By Clive Hambidge
The UN Cultural organisation (UNESCO) voted strongly in favour of membership for the Palestinians. A vote opposed by Israel. There were 173 countries that voted, 107 in favour, 14 opposing and 52 abstaining. Great Britain was one of those in the latter category, thus bringing further disrepute to the word ‘Great’. Well done the 107! Shame on the 66. The fact is, the truth is, UNESCO’s vote in favour of Palestinian membership is, as the Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad said, “a historic moment that gives Palestine back some of its rights.”
The Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO called the vote a “tragedy” and “a political subject that was out of its Competence.” The Palestinian admission to UNESCO is no “tragedy”. The citizens of the world, ‘We The People’ are ‘satisfied,’ legally and morally, as is the Russell Tribunal, that Israel practices Colonialism and Apartheid in the illegally Occupied Palestinian Territories, so the real tragedy Ambassador is that our so-called leaders do nothing to address the situation even though the law is clear. As William Blake put it, “When I tell the truth it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.”
Occupation, Apartheid, and Colonialism
In its 2009 Democracy and Governance Programme, Middle East Project, Executive Summary, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa found “International law prohibits the unilateral annexation or permanent acquisition of territory as a result of the threat or use of force: should this occur, no State may recognise or support the resulting unlawful situation.” If we further recognise Israel’s actions in the OPT as illegal, then it is paramount that we focus on “the question of the responsibility of States [and their lack of response] as a result of internationally wrongful acts” in this case Israel and its continued violence in pursuit of its, and America’s, strategic aims. Apartheid and Colonialism are two such acts.
Apartheid: Apartheid and colonialism are particularly egregious crimes. An examination by the HSRC of South Africa of Article 2(a) of the Apartheid Convention found “the denial of the right to life and liberty of person is satisfied by Israeli measures to repress Palestinian dissent against the occupation and its system of domination. Israel’s policies and practices include murder, in the form of extrajudicial killings; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment of detainees; a military court system that falls far short of international standards for fair trial: and arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinians, [to include children], including administrative detention imposed without charge or trial and lacking adequate judicial review. All of these practises are discriminatory in that the Palestinians are subject to legal systems and courts which apply standards of evidence and procedure that are different from those applied to Jewish settlers living in the OPT and that result in harsher penalties for Palestinians.”
An occupying power, in this case the State of Israel, must recognise in the harsh but penetrating light of universal condemnation that to engage in ‘unlawful’ Apartheid, is to engage in, according to, The Apartheid Convention, “an aggravated form of racial discrimination because it is a state-sanctioned regime of law and institutions that have ‘the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.’ ” (HSRC, 2009). This is a grave crime.
Colonialism: According to the Executive Summary of the HSRC, “The prohibitions on colonialism and apartheid are rooted principally in the field of international human rights law” and in regard to Palestine and Colonialism, “Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is manifestly an act based on colonial intent. It is unlawful in itself, as annexation breaches the principle underpinning the law of occupation: that occupation is only a temporary situation that does not vest sovereignty in the Occupying Power.” Furthermore, “By thus portioning contiguous blocs of Palestinian areas into cantons, Israel has violated the territorial integrity of the OPT in violation of the Declaration on Colonialism.”
Moreover, “The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960, hereafter ‘the Declaration on Colonialism’), condemns ‘colonialism in all its forms and manifestations’ which includes ‘settler colonialism’ ” (HSRC). All this takes place behind a “Wall that separates Jewish and Palestinian populations, as well as dividing Palestinian communities from each other, with passage between Palestinian areas controlled by Israel” (HSRC), a clear violation of the Declaration on Colonialism.
Kathleen and Bill Christison write in Palestine In Pieces, “Settlements are a clear attempt to assert dominion over Palestine.” They quote Henry Siegman, former director of the American Jewish Congress who found, “every part of Israeli society advancing the settler enterprise is in clear and deliberate violation not only of international law but of Israel’s own laws.” In a clear “theft of Palestinian lands” Israel has since 1948 actively “ethnically cleansed” and stolen from the people of Palestine. Stealing land, stealing property, stealing water, stealing lives, and stealing time by creating the illusion that it, Israel, works for peace behind the smoke and mirrors of its propaganda whilst perpetuating the ‘grand hoax’ that it negotiates for peace, that it dreams and longs for peace as it relentlessly and systematically tightens a noose around lawfull Palestinian aspirations.
Through its actions and policies of Apartheid and Colonialism, Israel constantly and wilfully breaches international law. It is permitted unchecked to brutalise the men, women and most damningly the children of Palestine under the ‘plan that never changed’, in an occupied territory that does not belong to it, behind an Iron Wall built by Zionism maintained by naked aggression and symbolising Israel’s Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid. “Every State owes a legal duty to the international community as a whole not to engage in practices of colonialism or apartheid. Conversely, all States have an interest in ensuring that these rules are respected because they enshrine fundamental values of international public order. Faced with a violation of the prohibitions of colonialism and apartheid, all states have three duties: to cooperate to end the violence; not to recognise the illegal situation arising from it; and not to render aid or assistance to the state committing It.” (HSRC). The international community has failed, is failing and continues to fail Palestinians on all three counts.
