December 2, 2014
In Blog News
Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (11:32): I thank the member for Calwell for bringing this motion forward. I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This motion is particularly pertinent at a time when Israel is facing severe internal and external criticism for its proposed ‘Jewish state law’, which will entrench apartheid in that state. It is also pertinent when there are clear signs that the international community is no longer prepared to accept empty platitudes of support for a two-state solution accompanied by unconvincing attempts at peace negotiations while the Israeli government continues to create more ‘facts on the ground’ in the form of settlements.
Sweden recently joined the 135 states that already recognise the state of Palestine. The UK and Spanish parliaments have passed resolutions in favour of a Palestinian state. There is clearly overwhelming international support for a Palestinian state, yet a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict remains elusive.
My core proposition is that finding a just solution to the conflict is not a contest between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians. It is in fact about seeking a lasting resolution based on international law. The question then is: what does a just solution look like and how may it be achieved? In this context, it is important that the conflict between Palestine and Israel not be overcomplicated or mystified by reference to religious wars, a clash of civilizations or ancient enmities. The truth is that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not a complex problem.
Everyone knows that the final status questions are borders, Jerusalem, settlements and refugees. Thanks to the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, we know what international law says about all these questions. The ICJ, the highest court in the world, also known as the World Court, went through all the final status issues. The World Court said:
No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.
It also said:
… the principle of self-determination of peoples has been enshrined in the United Nations Charter and reaffirmed by the General Assembly …
It follows that the Palestinian people, whose existence the court said is no longer an issue, are entitled to the right to self-determination. Palestine’s right to self-determination is not in international law subject to any performance criteria stipulated by Israel. No other oppressed people have had their right to self-determination made conditional on the preferences of the occupier.
The World Court found that the separation wall Israel built had been constructed in such a way as to include within it the great majority of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The World Court said that all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, had been established in breach of international law. Here is where the role of international solidarity becomes important. It is to help turn a legal victory into a political victory. It is to help convert a legal consensus into a political consensus.
When the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, in 1917 expressing support for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, this document—somewhat grandly named the ‘Balfour Declaration’—came to be regarded as doctrine wherever the question of Palestine was being discussed, and it was used as an instrument to legitimise the establishment of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, the important qualifying statement in the Balfour Declaration, ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’, is usually omitted whenever the declaration is referred to.
When the UN Resolution 181 partitioning Palestine was voted upon, the foreign minister of Israel, Abba Eban, referred to it as Israel’s birth certificate. Like the Balfour declaration, it was raised everywhere the question of Palestine was being discussed. But Palestine has its birth certificate too, the 2004 opinion by the International Court of Justice. The ICJ judgment confers legitimacy on Palestine, and yet how often do we hear this opinion mentioned compared to, say, the Balfour Declaration and the partition resolution?
It is critical that we read, explain and publicise the ICJ opinion at every opportunity. Every year the UN General Assembly passes resolutions affirming Palestine’s right to self-determination, and today the UN is much more representative of the world’s peoples than it was back in 1947—decolonisation and independence struggles have seen to that, thankfully. The majority of the world’s countries support a two-state solution, compensation for land, a right of return, East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and the illegality of Israeli settlements under international law. These resolutions—which are also birth certificates for Palestine—go to the core issue, which, as I have said, is not about taking sides in a contest too often overloaded with irrelevant cultural and historical baggage or sidetracked by violence on both sides but is in fact about what is right under the rule of law by which all countries should abide.
The World Court and the UN General Assembly have clearly outlined the principles for resolving the conflict. Solidarity with Palestine means educating and organising along these lines.