Dear Dr. Hartmeyer,
Thank you for your letter from September 6. Unfortunately we had to learn about
the withdrawal of your funding commitment from May 17 for our project Remapping
Palestine - Historical and Geographical Developments, Recent Implications and
Perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.
Despite the fact that your sudden decision to withdraw funding for a project officially
approved of four months earlier poses a great financial challenge for us, we would
like to pick you up on your offer to participate in the opening day.
As you certainly know, a symposium attended by internationally renowned experts
needs a lot of advance planning, thus making it absolutely necessary to rely upon
commitments made by public institutions. The withdrawal of the commitment by the
Austrian Development Agency is highly questionable as development NGOs have to
rely upon these commitments for the implementation of their projects. We are thus
looking forward to your announced statement on the opening day of our symposium.
We would like to give some input to this undoubtedly constructive discussion already
in advance and address your main arguments, which allegedly justify the ADA's
For better traceability we take the liberty to insert your letter from September
6 in our statement:
Based on the detailled programme
of the event Remapping Palestine
- Historical and Geographical
Developments And Their Latest
Implications In The Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict taking place between
October 19 and 21, the Austrian
Development Agency (ADA) cannot
provide financial support.
As you yourself emphasised
in your letter to the ADA
from August 25, the focus
mainly lies on a reconstruction
of Palestinian history before
1948. Topics related to the
EZA (Development Cooperation)
only play a marginal role
in the planned symposium,
thus making it impossible
for the ADA as an agency of
the Austrian Development Cooperation
to stick to our funding commitment
from May 17.
As your event and the reaction
of the Austrian-Israeli Society
(ÖIG) have resulted in
several letters to the ADA,
I am willing to attend the
opening day of your symposium
and make a statement in case
this should be considered
Dr. Helmuth Hartmeyer
Department Head Funding, Civil
As in your letter you argue on two different layers, we will follow this structure
and elaborate on both of them.
First, we need to clarify the question what exactly Austrian development cooperation
can and has to include in the context of the Middle Eastern conflict; a question
you tend to ignore by merely stating these topics would 'only play a marginal
role in the planned symposium'.
The second layer concerns the 'reaction of the Austrian-Israeli Society (ÖIG)'
you mention, as well as some unspecified letters to the ADA, which we interpret
as an attempt to exert pressure on the Austrian Development Agency for approving
Due to your - in our opinion - insufficient explanation we have to assume that
in fact it was a confusion of political and content-related layers which have
led to the retroactive withdrawal of your commitment.
Your statement that topics concerning development policy would 'only play a
marginal role in the planned symposium' for us thus is not tenable.
The official website of the Austrian
Development Agency claims that the Israeli-occupied
Palestinian autonomous territories are
one of the main focuses of Austrian
development cooperation. Furthermore
the ADA discloses that Austria's overall
public means to support Palestinian
territories in the period of 1995-2009
amounted to € 56,92 million, while
in the same time period the Austrian
Development Cooperation (ÖEZA)
supported programmes and projects amounting
to € 41,66 million. Apart from
the vital support of the Palestinian
population in the occupied areas, the
ÖEZA also supports 450.000 registered
Palestinian refugees in Syria as well
as 400.000 in Lebanon - most of which
still live in refugee camps up to date
- with numerous programmes and projects.
In addition to the annual contributions
to The United Nations Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees in the
Near East (UNRWA) the ÖEZA also
funds projects building health centres
or, as in 2008, to re-build the destroyed
Palestinian refugee camp Naher el Bared
in Lebanon. At the 2008 Donors' Conference
the former Austrian Federal Minister
for Foreign Affairs, Ursula Plassnik,
rightly emphasised the 'necessity to
solve the refugee issue within the broader
context of sustainable peace in the
Middle East' and pointed out that 'the
efforts for a universal solution in
the Middle East conflict have to be
continuous' as 'a satisfying and sustainable
solution of the refugee issue is an
integral part of a future peace treaty'.