Righting the Failure of the International Community
One critical way for the international community to right “wrongful acts”, as asserted by the UNHRC, Twelfth session Agenda item 7 of 2009, 3, on Universal Jurisdiction, is “In the context of increasing unwillingness on the part of Israel to open criminal investigations that comply with international standards, the mission support the reliance on Universal Jurisdiction as an avenue for states to investigate violations of the grave breach provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, prevent impunity and promote international accountability (Chap XXVIII).”
Noam Chomsky in his book Pirates and Emperors describes the magnitude of the problem, “There is no doubt about the seriousness of the issues arising in the Middle East, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is commonly- and plausibly- judged the most likely “tinderbox” that might set off a terminal nuclear war as regional conflict engages the superpowers, as has come too close for comfort in the past.” It is clear then, is it not, how dangerous Israel’s Occupation, Colonialism, and Apartheid are? It is worth repeating, “Every state owes a legal duty to the international community as a whole not to engage in practices of colonialism or apartheid. Conversely, all States have an interest in ensuring that theses rules are respected because they enshrine fundamental values of international public order.”
However, Chomsky recognises a change or an international shift, “The problem is that Israel’s plans, which never changed, to take over and integrate the occupied territories, are running into some objective problems. They always hoped that in the long run they would be able to reduce the Palestinian population.” Their plans, ‘which never changed,’ have run into the brick wall of international activism, and the lines of Palestinians standing shoulder to shoulder as history’s tide turns in their favour and whose brilliant light is undimmed by the obtuse planning of Israel.
Israel breaches international law on a daily basis and violates Palestinian rights hourly. Israel’s violations to include, “Depriving the population of occupied territory of the capacity for self-governance; integrating the economy of the occupied into that of the occupant; breaching the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources in relation to the occupied territory; and denying the population of occupied territory the right freely to express, develop and practice its culture.” (HSRC). Those who suffer the most from Israel’s policies and the international community’s continued failures are the children.
The Fight for Palestinian Children
The “Protected Citizens” of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are in a fight not only for their legitimate rights but also for their children’s lives. In an address to the General Assembly, Professor Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian Territories, said, “Prolonged occupation deforms the development of children through pervasive deprivations affecting health, education and overall security.”
The Children of Palestine are ‘protected persons.’ Under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “they are persons who find themselves, in the case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a party [Israel] to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.” What protection are the precious children of Palestine afforded? For some it is too late, far too late. According to Al-Jazeera, in an article published 15th January 2009 titled ‘Child Victims of Gaza’, after Israel began to bomb the Gaza Strip on December 27th 2008, of the 210 children, who lost their lives 44, were under the age of 5.
Some of their names are here lovingly recorded: Ahmed Riad Mohammed Al-Sinwar Boy 3. Tamer Hassan Al-Akhrass Boy 5. Hassan Ali Al-Akhrass Boy 3. Odai Hakeem Al-Mansi Boy 4. Camelia Al-Bardini Girl 10. Lama Talal Hamdan Girl 10. Jawaher Anwar Baaloosha Girl 8. Samar Anwar Baaloosha Girl 6. Halima Nizar Rayyan Girl 5. Aicha Nizar Rayyan Girl 3. And, Al-Adham Boy 1, who died needlessly and in innocence for lack of protection and breach of his human rights, and, damningly because of the lack of coordinated resolve by the international community to uphold in a consistent manner the very laws that they have enshrined. These children, as well as all others, have lost their lives in complete innocence by the bloodied hands of an unbridled Israel. Take these children into your hearts and minds, repeat their names, remember their names and carry them tenderly into your activism. Reflect on the mothers and fathers who mourn their loss and on the laws that should have protected their precious little ones.
Our leaders continue to fail the children of Palestine, and deny the ramifications of Article 21(3) of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by blatantly ignoring Palestinian human rights. The Human Rights Council’s Twelfth Session Agenda Item 7 in 2009 stated, “The Mission recommends that States involved in peace negotiations between Israel and representatives of the Palestinian people, especially the Quartet, should ensure that respect for the rule of law, international law and human rights assumes a central role in international sponsored initiatives.” In spite of this, British and other western leaders continue to ignore and thwart these recommendations and international law. Because of this the children of Palestine are dying.
In the words of Malcolm X, “if you’re not careful, the news papers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Palestinians are not ‘yelling rabble dressed up in gaudy savage rags’ as described by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. And because now international public opinion is with them and not against them, that solidified international opinion pushes hard, weighing in full measure against the illegal policies of Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid.
In solidarity, Palestinians, international activists, and world leaders of conscience that dare to defend humanity must put a stop to Israel’s intentions, ‘which never changed,’ to bring the Palestinians to their knees. Let us then stand and be glad, as Palestine takes another sure step toward Statehood and freedom from tyranny, as the world votes in common sense and common purpose. In the words of Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat, “This is a victory for peace and a victory for the human race”. God speed Palestine.
– Clive Hambidge is a Director at Facilitate Global. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.