Author Archives: John Kelly

The Israeli occupation gets worse and worse

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory – West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza – continues and deepens week after week.  The occupation is of course illegal under international law – as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions which were adopted after World War II.  As a reaction to Germany’s colonising activities in Eastern Europe, they specifically prohibit the colonisation/absorption of land conquered in war (in this case 1967) into the territory of the conquering country.  Just this weekend Netanyahu has confirmed his determination to continue the settlement enterprise and never to give back any land that has been stolen.  This has been reported in Haaretz, the Iiberal Israeli newspaper, which is the source of much of the information in this post.

In Gaza, the siege continues and this prevents the rebuilding of the territory after the last Gaza conflict (2014) and inflicts daily misery on the inhabitants.  In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it is estimated that over 3500 Palestinians have been arrested this year alone.  Many of these are children and every day I read reports of new overnight arrests – children and adults taken from their beds by Israeli soldiers.  Settler violence towards Palestinians has increased dramatically and the Haaretz and Israeli NGO’s regularly report on this.  The settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians are protected by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) whose soldiers rarely intervene.  Prosecutions of settlers for such crimes are almost unheard of.

A particularly serious development has occurred these past two weeks which has really incensed some European governments.  With the start of the new school year the Israelis have decided to demolish several schools.  Some of these have been funded by the Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian governments.  This has been documented this week in an article in the Independent (also confirmed by Haaretz) which reports that 55 schools in the West Bank are currently under threat of demolition.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 45 Comments

Commemorating 50 years since the Six Day War

On Monday, June 5, Palestinians and their supporters marked 50 years since the 1967 Six Day War, when Israeli forces occupied the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine left over from the War of 1948.  During this military assault, Israeli forces displaced another 350,000 Palestinians from their homes, and turned many 1948 refugees into refugees again.

How long must Palestinians wait to return to their homeland? How long until the international community exercises its political will to force Israel to comply with international law? How long until the UK and other western countries, explicitly or tacitly, end the double standard in its foreign policy and unconditional support for Israeli policies that contravene international law and deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights?

The international community is gradually losing patience with Israel’s occupation. U.N Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016, which refers to Israel as an “occupying power”, condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”, and condemns, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.  The Resolution furthermore states in the clearest terms that the UN Security Council “will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

Royal indiscretion

This week it was reported in the Times that President Reuven Rivlin of Israel had invited the Royal Family to send a representative to the country this year to celebrate a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration.  There is intense speculation in the Israeli press now that the Royal Family might break its longstanding reluctance to visit Israel officially.  It would clearly invite controversy to visit a country in such flagrant breach of international law – defying the United Nations with its illegal settlements, child detention, blockade of Gaza and marginalisation of its ethnic minorities.  The Balfour Declaration, as well as promising a home for the Jewish peoples, also promised that the rights of the Palestinians must be protected.  This was ‘a sacred trust of civilisation’ under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations which Britain took on when it accepted the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. We betrayed that sacred trust and, until that trust is redeemed, the Balfour Declaration should not be celebrated.  A petition to the Queen’s Private Secretary to discourage such a visit is circulating.

The idea that the Royal Family would give any sort of endorsement or honour to the State of Israel this year sadly fits with a pattern of inadvisable steps that have been taken in the last couple of years.  The weekend before her infamous visit to the White House, Theresa May told Andrew Marr that it was up to the Queen whether President Trump was invited to Buckingham Palace this year.  Within days she had extended an invitation on the Queen’s behalf, which was of course accepted, to great public outcry in the UK.  American presidents crave the publicity that goes with a State Visit to the UK – remember Ronald Reagan on horseback with HM at Windsor.  Normally US Presidents must wait until their third year in office – if indeed they get one at all.  That gives them a chance to show that they are a good friend to the UK and frankly deserve it.  George H Bush never had one at all.  Donald Trump hasn’t done anything for the UK yet, and is a major potential threat to the world order.  His visit, if it happens anytime soon, will be highly controversial and will embroil the Royal Family in politics.  It was unwise of the Palace to go along with Theresa May in approving Trump’s visit in his first year.