(freely cited from her website)
Dear Dr. Hartmeyer, as you could most
certainly derive from our funding application
(classified by you under the number
2397-24/2011) and the symposium's programme,
the focus of our event is not put on
the reconstruction of a Palestinian
history before 1948, but much rather
on the reconstruction of the historical
and geographical development of the
Palestinian refugee issue - and of course
other vital topics of development cooperation.
As you undoubtedly know, the history
of Palestinian refugees starts in 1948.
Only one year later - even before the
establishment of the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
- the temporary United Nations Relief
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
in the Near East (UNRWA) was founded
to coordinate the first great refugee
catastrophe in Palestine and neighbouring
countries without delay. This 'temporary'
Relief and Work Agency has had to be
renewed every three years since as the
refugee issue has not been solved up
to date - indeed it has gotten worse.
On its website, the ADA rightly proclaims
'the advancement of the Middle East
Peace Process' as 'main concern of Austrian
Development Cooperation in the occupied
Palestinian territories' and quotes
the head of the Austrian representative
office in Ramallah, Dr. Oskar Wüstinger,
who finds 'issues regarding peace and
development policy inextricably linked'.
Without a sustainable peace perspective
any kind of development cooperation
appears ineffective - the building of
a meanwhile destroyed airport in the
Gaza strip in the district of Dahaniye
by means of subsidies from Europe here
serves as sad example; so does the construction
of a not operating sea water desalination
plant in Gaza with an investment of
more than € 3 million.
Sustainable peace in Israel/Palestine
- and thus sustainable development cooperation
- has to be linked to a perspective
for Palestinian refugees. According
to the Palestinian politologist Leila
Farsakh of the University of Massachusetts
Boston and many more experts, current
development cooperation threatens to
lead the Palestinian people into structural
dependence. In this context the recapitulation
of the 2009 ADA-funded congress 'Perspectives
Beyond War and Crisis II - Food Assistance,
Poverty Management and Development Policy
in the Israel/Palestinian Conflict'
is highly recommended.
Is it really desirable for development
cooperation to lead the Palestinian
people and refugees into long-term dependence
by annually providing them with necessary
means and provisional help centres and
thus limiting their scope of action?
The study of the historical cause of
the refugee issue and the perspectives
of an equitable solution in this context
thus do not play a 'marginal role' but
are indeed the core topics of any sustainable
development cooperation. Avoiding these
topics would mean to deprive the entire
Palestinian people of their history
and future and reduce them (in)to a
Which may be the consequences of an
ultimately paternal policy without serious
perspectives on lasting peace?
Again, we want to emphasise that also
other relevant topics, such as investment
policy in the West Bank or the reception
of the Middle East conflict in the peace-promoting
public, will be discussed in our symposium.
Moreover we want to point out that the
actual implementation and concept design
of our event matches with the application
evaluated and officially approved by
The second layer you mention in your
letter concerns the reactions of the
Austrian-Israeli Society (ÖIG),
whose statement pertaining to our symposium
may be read in the Wiener Zeitung from
August 25. We have already commented
on this reaction in great detail and
forwarded this statement to you (cf.
We assume that, apart from the ÖIG,
also other agencies associated with
the Israeli government voiced their
concerns and intervened with you and
the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It is indeed sad enough that - despite
international appeals - the current
Israeli government sticks with its occupation
policy of the last decades, the erection
of the wall, the settlement activity,
the forced relocation of Arab citizens
from Jerusalem and presently concentrates
its strenghts on preventing Palestine's
admission into the UNO by all political
and diplomatic means.
Since 1948 the Palestinians have tried
to claim the people's right to self-determination
for themselves, however, since 1948
they are deprived of these rights securitised
by international law. Up to now, the
official Israeli position refuses their
state recognition and the Israeli Federal
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Avigdor
Lieberman, has just threatened the Palestinians
with 'harsh and grave consequences'
should they really apply for admission
into the UN.
