter is the worst.'
'Floriane Hohenberg, the driving force behind this meeting!
Rabbi Melchior: 'I will tell you a story!''
Well, it's a good start, surely.
Today the civil society meeting preceding the 2007 OSCE Mediterranean seminar started. It's only the second time this seminar was held in Israel. The first one was in 1996, but those were different times. Israel offered during the last 11 years, but the politics and problems in the area being what they are, the other Mediterranean partners for cooperation protested so much that it never happened. This time around, when Israel offered again, the Spanish OSCE leadership jumped in and leaned on the other Mediterranean partners (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia) and the meeting was a go. We will see tomorrow if the governmental delegations of the other partners will show up, since up to now only Jordan committed. Back to the Civil Society meeting. It became clear pretty late that 'Tel Aviv' was on, which created the huge task for the Tolerance and non-Discrimination programme of ODIHR to get as many as possible NGOs to attend. Since us NGOs also have pretty busy agendas and the several end-of-year holidays are around the corner, it is already something that 41 representatives of some 30 NGOs, predominantly from the region (Israeli, Moroccan) but also from the OSCE participating states (USA, Netherlands, Bosnia, UK, Turkey, Slovenia, Kosovo, Germany, Italy, Lithuania) showed up at today's event.
Our group at the meeting today is also pretty diverse ethnic and religion-wise. We've got Jews, Muslims, Roma, Arabs, Christians and a nice gender-balance, 50% women, 50% men.
One of the keynote speakers, Wafa Fahum Zoubi, chair of the Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Community Center in Haifa, expressed the altering realities in a multicultural state best:
"I have six identities, which you can see by looking at my passport. I'm Arab, I'm Israeli, I'm a woman, I'm a Muslim, I have Palestinian roots and I'm a lawyer. People tell me the latter is the worst. It is a burden, but this is who I am".
Later on we learned from her that we should all visit Haifa, because that's where it happens when you talk about multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity in Israel. People like Wafa spread the positive energy and hope for the future, which we need, not only in Israel but also throughout the OSCE region and the world.
Today it seems that at least NGOs are putting the possible positive results of this conference above the problematic ethic, political and religious tensions that plague the Middle East.
Of course not all is hunky-dory. Almost everybody was disappointed at the low level of participation of NGOs from the other Mediterranean Partners (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia). It was great to have the Moroccan NGOs here. The networking opportunities and moments were rich. The meeting produced a number of valuable recommendations, both to the OSCE Participating States, The Mediterranean partners and towards Civil Society. See below. Hey, it's not an ideal world, and it's easier to hate then to co-operate. This meeting is a good start for co-operation. Onwards!
Ronald Eissens for ICARE news.
The obligatory speeches at the start of any conference, be it OSCE, NGO or whatever, are most of the time easy to ignore, just because dignitaries, VIPs or other eminent persons are giving speeches in which they tell us what we already know, or what we totally agree on, or whatever is politically convenient. But hey, we are the irreverent; so don't take our word for it. Sometimes though, you're all of a sudden woken up by unexpected pearls of wisdom. Like those of Wafa Fahum Zoubi (see editorial). This morning the obligatory speeches brought another such gem: Rabbi Melchior, Honorary chairman of the Citizens Accord Forum (CAF, the host and organizer of the Civil Society meeting) said he was going to 'tell us a story'. Already prepared for a huge yawn he surprised us pleasantly. What he said was: "We in Israel have 2 options. We can spearhead a world clash of cultures, Judeo-Christianity against Islam. The result will be the destruction of the future of humanity. We have a second option. We can be a bridgehead, a coalition of civilizations. We stand with one foot in both worlds. If the world at large would invest only 1 % of what it spends on war on human rights, it would make a huge difference. We are on a slippery slope towards hell but we can still turn it into a road to paradise. We should fight Hate against Muslims and antisemitism together, and for obvious reasons it really works best if I fight Hate against Muslims while my Muslim colleague fights antisemitism. As it is written, he who makes peace in heaven will make peace on earth too."
ICARE Newsteam, Tel Aviv
Short interview with Milica Pecic, Executive director of the Media Diversity Institute, United Kingdom, about the Civil SOciety meeting and Media. Click here to watch (Windows Media).
The WG has had serious and lively discussions about the role of media in combating tolerance and discrimination and promoting mutual respect and understanding.
The WG expressed strong concerns about the situation of freedom of expression in much of the Mediterranean region.
Therefore the WG urges the OSCE to organize further discussions on these issues, so as to insure broader regional representation at future meetings.
Some participants made also the following recommendations:
promoting the positive portrayal of ethnic, religious and other minorities;
promoting the participation of prominent editors and journalists in such seminars;
encourage individual OSCE member states to promote the values of free media in their own bi-lateral relations with Mediterranean partner states;
encouraging newsroom diversity by bringing journalists from different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds;
Education Working Group
States should institutionalize educational programs combating xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.
States should develop and implement national human rights education action plans and institutionalize human rights, tolerance, civic, coexistence, democracy and anti-discrimination education into the formal education system. One model that states have already agreed to is the UN World HRE program-Action Plan 2005-2008.
Pre-service and in service teacher training should be mandatory to facilitate the delivery of curricula in the above mentioned areas.
Promote mutual respect and understanding through teaching about the Holocaust, and other genocides its roots and universal lessons.
