Workers’ Party of Ireland statement on Palestine
The Workers Party has a long history of support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people and our Party was very actively involved, for example, in the establishment of Ireland Friends of Palestine, one of the first solidarity groups set up in Ireland (1981) to promote the Palestinian cause. Workers Party student and youth members established relations with the General Union of Palestinian Students in the 1970s and the Party was involved with Palestinian groups from the 1960s.
There are approximately ten million Palestinians in the world today, two thirds of whom are refugees. After the First World War a wave of Jewish immigrants came to Palestine. From 1896, when Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, published “The Jewish State”, the foundations for an essentially racist state were laid. In November 1917 the British government through the notorious Balfour Declaration declared that it was in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. The Arab population of Palestine was not consulted. In 1947, under the provisions of the United Nations partition plan Palestinians were offered less than half of their historic homeland. In effect, the plan imposed the first of the two-state solutions upon historic Palestine. After the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 the Zionists seized 80% of Palestine and the property of a million Palestinian refugees was plundered and stolen. Two thirds of the entire Palestinian population were expelled from their homes in the 1947-49 war. In order to establish and maintain a Jewish-majority state, specific laws were enacted that provided preference to Jews and discriminated against Palestinians, for example, the Law of Return granting every Jewish person anywhere in the world the right to immigrate to Israel and the Nationality Law which automatically grants citizenship to all Jews who immigrate to Israel while denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homeland from which they were expelled. In 1967, after the Israeli aggression against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the Zionist entity of Israel occupied the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. A further refugee crisis was created, Jerusalem was annexed and Israel commenced the colonisation of the Occupied Territories and the creation of Jewish settlements.
In 1967 the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Security Council attempted, unsuccessfully, to secure an Israeli withdrawal. While the Soviet Union condemned Israeli aggression the US backed Israel, a position it continues to adopt regardless of circumstance. 2 At a conference convened by the Secretary General of the United Nations at Geneva in December 1973 it was proposed that Israel must respect the national rights of the Palestinians. Israel, however, denied the Palestinians possessed any rights and asserted that the issue was merely a refugee problem which must be solved by the resettlement of the Palestinians outside Israel.
The Camp David Accords of 1978, (which were rejected by the Palestinians, condemned by 95 states at the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations at Havana in 1979, and declared invalid in several Resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly as being inconsistent with the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people), amounted to little more than the offer of limited powers over certain administrative and municipal functions and expressly excluded the exercise of national rights or legislative powers or any progress towards the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. Israel made clear that it would “retain” sovereignty, including control over land, water and settlement. The Camp David Accords created a further difficulty in that it provided sections of ruling Arab reaction to ally themselves with the US and Israel and to strengthen the role of imperialism in the region. In 1982 the deadly terrorist bombardment and blockade of West Beirut by Israel and the massacres in the refugee camps at Sabra and Chatila were designed by Israel and its backers to terrorise and starve the Palestinians and their supporters.
Colonisation and Occupation and the Demand for a Palestinian State
Israel’s systematic colonisation and usurpation of Palestinian land, the eviction of Palestinians, the destruction of their homes and properties and the attempt to erase the name, history and culture of Palestine has continued and continues to this day. The US support for Israeli policies, its strategic co-operation, the massive economic and military assistance, the promotion of Israel and the collusion in Israel’s expansionism, aggression and crimes against humanity, the persistent attempts to block and prevent any criticism of Israeli terrorism and grotesque violations of human rights, has been and remains a major impediment to peace and progress in the Middle East. The EU has adopted the hypocritical policy of so-called “equal distance” from the aggressors and the victims. The approach by Israel and the imperialist powers is to remove the question of Palestinian national rights from the agenda and to attempt to legitimise illegal acts of colonisation and expansionism.
On 10 December 1969 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a number of resolutions, including Resolution 2535 which affirmed “the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine” as well as the right to self-determination and sovereignty. In 1974 Resolution 3210 recognised the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Despite that the US and Israel refused to recognise or negotiate with the PLO as they now refuse to acknowledge 3 Palestinian statehood. The decision of the PLO to seek membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations constituted an important development in the struggle to end the occupation and achieve Palestinian independence. This decision demands the solidarity and support of peoples worldwide.
