When cruel power undermines elementary justice!

Palestine Update 310

When cruel power undermines elementary justice!

Today Palestine Updates brings you two commentaries, one in the form of a statement from Kairos Palestine. That statement bluntly rejects the politically retarded assertion from the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo legitimizing Israel’s illegal settlements in Palestinian territories. The second statement compares the situation in Israel and India and suggests how political might and strength translates into brute power. Illegal decisions are made on the basis of this abusive form of power in both cases.

Both the statement and the commentary are worth reading together to understand how dominant communities assert a skewed version of divine right to land.

Ranjan Solomon

Kairos Palestine Statement on the U.S Secretary of State legalizing settlements

Kairos Palestine expresses deep disappointment that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced—in a statement that disregards the Geneva Conventions, international law and widespread global consensus—a radical departure from U.S. policy regarding the illegal colonial activities of the State of Israel.

In asserting that the United States will no longer deem West Bank settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, to be “inconsistent with international law,” Secretary of State Pompeo contravenes a 1978 legal opinion by the State Department—upheld with bipartisan support of former administrations—which determined that “while Israel may undertake, in the occupied territories, actions necessary to meet its military needs and to provide for orderly government during the occupation, for reasons indicated above the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories is inconsistent with international law.”

Secretary Pompeo went on to announce that this move by the United States should not be viewed as the U.S. “prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank.”  Recent actions by the Trump administration belie this statement.  These actions include moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, defunding UNRWA, shuttering the Palestinians’ office in Washington, D.C., attempts to redefine who may be considered a Palestinian refugee, and embracing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s annexation plans.  All these moves, including what to date has been revealed of the Middle East peace plan put forward by Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, have to be interpreted as U.S. attempts to force the capitulation of Palestinians to the will of the State of Israel.

In our holy text, the story is told of King Ahab coveting the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite (1 Kings 21).  When Naboth refuses the king’s offer to purchase the land which Naboth describes as his “ancestral inheritance”, a plot is launched in the king’s household to take the land by force.  A false charge is made against Naboth, which leads to his being stoned to death, after which King Ahab sets out to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.  In the same way that the Lord instructed the Prophet Elijah to intervene and confront the king, Kairos Palestine asks its partners—people of faith and those of good will—to call on leaders of the U.S. government to reexamine its failed role as a facilitator of peace between Israel and Palestinians.

Secretary of State Pompeo and the government of the United States must understand that God’s community of justice, peace and provision for all—coming on earth as it is in heaven—may be delayed but will not be denied.  As stated in the document, Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth, “In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope.  We believe in God, good and just.  We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil and hate and of death that still persist in our land.  We will see here ‘a new land’ and ‘a new human being’, capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters.”

From Israel to Ayodhya, how might becomes right in politics and law
Hindu activists have asserted a kind of divine right to the acres occupied by Mir Baqi’s mosque, paralleling the Zionist claim to Israel and Judah.

A Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist in Delhi shouts slogans during a demonstration calling for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, on December 6, 2018. |

Arbeit Macht Frei was a maxim spelled out in wrought iron letters at the entrance of Nazi concentration and extermination camps. The words, which translate as “work makes free” or “work will set you free”, stayed with me alongside a number of horrors following visits to Sachsenhausen and Dachau. It felt as if the adage, which offered inmates an illusory path to liberation, also carried within it the truth of the camps, encapsulated by the central word, Macht. Used as a noun, Macht means Power or Might. The deceptively well-meaning Arbeit Macht Frei disguised, but unintentionally revealed, the only thing that really mattered in the context of the camps, Might.

The concentration camp slogan has become in my mind an emblem of sophisticated theorising serving the interest of brute power. Hitler’s party rarely hid its belief that might is right: the Arbeit Macht Frei signs are outliers rather than representatives of Nazi practice. However, most regimes, especially democratic ones, feel obliged to locate their actions in a moral framework, and the media, courts, citizens and allies of these nations often provide high-minded justifications for exercises of naked power. While the camp gates represent an extreme form of the logic commonly used by formally democratic countries, nothing that follows in this article should be taken to suggest an equivalence between Nazi crimes and policies adopted in contemporary times.

The case of Israel
Last week, the Donald Trump administration reversed a longstanding US position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, deeming them legal and paving the way for their permanent annexation. It was the latest in a century of betrayals faced by the Palestinians. This map shows how Israel has expanded in the territory formerly covered by the British Mandate for Palestine. European Zionists bought a few patches of land starting in the late nineteenth century. After the First World War, the British promised them a Jewish homeland within the Mandate. In 1947, this was formalised by the United Nations, which gave the Zionist side a large chunk of the region.

The Arabs rejected the Partition outright, and justifiably so because it violated the UN Charter’s principle of self-determination. They attempted to press their case by force, with four nations attacking the newborn state of Israel. When months of fighting ended, the Israelis had beaten back the combined Arab armies, and controlled not only the territory granted them by the UN, but 60% of the land given to the Palestinians. In 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive war against its neighbours, seizing the Golan Heights from Syria, the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the West Bank from Jordan. These countries retaliated in 1973 and did enough damage to bring a worried Israel to the negotiating table. The process culminated with the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of a peace deal brokered by Jimmy Carter.

At the present moment, Palestinians administer a tiny strip of land in Gaza and a few spots of territory in the West Bank, but have no country to call their own and no prospect of a contiguous nation-state emerging in the future. They would accept the offer made to them by Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but at that time, they wanted a return to 1967 borders. In 1967 they would have agreed to the 1947 plan, while in 1947 they believed the entire territory of the Mandate ought to belong to them.