What do you think of people who, as others suffer a disaster, see in that suffering a mercenary chance for a bonanza? Odds are you’ll dismiss their stand as being not just sly but morally reprehensible.
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, a disturbing trend has emerged where some governments around the world, using the pandemic as a cover, have pursued a fiendish agenda, expecting their actions would pass largely unnoticed.
In Cambodia, for example, many opposition figures have reportedly been arrested, ostensibly for “spreading misinformation” during the pandemic. In Bolivia, the government there unleashed a ‘Cyberpatrol’, to be run by the armed forces, whose aim is to identify those, again, “spreading misinformation” and charge them with “a crime against public health”.
In modern times, not one single settler colonial movement, all the way from Ireland to Mozambique and Algeria to South Africa, ever endured — or in Palestine, where it is pitted against the implacable laws of history, will ever endure. You want to be a sure loser, lock horns with these laws
In India, authorities have seized the opportunity of the lockdown to crack down on the Muslim community (who bizarrely are being blamed for the virus), amplifying the religious prejudice that has defined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term in office, during which his Hindu-nationalist government passed the Citizenship Amendment Right (CAR), which gives immigrants a path to citizenship — provided they were not Muslim.
And so it goes with insecure or racist governments around the world.
But how goes it with a government that, in addition to being insecure and racist, represents a settler colonial entity propelled by expansionist ambitions?
And what fiendish steps has this entity, under the cover of coronavirus, taken in order to advance its interests in the occupied Palestinian territories — at a time when people in the Arab World, heeding the rules of social distancing, were celebrating the first Ramadan in memory sans the month’s traditional bonhomie, and people in the rest of the world were preoccupied with combating the virus?
These fiendish steps have already been taken: The new coalition government of the Israeli entity announced its intention in the West Bank to extend “Israeli sovereignty” over its colonies there as well as over the entirety of the Jordan Valley, a lush strip of land blessed with a year-round agricultural climate, fertile soil and abundant water supply.
The move effectively aims at wresting from Palestinians their dream of ever becoming an independent people freely determining their own destiny in their own state — and doom them to perpetual subjugation under the rule of the gun of an apartheid state.
Israel's brutal crimes
The Arab League, after a video conference of foreign ministers last Thursday, said in a statement that the plan “represents a new war crime added to Israel’s record full of brutal crimes against the Palestinian people” — and left it at that. There is no evidence that the group intends to take further action.
Ironically, European officials, reacting to Israel’s provocation, appeared more vociferous, uninhibited and direct. Here’s a case in point: Nearly 130 British parliamentarians, including former cabinet ministers, have written to Boris Johnson urging him to impose economic sanctions against Israel if its government goes ahead with its brazen plan.
The letter, signed by Tory Chairman Lord Patton and the former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, said that annexation would be clearly illegal under international law.
The signatories pointed out that the United Kingdom did not hesitate to sanction Russia after the annexation of Crimea, arguing that any move in the West Bank would warrant a similar response. “International law is crystal clear: the acquisition of territory through war is prohibited”, said the letter, which deserves to be quoted at length.
“The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 is a recent example where Britain quite properly opposed such acts with appropriate measures, including robust sanctions. Our government has stated that any annexation cannot go unchallenged. The government now must make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation will have severe consequences, including sanctions.
Words are not enough. [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ignored our words. We need to prevent his government from setting this alarmingly dangerous precedent in international relations”.
For Palestinians, the stakes have never been higher. A threat to their land means a threat to their inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, a right well-known — and precious — to Americans, familiar since grade school with the phrasing in the Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1774.
It is a right, additionally, that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the initial draft of the document, saw as one “given to all humans by their Creator”.
However, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begs to differ. It is “up to Israel”, he’s on record saying, to make the decision on what and how much Palestinian land to annex.
The enemy that the people of Palestine have had to confront since the early decades of the last century, settler-colonialism, was then and remains today cut-throat. Settler-colonialism is of course a distinct — and truly insidious — type of colonialism that functions through the displacement of a native population with an invasive settler society that over time “settles in”. becoming the proverbial guest from hell.
And then, as occupiers they, go on to assert sovereignty over the land, seeking to negate the native people’s historic claims by asserting false narratives of “belongeness”, claims often backed by an imperial authority, which gives settlers’ demands legitimacy.
Ring a bell?
But, guess what? In modern times, not one single settler colonial movement, all the way from Ireland to Mozambique and Algeria to South Africa, ever endured — or in Palestine, where it is pitted against the implacable laws of history, will ever endure. You want to be a sure loser, lock horns with these laws.
— Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.