Palestine is being annexed piece by piece and the Palestinians contained in ever decreasing pockets of land in which Palestinians are isolated, imprisoned and confined, in line with the Zionist philosophy that Palestine can be occupied step by step until nothing remains. Zionism is an ethnic and racist ideology incapable of compromise. The Zionist narrative dictates that there is no such place as Palestine and no such people as Palestinians and the project, blatant and undisguised, is to erase the Palestinian people and the territory of Palestine from historical memory – but they will not succeed. The proclamation of the State of Palestine is a first step towards a just and equitable solution. The establishment of a Palestinian State does not require US or Israeli approval or consent. This right is grounded on the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and self-determination. The grant of a temporary mandate under the League of Nations did not deprive the people of Palestine of their right to sovereignty, independent statehood and their national and international identity nor were these rights extinguished by the creation of the state of Israel. The right to Palestinian statehood is a legal and historical right, guaranteed by international law, including the United Nations Charter and is reinforced by many resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly. The right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and establishing its state is a natural, historical, and legal right. Furthermore, states can recognize other states bilaterally, in any event. The recognition of Palestine as a state by other states can be accepted as the legal acknowledgment of a fact and can also create a new reality on the ground.
The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States of 1933, which stipulates that “statehood” is not dependent on recognition by other states lays out the requirements for statehood: a population living on a defined territory with a government that can enter into relations with other governments. The Palestinians meet all the conditions. Other countries with border disputes have previously been admitted as U.N. members.
Since the early 1990s, Palestinians have been engaged in a “peace process” with Israelis in an effort to resolve the ongoing conflict between them and to establish a viable Palestinian State. Despite the many concessions made by Palestinians during decades of negotiations, successive Israeli governments refuse to accept the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State. Israel has consistently 4 rejected the key Palestinian demand for resuming talks: a halt to settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Neither should the US be permitted to derail the process and to deny the wishes of the Palestinian people and the world by reason of its power of veto at the Security Council. The Security Council acts under powers delegated by member states of the United Nations and the General Assembly is empowered to act in certain circumstances in the event of a veto. The General Assembly also has the power to grant “permanent observer” status and there is precedent for this approach.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accepted an application for U.N. membership from President Mahmoud Abbas on 23 September 2011. The act of accepting the membership application was an acknowledgement from the U.N. that Palestine is already a state, since only states can apply.
The Zionists, whose ambition is to create a sectarian Jewish state, are determined to prevent Palestinian self-determination whether under proposals for a one-state, or two-state “solution” or at all. The problem is the racist and expansionist ideology of Zionism, promoted and protected by its imperialist allies, which underpins the Israeli state.
Human Rights Violations
The United Nations has repeatedly documented violations of human rights in the Occupied territories including occupation, annexation of territory, the illegal building of Jewish settlements, the deportation and expulsion of Palestinians, 24 hour curfews, the confiscation and destruction of property including the demolition of Palestinian homes and agricultural land as collective punishment, the exploitation of Palestinian labour, mass arrests and administrative detention without trial, ill- treatment and torture of persons under detention, censorship, the violent suppression of demonstrations and protests, military attacks on political organisations and the strangulation of the economy of the Occupied territories.
The Occupied Territories remain under effective siege in violation of international and humanitarian law. Palestinian civilians, including children, are deliberately targeted for attack. Border crossings of the Gaza Strip have been closed and the siege imposed has had disastrous social, economic and humanitarian consequences. Severe restrictions have been placed on the movement of the civilian population. Access to water and the entry of food, fuel, medicine, water purification equipment, raw materials for construction and vital necessities to sustain life has been restricted. The State of Israel includes the coastal regions and the most fertile lands 5 of Palestine. The Palestinians are left mainly with mountainous and arid regions. In Gaza, 5,000 Israeli settlers, comprising less than 1% of the population control 40% of the fertile land. The 1.2 million Palestinians, comprising 99% of Gaza are left with the remainder. Israel also insists upon control of water resources.
The Israeli occupation perpetuates the suffering of the Palestinians who are experiencing a humanitarian crisis. These actions constitute collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are an act of aggression as defined by Article 3 of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314. The aggressive and disproportionate Israeli response to international relief efforts underlines the vicious, cruel, inhuman and barbarous nature of the Israeli regime. These actions are also in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the occupying power from applying collective penalties on a people under occupation.
