Sunday, 8 December 2013

Open letter to the Chief Minister on his visit to Israel.

Dear Chief Minister,

I see from the news today that you are currently in Israel for a conference. A picture is circulating on Twitter of yourself shaking hands with President Shimon Peres.

This comes just a few days after you paid tribute to Nelson Mandela for fighting his entire life against Apartheid and racial discrimination.

I first just want to draw attention to a quote from Nelson Mandela, in a memo that he sent to the American journalist Thomas Friedman - "Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children."

Today Israel commits crimes against the Palestinian people which are almost identical (and in many cases much worse) to the crimes that were committed against non-whites in South Africa.

Israel occupies the West Bank and runs a blockade of the Gaza Strip which is almost universally condemned by the international community. Military operations are regularly conducted by Israel which almost always end up killing a significant and disproportional number of civilians. Israel is in breach of more United Nations resolutions than all of the other countries of the world combined.

I am sure you are not a supporter of any of these things.

Of course it is a positive thing for Jersey politicians to go around the world to encourage businesses in other countries to set up in Jersey, including Israeli businesses. But it is our duty as a society that values freedom, equality and democracy, not to enable other countries to commit crimes against humanity.

The reason why the Boycott Movement campaign was so important to South Africa, was because it forced the government to accept that the system was not sustainable in the long run and that it could not remain profitable so long as it was the cause of discouraging businesses to engage with South Africa.

Likewise, the BDS campaign for Israel is equally as important. So long as Israel's oppression and occupation of the Palestinians remains financially viable it will continue and crimes will keep on being committed. The occupation will crumble when it becomes both politically and financially unsustainable.

So I am concerned when I see politicians visiting Israel, and I want reassurance that absolutely nothing is being done that could risk Jersey engaging and, by extension, assisting with the occupation.

So I want to ask you; what precautions do you and your colleagues take when in Israel, to ensure that you are not encouraging any business that is either based on occupied territory, or profits from the occupation, to forge links with Jersey? When visiting Israel (and Arab countries with very poor human rights records) do Jersey politicians exercise any moral judgement when making decisions on who to speak to, and how to speak to them?

One specific example of something that I thought was unacceptable was when Senator Maclean visited Israel in March this year and met with the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city which is half occupied, and it's occupation is one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the region because the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital. The occupation of Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law, and therefore the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem is an illegitimate position. Part of that role involves administering an illegal occupation which has seen thousands of Palestinians thrown out of their homes with no compensation, to be replaced by Jewish settlers.

Were I the Economic Development Minister, I would seriously have considered not meeting the Deputy Mayor.

I hope you will take the time to read this email and answer my questions on how you and your colleagues consider these factors when making decisions.

As long as Jersey is taking up more responsibilities for it's international identity, it is important for the government to take a moral stance on various issues and make it clear that Jersey will not inadvertently assist any government that is abusing human rights.

"Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians." - Nelson Mandela

Kind Regards,
Sam Mézec


  1. Who shall determine Jersey's own "foreign policies" if they differ from the UK's?
    Of course, who actually determines UK policies is a total mystery because they are certeinly not decided by the electorate and if Scotland breaks with London, Jersey residents may have to add another "foreign" territory to worry about. The world is juet getting too complicated so the sooner we all sign up to everything the UN has to offer on Humand Rights et al the better. Unfortunately, Israel has probably already signed up to many more UN and similar conventions and treaties than Jersey so we should hope that Mr Peres gives CM Gorst a good talking to because business and sport - as the South African example and others have shown time after time - won't do the reforming job...

  2. I'm not saying I subscribe to the argument, but isn't their a case to be made that business engagement can lead to human rights dialogue? After all, sanctions can only be effective where the loss of a trading relationship is deemed harmful. Interested to know your thoughts.

    Very good and important letter by the way.

    1. There is definitely an argument there.

      I wouldn't say totally boycott Israel and everything to do with it. After all, there is nothing to be gained from punishing ordinary Israeli's in, say, Haifa, who work in businesses with no connection to the atrocities against the Palestinians, and may well be totally against them.

      Whatever efforts have to be concentrated on boycotting things that are directly to do with the occupation because working with them is enabling their crimes.

      Okay, if we don't do business with them, perhaps someone else will just swoop in and do it instead, but at least our conscience as a community can be clear that we were not enabling human rights abuses.

      As Jersey is tiny and very very uninfluential in the world, we are never going to topple a system, but I think the principle has to count for something.

  3. Sir

    A great letter. I hope you get the opportunity to ask questions like this in the States Chamber. By taking a subject normally ruled by emotion and dealing with it in such a mature and statesman like way you will gain a far wider audience than if you went down the other route. I will be very disappointed with the CM if he does not respond to this.

  4. Great letter Sam. I truly hope you get an honest reply. However, I won't hold my breath. You have a great future in politics young man, Do not let this government draw you into their fold.

  5. Thanks Paul and Anonymous for the positive comments!