JERUSALEM – The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem issued evacuation orders for three housing apartments in the Wadi Hilweh area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Wednesday evening, due to fractures and cracks formed at the base of the houses, as Israeli authorities continued work on a tunnel network expected to be used to provide services to Israeli settlers.
According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, the houses belong to Hamed Oweida, Abed Oweida, and Suleiman Oweida.
Sixteen family members, including ten children, reside in the houses.
The Oweida family said that Israeli tunnel-digging under their homes has increased over the past three days, adding that loud noises from the digging would last for several hours, while the family could feel their houses shaking during the construction.
They said that the digging had caused severe damage of fractures and cracks in the walls and the bases of the houses.
The family added that they had called the Israeli police, who had then summoned a municipality team to inspect the houses. After taking photographs and inspecting the damage, an architect for the municipality decided to issue an emergency order for the families to evacuate and seal the houses, saying that it was dangerous to remain inside.
Suleiman Oweida had left his house several days ago after fractures in the walls had become more severe.
The information center said that Israeli authorities were creating a tunnel network for Israeli settlers directly under the Oweida family’s house.
Member of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood committee Ahmad Qarrain said that the Israeli authorities began work under the neighborhood in 2007.
The residents at the time appealed to Israeli courts and were able to halt the construction under their homes for 14 months. However, Israeli courts later issued another order allowing the work to continue on the condition that the digging not endanger the lives of residents.
However, Qarrain said that the digging and work under the houses continued “without any consideration for the safety of residents,” and pointed out that the streets, walls, structures, and houses of the neighborhood have also been fractured and collapsed owing to the tunnel work.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Jerusalem municipality told Ma’an that the municipality had informed the residents that their properties were “unsound and dangerous” out of “concern for their own welfare,” while also being built “without regard for building codes or safety standards.”
The spokesperson added that “claims that the city is attempting to construct underneath this family’s structure are patently false.”
BETHLEHEM – A new poll was released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Tuesday, revealing that the majority of Israelis oppose any Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank, while 79 percent of Israelis believe its important to maintain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, in contradiction to longstanding international peace negotiations and international law.
The poll, which was conducted among 521 Jewish Israelis over the age of 18, is said to represent the adult Jewish Israeli opinion on the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to the poll’s findings, Israeli support for a military withdrawal from the West Bank, now in its 50th year under Israeli occupation, has gradually decreased in the last 12 years, with the percentage of those supporting a withdrawal as part of a peace agreement declining from 60 percent in 2005 to just 36 percent in 2017.
When it came to completely withdrawing from the entirety of the occupied West Bank, 77 percent of Israelis opposed such a move. Meanwhile, regarding the withdrawal from the territory — but excluding large Israeli settlements blocs constructed in Palestinian territory in violation of international law — the majority of Israelis (57 percent) still opposed it.
However, opposition to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territory slightly subsided (44 percent) if the illegal settlement blocs were annexed into Israeli territory and a future Palestinian state remained demilitarized.
Concerning the Jordan Valley, a crucial area of the Palestinian territory and any future Palestinian state, an overwhelming 81 percent of Israelis said that it was important for the Israeli government to exercise continued sovereignty over the area.
The poll also revealed that Israelis have a committed and long-term expectation of maintaining full security control over the occupied West Bank, with 76 percent of those polled expressing their approval of Israeli authorities continuing to control the West Bank owing to various security concerns.
Meanwhile, 79 percent of Israelis believe its important to maintain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, with 52 percent opposing any division of Jerusalem into “Jewish and Arab sectors.” When the status of occupied East Jerusalem and its potential incorporation into an independent Palestinian state as the capital was added to the questioning, the opposition to dividing Jerusalem increased to 59 percent.
The vast majority of Israelis (83 percent) opposed transferring Al-Aqsa Mosque — known as the Temple Mount among Jews — to Palestinians.
The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass home demolitions.