States should integrate the historical narratives of minorities and neighboring countries in the core curriculum.
Fight racism in sports: football games are too often a scene of violence, discrimination and racism. However, football and sports as a whole, can be utilized as an example of non-violence and education for tolerance. We propose launching an all-European-Mediterranean campaign against hate violence through Champion League and through local football clubs in each country, recruit players who can serve as role-models for youth to promote tolerance through meeting with children and students and acting as spokespeople to the media on these issues.
Gaps in educational opportunities between students of different ethnicities, cultures religion and economic means is not acceptable. States must integrate students from various sectors in order to expose them to each other and to enrich their education.
Promote initiatives which encourage positive relationships and understanding among young people and students from different faiths, ethnic and cultural origins (as recommended by the Helsinki Final Act) through international exchanges, internships, meetings, and peer and mentoring programs.
States should highlight and fund NGO programs and trainings on long-term HRE and other anti-discrimination, tolerance, and civic education programs.
The Tolerance and non-Discrimination Information System website of the ODIHR should include programs, reports and best practices from the Mediterranean Partners region.
Women Working Group
Regretting the absence of women's NGOs from many Mediterranean partner States from this conference.
Having discussed the issue that the mentioning of religion in constitutions can have negative effects on human rights.
Noting that economic independence is a prerequisite for women to become involved in the fight against intolerance,
To the OSCE
Facilitate dialogue between civil society actors from the OSCE region and from the Mediterranean partner States;
Encourage and support women's NGOs and their work in the area of tolerance across the OSCE region and its Mediterranean partner States.
Facilitate dialogue between women's NGOs and governments.
To participating States
We encourage participating States to take seriously the possibility of opening and continuing dialogue with the Mediterranean partner States about the role of women in society, in particular in the area of promoting mutual respect and understanding.
We believe that women in high-level political positions can have significant impact on the culture of public debate and on the discourse of human rights, mutual respect and understanding. Therefore, we call upon participating States to involve female leaders in the struggle against intolerance and discrimination by drawing on their knowledge and experience, incl. by convening a conference of female leaders committed to the fight against intolerance and discrimination.
Noting that female leaders are still an exception, we call upon States to create structures, legal instruments and political mechanisms that enable women to get involved in the combat against intolerance and discrimination, incl. by ensuring that women are represented in parliaments, governmental institutions and all other official structures;
Introduce special gender advisors at all levels of government, incl. the local level, to engage with the causes of gender inequality;
Introduce liaison officers in Ministries who can provide for a constant dialogue with civil society on the issues of tolerance and non-discrimination.
Empower women to get involved in improving relations between the majority and minorities;
Translate the lessons learnt from the combat against gender inequality to the combat against other forms of inequality, incl. by facilitating the exchange of experiences of dealing with intolerance and discrimination at all levels of society and also between countries;
Allocate funding to create special programs to reach out to girls and women in deprived communities and ensure basic quality education for girls and young women, providing for their access to computers and technology.
Mainstream gender issues in society in general and particularly in education to promote respect and mutual understanding;
Facilitate and support the efforts of women from migrant communities in the OSCE region and the Mediterranean partner States to organize themselves and stand up against patriarchy and discrimination.
Develop tools to assist migrant women living in two different cultures without obliging them to renounce one of these cultures;
Integrate religious leaders in the struggle for women's equal rights and encourage them to speak out against oppression and intolerance and for equality.
Apply the rule of law strictly in any case of bias crime against women and other minorities.
To civil society
Create and strengthen a network of women's NGOs and support them with tools to work in their own families, communities, schools and social circles to promote mutual respect and understanding.
Organize joint efforts of NGOs to increase the number of women who run for political office and civil society leadership and support them once they are elected.
Lead by example and appoint women to high and leading positions in NGOs and encourage women to take on high-level positions in civil society, which can also have a significant impact on the culture of public debate and the discourse on human rights.
Develop programs to empower migrant women
Acknowledge the important role interfaith groups can play to promote equality
We call upon NGOs and governments within the OSCE region and on the Mediterranean Partner States to work with existing networks of women's NGOS who promote the above mentioned activities and use their expertise and networking to expand these ideas.
Last words of the day
That's it for now. There's lots to tell about the three workshops (Media, Women, Education) which produced the above recommendations, but we'll write that tomorrow. It's way past children's bedtime (midnight) and another day of
schlepping around the meeting venue, trying to overhear the real juicy stuff awaits us. Wow, look what funky christmas trees they have in Israel! Goodnight!
Quotes of the day - Editorial: come to the HDIM, get involved! - Life according to Ambassador Julie Finley - Opinion: Soft power is power! - Speeches of the day - Video Byte: interview with Rahela Dzidic - Stuck on the beach
Quotes of the day
U.S. Ambassador Julie Finley: 'Life was tough in the Midwest'
(click here for the audio version)
'There's an elephant in the room which we all ignore'
'Now I want the Chief Rabbis, the Imams and the Christian church leaders to speak out on womens rights!'
Come to the HDIM, Get involved!
