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United against Israel: Time to end the world’s longest occupation

February 27, 2024 at 3:32 pm

Hundreds of people, including Jews, gather in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. United States to collectively mourn the US airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, an active-duty member of the US Air Force, who died after setting himself ablaze in protest of Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza on 26 February, 2024 [Celal Güneş/Anadolu Agency]

Left to its own devices, Israel would never grant Palestinians their freedom. In the past, though, some people, whether in ignorance or otherwise, claimed that peace in Palestine can only be achieved through “unconditional negotiations”. This mantra was also championed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he cared enough to pay lip service to the “peace process” and other US fantasies. Back then, he spoke about his readiness to hold unconditional negotiations, while arguing constantly that Israel does not have a partner for peace.

All of this, of course, was “doublespeak”. What Netanyahu and other Israelis were actually saying was that Israel should be freed from any commitment to international law, let alone international pressure. Worse, by declaring that Israel has no Palestinian partner for peace, the Israeli government has essentially cancelled the hypothetical and “unconditional negotiations” before they have even taken place.

For years — in fact, for decades — Israel has been allowed to perpetuate such nonsense, empowered, of course, by the total and unconditional support of Washington and its other Western allies. In an environment where Israel receives billions of dollars of US-Western aid, and where it has grown to become a thriving technological hub, as well as one of the world’s largest weapons exporters, Tel Aviv simply had no reason to end its occupation or dismantle its racist apartheid in Palestine.

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But things must change now. The genocidal Israeli war in Gaza should completely alter our understanding, not only of the tragic reality in occupied Palestine, but of past misunderstanding as well. It should be made clear that Israel has never had any intention of achieving a just peace, ending its colonisation of Palestine — that is, the expansion of illegal settlements — or granting Palestinians an iota of rights. On the contrary, Israel has been planning to carry out genocide against the Palestinians all along.

It is a fact that Israel has already carried out many terrible war crimes against Palestinians, starting with the 1947/48 Nakba and in successive wars ever since. Such crimes, large or small, have always been accompanied by ethnic cleansing. Over 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed, for example, when Israel was established on the ruins of Palestine 76 years ago. An additional 300,000 were ethnically cleansed during the Naksa, the war and “setback” of 1967.

Throughout the years, mainstream Western media outlets did their best to hide Israeli crimes, or minimise their impact; or even blame someone else for them.

This process of shielding Israel remains in place to this day, even when tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed since 7 October and most of the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, homes and shelters, has been destroyed by the occupation state.

Considering all of this, anyone who still speaks of “unconditional negotiations” — especially those conducted under the auspices of Washington — is, frankly, only doing so to help Israel escape international legal and political accountability. Fortunately, the world is waking up to this fact and, hopefully, this awakening will mature sooner rather than later, as Israeli massacres in Gaza continue to claim hundreds of innocent lives every single day.

This collective realisation that Israel must be stopped through international measures is also accompanied by an equally critical realisation that the US is not an honest broker for peace. Indeed, that it never was.

READ: AKP: ‘US veto on Gaza is mark of shame’

To appreciate the ruinous role of the US in this so-called conflict, just marvel at this fact. While practically every country that participated with a legal opinion and a political position in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) public hearings from 19 to 26 February formulated its position based on international law, the US did not.

“The Court should not find that Israel is legally obligated to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from occupied territory,” the acting legal adviser for the US State Department, Richard Visek, said embarrassingly on 21 February. That’s right: 76 years after the Nakba and following 57 years of military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the position of the US — even in the ICJ — remains committed to defending the illegality of Israel’s conduct throughout Palestine.

Compare this US stance with the rounded, courageous and legally grounded position of almost every country in the world, especially the 50-plus countries which asked to speak at the ICJ hearings. Take China, for example. Its words and actions seem far more consistent with international law than many Western nations, especially now, and it went even further: “In pursuit of the right to self-determination, Palestinian people’s use of force to resist foreign oppression and complete the establishment of an independent state is [an] inalienable right well founded in international law,” Chinese representative Ma Xinmin told the ICJ on 22 February.

Unlike the cliched and non-committal position of the likes of UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron on the need to start “irreversible progress” towards an independent Palestinian state, the Chinese position is arguably the most comprehensive and realistic articulation. Ma linked self-determination to liberation struggle, to sovereignty, to the inalienable rights of people, which are all consistent with international laws and norms. In fact, it is these very principles that have led to the liberation of numerous countries in the Global South.

Given that Israel has no intention of freeing Palestinians from the grip of apartheid and military occupation, the Palestinian people have had no other option but to resist that occupation. According to the Geneva Conventions, resistance is an entirely legitimate response.

The question now is whether or not the international community will continue to defy the US position in words only, or if it will formulate a new approach to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, thus bringing it to an end by any means necessary.

In his statement to the ICJ on 19 February, British barrister Philippe Sands, who is a member of Team Palestine, offered a roadmap on how the international community can force Israel to end its occupation: “The right of self-determination requires that UN Member States bring Israel’s occupation to an immediate end. No aid. No assistance. No complicity. No contribution to forcible actions. No money. No arms. No trade. No nothing.”

Indeed. Now is the time to turn words into actions, especially when thousands of children are being killed for no other reason than that they were born Palestinian. It’s time to end the world’s longest military occupation.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.