With a backdrop of routine Israeli military violence and the escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the Palestinian territory, Palestinians have become disillusioned by attempts at solving the decades-long conflict, with many expressing their lack of hope in any political solution.
The Israeli government has also streamlined bills that many critics have said is specifically aimed at a gradual annexation of the occupied West Bank.
Last month, the Knesset passed the outpost Regularization law, which states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians — could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners.
Meanwhile, right-wing Israeli Knesset members have also spearheaded a bill to annex the massive Maale Adumim settlement. Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank’s Jerusalem district. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.
While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements, Israeli leaders have instead called for an escalation of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, and with some having advocated for its complete annexation.
A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian legislator Mohammed al-Tal seized by Israeli forces; Samira Halaiqa indicted by military court
The number of imprisoned Palestinian Legislative Council members climbed to 11 on Tuesday, 21 March after a pre-dawn raid by Israeli occupation forces seized PLC member Mohammed al-Tal from al-Khalil, along with 19 more Palestinians. Al-Tal has previously spent 11 years in Israeli prisons, half of those in administrative detention without charge or trial.
Also on Tuesday, 21 March, an Israeli occupation military court at Ofer submitted an indictment against PLC member Samira Halaiqa, 53, from al-Khalil, accusing her of participating in political and social activities and engaging in “incitement” for making political posts on Facebook. Halaiqa was seized on 9 March by occupation forces who invaded her home. She, along with her husband Mohammed Halaiqa, had previously been imprisoned for one year in 2006 under administrative detention, following her election to the PLC.
Both Halaiqa and al-Tal are part of the Change and Reform bloc, the PLC bloc associated with Hamas.
The 11 detained PLC members include: Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zboun, both from the Bethlehem area, members of the Change and Reform bloc, seized on Monday, 6 March. Zboun spent over six years in Israeli prison, including several months in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, a former deportee to Marj al-Zohour, was also previously held in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, Zboun, Halaiqa and al-Tal were all arrested in the month of March.
Other detained PLC members include Hassan Yousef and Ahmad Mubarak of Ramallah and Azzam Salhab and Mohammed Jamal Natsheh of al-Khalil. All members of the Change and Reform bloc, they are held in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison, while Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi is serving several life sentences. Jerusalemite PLC member of the Change and Reform bloc, Mohammed Abu Teir, was subject to expulsion from his home city of Jerusalem and is now serving a 17-month sentence in Israeli prison.
BETHLEHEM – A Palestinian woman was shot and injured by Israeli security guards at the Qalandiya checkpoint between the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem on Monday afternoon, as Israeli police claimed she was carrying a bag in a “suspicious manner.”
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that a “suspicious” Palestinian woman entered the vehicle lane of the checkpoint “seemingly carrying an object.”
“The guards then started arrest procedures and neutralized the woman,” al-Samri added, using an Israeli forces term to indicate that a Palestinian was shot without specifying whether they were injured or killed.
Al-Samri later clarified that the woman had been “lightly injured,” and that she had been “carrying a bag” in a way that raised the security guards’ suspicions.
The police spokeswoman said that the Palestinian was in her thirties and was a resident of the village of Kafr Aqab in the West Bank district of Jerusalem with a Jerusalem ID.
The Qalandiya checkpoint is notorious for being confusing to navigate.
According to Ma’an documentation, five Palestinians were killed at the checkpoint in 2016, including two Palestinian siblings — Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail who was 23 years old and five months pregnant, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim — in April after Israeli officials claimed the two were attempting to carry out a stabbing attack.
However, witnesses said that the brother and sister posed no threat at the time of their death. Yet the Israeli Justice Ministry later dropped its probe into the killings after it was revealed that a contractor, not a member of the police, had killed the Abu Ismails.
JERUSALEM – After Israeli authorities shut down a Palestinian elementary school in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Sur Bahir last Thursday over alleged “incitement” in its study materials, students attended class in the street on Sunday and protested against Israel’s decision to close the school.
