By Stuart Littlewood – London
So they sent you to the Holy Land, Mr. Mitchell, for talks. So many before you have gone to talk. They failed because polite talk isn’t enough.
What will you say about the subjugation of Palestine’s people and Israel’s defilement of this once-lovely place? How will you answer charges that your county is godfather, bankroller, arms supplier and good buddy to the racist thieves and colonizers that have turned it into a powder-keg?
Mr. Mitchell, the people you are talking to in Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem are, in the words of a respected British Jewish MP, "a gang of amoral thugs". The stench of ethnic cleansing is everywhere.
Can we hope that you’ll give them some straight talk about:
• The way they have oppressed and dispossessed the Palestinian people for 61 years?
• The way they continue to occupy, humiliate, abduct and murder their neighbors – Muslim and Christian?
• The way their military occupation of Palestine is illegal under international law and breaches countless UN resolutions?
• The fact that Israel is no western-style democracy but a hatefully ethnocracy that offends the rest of the world?
• How 8 Palestinians die for every Israeli; and when it comes to children the kill-rate is 11 to 1?
• How Israel’s flag-wavers kick up a fuss about one captured Israeli soldier while 11,000 Palestinians, including women and children, rot in Israeli jails?
You have to confront them with all this and much more before even mentioning ‘peace’.
What will you say to them about the Likud Party’s mission statement 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 will you hold your tongue about 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?
Your boss, President Obama, told AIPAC that it’s OK for Israel to grab the hallowed City of Jerusalem and turn it into the permanent headquarters of the Zionist regime. Jerusalem "will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided". Realizing his gaffe he tried to wriggle out: "Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations… And I think that it is smart for us to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem, but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city."
A legitimate claim? Who briefs the President? The UN decided long ago that the Old City, which currently belongs to Palestinian East Jerusalem, was to become an international city. And how can it be right for weak, unarmed and impoverished Palestinians to have to negotiate with a brutal, lawless, state-of-the-art military regime for their universal rights and freedoms, which are supposed to be guaranteed by the international community?
UN Resolution 181 of 1947, dealing with the Partition that Israel accepted, declares that "the City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations”, to include surrounding villages and towns such as Abu Dis and Bethlehem.
Resolution 242 (1967) by the Security Council and therefore fully binding:
1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
(i) withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) termination of all claims or states of belligerency, and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;
2. Affirms further the necessity:
(a) for guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
(b) for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
(c) for guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones.
Israel quibbles over interpretation of the wording but it’s clear to everyone else.
Security Council Resolution 338 (1973) calls on the parties concerned to start immediate implementation of Security Council Resolution 242.
Security Council Resolution 446 (1979) "determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East… Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and 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."
So there you have it, Mr. Mitchell. The UN has set it out. The world is waiting for the will of the UN to be implemented. The longer the delay the uglier the unrest can become.
If United Nations resolutions aren’t enough then consider the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, an important set of undertakings to which Israel and 136 other States are signed up.
Article 1 states:
1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. (The West should remember this when refusing to meet Hamas.)
2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources… In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. (This of course includes fishing and Gaza’s off-shore gas resources and the West Bank’s water.)
3. The States that are party to the Covenant… shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. (Quartet, are you listening?)
Article 2 requires States to guarantee that the rights enshrined in the Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (Quartet, please note.)
Article 6 says that the States recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right. (Impossible until the siege is lifted and free, unfettered access to the outside world restored, wouldn’t you agree Quartet?)
Article 12 recognizes the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and requires the States to take the necessary steps to provide for the healthy development of the child… (So get a grip, Quartet. More than 700 patients, including war wounded, are prevented by border closures from traveling abroad for medical attention, and 320 more have died. Gaza’s children suffer starvation, stunted growth and psychological problems.)
For those who accept the basic concept of human rights it boils down to common decency. But the horrendous, dragged-out torment in Gaza and the West Bank suggests that Israel and the Western powers either haven’t understood the Covenant or aren’t imbued with decency.
Then there’s the threat Israel poses to the rest of the world. According to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Israel has a nuclear arsenal numbering in the hundreds, possibly larger than the Britain’s. Israel is 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.
What will you say to them about that, Mr. Mitchell?
Now we hear that Israel is “very unlikely” to co-operate in the UN war crimes probe into the blitzkrieg on Gaza, which slaughtered 1400, wounded and maimed countless others, and comprehensively destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure much of which was funded by British and EU taxpayers. How disgraceful is that?
Meanwhile it is reported that the US will boycott the upcoming World Conference against Racism (Durban2) next week in Geneva because it would mean ratifying the concluding document of the previous conference (Durban1), which includes harsh condemnation of Israel.
Well frankly, Mr. Mitchell, if honest-to-goodness criticism of Israel’s vile conduct is still verboten in your country, I doubt if you’ll achieve a thing in the Holy Land… except buy Israel even more time for consolidating ‘facts on the ground’ to make their occupation permanent. But please prove me wrong.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.