VIENNA, The International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East concluded today, with two panel discussions exploring themes of bias, objectivity, truth and the role of both social and traditional media in covering the issues that mattered most to Palestinians and Israelis.

In closing remarks, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, praised the seminar for engaging participants in unique thematic subjects. He described a dynamic context in which Palestinians were working for change, marked by unwavering hope for a peaceful future and renewed determination to create national unity. While many doubted those efforts, we want to do it right this time, he said, asking the audience to pay attention to what could possibly unfold. A crisis had arrived, which could lead to something good.

Alison Smale, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, said she had noted that positive vibe, thanking participants who had come from near and far to attend the seminar.

Gertraud Borea d'Olmo, Secretary-General, Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, thanking participants for their insights, underlined the important goal of ending the occupation and achieving an independent State of Palestine. She drew attention in that context to a programme involving Palestinian women � from Palestine, from inside Israel, East Jerusalem, the refugee camps and the diaspora � who sought a strategy for unifying their people.

In a morning panel titled Media narratives and public perceptions from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, participants described their personal experiences covering the conflict, detailing the risks involved and responsibilities they bore in carrying out their mission. To many, the narratives were rooted in history and politics.

Daoud Kuttab, columnist and journalist, cautioned against equating Palestinian media with media in Israel and the West, as journalists had smaller budgets, less training and little time to spend in the field. Most Palestinians viewed the media as an instrument to bring about statehood. Journalists were trying to change that perception, recognizing it as a platform for truth.

I see media as a tool for Palestinians, said Amira Hanania, Presenter, Palestine TV, in their struggle for freedom. Conversely, she experienced Israeli media as a tool for avoiding the larger issue of occupation. While Israeli media could report from Ramallah, she could not travel to Israel without a permit. She had been shot at while doing her job � and not by mistake. We would love more if you would put yourself in our shoes, she explained. In the field, through Israeli eyes, she was a security threat.

Along similar lines, Yonatan Mendel, Director, Center for Jewish-Arab Relations, The Vaan Leer Jerusalem Institute, said language � particularly metaphor � played a role in shaping the Israeli narrative. Israel understood itself as a villa in the jungle from a belief that the politician must control the metaphor to win the debate. Other themes built on the idea of the Middle East ruled by tribalism, with Israel evolving and others not. The idea that we live in a tough neighbourhood was often repeated by policymakers to allow Israel to behave as it did, he explained.

In an afternoon panel on The Israel-Palestine conflict through the lens of international media, Tony Klug, Special Adviser on the Middle East, Oxford Research Group, questioned whether bias was in the eye of the beholder, and whether the maligned media were innocent of the charge. He asked whether people understood what they meant by balance and objectivity, and if they would choose it if they did. Such questions were pivotal in covering the conflict.

Barbara Plett Usher, United States Department of State Correspondent, BBC, said when she was reporting on the Oslo Accords, Palestinians were considered a pan Arab cause. Today, their situation was not as frequently reported. There was a battle over narratives and over land, she said, and the goal of a journalist was to incorporate both without losing sight of the actual balance of power.

Edmund Ghareeb, Professor, American University, said that the United States media, while among the most free and powerful in the world, nonetheless had succumbed to Israel's influence on terminology. He drew attention to such terms as required concessions, which Israel offered, when in fact Palestinians requested compliance with international law. The United States discussed disputed territories, yet most people did not recognize Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. The same was true when Israel spoke of ceding territories, despite that they were not Israeli lands.

On a related point, Taghreed ElKhodary, journalist and scholar, said she did not understand why international media described settlements as Jewish, rather than Israeli, as such references gave legitimacy to a Jewish State. Further, the conflict was being covered by journalists who did not live the Palestinian reality. That makes a big difference, she said. They come, they leave. She recommended a more thorough approach.

