As reports come in of 29 Palestinian protesters killed today, the US hosts a ceremony to mark the Trump administration’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognising the illegally occupied city as Israel’s capital.
Ivanka Trump shed a crocodile tear or two and even claimed to be ‘praying for peace’ today as she attends a ceremony to mark the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to illegally occupied Jerusalem.
That Jerusalem is under an illegal military occupation is accepted under international law. Its Palestinian residents are subjected to systematic discrimination in an apartheid regime. When they resist, they are shot down or arrested and imprisoned in illegal military courts. Over 6000 Palestinians including 300 children currently incarcerated and denied justice.
“We don’t care.”
The move is a stamp of approval for Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem and further displacement of Palestinians. It follows an announcement on 6 December 2017 by President Trump that he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Once again, Trump is on the wrong side of international law and is wilfully ignoring countless UN Security Resolutions that no state would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital nor locate its embassy there.
Trump knows this will be a step beyond the comfort zone even of countries that have been silent on or actively complicit in Israel’s occupation and constant flouting of human rights. His response was to threaten US aid cuts to any country that dared vote against this brazen violation of international law, stating: “Let them vote against us…We don’t care”.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that the administration would remember and “take names” of every country that voted against Trump’s legitimisation of an illegal occupation. Despite the blackmailing and bullying, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly backed an emergency resolution declaring the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”.
Whilst Israel and the US celebrate this latest breach of international law, people are being killed in Gaza. For the past seven weeks of the #GreatReturnMarch unarmed Palestinian civilians have been steadily shot down for protesting for their collective rights, including the Right of Return.
In recent weeks at least 41 Palestinians have been killed and 6,800 injured, many with life changing injuries, because Israeli soldiers are following illegal orders to shoot unarmed civilians. Despite worldwide condemnation, today alone 28 people are reported to have been killed.
70 years of catastrophe
This is just another episode in a long history violating the human rights of the Palestinian people. It is not the story of an intractable conflict between two equal sides, but an occupation by a powerful military state, armed and supported by the West, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.
In 1948 – 70 years ago tomorrow – 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes by the barrel of a gun. Whole villages were erased, their existence denied by the most brutal form of settler colonialism. Palestinians call it the Nakba, which means ‘catastrophe’.
Such ethnic cleansing is something that indigenous peoples – from the Americas to Australia and Southern Africa – know all too well. Black and brown people around the world have faced their own Nakbas at the hands of racist colonialists who believe black lives don’t matter. Apartheid is institutionalised over the broken bodies of the people of the global South.
For Palestinians, the legacy of settler colonialism has been a fourth generation of 7 million children being brought up in refugee camps in the region, many living in chronic poverty and all denied the right to return to their family homes.
This right has been enshrined repeatedly in international law: from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1948 Fourth Geneva Convention and UN resolution 194 which affirms Palestinians have a right to return home. No government has the authority to deny this inalienable Right of Return. Not even the United States of America.
In the West Bank, the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements, the construction of the Apartheid Wall and the annexation of East Jerusalem are creating an irreversible reality of permanent occupation.
Israel’s siege of Gaza condemns 1.9 million inhabitants to deliberate impoverishment and psychological violence on a daily basis, forcing approximately 70 percent of them to rely on humanitarian assistance just to survive.
The siege limits electricity and water supplies, holding Gaza on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. It has broken Gaza’s health system, with doctors unable to perform surgeries and denied access to basic medicines. It denies Palestinians the right to education, to freedom of movement and to a dignified life. And in a tradition of military violence stretching back decades, tens of thousands of men, women and children have been maimed and killed.
Stop Arming Israel
This brutal apartheid system can only continue with the support of countries and companies that back Israel with political and financial support.
The UK government is subject to clear guidelines prohibiting export licenses to states ‘if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression’ or ‘to assert by force a territorial claim’. Clearly, these criteria are being breached with impunity by Israel and ignored by the UK government.
In the last four years alone, the UK government has given the green light for £490 million worth of military exports to Israel. This includes a wide range of weaponry and technological components used by Israel in day to day violence against Palestinians including in Gaza. The UK government regularly welcomes Israeli arms companies, such as the infamous Elbit Systems, to present its “battle-tested” weaponry at arms fairs in the UK in fact tested on a civilian population. Banks and corporations are also complicit. HSBC for example, holds shares worth £831 million in companies selling weapons and security services to Israel.
The UN has already called for an independent inquiry into Israel’s use of force and in April Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court issued an unprecedented statement warning that “violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.”
Now is the time to ramp up the pressure against UK government and corporate complicity with the Israeli military industry. As a movement, anyone who believes in social justice and human rights should say very clearly that the UK must say Stop Arming Israel.