New strategy needed to ensure justice for Palestinians

07 Feb 2019 / 19:03 H.

THE Malaysian government must be congratulated on its principled stand in barring sportsmen from Israel participating in sports events here. It’s a courageous stand, well appreciated by the Palestinians and all those who believe in democracy, human rights and justice. In Gaza, Malaysian flags were flown in Yamrouk football stadium along with Palestinian flags and the fans shouted slogans praising Malaysia and its Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Malaysia’s example will, it is hoped, force other leaders, particularly from the Arab and Muslim countries, to take a firm stand against Israel for the atrocities it is committing against Palestinians. Anyone with a conscience cannot remain silent to Israel’s crimes. Palestinians are now facing an existential threat. Israel has made it clear that it will not stop land expropriations, illegal building of Jewish settlements and the Separation Wall, humiliating checkpoints, house demolitions, bombardments and assassinations, transfers, arrests, imprisonment and isolation of people from their communities – and the international community is unable to make Israel accountable for its crimes because it is protected by the United States.

Former UN rapporteur and international law expert Richard Falk described Israel’s treating the population in Gaza as its enemy as “genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community” and warned of “a Palestinian holocaust”.

The International Court of Justice, in 2004, delivered an advisory opinion that the wall built by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law. It stated that Israel is under an obligation to stop construction, and pull down the wall in the occupied territories. Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under an obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law. The court declared that the UN General Assembly and the Security Council should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation.

The Goldstone report on violations of international humanitarian law during the 2008 Gaza War concluded that Israeli forces had wilfully targeted civilians and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel rejected the report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council.

On March 15, 2017, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia released a report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. The report was authored by international law experts Prof Richard Falk and Prof Virginia Tilley. They concluded “that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law”. Apartheid ranks second after genocide in the hierarchy of criminality and states have a separate and collective duty in bringing apartheid regimes to an end. Our Foreign Ministry should work with other states to implement its recommendations.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has the responsibility for enforcing inter-national humanitarian law, international human rights law, and maintaining inter-national peace and security. It is unable to act because of the United States’ use, or threat to use, of its veto power in the Security Council. The Security Council’s failure to make Israel accountable for its violation of UN resolutions and international law has inevitably led to more violence, armed conflicts, terrorism and war.

The Palestinian people have been resisting colonialism for over a hundred years and their resistance continues unabated.

Frustrated by the failure of Arab and Muslim governments to move the international community to do justice to the Palestinians, 13 years ago, Palestinian civil society launched the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as a weapon to dismantle the apartheid state erected on historic Palestine territory. It is modelled on the South African experience. Civil society organisations in Europe and the US have been successful in the campaign. Churches have divested from companies that sustain the apartheid system, prominent scientists and artistes have refused to participate in events in Israel.

The latest victory in the campaign is Ireland’s Senate approving a landmark bill that criminalises the import and trade of goods and services from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

The campaign is also contributing to an increasing change in US public opinion, with support for Israel decreasing among young liberals including Jews. In October last year, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that polls corroborate the notion of steady erosion in the number of Americans willing to express strong support for Israel. In 2015, 47% of Americans described Israel as “an ally”. In 2017, the number was down to 41%. In the most recent poll, the figure is even lower, at 37%. The election of two pro-Palestinian Muslim women to the US Congress last year confirms the poll’s finding.

The effectiveness of the campaign can be seen from the Israeli response. Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry has set up a public-benefit corporation, comprising generals and former diplomats, to engage in “mass awareness activities” as part of “the struggle against the delegitimisation campaign” against Israel led by the BDS internationally. The shareholders and directors include former ministry director-general Yossi Kuperwasser and former UN ambassador Dore Gold. The government had allocated US$37 million to the initiative and an equal amount is to come from private donors.

As Tun Mahathir wrote in his blog recently, “a proper strategy is needed to bring justice to the Palestinians”. The promotion and intensification of the campaign is the key to dismantling the apartheid regime in Palestine. Malaysia’s bold and moral move to prohibit Israeli sportsmen from sports events here is a move in the right direction

Malaysia should convene a roundtable meeting of experts, including civil society activists, to formulate a strategic plan of action to dismantle the apartheid regime in Israel. The collapse of the UN-supported two-state solution to the conflict, and the formalisation of the apartheid regime in Tel Aviv by the Israeli Parliament enacting the Nation-State Law which declares Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, require fresh strategic thinking.

Our Parliament should be convened to pass a resolution commemorating the Palestinian Nakba (May 15), and endorsing and supporting the international BDS Movement.

S.M. Mohamed Idris


Citizens International Berhad


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