SHEILA BUNWAREE

The Jerusalem Post of 21st May reports that Joe Biden describes the conversations with Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians and other Middle Eastern countries around a cease fire, as ‘hour by hour talks and intense diplomatic activity’. The truce achieved is most certainly welcome despite the fact that it comes some eleven days after violence erupted in the Al Aqsa mosque and other neighbourhoods, costing civilian lives inclusive of children – 232 on the Palestinian side and 12 on the Israeli).  The human tragedy unfolding during the last 2 weeks’ spate of violence, without the UN Security Council being able to put an end to hostilities, speaks volumes about how fractured and weak the international body has become in the face of new global power rivalries. Hypocrisy runs deep within the international diplomacy framework, with the US itself said to have blocked an earlier UN Resolution for a cessation of hostilities.  Is the current truce a ploy to build on and expand the Abraham accords at the expense of Palestine, allowing for continued violation of human rights?

If there is one common point between Trump and Biden, it is perhaps to do with the Abraham accords. The latter were signed on 15th September 2020 between  Israel, the Arab United Emirates and Bahrain in order to supposedly bring more peace and constructive diplomatic ties to the region. These accords are termed and seen as the ‘normalisation of relationships’ with Israel in the region. They have subsequently been enlarged by the signatures and ratification of Sudan and Morocco too. If these accords are seen as a ‘winning formula’ for the region by some; what is in it for ordinary Palestinians remains a burning question. Will the truce just brokered with the support of Egypt, within the ‘normalisation of relationships’ framework, help towards an improvement in Palestinians’ daily existential conditions?

While the Abraham accords pave the way for more trade, investment, tourism and technological collaboration, perhaps even the ‘sharing of intelligence’ between the different partners, they are also seen as a strategic alliance against Iran, as the latter continues to be viewed as a major threat to the region’s stability. But what does the latter imply for the rights and development of Palestinians? Can the world, supposedly in search of a common humanity, particularly after Covid-19 which caught us all unawares, continue to close its eyes to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, to the demolition of people’s houses, forced removal and the persistent violation of international humanitarian law. The shift in geopolitics/strategic relations and what seems to be an accompanying decline and weakening of Arab solidarity towards the Palestinian cause will certainly weigh on those searching to establish the fundamental rights of Palestinians to dignity, to safe homes, to food and water, opportunities for their children and to self determination.

A recently released report by Human Rights Watch, entitled: ‘A Threshold Crossed…’ argues that : ‘Israel’s policies towards the Palestinian people have met the definitions of apartheid and persecution and thus of crimes against humanity…’. This resonates with voices such as that of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Faki Mahamat, African Union Commission’s chairperson and Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, to name just a few. Is there scope for these progressive voices to reshape global diplomacy?

Can the African Union, a body born out of the continent’s anti-imperialist struggle, play a leveraging role and assist in shaping global diplomacy towards a long lasting solution to this conflict and stop paying lip service to the 2-state solution. The latter has been proposed for a very long time now but has kept failing. Will the younger generation of Palestinians (Christians and Muslims), whose powers to appreciate ground reality and to mobilize as a result of instantaneous information, through social media, falling in the palm of their hands, be willing to buy yet again the 2-state solution, perceived as systematically failing them?

The African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat openly and strongly condemned the bombardments in the Gaza strip and the violent attacks in the Al Aqsa mosque committed by Israeli security forces against Palestinian worshippers. Mahamat reiterated the continued AU’s support for the Palestinian people in their “legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

In a recent interview accorded to France 24, during the Summit on the Financing of African Economies, Cyril Ramaphosa likened Israel’s aggression and oppression of the Palestinian people to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. He argued that the scenes and images coming from the streets of Gaza, Sheikjarra and other locations, reminded him of the painful history of his own country. He made it clear that the Palestinians had the full support of South Africa and that negotiations – true ones built around respect and rights of each other in accordance with international law was absolutely necessary to move forward in a meaningful way. In a letter published in the ‘Mail&Guardian’ of 17 May 2021, Cyril Ramaphosa notes:« ….For all who believe in equality, justice and human rights, we cannot but be moved and indeed angered, at the pain and humiliation being inflicted on the Palestinian people, for it echoes our own….Israel’s actions are a violation of international law…They show a total disregard for successive UN Security Council resolutions that call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and for the fulfillment of the rights of the people… ». Ramaphosa’s views are very much in line with Desmond Tutu’s who commenting on the Palestinian plight noted:« …their humiliation is familiar to all Black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government… ».

Can Africa speak with one voice and rally in defence of the Palestinian cause like it did around the Chagossian question, in support of Mauritius’s claim on Diego Garcia. As a full fledged member of the African Union, would Mauritius be prepared to revisit its diplomatic posturing?  Reading through the communiqué of the Mauritius Ministry of Foreign affairs regarding the Israel-Palestine Conflict however, one realizes the extent to which the current regime has become disconnected and indifferent to issues of oppression, marginalization, exclusion and the violation of human rights. The Mauritius communiqué states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, « expresses concern on the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine which has led to several casualties through bombardments and launch of rockets and expresses its sympathy with all the victims of the violence…. »

It goes on to say that : « …Mauritius supports the two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine existing side by side, and we call for renewed international efforts to find a just and lasting solution to the long-standing conflict in accordance with the relevant United Nations Resolution… »

Mauritius’s timid approach to this long-standing conflict is perhaps a reflection of the growing incapacity of the Jugnauth’s regime for compassion, for empathy and justice. Adopting what is perceived as a neutral stand in situations of injustice, major power imbalance and disproportionate murderous response by one party, is tantamount to being on the side of the oppressor. As a citizen, I claim my right to differ with Mauritius’s foreign policy on this particular issue.

While the many people demonstrating in support of the Palestinian people and justice for all is laudable and provides hope, it is important not to apportion blame solely on external parties and the oppressor. Often internal leadership is also responsible for the poor and inhumane state of affairs. So in addition to consolidating resistance vis-à-vis the oppressor, Palestinians and their supporters have to find ways to address their own complex domestic  politics.