Mind-boggling position on Jerusalem vote

I am following on from my last column in which I sought to respond to an opinion put out to the public by Mr Grenville Phillips II of Solutions Barbados regarding the United Nations vote on the status of Jerusalem.

I ended last week noting that Mr Phillips, in his second take on the issue entitled, Bracing for the Consequences, made a bizarre claim that “this is not bullying, rather, it is a response to being bullied”.

So Mr Phillips’ conclusion is that the United States under Donald Trump is being bullied by the majority of the nations of the world and that the US is right to retaliate as it sees fit. Such a position would be laughable if the situation weren’t so serious for the Palestinian people.

Let us examine carefully who is being bullied in the Palestinian struggle. Human Rights Watch reports the following on its website:

“Fifty years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it controls these areas through repression, institutionalized discrimination, and systematic abuses of the Palestinian population’s rights.

At least five categories of major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law characterize the occupation: unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.

“Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Israel today maintains an entrenched system of institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territory – repression that extends far beyond any security rationale.”

As the occupation enters its second half-century, the focus should be on increasing the protection of the rights of the population of the occupied territory, Human Rights Watch said.

However, Mr Phillips made the assertion that “this type of targeted sanction is normally reserved for nations committing highly offensive actions, like genocide”.

Well, if the above is not evidence enough of highly offensive actions then perhaps the rest of the Human Rights Watch report will present an even stronger case:

“Israeli troops killed well over 2,000 Palestinian civilians in the last three Gaza conflicts (2008-09, 2012, 2014) alone. Many of these attacks amount to violations of international humanitarian law due to a failure to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians. Some amount to war crimes, including the targeting of apparent civilian structures.

In the West Bank, Israeli security forces have routinely used excessive force in policing situations, killing or grievously wounding thousands of demonstrators, rock-throwers, suspected assailants, and others with live ammunition when lesser means could have averted a threat or maintained order.

Israeli authorities have since 1967 facilitated the transfer of its civilians to the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 1967, Israel established two settlements in the West Bank: Kfar Etzion and East Talpiot. By 2017, Israel had established 237 settlements there, housing approximately 580,000 settlers. Israel applies Israeli civil law to settlers, affording them legal protections, rights, and benefits that are not extended to Palestinians living in the same territory who are subjected to Israeli military law. Israel provides settlers with infrastructure, services, and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules, and services.

Israeli authorities have expropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian land for settlements and their supporting infrastructure. Discriminatory burdens, including making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in East Jerusalem and in the 60 per cent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control (Area C), have effectively forced Palestinians to leave their homes or to build at the risk of seeing their “unauthorized” structures bulldozed. For decades, Israeli authorities have demolished homes on the grounds that they lacked permits, even though the law of occupation prohibits destruction of property except for military necessity, or punitively as collective punishment against families of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis.

Israel has also arbitrarily excluded hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from its population registry, restricting their ability to live in and travel from the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli authorities have justified these actions by citing general security concerns, but they have not conducted individual screenings or claimed that those excluded posed a threat themselves. Israel also revoked the residency of over 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and 14,565 in East Jerusalem since 1967, largely on the basis that they had been away too long.”

The report also includes numerous abuses and infractions of international law, some of which Palestinian officials are responsible for. But what is clear from the evidence is that a case for genocide of the Palestinian people can be easily made against the Israelis.

Therefore, for Mr Phillips to simply dismiss the Palestinian struggle as complex and to argue that sovereign nations of the world don’t have the intellect and capacity to vote with their consciences and on principle is really mind-boggling.

Mr Phillips says he “found no evidence that Barbados has ever been bullied into voting the way that the US votes. The evidence shows that every year, it is typical that 100 per cent of our votes are against the way that the US and Israel votes, and this has never put our friendship with the US at any risk”. I can agree with that for the simple fact that the United States has never had an administration and a president like this one. Read the recent book Fire and Fury to get a real insight into this presidency and consider the US president’s recent comments on African countries and Haiti.

Barbados voted like 127 other nations to uphold the principles of the United Nations as espoused in its charter to which we are a signatory. In the past Barbados chose to abstain on the vote when it came to the recognition of Palestine. Caribbean nations are divided on this issue of the Palestinian struggle. As a Barbadian writer, Mohammed Iqbal Degia, noted in his piece entitled, CARICOM Disarray on UN General Assembly ‘Status of Jerusalem’ Vote: “CARICOM countries speak often and loudly about how powerful, large states should not marginalize those that are small or weaker. They stress the importance of multilateralism and international law in this regard and how important these norms are in ensuring all voices are heard. One wonders therefore how seven of the 14 CARICOM countries that are members of the UN found themselves not supporting this resolution. A resolution which is clear cut about international law and the necessity of states to abide by it.”

The unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is in direct contravention of security council resolutions and international law. Two key allies of Israel and the US that are permanent members of the security council – France and the UK – voted in favour of the resolution. That is telling! Yet, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago saw it necessary to reject international law. St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia did not think it even necessary to participate in the voting. This is a preferred course of action employed for many years by some CARICOM countries and especially those from the OECS when there is a controversial vote.

The conflict cannot be resolved unless there is justice and fairness in looking at the issue. From the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago to the US unwavering support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, the conflict will remain until justice for the oppressed and dispossessed prevails.

Source: (Suleiman Bulbulia is a justice of the peace; secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and muslim chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.Email: suleimanbulbulia@hotmail.com)

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