Alistair Burt is the UK Foreign Office minister in charge of Middle East affairs. He is also a former officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group. He resigned from that position when he became a minister, but leopards don’t suddenly change their spots.
Judge for yourself.
I sent a question through my MP asking why Government ministers such as Burt quote exact numbers of rockets fired from Gaza without also giving the corresponding numbers of bombs, rockets, shells and other ordnance poured into Gaza by the Israeli military.
In his letter of reply Burt says “there are no reliable statistics on the number of bombs and other ordnance fired by Israel on Gaza and Israel does not make public this information”.
In that case, should he not make it clear when quoting Gaza’s rocket numbers that Israel refuses to provide numbers of their own vastly superior missiles used to bombard Gaza?
Yesterday in Parliament David Amess, another officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel, was playing the familiar game of planting Parliamentary questions designed to deflect attention from Israel’s malodorous reputation. He asked Mr Burt what recent reports the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [William Hague] had received on the number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel since 30 October; what recent discussions he has had with the government of Israel on such attacks; and if he would make a statement.
Mr Burt obligingly replied: “We have received reports that 287 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel between 30 October and 14 November. According to Israeli Defence Forces figures, 1,443 rockets were fired during the period 14-21 November.” He added that Mr Hague spoke to Mr Lieberman on 17 and 21 November and he, Burt, spoke to him on 21 November and again on 22 November.
Such precision is of course commendable but grossly lopsided and plainly calculated to mislead Parliament and public. It is astonishing that in all its discussions with Israel’s ministers the Foreign Office hasn’t managed to extract data on Israeli bombing and rocket attacks.
Mr Burt, I venture to suggest, ought to paint a balanced picture and not simply regurgitate Israeli propaganda without caveats and facts from the other side. He should inform the Israeli authorities that British ministers will not in future quote figures for Palestinian rockets unless accompanied by corresponding numbers of Israel’s. These should then be cross-checked with Palestinian and independent sources for proper monitoring.
The same goes for any remarks about Iran’s so far non-existent nukes. There should be equal emphasis on Israel’s vast arsenal of WMDs.
Gaza 2012: On the Use and Abuse of Hatred and Violence
Yet another massacre is unfolding in Gaza, the largest prison in the world. We are surrounded by familiar chatter: ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’; ‘Palestinians’ legitimate resistance to (the 1967) occupation’; ‘who started it this time?’ Most insidious, however, is the stale refrain, sung by a chorus which includes President Obama, that the violence is disastrous for the ‘peace process’ aimed at a ‘two-state solution’.
While it has been noted that one motivation for the Israeli government, in the run-up to elections in January, is to unite voters behind a ‘no choice’ rhetoric, there is a deeper motivation at stake here – to restrict the horizons of political debate, to control what should be regarded as a litmus test for ‘realistic’, ‘moderate’ and ‘reasonable’ voices.
War is useful because the passion it arouses prevents people from asking two basic questions that must be addressed if the core of silencing and violence that we are witnessing is to be grasped and, in turn, if progress is ever to be made towards justice and enduring peace. First, what kind of state is Israel? Second, who are the Palestinians that this state is in conflict with?
Israel was established to be a Jewish state. Its institutions have always been shaped and constrained so as to ensure the continued existence of a Jewish majority and character. Passing a test of Jewishness entitles someone to Israeli citizenship regardless of where in the world she lives. Furthermore, her citizenship comes with a bundle of political, social and economic rights which are preferential to that of citizens who do not qualify as Jewish. This inbuilt discriminatory premise highlights the apartheid nature of the state. But apartheid is not an accidental feature of Israel. Its very creation involved immense injustice and suffering. Shielding and rationalizing this inbuilt premise prevents the address of past injustices and ensures their continuity into the future. It is a premise that, in matters of constitutional interpretation, takes precedence over, and thus involves the imposition of ‘reasonable’ limitations on, equality of citizenship.
The Palestinians, we are told, are a people who live in the West Bank and Gaza. The impression forced on us is that the conflict concerns a compromise to be made to correct the border between Israel and a Palestinian state. We are led to believe that a partition into two-states would satisfy both genuine and realistic aspirations for justice and peace. In this view, the violence in Gaza is just an unreasonable aberration from an otherwise noble peace process.
But Palestinians actually comprise three groups. First, those whose families originate in the territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967 (Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem). Second, the descendants of the approximately 750,000 non-Jews who were ethnically cleansed in 1947-9 in order to ensure a Jewish majority in the new Jewish state. This group is dispersed around the world, mostly in refugee camps in the territories occupied in 1967 and the neighbouring states. Israel has persistently denied them their internationally recognized legal right to return. The majority in Gaza consists of refugees from villages which are now buried under Israeli towns and cities that were created explicitly for Jewish citizens, places which include Ashkelon and Tel Aviv that were hit by rockets in the current conflict. The third group of Palestinians, which Israel insists on calling by the euphemism ‘Israeli Arabs’, are the non-Jews who managed to evade ethnic cleansing in 1947-49 and who now live as second-class citizens of Israel, the state which likes to claim that it is ‘Jewish and democratic’.
