The conference focussed on four pillars: Israeli occupation and violations of the right to housing, Palestinian legal and historical right to housing, ways to defend these rights and a future vision for the Palestinian right to housing.
Since the occupation, house demolitions and land seizure have been commonly adopted policies by the Israeli government, little regard is made for the Palestinians who own such assets. Pictures of Israeli bulldozers taking over land and demolishing housing are common sights in local Palestinian media.
In response to these illegal actions, the conference brought together many local and international experts, Palestinian political and national leaders as well as victims of Israeli aggression. Such a mix, allowed for dynamic discussions to take place regarding human rights, international conventions and reconstruction.
Speakers included Dr Miloon Khothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing who spoke about the UN’s efforts to stand up for Palestinian housing rights and Dr Yosef Jabareen, a lecturer on urban studies, who presented detailed information on Israeli violations in occupied areas since 1948; he also spoke about the Israeli Plan named “2020”, a plan to colonise Palestinian lands with Jewish immigrants.
Other speakers included Mr Taiseer Meri, General Manager for the Golan for Development Society and Nael Salman program manager for UN Habitat in the West Bank among many others.
The conference was concluded in unanimous agreement: It is impossible for Palestinians to exercise their rights while living under Israeli occupation. The Occupation as decades have shown brings only abuses to these rights as houses are demolished and land is taken. It was also agreed that a colony-free Palestinian state should be founded on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as capital; this would at least allow Palestinians to claw back some of the just rights they deserve.
The conference ended with the creation and launch of the Palestinian Right to Housing Movement, a movement participated in by several Palestinian NGO’S concerned with the right to housing. This movement is another step towards the fight to allow Palestinians to exercise their basic rights in regards to housing and land.
The right to housing is a right granted by international law. However with the International community unable to stop Israeli breaches of this law in the occupied territories, it is often left to Palestinian grassroots movements to fill the void and fight for Palestinians and their basic international rights.