Palestine: Justice First, Negotiations Later

By Stuart Littlewood

Law, justice, liberty and human rights, we were taught, are non-negotiable. Perhaps Obama, La Clinton, Cameron and Hague missed that important part of their education.

Restore the Palestinians’ lands, homes and resources, as required by law, by convention and by numerous United Nations resolutions, then see what’s left to negotiate. That is the route to peace.

If Israel digs its heels in, the UN knows what to do. It must resort to sanctions, obviously, like it does against any other delinquent nation. This will be a simple test of the great organisation’s high-minded principles, and for its not-so-high-minded members.  If it cannot rise to the moral challenge it doesn’t deserve to survive. And the world is doomed.

The Palestinians may not wish to swap bits of land. If they do, they should not have to bargain with a gun to their head or a military jackboot on their throat. Any Israeli squatters still hanging around on the wrong side of the border would, I imagine, automatically become Palestinian citizens. Unless, of course, they pose a security threat to the State of Palestine, in which case they might find themselves behind bars under Palestine’s version of Israel’s notorious ‘administrative detention’.

Here in Britain our beloved foreign secretary William Hague proclaimed at the Conservative Party conference: "We will spare no effort in the coming years to bring… peace to the Middle East." He spoke in glowing terms about his boss, our Prime Minister, David Cameron. "Never neglectful of the views of others, he is equally never afraid to make a stand. He has a strong sense of what is right, and brings a driving energy and ambition to achieving it."

He praised Cameron for showing the "steel and humanity" needed to support the people of Libya. "When the hour of crisis came, our prime minister had the steel and the humanity to call for a no-fly zone when others doubted," he said.

Sadly, steel and humanity are conspicuously lacking in Cameron’s response to pleas to protect Palestinians with a no-fly zone and allow them their freedom and statehood.

In his first speech as shadow foreign secretary, in Washington in February 2006, Hague argued that "in standing up for the rule of law we must be careful not to employ methods that undermine it." He added that he would also "seek to buttress American efforts to give new impetus to the Middle East Peace Process", which is code for pushing through the West’s determination to, well, undermine the very rule of law he claimed to be standing up for.

Peace process = more lopsided negotiations, continuing injustice, continuing occupation, more time for Israel to grab more land and more time to exert pressure on Palestinians to surrender their rights.

Rule of law = justice and liberty.

So which is it going to be?

My MP, Henry Bellingham, is a minister in the Foreign Office. At the Conservative Party conference last week it sounded as if he too was buttressing America’s pro-Israel policy, so I dropped him a line:

“I’ve just been reading a report by MAP [Medical Aid for Palestinians], who organised a well-attended fringe meeting. You receive the following mention…

‘At another fringe event organised by Amnesty, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham MP, responded to a MAP question concerning the Palestinian bid for statehood by explaining that “Britain was pushing the ‘Vatican option’ for an upgrade to Palestinian status through the UN General Assembly and it’s a pity that option didn’t garner more support. What is important now is that negotiations start as soon as possible”.’

“Often said but never rationally explained. I think it is time to challenge the orchestrated mantra that calls for a return to negotiations when this route has failed so dismally to end the misery and it is now clear to anyone who takes an interest in Middle East affairs that Israel has no wish for peace until it has grabbed all the land it craves and established as many irreversible facts on the ground as are necessary to achieve its criminal objective. By their actions the Israelis have not the slightest desire to honour commitments from previous accords.

“Moreover Israel, as you know, stands in defiant breach of countless UN resolutions and is contemptuous of human rights, international law and ICJ rulings. It has been slaughtering the Palestinians at the rate of 10 to 1 and is especially proficient in annihilating children with a kill-rate of 12 to 1 (see B’Tselem’s figures).

“The Palestinians have the same right to a state, and the same right to security (not just "viability"), as any other nation on the planet. Negotiations, if they take place, should be between parties of equal status with equal access to the protection of international law and UN safeguards. These are not children of a lesser God. But as long as they are treated as such there will never be peace. Surely even the most foolish diplomat can see that.

“So-called ‘negotiations’ where one party is under military occupation with a gun to their head are plainly immoral. And when the ‘peace brokers’ display such flagrant bias and create an outrageously tilted playing field the situation is nothing short of disgraceful. As before, the sort of negotiations you speak of are aimed simply at pressuring the Palestinians to forego their rights under international law and settle for far less than they are entitled to.

“We’ve heard a great deal of enthusiastic chatter from Western governments, including this one, about how more and more people are demanding "their universal right to live in freedom and dignity", so why do you now require the Palestinians to go cap-in-hand to their tormentor, Israel, and once again haggle for their freedom and dignity and the return of their stolen property?

“Obama, in  his preposterous speech to the UN, tried to shrug off the international community’s responsibilities and put the onus for sorting out the criminal mess on the Palestinians’ shoulders: "Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem."

“It is sad to hear Cameron and Hague subscribing to the same cowardly nonsense. So let us, please, hear a rational and truthful explanation of the Foreign Office’s insistence that, after the longest and most brutal military occupation in modern times these helpless people must sit down – yet again – with their oppressor before international law is enforced, before UN resolutions are implemented, before the occupation is ended and before their lands and rights are fully restored.

“The whole world now knows the grubby reasons for resurrecting discredited talks instead of getting on with the real job of establishing parity. What is so shocking is that Britain, by failing to stand for justice, appears so deeply implicated in this cruel charade.”

The ‘Vatican option’ Mr Bellingham mentioned is a half-measure that would make Palestine a second-class state with limited powers and capabilities. Is it a stepping-stone to full membership later… or a siding into which Palestinian dreams can be shunted permanently?

Vague promises of better things to come are not enough. What Palestinians should have, and must have, is equal status with their neighbours now.

If I get a sensible reply, I’ll let you all know.

– 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.

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