The first day of the official OSCE meditteranen seminar started, what a suprise, with a morning of opening speeches by all and sundry. While we listened to all the diplomatic and flowery language we admired the yummy beach just outside the window. Six (!) speeches later, it was time for yesterday's recommendations, the result of the Civil Society meeting. They were read into the plenary meeting by Rebecca Zeffert, Foreign media adviser of the Citizens Accord Forum (CAF, the host and organizer of the Civil Society meeting). After this Jo-anne Bishop, head of ODIHR's Tolerance and non-discrimination Program thanked CAF, which immediately prompted Sarah Ozacaky-Lazar (CAF) to ask about follow-up. Ms. Bishop said that she hoped that NGO meetings preceding OSCE seminars and conferences would be institutionalised and talked some about the annual OSCE Humand Dimensions Implementation meeting (HDIM) as a good instrument for both participating states and NGOs to gauge what states had done with commitments and recommendations. In other words, if something happens with the recommendations of yesterday is also up to the NGOs present at the meeting. Come to the HDIM, Get involved, apply pressure, talk to delegations, do interventions! It's a slow process but you will get some results over time. Contact ODIHRs Tolerance and non-Discrimination programme to see if they can help you in any way.
Next were four speakers on the subject of implementation of OSCE tolerance-related commitments in the participating states and the Mediterranean partners for cooperation.
Ms. Colette Avital, Head of the Knesset delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary assembly,
Ms. Edith Schlaffer from Women without Borders (click here for speech), Commander Dov Lutzky, Expert on tolerance-related aspects of community policing (click here for speech) and Ms. Jo-Anne Bischop, Senior Adviser, ODIHR.
Life according to Ambassador Julie Finley
The afternoon, about the role of the media in facilitating mutual respect and understanding and in countering misperceptions and prejudices brought several speeches, of which the one by U.S. Ambassador Julie Finley was certainly the most ummm…unusual. We've captured it partly on video, see above. Enjoy some rare insights into life in the Midwest of the USA during the olden days, when Mrs. Finley was young and racism, discrimination, antisemitism, intolerance and such nasty things just did not exist, but life was still tough.
Mark Weizman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center spoke about the internet as an educational tool and about the SWC Museum of Tolerance in New York. Ambassador Omur Orhun spoke about 'the transition phase we are living in a globalizing world. In short, a good time was had by all but not a lot of headway was made. Hopefully it goes better tomorrow.
Soft power is power!
Was it the nice view from the conference room, on the blue to turquoise colored sea? The beautiful weather? Or the undercurrent of slight resentment, hard to tell. Todays governmental sessions definitively lacked the dialogue everybody is seeking so desperately. However the before mentioned conditions did make it possible for people to go out on the balcony and have discussions there.
Inside one speaker after another took the floor. A special mention here for Ms. Edith Schlaffer of Women without Borders. In her presentation titled "The Power of Soft Power" she emphasized, if given the opportunity, the important role women can have in leading the way to better understanding and reconciliation in the world. Last April, Women without Borders organized the Matinee “Women against Terror” in an Austrian theatre to share the power of reconciliation and tolerance. Phyllis Rodriguez, the American Jewish mother of a victim of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and Aicha el Wafi, the French Moroccan mother of the alleged 20th hijacker, on trial for involvement in the attacks. The two women encompassed every trait that would make them natural enemies, but instead they chose to work together to fight the intolerance that allowed their sons to fall victim to hatred. They represent a friendship without borders: two human beings suffering unimaginable pain, who chose to look past their race, nationality and religion to forge a bond that represents the true power of soft power. The grief, fear and hope of victims are similar as are the anger and hate of the perpetrators. Conflicts are inevitable, but it is how we deal with conflicts that matters. Soft power at work, after this example the room was completely quiet and focused on Ms Schlaffers' every word. What follows are the words she ended with:
"With these present challenges, questions, and hopes, we begin our expedition into the future and the waters upon which we set sail may be rough. Experienced sailors are needed to navigate and careful preparation is required before embarking. The better we prepare, the more likely we are to arrive at our destination in good condition. Still, questions are left to be answered: What equipment do we need for such an expedition? Which mind maps will show us the way? And, above all, what must we leave behind? If our trunks are burdened with fear and prejudice, we are most likely to sink. So we must travel light, trust in our companions, and embark on this journey together – women, men, and youth – with open minds and the will for a more equal and inclusive future."
Some of the speeches of the day
Opening speech by Ambassador Carlos Sánchez de Boado y de la Válgoma, President of the OSCE Permanent Council
The Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, has asked me to convey to you how much he would have liked to be here today. Most of you know him well and know of his dedication and interest to matters connected to the Mediterranean. So, on his behalf, let me first thank the Israeli government for their hospitality and continuous efforts on the Mediterranean dialog of the OSCE. At the same time, it is an honor for me to be here attending this Mediterranean Seminar eleven years since the first one took place in this same country.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Last year Spain had the Presidency of this Mediterranean Group, a prior step for the Chairmanship of the OSCE. The Spanish Chairmanship, closely linked to the whole Mediterranean region, managed to gather some ideas and outlined a few new ones. We managed to get a lot of input during our meeting in Sharm-El Sheik, because it was the result of what we had been working on for a long time: the growing interaction with the Partners for Co-operation.
The aspiration of Spain, and that of our Chairmanship, has been to highlight the level of relations and mutual interests that exist between these two shores. We are aware that the security of Europe is inseparable from that of the Mediterranean.