Children who were enrolled at al-Nukhba (“the elite” in Arabic) arrived to the campus with their parents in an action organized by the parent committees of Sur Bahir’s schools, holding posters expressing support for al-Nukhba and denouncing Israel’s closure of educational institutions as “tyrannical.”
Last Thursday, head of the school Luay Jamal Bkirat and the school’s financial manager Nasser Hamed were summoned to an Israeli police station for interrogation, when Israeli intelligence officials informed them that the school was being shut down for carrying inciting content in the teaching materials used at the school.
Bkirat denied the claims, saying that al-Nukhba school was “teaching the Palestinian curriculum used in all schools in Jerusalem and that no one of the faculty had ever been summoned for interrogation before over incitement.”
He added that the school — which serves 250 boys from kindergarten to grade six — was opened last year and gained a temporary operating license from the Jerusalem municipality, and that the license was revoked in November for unknown reasons.
Bkirat condemned the decision and said that he would “conduct procedures to stop this decision which aims to destroy education.”
The Times of Israel reported that the school was shut down for being a “Hamas front,” after a months-long joint probe by Israel’s Education Ministry, Jerusalem police, and Israeli intelligence, the Shin Bet.
Israeli authorities from the education ministry claimed the school was established by Hamas with the aim of teaching “content that undermines the sovereignty of Israel,” and that the school’s aims were “consistent with the ideology of the terror organization, which calls for the destruction of Israel,” the Times of Israel said.
According to the Israeli news outlet, the ministry ordered the school not to open in September “and when it continued to operate, issued the closure order.”
Israeli Jews and Palestinians study in separate school systems in occupied East Jerusalem, with the Palestinian schools run by either Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, the Islamic Waqf and administered by the Palestinian Ministry of Education, private institutions, or UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, Palestinian children suffer from routine Israeli interference and political pressure to replace Palestinian curricula with an Israeli one in occupied East Jerusalem, where full Israeli military and civil control deprives students from proper and secure educational services.
A 2016 report by Israeli daily Haaretz also said that Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem received less than half the funds that the Jerusalem municipality transferred to Jewish schools in West Jerusalem.
Though Sur Bahir lies beyond the periphery of occupied East Jerusalem, the town remained under full Israeli security and civil control within Israel’s Jerusalem municipality after the territory was illegally annexed in 1967.
A 2011 report by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) said that due to a lack of some levels of education in Sur Bahir, many students were forced to attend schools in neighboring villages.
Mount of Azzeitun
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli municipal authority in Occupied Jerusalem plans to seize a large tract of Palestinian land on Mount of Azzeitun (Olives) to carry out development of a touristic park.
According to a report published by Iroshalim newspaper, a master plan for the park was submitted recently to the district planning and building committee in Occupied Jerusalem to obtain approval.
The local residents in Azzeitun area, however, are deprived of using the land where the park project would take place for building homes or establishing projects for their own benefit.
The new project will be 6.3 kilometers long and extend to the Hebrew University on al-Masharif (Scopus) Mount.
It will overlook the Old City of Jerusalem and include roads, bistros, public toilets, an information center, a souvenir store, a parking lot and other structures.
Israel seeks to carry out many Judaization plans in Jerusalem as part of its effort to change the historical Arab character and identity of the city.
As Israel begins work on its “American road” project in East Jerusalem’s Jabal al-Mukaber area, hundred of Palestinians are on edge, as their homes lie directly in its path.
Part of the larger al-Touq Highway, the road is ostensibly being constructed to connect Israeli settlements north, south, and east of East Jerusalem, and cuts through sections of Jerusalem, joining the Maale Adumim and Har Homa settlements on the West Bank.
The al-Touq Highway, proposed ten years ago by Israel’s municipality planning and construction committee, will, once completed, be 230-feet wide and over 7-miles long.
