Monday, August 29, 2005

Press release

August 28, 2005

European Delegation calls on the European Union and the EU Member States to hold Israel accountable

JERUSALEM. Between 22 and 28 August, a European Delegation of former ministers from The Netherlands, Ireland and Germany and a high-ranking former ambassador from France paid a fact finding visit to Israel and Palestine (i.e. Occupied Palestinian Territories). The Delegation also consisted of five civil society representatives from Europe. The Delegation was led by Prof. Andreas van Agt, Prime Minister of The Netherlands from 1977 to 1982.

After visiting Israel and Palestine for five days and meeting with numerous civil society representatives on both sides, as well as several parliamentarians, the Delegation calls on the European Union and EU Member State officials and institutions dealing with Israel and Palestine, in particular their own governments, to act decisively and hold Israel accountable for its ongoing violations of International Law.

The visit took place shortly after the evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. The Delegation embarked on its trip at this crucial moment in time, to witness and assess at first-hand those facts that (continue to) threaten the prospects for a just peace and that are not being decisively addressed by the international community.

Israel’s disengagement from Gaza has raised hopes among many that peace is now within reach. In light of the facts it has witnessed on the ground, the Delegation regrets having to report that this hope is unjustified.

The Delegation views Israel’s occupation and other policies of the Government of Israel which are illegal, and which cause much suffering among Palestinians, as the root cause of the current deadlock and lack of progress in reaching a negotiated, just and durable peace in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law.

The Delegation comes to the conclusion that in light of Israel’s persistence in the these policies, and the destructive impact of such policies on the situation the ground, an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict depends in the first instance on a more determined international intervention to achieve accountability from Israel and enforce its compliance with International Law.

The Delegation deplores the fact that the international community has to date not brought an end to these policies of successive Israeli governments, thus sustaining a situation of lawlessness and impunity in Palestine.

The Delegation urgently calls on the European Union and its Member States to take immediate action aimed at holding Israel accountable for its ongoing violations of International Law, thereby contributing to the preconditions for a just and sustainable peace in Israel and Palestine.

The Delegation’s call (see annex) is signed by the following members:

  • Prof. Andreas van Agt, Head of Delegation (Prime Minister of the Netherlands, 1977-1982)
  • Mr. Michael D. Higgins (Minister of Culture, 1993-1997, and a current member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ireland)
  • Dr. Norbert Blüm (Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, 1982-1998, Germany)
  • Mr. Lucien Champenois (Minister Plenipotentiary, France, retired)
  • Dr. Rupert Neudeck (President of Greenhelmets, Germany)
  • Dr. Hajo G. Meyer (Board member of “A Different Jewish Voice” and board member of “International Forum for Justice and Peace”, The Netherlands)
  • Ms. Chris Tilanus (The Netherlands)
  • Mr. Ben Smoes (Chairman “International Forum for Justice and Peace”, The Netherlands)
  • Mr. Jan van der Kolk (Former member of the Board of Trustees “Interchurch organisation for development co-operation”, The Netherlands)

(For more information and interviews with Dutch Delegation members, please contact Lambrecht Wessels of United Civilians for Peace: +31-6-51999711 / +31-30-8801539 or lambrecht.wessels@icco.nl)

Statement

Statement by European Delegation to Israel and Palestine
Between 22 and 28 August, a European Delegation of former ministers from The Netherlands, Ireland and Germany and a high-ranking former ambassador from France paid a fact finding visit to Israel and Palestine (i.e. Occupied Palestinian Territories). The Delegation also consisted of five civil society representatives from Europe. The Delegation was led by Prof. Andreas van Agt, Prime Minister of The Netherlands from 1977 to 1982.

The visit took place shortly after the evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. The Delegation embarked on its trip at this crucial moment in time, to witness and assess at first-hand those facts that (continue to) threaten the prospects for a just peace and that are not being decisively addressed by the international community.

The Delegation came to Israel and Palestine to gather these facts. They wish to bring such facts to the attention of the international media and the political representatives and officials in the countries from which they come.

The facts as observed by the Delegation:

In the Jerusalem area, the Delegation witnessed the expansion of settlements, taking place at the present time. It visited a settlement east of Jerusalem, called Ma’ale Adumim. This settlement, home to 30.000 settlers and 14 kilometres deep in occupied territory, is part of a ring of settlements, which effectively cuts off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

It also witnessed the Wall in and around East Jerusalem, e.g Abu Dis, as well as in the Bethlehem area. In these and other parts of the West Bank, the Wall obstructs the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, cutting through Palestinian neighbourhoods, isolating Palestinians from basic services and each other and constituting de facto annexation of vast swathes of occupied land.

