OUR CARIBBEAN: Caricom’s voice on Palestine
Amid the terrifying bombardment and resulting human tragedies from the first week this month in the latest military conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza, there came a lone muted official warning from a Caribbean Community government within the first four days of what remains a deteriorating situation, with hundreds being killed and thousands injured and homeless.
Five days after a warning plea from the Guyana government, the Georgetown-based Caribbean Community Secretariat released a tentative, squeaky but, nevertheless, welcome appeal.
It urged “restraint” and for both sides to engage in “good faith negotiations” to enable the resolution of what remains one of the world’s best known age-old conflicts between two border neighbours in need of a long overdue two-state solution.
In its statement expressing “grave concern” over the unfolding tragic events in Gaza, the Guyana government had stressed that “a military solution to the crisis in Gaza or to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be a first resort” and, therefore, “implores the Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations and exercise maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties”.
By this past weekend while, strangely, no other CARICOM member government is known to have made a public statement, a quartet of Barbados-based non-governmental organisations – among them those recognised for their militancy in decrying political and social injustices and in defending preservation of human rights – were ready to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian people.
While, by comparison with responses from international human rights and political organisations and movements, the CARICOM plea (made by Secretary General Irwin LaRocque) could be viewed as a cautionary diplomatic intervention, there remained an appalling failure by rich and powerful nations of the world – foremost being the United States and Britain – to at least influence a temporary truce between the warring parties.
Britain, after all, is historically linked to the Palestinian/Israeli territorial conflict in their respective “homeland” quest. And in respect to the United States – historically the single biggest annual provider of military and economic aid to Israel – it was difficult to miss its initial reluctance to become actively involved for the avoidance of now escalated bloody warfare.
Fear of such an outbreak was clearly evident against a background of mysteries surrounding the death of three missing Israeli youths and the subsequent death of a Palestinian youth, regarded as a “revenge” killing.
Without any independent investigation and before the separate burial of the lads, war drums were energetically being beaten by the influential right wing and Palestinian Authority haters in the government of Israel’s generally hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the hawks of Hamas in Gaza.
It is worth noting that CARICOM – despite being comparatively small in size, human and economic resources and geo-political influence – has by its public appeal once again demonstrated commitment to preference for peaceful negotiations to resolve territorial conflicts.
If either the big and influential bloc of states in this western hemisphere – namely, the 12-nation Union of South American Union (UNASUR), or the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – made public statements of their own, I cannot recall any such related media reporting.
However, given their own respective philosophies and stated commitment to peaceful resolutions of territorial conflicts, then both UNASUR and CELAC would also be expected to favour international interventions to enable a peaceful resolution.
Even before the United Nations Security Council’s decision of July 21 for a “ceasefire”, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was forthcoming in signalling the dangers of the crisis amid thousands desperately seeking refuge in facilities.
Unfortunately, that ceasefire call failed to bear much fruit.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.