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Right and wrong

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It pleased me mightily last weekend to see one of our patriots, barrister Jomo Thomas, standing up for principle and right. His weekly column in one of the weekly newspapers was devoted to support for the cause of the people of Palestine and explaining to his readers the background to the whole Palestinian conflict, a situation that most of our people do not seem to comprehend. Hats off to Jomo!{{more}}

Anyone who reads his columns will know that Jomo has never been afraid to criticize the current government when in his view it errs. It was therefore another demonstration of principle when he indicated his full support for the action of the Gonsalves administration in giving its full support for the bid of the Palestinian people to gain full recognition from the United Nations for Palestine as an independent state. I too, applaud the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in standing up for right and was reminded by a writer in the New York Times of some famous words of the late Martin Luther King Jr. as follows:

“The time is always right to do what is right”.

There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding in our society on the Palestinian question. Part of this is based on our sources of information, the western media, which unequivocally, not only supports Israel’s continued and illegal occupation of Palestinian land, but pursue a course of distorting the truth. Even in the enlightened world where information is but a finger-tip away, too few of us take the trouble of soliciting alternative views, on the Internet for instance. We do not necessarily have to agree, but we have a duty to at least consider differing viewpoints.

Misinterpretation of historical realities and the contents of the Bible help to pour more confusion around the Palestinian situation, compounded by the fact that the Palestinians are largely, not totally, Muslim and the continued anti-Islamic rhetoric can easily lead one to confuse the fight of the Palestinians for their legitimate rights, with so-called “international terrorism”. Even persons who get exposed to the truth, are often afraid to stand up for what they believe to be right.

No doubt there are misguided and short-sighted people among us who are mouthing criticisms of the Government’s position in support of Palestinian statehood. But the reality is that the vast majority of the world’s states are in favour. In fact, even US President Barack Obama is on record of supporting an independent state for Palestine, only to cave in to Jewish pressure and, disappointingly, choosing to exercise the US veto in the Security Council.

Support for Palestine does not just come from governments; people the world over, including in the United States of America, are in favour. A recent BBC/GlobeScan poll of 20,466 persons in 19 countries revealed that the majority of those polled support Palestinian statehood. In nearly all of the countries polled, more than half the respondents indicated support for an independent Palestinian state. In the USA, where anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim propaganda is at a height, 45 per cent of those polled indicated support, with 36 per cent against. In Britain, the numbers were 53 per cent for and 26 per cent opposed, whilst in two other European countries, Germany and France, the level of support was 53/54 percent. So, those western leaders who are manoeuvring to deny support for a Palestinian state do this in contradiction to the will of their people.

The Palestinian question is the apartheid issue of today. We must not be afraid to stand on the side of right. As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said, on making his case to the United Nations:

“It is a moment of truth and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world”.

AND NOW THE WRONG

While the Palestinians were pursuing their just cause at the United Nations, a grave act of injustice was being perpetrated in the United States, resulting in the execution of a Black man, Troy Davis, in the state of Georgia. Davis had been convicted for the 1991 fatal shooting of a white police officer. His conviction was based on statements by supposed witnesses and not on forensic evidence.

Davis has been on death row all those long years and, in fact, last week’s final appointment with death was the fourth time he had had a date with the executioner. He was not lucky this time.

Davis was executed, although a number of the witnesses who had testified against him had later recanted and said that they had been coerced into giving evidence against him. The New York Times, on September 22, reported that new evidence had emerged that it was not Davis who had done the fatal shooting and even suggested that the main witness against him might, in fact, be the real culprit.

630,000 letters to the Georgia Parole Board and appeals for clemency from such renowned figures as former US President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former FBI Director William Sessions and 51 members of Congress could not save Davis. When yo’ black, eh?

In conclusion, contrast the reaction to Davis’ execution with what would have been the outcry if Cuba, for instance, had executed a man in exactly similar circumstances. And, why is it OK for some to carry out executions, while others, us in the Caribbean, are not only outlawed from doing so, but would face strong negative campaigns for exercising our rights?

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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