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Will Peace and Justice prevail for Palestine?

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US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, left, listens as Algerian Ambassador to the UN Amar Bendjama, right, speaks during a UN Security Council vote on the Israel-Hamas war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on February 20. The US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, even as President Joe Biden faced mounting pressure to dial back support for Israel. Picture: Angela Weiss / AFP / Taken on February 20, 2024.

The narrative that binds South Africa to Palestine since the days of solidarity with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), led the world at the International Court of Justice. In the past, there was Mandela and Arafat with Mandela being a global icon and a moral force.

By Pingla Udit

Introduction

The resistance by Palestinians has been against occupation by apartheid Israel in their struggle for self-determination for over a century. Human rights have been violated daily in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – some areas where Palestinians are permitted to live, with no sovereignty under Israeli occupation.

The travesty of injustice of the Balfour Declaration 1917 and Jan Smuts, and the role of Israel in how it opposed and bust apartheid sanctions, co-developed and proliferated nuclear weapons with apartheid South Africa, is a complex narrative between Apartheid South Africa and Apartheid Israel.

Graham Harrison writes in the Review of African Political Economy, ‘Apartheid, Israel, and a chosen people,’ (2024): “The association of Israel with apartheid South Africa has become prominent and contested since October last year, but it is not new. The likening of Israel to apartheid emerged in the 1970s through a condemnation of the Israeli state’s geopolitics expulsion, settlement, and later walls and checkpoints in the occupied territories.”

Harrison’s analogy “between two highly securitised states endeavouring to create facts on the ground through a military administrative project … to create ethno-racialised denizens, pushed into quasi-states and subjected to heavy restrictions on their movements” is clear enough.

“In the present day, in this analogy, Israel seems strangely prehistoric. South Africa is no longer an apartheid state and it managed its transformation very well, all things considered,” he says.

In 2024, South Africa celebrates 30 years of democracy with a progressive constitutional democracy and Bill of Rights enshrined with equality for all its citizens. By contrast, Harrison argues, “Israel is, in a sense, a country out of step with political time. It eschewed the peacemaking endeavours of the post-Cold War moment of liberal optimism, intensified its military tech securitisation, moved into an increasingly conservative politics of nationhood and failed in even the most rudimentary way to identify a way out through the prevailing models of liberal transitology that characterised the 1990s.”

Israel missed the transition to peace in the long 1990s peace process, with its various UN Resolutions, Oslo Accords, Arab Plan of 2002 and the Roadmap for peace. In his book published in 2002, The End of The Peace Process, Edward W Said writes: “Sponsored by the United States, the peace process was built callously upon the sufferings of a people whose society had been destroyed in 1948 … .”

The United States (US) pursuant to its own agenda in the Middle East, on January 28, 2020, drummed up a “Deal of the Century”. In a protest letter, “World must defend Palestinians from US, Israel conspiracy”, published in The New Strait Times, January 31, 2020, the Malaysia Consultative Council, condemned the so-called Peace Plan:

“Your plan does not resolve the problem of violent, repressive and inhumane Israeli control over the Palestinians, but your plan has placed the Palestinians at the mercy of Israeli security forces. We demand that any plan must refer to the United Nations Security Council resolution 242, which requires Israel to return to its 1967 borders. Israel’s apartheid system in Palestine, under your plan will now be prolonged with a provisional Palestinian ‘state’, one which will have no sovereignty or independence. This is adding glaringly an insult to Palestinian injury.”

The state of Israel has collaborated and made an evil pact with a coalition of ultra-conservative religious parties. Heterogenous religious groups and messianic Americans have created Israeli settlements, considered illegal by the UN and governments internationally.

The UN Human Right Commission. in its latest report of March 2023, states:

“From 2012 to 2022 the population of Israeli settlers in occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem had grown from 520,000 to 700, 000. These settlers lived illegally in 279 Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank, including 14 settlements in the occupied East Jerusalem. At least 147 of these settlements were outposts illegal even under Israeli domestic law. The establishment and expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory was prohibited under international humanitarian law and such transfers amounted to a war crime.”

