Thousands of Palestinians gathered on 30thof March this year in the Gaza Strip to mark Land Day, an annual commemoration demonstrating their determination to fight Israeli occupation. They held Palestinian flags and banners reading, “We won’t forget our homeland” and “We won’t forget our right of return”. Even though the Israeli-Palestinian crisis dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, the recent development once again turned the world attention towards Israel-occupied territories. During the 1967 Six-Day War, an estimated 250,000 Palestinians fled the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the arrival of Israeli forces.
In October 2020, an Israeli court ruling affirmed that several Palestinian families living in East Jerusalem were to be expelled by May 2021 with their land handed over to Jewish settlers. In February 2021, several Palestinian families from this area made an appeal against the ruling. The Palestinians took to the streets to protest the pending expulsions. In May 2021, the protests escalated when the court ruled in favor of the expulsion.
More than 250 Palestinians were killed and nearly two thousand others wounded, and at least thirteen Israelis were killed over eleven days of unrest. The United Nations estimates that more than 72,000 Palestinians were displaced.
In December 2022, the ultra-right and religious coalition formed a government in Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. To consolidate his minority power in parliament, Netanyahu granted several concessions to the extreme right-wing and religious sections. The new government came to power at a tense moment, as 2022 marked the worst year since 2015 in terms of Palestinian deaths.
Of late protests have erupted in Israel and Jewish communities elsewhere against Netanyahu’s so-called judicial reforms. The protesters say Netanyahu is leading a judicial coup turning Israel into a dictatorship. There are many allegations of corruption against 73-old-Netanyahu and his corruption was exposed by the Panama Papers and Pandora Papers. He was indicted in three cases in 2019 on charges of corruption, taking bribes, breach of trust etc. It is alleged that he is hunting down the country's judges, investigative agencies, and the media that exposed his corrupt dealings.
People took to the streets against the Primer’s heinous act three months ago when law reforms were announced. According to the proposed Incapacitation Law, the power of the Supreme Court to hear or act against the Prime Minister has been removed. Israel’s Attorney General GaliBaharav-Miara stated that the adoption of this law would result in a conflict of interests. She said such a bill should not be brought at a time when the cases against the Prime Minister are pending in the courts and it would have an undue influence on the judiciary.
Prime Minister Netanyahu fired his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant over his opposition to the judicial reforms. On March 28, the Prime Minister had to temporally withdraw the bill as the country's trade unions came together to support the people's 12-week non-stop struggle across the country against Netanyahu’s dictatorial action.
While Israel’s present administration faces unprecedented internal turmoil, international pressure on the Palestinian issue is also unavoidable. Palestine has been recognized by 138 of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states, including the Vatican City. UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Türk recently expressed concern over the violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory after 11 Palestinians were killed and at least 100 injured in an Israeli operation in Nablus, followed by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. In January 2023 alone, the Israeli authorities reportedly demolished 132 Palestinian structures across 38 communities in the occupied West Bank, including 34 residential and 15 donor-funded structures. This figure represents a 135 percent increase, compared to the same period in 2022.
In its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Amnesty International is calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to recognize Israel’s crime of racial segregation and calls on all states to exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators of apartheid crimes to justice.
Since Israel was set up in 1948, all US administrations have regarded Israel as one of the most favored US protectorates. It is the hypocritical and inhumane policy of the US that encourages Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. The US war policy is to strengthen its economic power through the sale of weapons and military equipment and by spreading disharmony among countries . The North and South Korean War, the present tensions between China and India, the issue between China and Taiwan and the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran are the best examples of this nature. Pro-American regimes or rulers in each country were used throughout the history and at present to achieve their goals.
For more than 70 years, thousands of Palestinian and Israeli lives have been lost to these never-ending wars and struggles. Even in March, the US Congress authorized $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, supplementing the annual $3.7 billion in security assistance the US provides the country. This was given at a time when three powerful American banks had collapsed.
More than 75 years of occupation has led to widening dispossession, deepening deprivation and recurring and severe violations of the rights of Palestinian people, including the right to live. Peace-loving organizations and people from all over the world should urge the United States, Israel, and the United Nations to end these ongoing occupation of Palestine. In 1967, the United Nations agreed on a solution to the Palestine issue by establishing a sovereign, independent Palestine within the borders of 1967 and East Jerusalem as its Capital. Therefore, the United Nations has an utmost responsibility to uphold its adopted solution and bring peace and stability to the people on both sides.
By Eng. Nuwan Kumarasinghe
(The writer is an Executive Committee Member of the Peace & Solidarity Organization -Sri Lanka.)