By Owei Lakemfa.
Nabil Suleiman stood before the Nigerian audience. His speech was quite short. It did not matter because his being told the story of pain. Apparently, he has done well for himself but it is an inner fulfillment he seemed to crave and an end to the suffering of his people, the Palestinians. It was at the 2019 Human Rights Day this Wednesday, December 10. He told the audience at the University of Lagos: “ I have been in Nigeria for more than twenty years. I am proud to be a Nigerian, and I am proud to be a Palestinian.. My father left Palestine in 1948 when he was five. I was born in Lebanon; I have never been to Palestine.”
His story is typical of five million Palestinians who are refugees in various parts of the world because Israel refuses them the right to return home contrary to international law and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Israel which is occupying the Palestinian territories including Gaza and the West Bank refuses to allow Mr. Suleiman’s family return home, and is refusing him and his children, the right to even see their homeland.
It is for people like the Suleiman family, world peace and social justice that eight Nigerian human rights and civil society groups held a joint international symposium on “The Inalienable Rights Of Palestinians To Statehood”
Alhaji Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu, 79, founding President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) is one of few Africans who met and interacted with Yasser Arafat, the legendary Palestinian leader who dedicated his life for the liberation of his people. As chairperson of the occasion, he said the Palestinian cause is just and is backed by international conventions and laws, but that these have not been effected because: “ In international relations, the application of international laws, is also a question of power play” The United Nations (UN) he said, has been powerless to call Israel to order because a single country amongst the five Permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) can veto the decision of all other members of the world body. He argued that the Jewish lobby and media in America is so powerful that it is virtually impossible for any American administration to oppose Israeli actions no matter how outrageous.
In my paper, I argued that the 2019 International Human Rights Day, starkly reminds us that the human race should be superior and live better lives than the animal race, and avoid the rat race..
I said in this age, when many take basic human rights for granted, in the case of the Palestinians, Israel violates ALL the 30 Articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed 71 years ago. This includes building physical and mental walls, mass imprisonment, discrimination, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest, detention and exile.
I pointed out four ironies about the state of Israel. First, that the Jews who suffered greatly under the racist ideology of Nazism are implementing another brand of the same racist ideology, Zionism which claims superiority over other human beings. That the Jews who suffered genocide under Hitler are today, carrying out genocide against the Palestinians. Thirdly, that the Jews who for over 2,000 years yearned for a homeland are now denying another race of people, the Palestinians, a homeland of their own.
The fourth irony I pointed out is Israel which at inception refused to allow God be mentioned in their constitution, because the new Jewish leaders argued that God had done very little for them, and therefore deserved no mention, is being presented as a Christian country. I pointed out that the founders of Zionism and Israel including Theodor Herzel, the Austro-Hungarian journalist who founded the Zionist Movement, David Ben-Gurion (Green) founder and first Prime Minister of modern Israel, Moshe Dayan, former Defence and Foreign Minister, and former Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Yitzak Rabin were atheists!
But that unfortunately, many Africans sheepishly and ignorantly support and rationalize the crimes against humanity perpetuated by Israel because they have the false belief that it is a religious conflict. I concluded that the resolution remains a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians would have guaranteed and secured borders, with a shared Jerusalem and a shared commitment to social justice.
Malam Naseer Kura, political and human rights activist said the Palestinian issue is a struggle against occupation and racism and that there is the need to for Nigerians to wage the Palestinian struggle as they did against Apartheid. The Nigerian government he said, needs to go beyond the mere recognition of the PLO and Palestine Authority to ensure that Israel abides by United Nations Resolutions. He urged it to set aside a Solidarity Day with Palestine.
Dr. Ihsan Adel of Ruhr University, Germany said the five million Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to their ancestral home. Ruhr who provided statistics on the continued Israeli theft of Palestinian lands, replacing existing Palestinian homes with Jewish settlements and the 708-kilometre wall Israel has built into the Palestinian West Bank, appealed to countries including Nigeria to insist that Palestinians like other peoples of the world, have a right to self-determination.
Biodun Aremu, Secretary of the Joint Action Front (JAF) of Civil Societies and Co-Secretary of the Labour-Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) said there are four major historical injustices. They are the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade which went on for 350 years, the 1884/85 Partition of Africa; the Palestinian Issue and the continued colonization of the Saharawi in Western Sahara by Morocco.
He said given the ambivalence of the UN on many issues including the Palestinian Question, there may be the need to renegotiate the body or Nigeria’s membership, adding that the Veto power must not be allowed to continue.
Aremu argued that: “ The American economy is a war economy, that is why it is at war everywhere” and encourages conflicts including in the Palestine. He urged for mass education to educate Nigerians and Africans about the nature of the Palestinian conflict, America and the UN.
Rasheed Atta, a lawyer from the International Institute for Human heritage (IIHH) argued that with the Palestinians in captivity, all humans are in bondage. To pressure Israel to end its gross violation of human rights of Palestinians, he urged an international boycott of Israeli goods, disinvestment from its businesses and sanctions.
Participants endorsed the submissions of the speakers and the need to support the right of Palestinians to self-determination and their homeland.