Unless all settlements, the more than 400.000 settlers and the Wall in the West Bank are removed, the establishment of an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state will not be possible.

In Hebron, the Delegation witnessed the effective imprisonment of 150.000 Palestinians within their own locality and their total subordination to the interests of a few hundred Israeli settlers, residing illegally within their midst.

For a short period, the Delegation experienced the humiliation that the citizens of the Old City of Hebron can expect to undergo every day. On a street, protected overhead by netting, several objects, including refuse, were lodged. In a spot without netting, a glass bottle was thrown at Palestinians and Delegation members in such a way as could have caused serious injury.

The Delegation also witnessed, in several respects, the more general features of the hardship that Israeli suffocation of the local economy brings to the Hebronites’ lives. For example, about 2.500 Palestinian businesses have been shut down due to orders of the Israeli army.

Just a few days after the removal of the settlers, the Delegation visited the Gaza Strip. When entering the strip at Erez crossing point, the Delegation experienced the oppressive procedures, dehumanising infrastructure and humiliation, which Palestinians encounter on the occasion of every entry and exit.

The Delegation concluded that the occupation of the Gaza Strip is far from over, considering Israel’s continuing control over vital aspects of the lives of the Gazans. All external borders, including air and sea, remain controlled by Israel, so that the Gazans continue to be isolated. The Israeli army is to remain inside parts of the Gaza Strip for an undisclosed period.

The Delegation witnessed some of the widespread destruction that 38 years of occupation have brought to the lives and properties of over one million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. About two thirds of the local population is unemployed and lives below the poverty line. These conditions pose a real and continuous threat to their human dignity.

Facilitated by UNWRA, the Delegation visited the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, where 106.000 people live on 1,3 square kilometre. There, the misery is beyond description, among other things because of a shortage of water and access to education and health care. It concluded that the well-being of these and other refugees in the Gaza Strip, numbering 900.000 in total, is at great risk following Israel’s disengagement.

In numerous parts inside the West Bank, the Delegation encountered physical obstacles, such as checkpoints and roadblocks, put in place by the Israeli army, which seriously infringe on the Palestinians’ freedom of movement and hurt their livelihood and economy badly.

The Delegation also spoke to a number of key actors on both sides. Meetings were held with Israeli and Palestinian civil society representatives and parliamentarians. High level meetings were requested on both the Israeli, as well as the Palestinian side. The latter responded positively, granting a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.

All of these meetings reinforced the grave concerns of the Delegation members, that the existing threats to the prospects for peace must not be underestimated.

Conclusion:

Ø Israel’s disengagement from Gaza has raised hopes among many that peace is now within reach. In light of the above-mentioned and other facts it witnessed on the ground, the Delegation regrets having to report that this hope is unjustified. The evacuation of settlers from Gaza does not constitute a withdrawal in any meaningful sense.

Ø The Delegation recognises the need for democratisation and the strengthening of the rule of law on the Palestinian side and respect for human rights by the Palestinian Authority. It recognises and reaffirms Israel’s right to exist and its right to security. It condemns any attacks directed against civilians. The Delegation unequivocally condemns suicide bombings. This view was shared by all of those with whom the Delegation had meetings.

Ø It firmly opposes the persistence of the Government of Israel in policies, in particular the settlement policy, which are illegal and cause much suffering among Palestinians on a daily basis. The Delegation views the continuing occupation and these policies as the root cause of the current deadlock and lack of progress in reaching a negotiated, just and durable peace in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law.

Ø To date, the international community has not brought an end to these policies of the Government of Israel, thus sustaining a situation of lawlessness and impunity in Palestine. This fact has led to the Delegation’s concentration on a call for action where it feels the greatest need for change exists.

Ø The Delegation comes to the conclusion that in light of Israel’s persistence in the above-mentioned policies, and the destructive impact of such policies on the situation the ground, an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict depends in the first instance on a more determined international intervention to achieve accountability from Israel and to enforce a compliance with International Law.

Ø Intervention should be shaped in accordance with the relevant rules and principles of International Law as, inter alia, stated in the July 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice on the Wall. To promote justice and peace, such intervention, by the European Union among others, must continue until Israel fully complies with International Law.


