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Column: Whatever happens at the UN, the Israeli occupation will continue

Kevin Squires of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign feels that even if statehood is granted to Palestinians this month, their struggle to secure human, political and national rights will continue.

Kevin Squires

AS WE APPROACH the 11th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s attempt to gain UN recognition for a Palestinian state has dominated media discussion concerning the Palestine-Israel issue. Countless op-eds and polemics have flooded the inbox of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), from both those who support and those oppose this move. Perhaps surprisingly to readers of TheJournal.ie, even amongst Palestinians and international solidarity groups, there is no unanimity regarding the initiative.

However, the discussion on the Palestinian side centres not on largely irrelevant Israel-centric questions such as “is this bad for the peace process?” (any peace process is already dead, killed by Israeli intransigence and international inaction) or “are Palestinians showing bad faith by acting unilaterally?” (Israel acts unilaterally on a daily basis). In this debate, there is no questioning the Palestinian right to self-determination – guaranteed by UNGA Resolution 3236 – or the right to declare an independent state.

Rather, the division is of a tactical nature, the general question posed being: Is this, at present, the best road to travel in order to secure the rights of the Palestinian people?

Those backing the plan argue that it will be at least a partial realisation of the dream of the Palestinian people for a state of their own, and allow Palestinians to begin creating their own “facts on the ground” through state-building. They also say it will grant Palestinians greater access to the
mechanisms of international law, and that it is a bold and innovative new diplomatic venture that it is hoped will be a step toward breaking the impasse Palestinians find themselves at.

Serious debate has occurred concerning what statehood might mean for refugees and the Palestinian diaspora

On the other hand, serious debate has occurred concerning what statehood might mean for the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, and a corollary question about the representation of the millions of refugees and their descendants expelled by Israel during the 1948 and 1967 wars of conquest.

There is also circumspection regarding the transparency of this process, a discussion about whether Palestinians will find themselves in a better or worse legal position viz-a-viz international law, and uncertainty as to where it will leave the increasingly successful grassroots anti-apartheid campaign. Still, 65 per cent of Palestinians in the occupied territories support the plan according to a recent poll, although this excludes Palestinian citizens of Israel and diaspora refugees.

Yet, whatever one’s feelings about this particular initiative, regardless of the outcome at the UN, Israel’s decades old occupation is unlikely to end anytime soon – a fact admitted to by the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland on this site last week, when he stated that if statehood is declared “nothing will change on the ground for ordinary Palestinians”. Indeed, for Palestinians the brutality of the occupation will continue, irrespective of whether the UN decides that they live in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” or the “State of Palestine”.

In 2011 alone, according to UN figures, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and over 4,200 injured (many during unarmed anti-occupation demonstrations) by Israeli military forces or illegal colonial settlers, while some 380 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished. According to the prisoner support group Addameer, over 1,680 Palestinians were arrested in the same period. The figures since 2000 are even grimmer: 6,430 killed (1,460 children); 45,000 injured (30 per cent children); 12,160 demolitions; and thousands arrested, of which 5,554 remain imprisoned, including 211 children.

Meanwhile, the unlawful and crippling Israeli siege of 1.5 million people in Gaza continues and Palestinians in the West Bank continue to endure Israeli military law living under a dangerous and humiliating regime of checkpoints, closures and curfews. The construction of illegal Jewish-only
colonial settlements continues apace, and within Israel a raft of anti-democratic measures directed against progressive groups are being passed by what has been called the most rightwing Knesset in history.

A change in the UN designation of the occupied areas is unlikely to have practical effect on Israeli practices

A change in the UN designation of the areas occupied by Israel since 1967 is unlikely to have any practical effect on such Israeli practices. In fact, as things currently stand, Palestinians are denied their already guaranteed UN-mandated rights – the right to self-determination, the right to
freedom of movement, the right to development, the right of residency and the right of return for refugees. Israel is in breach of tens of UN resolutions, and ignores international laws such as the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling that deemed illegal both its land-grab wall and colonial settlements on Palestinian lands.

The IPSC, as an organisation in solidarity with the Palestinian people, does not see our role as intervening in internal Palestinian discussions or advocating solutions based on ‘one’ or ‘two’ states. Palestinians already have enough outsiders telling them what to do. Instead we believe our task is to build support for the just demands of Palestinian people, as crystallised in the 2005 unified call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, ceases its apartheid practices, and complies fully with its obligations under international law.

This call, for a struggle similar to the international campaign that hastened the fall of South African apartheid, has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, trade unions, NGOs and civil society organisations.

For those who wish to see a just and peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli question, it is imperative to continue the efforts to apply pressure on the apartheid state of Israel through the BDS movement. Ultimately, the IPSC’s believes that, statehood or no, the struggle for the inalienable
rights – human, political and national – of the Palestinian people will continue until they are secured.

Indeed, this struggle must be intensified regardless of the UN’s decision later this month.

Kevin Squires is a journalist and National Coordinator of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

For those interested in a deeper look at this issue, the IPSC has organised a discussion on the Palestinian statehood bid with John Reynolds (former legal researcher with Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq) that will take place this Thursday, 15 September, in the Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

Read: Column – Why peace has eluded the Middle East>

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Kevin Squires

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