Panel I

The day began with a panel discussion titled, Media narratives and public perceptions from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. Moderated by David Dadge, Spokesperson for the Director-General, United Nations Office at Vienna and former Director, International Press Institute, it featured presentations by: Allyn Fisher-Ilan, News Editor, The Jerusalem Post; Amira Hanania, TV Presenter, Palestine TV; Daoud Kuttab, Columnist and Journalist; and Yonatan Mendel, Director, Center for Jewish-Arab Relations, The Vaan Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Mr. DADGE, United Nations Office at Vienna, said the Israel-Palestine conflict was complex, characterized by historical and geopolitical dimensions that affected regional and global dynamics. The reporting on it was among the most heavily scrutinized of that produced anywhere in the world. Irrespective of experience or political persuasion, journalists faced routine criticism, including censure. Since 1992, 16 journalists had been killed reporting on the issue, against the backdrop of a total 1,292 killed around the world � a painful brutal reminder, that whatever the colour of your reporting [] journalism can be a very dangerous deadly business.

Ms. FISHER-ILAN said news media wielded a great deal of power, but it was a less unique news provider today, as anyone with a Facebook account held the same informative power. Though the Israeli occupation had just marked its fiftieth anniversary, the conflict was not high on the world agenda. This is really a matter of concern, she said, and not good for anyone. Competing conflicts � in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and involving the Rohingya � had eclipsed it. The current United States Administration routinely promised deals, but had yet to commit to the goal of the two-State solution. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, himself appeared doubtful.

While media bias was a problem, she said the bigger issue was that each side spent too much energy bashing the other's reporting and school curricula. The media must play a more constructive role in creating change. There had been calls for Israel to take the initiative, a noble aspiration but she questioned how realistic that prospect was. She had been discouraged by recent comments about empathy, a quality which she viewed as a basic ingredient for progress. Yet, some in the audience seemed to think that only one side should feel it � if at all. There were two sides to any conflict. Despite that Israel had the upper hand, when an adversary did not see the need to build relationships across the divide, it did not inspire confidence. We all need to quit overdoing the cult of victimhood, she said.

Ms. HANANIA said she was interested in the empathy approach; however, in a different manner. Journalists should raise awareness about ethics, international law and human rights. The Palestinians should ask her to understand the situation from different angles. To her Israeli counterparts, she said you are welcome to Ramallah. My leadership is opening doors for you to cover and see. On the other hand, she could not go to Israel without a permit or being under cover. She asked how, then, could she exercise empathy while the other side had more privileges. The conflict was deeply rooted in the fabric of daily life. Perhaps it was more obvious because of social media. I see media as a tool for Palestinians, she said, as part of the struggle for freedom. She experienced the Israeli media as a tool for misleading and avoiding the larger issue of occupation. It hurt Palestinian journalists to be accused of incitement. She wondered how she could be asked not to speak up when she was regularly under siege. She had been shot at while doing her job and it wasn't by mistake. We would love more if you would put yourself in our shoes, she explained. In the field, through Israeli eyes, she was a security threat.

Mr. KUTTAB said let's be honest. There is a big gap between Israeli and Palestinian media. The journalists had different backgrounds, abilities, qualifications and history, and they served different communities who had different demands. Yet, we are being judged by the same standards, he said. In general, the Palestinian-Arab perspective accentuated the family � the nation � and minimized the individual. That was the opposite of Western and Israeli media, which elevated the individual. That difference affected how the media worked.

For example, he said, Israeli media would cover an attack by focusing on the 9-year-old girl who broke her arm, whereas Palestinians would approach it from a perspective of the collective � the nation � and focus on the illegal occupiers. That perspective influenced the ability to express and receive empathy, including from the international community. Our historical cultures are reflected in the media, he said. We are trying to get the Arab countries to stand for us. He often heard Israeli media say that Palestinians did not care about their children. Of course, that was not true. When the cameras were off, the mother cried about her dead son. When they were on, she carried the success of the community on her shoulders.

Noting that in Tel Aviv, seasoned journalists wrote human interest stories, while in Jenin, Reuters sent a 17-year-old to film an event � as an event. That was a structural problem in the narrative. The weak always know about the strong, he said, but not vice versa. It was a mistake to equate Palestinian with Israeli and Western media, notably because it had lower budgets, less training, and less time to spend in the field. Most Palestinians viewed the media as an instrument to bring about statehood. Journalists were trying to change that perception, stressing that it was a platform for truth. It was wrong to compare the two narratives.