Our call

Preamble

(a) The Delegation concludes that the “constructive dialogue” between the EU and Israel has not led to tangible results with respect to forcing an end to policies of successive Israeli governments; policies that have caused, and are causing much suffering, and that obstruct peace;

(b) It regrets that their own and other European governments, as well as EU institutions, have chosen not to apply such effective pressure on Israel as would lead to a compliance with International Law;

(c) It deplores the fact that the recently concluded Action Plan between the EU and Israel does not include non-negotiable, operational and effective benchmarks referring to human rights standards, with which Israel has to comply before enjoying (extended) benefits;

(d) It particularly deplores the fact that Israel’s illegal Wall, and the human rights violations it causes, are not mentioned in the Action Plan and that a special working group on human rights has not been established;

(e) The Delegation notes the call by 106 Palestinian organisations representing Palestinian refugees, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Palestinian citizens of Israel, to use boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, until it complies with International Law;

(f) It welcomes actions by civil actors, like the divestment initiative of the Presbyterian Church (US) and other churches, aimed at ensuring that they do not contribute in any way to supporting the occupation of Palestinian land and people.

Hence, the Delegation issues the following call.

The Delegation calls on the European Union and EU Member State officials and institutions dealing with Israel and Palestine, in particular their own governments, to:

1) continue confirming the applicability of, and the demand for the enforcement of relevant rules and principles of International Law as a guiding feature of any efforts towards peace in Israel and Palestine, in particular within the Quartet;

2) call for an international peace conference, in support of the Roadmap for Peace, to be convened at short notice, in accordance with prevailing International Law;

3) remind Israel, following the evacuation of its settlers, of its continuing responsibilities as the Occupying Power of the Gaza Strip (in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention); and to exert pressure on Israel to allow freedom of movement of Palestinian goods and people within and in and out of the Gaza Strip, including from air and sea and a freely accessible transit corridor with the West Bank;

4) live up to their obligations as stated in the ruling by the International Court of Justice on the Wall and force Israel to immediately stop building the Wall in occupied territory and dismantle the parts already built there; and to urge the Security Council of the United Nations to take immediate action, based on UNGAR ES-10/15 and aimed at enforcing this ruling;

5) suspend all forms of military co-operation with Israel which may contribute to or facilitate the suppression of the Palestinians; and to apply without delay the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Trade to the transit of military equipment to Israel via (air)ports of EU Member States, as well as to the export of such equipment to Israel;

6) force Israel to end its settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to exclude settlement-based enterprises from engaging in trade with EU member states;

7) actively support the rule of law and democratisation on the Palestinian side and promote the Palestinian Authority’s respect for human rights;

8) contribute to the establishment of a special working group and monitoring mechanism addressing Israel’s Human Rights behaviour;

9) contribute to the development, outlining, and putting into operation, of concrete benchmarks, which Israel has to meet before enjoying benefits, and to refrain from extending privileges to Israel until it lives up to these benchmarks and its international legal obligations;

10) indicate the clear intention to activate the human rights clause of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and suspend this agreement if Israel does not live up to these benchmarks and its obligations in due time;

The Delegation calls on the EU and its Member States to take such and related action, without delay, in the interest of justice and peace in Israel and Palestine.

Jerusalem, 28 August 2005

Signatories:

Former Ministers and Ambassadors

Prof. Andreas van Agt, Head of Delegation
Prime Minister of the Netherlands, 1977-1982

Mr. Michael D. Higgins
Minister of Culture, 1993-1997, and a current member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ireland

Dr. Norbert Blüm
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, 1982-1998, Germany

Mr. Lucien Champenois
Minister Plenipotentiary, France (retired)

Representatives of the wider civil society

Dr. Rupert Neudeck
President of Greenhelmets, Germany

Dr. Hajo G. Meyer
Board member of “A Different Jewish Voice” and board member of “International Forum for Justice and Peace”, The Netherlands

Ms. Chris Tilanus
The Netherlands

Mr. Ben Smoes
Chairman “International Forum for Justice and Peace”, The Netherlands

Mr. Jan van der Kolk
Former member of the Board of Trustees “Interchurch organisation for development co-operation”, The Netherlands

Friday, August 26, 2005

Day 3 - Gaza: report


August 25, 2005

On the third day, the delegation left for the Gaza Strip. At the Erez border crossing, it managed to enter the Strip without much delay.