Israel is backed by imperial power, in particular, the US, which has supported and still supports Israel with military and financial aid [to the tune of almost $4bn] in the face of domestic and international opposition to the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) bombardment of Gaza, and its military incursions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and now Rafah. This is an illustration of the continued dominance of the military-industrial complex that sustains US imperialism irrespective of which party is in power. Gilbert Archar, Lebanese Socialist academic writes in The first US-Israeli joint war:

“[This] is the first Israeli war in which Washington is a cobelligerent. The US openly supports the war’s proclaimed goal and is blocking calls for a ceasefire at the United Nations – all while providing arms and ammunition to Israel …”

Palestinians over decades have practised non-violent resistance, and still do. The Great March of Return (2018-2019) was a grassroots social movement across the political spectrum. It was supported by diverse groups in response to Israel’s deadly violence, to protest Palestinians’ oppression.

In 2024, Israel is intent in prosecuting its war in Gaza, to ethnically cleanse the area, by effectively turning the Palestinian population into a refugee people. Many Palestinians are already living in neighbouring states as refugees and struggling for their right to return.

Once Palestinians leave their Motherland, Israel will not even recognise their link with Palestine. It is in this context refugee status is resisted by Palestinians’ and their supporters. Since its inception, Israel (and her collaborators) has been flushing out Palestinians. Aside from Palestinian casualties, the world is full of survivors – permanently dispersed, exiled and stateless Palestinians, victimised by Israel’s fascist jackboot over many years. A depopulated Palestine surrenders Palestine to Israel to mine and exploit its natural assets and claim that it is Israeli territory. Israel has awarded licenses to ENI and BP, oil, gas and energy companies, despite the war in Gaza, according to Energy Intelligence. Multinational corporate interests, greed, and power grow as the bombardment continues.

Internationalism and solidarity

Daily the world is horrified at the Israeli targeted bombardment against innocent civilians in Palestine. Instructive are international institutions and instruments that can arrest war crimes and genocide, but they have been disastrous in creating conditions for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Palestine has an observer status at the UN.

The US, United Kingdom (UK) and France have vetoed United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on the matter. There has been overwhelming support for many United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions against Israel, calling for an immediate ceasefire. A handful of Israel’s client states vote with Israel against said resolutions. Effectively, the majority of United Nation’s member states have voted against Israel’s action on the matter and have called for a cessation of hostilities and peace under a two-state solution.

The Arab League, Organisation of Islamic States and a number of regional fora like Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have continued to condemn Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians.

The UN inaction under the current dispensation highlights the paralysis of the UN and therefore underscores the legitimacy of the urgent call for UNSC reform.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in December 2023, warned of the dire situation in Gaza. The UN General Assembly Special Session on December 12, 2023, demanded “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, all parties comply with international law and international humanitarian law, unconditional release of all hostages and to ensure humanitarian access”.

UNSC resolution 2720 (2023) on December 21, 2023, resolved for expeditious delivery of humanitarian assistance and for a UN mechanism for accelerating the provision of humanitarian relief. This has not been an easy task as blockades and delays in entry of aid at borders impede the delivery of food, medicine, water and fuel supplies.

The world shares the trauma and the war is a reminder of how toxic Western colonialism and settler occupation is in the 21st century.

The Israeli aggression has heightened greater mobilisation and solidarity across continents, religious sectors, women, youth, trade unions and more especially on November 29, International Day of Solidarity, with Palestine. Many countries have taken diplomatic action against Israel withdrawing ambassadors or consular staff or suspending relations in their call for an immediate ceasefire. South Africa is one of five countries that referred Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and genocide in Gaza.

According to Al Jazeera, the BRICS countries on November 21, 2023, “denounced attacks on civilians in Palestine and Israel, with many leaders calling the forced displacement of Palestinians within Gaza or outside the territory ‘war crimes’, and emphasised that civilians must be protected in accordance with International Humanitarian Law and human rights law”. The BRICS multilateral support of Palestinians can be critical in future. This is a global issue and global leaders need to act urgently to protect civilian lives, human rights, and place foundations for peace and stability in the area.

