Jamaica and Palestine
Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness met with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied Jerusalem to discuss an expansion of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and the Zionist state. We strongly condemn any attempt by our government to strengthen ties with the apartheid state of Israel.
In their initial discussion Prime Minister Holness articulated much of the empty rhetoric used to justify the illegal, immoral, and inhuman occupation of the Palestinian people by the settler-colonial Zionist state. Our Prime Minister remarked that Israel is a strong democracy, despite the fact that Israel constitutionally defines itself as a Jewish state. The Palestinians who reside within Israel’s borders make up 20% of its population of 8 million people yet every single member of Netanyahu’s cabinet is Jewish, with the exception of one Druze minister. The situation of Palestinians living within the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank is even more dire as they are denied their right to even participate in the Israeli political process.
More than 4.5 million Palestinians have no say in deciding which Israeli political party will control every aspect of their lives. Everyday life in the occupied territories is defined by an inconvenient network of military checkpoints, incursions by the IDF and indiscriminate settler violence, with little to no recourse offered by the Israeli justice system.
Israel cannot be considered as a democracy, much less a strong one when it continues to define and show itself to be a state for Jews, which routinely denies its indigenous non-Jewish population basic human rights. It is an ethnocratic state that flouts international law on a regular basis as well as violating more than 70 UN resolutions from 1955 to the present day. Jamaica has always maintained the position of supporting a two-state solution and in the last few years has voted in favour of motions at the UN which bring Palestine closer to recognition as a fully sovereign state.
This move by Prime Minister Holness to strengthen cooperation with the Zionist state goes against the historical precedence of our nation. Jamaica was at the vanguard of the fight against apartheid, being the first nation to declare a trade embargo against the South African government as early as 1957, whilst still a colony of the British empire. Jamaica consistently throughout the years that followed supported all decisions by the United Nations aimed at eliminating the apartheid system. In 1994 the year Nelson Mandela won the South African presidency; a Jamaican, Angela King was the head of the UN observer team which monitored the elections. In 1978, Michael Manley then Prime Minister was among of group of eminent individuals awarded the United Nations gold medals for distinguished service in the struggle against apartheid. Jamaica and other CARICOM governments even awarded scholarships to South African students to attend the University of the West Indies and other regional institutions during the apartheid era.
It is contemptible that our Prime Minister would seek to cooperate with the Israeli Prime Minister in any capacity, but particularly disturbing was him mentioning security as one of those fields they would seek cooperation in. The Israeli armed forces killed more than 100 Palestinians, including 33 children in 2016, making the last year the deadliest for Palestine in a decade. The Israeli Defence Force is renowned for brutalising civilians, including the elderly and the young, subjecting the Palestinian population of the occupied territories to constant violence that has left countless traumatised beyond remedy.
We also condemn his invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Jamaica, our island should never be welcoming of war criminals or purveyors of apartheid.