The delegation was received by UNWRA personnel. In a UN bus, it drove off to the UNWRA office in Jabalia refugee camp, an extremely crowded place with 106.000 Palestinians living on only 1,3 square kilometer. In the camp, the delegation visited a rehabilitation center. Consequently, it witnessed two projects of UNWRA, one realizing the pavement of streets in Jabalia camp, the other offering support and housing to so-called hardship cases.

Before setting of for the next meeting, the delegation was received by the Commissioner General of UNWRA, Ms. Karen AbuZayd. With her, a lively discussion evolved on the economic prospects of the Gaza Strip following Israel’s “disengagement”. Various participants expressed their concerns about misplaced perceptions within the international community that Israel’s occupation has come to and end. It has not, considering the fact that Israel will fully remain in control of the Gaza Strip.

This was also confirmed during a briefing that the delegation received after the UNWRA meeting, This briefing had been prepared by the media center of the Palestinian Authority, which currently focuses on the disengagement.

Before leaving the Gaza Strip, the delegation had lunch with a number of civil society representatives. Among them was Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi, director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and former negotiator following the Madrid Conference in 1991. With these representatives, the delegation discussed how to respond to the current circumstances.

Day 2 - Hebron & Bethlehem area: report

August 24, 2005

On the second day of its mission, the delegation visited Hebron. Hebron (south of Bethlehem) is an occupied city with 150.000 Palestinians and 400 Jewish settlers in its midst. The settlers are guarded by about 5.000 Israeli soldiers, impacting heavily on the daily life of the civilian Palestinian population.

Since the beginning of the second intifada, the Palestinians in Hebron have experienced much hardship as a result of curfews, operations by the Israeli army and settler violence. Following military orders, about 2.500 Palestinian shops were forced to close, bringing the local economy to a standstill and increasing poverty sharply. Only a handful of shops have reopened since then.
The delegation toured the Old City of Hebron, witnessing closed shops and a heavy presence by the Israeli army. At some point, settlers through dirt into the narrow alleys of the market, hitting Palestinians and delegation members. Also, a bottle was thrown, breaking into countless pieces of glass. Yet, no one was hurt. Settlers throwing litter at Palestinians is nothing unusual. The delegation also visited the Tomb of Abraham.


The delegation stopped for a quick lunch in Bethlehem. It then continued its way to Beit Sahour, were the Palestinian olive tree campaign “Keep Hope Alive” (see also the Dutch website) was visited. A presentation was given by the organizers of this campaign, the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA Palestine.

Consequently, olive trees were offered to the delegation, a gift that all members gratefully accepted. Mr. Van Agt, former prime minister to the Netherlands, was honored with an century-old tree, that had been uprooted in August 2004 when Israel’s illegal Wall was built in the village of Beit Jala.

In the presence of a Palestinian farmer, the former owner of the tree, Mr. Van Agt expressed his appreciation for the Keep Hope Alive campaign. He described his contribution to the campaign as an “act of solidarity” and called on every one to pledge support to the suppressed Palestinian people.

The day was concluded with a dinner with Palestinian church leaders: the Lutheran bishop Munib Younan, rev. Jadalla Shihadeh and rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Day 1 - Jerusalem & Bethlehem: report

August 23, 2005

After a short night, the delegation experienced an impressive day of its fact finding mission to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In the morning, a settlement tour was conducted in the East-Jerusalem area. The tour was guided by Jeff Halper, head of the
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The delegation saw various settlements, which are continuously expanding and thereby undermining any prospect of a viable Palestinian state. On its way, the delegation also encountered Israel’s illegal Wall in the West Bank, which is being constructed at an unprecedented speed.

The delegation then had lunch with Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. She was accompanied by another Palestinian parliamentarian, Azmi el Shuaibi, and Sumaya Nasser, a Palestinian writer.

Consequently, the delegation embarked on a trip from Ramallah to Bethlehem, taking a detour that Palestinians are forced to take as a result of movement obstructions imposed by the Israeli authorities on all Palestinians indiscriminately. The trip, which should usually take about 40 min. at the maximum, took close to two hours and had almost twice the length of the actual distance between both cities, because of the fact that Jerusalem is not accessible for Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The delegation passed two checkpoints on this route, which prevent Palestinians from moving freely even within occupied territory.

The day was concluded with a dinner with the mayors of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, three Christian communities that are heavily suffering from the expansion of settlements and the construction of the Wall.



