1st Haifa Conference for a secular democratic state

and the right to return to historic Palestine

Haifa, 20-21/6/2008

In recent years, there have been annual conferences on the Right of Return that have played an essential role in consolidating and demonstrating the growing political and public consensus in support of the return of all Palestinian refugees to all the places from which they were expelled. The new Haifa conference is not an alternative to the "Right of Return conferences". It rather takes the discussion one step further by proposing a specific political framework for the implementation of the right of return and for all the countries' residents and refugees to live together.

One year ago, the Abnaa elBalad movement, a Palestinian movement active within the 1948 Palestinian territories, proposed the convening of a conference that will discuss the right of return of the Palestinian refugees and the proposal to establish a secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine.

Since then, there have been many meetings with different groups and activists to discuss the idea and recently the conference was set to convene in Haifa, on June 20-21, 2008.

Many leading activists from different Palestinian movements and political parties have already expressed their will to participate in the conference, as well as some of the main figures in the Palestinian civil society in the 48 territories and many Jewish activists from different movements that struggle against Israeli occupation and Apartheid and for the right of return.

Where are we now?

There is a voluntary initiating committee of the conference. The committee is currently working on a detailed program for the conference, including subjects for specific workshops and assigning speakers and facilitators to each workshop. The Initiating Committee is open to new members and is inviting proposals of subjects and speakers.

The conference will not be held in the name of any specific organization, and participants attend in personal capacity (institutional references for identification only).

We need help

Preparations are underway, and there is a wide interest in the subject. We need all the help we can get to make it happen and be a big event. This conference aims to promote an open discussion on a new vision for the return of the Palestinian refugees and an inclusive, democratic solution to the 120-year-old conflict that continues to put mankind in danger of a new world war.

We also urgently need financial help, to cover the expenses of the conference.

Proposed program

Friday, June 20
19:00 Opening session
Key political speakers
Cultural program
21:30 - 23:00 Meeting of the initiating committee with the guests

Saturday, June 21
9:30 - 10:00 Gathering and registration
10:00 0 10:30 General meeting
10:30 - 12:30 Workshops
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch (and meeting of the initiating committee)
13:30 - 15:30 Workshops
15:30 - 16:00 Presentation of workshop results in plenum
16:00 - 17:00 Concluding general meeting - discussion of the final declaration.
17:00 - 18:00 Meeting of the initiating committee with the guests concerning continuing cooperation

Proposed subjects for workshops
1. Evaluation of different proposed solutions to the Palestinian problem and the current struggle for the right of return.
2. The implementation of the right of return and the vision of one democratic state
3. Palestinians in the 48 territories - current struggles and the political perspective
4. Religion and politics and the perspective of a secular state.
5. The role of the youth: Remembering the Nakba and dreaming of the future
6. The crisis of the Israeli society
7. Parallels with South African apartheid and the role of international boycott
More subjects are under discussion.

Guests from outside the area are welcome to stay in the homes of local activists.

Guests from abroad who would like to combine their attendance of the conference with a guided tour of Palestine and learn about other political and social aspects of the conflict are welcome.

Rajaa Zo'abi - 'Omari, rajaaomari57@gmail.com
Yoav Bar, yoav_bar@mail.com