CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development calls for more effective action against Israeli settlements in Palestine
CBCI OJPD supports Palestinian move in the UN Security Council for securing membership of the UN
Honourable Minister Shri Salman Khurshid,
Warm Greetings from the Office of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India for Justice, Peace and Development!
It is heartening to learn that India has been reiterating its unwavering support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for a sovereign, independent, viable and united State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, within secure and recognised borders, side-by-side and at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Arab Peace Initiative, the Quartet Road Map and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. India also welcomed and supported the Palestinian move in the UN Security Council for securing membership of the UN. Our Prime Minister in his speech in the UN General Assembly declared that ‘India looks forward to welcoming Palestine as an equal member of the United Nations’. (Source: Ministry of External Affairs Annual Report 2011-2012, P 49)
On the other hand, it is common knowledge that, since 1967, Israel has occupied Palestinian territories and has committed gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law – not to mention of the recent military operation Pillar of Defence that has taken a toll of more than 105 civilian lives including women and innocent children. It is in this context that the Office of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India for Justice, Peace and Development finds great significance in the call of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for additional action to halt the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. UN Rapporteur Richard Falk has called for a boycott of Israeli and international businesses that profit from Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands until the enterprises bring their operations up to par with international human rights standards and humanitarian law.
The Office of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India for Justice, Peace and Development, which is a member of Pax Christi (an international Catholic peace movement), would like to shed light on the fact that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including those in East Jerusalem, have been deemed illegal under international law, and that the international community has the duty to ensure Israel’s respect for international humanitarian law. In the advisory opinion on the Wall, in 2004, the International Court of Justice reconfirmed the illegality of the Israeli settlements, and highlighted that the members of the international community have the ‘duty of non-recognition.’ These settlements have enabled more than half a million Israeli citizens to live in occupied Palestinian territory and systematically obstruct the possibility of a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a solution that India has endorsed often enough.
The Israeli government is preparing the settlements for international competition through subsidisation. Settlement products include agricultural items such as dates, citrus fruits, paprika, potatoes, and herbs, as well as manufactured products like cosmetics, carbonation devices, plastics, textile products, and toys. Over 43 per cent of land in the West Bank, along with the vast majority of water and natural resources, have been seized from Palestinians and allocated to settlements. (Is this not an Israeli provocation?) Palestinian trade and the economy are severely restricted by various physical and administrative obstacles imposed by Israeli authorities, which significantly diminish the competitiveness of Palestinian goods while increasing the unpredictability of delivery time and quality.
An Overview of India-Israel Bilateral Trade and Economic Relations, available at the website (http://www.indembassy.co.il/Bilateral%20Trade%20Relations.htm) of the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv reveal the following:
• Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, bilateral trade and economic relations have progressed rapidly – from a base of US$ 200 million in 1992 to US$ 5.15 billion in 2011.
• In 2011, India was the 8th (in 2010, India was the sixth) largest trade partner of Israel in the world, and 3rd largest trade partner in Asia.
• However, the balance of trade during January-December of 2010 was in Israel’s favour by a whopping US$ 1056.1 million; and, in January-December 2011 by US$844 million.
Again, a glance through the pages of Annual Report 2011-2012 (published by none other than the Ministry of External Affairs and available at http://mea.gov.in/Uploads/PublicationDocs/19337_annual-report-2011-2012.pdf) reveals that the former External Affairs Minister, Shri S M Krishna, during his official visit to Israel from 9-10 January, 2012, met Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, and his Israeli counterpart Mr Avigdor Liberman, and charted out areas of cooperation for the future, including energy, trade, agriculture and human resource development. (MEA Annual Report 2011-2012, P 48), despite the fact that the balance of India’s trade with Israel has been in Israel’s favour.
Against this backdrop, and against the backdrop of Israel’s recent reprehensible military aggression on the innocent civilians of Gaza in Palestine, the Office of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India for Justice, Peace and Development, which is a member of Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement, appeals to the Ministry of External Affairs to
• reconfirm the illegality of Israeli settlements;
• take effective action guaranteeing withdrawal of any kind of support to the Israel’s settlement enterprise;
• boycott – in accordance with UN Rapporteur Richard Falk’s call – Israeli and international businesses that profit from Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands until the enterprises bring their operations up to par with international human rights standards and humanitarian law;
• and, support the Palestinian move in the UN Security Council – on 29 November, the International Day for Solidarity with Palestine – for securing membership of the UN.
Thanking you, Honourable Minister, in anticipation of your effective and immediate action, in favour of Palestine and in defence of justice, I remain
Rev Dr Charles Irudayam
Secretary, CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development