Pictures:[will be added later]

1. Jeff Halper explains to delegation members about settlement
expansion and the construction of the Wall.
2. The delegation in front of the Wall in Abu Dis.
3. The Wall in Abu Dis, a suburb of occupied East Jerusalem.
4. The delegation is having lunch with Hanan Ashrawi, Azmi el Shuaibi
and Sumaya Nasser.
5. An Israeli checkpoint within occupied territory, on the way from
Ramallah to Bethlehem.
6. Palestinians trying to get through the checkpoint, a daily
experience for most Palestinians.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Press Release: Visit of high profile former European politicians and representatives of civil society organisations

TOUR

From 22 to 28 August a delegation of former European politicians and representatives of civil society organisations will travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The delegation members have planned a 6-day tour through Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Aim

The delegation will observe the developments on the ground and the impact of the disengagement on the human rights situation and the prospects for conflict resolution. Special attention will be paid to infringements on the freedom of movement of the Palestinians.

Activities

The delegation will talk to representatives of local NGOs, local academics, and Israeli and Palestinian politicians. At the end of their trip they will present their observations and findings. On August 28th (Sunday), the trip will be concluded with an international press conference in East-Jerusalem.

Delegation Members

The delegation members include: Prof. Andreas van Agt, Netherlands: former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, former ambassador for the EU in Tokyo and Washington; Dr. Norbert Blüm, Germany: former Labor and Social Affairs Minister of Germany, working for humanitarian agencies such as Kindernothilfe and Greenhelmets (Gruenhelme); Dr. Rupert Neudeck, Germany: Journalist from 1970 - 1998 in Deutschlandfunk (German Broadcasting), founder of NGO Greenhelmets, former chairman Cap Anamur/German Emergency Doctors; Mr. Michael D. Higgins, Ireland, President of the Labour Party, Former Labour Party Spokesperson on European and International Affairs, member of Committee on Foreign Affairs, spokesperson on Foreign Affairs for the Labour Party; Mr. Lucien Champenois, France: former French diplomat, specialist on Arab world, development and religious affairs, advisor to Foreign Ministry for religious affairs between 1992 and 1998; Dr. Hajo G. Meyer - and his wife, Mrs. Christiane Tilanus -, Netherlands, Shoah survivor (Auschwitz), publicist, essay-writer and former manager Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Mr. Jan van der Kolk, Netherlands: board member of Dutch development organisation ICCO, formerly with WHO, OECD and UNEP. Mr. Berend Smoes, Netherlands: businessman, founder of International Forum for Justice and Peace. Biographies of all the members of the mission can be found in the previous post (see below)

Weblog

The experiences of the delegation members can be followed on the English language WebLog: http://euromission.blogspot.com

The delegation is headed by Prof. Andreas van Agt, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and currently the chairman of the International Advisory Council of the International Forum for Justice and Peace.

The mission is organised and led by the Dutch NGO United Civilians for Peace (UCP). United Civilians for Peace is a cooperative effort of Dutch peace- and development organisations (Novib, ICCO, Cordaid, Kerkinactie, Pax Christi and IKV) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. UCP is working for a peaceful solution of the conflict with peace and security for both peoples on the basis of international law and the relevant UN resolutions.

The mission is organised in cooperation with the International Forum for Justice and Peace, a Dutch Foundation promoting peace in the Middle East.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Delegation members' biographies

Dr. Norbert Blüm
Born 21.7. 1935 in Rüsselsheim, from 1982 up to 1998 he was the Minister for Labor and Social Affairs in Germany. Up to 2002 he was member of Parliament. He was representative of the Department for Social questions inside the Christian Democratic Party. He is now living in Bonn and is working for some humanitarian agencies like the Kindernothilfe as well as Greenhelmets (Gruenhelme).

Dr. Rupert Neudeck
Born 14.5.1939 in Danzig, refugeee after the second world war. Journalist from 1970 - 1998 in Deutschlandfunk (German Broadcasting) In 1979 founding of the German Committee A Ship for Vietnam together with Heinrich Böll, and chartering of the rescue vessel Cap Anamur, up to 2002 chairman of Cap Anamur/German Emergency Doctors. In 2003 foundation of the Non-Governmental Organization Greenhelmets e.V.

Mr. Michael Higgins
Michael D Higgins is President of the Labour Party and Honorary Professor at Large at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he has served on the Faculties of Arts, Commerce, Celtic Studies and Law. A former Member of Galway County Council and an Alderman of Galway Borough Council, he has twice been Mayor of Galway.

