Inauguration of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence monument in al-Ram
On November 30th 2015, the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy inaugurated the Palestinian Declaration of Independence (PDI) in al-Ram, town located behind the Occupation Wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Al-Ram was chosen as a strategic location where to erect this monument based on its very complicated social, geographical and political situation. This town is marginalized by the authorities, both on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides, as it is very close to Jerusalem but separated of it by the Wall, and it is part of the Area B, under supposed joint control of the Palestinian and Israeli Authorities. This town is populated by more than 90,000 citizens, making it a town larger than Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tulkarem or Tubas. It is third in population size, after Nablus and Hebron.
The composition of the population is increasingly complex as only 2,500 individuals were originally living there; the rest is a population that established themselves there as a consequence to the occupation; people from Jerusalem who couldn’t afford to pay the municipal tax (Arnona), people working in Ramallah who could not afford to waste a dramatic amount of time everyday crossing the checkpoint, people who did not receive the permit to live on the other side of the Wall. The population growth in al-Ram was therefore consequential, encouraged by policies imposed by the occupation authorities rather than a natural one. The complex situation in which the citizens of al-Ram find themselves is deepened by a lack of municipal services; the population is unwilling to pay taxes, as neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli authorities seem to take responsibility for their situation.
This location was chosen by the PCPD team based on:
- Its geographical location between Jerusalem and Ramallah, surrounded by the Wall; the monument was installed where the main entrance is located, which was closed by the Wall 10 years ago, separating al-Ram from Jerusalem.
- The strategic location of the PDI monument is expected to increase the attention of the Palestinian Authority to al-Ram and its challenges.
On November 30th, numerous stakeholders, political figures, activists and civil society representatives attended the gathering. The representative of the President, who is the governor of the Jerusalem governorate, Adnan al-Huseyni, gave a speech on the importance of the PDI, and of addressing issues related to the situation of the population in al-Ram; he promised that the message would be shared with the President and the ministries.
One of the main highlights of the initiative is the willingness of the al-Ram municipality to support PCPD and offer the very symbolic main entrance as the location for the monument. Different local actors also supported the initiatives, mainly by providing in-kind contribution to build and install the monument.
Another important highlight is that this initiative established a strong relationship between PCPD and the municipality, with the objective of eventually assisting them with issues of social and political development. Meetings with the Ministry of Local Governments, Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Ministry of Finance already started to take place, encouraging them to build networking opportunities with CBOs and CSOs, aiming at building a multi-stakeholders core group capacitated to represent and defend the interests of al-Ram.
PCPD reached out to these actors in order to involve them in future initiatives tackling local issues affecting the citizens, including drugs, early marriage and violent resistance. It is expected that these actors will work together to network, lobby and advocate through initiatives they will be planning themselves. Networking and initiatives implemented jointly have been identified as important gaps in the municipality; a baseline study conducted by PCPD demonstrated that there is currently no coordination or effective networking mechanisms existing in al-Ram, which leads to a lack of proper response to local issues, exacerbated by the fragmented identity of the population. The identity of al-Ram citizens should then be identified and promoted, going beyond their different backgrounds.
The text engraved in the stone of the monument is an extract from the PDI document of 1988 and focuses on the importance of social justice and the respect and promotion of Human Rights. This extract of the text has been chosen strategically within the global approach of non-violent resistance, through which pacific, rights-oriented initiatives are encouraged over violent ones.
This inauguration is one of many successes related to PCPD's intervention in al-Ram; both the establishment of dialogue platforms between parties and the erection of the PDI monument contribute to the promotion of peace, justice, transparency and accountability between the citizens and the municipality.