On 12 July, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gerard van Bohemen, delivered a speech to a UN Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East. The speech dealt specifically with Israel/Palestine, recognising that:
“much of the West Bank has been appropriated by Israel. Seventy per cent of Area C, which constitutes 60 per cent of the West Bank, is either occupied by Israeli settlers or otherwise taken by the Israeli State. Meanwhile, Israel is systematically denying Palestinian development.”
This assessment was contained in a report issued by the Middle East Quartet on 1 July.
Our Representative told the assembly that the Israelis and Palestinians should “negotiate with each other and make the difficult compromises necessary to reach an agreement.” Yet It is Israel that steals Palestinian land and denies Palestinian human rights, including the Right of Return o Palestinian refugees. These basic violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention are not, and should not be, negotiable. The Occupying power and the people it oppresses are in no way equal in their ability to safeguard their interests. Any ‘negotiations’ conducted under such circumstances could only be described as stand-over tactics or bullying.
Security for whom?
Palestinians are denied security at every possible level but the speech contained no recognition of this. The only concern for security expressed by Gerard van Bohemen was on behalf of the belligerent Occupying power, Israel. He called for “a solution that would see a secure Israel and an independent Palestine living side by side in peace.” With Israel’s record of militaristic violence, what hope would there be for a defenceless so-called “independent” Palestine state to live in peace? Israel has made clear that any Palestinian state it might eventually permit to exist would never be allowed sovereignty over its air space and coastal waters or any means of defence. This lack of concern for Palestinian security is no oversight – it is fundamental to the racist bias that permeates Zionism, and which has so blinded Western governments and politicians. None of them have ever spoken out for the security of the Palestinian people.
Terror and intimidation
Military Occupation and colonial settlement are enforced daily by the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East. Israel’s acts of heartless cruelty are plainly aimed at creating despair. For instance, at dawn on the 12 July, the Israeli Army raided the village of Anata, which is almost completely isolated by Israel’s annexation Wall, and destroyed two Bedouin tent dwellings and a poultry farm, along with other farming facilities. In acknowledging the Quartet Report that “lays bare the reality that much of the West Bank has been appropriated by Israel” our Permanent Representative to the UN cautions us that this does not “justify the violence and incitement to which the Report also rightly calls attention.” He says that “terror tactics and intimidation are reprehensible, whoever carries them out” and holds leaders “on both sides” responsible. It is time for a reality check. It is undeniable that the Zionist regime’s military might has been directed against the Palestinian people, with air strikes, hijackings and the sinking of their fishing boats; home invasions and demolitions and destruction of water reticulation and agriculture. If these are not terror tactics and intimidation, then nothing is. Israel is a member of the United Nations, has ratified the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is bound by the United Nations Charter. The leaders of Israel are directly responsible.
So what is the real purpose of van Bohemen’s reference to “violence and incitement” and to “terror tactics and intimidation”? He says that the leadership of both sides bear responsibility – but where is the evidence for violence and intimidation on the part of the Palestinian leadership? The examples given in the speech related solely to Israeli acts of violence. Is our UN Representative referring perhaps to the spontaneous acts of violence carried out by distraught Palestinian individuals? There is no evidence to suggest that such acts have been directed by the Palestinian leadership. However, the intolerable pressure and irrational injustices that the Palestinian people are subjected to every day go far beyond what is contained in the Report. Events that never make it to the Western news media occur regularly, such as this bizarre example of the Israeli Military’s arbitrary methods for selecting ‘terrorist’ suspects: At 4am on 9 July, the Israeli Army raided a Palestinian home, demanding that a couple’s infant son report for interrogation as a suspect. The baby had died tragically 22 years earlier!
This month, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published news of an internal Israeli Police report revealing what every Palestinian knows, that Israeli Police “deliberately provoke Palestinians”. In January this year, for example, Israeli forces shot a 12-year-old boy, Ahmad Abu Hummus, in the head, causing severe brain damage, after menacing him in the West Bank village of al-Issawiyeh. The United Nations has documented, from October 2015 to January 2016, at least 2,177 cases of Palestinian children in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem wounded by Israeli Army and Police live ammunition and crowd-control weapons. Since October last year to the beginning of March, more than 40 Palestinian children have been killed. On 26 January this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the issue of increasing Palestinian frustration “under the weight of a half century of Occupation”, and on recent violent reactions by some Palestinians, Ban Ki-moon recognised that “. . . as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to Occupation”. The Secretary-General went on to say, “continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community.”
