What does Malawi stand to gain by violating international law on Jerusalem?

If the coronavirus pandemic has provided any lesson, it is this; in a global, interconnected world, the welfare of people everywhere is vital to the well-being and safety of the entire world. Depriving any group of their basic rights –  even those thousands of kilometres away – ultimately impacts everyone.

Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa Hanan Jarrar  met President Lazarus Chakwera at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe to raise concern on Malawi’s decision to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. She  delivered a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas which is outlining the concerns.

File photo: Palestine Amabssador inspects a guard of honour mounted by Malawi Defence Force before presenting her letters of credence at Kamuzu Palace

As Palestine’s Special Envoy to Malawi, it was gratifying to hear last week President Lazarus Chakwera affirming Malawi’s support for an end to the Israel occupation of Palestine and the establishment of Palestinian State alongside Israel. President Chakwera made the comments in a meeting with me as I handed him a letter of protest on behalf of Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, against the announcement that Malawi was to follow Donald Trump’s lead and open its embassy to Israel in the occupied city of Jerusalem.

While the city of Jerusalem is sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews, it is also steeped in colonialism and the violent dispossession and displacement of indigenous Palestinians. In 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank (which included East Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip, it annexed East Jerusalem by forcing the application of Israeli law in the city.

In 1980, Israel formalised this annexation. This was considered as a blatant defiance of international law, which formally prohibits any acquisition of territory by force.

All countries – including the United States – protested this move in the UN Security Council (UNSC) by passing several UNSC resolutions condemning  Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and prohibiting any unilateral moves that may later the status of the city.

The UN further requested that all states withdraw any diplomatic presence in the holy city. This is why the US and other countries have never moved their embassies to Jerusalem. Most embassies are in Tel Aviv.

The international community – including the US State Department – officially regards East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy to Jerusalem if therefore illegal in terms of international law.

WW, Palestinians have always maintained that East Jerusalem would be the capital of the future Palestinian State, and this is a central tenet of the two-state solution.

As Donald Trump’s term as US president comes to an end, it is hoped that his  destructive policies – both within the United States and internationally  – will also be reversed. It is also hoped that those global leaders who caved into Trump’s international relations tactics of coercion, political and economic blackmail and outright bullying will also reverse their policies and return to foreign policy based on the universal principles of justice to ensure global security and peace.

Today, overwhelmingly, nations who have endured the horrors of colonialism reject Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Malawi shouldn’t be an exception to this, particularly since the country has the potential to be a very powerful tool to deliver justice for the Palestinians.

In August 2021, President Chakwera will chair  the Southern African Development Community  (Sadc). Malawi has also been elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the next three years. Both these positions allow Malawi to take  a leadership position in advancing the interests of the Global South, including through the championing of the inalienable rights of the Palestine people.

It is unthinkable, then, that Lilongwe would continue to take a position on Jerusalem that goes against both Sadc and the UN. By moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Malawi would be eroding its international credibility.

What does Malawi stand to gain by violating international law?

Israel portray itself as a positive country, happy to share its agricultural and security technology with African friends. At the same time as I was meeting President Chakwera, Malawi’s Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka, was meeting Israel Prime  Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu promised increased cooperation between Israel and Malawi in areas of agriculture, health and cybersecurity.

However, Israel’s “aid” to Malawi and other African states is not philanthropic. Like apartheid South Africa’s “helpfulness” to other African countries, Israel’s “generosity” is designed to whitewash its occupation of Palestine. Its purpose is to force recipient states to negate their long-standing positions at the UN and African Union on the Israeli occupation of Palestine that are in line with international law.

Prior to Mkaka’s meeting with Netanyahu, Malawi opposed or abstained on all three annual UN votes condemning Israeli treatment of the Palestinians – treatment which many senior South African liberation icons have described as “worse than South African apartheid.”

Surely, the diplomatic repayment that Israel demands from Malawi in return from technological assistant is too high. By continuing on this path, the Malawian government run the risk of isolating itself – not only from its SADC partners – but also from its own people who believe that Middle East policy should be based on international law and justice.

On November 29, much of the world will observe International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – a UN-designated commemoration that provides an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine remains unresolved and that the Palestinian people have yet to attain their state.

In a world where most serious challenges need to be dealt with on a global level (whether the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, or increasing poverty), no nation stands to win if it defies the international system, built on universal human principles.

If all states pick and choose what laws and resolutions to respect, then all we are left with is a law of the jungle which benefits no-one but the most powerful.

  • Hanan Jarrar is Palestine’s Special Envoy to Malawi. She is also Ambassador of Palestine to South Africa, and non-resident ambassador to Namibia and Lesotho.

