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Guest Opinion: Palestine - The Objective Reality

Palestine - The Objective Reality

By Steve McKinlay

My contribution to the infamous 1981 Springbok tour protests involved stopping traffic on the Hutt Motorway along with a couple of other incidents I won’t mention for fear of incriminating those involved. Thousands of other New Zealanders who disagreed with the South African apartheid policy took part in causing a general public nuisance during the tour.

A few short years later I recall dancing and singing along to the song “Free Nelson Mandela” by the Special AKA. The satisfaction came in knowing that in some small part we changed the world. Mandela was freed in 1990 and South Africa abandoned apartheid, the ANC taking power in 1994. Although it would be naïve to consider that global anti apartheid movements alone brought about the change, they certainly cemented public opinion – almost everyone agrees, racial segregation is morally wrong, no government ought to be able to get away with the systematic brutalisation and humiliation of a people.

November 22 of this year will mark the 25th anniversary of U.N. Resolution 242. The resolution followed the 6 Day War in which Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, for those who haven’t heard of the Resolution, it clearly expresses two principles;

“Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force” [1];

The resolution simply affirms the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state can live in security, a reasonable ideology in anyone’s books. However this resolution has been austerely ignored by Israel and the US lending credence to the argument that the US pick and choose which UN resolutions to enforce according to what suits themselves.

Let us be clear, military occupations are harsh and brutal, since the Six Day War in 1967 Palestinians have been subjected to systematic destruction of their homes, terrorism, torture, humiliation, collective punishment, expulsion, and censorship.

There are plenty of viable comparisons, the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, South Africans apartheid policies, or Iraqs invasion of Kuwait.

What does the world expect, that the Palestinians would bow their heads and just take it? Terrorism is a political disorder at the core of which is an aggrieved group and there is no more an aggrieved people in the world at present than Palestinians.

I have no doubt I would react in a similar fashion if a people occupied my home, terrorised and killed my family and friends, drove my people into banishment. There are no excuses for the killing of innocent people, however there is also no excuse for the acquisition of territory by war and Israel ought to comply immediately with UN Resolution 242. The Palestinian’s reaction is unsurprising; it follows well-trodden historical precedence albeit harrowing to our sensibilities.

The idea that the solution to the Middle East conflict is extremely complex is American and Israeli propaganda. The first step in any settlement is fundamentally simple. A settlement will involve recognition of the right to self-determination of Jews in the state of Israel (something like the boundaries determined during 1947 UN Resolution partitioning the Palestinian state) and the right to self-determination of the Palestinians, everyone knows what the Palestinian state would be – The Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The settlement will involve a complete and unconditional withdrawal by Israel from all occupied territories. Of course this two-state proposal is obvious, it has been obvious for years.

Essentially the Israeli opposition to peace is rooted in racism. According to Israel there is a “demographic problem” that is, too many Arabs in a Jewish state [2].

This of course is a clear cut case of racism. Another reason is water. A large percentage of Israel’s water comes from the West Bank. Israel has extremely limited water resources, hence it is of tremendous importance to Israel to retain the West Bank.

Answers in regard to why the US in effect opposes peace in the Middle East are slightly more complex, however it is fair to say that the fear of “radical Arab nationalism” is a major contributor to US sponsorship of Israeli state terrorism [3].

Controlling Middle East oil resources is essential to the US maintaining a grip on its global hegemony. The main threat to this interest is an indigenous one, Arab independence, or Arab countries perusing a course contrary to American welfare. The obvious solution to “radical Arab nationalism” is the highly militarised and strategically located Israel.

Evidence for this insight paned out in the 6 Day War where Israel gained status as an American “strategic asset” by effectively knocking out Nasser’s Egyptian force which was regarded as the main Arab nationalist threat of the day [4].

The continuing destabilisation of Arab nationalism ensures that America continues to hold the upper hand in regard to Middle East oil resources.

The official US-Israeli line in regard any political settlement is to raise security issues, “those mad Arabs want to kill every Jew and force them into the sea.”

