By Stuart Littlewood
The word ‘justice’ is conspicuously absent from the mouthings of Western politicians on the Middle East. It has vanished from their vocabulary and from their purpose. Instead ‘peace process’ is endlessly trumpeted, and the lopsided dead-end ‘negotiations’ that go with it.
“It was disappointing that they continued the building of settlements, that they wouldn’t renew the settlement freeze over the last few months. So yes it does require bold leadership from Israel and of course from Palestinians…” That’s what the UK’s foreign secretary William Hague said yesterday to a BBC reporter.
Israel’s continuing crime spree “disappointing”? And “bold leadership” is now required from the Palestinians? We’re talking about crimes against international law and crimes against the United Nations charter and crimes against humanity. What is disappointing – no, shocking – is the lack of leadership from Hague and that bunch of misfits in the White House who are obligated under the terms of various solemn treaties and international undertakings to step in and end Israel’s lawlessness.
Yes, this is the same William Hague who hangs out a welcome sign to Israeli and other war criminals by watering down the UK’s universal jurisdiction laws.
He’s well and truly stuck in the peace process time-warp and trailing a long way behind the curve. “There is a legitimate fear that the Middle East peace process will lose further momentum… Part of the fear is that uncertainty and change [sparked by Tunisia and Egypt] will complicate the process still further… Within a few years, peace may become impossible.”
He speaks as if the process is alive and kicking. Peace has been impossible for decades. It remains impossible first because Israel doesn’t want it and, second, because peace cannot be achieved without justice. And justice cannot be delivered without enforcing the law. Nevertheless Hague prefers to bypass justice and flog the dead horse called Peace Process, which he must know won’t even leave the starting line.
The UK government is good at saying whatever is correct in international law. For example, “Although we accept de facto Israeli control of West Jerusalem, we consider East Jerusalem to be occupied territory. It is crucial that the parties involved come to an agreement whereby Jerusalem can be a shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian States.
“Attempts by Israel to alter the character or demography of East Jerusalem are unacceptable and extremely provocative. Settlements, as well as the evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are illegal and deeply unhelpful to efforts to bring a lasting peace to the Middle East conflict.”
Saying it is easy. The thought of actually doing something to enforce the law and rectify the situation paralyses Westminster. Instead we get: “The UK will continue to add to international calls for restraint and the avoidance of provocative actions from both sides in and around Jerusalem.” As if that’ll solve anything.
And “the government is committed to upholding accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law”. Britain has made no move over the years to bring Israel to book for its hideous crimes.
The Foreign Office preaches about how the rule of law, freedom of speech and free and fair elections are inalienable rights, and how the UK “stands ready” to support those who aspire to these things, but none of it applies to the Palestinians. Otherwise the UK would be talking to and forging trade links with their democratically elected Gaza administration.
“Due to the actions that Hamas has taken, we are not yet prepared to engage with them,” says the Foreign Office in true Dickensian Circumlocution style. “Hamas remains committed to terrorism in order to achieve its aims.”
Israel remains committed to killing and maiming with impunity, often targeting Palestinian children. It carries out air-strikes on a daily basis. Before Hague utters the word terrorism again he should look it up and understand who the terrorists are. Has he asked Hamas what its aims actually are? Isn’t resistance to illegal armed occupation perfectly permissible under international law?
Westminster’s mind is shut. “We do not have any direct contact with Hamas. The Quartet have set out clearly that Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements. Hamas must make concrete and immediate movement towards these conditions…” Do the same conditions apply to Israel? And who outside the Israel lobby recognises Israel with undefined, ever-expanding borders, or expects Palestinians to renounce violence when repeatedly thrown out of their homes and subjected to other atrocities?
However uncomfortable some Westerners may feel about Hamas, it has the authority to speak for Palestinians. Until it is brought in from the cold there’ll be no progress.
But no progress is the real aim of this dirty game, is it not?
UN Resolutions Are Not à la carte
Meanwhile, Mr Hague, how do you like the Likud Party’s policy that “the Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state”, and that “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel”?
And what do you make of the Kadima Party’s claim to a national and historic right to the Land of Israel “in its entirety” and its pledge to keep Jerusalem and the settlements?
UN Resolution 181 of 1947, dealing with the Partition that Israel accepted, declared that Jerusalem “shall be established as a ‘corpus separatum’… administered by the United Nations”, and include surrounding villages and towns such as Abu Dis and Bethlehem.
Resolution 242 (1967) by the Security Council, and therefore fully binding, required withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area and a just settlement of the refugee problem.
Security Council Resolution 338 (1973) called on the parties concerned to get stuck in and immediate implement 242.
Security Council Resolution 446 (1979), besides declaring Israel’s settlements in territories occupied since 1967 illegal, called on Israel to “desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories”.
The UN has laid it down. Israel takes no notice. These are not resolutions on an à la carte menu to be cherry-picked by the Western powers and their friend Israel as the mood takes them. The world is waiting for the senior representative of the country that created the mess in the first place to show leadership, set an example and make sure these binding requirements are implemented.
And just to keep everyone’s thoughts properly focused, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that all peoples have the right of self-determination, and by virtue of that right they may freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. The 136 states that are party to the Covenant have a duty to promote the realisation of these rights and respect them.
A people may not be deprived of their natural wealth and resources or their means of subsistence. Remember this, Mr. Hague, when Israel interferes with Gaza’s off-shore gas resources and the West Bank’s water. And States are also bound to recognize the right of everyone to the opportunity to earn a living by work which he freely chooses, and to take appropriate steps to safeguard this right. “Take steps” is what it says, Mr. Hague. Please remember that when talking glibly about the need to lift the siege on Gaza and restore unfettered access to the outside world. Can you look Gaza’s 3000 fishermen in the eye? Or the hard-pressed doctors desperately short of medical supplies? Or the countless thousands still homeless after the Israeli blitz two years ago?
Then there’s the threat of Israel’s weapons of mass destruction, Israel being the only state in the region not to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention either. It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, similarly the Chemical Weapons Convention. And it’s all in the hands of irresponsible leaders whom our government claims as friends and allies.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.