Until 1948, the territory of Palestine stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. The violence that has afflicted the area ever since is the direct result of an event whose true nature our society seems determined to deny. Violence keeps erupting because of the silencing and marginalization of a simple truth surrounding any partition policy: that the injustice that afflicts Palestine can not be partitioned. It is because of the desire to preserve a Jewish state that first, the legal dualism that exists in the 1967 Occupied Territories as well as the horror at the ‘Separation Wall’ have become the dominant political discourses of apartheid, second, that the refugees are remained dispossessed and, thirdly, that both actual and potential non-Jew Arab citizens do, and would, suffer discrimination. The two-state vision means that the inbuilt apartheid within Israel, and in turn the injustice to two groups of Palestinians, never becomes the central political problem.
The range of reactions to the current carnage shows just how successful violence has been in sustaining the legitimacy of Israel by entrenching the political focus merely on its actions rather than on its nature. These reactions keep the discourse that calls for criticizing Israel rather than for replacing it with an egalitarian polity over the whole of historical Palestine.
Israel desires to be hated by Palestinians. By provoking violence Israel has not merely managed to divert the limelight from its apartheid nature. It has also managed to convince us that, as Joseph Massad of Columbia University once captured, it has the right to occupy, to dispossess and to discriminate, namely the claim that the apartheid premise which founds it should be put up with and rationalized as reasonable. Would anybody allow such a right-claim to hold sway in apartheid South Africa? How come the anti-apartheid and egalitarian calls for the non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist are being marginalized as extreme and unrealizable? What kind of existential fetters cause the world to exhibit such blindness and lack of compassion? Is there no unfolding tragedy that anticipates violence against Jews precisely because past violence against them in Europe is being allowed to serve as a rationalizing device of an apartheid state?
Israel has already created a de facto single state between the river and the sea, albeit one which suffers from several apartheid systems, one within Israel and another in the occupied territories. We must not let Israeli aggression prevent us from treating as moderate and realistic proposals to turn this single state into one where all would have equal rights.
Oren Ben-Dor grew up in the State of Israel. He is a Professor of Law and Philosophy in the Law School, University of Southampton, UK. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
- Activists call on Stevie Wonder to boycott Israeli military event (bikyamasr.com)
- Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault (guardian.co.uk)
- Some Uncomfortable Facts about Israel and Apartheid and their Wholesale Human Rights Violations We Should not be Supporting! (agirlwhoknowsherownmind.wordpress.com)
Will the truce last?
On Wednesday, November 12, Israel deliberately provoked Hamas by breaking a two day long truce, carrying out some 20 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, the heaviest barrage on the Palestinian territory in four years, and, for good measure, to make sure the provocation worked, assassinating Gaza’s supreme military commander Ahmed Jabari.
It killed him even though it was he that was mainly responsible for arranging the release of Shalit, even though his interest in entering into a long-term truce agreement had been communicated to Israeli authorities.
When Gaza, as expected, responded with a fresh barrage of rockets, Israel used that as an excuse to continue its murderous attack on Gaza and launched its Operation Pillar of Defense.
It pummeled Gaza – again, barely four years after it infamous Operation Cast Lead – for eight straight days, day and night, launching well over 1500 deadly airstrikes, shelling targets from tanks and gunboats, killing 161 Palestinians, including a large number of innocent men, women, children and even babies, wiping out families, injuring at least 840, flattening residential buildings, Hamas leader’s headquarters, police stations, several other infrastructures, targeting and damaging dozens more, including a hospital and the international media center.
Then, on Wednesday , November 21, under intense international pressure, Israel signed with Hamas a truce agreement.
The agreement provides, for Hamas: an end to Israeli airstrikes and assassinations of Hamas militants wanted by Israel. For Israel the agreement provides a halt to rocket fire from Gaza and attempts at cross-border incursions into Israeli territory from Gaza and especially from the Sinai area.
However, the agreement left the door open to a possible ground incursion of Gaza at a later date.
People all over the world heaved a sigh of relief. Gazans celebrated by firing guns into the air, dancing in the streets, distributing sweets and waving Hamas flags.
It is to be hoped that the truce will last. Unfortunately all indications are that violence will flare up once again.
To begin with, already there are differences as to what the agreement provides, especially with reference to the opening of checkpoints.
According an Associated Press report on November 22, the agreement provides for Israel “discussing easing an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip.” Khaled Mashal, Gazan leader in exile, insists that “the document provides for the opening of all crossings.”
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by AP, the agreement provides, after a 24 hour cooling off period, for “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movement.”
Under the Israeli blockade, Israel continues to restrict the movement of certain goods through Israeli controlled crossings. There is a near complete ban on exports, limited movement of people leaving the territory and limits on construction materials that Israel says could be put to military use.
The agreement is vague on what restrictions Israel would lift.
There is also the question of Gaza’s southern passenger terminal on the Egyptian border, not to mention whether Israel will have the right to continue intercepting and seizing, in international waters, aid flotillas headed for Gaza or limiting Gazans from fishing in their own waters outside or even within the three mile water rights, as it now does.