Mr. MENDEL said that in his career he explored how the Arabic language had moved from being a language of the self to become one of the stranger and the enemy. He recounted several anecdotes which revealed something bigger about what could � and what could not � be thought in Israel. Metaphors have power in the world, he said, noting that Israel understood itself as a villa in the jungle from a belief that the politician must control the metaphor to win the debate. Another metaphor viewed the Middle East as ruled by tribalism: Israel had evolved while others had not. The belief that we live in a tough neighbourhood was often repeated by policymakers to allow Israel to behave as it did. Another narrative centred on a perceived difference about how Israelis and Palestinians lived their lives, distinguishing between those who wanted to live and those who did not care about dying.

Indeed, language served as a strategy to recount stories to ourselves � not to reflect reality but to shape it, he said, questioning how to end the occupation if, from the Israeli perspective, it did not exist as something that must be stopped. The BBC's reference to events in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was considered an anti-Israeli stance. I believe there is occupation. But I cannot publicly claim the occupation to be a fact, he said. The same was true for newspaper treatment of the 50 years since occupation � the building of a wall, home demolitions � all replaced by discussion of the Six Day War of 1967.

Another tactic was to use inverted commas around the word occupation, he said, without which one would be considered anti-Israeli. Occupation is a political opinion. It is not a political reality, he said. The right wing had ridiculed the word occupied, writing it to resemble the word small or little, while the word settlements had ceased to exist, replaced by references to villages, sometimes beyond the green line. Similarly, when an Israeli was leftist enough to speak of the West Bank, one did not consider Jerusalem part of that area.

Even road signs were political, he said. Traveling from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea or Tel Aviv, there was no sign saying, Welcome to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. From now on, you're violating international law. Signs sought to help people understand that they were not committing a crime � an attempt to civilize the situation. All such efforts helped Israel build a virtual reality around a story that began when, for example, a Palestinian stabbed a soldier or threw a stone, and disrupted the order of building settlements. On Hizbullah, the political message could be summed up by a well-known image of rockets being fired on the Statue of Liberty under the question, What would you do?

The idea of looking into oneself and examining the occupation was not an option. I think this is a very dangerous situation for a country that is the strongest military power in the Middle East, he said.

Ms. FISHER-ILAN said all journalists were targets. To the idea that Palestinians viewed themselves as part of a collective for the sake of the wider goal, she said there was much in common with Israelis on that point.

Ms. HANANIA said she and her colleagues had heard soldiers discuss targeting them. She agreed there was a community culture among Palestinians, but that was not the issue to discuss. The question centred on the actions and reactions around the loss of loved ones.

Mr. KUTTAB said Israel did not recognize Palestinian journalists. There is no reference in the Israeli legal lexicon of a Palestinian journalist, he said, noting that if one approached a check point to cover an event, he or she could not be considered neutral. No immunities or protections were given. It was a structural and cultural problem.

Mr. MENDEL cited a court case against a Palestinian poet from Galilee under house arrest for the last two years for a poem she had written and posted on Facebook. He had been summoned to a court near Nazareth to translate the poem, because the entire case was being based on one sentence. From the Israeli perspective, one word referred to people who associated with suicide bombers. The interpretation and the meaning were opposites.

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, Tala Halawa, Palestinian journalist, pointed out that Palestinian journalists did not enjoy the same rights to access information, movement and resources as their Israeli counterparts. When foreign media invested in Palestinian media, they invested in offices in Israel, not in the West Bank or Gaza. Noam Sheizaf, journalist, +972 Magazine, said political behaviour could be predicted by analysing region, socioeconomic class and religious observance. News consumption was not among the factors. The perspective on journalism as a profession must be broadened to the region as a whole, where being a journalist was growing more risky. Salah Abdel Shafi, Palestinian ambassador to Austria, said the media should refrain from comparing suffering and pain, as they could not be quantified. It must show respect. He expressed doubt that most Israelis understood what occupation was, stressing: Even listening is not enough. Only by living with people and sensing their fear could one understand. Gaby Goldman, Hand in Hand, added the example of what Israel called an operation against Gaza, and Palestinians called war.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said a few years ago, the seminar had invited young Palestinian journalists to discuss social media. Today, the panel was comprised of traditional media and it was interesting to see the contrast between the two. He believed that if Palestinian journalists � traditional or new media � did not cater to the concerns and tragedies of their own people, they were not exercising their missions in the most appropriate manner. He welcomed that Palestinian journalists were recounting experiences of being faithful to their people. When we come to conferences like this, we are not talking to the Palestinian people, he said. We are talking to the international community. In that sense, we can tell stories about Palestinian individuals in the most remarkable way and I believe we should tell them.

