Time to speak up – Abdul Sattar


Despite international condemnation, Israel is unabashedly moving in a direction that is riddled with blatant violations of international laws, expressing a dogged determination to annex parts of the West Bank. As of June 29, Tel Aviv appeared firm in its intention to carry out its plan of ‘land grabbing’ that has been going for decades. Even the protest of more than 1000 European parliamentarians could not deter the Zionist state from indicating that it would annex the territories belonged to Palestinians according to international laws.

The decision is likely to trigger a wave of protests and possibly violence. Hamas has already made it clear that the action would amount to a declaration of war. Some British politicians have urged the government to take it seriously, suggesting that goods from the occupied territories should be banned from entering British borders. US President Donald Trump, who encouraged the illegal actions of his ideological brother Netanyahu, has adopted criminal silence over the egregious violation of international norms and laws. In fact it was the blessing of Washington that prompted Netanyahu to undertake steps that were unthinkable during the cold war when a rival superpower would keep a close eye over the developments in the region.

This is not the first time Israel is grabbing Palestinian land. In fact the entire history of the Zionist state is replete with such illegal actions. The very existence of the state, according to some hardline Palestinian groups, is based on usurpation, oppression and injustices. Jews constituted hardly six percent of the population of historic Palestinian territory before the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. After taking mandate of the historic area, the British encouraged the migration of Jews to this land which led to the rise in Jewish population: it was only six percent in 1917, rising to 33 percent in 1947. The British acted as a collaborator in this historic injustice encouraging the flow of migration towards Palestine.

The UN that came into existence to do justice and discourage wars and aggression ending up doling out Palestinian territories to Jewish nationalists who resorted to an armed struggle in 1940s attacking British interests and installations. In an historic injustice, following the end of World War Two, the world body proposed a plan that would grant 55 percent of historic Palestine to a Jewish state and 45 percent to a non-contiguous Arab one. Jerusalem would remain under international control. Palestinians rightly rejected the proposal because it stripped away much of the land that was under their control. At the time, they owned 94 percent of historic Palestine, comprising 67 percent of the population. This plan was never implemented on the ground.

The clashes of the Palestinians that escalated into a war in 1948, added to the woes of the oppressed people. On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate expired triggering the first Arab-Israeli war. Zionist military forces expelled at least 750,000 Palestinians and captured 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The fighting continued until January 1949 when an armistice agreement between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria was forged. The 1949 Armistice Line is also known as the Green Line and is the generally recognised boundary between Israel and the West Bank. The Green Line is also referred to as the (pre-) 1967 borders, before Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territories during the June 1967 war.

The voracious greed for land grab did not get satiated and they embarked upon a heinous plan of capturing more Palestinian territories on the pretext of wars, conflicts and security. The appetite for expansionism appeared clearer in 1967 than any time since 1947 when they not only captured the remaining Palestinian territories but occupied Egyptian and Syrian territories as well. Israel captured the Syrian Golan Heights in the north and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in the south besides establishing its control over all the historic land of Palestine forcing another 300,000 hapless souls to leave their native land. Although Tel Aviv signed a peace treaty with Cairo in 1978, withdrawing from the Egyptian territory, it chose to cling on to Syrian territory annexing it in 1981. The US last year recognized Israeli sovereignty over these areas, ignoring all international norms and laws.

Israel has continued to establish settlements on Palestinian territories. So far, Tel Aviv has set up 250 settlements (130 official and 120 unofficial) in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem with 600,000 to 700,000 Jews living there. Such settlements are in clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population to the area it occupies. The US, the great champion of international law not only turned a blind eye to these illegal actions of Israel but went to the extent of more or less legitimizing them in a covert way. Last year, Washington declared that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land were “not necessarily illegal”.

The civilized world has sprung into action within no time against Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Russia, but when it comes to Israel, the international community does not want to go beyond verbal condemnation or some resolutions. It is time the international community translated its promises into actions. It is time the US stopped lending support to a rogue state that does not respect international law. It is time China and Russia gave up their dual stance over the issue of Palestine, taking a clear line that sides with the oppressed.

A strong reaction is also needed from Muslim countries that have been ignoring the plight of the Palestinians for decades. Arab states can use their financial muscles to rein in Israel. Such muscles can not only be used against Israel but also its backers sitting in the power corridors of Washington and European capitals. Some European countries are genuinely concerned over the Israeli actions. It is time to capitalize on such concerns, mobilising the world’s public opinion against Tel Aviv that is not ready to respect international laws and norms. Failure on the part of the international community would trigger a backlash from Islamists who would not only target Israeli interests but Western interests as well.

Any new wave of militancy will also lead to more chaos in Muslim states, many of which are already reeling under the violent movements launched by various extremist groups. Israeli actions are sure to strengthen the position of fanatical groups who advocate a military solution to the Palestinian issue. Such a solution will be catastrophic not only for Palestinians and Israelis but the entire world. The conscientious people of Israel should also rise up against the illegal plans of their government.

The writer is a freelancejournalist.

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