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Melvin
Melvin
15 days ago

Ooh please. Move on and get over it Where was Palestine all these past years? What has Palestine done for Malawi? The answer is ‘NOTHING’ After all is said and considered, Malawi’s choice is still Jerusalem. I am afraid. Israel has been helping our country in the Agronomy sector for many years, unlike the so called Palestine, which never showed any interest in our country, until now. Please do not involve our country into your political affairs and conflicts. You may wish to know that we all know the truth is that the Muslim people did invade the holy land… Read more »

Imran patel
Imran patel
15 days ago
Reply to  Melvin

By the way you idiot Palestinians are Muslims and Christians not only Muslims

The one
The one
14 days ago
Reply to  Melvin

zinazi mumangolemba bola mwalembatu eti……….you dont know anything about the story you better keep quite

guest
guest
14 days ago
Reply to  Melvin

kod what is Palestine offering??? no free lunch in town…anzawo a Israel tikupindula nawo, iwowa nanga ma Palestina wa tikupindula nawo chani?? ife tili ku Yerusalemu basi

Pantumo Chakwera
15 days ago

Reverend Chakwera, if you do not know, your life is in danger as well by taking this unfortunate decision.

Iantana
Iantana
16 days ago

Double standards, those countries called big powers have strong ties with Israel and their embassies are in Tel Aviv. If they had wanted to severe ties they couldnt have allowed Israel occupy that Gaza whatsover and be in any relationship with Israel. We are a soveriegn state ,let alone leave decisions to us!!!

JFK
JFK
16 days ago

But what have we benefited from our relationship with Palestine?

Acumen
Acumen
16 days ago

Malawi gains pride, which as you know comes before one falls. This government is making blunders every day.

President and his vice are now acting like trustees of Beautfy Malawi trust (BEAM)

Enlightened malawian
Enlightened malawian
16 days ago

True malawians tand in solidarity with all oppressed people anywhere in the world. Their pain our pain. Their struggle out struggle. No cover up. No minimising other people’s pain. No support for right wing agenda. No whitewashing of history. All people in that land leaving in peace side by side in two separate states with equal status and standing in tbe world.

Wiseup
Wiseup
16 days ago

True that. Actually all that land is Palestine. Map before 1948 shows all that land belonging to Palestine and it has been for a looong time. If Israel wants to be accepted, a two state agreement should be signed else they should go back to Poland or Russia where they came from and leave that land to owners, the Palestinians and we Malawians should fight for the cause of these innocent people who are criticised and victimised for fighting for their rights and land. These people suffer a lot and the world is never told the truth of their plight… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Wiseup
Victor
Victor
16 days ago

Why should the fate and decisions of Sovereign Malawi, be pushed by others. Malawi changed partnerships from Taiwan for China. No one said anything. Morocco, Sudan, and Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates have diplomatic relationship with Israel, no one cares. Do not push us to make non sovereign decisions because of your policies. Malawi during Kamuzu had a relationship with RSA despite the world pushing them against it.

Bobcat@outlook.com
15 days ago
Reply to  Victor

Akulu lets not glorify Kamuzu’s mediocrity by making his Uncle Tom, house nigger tendencies appear normal. We gained zilch from that foolishness except supplying cheap labour to SA which helped to keep the boers in power longer… we were isolated, the poorest country in the region … and a laughing stock by the rest of the pro African, pro freedom, pro liberty for all countries

Dont hide behind this begging version of sovereignty to justify myopic thinking by Chakwera and his midget brain goons

Imran patel
Imran patel
15 days ago
Reply to  Victor

The problem is that you Victoria are an uneducated man . Did you know that the Israelis treat their own black nationals as third class citizens . Just go to Israel and see how you are treated by the Israelis and then you will probably change your mind . The majority of Israelis don’t like black skinned people.

Don Dada
Don Dada
16 days ago

You are not a very convincing lady. We are opening an embassy in the west and not the east which your country claims.
Don’t drag us into your fight. We recognize you. If you want to work with us, we will gladly open an embassy in your side of Jerusalem too… But if you have no deals to offer us, then go back home. We have more pressing issues for our people that will be dealt with in the deals with Israel. What will you offer us??

Herb
Herb
15 days ago
Reply to  Don Dada

Israel is saying you should speak out against Palestine. Their Minister told Mkaka to speak out. So what do you say about it. Are you telling Israel the same thing. It is clear that by opening an embassy in Jerusalem that is what Israel expects. Why is it not asking other countries with embassies in Tel Aviv to do so.

Imran patel
Imran patel
15 days ago
Reply to  Don Dada

Maybe you know better than the rest of the African leaders who haven’t opened their embassy in Jerusalem or maybe you think the other African leaders are not right in their head.

College of Jerusalem
16 days ago

We will benefit Cancer Hospital in Lilongwe as well as the expertise of the Israelis.

Hope
Hope
16 days ago

Chakwera cannot afford to isolate Malawi because of his religious views. It is very important that he realises that he is leading a country and not a church. If he is unsure let him discuss with fellow African presidents to see why they have not yet opened an embassy in Jerusalem.

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