This is a total lie. There have been several bona fide peace offers to the Israelis, beginning with Sadat’s offer in 1971. Sadat offered a full peace treaty in line with UN Resolution 242 with security guarantees, but Israel and the United States turned it down. In 1976 at the UN Security Council, Syria, Jordan and Egypt proposed a two-state settlement – the US vetoed it.

The current Palestinian uprising or Intifada was the direct result of Generals Barak and Sharon’s Israeli arrogance by visiting the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in September 2000 and Israel ought to wear some accountability.

It is likely that this provocation by Sharon was due to Arafat’s lack of desire to agree permanently with the Oslo accord and no wonder, likened to the South African Bantustans, the agreement would have imposed an apartheid like regime on the Palestinian people.

There was a Palestinian approved alternative to the Bantustan Oslo agreement. Proposed by Professor Francis Boyle it was never accepted as a possible solution by either Israel or the US. Boyle explains,

“I can state unequivocally that if there had been good faith on the part of the governments of Israel and the United States back in 1991, there could have been negotiated a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement between Israel, on the one hand, and Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, respectively, on the other, no later than by the end of 1993. The conclusion is inexorable that the governments of Israel and the United States were never seriously interested in obtaining a comprehensive and just Middle East peace settlement in the first place. Rather, Israel's perpetration and prolongation of its ‘low intensity conflict’ against Palestine and the Palestinians as well as against Lebanon, the Lebanese, and Palestinian refugees involuntarily living in Lebanon suit the interests of the interpenetrated security-military-industrial-complexes that really control the governments of the United States and Israel.” [5]

The blame for the current Middle Eastern problems, Israel’s ethnic cleansing, as well the global ripples of terrorism it is fuelling must lay squarely in the lap of United States self-serving foreign policy and Israel’s outright refusal to comply with UN Resolution 242.

The UN Resolution still stands. It is a necessary first step to any peace deal. The greater the span of time between the 1967 UN Resolution and a free Palestinian State the more difficult any peaceful settlement will become, Israel is becoming increasingly entrenched in the occupied territories.

US funded construction projects in the territories continue with increasing intensity. This Machiavellian tactic seeks to solidify Israels claim to the territories by settling Jewish citizens in them. The effect on the Palestinian people is to further fragment their society; the Israeli hope can only be that the problem will eventually just go away.

We found the state of affairs in apartheid South Africa repugnant, Occupied East Timor has been liberated, America ran to the rescue of Kuwait in 1990, and Milosovic is being held accountable for atrocities committed during the Balkan conflicts.

Consistency would dictate that we turn our attention to the dismantling of the Palestinian culture, immoral and UN condemned appropriation of their lands by the Israeli State and the oppression, torture and murder of their people. Only then might we see a desire on their part to discuss peace.

Spare a thought on the 22nd of November this year, a thought to the Palestinian mothers who have lost their children, and their homes, spare a thought to the men of Palestine who have lost their dignity their livelihoods and their country.

With that loss of that dignity comes an anger, an anger that pans out as exploding people in packed buses. The stripping of Palestinian dignity and self-determination by Israel the United States and its supporters over the past 25 years have direct links to international terrorism. If you doubt this claim remind yourself of Winston Churchill’s promise the British people over 60 years ago.

“We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Why should we expect the subjugated and starving Palestinian people to think any differently?


[1] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

[2] This is discussed in a text written by Yossi Beilin, top advisor to Shimon Peres, which outlines Israeli Labor cabinet notes between 67 and 77, during the time when initial discussions regarding the occupied territories were being conducted.

[3] In fact this was first outlined in a US NSC Memorandum 1958, where support for Israel was a “logical corollary” for opposition to radical Arab nationalism. Later 1993 pp. 17-32, NSC Memorandum identifies Arab nationalism as “inimical to Western interests”.

[4] Chomsky., (2002), Understanding Power, p126.

[5] Boyle is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois. Boyle, F., Obituary for the Oslo Accords, sourced from

****** ENDS ******

- Steve McKinlay is a philosopher and lecturer of computing at Wellington Institute of Technology, Wellington, New Zealand. - -

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