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[OPIRG-EVENTS] Thursday Nov. 29 UN Day of Solidarity and Letter of Appeal

FROM: CEPAL ¡V the Canadian-Palestinian Educational Exchange

Human Rights and International Norms: 53 Years of Palestinian Refugees.  
Cepal's 5th Annual Observation of the United Nations Day of Solidarity with 
Palestinians.  An evening of discussion and culture, featuring keynote 
speaker Professor Michael Lynk.

Thursday, November 29th, 2001 at 7:00 pm
Room 200, West Block, Parliament Hill

Professor Michael Lynk will open the discussion with his keynote address 
entitled "Palestine, the Middle East Crisis and International Law".  
Professor Lynk will talk about the leading crisis issues -- refugees, 
settlements, popular resistance, state, human rights, borders, Jerusalem -- 
in international law terms.  His analysis will focus on explaining the 
importance of settling international conflicts peacefully through the rule 
of law, and how these crisis issues can be fairly and comprehensively 
resolved through the available principles of international law.

Cepal Summer 2001 Program volunteers will share their experience of living 
and teaching in the refugee camps.  A reception, featuring Arabic finger 
foods, will follow the event.  Admission is free (donations accepted).

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed 
by the United Nations each year in accordance with mandates given by the 
General Assembly in resolutions 32/40B of 2 December 1997 and 34/35D of 12 
December 1979.  The official day of solidarity is November 29th.  This date 
was chosen because of its significance to the Palestinian people.  On that 
date in 1947 the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which came to 
be known as the Partition Resolution and provided the establishment of a 
Jewish State and Arab State in Palestine, with a special international 
regime for Jerusalem.  Of the two states intended by this resolution, only 
one, Israel, has come into being.   According to Amnesty International, 
Palestinians continue to account for the largest refugee population 
currently dispersed throughout the world.

This event is presented by CEPAL ¡V the Canadian-Palestinian Educational 
Exchange.  Co-sponsors include: Libby Davies, MP Vancouver East, Svend 
Robinson, MP Burnaby-Douglas, Alternatives, Medical Aid Palestine, SPHR, 
Canaanite Canadian Knowledge Centre, the Association of Palestinian Arab 
Canadians, the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.

To book interviews or for other enquiries, please contact: Madalena Santos 
tel: (613)237-0279, e-mail: news@cepal.ca

Backgrounder - Brief Biographies

Professor Michael Lynk
Michael Lynk teaches at the University of Western Ontario¡¦s Faculty at Law. 
  He has written extensively on labour and human rights law in Canada and 
the Middle East.  In 1989, he served with the United Nations on the West 
Bank during the first Palestinian uprising.  In his analyses, Professor Lynk 
stresses the importance of settling international conflicts peacefully 
through the rule of law, and discusses how these crisis issues can be fairly 
and comprehensively resolved through the available principles of 
international law, in particular UN resolutions, Geneva Conventions, and 
modern treaties.  His work deals with the leading crisis issues -- refugees, 
settlements, popular resistance, state, human rights, borders, Jerusalem -- 
in international law terms.

Elisabeth Anctil, Alex Conliffe, Shannon Dow, Hala Khalaf, and Jordan Topp 
volunteered with CEPAL over this past summer. They lived and worked with 
Palestinian refugees in Bourj el-Barajneh, Shatila and Wavell camps in 
Lebanon, where they provided English and French language instruction, as 
well as basic computer skills to children and adults.

Elisabeth Anctil graduated from Sherbrooke University with a BA in Economics 
in 1996.  She is currently preparing to move to Ramallah to take on a 
position with Oxfam Quebec.

Alex Conliffe is studying Mechanical Engineering at McGill University.  She 
volunteers at the Royal Victoria Hospital and leads the McGill chapter of 
Engineers Without Borders.

Shannon Dow studies International Development and Anthropology with a 
concentration in Medical Anthropology at the University of McGill.  She is 
looking forward to traveling after the completion of her BA and desires to 
take part in an internship with a Canadian development agency.

Hala Khalaf is an English-Rhetoric and Professional Writing student at the 
University of Waterloo.  She hopes to continue her graduate studies in 
Journalism, and eventually work in the field of media and communications.

Jordan Topp studies Social Work at McGill University.  She works part-time 
at a refugee shelter, and for McGill's Aboriginal Social Work Certificate 
Program.  In the future Jordan hopes to advocate for fair refugee, 
immigrant, labour and welfare policies.