Israeli repression is not confined to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli citizens who oppose government policies of war and aggression are detained and imprisoned. The persecution of Mohammed Barakeh, member of the Israeli Parliament and Chair of HADASH (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) arising out of protests and demonstrations by the Communist Party of Israel against the Apartheid Wall, the war on Lebanon and the lack of accountability for the killing of civilians was one example.
The detention of Abu Rahmah, a leading peace activist, who arranged weekly peaceful protests against the Apartheid Wall, was a gross violation of his rights and the rights of people to protest peacefully. The kidnapping and detention of Ahmad Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the detention of Ibrahim Abdel-Khader Abu Hijla, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) were designed to break the will of the Palestinian people in their struggle for independence and self-determination but the resistance continues. Palestinians inside Israel continue to suffer discrimination and human rights violations in employment, education, healthcare, land ownership and state investment. Israel must also be made amenable for its war crimes against Palestinians. The use of artillery and white phosphorous in built up areas, intentionally targeting civilians, forcing civilians to act as human shields, failing to care for the injured and preventing access to medical aid, deliberately targeting farms, hospitals, schools, mosques and UN facilities are crimes for which the perpetrators and their political and military leaders must be held accountable. In Jerusalem there are severe restrictions on Palestinians building houses and Palestinians live under constant threat of being evicted and having their homes 6 demolished. This has caused an acute housing shortage in East Jerusalem and Palestinian houses are overcrowded and in poor condition.
Previously the Palestinians were unable to bring cases against Israel because only states are permitted to do so. The State of Palestine is recognized by 136 UN members and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations – which amounts to a de facto recognition of statehood, although still short of full statehood. Recognition of Palestinian statehood improves the chances of Palestine taking Israel to before international courts and tribunals as well as the enabling Palestine to become a member of additional UN agencies, as in the recent case of UNESCO. In the past few days UNESCO has recognised the old city of Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian world heritage site, sparking outrage from Israel. Palestinians have long lived under harsh restrictions in the city, which is one of the starkest symbols of the Israeli occupation. UNESCO will be required to annually evaluate the situation in the old city, where a few hundred Jewish settlers live under heavy Israeli military protection in the midst of more than 200,000 Palestinians.
Palestinians have the right to freedom, self-determination and national independence. As such, Palestine’s membership at the United Nations is an important step towards a just solution and freedom for Palestine. An internationally recognized State of Palestine brings Palestinians closer to ending the occupation and establishing a democratic state.
The Workers Party offers its continuing solidarity and support to the Palestinian people in their efforts to achieve their goal in securing membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations, to become member state 194. Membership would allow Palestine to accede to treaties and join specialized U.N. agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This would grant Palestine full sovereign rights over air space which Israel currently controls above the West Bank and Gaza. Israel maintains that it should continue to control the airspace over any Palestinian State. It also insists that any form of Palestinian State shall be demilitarised despite the fact that Israel is one of the most militarised states in the world. The Palestinians could bring claims of violation of its air space to the International Court of Justice and seek the investigation of war crimes and other charges against Israel committed on Palestinian territory, including Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead war against Gaza, and Israeli settlements in Palestine could be challenged as war crimes as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
If Palestine joins the Law of the Sea Treaty it would gain control of its national waters off Gaza which are currently under an Israeli naval blockade, enabling the Palestinians to challenge the Israeli blockade at the ICJ as well as claim a gas field off Gaza, currently claimed by Israel.
Any solution must address the full national rights of Palestinians living in the areas occupied in 1967 and the rights of Palestinians inside the 1948 borders and in the Diaspora. A just solution must implement and address the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their properties in Israel and end the construction of Jewish-only settlements that expropriate Palestinian land and resources and which progressively confine Palestinians to enclaves similar to apartheid South Africa. Many of these settlements control the local water supply and Palestinians are therefore dependent on the whim of hostile settlers for their water supplies. Furthermore, it is the Israeli army which has the power to decide if Palestinians should be permitted to sink a new well. The annexation of Jerusalem deprives Palestinians of their historic capital and severs Jerusalem’s vital social and economic connections to the rest of Palestinian society, restricting access by Muslim and Christian Palestinian communities to holy sites where they have worshipped since antiquity.