I would like to take a look back in time to when we encouraged the Palestinian Authority to join this organization. At that time it was not possible. Perhaps the circumstances were not ripe for that idea. We are still anxiously waiting for the day when those circumstances change so that the Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Libyans and all the Mediterranean countries will join this Organization, to work in favor of a safer world. We have said time and again that the security, and in particular security in the Mare Nostrum, is in our hands, in the hands of all those who border this sea of union.
Although it is not the main priority of the OSCE, we have to fight peacefully in favor of the better conditions of the population. We must fight peacefully for a just world that allows us to live together, like we did centuries ago.
Spain, from its position in the OSCE, has put pressure on our meetings so that there aren't any differences between our Partners for Co-operation and the participating States. That everybody could attend as guest at the same table. For the time being, due to the rules of procedure of the Organization it only allows for our Partners to attend our sessions.
Building on the efforts from all the delegations, this year we have also advanced in subjects like the Translation into Arabic of the OSCE, IOM and ILO report on migration; we have consolidated the presence of the Partners for Co-operation in regular PC meetings; we have contributed to ENVSEC to carry out studies about environmental security; we have introduced the "Toledo guidelines" about education in public schools relating to religion and beliefs; we have facilitated help to the NGOs for the "Cordoba Conference on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims"; we have also done, for the first time in the OSCE, a "Youth Forum", that also dealt with themes such as tolerance. We organized that forum because we believe that if we educate the youth we can take a further step in resolving the big issues that are still before us. UN, trough the Alliance of Civilizations, understood the importance of that point and start building cultures in their efforts to build bridges and destroy the barriers of the misunderstanding. Furthermore, a Ministerial declaration about tolerance and non discrimination has been approved; it will be a guide for the upcoming years. This decision underlines the threats posed by the violent manifestation of extremism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
We have approved in Madrid a declaration directed to the Partners of Co-operation and we have also created the Partnership Fund. Although this fund won't solve all problems, it will be a good starting point. Now we have to help and provide the necessary resources, we have to think of projects and we have to express our political will. Our personal determination is important, but if it doesn't have the political will, it is worth nothing. It is only good to show our own determination: it's like steam that can make us see a big cloud full of water and then disappears in thin air. We need political will, strong commitment, and ideas that can help us move forward in the OSCE with our Partners of Co-operation.
I made earlier a reference to a fair world. What is it that makes a world to be fair? During two days we are going to talk on subjects related to the fight against intolerance and discrimination, and the promotion of mutual respect. Two topics that are fundamentally related to the priorities of the Spanish chairmanship, and centered on the Mediterranean surrounding.
In 2005, and during the Spanish Chairmanship, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, had two important initiatives: the two Cordoba conferences, in 2005 and in 2007; both highly related to the subject of intolerance.
The OSCE, who has always been sensitive to these subjects, stirred up the Minister and made him act on these initiatives. Accordingly, the Minister thought of organizing a conference on anti-Semitism, a horrendous way to humiliate and subdue a human being. He had also the wish to make room for another form of discrimination that is more and more present in our societies, and that is the intolerance and discrimination towards Muslims.
Spain, a country that in the past was able to bring together and live in peace with the three most important monotheistic religions, accomplished to include for the first time in an OSCE conference against antisemitism the subject of discrimination against Muslims. The same thing happened a few months ago, in Cordoba in the OSCE Conference related to islamofobia where we included other forms of intolerance, including antisemitism.
It is important that we are all here today, together Jews, Arabs and Christians. We must help each other, to protect ourselves by denouncing the attacks against intimacy, intelligence and the spirit of the people; just like we must fight together against those who attack human beings based on the color of their skin, race, or other differentiating aspects that normally exist within the human race.
This fight can only be won if we work together in an orderly fashion without passion or violent reactions; guiding people by educating them on respecting their peers regardless of their beliefs and respecting the other. If we all unite in what it can be a true alliance of civilizations and cultures, in fight against the evil and the lack of understanding, we can win...
I would like to express my satisfaction for the presence of NGOs in this meeting. They met yesterday, and we will listen to the conclusions of their meeting later on today. We believe that the participation of NGOs and the civil society is essential for the democratic development and the defense of the fundamental rights of individuals. I seize this opportunity to convey to the director of ODIHR my appreciation for the extraordinary work this office continues to develop in this field.
As Minister Moratinos said in Cordoba, the city of the three cultures, "racism and discrimination impoverish and violate our democratic rights". The OSCE contributes to the promotion of meetings that help to avoid the erosion of the democratic legitimacy, plurality and cultural co-existence.
I don't want to end my intervention without thanking all of you for your presence, your interest and your support.
Opening Address of Mr. Magali Wahabee, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Shalom, and welcome to Israel. The prime example of cooperation between the OSCE Mediterranean partners is the annual Mediterranean Seminar. We were happy to participate in all the Mediterranean Seminars in the past, and are especially proud and honoured to host the 2007 Mediterranean Seminar that concentrates on subjects of prime importance to the Mediterranean region, namely Combating intolerance and discrimination as well as promoting mutual respect and understanding.
Last month in Madrid, the Secretary General reminded us all in his intervention before the Ministerial Council, that "at heart of the OSCE approach to security is the principle that security starts with the inherent dignity of the human person".
