The only way to peace in Israel & Palestine
Jordan Times December 15, 2004
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
As I keep hearing the mantra of a “new” opening for peace in the Middle East following the death of Yasser Arafat, I am reminded of the statement issued by Amnesty International in March 2001, stating that “a major flaw of the process that began with the Oslo Agreement of 1993 was that peace was not founded on ensuring respect and protection for human rights .... if human rights are sacrificed in the search for peace and security there will be no peace and no security”.
Last week marked the anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948. Its articles include such basic rights as equality under the law, regardless of religion or ethnicity, private ownership protections, rights of minorities, and right of people to return to their homes and lands. The next day, the UN General Assembly also adopted Resolution 194, which dealt specifically with human rights in the Israeli-Palestinian context and included establishing a conciliatory commission, demilitarising Jerusalem, and guaranteeing the right of refugees to return. To this date, neither UDHR nor General Assembly Resolution 194 have been implemented.
Israel, armed to the teeth by the US, is the strongest military power in the Middle East. The state harbours hundreds of nuclear weapons (with a don't ask don't tell policy supported by the US) as well as other WMD. It receives billions in US taxpayer largess every year. And the US government has vetoed over 35 UN Security Council resolutions that attempted to hold Israel accountable to international law and human rights in the region. President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry made statements during the elections that also challenged basic human rights and international law, statements that accepted the segregation wall built on Palestinian land, legitimised Jewish-only settlements/colonies and denied the rights of Palestinian refugees.
It is not surprising, then, that most Palestinians insist on respect for human rights and international law as a cornerstone to peace. For human rights advocates, Arafat and his Deputy Mahmoud Abbas did not lend confidence in the immutability of these positions among the PLO leadership, and of the 10 candidates for president, only one, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, has consistently said that human rights must be the cornerstone of a peace settlement. Barghouthi is also a leader of an alternative block of independents and intellectuals, which includes Dr Hanan Ashrawi that argued publicly against suicide bombings inside Israel and against civilians on moral and other grounds.
The touted roadmap to peace unfortunately suffers from the same flaw as the Oslo Accords: there is no discussion or even mention of human rights in the 2,221-word document. Massive resources have been spent convincing the public and the media in the US that a small segment of the violence (under the rubric of Palestinian or “Islamist” terrorism) is the main problem — the aetiology of the disease is ignored while only a selected symptom is emphasised.
Nearly two-thirds of the nine million Palestinians have been rendered refugees and displaced people, a process that continues with daily land confiscations and house demolitions. Palestinian nonviolent resistance is not covered in most mainstream US media, and the vastly higher levels of violence of the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinians is also ignored. (The ratio of Palestinian civilians killed to Israeli civilians killed has been nearly 5 to 1).
Every human rights organisation that looked into the Israeli claim of “accidental” deaths or “crossfires” concluded, instead, that “war crimes” and “grave violations of human rights” were committed. All such organisations stated that a “peace process” cannot ignore international law and human rights.
It is refreshing to see a growing US movement for peace based on justice and human rights, which now includes speaking out, boycotts and divestment campaigns, analogous to the actions that finally forced the end of apartheid in South Africa. The US taxpayers hold the key to this conflict, because the US government is that last power to continue to support Israeli practices that violate human rights and international law.
The writer is a Palestinian American, co-founder of the AcademicsforJustice.org and the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda.org). He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004