Letters to the Editor

Lame excuse on Jerusalem vote, PM Holness!

Friday, February 09, 2018

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Dear Editor,

According to reports, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in response to a query during US Secretary of State Tillerson's visit, said Jamaica did not need to take a position on the United Nations General Assembly's vote late last year to condemn the USA controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there. I thought the prime minister's response was lame and mediocre. Imagine if other UN member countries took this position when asked to vote on important foreign matters.

The prime minister went on to state that its policy is not determined based on foreign aid and benefits, yet Jamaica abstained after US threatened countries to withdraw aid if they voted against. A total of 128 countries voted overwhelmingly in the emergency session of the UN to condemn the USA, eight countries voted to support, and 38 countries, including Jamaica, abstained.

To put this vote into context, one has to understand the role and function of the UN in promoting world peace. The UN is an intergovernmental body, with 193 sovereign member states with equal representation in the assembly. The organisation was formed after World War II, in 1945, to collectively cooperate to solve social, economic, cultural, and humanitarian problems, striving to prevent conflicts which could escalate into wars, and destabilise peace and habitat around the globe.

As a member, Jamaica signed up to support the mission of the UN. Conflicts over territorial rights are never easily solved; the emphasis should be on diplomacy, mediation and negotiation to try to resolve conflicts which could escalate. The control of Jerusalem has been a point of contention for decades. Israel gained control over the eastern parts in 1967, after the Middle East War, while Palestine still hopes to regain control of the city for their capital. In the process Israel has also been accused of exerting dominance over Palestinians and migrants with inhumane and racist practices, which equates to apartheid.

When the USA threatens UN members to “take a list” of names voting against, and withdraw its foreign aid from those countries that voted against, this is a form of bullying which undermines the purpose and mission of the UN. Ironically, many countries defied this tactic, some of the largest recipients of US aid, still voted against the USA position. Key allies of the USA, including UK, France, Japan, also voted against.

Since the US announced its decision, protests and violence have erupted in the West Bank and in Muslim countries, which could further escalate the conflict. The embassy move does not resolve the problem, it could make it worse. Yet, our prime minister says Jamaica did not need to have a position, which I'm sure they do in private.

Jamaica, a country which has great interests in the Middle East, a region where many Jamaicans now live, work and study, needs to develop a backbone when it comes to determining its own position and foreign policy. It can be done with tact and diplomacy.

P Chin


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