The author, Chris Khamis is a British Palestinian who has been active in the Palestinian solidarity and labour movements for many decades.
The article was first Published in The Organiser Newsletter of Momentum supporters and Trade Unionists in Birmingham
This year, 2017, is a year of significant but unpleasant anniversaries for
Palestinians. It is 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, usually seen as the origin of the Israel/Palestine conflict, which said that the British Government “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” thereby promising a land they didn’t own and where Jewish people were a small minority to the Zionist movement, supported at the time by a minority of Jewish people worldwide.
It is also the 60th anniversary of the Six Day War when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian territories which remain under occupation to this day.
At a personal level, this year is the 69th anniversary of the newly formed Israeli state telling my late father that he could not return from his studies in Britain to the town near Nazareth where he was born and brought up.
They told him he was a refugee, ignoring his valid study visa on his British Mandate of Palestine passport. Unfortunately, my father was a Palestinian Arab; if he had been Jewish from any part of the world he would have
had the right to enter Israel. My father’s predicament was just one of the same faced by over 700,000
Palestinian Arabs who fled the fighting in 1947 and 1948 or who were driven out by Zionist forces. All have been denied the internationally recognised human right of refugees to return to their homeland. Palestinian
refugees now number perhaps 7 million, many living in poverty in refugee camps.
The refugees’ and my father’s predicament goes to the nub of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Zionist answer to a vicious, mainly European history of antisemitism culminating in the Holocaust was to create a state where Jewish people had rights denied to others of a different ethnic or religious background, even if these people had been living there for hundreds of years. In response to racism, Zionism proposed and delivered a state which discriminated and continues to discriminate on racist grounds. It’s as simple as that. And the consequences, not just for Palestinians
but for Jewish Israelis and for Jewish people around the world who still face antisemitism, have not been pleasant.
Solving the conflict is not so simple. Israel’s continued building of settlements in the Occupied Territories and brutal treatment of Palestinians who live there is perhaps well known, less is written on the plight of Palestinian refugees, on discrimination faced by Palestinians who are Israeli citizens or the attempts at ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem. International institutions and the western powers occasionally issue condemnations but have singularly failed to stop the medieval siege of Gaza, the growth of settlements in the West Bank that is making the concept of a two-state solution a non-starter, the increasing discrimination against Palestinian Israeli citizens and the rising racism in the Israeli population.
That is why we need the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This non-violent movement was launched by 170 Palestinian civil society groups in 2005. Inspired by the success of a similar campaign against apartheid South Africa, they called for BDS until Israel:
1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall.
2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
These are demands for basic human rights backed by international law,yet for being active in this movement, I am denied the right by recent Israeli legislation to visit my Palestinian relatives and my father’s grave.And in a display of amazingly twisted logic, there are people who claim that BDS is anti-Semitic. (So the campaign against apartheid South Africawas anti-White?)
The Israel/Palestine conflict has gone on for too long. Too many people have died and too many continue to suffer. Britain has an historic responsibility to try and find a just, peaceful and sustainable solution based on human rights and democratic principles. We need to pressurise our government to live up to its responsibilities but we can also do something by supporting the BDS movement.