Indeed, for the OSCE, security means connecting States among themselves, connecting the human dimension with the economic and the political-military dimensions, and connecting different players, amongst them Participating States, Partners for co-operation, civil society and NGOs. The interaction between them determines the atmosphere in which we live.
Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia together form the OSCE's Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation. Over the years, the OSCE has been able to share its experience with the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation on a number of topics, including:
OSCE as a platform for dialogue and the fostering of norms of behaviour;
The security model for the twenty-first century and new threats to security and stability;
Migration and integration policies; and others.
The annual OSCE Mediterranean Seminars provide the opportunity to exchange views and contribute to further developments in the relationship between the OSCE and the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation. Sadly, only a few of them are present here today. It is in this context that we urge the pragmatic countries of the region to ask themselves what is the greatest threat to their future. Is it Israel, which has no designs on any of them, or is it the hatred and viciousness propounded by those who strive to drag them into a backward world order. The time has come to cease using international forums to vilify Israel and to indulge in point-scoring which merely serves to postpone confidence-building in the region, and to publicly condemn those forces of hatred and violence which, ultimately, undermine everything they stand for.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our region is moving towards a new strategic alignment of the moderates against the radicals. The moderate camp will draw strength from the developments at and after the Annapolis Conference, held last month. The conference was meant to revive the peace-making effort. It is a new beginning for a long-overdue process.
While no core issues or timetables were negotiated at Annapolis, the fundamental commitment to a peaceful solution was reestablished. This is already followed by intensive talks on all outstanding issues, with the aim of finally putting an end to mutual suffering and beginning an era of mutual building. In this regard, it is well to remember the guiding vision of "two states for two peoples" - a new Israeli-Palestinian reality in which two nation-states will exist side by side in peace and security. Just as Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, so Palestine will be the homeland and the embodiment of the national aspirations of the Palestinian People.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A Mediterranean Partnership grounded in equality, human rights and democracy will not just be a safe place for its own citizens but an important champion of those values in a very unequal and troubled world. A strong Partnership can bring hope; it can assist the debate on global problems from climate change, to economic globalisation, from international criminality to terrorism, from conflict resolution to disease eradication. These issues do not respect borders. They need international cooperation and debate.
I hope this Mediterranean Seminar will bring us to some extent closer to a better future for us all, and will result in greater momentum and success for the OSCE and for its Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation. Thank you.
Short interview with Rahela Dzidic from Civitas in Bosnia-Herzegowina, about the seminar and lessons to be learned from a country that suffered from ethnic tensions, genocide and war. Click here to watch (Windows Media).
Dinner at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During the evening, governmental delegates and NGOs were bussed to Jerusalem for a dinner at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mrs. Tzipi Livni, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Held a speech at the start of the dinner:
"Good evening and welcome to Israel. This seminar is, of course, of the utmost importance and I would like to express at the beginning my appreciation of the role of your organization in working to translate values into real action and changes on the ground.
I would like to welcome His Excellency Ambassador Carlos Sanchez de Boado, His Excellency Ambassador Antti Turunen, His Excellency, Ambassador Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and His Excellency Ambassador Christian Strohal.
I would like now to share with you some ideas about the situation here, the way we see our common values and the way it should be translated in the future - as we all face the same challenges and the same goals, not only in the region but as part of the international community.
Indeed, I believe that the world is becoming more complex in a way, even though, on one hand, it looks like a small global village. From the bright side of this small global village, we can see that borders are less important, and when it comes to economy we can use the fact that borders are of less importance to enhance economic investments as well as to share our values. On the other hand, the fact that borders are of less importance is also being abused by extremists in order to spread their own extreme agenda. Thus, while we are trying to spread and to express our democratic values, the global village is being used and abused by those that represent the extremist ideologies in this world.
I believe that what we face right now is the division in the world between extremists and moderates. Sometimes we can see this extremist ideology being represented by a state, like Iran. But one of the challenges that we face is that while in the past we would see these kinds of threats coming from states, now we can see them coming from within states, where the state itself has difficulties in expressing its own sovereignty over its entire territory. We can see extremist or radical elements which are using the lack of enforcement of law and order inside these weak states in order to spread their ideology, to use force, to use violence against others. And we can also see some international organizations using the fact that the world is a global village in order not only to spread an ideology but also to undermine regimes or to undermine our own democratic values, sometimes, unfortunately, by using terror and violence.
So there is a need for us as part of the international community, who share the same vision for the future and the same values, to see what threats we face, to work together - and I know that it is sometimes not easy to work together and to find a consensus - to understand the nature of the threats and, on the other hand, what are the real measures that we can take in order to meet these challenges.
We need to identify the nature of the new threats, although sometimes we also face the old kind of threats that we used to identify in the past. We can see some new threats and we can unfortunately also sometimes see old threats in the guise of new ones. One example is anti-Semitism that has changed its form but still represents the same old hatred. I would like to express my appreciation to what this organization is doing in order to combat all kinds of anti-Semitism as a phenomenon in different places and to educate new generations as to the real nature of anti-Semitism and how to handle it, how to combat it and how to deal with it - not only in terms of states but also in terms of societies.
Talking about this specific seminar, I would like to say that, for me, it is very special because, talking about intolerance and discrimination and promoting mutual respect and understanding, Israel was established as a homeland for the Jewish people. I just spoke about anti-Semitism but the Jewish people suffered from this kind of intolerance and discrimination throughout our history, and part of our need today is to share the common vision to combat it in different places.
