Two articles to ponder over A 12-minute week-end read

Palestine Update 209

Two articles to ponder over
A 12-minute week-end read
In this special weekend edition of Palestine Updates, we bring you a write-up from Chandra Muzaffar, an eminent social and political commentator from Malaysia. In the piece we bring you, he comments on how Malaysia contributes to the eventual liberation of Palestine through joining the BDS Movement using sports as a medium.

We also bring you a short statement from UN officials and NGO partners calling for a halt to plans to displace Palestinian refugees from Sheikh Jarrah.

Together the article and statement  might add up to 10-12 minutes of reading. But they are especially useful think-pieces. Please read and disseminate.

Ranjan Solomon

A morally right decision
Chandra Muzaffar*

The long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine has begun to manifest in the world of sport with the paper sketching the debates of those calling for, and those opposed to, sport sanctions/boycott of Israel until the ‘Palestinian Question’ is resolved. Five related tasks are addressed: first, to summarise the call for sanctions/boycott emanating from the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement. The second is to explore how this call is establishing itself in the world of sport. The responses of those opposed to any form of sanction/boycott are then considered. The confusion that surrounds the term anti-Semitism is addressed and the relationship between (anti-) Zionism and anti-Semitism unpacked. The discussion concludes with an assessment of the claim made by the Israeli state, and its supporters, that any action against the country’s participation in international sport would be an act of anti-Semitism. Offering a timely, integrated summary of the heated debates that surround the Israel/Palestine conflict, the paper contributes to a wider discussion on the relationship between sport and politics.

The decision of the Malaysian government not to allow Israelis to enter the country to participate in the World Para Swimming Championships in Sarawak in July-August 2019 is both politically correct and morally right. TunDr. Mahathir Mohamad’s firm stand on this issue has been endorsed by PKR president, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Deputy Sports Minister, SimHee Kyung. A coalition of 29 NGOs has also voiced support for the decision.

That Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel provides the political rationale for our stand. What this means in concrete terms is that Israelis cannot visit Malaysia just as Malaysians cannot visit Israel. This is an important dimension of our foreign policy. As a national policy it supersedes internal arrangements on the immigration rights of a state within the Malaysian Federation.

If our decision on Israeli swimmers is politically viable it is because it is anchored in a powerful moral ethos. In international law, Israel is an occupier that has annexed and usurped not only Palestinian land but also Syrian and Lebanese territories. If Malaysia recognised Israel, we would be bestowing legitimacy upon Israeli occupation and oppression.

Israeli occupation has become much more severe since 1948 as reflected in its seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967; its tightening grip over East Jerusalem; and the construction of a wall that divides the West Bank and marginalises the Palestinian population. Even more tragic is the continuous massacre of Palestinians and other Arabs in the course of the last 70 years through wars and brutal assaults. If they are not killed or executed, the victims of Israeli aggression are subjected to imprisonment and torture or simply humiliated through body searches at numerous check-points. Indeed, what Israel has established in the West Bank and even within Israel itself is an ‘Apartheid State’ that denies Palestinians their basic human dignity.

It is against this backdrop that one should view the Malaysian decision to bar Israelis from entering our country. There are thousands of individuals and organisations all over the world that are opposed to Israel’s intransigent arrogance. By boycotting Israel, many of them are hoping to compel Israel to obey international law. This is the aim of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which has grown and expanded over the last 15 years or so. Through boycott of Israeli sporting activities, musical concerts, academic programmes and Israeli goods produced especially in the West Bank, the BDS movement aims to isolate Israel and as a result create awareness among the Israeli people of the imperative importance of forcing the Israeli government to recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. It is significant that the BDS movement is totally committed to peaceful protest.

Academic organisations such as the American Studies Association (ASA) have joined the movement as have churches in the United States like the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church that have divested their investments in Israel. The Dutch pension fund, PGGM is another entity that has divested its shares in companies operating in the country. There are also big European companies such as Veolia, Orange and CRH that have exited the Israeli market. As a result of all this, there was a 46% drop in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Israel in 2014 compared to 2013.

It is not just Churches and companies.  There are even cities such as Dublin in Ireland and Leicester in Britain that are part of the BDS movement. Among prominent individuals associated with BDS is the indefatigable Desmond Tutu who sees parallels between what is happening in Israel-Palestine today and Apartheid South Africa in the past.

It is within the context of the BDS movement that we should view our own boycott of Israeli swimmers. We are strengthening the most promising movement alive today for the liberation of the Palestinian people.  It is a movement that has drawn people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds into a common commitment to a common cause — a cause which Nelson Mandela once described as the greatest moral issue of our time.

By saying ‘no’ to Israeli swimmers — as others have said ‘no’ to other Israeli athletes in other fields — we are continuing to champion a struggle that we have been devoted to for such a long while. Criticisms from various quarters, even economic and political moves against Malaysia as a nation, should not deter us from continuing with our struggle. Let us remind ourselves that we are not alone in this noble quest for justice.

*Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). He is a political scientist who has authored and edited 32 books in English and Malay. He retired as Professor of Global Studies from a Malaysian university in 2012. Chandra Muzaffar has championed the Palestinian cause for almost 40 years now.

You may also want to read: Malaysia’s Decision to Bar Israeli Athletes Was Much Needed

UN officials and NGO partners call for a halt to plans to displace Palestine refugees from Sheikh Jarrah*

Today, we visited the Sabbagh family in their home, who face imminent forced eviction from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, part of the occupied Palestinian territory, and are at heightened risk of forcible transfer.

The Sabbagh family are Palestine refugees originally from Jaffa city, who were settled in the neighbourhood, along with 27 other families, with the support of the United Nations and the Jordanian government, in the 1950s. Like other families in the area, for years they have been engaged in a legal dispute opposing efforts by Israeli settler organizations to evict them from their homes. Recently, this legal struggle was deemed unsuccessful as Israeli courts have ruled in favour of the settlers’ claims. Thirty-two members of the Sabbagh family, including six children, now face forced eviction, while an additional 19 members will be directly affected by the loss of the family property, should the eviction take place.

In the occupied Palestinian territory, strict obligations apply with regard to the prohibition of forcible transfer and forced eviction. Along with house demolitions, forced evictions are one of the major factors contributing to the creation of a coercive environment that may result in no other choice for individuals or communities but to leave. Forcible transfer is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Forced evictions contrary to international law also violate the right to adequate housing and the right to privacy, and may be incompatible with other human rights.

In many cases in East Jerusalem, including in Sheikh Jarrah, the forced eviction of Palestinians is occurring within the context of Israeli settlement construction and expansion, illegal under international humanitarian law. An estimated 3,500 Israelis are currently living in settlements established with the support of the Israeli authorities in the heart of Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem. In Sheikh Jarrah alone, more than 200 Palestinians face potential eviction, should they be unsuccessful in similar cases currently before Israeli courts.

We call on the Israeli authorities to immediately halt plans to evict the Sabbagh family to prevent further displacement of these refugees, cease settlement construction, and abide by their obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

*Statement by Jamie McGoldrick (Humanitarian Coordinator), Gwyn Lewis (Director of West Bank Operations for UNRWA), James Heenan (Head of OHCHR in the occupied Palestinian territory) and Kate O’Rourke (Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council)

Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

 لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish.