After an informative yet frustrating meeting with United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) a few things are clear:
1. Apartheid is taking place in Israel/Palestine, even though the crime of apartheid is illegal by international law.
2. Israeli settlements continue to be constructed in Palestinian territories even though that is illegal by international law.
3. The separation wall continues to be constructed by Israelis within and throughout Palestinian territories, even though that is illegal by international law.
4. The problem with the Gaza strip (1.7 million Palestinians, 70% refugees) is its isolation from the rest of the world which has made it vulnerable to regimes such as Hamas. There are only 3 Gaza access points (Rafah, Karem Shalom, Erez) none of which lead into Israel proper. Although the entire west coast of Gaza is the Mediterranean Sea, Palestinians only have access to 6 nautical miles of it. Venture outside of those 6 miles and have your boat seized or worse be shot by Israeli officials. The economy is weak, infrastructure is unstable (12hrs of blackout daily) and sustainability is based highly on imports from Egypt, who probably is more at odds with Gaza than Israel is.
5. The problem in the West Bank, East Jerusalem included (sorta Palestinian but not really…referred to as occupied Palestinian territory), is fragmentation. The West Bank is separated into 3 areas: A-Palestinian, B-Shared, C-Israeli, however much of the Palestinian territory is occupied by illegal Israeli settlements (60% of west bank controlled by Israel). This has disjointed Palestinian territories in such a way that they now have to bypass the illegal Israeli settlements to access their once neighboring legal territories, because going through them is not allowed and enforced by Israeli military. My question to the UN was, “if there are these blatant violations of international law, why have consequences not been levied and why do these violations continue to occur, unchecked?” Their answer, “it is not the mandate of the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs to enforce international law, only to analyze and research human rights violations and report our findings to the UN Security Council…it’s complicated.” I don’t buy it.
Here’s why accountability lacks:
1. Jesus. Jesus was a Jew and the Israelites are God’s chosen people. Politics and faith are inextricably linked here, so much so that it’s standard that your ID card lists your faith. Whenever I have a conversation with Christians about the oppression being brought against Palestinians…the response is unequivocally, “well…yea…but the Israelites are God’s chosen people.” Agreed. But I don’t think God chose them so they could exclude another group of people.
2: the Holocaust. There is widespread guilt among the international community over the genocide of Jews, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t make Jews exempt to the law of the land. African Americans surely have not benefited from such grace in the criminal justice system for enduring slavery; in fact we have been over prosecuted under law.
3. The United States’ silence on the situation and simultaneous support of it. Israel is the #1 recipient of US aid in the world. Majority of those dollars fund the Israeli military. The military is responsible for establishing illegal outposts in Palestinian territories that eventually grow into illegal settlements. In a circuitous way, US tax payers support illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. How does that make you feel?
Points 1 and 2 won’t change. They are historical facts. However 3 most certainly can and has the potential to right the wrongs in the region. Danny Seidemann, who is Jewish by the way, said “John Kerry is the last hope to a 2 state solution (an equitable, contiguous, Israel and Palestine, respectively).” He believes it’s still possible, and so do I.