Lessons from Palestine

From: Daily Mirror Editorial _14 September 2020

For the past 53 years (since the 1967, Israel-war, also referred to as the 1967 Arab-Israel War), Palestine has been under Israeli militarily occupation. 

In 2018, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch reporting on Palestinians under Israeli rule wrote: “…Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, a few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation”. The report added “Israel today maintains an entrenched system of institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territory – repression that extends far beyond any security rationale.”  

Last Friday, September 8, US President Donald Trump triumphantly announced from his ‘Oval Office’ that the oil-rich kingdom of Bahrain would join the UAE on Tuesday, to establish diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. It has been the second such agreement brokered by the Trump administration within the space of thirty days. Hailing the event, Trump informed reporters at the White House, that “even great warriors get tired of fighting, and they are in fact tired of fighting…” But facts are slightly different, neither the UAE nor Bahrain have ever been at war with Israel!   
But what is worse is that the ‘broker-in-chief’ – Trump – makes no effort to persuade Israel to abide to a key clause in the deal he brokered between the UAE and Israel – that Israel would suspend its plans to annex the West Bank.   

Benjamin Netanyahu, a co-signee to the deal publicly repudiated the clause within hours of signing it! Prior to Trump’s deal, former US President Jimmy Carter brokered the ‘Camp David’ peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1977 – between Egypt’s President Anver Sadat and Israeli PM Manachem Begin. The talks lasted for 12 days and resulted in two agreements.  
The first – A Framework for Peace in the Middle East, laid down principles for what it called the “Palestinian problem”, expanding on Resolution 242 of UN Resolution of 1967, it set out what it hoped was a way of resolving the issue. The second accord was the The Camp David framework for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The plan aimed to set up a “self-governing authority” in the West Bank and Gaza, leading to eventual “final status” talks.  
More than 30 years later Israel still continues expanding its settlements in both these areas, in addition to illegally appropriating Palestinian lands and demolishing Palestinian homes in the Gaza and West Bank.  

In 1983, under Norwegian auspices the ‘Oslo Agreement’ was signed on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. Witnessed by President Bill Clinton, PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. Despite all the hype surrounding the signing of various accords, Israel continues illegally occupying Palestinian lands, building homes and transferring its Jewish citizens into the West Bank and East Jerusalem on stolen Palestinian lands.  
Commenting on the deals between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, sources close to the Palestinian leadership stressed, the struggle/war was between Israel and Palestine. The two agreements had not addressed the issue. He added the betrayals, were bringing Palestinian factions together in the quest to find a just solution to the Palestine issue and end the Israeli-Palestine war.  

While the Palestinians are learning that they cannot depend on external forces to sort out their issues, some of Sri Lanka’s political leaders cannot seem to understand that foreign countries are not going to be drawn into Sri Lanka’s domestic disputes, ‘unless there is ‘something in it for them’. The leaders of two political parties in the north are calling on our giant neighbour India to intervene regarding changes to the Sri Lankan Constitution.  
Despite their lengthy involvement in politics, these politicians have failed to realise the Indo-Lanka Agreement of 1987 was India’s means of getting out of prickly issues they no longer wanted to be part of. Rather than forever crying for international help, it would be better for us; ‘locals’ to come together and sort out our own problems.   
Perhaps we, Sri Lankans, whether we be – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers – need to do a re-read of Aesop’s fable on the bundle of sticks.