The other point is about promoting mutual respect and understanding. This is also an opportunity for us to share with you part of our experience as a state and as a society. When the State of Israel was established, it absorbed people coming from different places in the world. It took us some years to understand that instead of changing the "other", we need to respect the places from which they came. We need to respect different groups, we need to respect the different traditions of those places from which they came to Israel and which they brought to Israel with them. This is a very specific experience that Israel can share with others. It was not easy to do at the time, and I think that we have learned something from our own experience and we are happy to share it with you.
Of course, Israel shares its democratic values with the international community, with the world, what we call the free world, the modern world, but, unfortunately, there is a gap between what Israel is and the perception of Israel is in different places. So, for us, this is an opportunity also to "re-share" our values and to think together about ways to combat discrimination. And the other goal, and maybe this is the most important goal and task for Israel these days, is that we are in what is perhaps one of the more complicated situations in the world in which, on the one hand, we need to defend ourselves, we are in a situation in which we have this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And on the other hand, we need to address their needs; we need to address their humanitarian needs. We need to change the situation on the ground in terms of education, working together with the Palestinian government, the legitimate government, in order to change education, in order to bring this vision of living side by side in security and peace, not only to Israel but also among Palestinian society.
While we are defending ourselves, we also need to act according to our own values - and, believe me, it's not easy. It's not easy when Israel is being targeted on a daily basis by Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip. We have the power and the ability to meet this challenge in military terms but, on the other hand, Israel is not a state that will act against its own values, but will try to avoid any kind of civilian casualties, and so on. So, on a daily basis we have this combination between the need to defend ourselves and the need to defend our democratic values, and this is not less important. As decision makers, we have this kind of ongoing dilemma on our table.
For us, this is an opportunity to share with you the situation on the ground, the political situation on the ground which also impacts the way to promote our mutual goals.
A few words about the situation and the beginning of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians - and maybe this also represents the way we see the region in terms of extremists and moderates. I believe that we should put aside the old vision about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because, in a way, Israel plus the moderate and pragmatic leaders among the Palestinians share the same vision of two states for two peoples. We also understand that, in order to accomplish this, we need to confront terrorism, as the Palestinians understand that in order to do so, for their own sake and not only for the sake of Israel, they need to confront terrorism.
If in the past we used to speak about the conflict in terms not only of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict but a Jewish-Arab conflict or an Israeli-Arab conflict, I believe that there is an understanding today among other states in the region that the threat comes from the extremists, the radical elements, among their own states - radical elements like Iran in the region. So basically they share the same understanding of the challenges, the mutual challenges, and this also changes the alliances in the region.
But it's not easy. It's not easy because we still face the old perceptions. It's not easy because, while the leaders sometimes they understand the nature of the threat, they need to face their own public opinion which is influenced by mass media, and by those extremists that are abusing the mass media and Internet sites in order to spread their own ideology.
Yesterday, at the donors conference in Paris, there was an example of how we can sit together, Israelis and Palestinians, together with the Europeans, Americans and other representatives, to support the legitimate, pragmatic Palestinian government in order to change the situation the ground, to invest in new projects, to change the reality in terms of economy - with the understanding that, in doing so, those who participated in Paris are no longer sitting on the fence but chose to come and to take a side, and this is of the utmost importance.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that I was a little disappointed today not to see representatives of some states which, even though we don't have diplomatic relations, I did meet their own foreign ministers yesterday in Paris, with the understanding that we face the same challenges. My hope is that we can bridge the gaps in terms of understanding the real nature of the threats and to skip all the small, insignificant political decisions and act together as a community, as a global village that shares the same values against those who are trying to deprive us of our rights.
So, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart, as the representative of the State of Israel, for what you are doing on a daily basis. I just came for a few minutes to express this appreciation, but the hard work is what you are doing and the ongoing work in the future. Thank you very much"
Stuck on the beach
During the day, somebody was not so smart and drove a van up the beach. It immediately got stuck in the sand. The driver tried desperately to get loose by flooring the gas pedal, which of course made the wheels only sink deeper. Comment by one of the onlookers: "There you have the Mediterranean dialogue, stuck in the sand". A sobering thought.
Quotes of the day - Editorial: the NGOs brought a breath of fresh air to this event - Morning & concluding session reports - Andrew and the elephant - Video Byte: interview with United States congressman Alcee Hastings - Bits and Bytes: Boxes in Peril
Quotes of the day
'Why don't we just move the whole meeting to the beach!
'Others tried, but decided to be half-pregnant'
'Us women are the majority here now but we're still treated like the minority'
Alcee Hastings: 'Hate does not discriminate'
The NGOs brought a breath of fresh air to this event
Today was the last day of the seminar. The meeting was scheduled to end at 1pm, but since everybody wanted to spend as much time as possible enjoying the Israeli winter (sunny with average temperatures of 68° F / 20° C) the chair decided to scrap the half hour coffee break. So what conclusions can we draw from this seminar? The networking was great. NGOs from Israel, Morocco and Europe learned more about each other, the OSCE and ODIHR and got a good set of recommendations into the proceedings of the seminar. NGOs from the region were presented with ideas and programs coming from other countries that suffer or suffered from ethnic or religious tensions. Hopefully the NGOs will follow-up by coming to the annual HDIM meeting in Warsaw. On the governmental side not much was achieved. Too many problems mar the Mediterranean seminar and the Mediterranean partners for cooperation. To name a few; mutual distrust, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the peace process, the lack of commitment and belief in the OSCE. All during the governmental meeting these issues were present in the room as a big fat elephant that almost nobody wanted to recognize. One of the people who took the elephant by the tusks and shook it around a bit was Andrew Baker (see further on for his speech).
