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Malia Bouattia

Prince William is no 'peacemaker' for Palestinians

Israeli President Rivlin asked Prince William to 'send a message of peace' to Abbas [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 June, 2018

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Comment: The royal visit paid lip service to the Palestinian right to statehood, but remained silent on the causes that have stood in its way, writes Malia Bouattia.
In the latest installment of Britain's continued complicity in Israel's violations of international law, Prince William has become the first British royal in 70 years of the existence of Israel to make an official visit to the territory.

In his tour of the Middle East, he began by meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, as well as President Reuven Rivlin in Israel on Tuesday.

Ahead of his visit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rivlin asked the duke of Cambridge to "send a message of peace… and tell him that we have to find together a way to build confidence. To build confidence is a first step to bring an end to the tragedy between us that goes along for more than 120 years."

It is astounding that the Israeli president could say this to the Prince with ease, as though he is not engaged in the institutions that are actively sustaining a decades-long illegal occupation of the West bank, East Jerusalem as well as a blockade on Gaza, while simultaneously denying Palestinian citizens of Israel basic rights.

The idea that the issue at hand is a lack of confidence rather than a lack of freedom and respect on Israel's part of basic Palestinian human rights, really does add insult to injury.


Furthermore, while the royal family is expected to avoid taking a political line on such matters, it is all but impossible that Prince William is unaware of the real reasons for instability and conflict in the region.

He proceeded to meet with PA leader Abbas at the Mukata presidential compound on Wednesday where the expression of desired peace between the nations was reinforced. Abbas stressed that "The palestinian side is committed to the peace process with the Israelis, so both states could live peacefully together within the borders of 1967."

Maintaining the expected 'neutral' line, Prince William expressed to Abbas that he was "very glad our two countries work so closely together and have had success with education and relief work in the past, so long may that continue".

The lived daily reality of Palestinians, which includes checkpoints, an apartheid wall and illegal settlements remained invisible in the official visit

However, his use of "countries" sent alarm bells ringing among Israeli officials and apologists alike, taken as a seeming endorsement of Palestinian statehood.

In many ways this response illustrates well how dire the situation has become.

The mere mention by a British official of the idea of a Palestinian state is seized upon as tantamount to support for the struggle for liberation.

Read more: Prince William recognises Palestine as 'country' in historic Mideast trip

Similarly, upon its public release of the Duke's itinerary, Kensington Palace came under fire for having included the terms "Occupied Palestinian Territories" in its official documents - the internationally recognised term for the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The Jerusalem Affairs Minister, Zeev Elkin, declared that it was "regrettable that in Britain they chose to politicise the royal issue". The fact that territories are occupied did not appear to be considered as either regrettable or politicised.

In reality, the visit itself is undoubtedly political, and despite both condemned 'incidents' there is no denying that it worked in favour of the Israeli government.

The historical event is part of a continued normalising of Israel's dehumanising treatment of Palestinians, even if the Palace presents a different story.

It is especially politically charged given the massacre of over 120 protesters and injure of around 14,000 in Gaza during Great Return March protests that have taken place in recent months.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) further highlighted that such a trip by the Royal "breaks with British Foreign Office policy that the royal family  should not make official visits to israel due to its historic and grave violations of human rights, international law and UN resolutions".

PSC pointed out that the early pressure by the Israeli government to refrain from referring to East Jerusalem as an occupied territory - in line with UN policy - smacked of the privilege afforded to a state which has for far too long, wreaked havoc on the Palestinian people with next to no accountability.

In the ongoing pursuit to present both sides as equally 'involved' in the occupation, an approach which again masks Israel's ongoing dispossession and violence directed at Palestinians, Prince William met with Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai in Tel Aviv.

In Ramallah he spoke to school girls in Jalazone refugee camp, and visited a cultural display and a street food festival.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the lived daily reality of Palestinians, which includes checkpoints, an apartheid wall and illegal settlements remained invisible in the official visit, further encouraging the narrative of two sides involved in a conflict rather than an ongoing process of colonial expansion.

British officials, whether elected or by birth, continue to pay lip service to the welfare of Palestinians while actively facilitating their continued erasure

In his welcome to Prince William, Abbas said that, "We hope you will visit us when the Palestinian people achieve their independence".

It was difficult not to be struck by how hollow this sentence sounded in the context of a visit which perfectly summarised British policy regarding Palestine.

The continued annexation of land, building of settlements and walls, not forgetting the killing, systematic repression and displacement of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli state remained absent from the tour.

The royal paid lip service to the Palestinian right to statehood but remained silent on the causes that have stood in its way.

And while people are encouraged to celebrate the symbolic character of the event, the fact that it served to depoliticise the ongoing oppression of Palestinians, as well as long term historic British complicity with this process should be emphasised. 


Indeed, while Prince William meets refugees in the West Bank, the UK government continues to sell weapons to Israel, which allow it to keep Palestinians in these camps.

The fact that territories are occupied did not appear to be considered as either regrettable or politicised

It continues to entertain privileged political and economic relations with Israel, despite its ongoing violations of international law and of basic Palestinian human rights.

In fact, much like the Balfour declaration 100 years ago, British officials, whether elected or by birth, continue to pay lip service to the welfare of Palestinians while actively facilitating their continued erasure.

In this context, far from acting as a peacemaker, as the British press has claimed  over the last days, the Prince has played his role in making sure that peace, let alone liberation, remains as elusive as ever in the region.

If we desire really peace and liberation, we'll have to look away from official relations between our state and Israel - or the PA for that matter - and continue to focus on implementing the call made by 170 Palestinian civil society organisations to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction all those institutions and companies that enforce or profit from the ongoing dispossession of the People of Palestine.

As always, there are no saviours, blue blooded or not, and only our struggle from below can get us closer to liberation, whether at home or abroad.


Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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