Palestine and the stirrings of global conscience
By Shakiru Ayinde Yekinni | Publish Date: Jan 1 2015 4:00AM | Updated Date: Jan 1 2015 4:00AM
The recent spate of ‘recognition’ of the ‘State of Palestine’ by major European countries represents a shift, even if symbolic from the past practice of tacit support for the unjust and illegal occupation of the land of Palestine by Israel. The injustice has long been aided by a world that seems to have completely lost its conscience. For almost seven decades now, the Jewish colony has sustained itself by the application of raw terror (genocide, massacre, mass murder, outright dispossession and in the latest phase, a total blockade of the people of Gaza) with the expectation that the dispossessed give up its agitation, migrate out of frustration or get perished under an imposed siege, and the world looked on.
The injustice has always been with the signature and ‘consent’ of Euro-America all along. From the Balfour Declaration of 1917 when the British government ‘viewed with favour’, the establishment of an Israeli homeland in Palestine; to the enlistment of Jewish elements into the British Army and the subsequent establishment of Irgun (otherwise called the Stern Group – a Jewish terrorist organization that was later to form the nucleus of Israeli military).
From the referral and ‘handover’ of the ‘Arab/Israeli Crisis’ by Britain to the UN, following the former’s inability to maintain order in the Mandated Territory (owing to continuous attacks and assassination of remnant of its forces by the vicious Irgun); to the privileged information afforded the Jews in back door negotiations in the UN which had decided on the partitioning of the land of Palestine into Arab and Jewish territories with the DECLARATION that ‘each should possess its portion by whatever means possible’ (from whence the Jews who had prepared for a showdown secured its ‘allotted territories’ with brutal force, while their Palestinian counterpart were still trusting in ‘further’ negotiations).
Israel has always had its wars fought by proxy. This was evident in the assistance offered by Russia and former Czechoslovakia when the Jewish State was almost defeated in the first ‘official’ exchange of hostilities. It is also reflected in the continuous protection of the Jewish colony by the US since after World War II.
But the resilience of the occupied people especially of Gaza threw up challenges that stirred the conscience of the world, touched that of Europe but not yet America’s. What the last war on Gaza by Israel which lasted for over 50 days said was that the human cost of the occupation is neither bearable any longer nor sustainable. Europe (not America) appears to be moving away from its inglorious past of maintaining criminal silence. And like an icing on the cake to complement the flurry of recognition, the EU Lower House in Strasbourg decided to remove Hamas from its list of ‘terrorist organizations’.
Although the ‘recognitions’ leaves much to desire as it fell short of complementary actions such as sanctions, embargoes, withdrawal of aid (both military and financial) and many other measures that could drum sense into the Zionist state, it nevertheless was an acknowledgement of an unreasonable past that encourages contumacious belligerency on the part of Israel as well as a determination for change
That the injustice endured this long owed to many factors, the most critical being the hypocrisy of nations and individuals saddled with bringing a lasting solution to the problem. At the level of nations, foremost among these is America who after almost five decades of monopoly of brokering ‘peace deals’ is now adjudged a dishonest broker by all except Israel whose bidding it does even at its own detriment.
This has prompted other big powers as well as coalitions of medium powers to contemplate stepping into the matter.
An example of the frustration of the world with Israel is the push by a variety of nations in the UN Security Council for a resolution recognizing the state of Palestine. Hopes are high that the resolution will scale the required 9/15 votes in January of next year, barring a veto from any of the big powers. Even America dropped the hint that a veto in Israel’s favour may not be in the offing.
At the individual level, I had a recent experience which I share here. The venue was the Bolaji Akinyemi Auditorium of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs for the December edition of the monthly public lecture. The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Uriel Palti was the guest speaker to discuss the topic: The Arab/Israeli Conflict: Is Lasting Peace a Possibility?
The Ambassador threw back the question and submitted that he could not say whether a lasting peace would be possible. However he attempted a distortion of the history behind the crisis by his intermittent reference to the occupied lands as the ‘lands of Israel’. He not only presented Israel as invincible, but tried also to absolve it of its numerous crimes, justified its systematic cleansing of Palestinians as self-defense and frantically struggled to portray Israel as the victim rather than the villain.
At the end of it, I put the following posers to the Ambassador:
One, if truly the occupied lands belonged to Israel, why did Theodore Herzl, (President of the World Zionist Organization- WZO) approached Sultan Abdul Hamid (then leader of the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world) in1897 to sell to him a parcel of land in Palestine for a Jewish homeland with humongous amount of money which the Sultan rejected: why would you offer to buy what belonged to you if your claim was true?
