Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Moving Speech...[Full Text of Roger Waters speech in the UN]

My dearest daughter Aisha,

Yesterday I stumbled upon this moving speech by Roger Waters to the United Nations on 29th November 2012 before your country received 138 votes and was recognised as a state.

I remember how you told me once that most of the people who have helped you and your family were not only Muslims but a majority of them were in fact non-muslims. Christians, Jews and people of other faiths even who were present in Palestine because God moved their hearts to your plight and saw your suffering. These kind hearted people were there because they believe in the rights of every citizen to live in freedom and dignity.

I was embarrassed when you told me this. Mostly because the people of my own country are blind to real struggles and plights of others, and I was once included in that group of people. And yesterday when I saw this speech by Roger Waters, I understood what you meant. I know you struggle to understand spoken English and would do better in reading texts. So I am going to type this out and hope that everyone can read this and understand your plight, what you suffered and what you believed in.

"Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, Thank you very much for receiving me at this moment of solidarity in crisis. I am a musician not a diplomat and so I shall not waste this precious opportunity on the niceties of protocol. However I will say that you must all be suffering from  listening fatigue to a certain extent. So while I've been sitting there listening as well, I have been editing my long speech down to a rather shorter speech, but I believe that the full text will be available to anybody who cares to read it at the end of this meeting.

I appear before you as a representative of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and in that capacity I am representing global civil society. By way of preamble I should say my remarks here today are not personal or driven by prejudice or malice. I'm looking only to shed some light on the predicament of a beleaguered people. The Russel Tribunal on Palestine was created to shed such light, to seek accountability for the violations of international law and the lack of United Nations resolve that prevent the Palestinian people from achieving their inalienable rights, especially the right of self determination.

One particular stimulus to our convening was the disturbing failure of the international community to implement and enforce the clear judgment of the International Court of Justice in 2004 contained in its advisory opinion on the Israeli war as requested by the UN. We meet here in New York city 6 weeks ago on the 6th and 7th October having previously sent out invitations to all interested parties and after listening to exhaustive testimony from many expert witnesses and after careful deliberation, we arrived at the following judgments. We found that the state of Israel is guilty of a number of international crimes.

1. Apartheid - The UN's international covenant on the suppression and punishment of the crime of apartheid defines that crime as inhuman acts by any government that are committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining dominations by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them. This finding by the tribunal was endorsed earlier by the HRC committee for elimination of racial discrimination in Geneva after submissions by the tribunal made both orally and in writing;

2. Ethnic Cleansing - In this case, that crime includes the systematic eviction of much of the native Palestinian population by force since 1947-48

3. Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population - explicitly prohibited by the Geneva convention Article 33. Israel has violated its obligation as occupying power throughout the occupied Palestinian territory including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem  Its most serious violations have occurred recently in Gaza with the blockade and virtual imprisonment of the entire population, the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians during the Israeli offensive "Operation Cast Lead" in 2008 and 2009 and now, the devastation brought by the recent attack, "Operation Pillar of Defense".

As I speak, I can hear the 'tut-tutting' of Governmental and media tongues trotting out the well worn mantra of apologies, 'But Hamas started IT with their rocket attacks, Israel is only defending itself'.Let us examine that argument. Did Hamas start IT? When did IT start? 

How we understand history is shaped by when we start the clock. If we start the clock at a moment when the rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel on a certain afternoon, that is one history. If we start the clock earlier that morning, when a 13 year old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he played soccer on a Gaza field, history starts to look  a little different. If we go back  further, we see that since the Operation Cast Lead, according to the Israeli Human Rights Organisation, B'Tzelem, 271 Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks, and during the same period, not a single Israeli was killed.

A good case can be made that IT started in 1967 with the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. This crisis in Gaza is a crisis rooted in occupation. Israel and its allies would contend that Gaza is no longer occupied really. The withdrawal of soldiers and settlers in 2005 changed the nature not the existence of occupation. Israel still controls Gaza's airspace, coastal waters, borders, land, economy and lives. Gaza is still occupied. 

The people of Gaza, the 1.6 million Palestinians, half of them children under the age 16 live in an open air prison. That is the reality that underlies the current crisis. And until we not only understand that but until YOU Excellencies,your governments and your general assembly take responsibility to end that occupation, we cannot even hope that the current crisis is over.

In October on the last occasion, jurists of the Russell Tribunal addressed this committee, we were assured that our representations and reports will be advanced on the floor of the general assembly for general debate. If things go well today, we may hope to hold your excellencies to that assurance. 

I have diverted briefly and let me return to the Israeli violations which the Russell Tribunal identified...

