Janfrie Wakim: New Zealand must show Israel cost of staying its course

By Janfrie Wakim

Demographics, history and control of land are the only factors by which both Israelis and Palestinians realistically assess their future and by which the conflict can be understood. Photo / AP
Demographics, history and control of land are the only factors by which both Israelis and Palestinians realistically assess their future and by which the conflict can be understood. Photo / AP

Our Government and the United Nations Security Council are optimistic if they think the UNSC Resolution 2334 is a bold and balanced measure which will bring a two-state peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The only thing new about it was the lifting of the United States veto which had protected Israel from any UNSC criticism during the Obama years.

Previous US Administrations, from President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to Secretary of State James Baker in 1991, have given much harsher responses to Israel's military or settlement adventures than Secretary of State John Kerry's recent tepid statements.

Other than Obama's betrayal of his previous obsequiousness towards Israel, what generated this resolution was the increasing rate of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel has continued building them, contrary to clear international law and its own Oslo Agreement undertakings, since it conquered these lands in 1967.

Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett says there are now 650,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the proposed area of the Palestinian state. The resolution becomes quixotic in the context of such a non-reversible demographic injection designed by Israel to thwart the two-state outcome.

Demographics, history and control of land are the only factors by which both Israelis and Palestinians realistically assess their future and by which the conflict can be understood.

The UN General Assembly divided Palestine in 1947, giving the minority Jewish immigrant population the majority of Palestine's land to form Israel. For the Israeli leaders this was but the first step.

In 1948 the Israeli military expanded well into the land designated for the Arab state and expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians from Palestine. Jordan shared the spoils by taking over East Jerusalem and the West Bank and took in most of the refugees, who now number about six million, the largest permanent refugee population in the world.

Israel's greatest diplomatic success in the Camp David Accords was removing consideration of these refugees from the peace process. That, however, has only halved Israel's demographic nightmare.

While about 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish, the Israeli Government can usually manage to live with that minority.

The Israeli electoral franchise extends to Jewish settlers in the occupied territories but there is no vote for the nearly three million Palestinians in those territories. If Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank it would have to give everyone the vote. It has used an endlessly prolonged peace process to save itself from having to do this.

Israel has options.

It can annex the occupied territories, extend the franchise to everyone and accept that Jews are a minority.

Or it can withdraw to a more modest and legally less suspect geographical area within the limits set by the UN in 1947.

Or it can continue to ignore world opinion and international law, steal land to build settlements, characterise all criticism and disagreement as anti-Semitic, systematically destroy Palestinian homes, livelihoods and farmland, periodically bomb Gaza or South Lebanon and basically muddle on until it hopes the Palestinians will give up.

New Zealand, as the Western country most identified with UNSC 2334, needs to show Israel there is a cost to its third option. We can refuse to accept imports or Israeli visitors from the occupied territories.

We can pull out of the recent NZ-Israel Film Co-operation Agreement which lacks any distinction between activities in Israel and in the occupied territories. We can put a stop to a range of economic and academic collaboration between Israel and New Zealand.

Our Government should tell the NZ Superannuation Fund to divest in Israeli banks which fund West Bank settlements. And Murray McCully can tell Netanyahu we don't like countries declaring war on New Zealand for pointing out what international law is.

He could tell him Netanyahu doesn't need to send his recalled ambassador back to New Zealand until Israel behaves.

Janfrie Wakim is a long-time Auckland campaigner for human rights in Palestine.

- NZ Herald

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