OPINION: 'Solidarity with Palestine is now more important than ever' - Bloody Sunday Trust
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This is an important opportunity for the international community to highlight the continued denial to the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights as defined by the UN General Assembly, namely the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property, from which they have been forcibly displaced.
However it is equally important to understand both the historical context and current drivers of the conflict in Palestine.
To do so we could not have a better guide than Nelson Mandela whose lived experience of apartheid led him to understand that, “It is always the oppressor, not the oppressed, who dictates the form of the struggle”.
Palestinian military resistance continues and will continue because Israel and its US and European enablers have closed down all legal, political and diplomatic routes to the achievement of Palestinian statehood and sovereignty. Access to the International Court of Justice (ICC) is denied, the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is criminalised, UN Resolutions are vetoed, Human Rights organisations are smeared as terrorist sympathisers and every offer of accommodation from the Palestinian leadership is dismissed.
The historical context to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from more than 500 towns, villages and cities. An estimated 15,000 Palestinians were killed as dozens of massacres carried out.
This process of colonisation and expulsion continued until 1956 during which time dozens more villages were destroyed and a further 250,000 Palestinians were expelled.
The descendants of the Palestinians expelled during the period of the Nakba are now confined within Gaza, the world’s largest open air prison where they are denied clean water, electricity, hope, or dignity.
The mantra of the ‘two- state solution’ has long since been rendered meaningless. Israel has never adhered to the terms of the Oslo Accords. Far from challenging this, the international community has allowed itself to become complicit in the active dehumanisation of the Palestinian people who have suffered decades of, colonisation, dispossession and the collective denial of their rights.
Although settlements are illegal under international law hundreds of thousands of settlers continue to colonise land stolen from Palestinians.
The occupied West Bank is now ribboned with settler-only roads and infrastructure forcing Palestinians into isolated enclaves.
The massacre of Israeli civilians carried out by Hamas was a war crime and is morally and politically indefensible. The hostages that were taken must be released. It is however possible to hold this opinion whilst also recognising that these horrors are rooted in the continuing colonisation of Palestinian land.
In a recent article for Jewish Currents, Raz Segal, an Israeli historian specialising in Holocaust and genocide studies and an acknowledged expert in the study of modern genocide described what is happening in Gaza as, “a textbook case of genocide”.
The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as, “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. By imposing a complete siege on Gaza, dehumanising its inhabitants and then subjecting them to relentless carpet bombing Israel has made its genocidal intentions perfectly clear.
In the words of Isaac Herzog, President of Israel, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not involved, not aware”.
Rather than using the actions of Hamas to justify genocidal slaughter in Gaza we must reaffirm our shared humanity. It must be made absolutely clear that there can be no return to the status quo ante where Palestinians in Israel are treated as less than equal and those in the occupied territories as less than human.
The key to this is an acknowledgement by the international community that the roots of the conflict lie in the structures of occupation and discrimination established by Israel.
The Bloody Sunday Trust has drawn on its own experience of conflict resolution to propose a number of actions that we believe would have a transformative effect if enacted by the international community:
*An Immediate ceasefire and the provision of comprehensive humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
*An international conference to formulate a just and lasting peace for the Palestinian people.
*A commitment to international law and the implementation of all existing UN resolutions that include security for Israel and Palestinians, an end to the colonisation of Palestine, the right of self-determination and the right of return for Palestinians.
*The establishment of a peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to protect Palestinians from the Israeli military and armed, militant settlers.
*The International Criminal Court (ICC) must be guaranteed free and unhindered access to Israel and the Palestinian Territories to investigate and hold accountable both Hamas and Israel for possible war crimes.
*Furthermore the UN Special Committee against Apartheid should be re-established to pressure Israel to dismantle this system.
The Bloody Sunday Trust is clear that the ending of the apartheid system does not mean that the Jewish-Israeli presence is going anywhere. It will remain and must be an equal part of a new political dispensation based on genuinely democratic values.
Equality for Palestinians must however mean not just an end to colonisation and dispossession in the occupied territories but also the rights of refugees including return for those who seek it.
Given our own history as a colonised rather than a colonising nation, Ireland is uniquely placed within Europe to support Palestinians and Israelis towards conflict resolution and peace building. In the immediate context however Ireland must forcefully challenge the consensus that confers impunity on Israel despite serial international law and human rights violations. This is the most urgent and vital expression of international solidarity that can now be offered to the Palestinian people.