Members of the Muslim community gathered outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Culloden Road Friday afternoon to call on Barbados to formally recognise the Palestinian state, after weeks of bloodshed in which hundreds of Muslim-majority Palestinians have died in one of the worst Israeli-Palestinian conflicts in recent memory.
Waving placards and flags, scores lined the road across from the ministry declaring “Free Palestine” while police officers and passing motorists looked on.
Muslims make up 99 per cent of the population of the occupied Gaza Strip and 85 per cent of the population of the West Bank including Israeli settlers.
During the rally, attorney-at-law Lalu Hanuman, in his capacity as the Secretary of Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine, delivered a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, urging him to begin the process of Barbados establishing diplomatic recognition of the state of Palestine.
Hanuman said the current status quo in Palestine is inherently unjust, and thus untenable, and declared that Palestinians have the right to self-determination, as guaranteed by both the United Nations Charter and successive UN resolutions.
But instead, he told journalists, Palestinians for over 70 years have been forced to live under an apartheid regime, with its knee on their necks.
Hanuman said: “As a people who have endured slavery in all its grotesque forms, we should be in the vanguard of the struggle for global human rights. Most Caribbean countries have recognised the Palestinian state.
“Barbados is among but a few countries in this region that have not done so. Please do the right thing and accord them some measure of dignity, by granting them diplomatic recognition, and help them to breathe.”
Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the Bahamas are the only four independent CARICOM states yet to grant diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine, although the bloc supports a two-state solution along internationally recognized borders.
While Port of Spain, Kingston and Nassau have gone on record declaring their continued recognition with Israel with secure territorial borders as well as the ultimate establishment of a Palestinian State, Bridgetown has yet to state its position formally. In all 138 of 193 UN members recognise Palestine with notable outliers the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and 19 of 28 European Union member states.
Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association, Suleiman Bulbulia, said: “We are also here today because Barbados has to recognize the state of Palestine has been long in coming. Many CARICOM countries have already done so. Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St Vincent issued a stirring statement condemning the actions of the Israelis and the Barbados Government must now follow suit and recognize Palestine as a state.
“If we are saying that a two-state solution is what is going to be the solution for this issue, then we can’t just recognize one state. We have to recognize the state of Palestine and we also have to recognize that there are millions of Palestinians who are refugees across the world who have no right of return.
“The genesis of this latest problem is the fact that hundreds of Palestinians are being forced from their homes that they have occupied for centuries to give way to Israeli settlers. This is unjustified and the United Nations has passed resolution after resolution condemning these actions, we cannot continue with this genocide.”
Bulbulia said members of the Muslim community came out in their numbers to show their disagreement with what they see as naked aggression by Israel on the Palestinian people for 73 years.
He said the latest nail in the coffin was during the Muslim holy season of Ramadan which ended two weeks ago when heavily armed Israeli stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem where thousands of worshipers had been attending Friday prayers, injuring hundreds, including women and children.
The clashes intensified into an all-out tit-for-tat series of missile attacks and airstrikes between the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas and the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza. But vigilante attacks against Palestinians in East Jerusalem became a new and violent feature of the tense relationship between Israelis and Palestinians there and in the occupied territories.
A tense ceasefire brokered by Egypt and backed by American shuttle diplomacy took hold early Friday leaving a death toll of 248 Palestinians in Gaza, including 66 children, and 12 in Israel — including two children — who died from militant fire in the worst conflict between the two sides in decades.