Monday, 29 November 2021 will mark the 44th observance of the United Nations (UN) International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Sadly, this day will once again highlight the shortcomings of the UN and its member states — 74 years since the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II) to partition Palestine into two separate states, this has yet to occur.
Instead, we witness an occupation that grows more entrenched with each passing year. Recent developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) are disconcerting, undermining decades of efforts aimed at achieving sustainable political settlements and self-determination.
Israel as a state has continuously shown disdain for international human rights law with respect to the rights of the people in the OPTs, trampling on their right to self-determination which is enshrined in the two key international human rights instruments, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Socioeconomic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), both of which have as their first Article, the Right to Self-Determination.
In May this year, we witnessed harrowing events emanating from actions by the occupying force which imposed restrictions that ignited rising tensions, protests and violence. The pending, forcible evictions and demolition orders of Palestinian property in the neighbourhoods of Sheik Jarrah and Silwan further inflamed tensions, spurring violence. The result was the loss of lives of innocent women, children and the elderly.
The May events and subsequent developments, especially around Sheik Jarrah and Silwan — and the government of Israel’s annexation agenda it pursues — shed light on how Israeli laws and practices are seemingly engineered to violate Palestinian rights.
Palestinians living in the OPTs are denied fundamental freedoms through the systemic discrimination and subjugation of an Israeli-designed system under which Palestinian rights fail to exist.
This does not only illustrate the occupying power’s continuous disrespect of internationally adopted provisions and principles; it would also suggest that it may be exercising an apartheid-like system against Palestinians. These unacceptable practices cannot continue and we, as UN member states, have a responsibility to bring an end to these injustices.
As was the case with South Africa before democracy in 1994, the international community must consider the impact of Israel’s systematic violation of human rights and enforcement of discrimination against the Palestinian people. Civil society organisations, including Human Rights Watch and the Israeli NGO, B’tselem, have been clear on Israel’s apartheid-like policies.
It is therefore time to abandon the mere solidarity rhetoric and for the UN and its member states to take appropriate action just as it did with apartheid South Africa.
Our collective conscience cannot allow us to continue to be spectators as Palestinian lives move through cycles of violence and oppression as they have for the past seven decades and yet, on an annual basis, we pledge our solidarity to the people of Palestine without any further concrete change in their plight.
We need to stop reacting momentarily as events unfold and instead be proactive in our approach as we restore hope and work towards achieving a Two-State solution.
Part of this action is holding the international community, and in particular the UN Security Council, accountable for its evident lack of action in recent years to act against the State of Israel, despite the fact that Israel continues to flout international law and practices.
To maintain the credibility of the UN, we must insist that all member states abide by the resolutions we adopt. Our words must transcend rhetoric and translate into actions aimed at safeguarding the rights of the Palestinian people, protection of their land and property, and to provide the necessary impartial support towards achieving a just and lasting solution to the conflict.
We need to intensify the call for international action, with the UN playing a leading role, to eradicate the scourge of racism and discrimination and allow those whose basic rights have been violated to enjoy inherent human rights that others get to enjoy on a daily basis.
The denial of the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced, erodes any prospect of Palestinian statehood and subverts hope of a just and lasting settlement towards peace.
Similarly, the onus also falls on the shoulders of the respective Palestinian actors to work towards creating a favourable atmosphere that provides for a willingness to initiate dialogue and reconciliation amongst themselves. As a united front, a viable and sustainable peace plan can be put forward so that Palestine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and economic viability is guaranteed, with sovereign equality between Palestine and Israel.
South Africa reaffirms its commitment to the Palestinian people in their quest to achieve their inalienable rights and build a future of peace, dignity, justice and security.
South Africa firmly believes that lasting peace can only be attained through restoring all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the Two-State solution and the relevant UN resolutions and international terms of reference. DM