The last time the Mediterranean seminar was held in Israel was in 1996, 11 years ago, and while Israel has been participating in the seminars in the years after, most of the other Mediterranean partners are not reciprocal today, or just send low-level diplomats who could not care less. Still, their presence and the presence of NGOs from the region show that it is possible to tackle the problems in the Middle-East. It is just a matter of wanting to do it.
Organization-wise it was a wonder that it was all done in time and that it all went so smoothly. As per usual the ODIHR-TnD people bent over backwards and got it done. Now for the next Mediterranean seminar it is imperative to get the Permanent Council and the Mediterranean partners for cooperation to decide on a date and place much sooner, so the invitations for a Civil Society meeting can be send well in advance. That is, if next meeting has a civil society part. I hope it will. Civil society meetings preceding OSCE events have shown in the past to produce valuable material and create more feedback between Participating States and NGOs. To quote Mr. Jose Angel Lopez Jorrin, who spoke on behalf of the OSCE Chair in office (Spain): "The NGOs brought a breath of fresh air to this event".
By the way, if you look at the Israeli and Arab/Israeli NGOs, you see that the level of active women is pretty high - although that does not mean the women are in leading positions. Hey, they just do most of the work. There's a nice recommendation about that in the list of 'recc's that was contributed yesterday.
By all means have a look at the video interview with U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings. Now there's a believable representative of the USA, a man who knows what he's talking about.
Andrew and the elephant
Since no-one wanted to address the elephant in the room, that is, the problem of almost none of the other Mediterranean partners showing up, Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee took the elephant by the tusks. Here's his short speech.
It is tempting to conclude that the OSCE Mediterranean Seminar in Tel Aviv was a failure. Its intended purpose-to foster a dialogue between OSCE member states and its six Mediterranean partner countries with a special focus on promoting tolerance-did not happen.
Israel played host, while the five other partners were essentially "no shows." (Low ranking diplomats from the local embassies of Jordan and Egypt made brief appearances at the opening and then departed. Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco were not represented.)
Evoking the spirit of Annapolis, OSCE leaders had been somewhat hopeful. The Spanish Chair, Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, telephoned his counterparts. The Israelis organized the event in Tel Aviv rather than in its capital city Jerusalem to minimize potential political roadblocks. But to no avail.
Dialogue is never easy, but with no one across the table, it is impossible.
So why not call this a failure?
Certainly there were side benefits that came from this seminar. For the first time in these Mediterranean meetings an NGO forum preceded its opening. It too lacked participants from the partner states, with the exception of two brave souls from Morocco. But, it offered lively discussion and served to showcase the well-developed civil society in Israel. I am sure that the Israeli organizations-many of which are focused on promoting Arab-Jewish coexistence in the state-now have a greater appreciation for the work and the resources of ODIHR and the OSCE. I know that the introductions that have been made will lead to further cooperative work.
In the past NGOs have tended not to participate in the Mediterranean seminars, so perhaps this NGO forum will serve as a precedent for meetings in the future.
And of course the OSCE and many of its ambassadors in Vienna have also had the chance to see and experience Israel firsthand, however briefly. The media especially tends to offer a two-dimensional picture of this country almost always through the prism of the Middle East conflict. But you can see for yourself that this is a vibrant and engaging society, with all the promise and all the problems of the finest western democracy.
Shortly after taking office Minister Moratinos invited NGO representatives to meet with him in Vienna to discuss the goals and possible programs of his chairmanship. On that occasion I asked him if he would find the opportunity to take a discussion of the problems of antisemitism into the Mediterranean partner states. At high level conferences on antisemitism organized by the OSCE itself we had heard how various Arab countries had become a primary source of antisemitic invective which was, in turn, being "imported" into immigrant communities in Europe. Discussing this problem with the partner states seemed a natural project for the OSCE and for a Chairman who himself hails from an historical city of three cultures. Minister Moratinos readily agreed.
I have no doubt the promise was sincere. And I know it was not the only project that lacked the necessary time and energy to bring to fruition. Certainly it is better to try for too much than to settle for too little. But should anyone doubt, the difficulty of bringing those partner states here to Tel Aviv for even a general discussion of tolerance issues shows how hard it would have been to try to keep this commitment, too.
But whether this Mediterranean Seminar should be counted a failure is really up to the OSCE and what it does in the coming months. I know there is some talk of broadening this group of partner states, and Libya is one new country that has already been mentioned. But the relationships with the existing partners have been shown to be thin and insubstantial. And the lesson of this seminar is that one cannot pretend otherwise. Yet this should be a reason for the incoming chair and for the new chair of the contact group to try to change that, to begin early and intensively-collectively and bilaterally, through government channels and with your NGO partners-to insure that this time next year there is a dialogue.
Short interview with United States congressman Alcee Hastings about the problems in the region and chances for people. Click here to watch (Windows Media).
