ABC Religion and Ethics – 4 Dec 2012
“Mr President: independence, freedom, the right to self-determination; these are principles that have been enshrined in the United Nations Charter.” Those words were spoken by Daffa Alla Elhag Ali Osman, the Sudanese Ambassador to the UN as he introduced the draft resolution at the General Assembly to recognise the non-member state of Palestine.
Nothing could better signify the absolute farce taking place before the representatives of the international community than the government of Sudan pontificating about justice and human rights. As Osman spoke, the government that he represents was busy waging a brutal campaign to deny the Nuba people the rights to independence, freedom and self-determination.
For 18 months now, the Sudanese regime has been driving out the local population of the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, using the same methods as in their infamous campaign in Darfur last decade. In the growing humanitarian crisis, around 200,000 people have fled across the border to South Sudan and hundreds of thousands more are taking shelter in the caves and crevasses of the Nuba Mountains to avoid indiscriminate airstrikes and the brutality of the Sudanese militias. Behind them, their villages are burnt to the ground and their farmland is destroyed.
The Sudanese goal is to starve the Nuban people into obliteration. In the words of President Omar Bashir, “we don’t want any vermin left in the Blue Nile Province. We don’t want any insects left in the Nuba Mountains.” Yet it was an official of this regime that stood before the creme de la creme of the diplomatic world, purporting to support “independence, freedom and self-determination.”
The irony does not end there. The Palestinian Authority has given strong indications that it intends to use its newfound status as a means to bring cases against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court. As PLO official Abbas Zaki put it, “Once we become a recognized state, we will go to all UN agencies to force the international community to take legal action against Israel.”
Again, this change in status to allow Israel to be brought before the ICC was proposed by the government of Omar Bashir – the same Omar Bashir who has been charged by the ICC in the aftermath of Darfur with ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The same Omar Bashir who has been flaunting these indictments since 2009 with the protection of most of the countries that voted in favour of upgrading Palestine’s status. Surely that is an indication of the extent to which this bid truly was concerned with human rights.
The irony does not end there either. Sudan has a historical significance that overshadows this entire affair. Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, was the site of the September 1967 Summit of the League of Arab Nations in the aftermath of the Six Day War, in which Israel captured the Palestinian territories from Jordan and Egypt. Israel had offered to return all of the land that it had captured in return for recognition from and peace with its Arab neighbours. The Arab League responded to the Israeli proposal by issuing the Khartoum Resolution, expressing that:
“The conference has agreed on the need to consolidate all efforts to eliminate the effects of the aggression on the basis that the occupied lands are Arab lands and that the burden of regaining these lands falls on all the Arab States … This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.”
It was thus in Sudan that, for the second time, the Palestinian people were denied a state of their own by the combined Arab nations (the first being the original rejection of the UN partition plan in 1947). Yet here Sudan was, 45 years later, declaring the existence of a Palestinian state, while continuing to adhere to those “three no’s” codified by the Khartoum Resolution: no peace, no recognition, no negotiation.
Ultimately, that is what the statehood resolution was about. It is a continuation of a decades-long policy of attempting to establish a Palestinian state without making peace with, recognising, or negotiating with Israel. The fact that this policy has been an abysmal failure does not seem to have gotten through to the Palestinian leadership or the Arab nations.
It has also not gotten through to the self-proclaimed “pro-Palestine” movement. Australians like Randa Abdel-Fattah promote a re-badged version of the Arab boycott of Israel, which is actually older than Israel itself. After all, why try a new tactic when the old one is working so well? In the end, it will amount to nothing. As United States Ambassador Susan Rice eloquently put it:
“Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other – and listen to each other – and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.”
Yet talking to Israelis seems to be the last thing that any Palestinian leader wants to do – in the West Bank, in Gaza, and in the Palestinian diaspora. Belligerence, boycotts and “resistance” failed to prevent the establishment of Israel and have failed to undo the establishment of Israel, and yet they remain the tools of choice for the Palestinian leadership. Hamas chooses belligerence and violent “resistance,” while the diaspora and the Palestinian Authority choose boycotts and diplomatic “resistance.” The handful of Palestinians choosing dialogue are denounced as “collaborators” and sidelined.
The real tragedy is that the international community continues to encourage this mindset by overwhelmingly supporting every anti-Israel resolution placed in front of the General Assembly. As signified by our changed voting pattern, it seems that some elements of the Australian government have been caught-up in this farcical charade.
The Australian government has chosen to shift its vote away from the United States and towards Sudan. It has given tacit encouragement for a tactic that for 65 years has brought nothing but misery and war. For a country that claims to be a moral leader, that is poor form indeed.
Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz is Policy Analyst and Social Media Coordinator at the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. To learn more about the catastrophe in the Nuba Mountains, and to see what some Australians are doing about it, see the Nuba Now Campaign online or on Facebook.