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MPPM (Portuguese Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East) notes with concern the role played by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in the process leading to the resignation of Rima Khalaf from the post of Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The succession of events deserves to be briefly considered. On Wednesday, March 15, ESCWA published a landmark document accusing Israel of apartheid, in a report concluding that «Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole».

The authors of the report —Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk, both US experts in international law — «aware of the seriousness of this allegation ... conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law». The report «rests on the same body of international human rights law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)» and «relies for its definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973)». The authors of the report emphasize that «although the term 'apartheid ' was originally associated with the specific instance of South Africa, it now represents a species of crime against humanity under customary international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court», and they add that «this report reflects the expert consensus that the prohibition of apartheid is universally applicable and was not rendered moot by the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia)».

The report highlighted in particular Israel's discriminatory land policies enshrined in the country's Basic Law (equivalent to the constitution). ESCWA also mentions some of the Israeli policies of «demographic engineering»: conferring on all Jews, anywhere in the world, the right to acquire Israeli citizenship, while preventing the entry of millions of Palestinians with documented ancestral ties to the land on which the State of Israel was created in 1948; preventing family reunification of Palestinian citizens of Israel married to Palestinians from the occupied territories; the maintenance of segregated communities within Israel, with an extremely uneven distribution of resources. The report also underlines the fundamental importance of the different Israeli legal codes that apply to Palestinians within Israel, occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip as «the principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime».

The publication of the report was immediately subjected to fierce criticism from Israel and the United States, which urged the Secretary-General, António Guterres, to formally distance himself from the content of the report and demanded that it be removed from the official website of the United Nations. On that same day, in a statement by the Secretary-General's spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, António Guterres made public his distancing.

According to Rima Khalaf, António Guterres requested on March 16 that the report be withdrawn and, despite her request for him to reconsider, Guterres insisted, which led to her presenting her resignation. And in fact, on March 17 the report was no longer available on the ESCWA website. The Secretary-General's decision was hailed by the ambassadors of Israel, Danny Danon, and the United States, Nikki Haley, as well as by organizations of the Zionist lobby in the United States.

The MPPM cannot but condemn the attitude, in this affair, of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, which rewards the country, Israel, that has most often violated UN resolutions, to the detriment of the martyr Palestinian people, to whom the UN owes a heavy and unrenounceable historical debt. We must not forget that seven decades ago the UN decided to partition the historic territory of Palestine, promising the creation of two States. But while one of these States, Israel, has existed for 68 years, the Palestinian people continue to wait for the fulfilment of the UN General Assembly's promise, which has been successively renewed through numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that Israel defies daily.

The MPPM praises Rima Khalaf's dignified stance and considers António Guterres's decision, yielding to pressure from Israel and the United States of America — at a time when the latter is discussing cuts to its financial contribution to the UN Budget — as seriously detrimental to the prestige, independence and the very raison d'être of the United Nations. On this occasion, it is worth recalling that on October 2016, at the time of the election of António Guterres, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, expressed his hope that with the new Secretary General the UN would abandon its «obsession with Israel». The position taken by António Guterres, confirming the fears aroused by this statement of Israel's representative, sets a serious precedent that makes us fear the worst, as concerns the future of his mandate.

The MPPM reiterates on this occasion the wishes it expressed in its letter to António Guterres on the occasion of his inauguration as UN Secretary-General: that this may be the mandate in which the United Nations pays its historical debt to the people of Palestine. Only by changing the attitude he has taken, and adopting a position in line with UN resolutions, will António Guterres defend the authority and prestige of the organization he heads, and further a just solution to the plight of the Palestinian people. Only then can the UN contribute to peace throughout the Middle East and to world peace.

Lisbon, March 22, 2017

The National Directorate of MPPM

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[20 Jan 2017]


Dear Mr. António Guterres,

We know that the mandate that you begin today will be very demanding.

Our planet's problems are dramatic and demand urgent action by the international community.

Perhaps never since World War II have the dangers of a conflict between the biggest nuclear powers on the planet been so great.

For the peoples of the Middle East, the scourge of war is already a terrible reality. The 21st Century has been for them a century of successive wars, imposed or nourished from abroad, as a result of unconfessed ambitions of economic domination.

Entire countries have been, and are being, destroyed and fragmented, their States torn apart. For the peoples, war means death, destruction, forced exile, within their countries or in more distant places. The number of refugees and displaced persons has never been so high since World War II. We know that you are well aware of this reality, because of your worthy work as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

This reality of today's world is unacceptable. It shocks the consciousness of Humanity. It must urgently be ended.

But we urge that, in the midst of so many great problems, the tragedy of the Palestinian people not be forgotten. The United Nations owe a terrible debt to the martyred people of Palestine.

Almost seven decades ago, the UN chose to partition Palestine's historical territory, promising the creation of two States. One of those States, the State of Israel, has existed for 68 years. But the Palestinian people are still awaiting the fulfillment of the promise made by the UN General Assembly, which has been successively renewed through numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that Israel defies daily.

These have been decades of occupation, repression, wars and a permanent campaign of displacement of the Palestinian population from their homes, their lands and their Land.

Decades of negotiations, in which the Palestinian side agreed to make substantive concessions, sacrificing most of its historical territory for the sake of creating a national State with its capital in East Jerusalem, have come to nothing.

Decades of unsuccessful expectations, with countless resolutions, treaties and agreements, have not materialized the State that the Palestinian people yearn for. Millions of Palestinian refugees, scattered all over the world, and the memory of their parents and grandparents, cry out for justice. It is an unacceptable situation, incompatible with the UN's role and Charter. It is an open wound for the status and credibility of the United Nations.

The recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2334 may open a path of hope for the realization of the rule of international law and the respect for the inalienable rights of peoples, if blackmail and other maneuvering to prevent its full implementation is stopped.

MPPM — the Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East — is an NGO accredited by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (Deliberation of September 17, 2009). Its mission is to promote among public opinion, and in accordance with United Nations resolutions, support for the creation, in the territories of Palestine occupied by Israel since 1967, of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, with a just solution to the question of Jerusalem and for the issue of Palestinian refugees, as well as support for the establishment of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

At the recent event marking the 29th of November, a date which the UN chose as the International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine, we expressed our solidarity with the people of Palestine, their cause, the cause of their political prisoners, their millions of refugees, those living under occupation or in exile. This appeal, addressed to you, arose from that event.

We urge that the mandate that you are now beginning, in the very important post of Secretary-General of the United Nations, may be the mandate in which the United Nations may repay their historical debt to the people of Palestine. An act of justice in itself, the solution of the Palestinian people's drama would also be an invaluable contribution to peace throughout the Middle East. That is to say, to peace around the World.

Lisbon, January 2017

The National Directorate of MPPM

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It was with deep regret that the MPPM- Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and Peace in the Middle East - took note of the death of Silas Coutinho Cerqueira, our founding member, director and major driver, occurred yesterday. His wake will take place at the House of Peace, headquarters of the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation in Lisbon, at Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 56, 2nd, between 17h and 22h, on Wednesday, August 24th, and between 10 hand 16h Thursday, 25 August. His funeral will take place in the cemetery of Alto de São João, on Thursday, from 17h.

A tireless fighter for peace, Silas Cerqueira dedicated his life to the cause of peace and cooperation, solidarity among peoples and the fight against racism, colonialism, apartheid and all forms of discrimination and exploitation. He was an important antifascist fighter and was arrested on several occasions by the police of the dictatorship. A renowned and prestigious international personality, Silas Cerqueira leaves his name on the most important initiatives and public movements promoted in Portugal before and after April 25, related to the struggle for peace and solidarity among peoples. Among the many and varied struggles that involved, Silas Cerqueira he felt with particular intensity the drama of the Palestinian people and the constant threat to peace that is the situation in the Middle East, which he deeply knew as a result of his many visits to the region.

He was the great worker of the organization in Lisbon, in November 1979, of the World Conference in Solidarity with the Arab People and his Central Cause: Palestine. Promoted by the Arab People's Congress and an international committee representative of organizations from North and Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, the Conference was organized, at the national level, by the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation, and had the support a wide range of personalities and democratic, civic, humanitarian and religious associations. The presence in Portugal, during those days, of the President of the PLO, Yasser Arafat – his first visit to a country in Western Europe, during which he was received by the Head of State and the Prime Minister, then respectively, General Ramalho Eanes and Maria de Lurdes Pintasilgo – reinforced the high significance of this event, which marked symbolically the beginning of the recognition, in Western Europe, of the PLO and, in general, of the Palestinian cause.

As an aggregator of wills supporting the rights of the Palestinian people, Silas Cerqueira promoted in February 2004 – at the same time as the issue was discussed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague – the petition "No to Sharon Wall "which collected accessions of a significant number of individuals representing various sectors of the Portuguese activity, He publicly presented the petition at the United Nations International Meeting on the Impact of the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including In and Around East Jerusalem which was held in Geneva on 15 and 16 April 2004.

In June 2005, he laid the foundation of MPPM with the document entitled "Reasons, Principles and Objectives of the Constitution a Movement for Palestinian People's Rights and Peace in the Middle East", which was to be signed by a significant range of individualities and stressed the need to set up a Portuguese movement to defend the rights of the Palestinian people, defining what should be its guidelines.

The Installing Committee, which he integrated, created the conditions so that, on August 9, 2007, MPPM was constituted as non-profit association.

Silas Cerqueira always integrated the National Directorate of MPPM, where he held the positions of Coordinator of the Executive Committee and Secretary for International Relations.

His friendship with José Saramago, another long-time militant of the Palestinian cause, paved the way for Saramago’s acceptance of the invitation to preside over the General Assembly of MPPM, a position he held until his death.

One of Silas Cerqueira personality traits was his ability to bring together individual wills around common causes, overcoming differences that could be manifested in other aspects of public life. This explains the plurality of adhesions that he achived in the initiatives he led, as well as the diversity of sensibilities he gathered in the teams he formed.

Also, in the international field, MPPM benefited from reputation Silas Cerqueira had as a renowned militant of the cause of peace and solidarity with the peoples. His action was decisive for the accreditation of MPPM as Non Governmental Organization by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, by Determination of 17 September 2009. It was also through his influence tha it was possible to bring to Portugal, to participate in MPPM initiatives, internationally renowned figures, as happened in June 2012 with a UN delegation composed by the President of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Ambassador Abdou Salam Diallo, Ambassador of Senegal to the United Nations, and Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, who participated in the International Seminar "The Palestinian Issue and Peace in the Middle East."

Over the years, Silas Cerqueira imprinted on MPPM his bold and unyielding fighter brand. At this time of sorrow, we present to his family our heartfelt condolences and affirm our solemn commitment to honor his memory by continuing his struggle until there is a just peace in the Middle East and the Palestinian people lives in freedom in its independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Lisbon, August 23, 2016

The National Directorate of MPPM

silas cequeira

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