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Oliver Leighton Barrett | Jamaica must admonish Israel

Published:Tuesday | May 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The contrasts couldn't have been starker.

On one side of the split screen that frames the Israel-Palestine conflict was a smiling Ivanka Trump standing in front of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem unveiling a stone marker engraved with her father's name.

On the other side of the screen were young Palestinians rushing border fences amid billowing black smoke protesting their occupation in general, but the US Embassy move most specifically.

Approximately 60 of these young men were killed by Israel sharpshooters positioned strategically across the demarcation line that separates Jewish prosperity and from Arab destitution. According to Palestinian health officials, Monday, May 14 marked the worst day of carnage there since Israel invaded Gaza in 2014. Given the recent eruption in violence, I feel compelled to challenge the Jamaican Government on its ongoing sheepish response to the Israel-Palestine feud.

Jamaica's official and long-standing position on the conflict has been the global majority stance, most specifically, advocating for continued negotiations towards a two-state solution. Such a solution would enshrine Israel's right to exist within secure borders while allowing the Palestinian people to govern themselves.




Such a formalised end-state would not only demonstrate Israel's magnanimity, but also its commitment to core democratic principles, specifically, the rights of Palestinians to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, the prospect for a happy ending to this conflict is increasingly dim and the Caribbean Community's muteness only helps to make more inevitable a nightmarish outcome.

It is unconscionable that despite the escalation in violence and ongoing denial of basic human rights to Palestinians (their fishing, farming and movement are severely restricted), Jamaica specifically, and CARICOM more generally, continue to take a "we better sit this one out" policy posture.


Is it not evident that the current Israeli and American leadership have no interest in a two-state solution and seek nothing less than the total submission of Palestinians? Isn't the unannounced yet very evident

U-turn in American policy that has the effect of smashing Palestinian chances for a nation of their own contrary to long-standing Caribbean policy? If so, why the deafening silence?

I reminded Gleaner readers in an article last December that during the apartheid era, Jamaicans spoke out energetically against the notion that might equalled right. We fought against the notion that it was legitimate for one population to incarcerate, abuse, and humiliate another to advance its narrow unilateral interests. There was no sitting on the fence for Jamaica during that era, and there should be no sitting on the fence with regard to Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel.

Last, Israel will always enjoy an unbreakable bond with the Jamaican people, but even younger brothers - out of love - can constructively admonish older brothers. I think it's time for Jamaica (and the broader Caribbean Community) to remind God's chosen people that there is no greater commandment than "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."

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