30 October 2008Dear Ms Gilmore,
As a Palestinian human rights organisation committed to the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is deeply concerned with the intention of Acanchi to ‘rebrand’ Israel’s international image and create a ”brand disconnected from the Arab-Israeli conflict that focuses instead on Israel‘s scientific and cultural achievements.”
As emphasised by the Acanchi head of research, Richard Wood, “the essence of a country, city or region brand has to be based on a core set of truths derived from the experiences, thoughts and feelings of the people of that country, city or region.” The ‘essence’ of the Palestinian ‘experiences’ has been, and continues to be, one of military occupation, the systematic violation of human rights and the denial of the right to self-determination through a multiplicity of policies, including the illegal and continuous dispossession and annexation of Palestinian land for the fulfilment of settlement expansion.
Currently there is a total of 149 Israeli settlements throughout the OPT. These settlements control over 40 percent of the territory of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, together with the limited and essential agricultural and water resources. Furthermore, settlements are accompanied by an extensive system of ‘infrastructure’ such as Israeli-only bypass roads, checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical and administrative restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement. One of the most prominent aspects of these infrastructures is the Annexation Wall, strategically built inside the West Bank, on occupied territory, to entrench Israeli settlements and illegally annex this land to Israel. The settlements violate a number of international legal norms and their illegality has been recognised by the International Court of Justice and numerous United Nations resolutions. In addition, the presence of settlements and their expansion are one of the leading obstacles inhibiting the peace process and thus a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
On behalf of Acanchi, you have personally stressed that “if a brand is built or changed only on the surface and is not supported by deeper changes and values within a country, city or region, it will not engage people.” It is Al-Haq’s belief that a ‘brand’ that is “disconnected from the Arab-Israeli conflict” is also disconnected from the reality of the state of Israel and reveals a disingenuous attempt to mask Israel’s legal obligations to both the Palestinian people and the international community. Only through a legitimate change in its human rights practices and a genuine engagement in the peace negotiations, which cannot exempt the removal of settlements from the OPT, will Israel succeed, both politically and ethically, in re-branding itself internationally.
We trust that you will take such issues into consideration during your “rigorous journey of discovery.” We look forward to receiving your response on how Acanchi intends to address the illegal development and expansion of Israeli settlements throughout the OPT. Should you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact Al-Haq directly.