I hardly know where to start. Every night I shake my head in silent disbelief, and shame, at the news from Gaza and Israel. As I write this blog more than 1800 Palestinians who were living in Gaza are dead, killed by the agencies of the state of Israel in 4 weeks of bombing, shelling and ground assault. Almost 10,000 have been injured. Most of the Palestinian casualties are (were) civilians, many of them women and children. At the same time around 68 Israelis, almost all of them serving soldiers, have been killed. Before the present action there had been no Israeli casualties in the current period.
The Israeli justification is one of self-defence: this time they say they are responding to rockets fired into their territory from Gaza and, a more recent threat, tunnels under the border through which fighters from Hammas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, infiltrate with the objective of killing their citizens. There is no doubt that Hammas combatants from Gaza do act in this way, their charter is openly anti-Semmitic and, arguably, a travesty of Islamic teaching, however it should be remembered that Gaza has been in a state of seige for years, that Hammas “govern” by right of having won elections in Gaza and that the Palestinians would also claim self-defence.
This is not the first time an assault on Gaza has been justified in this way, and each time it has been a response so hugely disproportionate to the threat, or actual harm, as to beggar belief. In recent years the image of young Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, who respond with all the sophisticated military might at their disposal, has been a powerful modern representation of David and Goliath. If it weren’t so ghastly in its irony it would be funny. However, now some Palestinians have got their hands on real weapons and they intend to use them. We need to stand back from this and see where all this started. You might say it started with the 1917 Balfour Declaration, but it is well to remember that the declaration included the following: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Post 1948, following a bloody and ruthless Zionist insurrection, an artificial “homeland” for the Jewish people was indeed created – carved out of land that belonged to someone else. It was perhaps made possible as an act of international guilt relief, redress for centuries of persecution, the obscenities of the Pogroms, Ghettos and culminating in the Nazi extermination camps of Treblinka, Auschwitz, Dachau etc. Actually it had also a hard real-politik core: the old colonial powers needed to have a loyal and powerful client state in the volatile middle-east. At the time the Security Council (the US and UK being permanent members) said,
“in the judgment of the Security Council, Israel is a peace-loving State and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter.”
The General Assembly then agreed, noting the declaration by the State of Israel that it “unreservedly accepts the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertakes to honour them from the day when it becomes a member of the United Nations”
Whatever the rights and wrongs of all that, and the ever shifting geo-political context, the world looks on with discomfort at what it has created, supported, trained and unleashed. We have stood by while Israel annexed and continue to occupy parts of Palestine, Syria and Jordan in the name of self-defence. The world has acquiesced in the creation of the biggest concentration camp the world has ever seen; right-wing Zionist groups (who have representation at the heart of the nuclear empowered Israeli government) openly speak of extermination, of “finishing the job”, or leaving no Palestinian children alive. Why can’t these ultra-Zionists, indeed all Isrealis, see that every death creates tens of new militants in their place? Is it because they actually hope to create the conditions for a more general conflagration which would justify (in their minds) wholesale destruction and, perhaps, occupation of what remains of Palestine? Are they being suckered into it by Hammas who might also like to see such an invasion as a way of winning support from the wider world community. Either way, there can be no winners from this course of action.
In my eyes, and with a heavy heart as a part-Jew with friends in Israel, I have increasingly come to see the star of David, insofar as it represents Zionism rather than Judaism, as interchangeable with the swastika. Quite how it is possible for the world to tolerate this offence against humanity is beyond me. Historically the astute Israeli military-political complex has acted when the rest of the world was divided and distracted. Preoccupied as we are with Russia and Ukraine, Syria, and Libya the Secretary-General of United Nations has nevertheless spoken in the strongest possible terms about the repeated killing of civilians hiding in known and identified UN shelters: he has described it as a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and called for the “madness” to stop. The US administration has tried hard to avoid doing the same, especially in the early run-up to the next Presidential election, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to play both sides of this issue. America and the EU have united to apply economic and political sanctions against Russia and yet does nothing against Israel; why?
Well, interestingly, hidden away on an aviation news website I find that Israel has now, under pressure from the US, agreed to stop supplying Russia with unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and related technology – is this part of the bargaining that is undoubtedly going on behind the scenes: “if you stop selling stuff to Russia, we’ll be a bit softer on Gaza.” I wonder, but while publicly wringing its hands the US government has just voted through another $230 million for military aid to Israel.
Be that as it may, Israel has consistently ignored the UN, its charter, and many resolutions passed against it. In my opinion it is time that “the west” pulled on the choke chain of the rottweiler it created, and a first step would be to promote a resolution in the Security Council which faces Israel with expulsion from the UN if it continues to default on its promises and obligations as a member.
This morning, two things happened.
First, Israel began to withdraw its troops from Gaza in support of an Egyptian brokered truce. Remember that the Egyptian government is no friend of the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore neither Hammas, so how long that will last is anyone’s guess.
Second, Baroness Warsi (until recently a minister in the UK government responsible for the UN, Human Rights etc.) resigned. She cited the morally indefensible UK position on Gaza and her inability to defend, to herself, decisions she has been party to. This is a courageous move, but in her letter of resignation she expressed concern at the loss of expertise and experience at the Foreign Office in the recent cabinet “reshuffle”. She especially speaks highly of the outgoing Foreign Secretary, William Haig, and fears a radicalisation of Muslims in the UK as a result of UK policy. I wonder if it also hints that the clearout of ‘moderate’ Conservative politicians heralds a ‘radicalisation’ of policy as well as leaving a vacuum at this critical time for UK foreign policy. Watch this space (metaphorically).