He was a member of Seanad Éireann 1973-1977; Dáil representative for Galway West 1981-1982, University Member of Seanad Éireann 1982-1987, and has been a Member of Dáil Éireann from 1987- present. He was the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, between 1993 and 1997, and President of the Council of Broadcasting Ministers of the European Union during the Irish Presidency of the European Union in 1996.

At different periods, he has been Labour Party Spokesperson on European and International Affairs, Overseas Development, Education and the Gaeltacht. He is currently a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and is Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs for the Labour Party.

Michael D. Higgins has campaigned for human rights in many parts of the world, including Turkey, Western Sahara, Nicaragua, Chile, Gaza, the West Bank, Peru, El Salvador, Iraq and East Timor. In recognition of his work for peace with justice in many parts of the world he became the first recipient of the Seán MacBride Peace Prize of the International Peace Bureau in Helsinki in 1992.

Michael D is married to Sabina Coyne, a founder member of The Focus Theatre and Stanislavsky Studio in Dublin. They have one daughter and three sons.

Prof. Andreas van Agt
Mr. van Agt graduated from law school cum laude in 1955 and worked as a lawyer in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Later he became a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture and at the Ministry of Justice and professor in criminal law at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1971 Mr. van Agt was appointed as Minister of Justice and since 1973 as Vice Prime Minister. From 1977 untill 1982 Mr. van Agt was Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs during three different administrations. After that period he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the subsequent administration. In 1983 he became the royal governor in Noord-Brabant. Ultimately Mr. van Agt was ambassador for the European Community in Tokyo and ambassador for the European Community in Washington until 1995.

Mr. Lucien Champenois
Mr. Champenois was born in 1933 and entered into the Foreign Ministry in 1960. He is a specialist of the Arab world and of development and religious questions. He was posted in Morocco (1960-1962 and 1967-1970) and in Saudi Arabia (1962-1964) and had various responsibilities in the General Direction of Cultural ,Scientific and Technical Cooperation (1971-1976 and 1980-1982) and in the Ministry of Cooperation ( 1982-1986). From 1989 to 1992 he was responsible for CSCE Service (Direction of Europe), and served as adviser of the Foreign Ministry for religious affairs between 1992 and 1998 (Several missions in Israel and Occupied Territories). In collaboration with late Ambassador Soulié he published two books on Saudi Arabia (1965 and 1978). Mr. Champenois is Minister Plenipotentiary (1992), and retired from the diplomatic service in 1998.

Dr. Hajo G. Meyer (accompanied by his wife, mrs. Christiane Tilanus )
Hajo G. Meyer (1924 Bielefeld, Germany) fled 1939, alone, to Holland. German schools did no longer allow Jewish pupils. End of that year model refugee camp Wieringen, where he learned to be a metalworker. In 1941 the Germans made most leave the camp. Opportunity for attending Jewish school. After final examination in April ’43 underground. Caught by the Gestapo March ’44, surviving ten months in Auschwitz. Study theoretical physics and,1950, job researcher and later manager Philips Research Laboratories Eindhoven. PhD 1956. 1974 –‘84 Managing Director of that lab. Until about 2002 fifty violins and violas made and sold to most professional players. Now publicist and writer of essays.

Mr. Jan van der Kolk
Jan van der Kolk (1945) has started his career as a teacher in Cameroon. He worked for the Government of The Netherlands since 1974 till his retirement in April this year, in the last 8 years as deputy director for Environmental Health. He has worked extensively with international organisations such as WHO, OECD and UNEP. He has been a board member of ICCO since 2000 and before that time was Chair of Service Abroad, which merged with ICCO in 2001.

Mr. Berend Smoes
Mr. Smoes is a European, born (before WW II) and raised in The Netherlands, with a vivid memory of the German occupation. He studied mechanical engineering, and continued to study business management and macro-economics during the course of his professional life. For the better part of his business life he managed international trading companies, which took him all over Europe and the U.S.A., as well as to Japan and a couple of Middle Eastern countries. Since the beginning of the 1990’s, he mixed his expertise in business and his interest in social and economic development of emerging countries. He started business projects to stimulate cross-border co-operation between companies in Western and companies in emerging countries. The last five years he concentrated on promoting a just and peaceful solution of the Palestine / Israel problem through the set up of a foundation International Forum for Justice and Peace .