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Analysis: Britain's moral duty

Nov. 11, 2012 1:44 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 11, 2012 6:31 P.M.)
By: Wissam Abu Zeid
The journey that will lead to achieving membership of the UN for an independent Palestinian state has been long and troubled. It began in 1917, when UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the Zionist movement, promising to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, and that Britain would use its best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object. At that time, Palestine was under the mandate of Great Britain.

Thirty-one years later, the people of Palestine suffered one of the most painful exodus in recent history. More than 800,000 Palestinians were uprooted from their homes, villages and cities after a series of massacres carried out by Zionist militias such as the Irgun, the Stern gang and the Haganah.

After World War II, Folke Bernadotte was unanimously chosen to be the UN Security Council mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1947-1948. He was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948 by the Stern gang's Lehi group while pursuing his official duties. The decision to assassinate him had been taken by Natan Yellin-Mor, Yisrael Eldad and Yitzhak Shamir, who was later to become prime minister of Israel.

On the morning of Nov. 29, 1947, and against the will of the Palestinian people, the General Assembly in New York voted for the partition of Palestine and accepted Resolution 181. It was supported by 33 votes with 13 opposed and 10 abstentions including Britain, whose prime minister, Clement Attlee, saw to it that Britain's Commonwealth partners voted for it.

Palestine was thus divided into 3 parts: a Jewish part, a Palestinian part and an internationally administered zone to include the city of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum to be administered by the United Nations. After 10 years, a referendum would be held to seek the views of the city’s residents. Today, that referendum is dead history.

In 1967, Israel launched a war against Arab countries and occupied the rest of Palestine, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1974, the historic leader of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat, stood in front of world leaders at the General Assembly and addressed them: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”.

Twenty-four years later in Algeria, the Palestinian National Council adopted a Declaration of Independence. Arafat himself announced the declaration which renounced violence and terrorism, recognized Israel's right to exist, and accepted UN Resolutions 242 and 338 as the framework for peace negotiations and a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The declaration was written by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

In 1993, the Oslo Accord was signed between Israel and PLO. The accord provided for the creation of a Palestinian interim self-government, the Palestinian National Authority. The accord also called for the withdrawal of the Israeli army from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

It was anticipated that this arrangement would last for a five-year interim period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated (beginning no later than May 1996). Permanent issues such as positions on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and borders were deliberately left to future negotiations.

In 1995, the accord was followed by Oslo II. Neither promised Palestinian statehood.

After 20 years of negotiations between Israel and PLO, Israel reoccupied huge areas of the West Bank, built more settlements and brought more than 235,000 settlers to them and still no clear path toward statehood. In a unilateral move, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

In addition, Israel built an apartheid separation wall to create new facts on ground and what amounts to a situation similar to apartheid. Palestinians are daily punished by the Israeli occupation army at checkpoints and humiliated by its soldiers. Over 1.2 million olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli occupation forces since 1967 and Palestinians are denied access to their lands during harvest.

Moreover and according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, from the Six Day War to the First Intifada in 1988, over 600,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli jails for a week or more. Rory McCarthy, The Guardian's Jerusalem correspondent, estimated that one-fifth of the population has at one time been imprisoned since 1967.

The Palestinian people are still suffering from the longest occupation in the recent history and they are still the only nation under occupation.

Last month, President Mahmoud Abbas said in his speech at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly: “Israel refuses to end the occupation and refuses to allow the Palestinian people to attain their rights and freedom and rejects the independence of the State of Palestine. Israel is promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe, a new Nakba.”

This month, we are determined to approach the UN to demand a non-member status of the independent state of Palestine based on the UN resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative, European declarations on the peace process and the Road Map.

Britain will experience a moral test when voting on the Palestinian application. Will Britain correct its historical crime against Palestinian people or will it continue its support for injustice?

The author is a Palestinian writer in Lebanon.
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