Daria Shualy, former Israeli journalist, asked panellists more about comparing media narratives.

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, journalist at AJ+, said it was important to be mindful that the dehumanization happening on the ground was intentional. The argument being made was that Palestinian journalists were inciting violence, when Palestinians themselves were armed with prayer rugs and water bottles and the Israeli military with bullets and tear gas.

Mr. MENDEL said that as a Jewish Israeli, his role was to criticize Israeli media. Too many Israeli institutions were dedicated to monitoring Arabic media, finding parts of an interview that were most likely to blacken the face of the speaker and sell stories. They will never quote an intelligent remark made, he said.

Mr. KUTTAB said an Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report covering 12 to 25 September 2017 had found that 48 Palestinians had been injured. Israeli authorities had carried out 123 searches; they shot fisherman in Gaza. Every one of these numbers is a human being, he said. We cannot just close our eyes to them. Journalists must write one story of one child as an example of the trend.

Ms. FISHER-ILAN said many other stories were eclipsing the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ms. HANANIA said statements by Israeli politicians made it difficult for Palestinian journalists to give their people hope for peace and a State of their own. The challenge was to embrace hope to shape the news.

Panel II

The day concluded with a panel discussion titled, The Israel-Palestine conflict through the lens of international media. Moderated by Maher Nasser, Director, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information, it featured presentations by: Taghreed ElKhodary, Journalist and scholar; Edmund Ghareeb, Professor, American University; Tony Klug, Special Adviser on the Middle East, Oxford Research Group; Barbara Plett Usher, United States Department of State Correspondent, BBC; and Alexandra Rojkov, Freelance journalist.

Mr. NASSER, quoting a 2014 article by journalist John Pilger titled, War by media and the triumph of propaganda, said the information age was actually the media age. There was war by media, censorship by media, demonology by media, retribution by media and diversion by media � a surreal assembly line of obedient cliches and false assumptions. With that in mind, he asked panellists for their thoughts on international media bias.

Mr. KLUG asked whether bias was in the eye of the beholder, and whether the maligned media were innocent of the charge. Or perhaps the charge reflected the user's own bias, he wondered, asking whether people understood what they meant by balance and objectivity, and if they would choose it if they did. Such questions were pivotal in covering the conflict. In his struggle to write a neutral or objective account, he realized that there was not one history; rather, two discrete histories stemming from two distinct peoples whose destinies had collided in the same corner of the earth.

He said that without acquiring an empathetic understanding, journalists had phony objectivity. Misrepresenting foes was sometimes par for the course. He could not afford to take media reporting at face value and use his own judgement in appraising facts and assessing credibility. Everyone who engaged in an event became involved it. Directly or indirectly, we become players trapped in our own narratives, he said. What some regarded as analysis was indeed advocacy. Blinkered visions accounted for the serial failure to see every seismic event in the Middle East since 1967. We are not providing the service that is expected of us and we must reflect on why, he asserted.

Ms. PLETT USHER said she reported on the Oslo accords within the parameters of peace, and later on, when former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had set the barrier for the West Bank, in the context of conflict. The main narrative then was not about Israel-Palestine as the key to solving tensions. It was wider � about how to keep Iraq and Syria together, and the coalitions alive. In the past, Palestinians were considered the pan-Arab cause. Today, their situation was not as frequently reported. Coverage was about Israel as a potential ally. In reporting the story, there was a battle over narratives and over land. The goal was to incorporate both without losing sight of the actual balance of power.

One of the biggest challenges was in conveying how one group viewed certain events without being criticized for being part of that group. The narratives were rooted in history and politics. Israeli support for Mr. Sharon made more sense after she had visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and understood that Israelis wanted a leader to serve as a warning to Arabs. Later, they wanted the world to see it was fighting terrorism � a narrative bolstered by Hamas attacks inside the green line. The Palestinian narrative was that Israel was carrying out a classic colonial settler project to take land. Describing complaints the BBC had received about its headlines, she said the past notion of BBC broadcasting had changed in today's instant, headline-y culture.

