NZ must be stronger on Israel’s annexation plan

25 Jun

Israelis protest in Tel Aviv this week against the government’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.[Getty-Images]

Donna Miles-Mojab, Opinion, Stuff, 25 June 2020

It is amazing how a passing comment can leave a lasting impression.

In 2018, a young Israeli man joined a tour group I was guiding at the Christchurch Art Gallery.

As part of the tour, we covered British artist John Stezaker’s fascinating exhibition of distinctive collages of out-of-date images.

Stezaker’s work is meant to speak to our longing for the “Lost World” – but when I asked the Israeli visitor what he thought the artist’s main message was, he guessed it had something to do with the Holocaust because Stezaker’s surname was Jewish.

The young man’s assumption that the work of a Jewish artist was bound to be influenced by the Holocaust was eye-opening for me.

In the past, I had struggled to fully understand why Israel – militarily and politically a powerful nation – would still frame every issue in terms of its need for security, rather than in terms of the broader and essential concept of equal justice.

The young man’s comment brought home to me why it was almost psychologically impossible for Israel to see past its insecurity and how essential it was to have a fair and honest broker to achieve a just solution there.

For decades, the role of brokering peace has been mainly assigned to the United States, but its twin “blind spots” for Palestinian politics and Israel’s power (it’s not a conflict, it’s an occupation) has hampered its ability to act as an effective broker.

President Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” made it clear the current US administration is only interested in appeasing Israel for its own political gains.

The fact is there can be no peace in the Middle East without complete equality of rights between Israelis and Palestinians and without acknowledging and dealing with the injustices of the past. In fact, the continued racial tensions in the US are proof of that.

A February 18 file photo shows the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Efraim in the Jordan Valley. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex the valley and other West Bank settlements, in line with US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan. [AP]

Under the current two-state plan proposed by the US, Palestinians cannot establish their capital in East Jerusalem, are left completely confined within Israel with no contiguity with any state outside, have no control over security, no control over their borders, their waters or underground resources, and no control over their air space or population register.

And yet, despite this blatant lack of sovereignty, jurisdiction and authority, the Palestinians are supposed to accept the lie that the US plan offers them a state of their own.

To add insult to injury, Israel will soon be voting on annexation of illegal settlements built on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, despite an international outcry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation plan should bring stronger condemnation from New Zealand, Donna Miles-Mojab writes. [AP]

Almost 50 UN human rights experts have reportedly described Israel’s annexation plan as the vision of “21st century apartheid”.

In fact, for those interested in history, it is clear the vision behind the creation of Israel has always been to displace and replace the existing society.

There is no denying that the persecuted Jews needed a refuge but the early Zionists went to Palestine not as refugees, but as colonists, with the clear intention to conquer the land and supersede the Arab population.

There is ample evidence for this in the writings of early Zionist founders (see Herzl and Jabotinsky for example) as well as in the thinking of British politicians such as David Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour, who supported Israel’s plans, not to oppose anti-Semitism, but for self-profit.

As the late public intellectual Edward Said put it, when your house is on fire, it is okay to jump but it is not okay to jump on top of other people.

It is true the Zionists came to Palestine with their own capital and labour and without the intention to exploit or commit genocide, as other colonial powers did (think the US, Australia, Canada and, to a lesser extent, our own country). But the plan was and remains to drive the Arabs out and to create a modern state that serves only the needs of Jewish Israelis.

What Israel is doing to Palestinians is neither acceptable nor sustainable. The safety and security that Jewish Israelis crave can only be achieved through compete equality in personal, religious, civil, political and national rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.

A recent statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters expressed serious concerns over proposed Israeli annexation plans, but it failed to deliver the strong message needed in response to Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law.

Saying “both sides have legitimate issues and grievances” fails to acknowledge the huge power imbalance that exists between Israelis, who reign supreme as settler colonists, and Palestinians, who have nothing.

When Russia annexed Crimea, sanctions were put in place by then Foreign Minister Murray McCully. Our current minister should acknowledge the unjust one-state reality imposed on Palestinians and make it clear it would take a similar stance against Israel if it went ahead with its proposed annexation plans.

Donna Miles-Mojab is an Iranian-Kiwi freelance journalist based in Christchurch. Her commentary on topics relating to human rights, migration and Middle Eastern politics are published regularly in the New Zealand media including at The Press where she is a columnist.

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