image of jerusalem 2013

Palestine between virtual and real independence!
On 13th October, the House of Commons debated on a motion that was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee following representations from Grahame M Morris, Crispin Blunt, Sir Bob Russell, Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn.

27 October   |   2014   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

The Motion simply stated ‘That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.’ After a long debate, MPs voted 274 to 12 on division (Division 54) to approve the motion recognising Palestine.

And on 22 October, the Seanad Éireann, Ireland's Senate or Upper House of Parliament also passed a motion similar to the British one calling on the government in Dublin to recognise a Palestinian state. It received cross-party support and so did not require a vote. And much as it was also a symbolic vote that cannot change government policy, Ireland nonetheless became the third country to support recognition of ‘Palestine’ and undergirded the latest boost for those campaigning in favour of international recognition. Senator Averil Power from the center-right Fianna Fáil (Republican Party), speaking in the Dublin Senate debate accused Israel of having erected an ‘apartheid regime’.

The Irish motion, quite similar to the British one and not far from the statements by the Swedish Foreign Minister earlier, called on the “government to formally recognise the state of Palestine and do everything it can to help secure a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that citizens of both states can live in peace and security.”

Yet despite those legislative and non-binding political moves - and it seems there are other similar moves afoot in Spain and France - such independence is still nothing more than a pipedream. Granted, the international community has a key role to play as facilitator or even initiator and mediator, but the gritty - and painfully responsible - decisions can only be taken by Israel. To recognise or not to recognise a Palestinian independence is a jaw-clenching challenge for Israel today.

So let me share with my readers at Premier Radio one issue that often gnaws at my conscience.

Almost every historian, lawyer or politician from different parties in Israel knows full well that East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are defined under International law and the Fourth Geneva Convention as territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Yet, despite the fact that many Israeli forward-looking organisations, authors, pundits and even politicians know that this landmass is under occupation and should go to Palestinians, successive Israeli governments have resolutely used every textbook on denial, procrastination and prevarication to avoid releasing most lands to their rightful owners.

Moreover, Israel has altered both the geography and demography of those lands by building illegal settlements and outposts across Jerusalem and the West Bank and colonising Palestinian space with subsidised Jewish residents. So much so that historical Palestine has almost shrunk to a few blotches drenched with massive Israeli conglomerations.

Therefore, my key question to readers today is not strictly political in terms of either the merits or demerits of the case for Palestinian independence. That is after all quite easy: according to a raft of legal and political decisions, Israel should return the swathe of occupied territories back to Palestinians on the basis of the inclusive Arab Initiative of 2002 and a host of well-established parameters so both peoples can move forward and help create - in the words of no other than Shimon Peres - a Middle East of biblical milk and honey. In other words, Israelis should desist from hiding behind biblical exegeses written many millennia ago or else project arguments that are anachronistic at best to delay the inevitable. But alas, Israel as a pioneering people has turned exceedingly arrogant, greedy and unjust toward others.

So minus any political prognostication, what is my blunt - call it wholesomely naïve - apolitical question today?

Simply put, it is this: how do many Israeli politicians divest themselves of their very humanity, their sense of truth and justice in order to trample over other peoples’ rights or go into paroxysms of anger and self-righteousness every time they are challenged about the occupation of another people? Why is it so hard for them to be true to the welfare of their peoples by admitting an irredentist truth, acting upon it and then helping build a less bellicose and a less unfair world?

Frankly, I often do not know what lurks in the minds of those decision-makers and purveyors of obfuscation! Yet, I do know how they affect me personally. As someone who was involved in second-track negotiations on behalf of the Churches of Jerusalem during the Oslo process, I went to Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square) in Tel Aviv once and spoke about the murdered Yitzhak Rabin as an erstwhile foe who might not have become a chaver (friend) for Palestinians if he had lived long enough but rather a deft architect of peace. I admire Israeli achievements over six decades - not least in hi-tech - but their scornful suppression of justice for Palestinians intuitively provokes in me human counter-reactions.

Is political candour not de rigueur anymore? Are truth and justice obsolescent? In fact, would the world get so much worse if Israel were to return the occupied territories? “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:7). Yet we often sadly but wilfully camouflage our guilt with naked untruths or - at best - with stark half-truths!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2014   |   27 October


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