Silence will not end the suffering
Middle East 'peace talks' are taking place as though Israel's violations of international law could somehow be ignored.
Open Letter (31 July 2013) to NZ Foreign Minister, Murray McCully:
Dear Mr McCully,
You may possibly have read the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) comments (McCully fails to make independent stand for justice) on your press release dated 20 July 2013, which was sent to several MPs, including yourself.
We are writing to you now because of further developments that have a direct bearing on the opinions and assumptions expressed in your press release. We asked why anyone should believe that Israel would deal fairly with the Palestinian people in 'direct negotiations' when there is evidence that Israel has already made decisions that show it is not prepared to even consider abiding by earlier agreements or international law. We raised the issue of Israel’s discriminatory abuse of its own citizens and would now draw your attention to a 25 July 2013 statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urging Israel to reconsider a bill that would displace thousands of Bedouin. The proposed law would result in the demolition of up to 35 Bedouin villages, displacing as many as 40,000 people from their ancestral homes.
It is shocking that Israel's leaders should have to be reminded that the Bedouin are, as citizens of Israel, “entitled to the same rights to property, housing and public services as any other group in Israel”. In your press release you expressed admiration for what you described as Israel's “constructive and responsible leadership”. Yet the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights fears that legislation is contemplated that would “legitimise the forced displacement and dispossession of indigenous Bedouin communities in the Negev desert in southern Israel”. What sort of leadership needs to be reminded that “respect for the legitimate rights of minorities is a fundamental tenet of democracy.”?
Israel’s facts-on-the-ground pre-conditions have been allowed to make a mockery of the so-called peace talks for too long and at tragic human cost. In case anyone doubts that Israel's engagement in the 'peace process' is anything other than stand-over tactics, consider this: Israel's International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz was reported in the Jerusalem Post on 26 July 2013 warning that the Palestinians will have to make “territorial concessions – because there will be settlement blocks . . .” and on the UN-recognised right of return of ethnically- cleansed Palestinians, Steinitz added that the refugees “would also have to abandon the 'right of return' to their homes.” On Jerusalem, the Minister was equally uncompromising, saying that the “status quo was the only option.” He also made clear that any future Palestinian 'state' that nuclear-armed Israel might allow would have no true sovereignty and would be defenceless. Yuval Steinitz used the term 'demilitarised' in reference to the Palestinian people, who never have had an army, navy or air force. Even as the talks proceed, the day-to-day experience of Palestinians living under Occupation is one of continuing cruelty and injustice.
A non-violent alternative
The PHRC press release spoke about a non-violent alternative to the fruitless so-called peace process, that includes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. A prominent Israeli writer, columnist and member of the Haaretz newspaper's editorial board, Gideon Levy, also calls for an economic boycott of Israel that he regards as “the least of all evils” that “could produce historic benefits.” He writes of the boycott: “On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, it is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change. Its effectiveness has already been proven. More and more Israelis have become concerned recently about the threat of the boycott.”
As Levy puts it: “The change won’t come from within. That has been clear for a long time. As long as Israelis don't pay a price for the occupation, or at least don't make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end.” This is precisely what the PHRC has been trying to get through to those New Zealand politicians who insist that rewarding Israel will somehow produce a change for the better in the Zionist state's behaviour. Gideon Levy points out that,
“. . . change will only come from the outside. The United States won’t apply pressure. If the Obama administration hasn't done it, no American administration will. Economic boycott was proven effective in South Africa. When the apartheid regime’s business community approached the country’s leadership saying that the prevailing circumstances could not continue, the die was cast.”
The UK Government admits that Israel is violating international humanitarian law
In a written answer to a Parliamentary question from Lord Hylton on 25 July 2013, Baroness Northover revealed that “the issue of forcible transfer has been highlighted in a number of recent reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, including a fact sheet about communities on the Jerusalem periphery.” In her reply, Baroness Northover also said, “The UK has made clear that we view demolitions and evictions as causing suffering to ordinary Palestinians, harmful to the peace process and, in all but the most limited circumstances, contrary to international humanitarian law, and we condemn them.” Sadly, this admission was made without any publicity. The UK and other western governments will not publicly condemn Israel or call for sanctions which, as the worsening situation unfolds, are clearly and urgently needed.
According to a 9 July 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling,
“Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law,” and “to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated...” The ICJ has further affirmed that Israel must “make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.” The ICJ Advisory Opinion also stated “all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.”
A New Zealand voice
Is the National Government prepared to respect its obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law? New Zealand, the first western democracy to adopt universal women's suffrage, is also respected for its unwavering, independent stance against nuclear weapons. If this country were to heed the ICJ and make our voice heard on behalf of justice and human rights, the world would applaud our integrity and courage. We would certainly earn the gratitude of the Palestinian people and those Israeli citizens who suffer at the discriminatory hands of the Zionist state. Jews who say “not in my name” in response to Israel's war crimes would also be encouraged to hear, at last, an influential voice that recognised the outrage they feel. A ringing appeal for justice could inspire a rebirth of the spirit that brought about the Geneva Conventions. Continued silence can only perpetuate the suffering.
Leslie Bravery, Palestine Human Rights Campaign www.palestine.org.nz