Secondly, talking about the use of violence to achieve political ends, Israel was the first and the most reckless. I reminded him of the first UN envoy selected to mediate the Arab/Israeli conflict, Lord Folke Bernadotte who was assassinated by the Irgun in Jerusalem in 1948 despite the man having negotiated the release of some Danish Jews from German concentration camps only a few years earlier. [Bernadotte was assassinated because he tried to internationalize Jerusalem as stated in the partition resolution so as to limit the borders of the Jewish state and prevent incursion into Palestinian portions]
Thirdly, I told him that the Zionist agenda of a ‘Greater Israel’ which envisions the entire Middle East as Jewish possession was one reason behind the intractability of the crisis; that the continuous expansion of Jewish settlements is a tactical repudiation of the ‘two-states’ solution and the cause of intense and unending hostilities. I also put it to him that the fear of an independent Palestinian state, which would legally cultivate its own military to ward off internal and external threats is why Israel continued to sabotage the peace process and the ‘two-states’ solution
Fourthly, I punctured his argument of an invincible Israel by pointing to him how Israel has always moved other nations to fight its wars. I pointed to an incident known as the ‘La Von Affairs’ in American history and as ‘Bad Business’ in Israeli archives [when in 1954 Israel organized the bombing of American, British and Egyptian civilian targets so as to blame it on elements inside Egypt including the Muslim Brotherhood and thereby move the West against Egypt]. The defeat of Israel by Hezbollah in 2006 remains a strong support of my argument, even though I did not mention this. I then concluded that the continuous building of settlements, the siege of Gaza and the deliberate sabotage of the ‘two-state’ solution are reasons why there cannot be a lasting peace.
After my speech, which lasted for less than five minutes, the Ambassador looked embarrassed, and so also was the chairman of the occasion, a former Ambassador of Nigeria to Israel and the United States, Professor George Obiozor. But Obiozor’s reaction was the more puzzling and fitted into the above narrative. In a bid to cheer his guest, he launched into a tirade as to why I, a Nigerian wanted to ‘fight another man’s battle’: that both Israelis and Arabs are same children of Abraham and that I should not be concerned with whatever they do to themselves; that to every story there are always two sides; that Israel is a great country having succeeded in the technology of grafting for improved agricultural yield on every inch of Israeli soil. He also brought up the enormity of challenge posed by Boko Haram, to crown the sway of his sentiment. Of course, I could not interrupt him since that was the way he chose to use his privilege that day.
Anyway, the Israeli Ambassador was given the podium again to do a rejoinder to my contributions, but did not respond to the points I raised. Rather, he asked for my name; when I said I was a Nigerian, he insisted on knowing what part of Nigeria, and I told him Oyo state.
I ask myself, why the interest in where I came from? Perhaps the narrative back in Israel was that opposition to Israeli occupation of Palestine is only domiciled in the north of Nigeria while it is ‘friendship’ and ‘solidarity’ in the entire south. I am sure a new study by the embassy must have commenced on this new ’discovery’.
Ever since the incident, I came to see how the prejudice of public office holders and policy makers could impact either positively or negatively on vital decisions of a country on very important issues. Why did Obiozor agree to attend the discourse as chairman if we are to keep aloof of the matter; why discuss it at all; is it just for academic exercise? Shall we pat Israel on the back as it kills innocent women, children, the infirm, and the aged to maintain its occupation because it is a ‘great agricultural miracle’?
The genius of Hitler’s Germany was rolling out tens of thousands of armoured cars monthly in World War II; did that make the ambition of warring to conquer the world humane and deserving of accolades? And even if Israel was to develop a technology to make plants grow in the clouds, would that absolve it of its numerous crimes against the Palestinians and the larger humanity?
I take solace in the reactions around the world against the occupation, which increasingly isolate Israel. If Europe, which was the author of the crisis, could look back and decide that a change is necessary, and Obiozor, a fellow Nigerian, chooses to bind himself to the fetters of a mythical Israel and ‘venerates’ a ‘chosen people’, that definitely was his choice.
The future however belongs to a world where all men are equal, and where no race or tribe, either through indoctrination or subterfuge, can lord it over others. Obiozor belongs to the past!
Yekinni is of Centre for Global Peace Initiative<firstname.lastname@example.org>;