Today 136 out of 193 UN member states have formally recognised Palestine. The UK needs to show some leadership and be amongst the first Western European countries to recognise Palestine and its right to self-determination.
British Government already recognises the principle that the Palestinian people have an inalienable right to self-determination but has not granted this officially because it wants to reserve the right to do so at a moment of its choosing to best help bring about peace.
That moment is now. Recognition is a good starting-point for negotiations and would help guarantee that the focus of talks is about how Palestine becomes a viable and secure sovereign state – not whether it becomes one. Denying recognition as the current British government is doing is entirely at odds with the principle of self-determination.
Of course, neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist. It can be difficult to understand the scale of the human tragedy that is occurring on this narrow strip of land, day in day out. Not just when the camera crews and journalists are there, but every single day.
It’s vital that human rights violations and violence on all sides cease and that the international community take strong action to hold the perpetrators to account.
One of those core causes is the eternal question mark that hangs over Palestine’s right to exist. Recognition would help the process of removing that question mark and allow Israelis and Palestinians to look forward to a future defined by equality, justice, freedom and peace.
In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles creating the only light. Thousands of families have lost loved ones in house fires. Gaza’s residents face so much struggle and pain, just to secure one of life’s basic necessities.
Today, if you ask Palestinians in Gaza how they are doing, they might respond: “Alive, due to lack of death.” This commonly used expression captures the misery of everyday life in Gaza.
Every second in Gaza under Israel’s blockade – where water and medical care are luxuries – is tainted by tragedy. Every time a family can’t afford to put food on the table, every time a house fire claims yet another victim, every time a cancer patient can’t acquire life-saving treatment or another desperate human ends their life, the dreadfulness of the blockade comes into full view.
The UN has declared Gaza “unliveable”, and the blockade creates a passive, collective death. What will it take to convince the international community that the people of Palestine, like all humans on this Earth, deserve to live in dignity?
So long as Israel maintains great control over Palestinian lives but denies them their basic rights and freedoms, it cannot call itself a democracy.