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OP-ED: Facing up to the truth of Palestine

  • Published at 07:45 am June 3rd, 2021
Israel Palestine Gaza
How much longer will this continue? REUTERS

Good sense and compassion are needed for a permanent solution for the Holy Land

As far as I remember, the first time I heard the word “refugee” was in the mid-1950s when a maternal great-uncle -- my mother’s uncle -- was visiting us in London from Addis Ababa. 

He had, by then, spent more than 40 years in different parts of Africa as a Church of England chaplain and had been connected with Ethiopia since 1928. He was talking with my mother, a geographer, about the problems of the Palestinian refugees and how, in his opinion, the Palestinians were being mistreated and that many Western nations, principally the US and the UK, were not following the paths of truth and justice. 

It should be noted that my great-uncle had been based in Addis Ababa in 1936 when the Italians invaded and took over, and he had to leave the country. He spent the next five years in Jerusalem where he ministered to the needs of the Ethiopian refugees who had gone there. 

At the time of the discussion about refugees with my great-uncle, my mother had started supporting Oxfam, which was very small at that time, and after being concerned with the plight of refugees in war-torn Europe after World War II, Oxfam was supporting the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian refugees after the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948. 

As I sometimes helped my mother with the fundraising activities, I was allowed to listen in to the discussions about the problems of Palestine. My great-uncle was emotionally very concerned that, despite decisions by the United Nations, a lot of politicians had forgotten that Palestine used to be known as the Holy Land and the area, especially Jerusalem, was a very sacred place for followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and that everyone should, ideally, be living in harmony. 

The discussions with my great-uncle, referred to above, took place in 1954 or 1955 and ever since then, Israel has been allowed, more or less, to do whatever it has liked with, apparently, the blind support of many nations, particularly the US. The bombing carried out by Israel every few years is referred to as “Israel mowing the lawn” and a Jewish man, Dr Gabor Maté, a resident in Canada and a Holocaust survivor himself, says that what Israel has been doing since 1948 is “the longest ethnic cleansing operation in the 20th and 21st centuries, and it is still going on.” 

While he does not support the rocket attacks by Hamas, he points out that “Gaza is the largest outdoor prison,” and that the violence perpetrated by Israel is thousands of times greater. 

Dr Gabor Maté has also said in a recent interview: “If you look at the Western press, when Hong Kong demonstrators throw stones at the police in Hong Kong, that’s considered to be heroism in the American press; when in Myanmar, the demonstrators throw sling shots at the army, at the oppressive army, they are considered to be heroes in the Western press; when Palestinian kids throw stones at the Israeli soldiers, they are called terrorists.”

It appears that in many countries there have been many very recent public demonstrations of support for the Palestinians. It is hoped that good sense with understanding and compassion can infiltrate the UN and that the attention of the permanent members of the Security Council can be drawn towards a permanent solution for the Holy Land.

As Dr Gabor Maté has said, it is not a matter of being pro-Palestine. It is a matter of being pro-truth. That is what has been lacking; leaders of many countries not facing up to the truth. It must start now and with great urgency.

Julian Francis has been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh Citizenship. Julian has also been honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.

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