As we enter 2015, just what do the Palestinians have to do to win their right to self determination, freedom, and peace? It's a question that needs to be asked in the wake of the the recent vote by the UN Security Council to reject a Palestinian resolution calling for Israel's withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2017.
Of the votes cast by the fifteen-member security council, eight voted for the resolution, five against, with two abstentions, including Britain. However even if the resolution had received the necessary minimum of nine votes in favour, it still would not have passed given the US intention to exercise its veto.
What the UN Security Council decision highlights is the unremitting injustice of an occupation that has been in place since 1967, and which stands as a clear violation of international law with the annexation of Palestinian land for the building and expansion of settlements. The ability of the Israeli government to flout international law so blatantly, and for so long, brings the UN and all those countries who continue to collude in this state of affairs into disrepute.
It is not merely a question of legality either, as powerful as the Palestinian case is on that basis. It is also a moral issue, upon which not only the rights of a people whose suffering continues to shame the world, but also the right of the powerful to trample over the rights and lives of the powerless.
Israel's right to exist is not the question, despite it being consistently promulgated as justification for its policy of denying Palestine's right to exist. The question is Israel's right to exist at the negation of another people. The mountain of lies, dissembling, and obfuscation erected in the course of this unresolved question is not only an obstacle to justice for the Palestinian people, it is an impediment to Israel's stability, security, and progress also. Nelson Mandela was never more cogent than when he said, "Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."
The world cannot expect the Palestinians to accept the daily humiliation and degradation of occupation quietly. If peace is the objective then they must be accorded recourse to justice via peaceful and legal means. To deny them this recourse is to deny them their humanity and to drive them towards violence. What is not an option is the continuation of the status quo, especially when it involves the day to day reality of hundreds of checkpoints throughout the West Bank, making free movement impossible and with it economic development, growth, and stability.
The suppurating sore at the heart of the seemingly intractable conflict is the settlements, which despite the protestations of Washington and the EU continue to expand. A recent article from B'tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) leaves us in no doubt of the scale of the problem:
Israeli settlements are currently the major factor influencing the reality of life in the West Bank: Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens live in more than 200 settlements and settlement outposts throughout the West Bank, all established in contravention of international humanitarian law, some even in contravention of Israeli law.
Tens of thousands of hectares of land, including pastureland and farmland, have been seized from Palestinians for the express purpose of building settlements. A significant portion of these lands has been declared state land, based on a dubious interpretation of the law; other areas have been usurped from Palestinians by force and strong-arm tactics and by actual construction that would make the settlement seem a fait accompli. In addition, settlements have been granted generous allocations of land, far exceeding their built-up areas. All lands allocated to settlements - built-up area and environs - have been designated closed military zones which Palestinians may not enter without a permit.
The contradictions that lie at the heart of Israel's current policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians have long been unsustainable and why it devolves to the international community to come up with a resolution to a question to which the answer is not a neverending cycle of peace initiatives and proposals that inevitably end in failure and mutual recrimination.
What is required is simply the application of international law on the pain of economic sanctions. After all, if sanctions are good enough for Russia over Ukraine they are good enough for Israel when it comes to the settlements on Palestinian land.
Democracy and organised hypocrisy are two different things, yet you could be mistaken for believing otherwise based on the inconsistency, double standards, and outright immorality of the West's role in the world today. The question of Palestine is a barometer of those double standards, which in light of the UN Security Council's decision to deny the Palestine's the right to self determination and statehood, call to mind the inimitable words of Groucho Marx: Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."