Friday Sermon: Palestine: A Century of Wrongs

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By Babatunde Jose

Everyone is crying out for peace but none is crying’ out for justice. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die (for the rest of Jesus); everybody wants to go up to heaven but none of them, want to die. What is due to Caesar, you better give it all to Caesar, and what belong to I, and you better, you better give it up. Everyone is heading for the top; they don’t know how far it is from the bottom: Nobody knows but everybody is fighting to reach to the top; How far is it from the bottom. Everyone is talking about crime then, who is the criminal. I really don’t see. I don’t want no peace; I need equal rights and Justice. I’ve got to get it. Everyone is fighting for Equal rights and Justice. Palestine is fighting for Equal rights and Justice . . . . . . . . Peter Tosh.

History is the most dangerous product ever concocted by the chemistry of the intellect. It causes dreams, inebriates nations, saddles them with false memories … keeps their old sores running, torments them when they are not at rest, and induces in them megalomania and the mania of persecution. Paul Valéry; ‘Reflections on the World Today’ It is this sense of historical fulfilment wroth from Biblical anecdotal prescriptions that has continued to buoy Israel and its fanatical supporters in its intransigence and waywardness on the very important Palestinian problem.

It is this blatant disregard for world opinion, borne out of the erroneous idea of ‘might is right’, that has propelled the President of the United States to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A city, which has been in dispute and the central knot in the Palestine/Israeli crisis’: The status of Jerusalem is at the centre of the proposed ‘Two States’ solution to the nagging question. It is therefore the height of insensitivity, irresponsibility and an act of diplomatic rascality for anyone, especially the so-called ‘lead’ peace maker, to do what Donald Trump has done.

The action has been condemned by most world leaders, the United Nations, European Union and all as a most irresponsible act, tantamount to adding fuel to the already combustible situation in the Middle East. Federica Mogherini of the European Union, came out that the EU support the ‘Two States ‘Solution, and that any action that undermine these efforts must be avoided; The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, went full blast by saying that the UK disagree with this decision; the Chinese Foreign Minister, Geng Shuang, reiterated China’s support for the just cause of the Palestinian People in building an independent and full sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital; as for the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, “Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of relevant Security Council and general Assembly resolutions.”; the President of Turkey, rising from an emergency Summit of world Moslem leaders came out strong by declaring that “the issue of Jerusalem is the ‘red line’ that must not be crossed, and that it is a violation of international law to take a decision supporting Israel while Palestinian society’s wounds are still bleeding”; the French President, Emmanuel Macron said the ‘decision is regrettable, that France does not approve of it as it goes against international law and all the resolutions of the United nations: Meanwhile, protests and riots have started as a result of this singular act of thoughtlessness.

Why are we surprised? The role of the United States as a broker for peace in the region has been called into question several times in the past. The recognition is not consistent with social fairness and justice, international law, quest for peace and security in the Middle East. US mediation efforts in the Israeli-Arab conflict over the years have been fraught with dishonesty of purpose and insincerity. Most commentators on the Middle East Crisis have labelled the United States ‘a Beacon of Inequality in the world’.

In 1980, Israel passed the Jerusalem Law by which it is stated that ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.’ United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 of 1980 declared the Jerusalem Law null and void, and therefore not acceptable to the international community, which saw the whole exercise as Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

Israel is on record to have always made life difficult for the Palestinians residing particularly in East Jerusalem. There are about 420,000 of them living there not as citizens of Israel but as permanent residents. But, were issued permanent residency identity cards: residency without human rights.

‘Any Palestinian who has lived outside the boundaries of Jerusalem for a certain period of time, whether in a foreign country or even in the West Bank, is at risk of losing their right to live there.’ This is in spite of the fact that ‘any Jew around the world enjoys the right to live in Israel and to obtain Israeli citizenship under Israel’s ‘Law of Return.’ Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of 14,000 Palestinians; placing them in political limbo.

No doubt, the survival of Israel has been largely due to the unflinching support of the United States. International law, as provided within the framework of the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibits Israel as an occupying state, from transferring its population into both West and East Jerusalem. But, with tacit support and backing of the United States, both financially and militarily, Israel continues to defy the world; not only in Jerusalem but also in other occupied territories where it continue to pursue settlements for its citizens at the expense of Palestinian rights.

As it were, Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital makes peace less likely now. Saeb Erekat, said that Mr Trump’s had “disqualified his country from any possible role in the peace process.

Since the Trump bombshell, various writers have written epistles on the Jerusalem issue, with that of Professor Abdul Palazzi, Secretary General of the Italian Muslim Association, going viral on social media: Quoting copiously from the Quran (out of context of course), he posited the view that the good books support the claims of the Jews to Jerusalem as their capital. Unfortunately for these later days Menachem Begins, the question of Jerusalem and the wider Palestinian issue has gone beyond the confines of both the Bible and the Quran. We need not dwell on the scriptural aspects of the crisis as there are so many Biblical verses to cite on the transgressions of the House of Judah, and Gods decision to remove them from their ‘inheritance’. There are also verses that point to God’s decision to restore them. But these Biblical and Quranic stories would not stand the rigors of jurisprudence.

What has happened in Palestine in the last 100 years has been a result of the duplicity and political hooliganism of European powers; chiefly Britain and France, who carved out the old Ottoman Empire among themselves with the blessing of the defunct League of Nations.

Prior to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and its defeat during the First World War; and the partition of its empire into mandates to the victorious powers: The League of Nations mandate granted French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon and British Mandate for Mesopotamia (later Iraq) and British Mandate for Palestine, later divided into Mandatory Palestine and Emirate of Transjordan (1921-1946).

It was however, The Balfour Declaration which encouraged the international Zionist movement to push for a Jewish homeland in the Palestine region, that started the whole trouble and since then the region had not known peace: It cannot know peace because the whole arrangement is strewn with injustice, unfairness, inequitableness, duplicity, inequality and political deceit. It is about justice and equal rights:

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: That is next to Piety: And fear Allah. For Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do.  (Quran 5:9)

Unfortunately, the issue is bigger than Jerusalem; it’s about a stateless people who have been forced to live in the largest prison camp in history; a people who have been so traumatized, dehumanised and cheated of all fundamental human rights and who have no hope of ever getting their rights as their tormentors are very rich and powerful and most important, very well connected. It is also a sad fact that the Arabs states are also in disarray, disunited and under the affliction of one crisis or the other: Syria is under the gun, Iraq is under the ashes of American imperialism; Jordan is under the American spell and Egypt is a shadow of its old self; The House of Saud is now an appendage of America and fighting its own war in Yemen; Libya is a smouldering rubble after the despoliation of that country by US and its allies; And worst of all, the United Nations is a disunited organization. Who fights or speak for the Palestinians? None in the horizon.  

“Today there is an estimated 5.3 million Palestinian refugees outside the Territories, most of who reside in countries in the region which refuse to grant them citizenship. One hundred years later, the Palestinian belief in their right to return home is no closer to becoming a reality.

In the United States, one of the most powerful lobbies is AIPAC, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. In the last several decades, this organization has funnelled tens of millions of dollars to U.S. politicians who are willing to protect Israel’s apartheid regime at all costs.

One asks what it will take for the world to wake up to the horrendous, unspeakable conditions under which Palestinians are victimized by Israel. Yet there is cause for hope. With the exponential expansion of social media, the general public no longer relies entirely on formal news channels. Anyone with a camera and an internet connection can broadcast to the world the injustices and sufferings of the Palestinian people. We hope the world would find a lasting solution soon. Meanwhile; aluta continua.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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