Yesterday, I explored the term “citizenship” as well as what it means and doesn’t mean. Sadly, citizenship is not a Golden Ticket as many believe. It is not the automatic panacea that some immigrants believe it is, nor is it an automatic giving away of the cow as those who already have citizenship might believe. Citizenship is tied up into the constructs of the nation-state and modern international relations as well.
Nation-states are sovereign entities recognized by other members of the international community. One of the first definitions of sovereignty is often the definition of borders… that is an argument that is frequently mentioned when discussing southern border security in the United States. After all, what kind of a country cannot delineate and secure its own borders, right?
By THAT definition, of course, Western Sahara and Tibet are not nation-states, but wouldn’t that also mean that Ukraine is not a nation-state either? Nor Syria?
And, inversely, wouldn’t that mean that South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Kurdistan are nation-states? Or, how about this one, wouldn’t securing of the borders mean that Taiwan is nation-state? Shall we tell the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations?
No, securing of borders is not the only standard for sovereign recognition. It’s important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the only measuring stick. Sometimes, an existing nation-state believes, demands, takes extraterritorial land, and then claims sovereignty. There’s even a term for when a nation-state expects former land to be returned to them; it’s called irredentism. Let’s look at the US annexation of the disputed land between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers 175 year ago… or 50 years ago, the Chinese annexation of Tibet. Or, most recently, Russia’s annexation of Crimea….
On this day, June 3, 1998, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland entered into effect. The Nineteenth Amendment was approved by referendum on May 22, 1998. It was an amendment, essentially, codified the Good Friday Agreement. Yes, it enabled the establishment of shared political institutions between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But more importantly, it renounced the claim to the whole island of Ireland and replaced the irredentist claim on the whole island of Ireland to an aspiration towards creating a united Ireland by peaceful means, “with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.”
Also, on this day, June 3, 2010, the competition for territorial claims to the former British Mandate of Palestine played out again. If it’s strange to think that Russia should have the right to annex Crimea after less than thirty years… If it’s strange to think that the Irish Constitution claimed the whole of an island that has been divided since 1922, and not independently unified since 1175 and the Treaty of Windsor…
If those are strange irredentist claims… how do we objectively look at the Israeli annexation of West Jerusalem in 1948 and the Israeli annexation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem in 1967?
Palestinians have been trying to call attention to the situation for decades… sometimes ethically and unfortunately sometimes through violence. The eye for an eye mentality of the Irish Troubles and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has left a lot of us blind.
On June 3, 2010, Huwaida Arraf gave her first interview of what happened on the supply ship, Challenger 1, in the Med, on May 21, 2010. Arraf (born 1976 in Detroit, Michigan) is a Palestinian American human rights activist, lawyer, and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. ISM a Palestinian-led organization focused on assisting the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using non-violent protests. At the times, Arraf was also the chair of the Free Gaza Movement which organized the Gaza Freedom Flotillas. These ships carrying Pro-Palestinian activists and were organized to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Arraf was aboard the 2008 Free Gaza boats as well as the 2010 flotilla that was raided by Israeli commandos in international waters on May 31, 2010.
Perhaps irredentism belongs in the past and off the negotiation tables. Perhaps wars of aggression, frankly any wars, should not be rewarded with territorial annexation. Perhaps the exercise of civil rights should not require oaths of allegiance as they once did in Britain’s Ireland and oaths shouldn’t be required of Palestinians in order to vote in Israel. If Israel claims the extraterritorial land, then all the people living there should be afforded equal rights.
George Mitchell, the US negotiator in the Good Friday Agreement and later US Representative for Peace in the Middle East recently said,
“Each conflict is unique. Each requires a solution that is grounded in the specific and particular history of the people, the region, the issues. There are similarities, of course: religion, territorial demands, national identity. All of that are factors.”
Let’s remember that modern Nation-states have modern responsibilities and that peace can only be achieved through concessions by all parties, and a rejection of irredentist claims on history.