Palestinian Recognition - An Obligation
One hundred years ago (1917), in the final years of the WW1, and to encourage an Arab uprising against the Ottomans (part of the German alliance), a promise of Arab autonomy after that war was made and understood. Arabs fought with the allies, including Australians, to push the Ottomans out of the Middle East. The Battle of Beersheba was part of this campaign. It had nothing to do with the establishment of modern day Israel.
At the same time, to gain Jewish influence and pressure within the US and to convince President Wilson to enter the war, the Balfour Declaration was made, promising a Jewish State on the condition that the rights and customs of the pre-existing Arab community were safeguarded and respected.
Seventy years ago (1948) Palestine was partitioned with the intention that there would be two States, Israel and Palestine of roughly equal size. Because of the losses suffered through the conflict that followed partition, Israel became 78% of the territory and Palestine 22%. Palestine still awaits its autonomy on less than one quarter of the original territory. (Israel would deny them even this). Palestinians suffered what they call the Nakba or disaster, when thousands of Palestinians were summarily pushed off their land, their houses confiscated without compensation, and thousands made refugees, a state in which they have remained ever since.
Fifty years ago (1967) the six-day war was fought and decisively won. . Israel seized the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai. The Sinai was subsequently returned to Egypt. The West Bank has remained occupied and Gaza blockaded with oppressive military force.
The obligation of the international community to safeguard and respect the rights of the Palestinian community is equal to the obligation of securing safety, freedom and autonomy to the Jewish community. The fulfilment of this obligation has waited far too long.
Fast forward to the present day:
A considerable majority of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) are on record as saying that Palestinians will never be allowed autonomy in their own State – not even this paltry 22% that they have agreed to accept.
Israel has passed a Bill authorising the stealing of Palestinian property by the settlers
The deluge of settlements on Palestinian land continues to escalate, 6000 this year alone.
Palestinian civilians are subject to the brutality of military law, the settlers live under civil law.
Israel clearly intends to extend its borders until they encompass the totality of historic Palestine. To do so is to extend and make permanent a system of apartheid, in which Palestinians will remain second or third class citizens in perpetuity
While there are significant human rights abuses in many countries, Israel is the only country claiming ‘western values of democracy and justice’ to be in such flagrant violation of these values and of international law.
Israel needs to know that maintaining the occupation and the oppressive breach of human rights that accompany it, is totally unacceptable and a price will be paid for its continuance.
One Hundred and Thirty nations have already recognised Palestine including the Vatican.
Most State Assemblies of the Australian Labor Party (South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and NSW) have moved resolutions in favour of immediate recognition of Palestine.
Labor nationally will probably follow suit.
There are decisive moments in history when courageous leadership is called for.
Whitlam had that courage to recognise China in 1971
Howard had that courage in the recognition and defence of Timor in 1999
Turnbull and the Australian people need to express the same courage in relation to Palestine today.
Not to do so, is to ignore the obligation of history, to condone human rights violations by a country that claims the same values as Australia and to maintain ad infinitum a cause for ongoing conflict in one of the world’s most troubled regions.