Are We about to Betray the Palestinians, Again?

By Stuart Littlewood

Media reports suggest that Britain will again betray the Palestinian people in the UN vote tomorrow on whether to recognise the Palestinian territories as an independent state.

The Guardian, for example, says that Britain will join forces with two other EU allies on the Security Council, France and Portugal, to abstain. Germany, the third EU member of the Council, is also likely to abstain. "The UK had considered voting in favour of statehood but is planning to abstain because it wants to forge a common front with its EU partners. Government sources say the EU – the single biggest donor to the Palestinian authority – is playing an increasingly influential role in the Middle East. It is feared this could be put at risk if the EU fails to act collectively.”

This is despite a warning from the Conservative Middle East Council that Britain will lose the goodwill it has built up recently in the Middle East if it fails to support a Palestinian state. Given the history and Britain’s responsibility for Palestine prior to Israel’s existence, says the CMEC, "this is the time for the UK to stand on the right side of history.

“Public opinion is strongly on the side of the Palestinians, as shown by opinion polls showing 71% support for the Palestinian bid to be an independent state. Parliament should make its voice heard rather than standing on the sidelines as a passive spectator."

If Britain abstains the Palestinians will be one vote short, apparently.

So Britain, after 94 years of chicanery, is still set on denying the Palestinian nation its freedom on the feeble excuse, this time, of wishing to forge a common front with its EU partners? Well, don’t look so surprised. The British government and its Foreign Office has been a Zionist snake-pit since the days of Arthur Balfour who, in 1917, issued his infamous Declaration that the His Majesty’s Government "will use their best endeavours to facilitate" the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

Now look at the present-day line-up:

• Prime minister, David Cameron – a self-declared Zionist. He pledged: "In me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible…I want to be clear, we will always support Israel…"
• Foreign secretary, William Hague – a member of Conservative Friends of Israel since he was a teenager.
• Minister for Middle East affairs, Alistair Burt – formerly an officer of Conservative Friends of Israel.
• Recently departed in disgrace: defence secretary, Laim Fox – dubbed "a champion of Israel within the government". He said: "Israel’s enemies are our enemies".

One can only wonder how the rules and principles which are supposed to eliminate undue influence in public life ever allowed such people to be handed ministerial appointments.

Fortunately we have the Russell Tribunal to speak up and to take issue with delinquent governments and their feckless ministers. A summary of the findings of the Tribunal’s latest session held in South Africa has just been made available.

The Russell Tribunal describes itself as "a court of the people, a Tribunal of conscience, faced with injustices and violations of international law, that are not dealt with by existing international jurisdictions, or that are recognised but continue with complete impunity due to the lack of political will of the international community". It takes a particular interest in the violations of international law that prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their rights to a sovereign State.

The Tribunal supports the supremacy of international law as the basis for a solution. "It will thus examine the various responsibilities that lead to the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel and the non-application of the United Nations resolutions, from Resolution 181 of the 29th of November 1947, on the partition of Palestine, to Resolution ES-10/15 of the 20th of July 2004, that acknowledges the Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – of the 9th of July 2004 – on the construction of the Wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and requests all the UN Member States to acquit themselves of their legal obligations as defined by the ICJ Opinion."

The Tribunal also says it aims to help mobilise civil society in all the states concerned on the question of Palestine.

Inhuman Acts “Systematic and Institutionlised”

In its latest deliberations the Tribunal finds that Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalised regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law. "The state of Israel is legally obliged to respect the prohibition of apartheid contained in international law. In addition to being considered a crime against humanity, the practice of apartheid is universally prohibited."

The Tribunal says it heard abundant evidence of practices that constitute ‘inhuman acts’ perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities. "The inhuman acts listed… do not occur in random or isolated instances. They are sufficiently widespread, integrated and complementary to be described as systematic.

“They are also sufficiently rooted in law, public policy and formal institutions to be described as institutionalised.”

The Tribunal shows how the Israeli legal system confers privileges on Jews over non-|Jews and highlights the institutionalised separation and discrimination revealed by the existence of two entirely separate legal systems: "Palestinians are subject to military law enforced by military courts that fall far short of international fair trial standards; Israeli Jews living in illegal settlements are subject to Israeli civil law and a civil court system. The result is a vastly different procedure and sentence for the same crime, committed in the same jurisdiction, by members of a different group."

The obscurity and inaccessibility of many laws, military orders and regulations that underpin Israel’s institutionalised regime of domination, is also emphasised.

"Israel must cease its apartheid acts and its policies of persecution and offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition," says the Tribunal. In addition, Israel must make full reparation for the injuries caused by its internationally wrongful acts and for all damage that can be financially assessed.

“Examine Israel’s Prolonged Occupation and Apartheid”

The Tribunal then turns its guns on the international community. "States and international organisations… have a duty to cooperate in bringing Israel’s apartheid acts and policies of persecution to an end, including by not rendering aid or assistance to Israel and not recognising the illegal situation arising from its acts. They must bring to an end Israel’s infringements of international criminal law through the prosecution of international crimes, including the crimes of apartheid and persecution."

All states are called upon to "consider appropriate measures to exert sufficient pressure on Israel, including the imposition of sanctions, the severing of diplomatic relations collectively through international organisations, or in the absence of consensus, individually by breaking bilateral relations with Israel".

It wants the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to accept jurisdiction as requested by the Palestinian authorities in January 2009, and to initiate an investigation ‘as expeditiously as possible’ as required by the ‘Goldstone Report’, into international crimes committed in Palestinian territory since 1 July 2002.

And it wants Palestine to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The Tribunal calls for the UN Special Committee against Apartheid to be reconvened to consider the question of apartheid against the Palestinian people, and asks the UN General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice “to examine the nature of Israel’s prolonged occupation and apartheid”.

The Russell Tribunal shows us the no-nonsense, law based way forward this abominable situation has needed these last 64 years.

It should be enough to put ministers like Cameron and Hague in the UK, and their counterparts in other Western governments, on notice that continued support for such a rabidly racist regime will no longer be tolerated by civil society.

– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting He contributed this article to

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