NGOs publish shelved EU east J'lem report [pg. 3]

Upset that the European Union shelved its controversial report on east Jerusalem, some 30 European non-governmental organizations are posting the draft document on their Web sites this week. "We're making a big effort to distribute it," said Pierre Galand, a senator in the Belgian Parliament. He is also the chairman of the European Coordinating Committee of NGOs on the question of Palestine. This was just the first move in a campaign to help bring the issue of Palestinians in east Jerusalem into the limelight, Galand told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview from Belgium. "We are trying to press the European Parliament and governments to take this very seriously," he said. The NGOs under his leadership plan to lobby European parliamentarians, intending to ask that Europe suspend its trade and military agreements with Israel unless steps are taken to improve the treatment of Palestinians. The report, which was highly critical of Israel's east Jerusalem policies, was prepared for the EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council by EU officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah. The council this month opted not to approve the report. EU officials said that the report was unnecessary because European governments were making use of other channels to deal with the matter. It also said that it did not want to release such a report prior to the Israeli elections. The contents of the report, however, were leaked to the media in November and widely circulated. Since shelving the report, the EU has made statements critical of Israel's actions in east Jerusalem in other documents. Galand said he wasn't impressed. Statements aren't enough, he said, adding, "Our demand today is not to say, 'Oh, Israel is doing this or that.' We know that and we know that the Europeans are regularly making statements. It's time they take measures to force Israel to change its ways." In a similar manner to its protest against the security fence, the NGOs are asking that sanctions be applied against Israel. In January, there will be a meeting of NGOs on this issue, he added. But already the War on Want, an NGO based in England, is asking that Europe suspend its Association Agreement with Israel which grants Israel a special trade status. "The agreement is based on human rights and, if that standard is not met - and as far as we know [Israel has] not - the agreement should be suspended," said Nick Dearden, a campaign officer for War on Want. The NGOs didn't ask for the report, but now that it exists it can be used to advocate for the Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, Dearden said.