Tasnim – Jonathan Rosenhead, chairman of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, likened the recent killings of Palestinians by Israeli troops near Gaza border to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 in South Africa.
“The casualties in Gaza are now greater than those at the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. In both cases armed security forces fired without provocation on unarmed protesters. Sharpeville was the turning point for international condemnation of the South African apartheid regime,” Professor Rosenhead told Tasnim in an interview.
Jonathan Rosenhead is Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the London School of Economics, and Chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. In December 2010, he was appointed IFORS Distinguished Lecturer for the Association of Asia Pacific Operational Research Societies (APORS) regional conference. This honor, awarded by the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS), recognizes distinguished OR scholars.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: As you know, a US delegation flew to Israel recently amid rising tensions ahead of planned protests against the controversial move of the American embassy to Jerusalem (al-Quds) and rallies calling for the Palestinians’ right of return to the homes from which they were expelled from in 1948. Several US officials, joined by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband and senior adviser Jared Kushner, attended the opening on Monday, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. What consequences might the opening have?
Rosenhead: Donald Trump has now taken a number of controversial decisions, which play to his more reactionary supporters in the US, but are nearly universally condemned by other governments. We have already seen the consequences of the embassy move today – the killing of still more unarmed demonstrators in Gaza, protesting at this move to consolidate Israel’s control over Jerusalem, which the Palestinians aspire to have as the capital of their own state. Anger against both the US and Israel have undoubtedly been stoked. One positive consequence is the evidence, sorely needed, that the Palestinian cause has not been forgotten by the outside world.
Tasnim: How would or should the world, particularly the Muslim world, react to the move?
Rosenhead: I would not dream of telling the Muslim world how it should respond. But those countries that have been quietly distancing themselves from the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians while simultaneously making accommodations with Israel should realize that they risk alienating their own populations, who relate to the suffering of the Palestinians.
Tasnim: Do you believe that the opening of the embassy by the US would be the final nail in the coffin of Zionism in the Middle East as many experts believe?
Rosenhead: No. It is going to be a long struggle. Israel has a strong economy and powerful army, and a ruthlessness in using it. So long as it has the backing of the US it will remain formidable. Let me be clear – the Jewish population in Israel will continue to live there under any conceivable future arrangement for the area. That is not negotiable. What is negotiable is the nature of the state or states in that little country, and the rights of all its peoples. Getting an end to the current violations of international and human rights law has to be at the heart of that project.
Tasnim: The United Nations General Assembly on December 21 overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of al-Quds as the occupying regime’s capital. However, Trump did not listen and pushed ahead with the opening of the embassy. Do you think the UN did enough to stop Trump?
Rosenhead: No of course not. The General Assembly has moral authority but no enforcement arm. With the Security Council blocked by the US veto, we need actions from governments, propelled by the force of civil society’s support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), to show Israel that their actions have consequences.
Tasnim: According to reports, more than 50 people were killed in Gaza while Ivanka Trump and his husband were celebrating the opening. What is your take on this?
Rosenhead: The casualties in Gaza are now greater than those at the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. In both cases, armed security forces fired without provocation on unarmed protesters. Sharpeville was the turning point for international condemnation of the South African apartheid regime.