No prophetic figures to challenge self-righteous Israel

By Ameen Izzadeen
We are born free but everywhere we are in fetters, so said the 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. In this age of liberal enlightenment any action that is seen as an affront to freedom is looked down upon as deviance. Yet oppression is still practised with impunity.
Nowhere is freedom the rarest of commodities than in Israel and occupied Palestine. The abominable practice of oppressing a people who are crying for freedom goes on largely unhindered and unquestioned in the occupied territories and within Israel, with the United States rewarding, instead of punishing, the Zionist regime. The over-mollycoddled regime is becoming bolder by the day, under the leadership of hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in throwing scorn at whatever international criticism that comes its way.
Thus it came as no surprise when Netanyahu reacted with contempt to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s January 26 statement to the Security Council, though the UN chief has in the past been pliable to Israel’s pressure. The Zionist regime interpreted Ban’s comments as an incitement to terrorism, though the Secretary General in his comments also condemned stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians.
It is true that Ban as UN Secretary General wields no more power in the international arena than the leader of a tiny island state in the Pacific Ocean. The Secretary General is essentially an international civil servant whose salary is paid by contributions from the member states of the world body. Yet by virtue of the office he holds, his remarks carry moral weight.
This was what Ban said: “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process….” (Please note the period of occupation is not a half century. It began in 1947 with the creation of Israel in what was the Ottoman province of Palestine.)
Back to Ban’s statement:
“Yet as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation…. After nearly 50 years of occupation the Palestinians are losing hope…. They are angered by the stifling policies of the occupation. They are frustrated by the strictures on their daily lives. They watch as Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, expand and expand…. Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise. Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community. They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution….”
Those who value freedom, especially those who have regained it after losing it to colonial oppressors or apartheid brutes, could easily relate to Ban’s remarks. But not Israel, the only colonial power shamelessly holding on to the territories it forcibly occupied by overwhelming force with the military help of the United States, Britain and France.
An angry Netanyahu accused the secretary-general of “encouraging terror,” while pro-Israeli lobbies in the US demanded that Ban clarify his comments.
Deviating from the usual silence which UN Secretaries General would diplomatically observe in the face of criticism, Ban, a former South Korean foreign Minister, decided to clarify. Writing an op-ed article for the New York Times, the flagship of American journalism, a partly-apologetic-and-partly-unyielding Ban said he only pointed out a simple truth: “History proves that people will always resist occupation.”
Then he went on to add, “I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist, just as I will always defend the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own.”
Despite a touch of timidity in his clarification, Ban’s measured bravery must be applauded, for he has a history of wilting under the pressure of Israel and the United States.
In August 2014, a leaked US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks said Ban collaborated with Israel and the United States to weaken the effects of a Board of Inquiry’s report accusing Israel of human rights violations in Gaza in Dec. 2008 -Jan. 2009.
During Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014, more than 129 peace groups and hundreds of activists wrote to Ban, condemning his biased statements, failure to act and virtual endorsement of Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law. They even described him as a partner in Israel’s crimes.
Last year, he backed out of moves to blacklist Israel as a country that violates rights of children, though the Zionist state is more than qualified to be included in the list, since it has killed thousands of Palestinian children in indiscriminate bombings and shootings, besides imprisoning thousands of children in crackdowns across the occupied territories and hauling them before military courts.
Also conspicuously absent from Ban’s statement and his op-ed article is any mention of the Zionist regime’s discriminatory practices against the Arabs living in Israel. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – a committee that reports to Ban – in its findings says Israel’s Basic Law (or its constitution), does not contain a commitment to equality or to prohibit racial discrimination. It points out that there exist two separate systems of education — one in Hebrew and one in Arabic — and two separate systems of local government — for Jewish municipalities and “municipalities of the minorities.”
CERD says that while Israel continues to build settlements in occupied Palestinian land, it systematically denies construction permits to Palestinians in the West Bank.
According to the rights group Adalah, since 1948 more than 50 Israeli laws have been enacted to directly or indirectly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures.
Even US President Barack Obama’s peace efforts failed because Netanyahu insisted that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state – in other words, a racist state, which will institutionalise discrimination against the Arabs who form 20 percent of the population.
Ban may not disagree that evil thrives and triumphs in the silence of good people. If he needs inspiration to rise for justice and free himself from timidity, he has only to look at how Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wällstrom who has dared to hit out at Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian people. In a recent statement that has made her persona non grata in Israel, Wällstrom, while condemning the stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, asserted that the Israeli response was “disproportionate” and amounted to extra-judicial killings that warrant a thorough investigation.
Ban’s term as UN Secretary General ends at the end of this year, more or less coinciding with the end of the Barack Obama administration. Just as Ban has failed to act justly and decisively to bring peace and justice to Palestine, Obama also has failed, despite nearly eight years of efforts that have seen secretaries of state and special envoys shuttling between key capitals, to little or no avail in the face of Israel’s contempt for peace.
Their hopes dashed, the Palestinians, whose freedom struggle has been overshadowed by events in Syria and Iraq, can hardly place any fresh hopes on the next UN Secretary General and the next US president.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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