She said that while editors were still interested in spot news stories on Israeli politics and security, it had become more difficult to flesh out feature stories, given all that was happening in the Middle East. For Western liberal Jews, Israel had transformed into something they did not recognize. And in the United States, that had generated interest in internal Israeli issues that had nothing to do with Palestinians. Nonetheless, media coverage in the United States of the conflict was from a liberal Jewish view. Palestinian perspectives were fewer in between.

Ms. ELKHODARY said recent events in Jerusalem had brought the media focus back to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Describing the quality of international reporting, she said the media was interested in the human angle. Yet, when it came to policy, Palestinians did not control those stories. Israel did, particularly with its influence in the United States. Stressing that Israel took seriously the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, she said another element was that the conflict was being covered by journalists who did not live the Palestinian reality.

That makes a big difference, she said. They come, they leave. In that context, she described Israel's power in supressing the freedom of speech, in particular by strictly regulating provision of the Israeli press card to international journalists. For example, Israel had refused to extend the visa of a Dutch journalist over what it perceived as critical coverage of the occupation, which had cited 175,000 Palestinians in Hebron who were captives of 680 settlers. You are monitored about what you say, how you say it � and attacked as anti-Semitic even if you use a quote, she stressed. On a related point, she did not understand why international media described Jewish settlements, rather than Israeli settlements, which gave legitimacy to a Jewish State.

Mr. GHAREEB said there was no doubt that the conflict was over narratives and territory. The United States media had successfully presented the narrative as one of terrorism, threatening Israel's security, which would not end until Palestinians recognized the country's right to exist. Since the Iraq crisis, the United States media had been criticized � from within and from outside. The result was that United States journalists practiced self-censorship, staying away from covering the number of civilian casualties. Recalling conversations about that fact, he said the most powerful statement had come from a Tunisian journalist, who described a time when Western journalists were respected. Seeing them in action, however � committing perjury, feeling animosity, shaping public opinion in their hands like clay by romanticizing smart bombs and weeping for oil � had opened his eyes.

On the positive side, he said the United States media was among the most free and powerful in the world, having held politicians to account and put the public in the same position as those making decisions. Before the Palestinian Liberation Organization was recognized as the legitimate representative of the people, there had been reference to Palestinians as terrorists, hijackers, guerrillas and violent gangs. Israelis had succeeded in influencing the United States media to use their terminology and impose it on the national consciousness. He drew attention to such terms as required concessions, which Israel offered. What Palestinians were requesting, however, was compliance � with international decisions, law and agreements. The United States discussed disputed territories, but most people did not recognize Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. The same was true when Israel spoke of ceding territories, despite that they were not Israeli land.

Ms. ROJKOV, stressing that she spoke only for herself today, described her experience of jumping into the conflict as a young reporter. In reporting the death of a Palestinian man shot by Israel's army, she first called the army, who explained that a young Palestinian had climbed the wall. He posed a security threat, was asked to stop, refused, and was shot. The Palestinian side explained that the man had been standing far from the wall and had not posed any danger. He was shot in cold blood. The only thing in common between the narratives was that the young man was dead. In a conflict zone, she did not expect fairness, but rather understood that both sides sought to maximize their advantage.

As a journalist, she must be as fair and accurate as possible, she said, especially with terminology. Thus, she asked her colleague in Ramallah to call the doctor for an explanation of the angle from which the man had been shot. He replied that the results were unclear � both versions of the events could have been true. In the end, she presented both stories, making it clear to the reader she had done everything possible to discover the truth. It's less satisfying but it was true. It was a journalist's job to think twice about how he or she was doing the best job possible.

Ms. ELKHODARY said social media had been a benefit to Palestinians. The New York Times today was pushed to cover stories that were covered on Facebook.

Ms. ROJKOV said while social media opened opportunities, her friends used it mainly as a source for understanding events. They still sought out analysis in the news. While they did not trust national newspapers as in the past, they still read them.

Ms. GHAREEB said a problem in the United States was the disappearance of print journalism. The skills of reporting, researching and investigating were disappearing, and being replaced by emotionally driven images.