Also the ÖIG, which disapproves
of our symposium and - as we understand
your letter - has intervened with you,
takes the same line and 'prompts the
Austrian Government to decidedly counter
any attempts of recognising Palestinian
statehood in the UN' (OTS, 18.08.2011)
Whereto is a policy, whose only answer
to decades of violence in the Israeli/Palestinian
conflict is the promotion of occupation
and which still denies Palestinians
recognition, supposed to lead? Which
perspectives could a peace movement
possibly have, if already a discourse
between Palestinian and critical Israeli
voices in Vienna is labelled 'unnecessary'
and to be prevented? Which role does
the ÖEZA resume when it succumbs
to this - as we have to assume - political
pressure? Where does it lead, when the
ÖIG in their statement de facto
deprive uncomfortable Israeli citizens
of their citizenship and expatriates
them symbolically just because they
have different opinions? Even if the
positions of our speakers differ from
those represented by the ÖIG, they
certainly do have the right to articulate
them publicly in our democratic culture.
Without consideration and recognition
of the respective sides, the pursuit
of equitable peace is doomed to fail
from the very beginning. In this context,
the planned symposium 'Remapping Palestine'
wishes to reprocess the less visible
and less represented narratives of the
Middle Eastern conflict and offers space
The very idea of censoring disagreeable
Jewish/Arab/Israeli voices would reproduce
a fatal converse argument of exclusion
and dominance and consequently determine
the right of the stronger by degrading
the rights of the weaker to a matter
of political opportunism.
Most certainly one may discuss, criticise
and treat the findings of Prof. Ilan
Pappé differently, however, to
defame them as allegedly 'unscientific'
is merely unsound given the author's
reputation. Moreover, it paves the way
for monopolising one's own world view
as the only one possible.
We neither have the media power, nor
the political, economical or institutional
resources of big organisations and associations
to intervene by means of political pressure
and push through partial interests,
however (il)legitimate they may be.
In our opinion it is the responsibility
of public agencies - such as the ADA
- to ensure the democratic rules of
the game for all parties involved.
The ADA's course of action - a questionable
and hardly justified withdrawal of an
already granted funding four months
after the commitment and merely six
weeks before the beginning of the event
- is highly questionable and casts poor
light on the capacities of the ÖEZA
given the by far greater challenges
concerning an equitable peace settlement
in the Middle East.
Nonetheless, the symposium Remapping
Palestine' will take place just as planned.
It will take place in Vienna, the city
which awarded the Cultural Poster-Prize
to the campaign 'Time for a Quote' and
thus had the famous quote Freedom is
always the freedom of dissenters by
Rosa Luxemburg posted all over its public
As mentioned earlier, we are convinced
that the symposium is highly relevant
with regard to peace and development
policy. The ongoing debate concerning
the recognition of a Palestinian state
underlines the necessity to listen to
the opinions of high-ranking Palestinian
experts as well as highly regarded Israeli
scientists critical of the government
and peace activists even in Austria.
A lot of positive feedback shows that
the event is met by great interest in
the peace-promoting public and can be
Once again we cordially invite you to
attend the opening day of our symposium
and are indeed looking forward to a
stimulating discussion. Moreover we
would ask you to possibly revisit your
decision to withdraw funding for our
Mag. Peter Leidenmühler
Chairman of Dar al Janub - Association
for Anti-Racist and Peace-Promoting
The symposium 'Remapping Palestine'
will take place from October 19-21 in
Vienna, Albert-Schweitzer-Haus, Schwarzspanierstraße
13; 1090 Vienna. Speakers include the
Palestinian historian Salam Abu Sitta,
the American-Palestinian scientist Joseph
Massad, the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé,
Umar Al Ghurabi as a representative
of the Israeli NGO Zochrot and the German
Bundestag member Anette Groth.