Regional Dynamics

The complexity of Middle East regional dynamics in a multi-polar world arraigns some UN member states with Middle East states that are aligned with Western Powers. At the Joint Extraordinary Summit of Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the League of Arab States on November 11, 2023, four major Arab States prevented the adoption of proposals that carried concrete measures against Israel. Israel has diplomatic relations with Egypt, Jordan, and four Arab countries Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.

A regional war poses a constant threat in the midst of a flurry of diplomatic activity with Qatar, the US and Egypt. Regional support for the resistance varies from geo-political interest, proxy wars, geo-economic and maritime wars and threats, or in the form of military assistance. The return of land annexed within Israeli borders heightens contestation.

Egypt remains key to any resolution of Israel’s war on Hamas due to its proximity, as well as historical ties with Gaza; and it plays a critical role in the flow of humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

Saudi Arabia is brokering peace with some Middle East countries and has called on “countries to cease arms export to Israel”; it has led an international diplomatic committee from Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia to China, to support a ceasefire. Saudi Arabia’s focus is also on its BRICS membership application and diversified economic development.

Turkey has been critical of the US and the Europeans concerning Palestinians’ lives and had this to say to AP on December 9, 2023:

“All the values relating to humanity are being murdered in Gaza. In the face of such brutality, international institutions and human rights organisations are not taking any concrete steps to prevent such violations.”

Iran and Israel have been in conflict for many years, and Iran is supportive of the PLO and Palestinian groups, in general, as an “axis of resistance” together with other groupings in the wider region in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. Syria’s outlook is being within the range of proxy wars and a dire need for humanitarian assistance.

Yemen given its own complexities is part of a regional alliance against Israel. The Houthi Movement launched missiles and drones at Israel on October 31, 2023. And since November 19, 2023, Houthis began attacks on the international maritime route in the Red Sea and the neighbouring Gulf of Aden, to stop the siege of Gaza. This gives new impetus to the role of the Houthis against regional powers in the Middle East, who have developed alternative land routes to transport cargo to Israel to circumvent the Red Sea blockades.

A Decisive Convention

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) pronounced “never again” on atrocities of war. Article II and III of the Genocide Convention is instructive, and South Africa as a State party made a strategic intervention at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its referral for provisional measures against the State of Israel in January 2024.

On January 26, 2024, the ICJ in its judgement ruled that the:

“Court finds there is a prima facie case of genocide against Israel as Israel military actions fall under the purview of the Genocide Convention.”

The ICJ gave Israel one month to take provisional measures to prevent acts of genocide and allow humanitarian aid in Gaza and to report back to the court. But the war crimes that continue are inconsistent with the ICJ ruling. Palestinian human rights defenders have called for “an investigation into the special adviser on preventing genocide” for “dereliction of her duties and responsibilities demanded by her mandate”.

The road ahead necessitates an immediate and lasting ceasefire, negotiations, leadership for the people of Palestine to rebuild brick by brick, lives, community and society. The Israeli people will need to choose a new government capable of negotiating with the Palestinians and with a vision for some kind of co-existence. There is an opportunity for Israel to build a democratic state. Israel as part of a reconciliation process should break down the apartheid wall and stop construction of settlements in future.

Way forward

To overcome years of oppression, bombardment, death, destruction and devastation, working towards legitimate Palestinian self-determination necessitates in the short-term negotiations between Palestine and Israel to agree on a new dispensation post the 2023 war and genocide. What is crucial is how critical faultlines will be addressed for peace and justice to prevail in Palestine.

  1. How is the international community going to deal with a two-state solution, settlements in the West Bank, ethnic nationalism and 2.1million refugees in Gaza.
  2. The Palestinian national movement is a major player together with the Hamas movement but their visions are bifurcated. Political decision lies with the PLO and PA, and the military is in the hand of Hamas.
  3. Will Zionism ideology share the same fate as apartheid and Afrikaner nationalists, as there are many progressive anti-Zionist voices?

Dr Pingla Udit is professional researcher in policy, international relations and strategic conflict zones.