Mr. KLUG, providing examples of loose terminology, said articles about the Six Day War did not contain neutral language. If a story referenced Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, one expected a bias, which was important in determining whether one could rely on the facts. To clarify, the Palestinian opposition was not to a Jewish State, but rather of one that would result in their dispossession. It was important to understand core historical perspectives. He cautioned against the word narrative, as many did not believe their facts were such.

Joseph Dana, emerge 85, reflected on the last 10 years of social media, stressing that it was approaching the end of its course, which spoke to the cyclical nature of conflict. It had a role to play when it burst onto the scene in 2007, pushing the rights-centred narrative that focused on Palestinians' experience of being dominated by Israelis. It had broken the stranglehold the traditional media had on the news, particularly at The New York Times Jerusalem bureau, whose chief, it had been revealed, had a son in the Israeli military � which was not how reporting should work. That story would not have been exposed in the same way had it not been for social media. Similarly, new developments in the region would affect the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, yet he had not seen smart coverage of them in the international media. He wondered if the media was equipped to describe the contours of the new Middle East.

One participant, a former United Nations policy analyst, asked whether people would consider Gaza becoming a separate State, to which Ms. HANANIA, Presenter, Palestine TV, responded that there was not even a remote chance of that happening. Mr. MANSOUR agreed that there would be no possibility of a Palestinian State without Gaza, or of Gaza as a State of its own. Perhaps journalists were not keeping up with events. There were serious efforts to end divisions. The Palestinian Mission in New York had resisted using social media at first. But today, the Mission had close to 25,000 followers, so when he spoke in the Security Council, people could tweet his comments. The Mission was among the top five followed at the United Nations. He was interested to hear that liberal Jews had difficulty recognizing today's Israel.

NOAM SHEIZAF, journalist +972 Magazine, said he had not seen much soul searching and asked panellists about what they got wrong in two decades of coverage. SALAH ABDEL SHAFI, Palestinian ambassador to Austria, said there were different ways of collecting facts. A fact was that Mahmoud Abbas was President � the question was over how he was described. In Germany, he was called Palestinians' President. Noting that Western media chose to say Jewish extremists and Palestinian terrorists, he emphasized that how facts were presented mattered greatly.

Closing Remarks

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said the seminar was unique in the thematic subjects it covered and experts who shared their ideas. I'm delighted we keep diversifying, he said, and that the first panel had heard proposals for new ways forward. He would appreciate more, however, if efforts were intensified around ending the occupation. Journalists did not lead political endeavours. They reported on them. For Palestinians, several events should be closely followed, notably the pride that young Palestinians felt in pursuing hope and peace. Our kids are not being brought up to be extremists, he said. They were full of hope.

To those who think we are not what we say, come and see us, he said. The idea that Palestinians had no hope was not in their vocabulary, a fact that gave him the strength to fight for his people's noble cause. Moreover, what had happened recently in Jerusalem should not be seen as a small incident, but thoroughly studied, especially by Israeli authorities, which were messing around with that city. While many doubted efforts to unify the two sides of Palestine, he assured that national unity was a top priority, stressing: We want to do it right this time. He asked the audience to consider why such efforts were under way now and urged them to pay attention to what was possibly unfolding. He believed a crisis had arrived, which would either lead to something good, or hell would break loose.

The United States had not vetoed Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) because, he explained, it was interested in saving Israel from itself. For those excited about the one-State solution, he encouraged them to see the experience of Palestinians living inside Israel. Palestinians sought national rights. We are the indigenous population, he said, and would not accept the negation of their narrative. Palestinians wanted to live in their national homeland with national rights and the two-State solution would accommodate that reality. Palestinians were engaging the United States Administration, the Russians, Chinese, Europeans and Arabs � anyone interested in ending the occupation. We are seriously interested in peace, he said, tired of seeing Gazans live in misery in its absence, and people in East Jerusalem who were neither Palestinian nor Israeli because they lacked status. If extremist settlers wanted to destroy or divide Al-Aqsa mosque, they would drag everyone into a religious war.

GERTRAUD BOREA D'OLMO, Secretary-General, Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, underlined the important goal of ending the occupation and realizing an independent State of Palestine. With that in mind, she drew attention to a programme involving Palestinian women � from Palestine, from inside Israel, East Jerusalem, the refugee camps and the diaspora � who sought to unify a strategy for their people.

Source: United Nations

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