It must address the rights of those Palestinians in Israel who have been subjected to increasingly blatant Israeli discrimination and violent treatment. Israel deliberately targets its Palestinian citizens for exclusion and ethnic cleansing forcing them to accept the Jewish character of the state which by itself deprives them of their own national identity and aspirations. They are repeatedly told that they are an alien enemy population in their own ancestral homeland. They are denied equal protection of the law; their properties are confiscated for use by Israeli-Jews only and the portion not utilized by Israeli-Jews is denied to them; their natural resources are expropriated without compensation. All efforts by Palestinians and their progressive allies inside Israel to peacefully transform the state into an inclusive democracy with equal protection for all have been ignored and rejected.
A just solution must also address Israel’s colonial character, militaristic nature and expansionism. Almost three years after the Israeli aggression against Gaza in December 2008 that resulted in the death of over 1,350 citizens, wounded thousands of innocent civilians including women, children and elderly; destroyed homes, properties and infrastructure, the humanitarian tragedy remains. The residents of Gaza are still deprived of the most basic goods and services. We condemn the Israeli aggression and the economic blockade.
The Workers’ Party believes that a solution is only possible through the recognition of the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self- 8 determination, national independence and sovereignty and the implementation of international law and respect for all relevant United Nations’ Resolutions.
While we continue to support the ambition for one independent, democratic secular state in Palestine with equal protection and treatment for all its citizens without distinction of race, religion or ethnicity in which all citizens enjoy equal rights and can live in freedom and security as envisaged by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, we recognise that under current conditions the present approach to statehood within the context of the 1967 borders is an important step.
In those circumstances, we recognise the right of the Palestinian people to resist the occupation, we reaffirm our support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to regain their legitimate and inalienable national rights, including the right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent and sovereign state on the borders of 4 June 1967, with Al-Quds (East Jerusalem) as its capital and we call on the international community to proceed with the recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders forthwith, a position which is embraced by the vast majority of the nations in the world.
The Right to Return
We emphasise the importance of establishing the right of return for all Palestinian refugees in accordance with U.N. Resolution 194, a fundamental requirement for justice, equality and respect. There are approximately ten million Palestinians in the world, two thirds of whom are refugees. This is the largest and most longstanding refugee problem in the world.
End the Occupation
We demand the immediate and unconditional end of the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian and Arab lands, including the Syrian Golan Heights and the remaining Lebanese Shebaa Farms that have been illegally under the control of Israel since 1967.
We condemn the racist character of the Zionist movement and its atrocities against the Palestinian people and we express our full support for the right of the Palestinians to resist the occupation.
The Workers Party opposes the continuing Israeli policy of intransigence and its dogmatic pursuit of a settlement policy designed to cement the occupation, consolidate its colonisation of the Occupied Territories and render a Palestinian state non-viable and we firmly place the blame on Israel and the US for the deadlock which has been created. We condemn the complicity of the British government and the European Union which permits a flourishing arms trade with Israel and affords it a preferential trading relationship with the EU. Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza are directly contrary to international humanitarian law and renders Israel in breach of Article 2 of the European-Mediterranean Partnership known as the Euro- Med Agreement. The Euro-Med Agreement should be ended and sanctions imposed on Israel for its violation of international law and its human rights obligations.
We condemn the support of the imperialist powers for Israel that encourages intransigence, aggression and war. We also condemn those forces such as the European Union that proposes and adopts keeping “equal distance” between the victim and the aggressor. We demand the immediate, unconditional and total removal of the siege of Gaza, the re-opening of borders and the rapid reconstruction of infrastructure damaged or destroyed by Israeli aggression with Israel being made accountable for reparations. We call for the implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Report which held Israel responsible for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and we demand an end to Israel’s ability to act with impunity.
The Apartheid Wall
The Workers Party has also condemned the construction of the “apartheid” wall along the entire length of the West Bank. Commenced in 2002 and consisting in part of an 8 metre high concrete wall with watchtowers, floodlights and electronic detectors, and elsewhere consisting of a series of high razor wire and electric fencing together with a 70-100 metre “buffer zone”, and cutting deep into Palestinian territory, it is estimated that the Wall and its surrounding areas will encompass a large section of the West Bank. It cuts villages off from the land on which people live and from supplies of water. Israel is currently building “industrial zones” along the Wall which will use cheap Palestinian labour. The wall has also separated Palestinian towns and cities from Jerusalem, Palestine’s economic, cultural and religious centre. In 2004, the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on the illegality of Israel’s separation wall, among other things, stated that the wall’s route into the West Bank to annex Israeli settlements, and allow space for them to develop and expand, proved that security was not the main motivation behind the construction of the wall.