Israel’s repeated attacks on UN refugee camps, including air strikes and home demolitions, are also an affront to the international community – and also to the Security Council – but our politicians and news media prefer to ignore them, much to Israel’s advantage.
Perhaps van Bohemen was thinking of Hamas and of missiles fired towards Israel when he spoke of “terror tactics”. The unguided missiles certainly count as ceasefire violations and they do put civilian lives at risk but proportionately do little damage in comparison to that inflicted by Israel’s sophisticated weaponry. For every Palestinian missile attack there are literally hundreds of Israeli ceasefire violations. Hamas has, for years now, actually accommodated Israel by agreeing to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution, dependent upon Israel ending the Occupation and withdrawing fully to its pre-1967 borders. And, of course, Hamas and other Palestinian Resistance fighters target, quite legitimately, Israeli Army forces engaged in acts of economic and agricultural sabotage. United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978 recognises the right to use force in the struggle for “liberation from colonial and foreign domination” and “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle.” The Resolution specifically applies to the Palestinian struggle, strongly condemning “all governments which do not recognise the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation, notably the peoples of Africa and the Palestinian people.” While it is true that General Assembly resolutions themselves are not legally binding, they do accurately reflect the consensus of international legal opinion.
The New Zealand Representative’s speech at the UN refers to measures quoted from the latest Middle East Quartet Report, such as “the need to address the wide range of critical issues facing Israelis and Palestinians, including halting settlement activity, strengthening the capacity and authority of the Palestinian Authority, addressing the situation in Gaza, and reducing tensions and preventing violence and incitement.” First, Israel alone is building settlements and must carry responsibility for that. Second, strengthening the capacity and authority of the Palestinian Authority has nothing to do with preventing “violence and incitement”. Most people, however, would consider the destruction of the homes of refugees to be a form of incitement. The responsibility for acts such as these lies with Israel but they are also the responsibility of the world community, particularly the Security Council. Third, the tragic and appalling conditions that prevail in Gaza have been created by Israel and are being prolonged by a merciless blockade.
Gideon Levy, columnist and member of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorial board, writes extensively on the oppression of the people in the West Bank and Gaza. In an article regarding Palestinian resistance to Occupation he wrote:
“They don’t want Israeli rule, or people who set live children on fire. They don’t want armed settlers who invade their apartments in the middle of the night, under the Israeli law’s protection, and evict them. They don’t want a municipality that grants its services according to national affiliation, or judges that sentence their children according to their origin.”
Levy noted that the Palestinian people face two possibilities:
“The first is to accept, give in, give up. The second is to resist. Whom have we respected more in history? Those who passed their days under the occupation and collaborated with it, or those who struggled for their freedom? Imagine you’re a Palestinian. You have every right to resist. In fact, it’s your civil duty. No argument there. The occupied people’s right to resist occupation is secured in natural justice, in the morals of history and in international law. The only restrictions are on the means of resistance. The Palestinians have tried almost all of them, for better and worse – negotiations and terror; with a carrot and with a stick; with a stone and with bombs; in demonstrations and in suicide. All in vain. Are they to despair and give up? This has almost never happened in history, so they’ll continue. Sometimes they’ll use legitimate means, sometimes vile ones. It’s their right to resist.”
New Zealand’s Representative at the Security Council said in his speech that Israel and the Palestinians should make compromises. That implies that the Palestinian people, under the duress of merciless military Occupation, should make even greater concessions to Israel to help it legitimise its violations of international humanitarian law. The futile ‘negotiations’ process (now 20 years old) has simply bought time for the Zionist state to grab more land, build more settlements and continue its ideological agenda.
Article 1 of the UN Charter states, in part, that the purpose of the UN is “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.”
The only part of the speech delivered by Gerard van Bohemen that offers any hope for justice is the recognition that “the Security Council has a fundamentally important role to play.” That role, though, must lie in defending international law and putting an end to Israel’s impunity. That’s what UN sanctions are for!