Palestine Ambassador to Kenya Hazem Shabat has described attacks by Israeli settlers and soldiers at the occupied West Bank as “state-sponsored terrorism”.
His comments came after the Palestine Health ministry yesterday said that six Palestinians were on Tuesday killed in an Israeli military raid at Jenin refugee camp in West Bank.
Israel said one of the dead had been responsible for killing two Israeli brothers last month, the BBC reported yesterday.
Shabat blamed the international community for the violence witnessed at West Bank saying it had not taken action to curb Israel’s aggression and hold it accountable for breaking international law numerous times.
“The international community is equally responsible for Israel’s violations in occupied Palestine. The United States and other key European actors have continuously applied double standards in their upholding of international law when it comes to violations committed by Israel, the occupying power,” he told The Standard in an interview.
Shabat noted that despite their declared statements on the violations, no concrete actions or measures have been taken to ensure Israel complies with UN Security Council resolutions.
Two weeks ago, an Israeli American was shot and killed in West Bank as violence intensified.
The shooting, the BBC reported, happened after Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian villages in West Bank with dozens of cars and houses burned.
That attack came after two settlers, from a nearby village, were shot dead by a Palestinian. Israel’s government described the killings in Hawara as “a Palestinian terror attack”.
“The last wave of violence is a direct result to the continuous incitement at the highest level in the new radical Israeli government. A few days ago, the Israeli Minister of Finance (Bezalel Smotrich) called for the wiping out of a town called Hawara. This has received a considerable amount of condemnation,” Shabat told The Standard.
The US State Department termed Smotrich’s statement as incitement to violence and called on Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly condemn it.
Reuters quoted US State Department spokesperson Ned Price saying that Smotrich’s comments “were irresponsible, repugnant and disgusting”.
But Shabat told The Standard that if these condemnations do not translate “to action on the ground to hold Israel accountable, it will be in violation of international laws and the peace agreement”.
“The international community’s accommodation for inciteful rhetoric is an invitation for more war crimes to be perpetrated against the Palestinian people who have been living under Israel’s military occupation for over 56 years.”
The Envoy added that “overlooking expansion of colonial settlements in the occupied territory, state backed terrorism against our people, and countless other crimes only feeds into the conflict and drives us away from a peaceful and just solution”.
When asked by the Palestinian President to put an end to Israel’s violations, Shabat said, the US president claimed that it was beyond his powers, and only Jesus could achieve such a miracle.
He said fighting Israelis on Palestinian territory is a right no country or leader can take away from them and they will use “whatever means is necessary”.
Shabat said the attacks by Israeli settlers took place in Palestinian lands in violation of international law.
The envoy said the international community takes steps to ensure violence doesn’t escalate but it has not taken any step to end the occupation which begun on June 7, 1967 when Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula.
It also permanently annexed East Jerusalem and built military administrations in occupied territories.
Under the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The UNSC resolution 2334 of 2016, condemned “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.”
Shabat said though the United Nations general assembly recognises Palestine as a State, the country still remains an observer State and not a member of the UN. “This is because membership requires that the five UN Security Council permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) should all be onboard in a resolution making Palestine a member and we failed to get the approval of the Americans,” he told The Standard.
In 2012, the UN general assembly voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as a state amid opposition from the United States and Israel.
The 193-member assembly voted 138 in favour, with only nine against and 41 abstentions.
US President Joe Biden visited Palestine in July last year and he was met by small pockets of protests. At the time, Biden promised $300 million (Sh38.4 billion) in aid.
But Shabat told The Standard that the visit exposes the United States’s double standards. He said the tour was prooof that the US recognised Palestine as country and respected its leadership but wondered why Washington was not pushing for implementations of existing peace agreements.
“Unfortunately, American foreign policy on Israel is driven by internal partisan politics. Israel’s support of the Jewish lobby in American politics is very strong,’ he said.
‘No,” he said when asked if he would classify Hamas – an Islamic resistance movement – as a terrorist organisation.
He compared Hamas with Kenya’s freedom fighters – Mau Mau. He said just like the Mau Mau, Hamas was fighting an occupying force.
Shabat however clarified that he does not support Hamas’s methods of trying to end the Israeli occupation. He said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was pursuing “legal means of restoring peace and ending the occupation.” “We condemn the killing of civilians be they Palestinian or Israelis,” he said.
Asked whether how Kenya and Palestine’s engagement has changed with the change of leadership, the envoy said: “Kenyan Palestinian consultations and communications between the highest levels in both countries continue to indicate a strong Kenyan foreign policy on the Palestinian inalienable rights and aspirations for full independence based on relevant Security Council resolutions on the matter.”
Shabat however noted that the Kenyan engagement on the Palestinian cause needs to catch up with the developments of the conflict.
“This is something that we expect to witness once the new government overcomes the pressing challenges, such as the drought, economic recovery, and cost of living,” he said.
He said the US has in the past pressured African partners to take positions that were not aligned with international law or their long-standing international positions. “This was evident in 2012 when the US diplomatically influenced African positions to spare itself the immorality of using the veto power on the issue of The State of Palestine’s United Nations membership bid,” the Envoy added.
He was referring to Nigeria’s abstention to avoid the matter being considered and voted on.
“The reports of the Trump administration insisting to include Israel in the Trade agreement with Kenya should be considered blackmail. It is taking advantage of the country’s aspiration to development and prosperity to enforce the US’s impunity to Israel as a condition,” he continued.