Sunday 15 November 2009

Pursue Justice not Peace

Yet again there is much talk about peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. The USA has a special envoy - former Senator George Mitchell - dedicated to securing a peace settlement. There have been and no doubt still are various “road maps” signposting the road to peace. Alas none of them has made the slightest progress towards a lasting peace in Palestine. I would contend that this is deliberate, at least on the part of the Israelis. The focus on peace suits the Israelis fine. For peace has come to mean security for Israelis. The rights of Palestinians are simply excluded. So, any time any Palestinian tries to resist the occupation with violent means - as they are perfectly entitled to do - the Isrealis can say there is no partner for peace. So we have the story of the last thirty years or so - an apparently never ending peace process that has never achieved anything. At least not for the Palestinians. The occupation continues and they are still subjected to intrusive and often violent aggression on the part of Israeli settlers, not to mention the regular outbursts of violence by the Israeli army. The Israelis on the other hand, by paying lip service to peace, have won the rest of the world’s acquiescence in their ongoing colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Perhaps the focus on peace is not the way forward.

An alternative would be to put the spotlight on Justice. Without justice there is little prospect of any lasting peace. So what is involved in securing Justice in Palestine? The starting point has to be a close look at what has actually happened in Palestine over the past 100 years or so. The following maps show clearly how much the Palestinians have lost over this period.

In addition to this massive loss of their land there is also the catastrophic displacement of Palestinians. This began with the planned forced expulsion of Palestinians as part of the creation of the state of Israel in 1947/48. Ever since, the Israelis have never missed an opportunity to the continue this policy of ethnic cleansing. Even now Israel is continuing to build new colonies in the West Bank and to pursue the forced Judaization of East Jerusalem.

No Israeli government has as yet made any acknowledgement of its responsibility for this ongoing and illegal annexation of Palestinian land and the resulting expulsion and suffering of Palestinians. Any attempt to secure a just settlement must begin with Israel recognizing its role in causing the current situation. It is unlikely that any Israeli government will do so willingly. Only outside pressure could persuade Israel to own up to its role. While the USA remains the key player in all this, the UK along with the other EU member states could still exert a significant role. We can all do whatever we can to influence our government raise the issue of justice as the basis for any lasting peace settlement.

If the present peace process continues then more and more violence is the only outcome. Already the current pro Western Palestinian leadership - Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are fast losing credibility with Palestinians everywhere. If the most pro-Western leadership fails to achieve anything, and so far Israel has made no concessions whatsoever, then a much more radical leadership will emerge. Without hope for a just settlement more and more Palestinians are likely to resort to violent means to achieve their aims, however fruitless this appears. If you live in a hopeless and worsening situation what else can you do.

Things are relatively quiet in Palestine just now, but I reckon this is just the lull before the storm. If further violence is to be prevented then we must focus more in securing justice than in meaningless peace processes.

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