Christmas is approaching and as Christians all over the world prepare to celebrate one of the most important days in their religious calendar, the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, stands surrounded by Israel’s menacing apartheid wall.
The International Court of Justice has stated numerous times that the barrier is a clear violation of international law and yet still it stands. The Israeli state has become well-versed in ignoring the protests of the world community.
The protests have been numerous and ongoing since the manifest abandonment of the so-called Oslo Agreement of 1993 which was hailed as the breakthrough that was needed to secure peace in the Middle East and guarantee an independent Palestine. Over twenty years later, Palestine is still occupied and the recent election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, does not bode well for the future.
President-elect Trump recently nominated David Friedman as the next US ambassador to Israel. It is a disgracefully inflammatory choice from Trump, who, only last year, said that he would be “neutral” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has since become increasingly bellicose and pro-Israeli in his public statements.
The nomination of Friedman should set alarm bells ringing for everyone working for a peaceful and just solution to the problems in the Middle East. The proposed new ambassador is well known for his extremist views with regards to Palestine.
He is an open supporter of the aggressive colonization policies by the so-called “settlers” that are in breach of international law – those same policies which have very little support among many Jewish organizations in the United States and indeed face increasingly greater opposition from many people in Israel.
Friedman is known as an ardent supporter of the Beit El-organization and others groups who fund the illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. Recently, it was also revealed that Trump himself has contributed financially to this organization which is firmly placed to the extreme right in the Israeli political map.
The New York Times has been highly critical of the proposed appointment. Friedman is a regular contributor to a right-wing Israeli news site where he has criticized US reconciliation talks with Iran, accused Obama of anti-Semitism and compared liberal American Jews who support peace talks with the Palestinians to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the war.
The approach currently prevailing in the Trump camp represents a clear break with previous US foreign policy which was concerned with maintaining at least a pretense of neutrality and poses a real threat to future peace negotiations.
In the run up to the election, Friedman declared himself an open opponent of the two-state solution and more recently has publically floated the idea of annexing the entire West Bank and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – a clear threat to Palestinian rights and clearly in violation of international law.
Wasel Abu Yousif, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee, told The Jerusalem Post recently that “Such a move would be very dangerous, as it would entrench the occupation and violate all international legitimacy and laws.”
In the United States, Jewish groups are mobilizing and will urge the Senate to reject Friedman’s nomination. Should the appointment be approved, it is a sure sign that the Oslo Agreement and the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead and buried.
The positive forces in Israel and Palestine who have been working to build bridges and create the circumstances for a peaceful solution are now under even greater pressure. If they are to prosper in a country where extreme nationalism dominates and where the dehumanization of Palestinians is approved government policy they will need the assistance of the international community.
Even more so now, given that the world’s greatest superpower is apparently abandoning all previous pretense of neutrality and is clearly, and very publically, taking the side of the occupying power and flying in the face of both international law and world public opinion.
A few weeks ago over 100 trade union delegates, representing twenty nine unions and three million members from all over Europe, gathered in a historic first meeting in Brussels to challenge their governments’ complicity with the Israeli occupation and establish a cross European platform in solidarity with the people of Palestine. International trade union solidarity is now more important than ever.
A full twenty three years after the Oslo Agreement, none of the basic rights of the Palestinian people have been met and the recent turn of affairs in the USA would seem to indicate that a fair and peaceful solution which includes the Palestinians is becoming increasingly more distant.
International trade unionists need to raise the pressure on Israel and the USA and lobby our own governments to demand an end to the Israeli oppression and occupation that undermines the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace and prosperity. The latest developments show that the trade union movement must renew its efforts and remind the USA, along with the rest of the world, that it is the illegal occupying forces of the state of Israel that must be called to account if we are ever to ensure a just solution for all.
At the Brussels conference, an appeal was issued to more trade unions to get involved in Palestine – if your union is interested in affiliating to the campaign, please contact the organizers here.