The longest occupation in modern history continues unabated, holding an entire people captive and robbing them of their lands, resources, freedoms and rights with total impunity. Much of the international community thinks that the solution lies in establishing a democratic, viable and independent state. But Israel continues to dominate them.
Despite calls from the international community for an end to the prolonged conflict between the two states, the steps taken by Tel Aviv in the current year which is coming to a close, suggest a path that is diametrically opposed.
2018 began for Palestine with the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the announcement that it would move the US embassy to the so-called Holy City, a move which finally took place on May 14. This move was quickly emulated by Guatemala and then by Paraguay; although the latter announced four months after it had moved that its embassy would return to Tel Aviv, a development that was celebrated by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
However, throughout the year other nations disclosed their intentions to move their delegations in Israel to Jerusalem.
In October, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his country recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, which led 13 embassies of Middle Eastern and North African countries there to hold an emergency meeting on the subject.
In addition, midway through the year the federal deputy of Rio de Janeiro, Jair Bolsonaro, promised that if he were elected president of Brasil he would also move his country’s embassy in Israel.
Bolsonaro won the presidential election in October, defeating Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad, the former mayor of Sao Paulo, by a margin of ten percentage points. But the list may get even longer. In November, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki urged his counterpart in the Czech Republic, Tomás Petrícek, to reconsider moving the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, just as the Czech president had announced he would.
The Palestinian National Council issued its Declaration of Independence on November 15, 1988 in Algiers, the capital of Algeria, establishing an independent Palestinian state with the borders that existed in 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
On a note of encouragement, it should be noted that other countries are also joining those that have already officially recognized the State of Palestine.
The last of these was Belgium, which in November of this year announced that its government was considering recognizing the State of Palestine with the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as the country’s capital.
Regrettably, despite steps like these Israel is continuing to trample over a people whose land has been under occupation since 1967. The Nation- State Law is perhaps the clearest example in recent years of this.
In July, the Knesset (Parliament) of Israel approved a controversial law that defines the country as the National State of the Jewish People; and that, according to the experts, ignores ethnic minorities.
Ignoring what the 1948 Declaration of Independence of Israel says, the new legislation marginalizes the country’s Arab minority (around 20% of the population).
The ‘Nation-State’ law stipulates that only Jews have the “exclusive right to national self-determination” in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel and it bans the Arabic language in institutions and schools, recognizing Hebrew instead as the official language.
It also declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
The legislation affects 1.8 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank – surrounded by 700,000 Jewish settlers – and 1.9 million Palestinians living under the Zionist military siege in the Gaza Strip.
Indeed, the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory has been another violation to add to those most roundly condemned by the PLO in 2018. All the settlements set up across East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal under international law – in particular Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that the occupying power will not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population to the occupied territory.
Even so, the Israeli government approved the expansion of these colonies during the year, introducing hundreds of new housing units in different regions of the occupied West Bank.
This led to constant raids and arrests by the Israeli army, as well as the demolition of entire villages; events that of course led to massive protests on the part of the Palestinians, which ended in violent clashes with the military.
The fights taking place in the besieged Gaza Strip are far more violent, especially since the outbreak of protests linked to the Great Return March, which since March 30 has been taking place every Friday on the border between Israel and the coastal enclave.
It is demanding the right of Palestinians to return to the lands that were occupied by Israel during the 1967 war; and for the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has already been in place for almost 12 years, to be lifted.
‘Thirty years after the declaration of independence, Israel continues to occupy that territory, a fact well reported and condemned by the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It is the longest period of continuous occupation in modern history and it holds an entire people captive, robbing them of their land, resources, freedoms and rights with total impunity,’ condemned Ashrawi.
Despite the violence, the colonialist expansion and the system of apartheid imposed by Israel, the resiliance and determination of the Palestinian people to secure their rights is not faltering. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear)