Ruth Lynn Deech, Baroness Deech, DBE is a British academic, lawyer and bioethicist, most noted for chairing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, from 1994 to 2002, and as the former Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford
Baroness Deech (CB): My Lords, with unfortunate timing, this debate is taking place two days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, despite the millions spent on Holocaust education and remembrance, the museums and memorials and the school visits to concentration camps, there is a gap in memory and education that needs to be bridged. The desire and opportunity to murder 6 million people of a different religion whose presence on his territory the murderer resents must not arise again. The message Jews took from the Holocaust was that their nationalism was necessary. It has been a success. Israel is not Saudi Arabia; it is not North Korea, Iran or Pakistan. It is a flourishing and democratic outpost in the desert with an astonishing record. It is a safe haven, an imperative for existence that can be applied to no other country in the world.
Yasser Arafat declared an independent state of Palestine in 1988 and recognition followed from 100 states. The subsequent failure to change anything on the ground demonstrates the truth of the international law on recognition: namely, that statehood has to be founded in fact, not in numbers of recognitions.
As far as this Motion goes, almost every word of it is dubious. There can be no contribution towards a two-state solution because recognition of Palestine, falsely based, will only make the situation more dangerous. There can be no two-state solution unless Palestine recognises Israel, which she has steadfastly refused to do. There is no statehood attaching to Palestine in international law because it does not meet the criteria. A sovereign state of a Muslim Palestine has never existed—not before 1948, and not before 1967. It was Egyptian and Jordanian territory. Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state was rejected in 2009. The intention of many of the players in the region has always been the elimination of a Jewish presence in the area, not the establishment of yet one more Muslim state. The problem with Israel is not that it has displaced anyone; according to its neighbours, the problem is that its population is largely Jewish.
The practical result of a premature state of Palestine would simply be to free up the import of arms into the new state. The aim underlying this move is the takeover of Israel. Why is there no preparation by the Palestinians for statehood? There is no governance structure, no independent administration, no industrialisation and no negotiation of trade agreements with its neighbour, Israel. The state would not be a state in any recognisable form. Its leaders have declared that the current residents, whose status as refugees defies all logic, would remain defined as refugees. They would not be granted citizenship, nor would the state of Palestine open its doors to the Palestinian diaspora—those Palestinians whose miserable lives in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region are worse than the lives of those in Gaza and the West Bank. It has also declared that it would be a Judenrein state, unlike the 1.8 million Arab residents of Israel who have chosen to stay there.
So if a state has no citizens, and will not grant them citizenship in defiance of international law, what would it be for? It would be for a closer jumping-off point for the demolition of the State of Israel in pursuance of the alleged right of return. As other noble Lords have said, Fatah and Hamas want a one-state solution. Why should Israel recognise Palestine if there is no reciprocity but only a step towards elimination in return?
In the climate of extremism that is sweeping Europe, why should a country want to take a step that risks feeding it more? The only purpose is manipulative—to allow Palestinians to pursue claims against Israel at the UN and other international bodies. In the face of what is happening in Europe, what agenda do the proponents serve? Would it not be a good idea to examine the excesses of this position and turn to state building on the ground as an alternative?
Israel’s antagonists often accuse her of apartheid. In the worst times of genuine apartheid in South Africa, Mandela was planning his future independent country’s constitution, educating its leaders, preaching peace, not vengeance, and acting as a statesman. In the early days of Zionism, before statehood, the Jewish residents of what was to be Israel prepared their governance structure, set up the organs of a state, created universities, made the desert bloom, prepared a legal system and a free press, trade unions, hospitals and charities. None of this is present in the Palestinian leadership; nothing is readied. It is not a state under international law, but I have no time to describe that.