The Workers Party continues to oppose the construction of the racist wall and the colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank and demands the immediate removal of the wall and all the settlements. Under international law an occupying power does not have any right to effect permanent changes detrimental to the indigenous population. Years after the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice declared the construction of the wall by Israel to be contrary to international Law, Israel continues to fortify the wall destroying Palestinian land and society, depriving Palestinian towns and villages of land and water, dividing communities, separating farmers from their land, patients from hospitals, and schoolchildren from their schools.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
The Workers Party supports the boycott of Israeli goods, events and institutions and condemns the overt and covert racism against Palestinians expressed by Israeli military, political and religious figures. The Workers Party has endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. BDS is now a global movement involving unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots organisations and is having a major impact in challenging international support for the Israeli state.
The Workers Party of Ireland restates its solidarity with the Palestinian people and with Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails. Since the beginning of the occupation, about 950,000 Palestinian political prisoners have passed through Israeli prisons. Because the Palestinian prisoners are held in facilities in Israel, in contravention of international law, Israel imposes severe restrictions on family visits, and many relatives are not permitted to visit at all. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) also enforces a complete ban on telephone communications for prisoners held on so-called “security grounds.”
Israeli prisons currently hold around 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including some 300 children. More than 500 are imprisoned without charge or trial under Israel’s notorious “administrative detention”. These political prisoners include political leaders, deputies in the Palestinian Legislative Council, workers, writers, researchers, journalists, political activists, human rights defenders, students and 11 artists. Palestinian prisoners have long been subjected to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment. Many have been killed while in detention.
Israel, as part of its attempts to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, has implemented campaigns of mass arbitrary arrests, torture and other punitive and restrictive measures. Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian parliamentarian and member of the Fatah Central Committee, who was sentenced to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers and Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), were among a number of high-profile leaders of the prisoners’ movement who spear-headed the recent prison strike.
For decades Israel’s brutal colonial and military occupation in violation of international law has sought to break the spirit of prisoners and the Palestinian people. Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territories and has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this device to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners.
Five hundred detainees are serving life imprisonment. Six hundred detainees were arrested under the so-called renewable administrative detentions, without charge or trial, as a result of political opinions and political-related issues. There are 700 detainees suffering from chronic diseases. Eighty-five of them have serious health conditions. They are deprived of appropriate medical care. Thirty detainees were detained prior to the Oslo Accords and have served more than 25 years. Nael Barghouthi, the longest held Palestinian prisoner, has served thirty-seven years in detention.
The recent hunger strike launched by more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners and detainees in April 2017 under the slogan “Freedom and Dignity” was a non- violent protest focusing on several valid, legitimate, basic demands for improved prison conditions. The hunger strikers were demanding the right to family visits and access to telephone communication with their relatives. They were also demanding an appropriate level of educational provision and medical care including, regular medical check-ups and specialist treatment, an end to abusive and oppressive conditions of detention, improved conditions including access to books, newspapers, clothes and food and the cessation of “administrative detention”, imprisonment without charge or trial and solitary confinement.
The Workers Party of Ireland stands firmly with the Palestinian Detainees in their continuing struggle for freedom and dignity and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all Palestinian political prisoners; the immediate and 12 unequivocal end of the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian and Arab lands; the recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return and the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty in a free and independent State of Palestine.
We explicitly reject racism and xenophobia of whatever nature whether directed against Palestinians, Jews or Arabs and we salute the peace loving forces inside Israel who struggle side by side with the Palestinians for their just cause and express our solidarity to all peoples in the region who are struggling against imperialism and for democracy. We condemn the repression of Israeli progressives and highlight the appalling treatment of Mordechai Vanunu who was illegally abducted by the Israelis in Rome, imprisoned for 18 years, 12 of these in solitary confinement, and kept under virtual house arrest since his release.
In common with our comrades in the communist and workers’ parties we urge all sections of Palestinian national movement to advance the national dialogue and to work seriously and in a responsible manner towards re-establishing Palestinian national unity. This process should be aiming at strengthening the role of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and building a mass campaign in support of Palestinian rights.
The proclamation of the State of Palestine is a vital step towards a just and equitable solution and self-determination for the Palestinian people. It deserves the support and solidarity of all progressive and peace loving people throughout the world. There can be no peace without justice.
Workers Party of Ireland