ON Monday 24 November, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, delivered his message to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and other UN dignitories.
‘Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
‘At the outset, I wish to convey to you the greetings of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people, and to all our friends participating in the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People around the world.
‘We commemorate this occasion one year after the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and two years following its adoption of the historic resolution to raise the status of Palestine to a non-member observer State in the United Nations.
‘Of course, our objective and endeavours remain the attainment of full membership in the United Nations, which is our people’s legitimate and legal right …
‘We regret the lack of implementation of the countless resolutions regarding the question of Palestine, a fact that has clearly compounded the conflict over the many decades, inflicting grave hardships on the Palestinian people and the continued denial of their rights.
‘This regrettable reality deepens the widespread conviction that there is indeed a double standard when it comes to United Nations resolutions regarding Israel, which are not implemented, allowing Israel to continue behaving as though it is a State above the law.
‘Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
‘This year marked the passage of 47 years since June 1967, when Israel forcibly occupied the remainder of historic Palestine – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
‘This year also witnessed the suffering of our people under another brutal military aggression by Israel, the occupying Power.
‘That aggression this past summer targeted in specific the occupied Gaza Strip, where our people endured a barbaric Israeli aggression that killed and injured our people, including our children, caused massive destruction and flattened homes atop entire families, inflicting horrific devastation that has been condemned by all.
‘We insist that this injustice must end and this military occupation of our land and our people must end.
‘We reiterate our urgent calls to the international community to act forthwith to compel Israel, the occupying power, to comply with its legal obligations, relevant United Nations resolutions and international commitments and to cease completely its violations of international law and its illegal, aggressive and destructive policies and practices.
‘In this regard, we have presented, through the Arab Group, a draft resolution to the Security Council to set a timeframe for ending the Israeli occupation of our land that has lasted for too long.
‘Of course, we continue to insist that the insidious Israeli settlement campaign and the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the capital of our State, must be completely halted.
‘The demolition of Palestinian homes, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and properties, and the forced displacement of the Palestinian people must stop. Construction of the apartheid annexation wall must be ceased.
‘The Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails must be released. The unjust, inhumane blockade imposed on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip must be completely lifted. The reconstruction of Gaza must be undertaken in the most expeditious manner and we must heal the wounds of our brave Palestinian people, including the children, women and elderly and all of the civilians in Gaza.
‘All of the illegal actions and measures aimed at Judaisation of East Jerusalem and altering or erasing Palestinian and Christian and Muslim presence in and the identity of the Holy City must be halted, including the Israeli attempts to establish temporal and spatial presence in Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which is rejected.
‘All acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated by Israeli settlers against the Palestinian civilian population must be stopped …
‘We are grateful for the many expressions and actions of solidarity with the Palestinian people extended from all the peoples of the world, which we witnessed during the last Israeli war on Gaza. I wish here to recognise the changes in the Western world where the popular sentiment has reached the official political levels.
‘Sweden moved ahead bravely in this regard with its recognition of the State of Palestine, and we hope that other European countries will follow suit. Here we also recognise the important and overwhelming motions in support of recognition of the State of Palestine by the parliaments in the United Kingdom, in Ireland, in Spain and the upcoming votes in France and other European countries in this regard.
‘We are deeply appreciative of all of these positive developments, which enhance the opportunities for peace and security and stability in the region. Does Israel, the occupying power, understand all of the messages in this regard?
‘Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
‘On this day, which marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the adoption of the partition resolution in 1947, and in this year, the international year of solidarity with our people, the Palestinian people look forward with great hope to the future.
‘They are determined to remain steadfast on their land and to realise their inalienable rights, confident that the international community will stand with right and justice so that hope, freedom, peace and security can prevail and that will ensure a better future for all of our children.
‘May peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.’
• Hamas has condemned the Israeli cabinet’s racist decision to approve the ‘Jewish state bill’, vowing the movement shall forever remain ‘a thorn in the Israeli occupation’s flesh’.
Hamas said in a statement on Sunday that such an Israeli Jewish state bill ‘sets off alarm bells to all Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims over the avarice of the Israeli occupation in the region and paves the way for a forthcoming religious war.’
The statement warned the international community against the Israeli chauvinistic dogmas, pointing out that they were clearly reflected in the endorsed bill.
It reiterated Hamas’s firm rebuff of Israel’s right to establish a home of its own in the Occupied Palestinian territories.
The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a draft basic law called ‘Israel the national state of the Jewish people’, said a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, one of whose MKs was a sponsor.
Netanyahu also announced a separate initiative to strip Palestinians of their residency and welfare rights if they or their relatives take part in unrest.
Following a stormy meeting, the cabinet voted 14 to six in favour of the national homeland proposal, with ministers from the two centrist parties – HaTnuah led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yesh Atid of Finance Minister Yair Lapid – voting against.
The proposal would mean Israel would no longer be defined in its Basic Laws as ‘Jewish and democratic’ but instead as ‘the national homeland of the Jewish people’.
Critics, who include the government’s top legal adviser, say the proposed change to the laws that act as Israel’s effective constitution could institutionalise discrimination against its 1.7 million Palestinian citizens.
By giving preeminence to the ‘Jewish’ character of Israel over its democratic nature, the law in its current format is anti-democratic, they say.
The Israel Democracy Institute said that the state’s Jewish identity is already contained in its 1948 declaration of independence.
‘However, that declaration also emphasises the Jewish State’s absolute commitment to the equality of all of its citizens – an essential component missing from the proposals being presented to the government today,’ IDI president Yohanan Plesner said in a statement.
Netanyahu insisted the law would give equal weight to both characteristics.
‘There are those who would like the democratic to prevail over the Jewish and there are those who would like the Jewish to prevail over the democratic … both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree,’ he said.
The proposal has provoked uproar among MKs and ministers from the centre and the left, who fear the text only institutionalises discrimination and will provoke a third Palestinian intifada.
There are also concerns about a plan to revoke the rights of any Palestinian resident who took part in or incited violence, even stone-throwing.
‘It cannot be that those who attack Israeli citizens and call for the elimination of the State of Israel will enjoy rights such as National Insurance – and their family members as well, who support them,’ Netanyahu told ministers.
Israel’s Palestinian minority, comprising some 20 per cent of the population, are descendants of those who managed to stay after the establishment of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced and now languish in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
If the ‘Jewish homeland’ proposal becomes law, it would mean ‘the institutionalisation of racism, which is already a reality on the street, in both law and at the heart of the political system,’ warned Majd Kayyal of Adalah, the Legal centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
‘Democracy guarantees that all citizens have the same rights and are equal before the state, but this racist change introduces a distinction on the basis of religion,’ he said.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the Israeli government’s legal adviser, has also criticised the proposal, saying it weakens the state’s democratic character.