From 1996 until 2004, CESR worked with a broad range of Palestinian, Israeli, and international groups to document and oppose violations of economic and social rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The primary aim of this work was to highlight the root cause of economic, social and cultural rights violations - the discrimination and brutality inherent in the Israeli occupation - and to advocate for alternatives that recognize and promote equal rights for all people living under Israeli rule. CESR initiatives have also focused on changing U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 1996, CESR established an office in Gaza to document human rights violations linked to the dramatic decline in Palestinian living conditions following the onset of the Oslo peace process. Working with a coalition of 70 Palestinian NGOs, CESR coordinated a comprehensive research program covering issues of health, housing, education, economics, law, and women's rights. This research formed the basis for a series of fact sheets, articles and reports linking increased human rights violations in the Oslo process to Israeli occupation policies.
In April 2000, CESR convened international conferences in Washington, D.C., and New York to present its research findings and to discuss alternatives to the Oslo process with policy makers and activists. Great Expectations, Bitter Realities, the conference proceedings, were released in August 2001, along with CESR reports on human rights and economics, which were widely distributed to NGOs, media, and policy-makers.
CESR produced fact sheets and articles on economic and social rights violations in the OPT, both for publication in various media outlets and also as advocacy tools at rallies and teach-ins. Working with student groups, human rights organizations, and others, CESR helped organize rallies, demonstrations, teach-ins, conferences, and other educational events throughout New York to raise awareness of human rights issues in the Oslo process. CESR staff spoke frequently at these events, including at Columbia University Law School and School of International and Public Affairs, the New School, Rutgers Medical School and the Brecht Forum.
Engaging the United Nations Legal Mechanisms
In November 1998, CESR and its partner Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations submitted two reports, Israeli Jurisdiction in Palestinian Territories and Israeli Violations of Palestinian Human Rights to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Based on the presentations of CESR and others, the Committee on Economic and Social Rights noted in their Concluding Observations that Israel was responsible for rights violations of Palestinians through expropriation of land, closure policy and discrimination against Palestinians. In November 2000 through April 2001, CESR made presentations at the 24th and 25th sesssions of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. On March 28, 2001, CESR made oral and written submissions to the U.N. Commission for Human Rights on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Right to Food and Water
In the spring of 2003, CESR partnered with Palestinian environmental NGOs to document violations of the human right to water in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza and presented a report to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In November 2003, CESR organized a press conference at the United Nations to publicize the report of Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the first UN human rights representative whose mission was officially welcomed and facilitated by the Israeli government.
U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
In May 2001, CESR began participating in a dialogue with representatives from non-profit organizations and individual activists to discuss strategies for launching a collective national campaign to change U.S. policy towards Israel. These initial discussions resulted in the formation of U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. CESR worked closely with other key organizations as a member of the organizing committee to develop the strategic direction of the initiative, emphasize the importance of taking a human rights approach to the conflict, with a particular focus on economic and social rights, and help to create a concrete plan of action.