Monstrous injustice inflicted on Palestine


OPINION:CNN AND al-Jazeera went “live” to the UN Security Council on Thursday night/Friday morning last to cover the council’s vote on a resolution on the conflict in Gaza, writes VINCENT BROWNE.

CNN was reporting how an agreed resolution that was shortly to be put to a vote was a triumph for the Arab states, who had forced the US, France and Britain to go along with a resolution.

The resolution, CNN claimed, was of substantive significance. The Turkish ambassador was shown stating that never before had anybody disregarded a ceasefire call from the UN Security Council.

The scene at the council chamber was jovial. Backslapping, laughter, male kissing. Important people enjoying their importance.

Occasional shots showed the foyer and fleeting glimpses of a copy of Picasso’s huge Guernica anti-war painting beside the entrance to the chamber.

There was a protracted delay before the council went into session. They were awaiting the arrival of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. When she arrived, Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, who is president of the council, convened the meeting.

Somebody spoke into his ear and gave him a piece of paper. He started laughing. He said he had been handed the result of the vote, a vote which had not yet taken place. Everybody thought this was very funny.

He then put to the vote the resolution drafted by the US, Britain and France. All members of the council voted for it, except the US, which abstained.

Rice read a statement expressing total support for the resolution and said the US had abstained because it wanted to see the outcome of the peace talks in Cairo, involving Israel and the Palestinians. CNN thought this was a significant breakthrough.

Over on al-Jazeera, the mood was one of dismay.

The US, British and French resolution stressed “the urgency of and [called] for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”.

The al-Jazeera people observed that the resolution was essentially meaningless, for how could there be an “immediate” ceasefire that was at the same time “durable” and “fully respected”?

They said this allowed Israel to continue the bombing, the destruction and the slaughter of people in Gaza because there would never be “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire”.

Then there was the word “leading”: “leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”. “Leading” could mean an immediate withdrawal or a withdrawal anytime in the future.

They predicted Israel could continue doing what it had been doing, which of course was precisely what happened.

They might also have pointed out how Israel had ignored, and been allowed to ignore, repeated UN Security Council resolutions, notably the notorious resolution 242 passed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war – the war that resulted in Israel occupying Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai and the Golan Heights. That resolution called for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; [and] respect for an acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area”.

Israel has disregarded this resolution for 41 years now without even a rebuke from the UN.

The basis for Israel’s defiance of resolution 242 is the claim that there was no obligation on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories unless and until there was an acknowledgment by the Arab states (and it seems non-state agencies) in the region of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Israel.

The UN’s role in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has been inglorious from the outset.

Indeed, it was the UN that played a large part in igniting the conflict at the outset by calling for the partition of Palestine and the creation of Jewish and Arab states, without any regard to the wishes of the people of Palestine.

At the time, Arabs constituted more than two-thirds of the population of 1.78 million.

The state of Israel was declared on May 14th, 1948. There followed a war, during which 700,000 Arabs were driven or fled from their homes.

More than three-quarters of the territory of Palestine was incorporated into the new state of Israel.

The international community was guilt-ridden by the then recent revelation of the Holocaust and its appreciation of its complicity in the pogroms against Jews over the centuries. The infliction of another historic injustice, this time on the Palestinian Arabs, was the means whereby that guilt was idly assuaged.

That monstrous injustice lies at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East since then.

The refusal of the international community to acknowledge the origins of the state of Israel is the obstacle to a resolution of the conflict.

A large proportion of the 1.7 million people trapped and besieged in Gaza are refugees or descendants of refugees from 1948. Is it any wonder Hamas refuses to recognise the state of Israel? Is it any wonder many Palestinians and others in the Middle East are committed to the destruction of a state that was founded on such wrongs?