4. Contravention of 4th Geneva Conventions [Prohibition on Settlements] specifically Article 49 - The settlements, ALL the settlements are not simply an obstacle to peace. They are ILLEGAL

5. Use of illegal weapons - During Israel's Cast Lead Operation 4 years ago, international human rights organisations documented Tel Aviv's use of WHITE PHOSPHORUS in attacks on Gaza. Humans rights watch found that and I quote "Israel's repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes. White Phosphorus burns at up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine what happens when it comes into contact with a skin of a child. Humans rights watch call for Israel's senior commanders to be held accountable". But so far there has been no such accountability.

There are more violations Excellencies, but you know that. Your resolutions trace the history of Israeli violations. You reget, you deplore, you even condemn the violations but when has your resolutions been implemented? It is not enough to deplore, condemn. What we need is for the United Nations, for you excellencies, your governments and the general assembly in which you serve to take seriously your responsibility to protect Palestinians living under occupation and facing the daily violation of their inalienable rights of self determination and equality.

The will of WE, the people of this United Nation is that all our brothers and sisters should be free to live in self-determination, that the oppressed should be released from their burden by being given recourse to the law and that the oppressors should be called to account by that same law.

In 1981, I wrote a song called the "Gunners Dream". It appeared on a Pink Floyd album 'the final cut' and the song purports to express the dying dream of an RAF gunner as he plunges to his death from a stricken aircraft towards the corner of some foreign field.  He dreams of the future of the future for which he is giving his life. I quote "A place to stay, enough to eat, somewhere all heroes shuffles safely down the street, where you can speak out loud about your doubts and fears and whats more, no one ever disappears, you never hear their standard issue kicking in your door. You can relax on both sides of the tracks, and maniacs don't blow holes in banisment by remote control and everyone has recourse to the law and no one kills the children anymore"

In 1982 and again in 1983, the General Assembly passed resolutions holding Israel  accountable for its violations. Those resolutions called for a complete arms embargo on Israel. No such embargo has been imposed. Instead it has fallen to global civil society to take the lead. Following a 2005 call from Palestinian civil society, social movements, activists and increasingly church bodies and even some local government authorities around the world have created the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It aims as many of you know to bring non-violent economic pressure to bear on Israel to force an end to its violations, an end to occupation and apartheid, an end to the denial of Palestinian's right to return, and an end to Palestinian citizens of Israel being required to live as 2nd class citizens, discriminated against on racial grounds and subjected to different laws than their Jewish compatriots.

The BDS movement is gaining ground hand over fist. Just last week I was happy to write a letter of support to the student government of the University of California, Irving congratulating them on demanding that their university divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Also, last summer, I was in Pittsburgh to witness the Presbyterian churches at the United States of America General Assembly vote on a resolution to divest from Motorola, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard. This would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. To quote the great Bob Dylan 'The times, they are a changing'.

Back to today, you the members of the General Assembly, are about to have the opportunity to vote on changing Palestine's UN status to that of a Non-Member status. Whilst not according full UK membership, it would provide UN recognition to Palestine as a state and that would have that right to sign treaties crucially, including the Rome treaty as a signatory to International Criminal Court. 

This is a momentous occasion which was started here 13 months ago. It is one of those rare instances  where you excellencies can change the course  and the face of history and at the same time reinforce one of the founding principles of the UN, the right to self determination. The bid implicitly incorporates pre-67 borders, includes the integrity of East Jerusalem, an autonomous Gaza and the refugee diaspora. It is momentous because there are already 132 members who have recognised Palestine as a state and more are appearing everyday. And now just this week Hamas has lent its support.

I urge you to consider 2 points. Firstly, please resist pressure from any powerful government to coerce you into defeating or delaying this issue. Sadly there is a history of coercion in this hallowed place. No government however rich or powerful should be allowed to use its financial or military muscle to set UN policy by bullying other states on this or any other issue. Secondly, do not take this statehood vote as the end of fulfilling your obligations. General Assembly responsibility goes far beyond UN technicalities. It must include real protection for Palestinians under occupation and real accountability violations of the law. You have the power you do not use. You do not have to defer to or wait for the Security Council.

In just a few months, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the killing of Rachel Corrie, the young peace activist killed by an Israeli soldier driving an armoured Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect the house of a pharmacist and his family in Rafah, on Gaza's border. International activists like Rachel Corrie , Tom Hurndall and James Miller took the risks they did and they and their families paid the ultimate price because the international community, your governments and the United Nations had failed to protect the vulnerable Palestinian population living under this prolonged occupation. We are proud though tears burn our eyes of the work of these young activists and are deeply moved by their sacrifice but we are angry too that our governments and our international institutions including the General Assembly have failed to provide the protection that would have made Rachel Corrie's sacrifice unnecessary. 

Also, let us not forget the thousands of courageous and anonymous Palestinians and their equally courageous Israeli brothers and sisters in arms boycott from within who protests peacefully on a weekly basis for the simple basic right to an ordinary human life. The right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till the land, to build a just society, to travel overboard, and be free of occupation, to aspire to each and every human goal just like the rest of us. 

