Secom / PMC "This is a special meeting and precursor and paves the way for a new understanding between the Holy Land Palestine and Brazil, because this land is holy too, thanks to a wise policy has overcome structural problems, you are an example of solidarity." Said Palestinian ambassador in Brazil, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil al-Zebem during the opening of the Local Authorities Forum Free Palestine, held this morning in the Tiago Dantas Auditorium, Ritter University, in the Canoas Prefecture on 28 November 2012. The event took place in the context of the World Social Forum – Free Palestine, hosted in the nearby city of Porto Alegre, 28 December to 2 December 2012. Canoas Mayor Jairo Jorge chaired the event, which involved presentations on the problems of infrastructure and restrictions on access to housing, employment, communication and mobility of the Palestinian people since the beginning of the Israeli occupation, and compounded with the recent bombings in Gaza and building a wall that divides the City of Jerusalem. "This is a time of excitement, joy and hope. Your cause is our cause, because the Palestinian cause is present in all of us, free men," said Mayor Jorge. Solidarity Through videos, photos and other exhibits of their respective cities, Palestinian officials related the difficulties experienced in Gaza with the Israeli occupation. "More than 9,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed by an occupation policy that has isolated and restricted mobility and the identity of the Palestinians, which violates international law," said the ambassador of Palestine. "The only thing we want is freedom, independence and sovereignty, to live in peace and harmony with our neighbors," al-Zebem explained. The forum featured presentations by representatives of municipalities: Yaser Atieh Amouri (of Jerusalem), of Ribhi Dola (Beitunia); Salah al-Din Abdel Najib Zeer Huseini (Hebron/al-Khalil) and a City Council member from Ramallah, Faisal Hasan Darras. Also integrated the table the Mayor of São Leopoldo and President of FAMURS Ary Vanazzi. Also attending the forum were other Palestinian Arab leaders of the municipalities of Ramallah in Nablus, Hebron and Beitunia. Also exchanging experiences in a workshop of the forum were members of local and international civil society concerned with municipal affairs under the occupation. Jamal Jumaa of the Stop the Wall Campaign addressed the local authorities on the effects of the Annexation Wall which Israel has built across the West Bank. Joseph Schechla, coordinator of Habitat International Coalition’s Housing and Land Rights Network spoke to local authorities on the Latin American contributions to international law prohibiting  occupation and colonization and the corresponding human rights obligations that extend to local authorities within each state. Also participating in the event were the President of the Palestine Federation of Brazil, Aladin El- Ayyan Aladin and representative of the mayor of the City of Bagé, Glécio Dos Santos Rodrigues, municipal managers, intellectuals, university professors and students. Mayor Jairo Jorge took the opportunity to invite those present to participate in the Local Authorities Forum (FALP), which will be held next June in Canoas. During the meeting between the authorities, the mayor also provided community representatives with publications on participatory management of Canoas, including a work of the Brazilian Statute of the City (2001). He also received gifts symbolic from Palestinian officials. The complete schedule of the Local Authorities Forum - Free Palestine can be accessed here. The local authorities present in the Free Palestine forum at Canoas adopted a common statement of principles and commitments to future cooperation and exchange of experience. That declaration also enshrined a commitment of noncooperation with parties supporting or benefitting from the occupation of Palestine. Find the declaration here.  Photo: Ronaldo M. Botelho