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Spare a thought for Bethlehem

Last January I managed to visit Bethlehem after 5.5 hours of  delay and “obstruction” at the Jordan/Palestine border by the Israeli authorities.  As well as visiting the (Christian) University of Bethlehem, I also paid a visit to the birthplace of Christ and the place where Christmas originated.  At this time of year, it is appropriate to remember just how much the occupants of Bethlehem are affected by the illegal occupation and I am grateful to the Palestinian mission for the following information, which I will present without further comment – it speaks for itself.

Bethlehem is located 10 kilometers to the south of Jerusalem. It has a population of over 220,000 people, including over 20,000 living in three refugee camps (Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin).

The most important cities and towns of the governorate are Bethlehem City, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Al Doha, Al Khader, Battir and Artas.

There are two sites in the governorate that have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  1. The Nativity Church and Star Street (“Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route”).
  2. Battir, including Wadi’ Makhrour (“Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir”).

Other important heritage and archeological sites located in the governorate are:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Is Labour really the natural home for those concerned about human rights?

 

I read the report by Shami Chakrabarti into alleged racism in the Labour Party over the weekend.  It’s a good report and an interesting read for a number of reasons – but I was looking for lessons for our Party.

What particularly struck me was that right upfront she explains why she joined the Labour Party as soon as she was appointed to lead the Inquiry. She states that she has always supported and voted for the Labour Party but that her various jobs (Civil Servant and then Director of Liberty) required her to be non-Party political.  She goes on to say that Labour is however the natural home for anybody concerned about human rights, that all significant legislative improvements in human rights in this country have happened on Labour’s watch, and that Labour has consistently been the first Party to accommodate immigrant voices and to achieve significant support among successive waves of immigrants -whether they be Jewish, Irish, BAME.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 33 Comments

Disaster of Iraq is just one chapter of a flawed British Middle East Adventure

As we reflect on the Chilcot report, it is also worth reminding ourselves that British Foreign Policy in the Middle East has been flawed and at times disastrous for the last 100 years.  Too often it has been based on colonial ambition or narrow economic self-interest or just surrendering to powerful lobbies – often ignoring the expertise of well-informed diplomats and historians whose advice would have helped to avoid and repeat mistakes.

Until shortly before World War 1 the Levant was run by the armies of occupation of the Ottoman Empire.  While this colonial Ottoman governance was exploitative and far from benign, it must be admitted that Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in relative peace and harmony, trading together, socialising and even inter-marrying.  The arrival of the French and British colonial powers was at first welcomed by most Arabs, who anticipated a less grasping and more civilised governance and some hope of eventual self-rule.  Fairly soon the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 led to a carving up of the region into French and British spheres of influence which showed little respect for natural communities and ethnic or religious difference.  Promises about self-governance were repeatedly broken or only half-implemented. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 which promised the creation of a Jewish national home within Palestine was greeted with dismay by Palestinian Arabs, so the British government pledged that the rights of Palestinians must be protected in the implementation of this plan – a promise that was totally forgotten when the time came.

In the aftermath of World War 2, and, under pressure from Zionist terrorist gangs, a virtually bankrupt British Government could not escape quickly enough; it abandoned the Palestinians to their fate when the UN approved the partition of the country.  The resulting ethnic cleansing and subsequent Israeli –Arab wars have left the festering sore of Israel as the occupying power in Palestinian majority areas in defiance of international law and UN resolutions.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

UN tells Israel to stop taking Palestinian resources

In a little reported step on Tuesday 22 December, the United Nations General Assembly, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted a resolution demanding Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources under Israeli occupation and the UK actually voted in favour!

The Fourth Geneva Convention was adopted in 1949 following the Second World War and the forced migrations of many peoples that occurred during and immediately after it.    Article 49 of that 4th Geneva Convention clearly states: ““The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”   Israel ratified this Convention in 1951. In 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted a report from the Secretary-General and a Commission of Experts which concluded that the Geneva Conventions had passed into the body of customary international law, thus making them binding even on non-signatories to the Conventions whenever they engage in armed conflicts. 

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 29 Comments
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