As a non-permanent member of the 15-nation body United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Nigeria will cast a vote on Palestinians' bid to have a nation of their own. This vote may be the decisive vote that will free Palestine from humiliation, from oppression, more pain and deaths or perpetuate it. Although the Obama Administration has promised a rogue veto once the voting is in favour of the Palestinians, the US and Israel have been putting enormous lobbying resources and crude pressure on the members of the UNSC, including Nigeria, to prevent the need and shame of using the veto.
At this crucial time, the Nigerian government, the Nigerian media and Nigerian people must do the right thing, we must remember the glorious roles we played in supporting the victims of the racist policy of Apartheid in South Africa, examine our conscience and do the right thing again. This is our true nature that we must connect with in this case. There is no reason for us to behave differently now because the policy that Israel exercises in the occupied territories is similar to that of Apartheid South Africa. President Goodluck Jonathan must consider very seriously the choices that Nigeria has- to support the oppressed in throwing off the yoke of oppression, or turn his face away from oppression and apartheid. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, detailed some of the indicators of apartheid in the occupied territories:
- preferential citizenship, visitation and residence laws and practices that prevent Palestinians who reside in the West Bank or Gaza from reclaiming their property or from acquiring Israeli citizenship, as contrasted to a Jewish right of return that entitles Jews anywhere in the world with no prior tie to Israel to visit, reside and become Israeli citizens;
- differential laws in the West Bank and East Jerusalem favouring Jewish settlers who are subject to Israeli civilian law and constitutional protection, as opposed to Palestinian residents, who are governed by military administration;
- dual and discriminatory arrangements for movement in the West Bank and to and from Jerusalem; discriminatory policies on land ownership, tenure and use; extensive burdening of Palestinian movement, including checkpoints applying differential limitations on Palestinians and on Israeli settlers, and onerous permit and identification requirements imposed only on Palestinians;
- punitive house demolitions, expulsions and restrictions on entry and exit from all three parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Special Rapporteur concludes that this "general structure of apartheid that exists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories ... makes the allegation increasingly credible despite the differences between the specific characteristics of South African apartheid and that of the Occupied Palestinian Territories regime." Also, the South Africa's statutory research agency the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) stated in a 2009 report that "the State of Israel exercises control in the (Occupied Palestinian Territories) with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid."
There is no difference of opinion that what exists in the occupied territories is akin to apartheid and if Nigeria opposed apartheid in the 80s, why should it tolerate it 20 years later? Nigeria already recognises the Palestinian nation and voting against its legalization at the UN will be a direct contradiction to our foreign policy objectives in relation to the conflict, the noble role Nigeria has always played in that part of the world. As it did during the dark era of Apartheid, Nigeria must now show its true friendship towards the oppressed and not succumb to the tremendous pressure that the US will put on the administration to vote against the bid or abstain. Nothing will benefit NIgeria by abstaining or voting against fredom for the oppressed. It is clear to the whole world that US is a partner-in-crime to Israel and, part and parcel of the conflict on the side of Israel. Such a blatantly biased party cannot claim to be a peace broker and convener of any credible negotiation that the Palestinians should commit its future to. And the US is arm-twisting nations too. The Jerusalem Post (20/09/11) reports that "Ehud Barak has convinced Nigeria to not support the Palestinian statehood bid, a statement from the Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday. As part of the lobbying efforts, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met in New York Tuesday with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. The meeting between the two was set up about a week ago, and ÔÇô according to the statement put out by Barak's office ÔÇô was coordinated both with Netanyahu and the US." The Permanent Secretary of Nigeria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied and renounced this report.
The Palestinians have endured more than 40 years of most brutal occupation, including 18 years spent in useless negotiations- a theatrical exhibition organized by the United States to provide excuse for Israel to intensify and consolidate illegal settlement expansion activities. Palestinian men, women and children have carried out peaceful protests to shake off a long running oppression and acts of racism. Thousands of their sons and daughters are in Israeli gulag for no other reason than refusing to be slaves in their own homeland. The people of Gaza, still living under illegal siege, have become guinea pigs for Israel to field test and eventually market new horrific weapons specifically designed for powerless urban populations, such as fleshettes, white phosphorous bombs, and remote controlled predator drones which it used purposely to target children playing on roofs. And the only crime of the Gazans was to dream of a homeland in their ancestral towns and villages. During Israel's Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, U.S.-supplied F-16's rained hellfire on a trapped people and ethnic cleansing became full scale genocide. On October 4, 2006, a galaxy of 135 former presidents, prime ministers, foreign and defense ministers, congressional leaders and heads of international organizations issued a joint call for urgent international action to end Palestinian misery. In their statement they declared that the conflict must immediately be settled in order to assure "security and full recognition to the state of Israel within internationally recognized borders, an end to the occupation for the Palestinian people in a viable independent, sovereign state, and the return of lost land."
The World Conference against Racism (WCAR), an international event organized by UNESCO, in the edition held in Durban from 31 August until 8 September 2001 (titled "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance"), declared the Israeli state policy of Zionism, and treatment of the Palestinians as Racism. It was at this event in 2001 that Nigeria led other nations to demand for individual apologies from each of the countries responsible for slavery, recognition of it as a crime against humanity and reparations. These are some of the facts that the Federal Government must remember at this crucial time that God has placed it in a position to set a whole nation free from tyranny and oppression. These are the important things to remember when taking decisions on the crucial vote at the Security Council.
The United States and Israel know they are playing a losing game. They have placed themselves on the wrong side of justice and have refused to take important lessons in history. Majority of world nations support the Palestinian right to seek and get statehood, but for the United States, its way has to be the only way.
It is in our national interest to be seen to stand for justice at this junction in history. Nigeria now has an important opportunity to make its voice heard through its vote at the UNSC and make a difference. Let us change the world together and grant to the Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, the promise we all need as human beings: The promise of dignity. Enough is enough.