(Fr. Sean Mc Manus, Irish Echo)
"Just like what the Brits did in The North," I kept saying to myself for the first couple of days I was in The West Bank, Palestine. But soon I found myself adding, "but a thousand times worse."
I travelled to Israel-Palestine on October 22 to November 4. Then I and the rest of the large Delegation from INTERFAITH Peace Builders flew from Tel Aviv to Amman, Jordan to Cairo. We were to continue by road to Gaza but I got sick and had to cancel. It was a terrible disappointment.
The rest of the large Delegation – apart from a young woman who also was sick – at 4 AM piled into two little buses without bathrooms and headed for an eight to twelve hours journey through the Sinai – and with possible hours of delay in getting through the Rafah Crossing into The Gaza Strip. And some of these men and women were in their sixties and seventies.
They were Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists. "These Protestants put us Catholics to shame ," I said to the only other Irishman in the Delegation.
I was profoundly impressed by the dedication of those Americans. Sometimes, Americans abroad can get a bum rap for being loud and self-centered. "But these Americans," I constantly thought to myself, "are the face of all that is good in America." These good folk know American foreign policy is wrong on Israel-Palestine, and they travelled all that way at great expense and difficulty to bear witness – to speak truth to power , and to stand by the poor and oppressed. These are my type of Americans – these are real "christians" – even though, in fact, a number were Jewish. Several were retired Protestant pastors and all of them, "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God." (Micah 6:8).
England, not God, Created State of Israel
The thing that has to stick in the craw of any Irish person worth his salt is that Lord Balfour in 1917 decided to partition historic Palestine, giving part to the Jews and the rest to the Palestinians.
Of course, Balfour and the British Government had no damn right to give Palestine to anyone – no more than they had the right, three years later, to partition Ireland.
As Dev said, partition is the cruelest thing that can be done to any country.
In 1947, a supine UN went along with British policy and "officially" (but illegally and illegitimately) partitioned Palestine. Without the consent of the governed in Palestine, it gave 56% of Palestine to the Jewish people. Renowned Jewish historian, Ilan Pappe, observes: "The injustice was as striking then as it appears now, and yet, it was hardly commented on at the time by any of the leading Western newspapers then covering Palestine: the Jews, who owned less than 6% of the total land area of Palestine and constituted no more than a third of the population, were handed more than half of its overall territory. Within the borders of their UN-proposed state, they owned only 11% of the land, and were a minority in every district." (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.p.34).
Before Britain left Palestine on May 15, 1948, Jewish forces had violently expelled a quarter of a million Palestinians – destroying their homes and razing 500 villages off the map. As a condition for entering the UN, Israel pretended to accept Resolution 194 of the UN, which mandated that the expelled Palestinians had the right of return, and to compensation. But Israel has never honored it – even though the Resolution still stands.
By the end of the 1947-1949 War, Israel had conquered 78% of Palestine. After the 1967 War, The Six Day War, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of Palestine – The West Bank and The Gaza Strip.
But just like Northern Ireland an unjust state cannot survive without discrimination and oppression. That is exactly the unfortunate course Israel has followed – systematic, persistent and relentless discrimination, exclusion and virtual apartheid, as Bishop Tutu has said. Well not quite "virtual" – the good Bishop says the apartheid in Israel is worse than it ever was in South Africa!
Shockingly, today "70% of Palestinians are forcibly displaced persons: refugees/and or Internally Displaced Persons".
- 4.5 million Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948 and registered for assistance with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA);
- an estimated 1.5 million Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948 but not registered for assistance;
- 950,000 refugees displaced in 1967;
- an estimated 338,000 internally displaced Palestinians in Israel; and
- an estimated 115,000 internally displaced Palestinians in the OPT.
In total, the Palestinian refugee population comprises approximately three-quarters of the entire Palestinian population worldwide, numbered today at some 9.8 million.
Palestinian refugees are the largest (and longest standing) single group of refugees in the world.
Almost two in five refugees (worldwide) are Palestinian." (BADIL – Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights).
For this, and for many others reasons, I felt, in conscience, I could not be silent on my return from The Holy Land, and, therefore, I launched The Holy Land Principles – a corporate code of conduct for U.S. companies doing business in the Holy Land – just as I launched the MacBride Principles back on November 5, 1984. It is my fervent hope that the Principles will do for The Holy Land what the MacBride Principles did for Northern Ireland.
Fr. Mc Manus is president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus, and Holy Land Principles, Inc.