On any of these points a difference can be interpreted as a rejection/violation of the truce agreement and violence can restart.
But these are details.
The main point to note is that, notwithstanding claims to the contrary, Operation Pillar of Defense was NOT a response to the recent escalation of rocket firing by Hamas. The rockets being fired from Gaza has very little to do with Israel’s repeated deadly military operations against Gaza.
Consider this. During the present conflict, Hamas rockets killed five Israelis, injured not more than a couple of dozen people and partially damaged two buildings. Hardly figures to invite a massive military operation that lasted eight days, killed 161 Palestinians and inflicted unimaginable misery and destruction on the Gazans.
The reasons for Israeli operations go beyond the rocket firing activities of Hamas. Israel’s reasons and objectives go much, much deeper.
Put simply, behind it all is Israel’s objective to have all of Palestine. It wants to establish Eretz Yisrael on all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, complete with biblical Judea and Samara.
Israeli leaders have long maintained that Jordan is the homeland of the Palestinians and Palestine, all of it, is the God given homeland of the Jews.
Several Israeli leaders have openly stated that their aim is to make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they will eventually flee to neighboring countries.
To ensure that Palestinians never have the ability to stand up against or challenge Israel, Israel is committed to preventing any arms coming into Gaza (even as shiploads of arms keep flowing into Israel from the USA and other countries!), preventing Gazans from manufacturing any such arms, even primitive rockets, and destroying from time to time any rocket making facility that Gazans may put up, and also destroying periodically all stockpiles of such arms that Gazans may accumulate.
Another goal of Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza is to cow the Gazans and beat them into submission.
None of Israel’s military operations has succeeded in weakening Hamas. After every Israeli military operation, the Gazans, though suffering huge human and material loss, have emerged stronger.
Operation Pillar of Defense has made them stronger than ever. Arab leaders, taking a lesson from the Arab Spring, and sensitive to the sentiments of their people about Israel and Palestine, for the first time came together to try and save Gaza from further death and destruction. World leaders, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, Turkey’s foreign minister, a delegation of Arab foreign ministers, Khaled Mashaal, the top Hamas leader in exile – all of them converged on the region.
The UN Security Council held closed door consultations at the request of Russia. A resolution would have emerged but for the feet dragging by one of the members.
In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, is now in power in Egypt and Tunisia and Hamas is also getting support from Qatar and Turkey.
The political situation has changed dramatically.
As to the spirit of Gazans, it is best illustrated by a message given by a 13 year old girl from Gaza who sustained shrapnel injuries throughout her upper body, with some pieces still in embedded in her chest. Here is her message: “I say, we are children. There is nothing that is our fault to have to face this. They (the Israelis) are occupying us and I will say, as Abu Omar said, ‘If you’re a mountain, the wind won’t shake you.’ We’re not afraid. We’ll stay strong.”
Trying to beat the Gazans into submission apart, the Israeli attacks on Gaza are, as pointed out by Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, a continuation of Israel’s “policies of war, illegal occupation of Palestine, siege of Gaza, carrying on building illegal settlements and confiscating Palestinian land”, not to mention transferring a large number of its citizens onto occupied West Bank, bulldozing Palestinian homes and razing Palestinian villages.
This is a legacy of Israel’s policy of dispossession that precedes the creation of Israel.
With Hamas having become stronger than ever, more defiant than ever, instead of docilely submitting to Israel, and with Israel’s goal of eliminating all rocket manufacturing facilities and stockpiles of rockets in Gaza not having been accomplished, and with the truce eliminating any further attempts by Israel to strike Gaza again, the indications are, given Israel’s history in this regard, that Israel will, as soon as it can, create another incident to provoke Hamas once more into retaliating and use that retaliation as an excuse, once more, to mount a better planned and more massive attack that will inflict massive destruction in a short time, before the world starts putting pressure on Israel once again to agree to a ceasefire.
The words of Israeli President in a recent CNN interview are ominous. He let it slip that “You don’t negotiate with terrorists. You strike” Perhaps even more ominous is what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “I know there are citizens that expected a wider military operation and it could be that it will be needed. But at this time, the right thing for the state of Israel is to take this opportunity to reach a lasting cease fire.” (emphasis added)
Gulamhusein A. Abba is an 83-year-old writer with more than 50 years in journalism. Originally from Bombay (now Mumbai), he has been in the USA since 1982. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who knows a little bit of history realizes that when there is situation where a people has refused to surrender and abandon its rights, oppressing it will not work. The only ones who may live in denial of this fact are the oppressor and those who support it. Their wishful thinking thus leads them to trying different types of violence and criminality, coupled with mass lies and distortion campaign.
In Palestine today, this is merely one layer of the issue. The Israeli regime has convinced itself not only that it can get the Palestinian people to surrender, forget and let go, but also that the whole world should be supporting its racist policies and actually help it achieve its goals. Everyone else in the world, who has not fallen prey to the Israeli PR campaigns, do not doubt the inevitable outcome of the struggle of the Palestinians: justice and equality.