What is Cepal?
CEPAL - the Canadian-Palestinian Educational Exchange - is a not-for-profit 
organization founded in 1996 by young Canadians who share a deep commitment 
to the respect of human dignity and human rights of all people.  CEPAL¡¦s 
objective is to assist the Palestinian refugees in the pursuit of their 
basic human rights by increasing their access to education and by raising 
public awareness in Canada about their struggle.  In Canada, CEPAL works in 
cooperation with a wide range of organizations such as the Centre for 
Developing Areas Studies at McGill University. CEPAL is supported by 
community organizations and individuals who donate their time and money.

Why Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon? The situation that confronts 
Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon is worsening daily. As much of the world 
focuses on the difficulties facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, 
an even more dire situation of the Palestinian Diaspora in Lebanon is 
largely forgotten.  Poverty, health crises and illiteracy are all on the 
rise among Palestinians in Lebanon. Over 60 percent of Palestinian families 
in Lebanon are living below the UN-established poverty-line, and they form a 
greater percentage of UN-defined ¡§hardship cases¡¨ than any other 
Palestinian community (including Gaza).   A recent survey of war-widows in 
the Bourj el-Barajneh camp, which contains a very high number of 
female-headed households, revealed that nearly 80 percent of women are 
illiterate.  Nearly every school is operating on double shifts, and 40 
percent of the Palestinian refugee population in Lebanon is now considered 
illiterate.  In spite of this reality, most donor agencies believe that the 
Palestinian issue in Lebanon is being ¡§solved¡¨ and have been channeling 
their assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.  As the Palestinian population 
in Lebanon sinks further into political oblivion, they are leaderless and 
voiceless, stranded in refugee camps that have only sporadic running water 
or electricity.

Why Language Training? CEPAL¡¦s language programs will not solve the 
precarious predicament of Palestinians in Lebanon.  However, English and 
French language skills can open up options in a largely optionless future.   
Noted author and anthropologist Rosemary Sayigh suggests ¡¥sending 
volunteers to work with Palestinian NGOs in Lebanon e.g. in children¡¦s 
summer camps or teaching English¡¦  is a key role North American NGOs should 
be playing.  In addition to language training, CEPAL has incorporated 
computer training into its curriculum.


International Law and Human Rights in the Middle East
On the occasion of the upcoming United Nations United Day of Solidarity with 
Palestinians (November 29th), CEPAL is appealing to all Canadians to 
actively support efforts to return to peaceful negotiations in the Middle 
East including an internationally monitored dialogue based on international 
law and human rights.

CEPAL believes that in order to attain a just and durable peace in the 
Middle East, there must be a just solution to the refugee issue.  The 
irresolution of their fate perpetuates the largest, longest-running and most 
destabilizing refugee problem in the world today. The Facts are:

„X The 750,000 Palestinians expelled from historical Palestine in 1948 are 
now over 3.6 million registered Palestinian refugees living around the world 
with 1.1 million refugees living for the third and fourth generation in 59 
refugee camps scattered in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and 

„X The Palestinian right of return is a human right affirmed by 
international law.  Resolution 194, calling for their right to return, has 
been affirmed by the UN General Assembly, including Canada, over 140 times 
in the last 50 years. It is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of 
Human Rights (Article 13) and in the sanctity of private ownership, which 
cannot be extinguished by sovereignty, occupation or passage of time.

„X Over 60% of Palestinian refugees live under UN-established poverty line 
and unemployment, illiteracy rates, and child labour are on the rise.  It is 
increasingly difficult to cope with the overcrowded living quarters (as high 
as 4,200 persons per sq. km) and schools (40-60 children in a class with 
schools running on double shifts), overburdened medical services, shortage 
of water and electricity, contaminated drinking water due to open sewers and 
lack of proper garbage disposal, and a lack of adequate mental health and 
social services.

As a people committed to justice, Canadians have an important role in 
promoting the rule of international law in the Middle East. With this 
letter, CEPAL affirms its position of supporting Palestinian refugees¡¦ 
right to choose to return to their homeland or to resettle in another 
country, and to compensation for their losses and suffering.  As part of its 
mandate, CEPAL aims to give Palestinian refugees a much needed voice in 
Canada.  Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are urging CEPAL and the 
international non-governmental community to assist in raising awareness of 
their rights, especially the right of return.

Every Canadian can contribute to peace in the Middle East!  Canadians can: 
1) write letters to their Members of Parliament calling on our government to 
uphold international law and human rights including the Palestinian 
refugee¡¦s right to return; 2) provide small financial contributions to 
support CEPAL and other organizations¡¦ grass-roots efforts in providing 
basic education and other social services to Palestinian refugees; 3) donate 
valuable time to assist organizations in Canada and/or overseas.

Contact CEPAL for suggestions on how to make a contribution and to order a 
copy of the recently published ¡§From Refugees to Citizens at Home¡¨ on a 
feasible and just solution for Palestinian refugees recently written by 
internationally renowned researcher Salman Abu Sittah.

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