Speaking of the rest of us, I live here in New York city. We are somewhat a parochial group, we New Yorkers to a large extent cut off by propaganda and privilege from the realities of the Palestinian plight. Few of us understand that the government of the United States of America particularly to its power of veto in the Security Council protects Israel from the condemnation of the global civil society that I have the honour to represent here today. 

Even as bombs rain down on 1.6 million people in Gaza, the President of the United States of America reasserted his position that Israel has a right to defend itself. We all know the reach and power of Israel's military capability and the deadly effects of its actions, so what did President Obama mean? Did he mean that Israel has a right to indefinitely occupy the whole of the region? 

The Palestinians are an ancient, intelligent, cultured, hospitable and generous people. And of course they have pride and will resist the occupation of their land and defend their women and children and property to the best of their ability. Who would not? Would you? Would I? Would President Obama? One would hope so. It would be his duty. 

More than a generation ago, the General Assembly passed Resolution 2625 dealing with the principle of equal rights and self-determination. It recognised that when people face "any forcible action depriving them of those rights, they have a right to actions against in resistance to such use of force". When the international community does not show responsibility to protect, Palestinians will shoulder that responsibility themselves. This is not to suggest that I support the launching of missiles into Israel. I do not. The internationally recognised legal right of resistance means that attacking any military target engaged in illegal occupation. But let's be clear as we believe in the law as indispensable and even handed, the launching of unguided rockets into Israel where the most likely targets is civilians is not a legal form of resistance. It is wrong and it is to be condemned.

Many civil society activists including many Palestinians and Israelis are committed to non-violent resistance. The BDS movement which have spread from Palestine's civil society to activists around the world is part of that non-violent resistance and I support it wholeheartedly. But let us be clear that the disparity of powers are and the reality of the occupation and the response of the occupied is in this reality we face and lest we find recourse in international law and hold ALL parties to it.

In the meantime, let me try to dial back the rhetoric a little and address the 'Israel has a right to defend itself' from a legal and historical perspective. This won't take long. 'Ex Injuria Non Oritur Jus', a legal right or entitlement cannot arise from injustice. If we truly oppose all violence, whether by the occupier or violent resistance by the occupied, we must act to aim the end of the root cause of the violence. In this conflict that means ending Israel's occupation, colonisation, ethnic cleansing and the denial of the right to self-determination and other inalienable rights that the Palestinian people is entitled to according to the UN Charter and other tenets of international law.

So to the future, Hamas having dropped its original demand for Israel to be dismantled in the run up to the elections in which they were democratically elected in January 2006, in elections deemed free and fair by every international observer present including former US president, Jimmy Carter. The leaders of Hamas have made their position clear over and over again. It is this, Hamas is open to permanent peace with Israel if there is total withdrawal to the 1967 borders, 22% of historical Palestine and the arrangement is supported by referendum of all Palestinians living under occupation.  I know you all know this but where I live, they DON'T know this. That don't know that THAT is the position of Hamas so I am telling them. 

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies. We are all here for the same reasons. We are all committed to human rights, to international law, to centrality of the United Nations and the equality for all including Palestinians. We're all attending this meeting on the 29th November that marks the UN's International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. But it seems to me, our commemoration of this day is NOT enough so what else to do. The battleground is HERE, headquarters of the United Nations and simultaneously in the middle of New York City with access to the media. 

The battle is two-pronged, 1. To continue the work of informing the people of the United States of America about the reality of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict and most especially about the role of THEIR government, the host country of the United Nations using their tax dollars to fund and enable Israel's violations. 2. Just as importantly, we must address finally serious reform of the UN. The UN needs to embrace a new democracy. Veto must be rethought or the UN might die. The use of the veto as a strategic political tool by one or another permanent member of the Security Council has become outmoded. The system is too open to abuse. 

The blanket protection afforded to Israel by  the United States use of the veto is but one example of such abuse. I urge you, the general assembly to collectively work towards resting the power back to the people to facilitate progress towards a more democratic body, better able to pursue a higher aspirations of this great institution, to represent the will of the people of this great United Nations.

You the General Assembly represent the largest most democratic component of the United Nations. The United States and China and France and Russia and the UK have no Veto here. What is  needed is political will. You can make decisions and take actions the Security Council CANNNOT or WILL NOT. The United Nations Charter begins with the words "We, the peoples of these United Nations" NOT we the governments. 

I urge you, on behalf of the people of your countries, on behalf of the people of ALL countries, in fact on behalf of ALL the peoples of this, our shared earth to act. Seize this historic moment and support the vote today for Palestinian enhanced observer statehood status as a step towards full membership. 

Thank you.

Aisha, from the river to the sea, one day your Palestine will be FREE. I will join this fight any way I can. I promise.

Ummi Idza

No comments:

Post a Comment