This morning's speeches concentrated on the subject of countering discrimination in the OSCE region and the Mediterranean Partners for cooperation states. Moderated by U.S. congressman Alcee Hastings, President Emeritus of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, set the tone of the day: "My own country suffers from unfair equations of Muslims with terrorists and attacks against gays and others. No country is immune to hate and many European countries have voted extreme-right parties into parliament. Recently we saw a Neo-nazi march in Prague during the Kristallnacht remembrance. The latest reports of FRA, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency show a rise in racism in most EU-countries. The UN Special Rapporteur on Racism identifies 7 OSCE participating states that show the same trend. We as individuals need to make a stand; we need to promote respect and mutual aid. We must be courageous enough to cooperate throughout racial and ethnic borders. Hate does not discriminate - all of us might be victims tomorrow."
Slovenian Ambassador Stanislav Rascan stressed that he saw the seminar as an ideal opportunity to enhance cooperation and understanding. Click here for his full speech. The next speaker, Ambassador Lars-Erik Lundin, representative of the European Commission, said that he saw a great need for 'normal people'to have more contact, since that is 'the best way to create understanding'. Read his complete speech here.
Next came Ms. Gali Etzion, lawyer in charge of special affairs of NA'AMAT-Movement of Working Women and volunteers. She talked about equality and women's rights in Israel, coverings issues like the glass ceiling, the fact that women still earned 20% less than men, problems with religious law and civil law when it comes to divorce, domestic violence and rape. "We are the majority but we're still treated like the minority", she said. "But we first have to improve the situation regarding violence against women before we focus on equal treatment laws". She also talked about divorced women and the problems of both raising kids and working. In short, her message was: women in Israeli society have to bear an enormous load, they achieve more and better than men but are still at the bottom and suffer from discrimination on multiple levels.
Professor Gert Weisskirchen, Personal representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-office on Combating antisemitism was the last speaker. The feisty professor started with the conclusion that women are the real heroes, the ones that take the burden all across the board. He said that it was possible that the new president of the United States would be a woman. He started to dwell on this in quite a lyric way, until he detected the glare of U.S. Ambassador Julie Finley. Not one to be at a loss for words, he just removed a foot from his mouth and glibly tried to stroke Mrs. Finley's ruffled feathers back into shape: "but of course the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE is also a woman, which is excellent!"
Weisskirchen talked about individualism as the source of freedom, the individual developing all sources of his or hers potential as a human being, developing abilities to be a responsible personality, but having to rely on others to do this, and they may be expected to give reasons that justify the resources they use to realize their goals - which is fair to others. He said that the deeper significance of this was like Immanuel Kant's idea of justice - free human beings entitled to equal rights coming together for the purposes of enduring mutual support.
Alcee Hastings closed the session by talking about creating chances for people: In the past, in my hometown, I stopped going to community meetings in the town hall at a certain point. The white people at those meetings wanted me to come there to tell them about 'the Negro problem'. Well, I am a negro. I am a professional Negro and I've been a professional Negro all my life. So I told them, the only things people need in life to have a chance are good housing, good food and a good education. That's all I had to tell them".
ICARE Newsteam, Tel Aviv
Ambassador Dan Ashbel, Permanent representative of Israel, was one of those who had closing remarks. An excerpt: "Some did not like the location of this seminar, Israel. Others tried, but decided to be half-pregnant -come to the seminar but be almost invisible and don't say anything. This puts serious doubts on the future of the Mediterranean seminar. It's not enough to talk about hate against Muslims without looking at your own situation. Remember, he who points one finger at another, points three fingers at himself". Read the full speech here.
Next, rapporteur Peter Hulenyi gave an overview of the highlights of today. After this, Mr. Jose Angel Lopez Jorrin, head of the OSCE Chairmanship Task Force gave his concluding statement in which he said that the end of the seminar coincided with Muslim holy day Id-ul-Adha, and that he congratulated the Muslims present. He complimented the government of Israel and noted that this seminar had been the last OSCE event under Spanish chairmanship, which he described as 'trying but challenging'. He said that the seminar had been well-structured. Moreover. NGOs had brought a breath of fresh air to the event and a wealth of recommendations. He thanked the NGOs and said that the document with recommendations was 'rich and should be studied for future deliberations'.
After this, Alcee Hastings thanked everybody and closed the meeting.
ICARE Newsteam, Tel Aviv
Bits and bytes
Boxes in peril!
The stacks of ODIHR/OSCE publications that you see on a table at every conference or meeting were conspicuously missing. Only 3 hours before the end of the seminar they arrived. They had been held for questioning by Israeli customs for over a week. Although the boxes claimed to be innocent publications, interrogation was harsh. For instance, they could not prove what their relationship to each other was and for how long they had been together. They were nastily stamped, unpacked, packed and stamped again. They cried out is protest. "Where is ODIHR? Who is OSCE? What is Strohal or a Jo-Anne Bishop?" they were asked. They broke down in tears. Finally rescued, they found their way to the Tel Aviv Hilton.
Of course the OSCE Conference Services was present in Tel Aviv, but instead of the intrepid Head of the documents distribution section Elke Lidarik there was the charming Ghada Studnicka-Hazim, one of her staffers, who made sure that the lazy people of the ICARE team were provided with all the information they needed to do their job. Thanks, Ghada!