Roughly 300 acres, encompassing 12 Palestinian neighborhoods in Jabal al-Mukaber, will be confiscated to build the road, which has alarmed residents of Salaa, where construction has already begun.
Salaa resident Mohammad al-Sawahra told Al Jazeera, “We are living in a state of perpetual fear…It’s as if we are living in [two different worlds]. In Palestinian areas, it is like living in the third world, while those living in settlements built on the land of Jabal al-Mukaber are offered a life of comfort like first world countries.”
Al-Sawahra received a demolition notice for his home last month, adding that, “Now, they want to build a road on the ruins of my home for themselves, as well.”
He will be one of some 500 Palestinians living in 57 homes set to be demolished for the ‘American Road’ project. Raed Basheer, with the Committee of Defence for Jabal al-Mukaber properties, told Al Jazeera, “We were surprised to hear about the project, which will be 32 metres wide, with an additional 32 metres on the sides to allow for the light rail. All of the homes, both old and new, standing in the way of the road, will be demolished.”
“In response to this plan,” Basheer said, “we reached out to the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem and managed, with difficulty, to obtain an extension on the house demolition orders for five years, provided that we submit a request every year to extend the demolition orders. But, still, we do not know whether we will be allowed to remain in our homes over the next five years.”
The project map reportedly shows the disconnection of roads that link Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, cutting residents off from health care facilities and schools, leaving a road only to be used by Israelis.
The plan comes on the heels of a recently-passed and hotly-debated bill that retroactively legalizes thousands of Israeli homes on privately-owned Palestinian land. The “regulation” law has been called “theft’ and a “land grab” by the opposition.
About 48,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished since Israel first seized the territories in 1967.
Israeli police delivered an order from Aryeh Deri, the far-right Israeli Interior Minister, to Salah’s home in Umm al-Fahm, on Tuesday night, banning him from travel or visiting Jerusalem, until 15 July 2017. The order comes as a renewal of the one-month travel ban slapped on Salah on 17 January 2017, immediately upon his release from Israeli prison from a nine-month sentence for “incitement,” for a sermon he delivered in 2007.
The order declares that Salah’s travel abroad poses a “real danger… to state security.” Salah is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Palestine ’48; in 2015, the Israeli state banned the Islamic Movement in an action condemned by Palestinian organizations across the political spectrum as an attack on all Palestinians in ’48 Palestine, who hold Israeli citizenship.
Throughout his imprisonment, Salah was held in solitary confinement and repeatedly interrogated; appeals to end his isolation were denied throughout that time. He was even denied access to magazines, books and other materials brought for him.
At least two Palestinians have sustained injuries when a young Israeli man carried out a stabbing attack in southern Israeli-occupied territories amid violent attacks by Israeli military forces against Palestinian protesters.
Israeli police spokeswoman, Luba al-Samri, said in a written Arabic statement that the assailant, thought to be in his twenties, was detained after committing the attack in the city of Beersheba, located 115 kilometers southeast of Tel Aviv, early on Sunday.
The two injured men were transported to a hospital in the area.
Samri identified the unnamed attacker as a local resident of Beersheba, adding that initial investigations point to a “criminal” motive behind the incident.
30 Israeli settlers break into al-Aqsa Mosque
Meanwhile, more than two dozen Israeli settlers have once again stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds.
Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 30 settlers, escorted by several groups of Israeli troops and led by a number of guides and rabbis, entered the site through the Bab al-Maghariba on Sunday morning.
The settlers reportedly staged lengthy stopovers in various parts of the al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard during the incursion.
Israeli soldiers were heavily present at the entrance gates to the mosque and thoroughly checked the identity cards of arriving worshipers.
The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed tensions ever since Israel imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.
Nearly 280 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since the beginning of October that year.
Is a school lesson plan widely used across Canada aimed at fighting racism like its promoters say or is it also a clever cover for defending Jewish/white supremacy in the Middle East?
A recent 12-page Canadian Jewish News insert about Elizabeth and Tony Comper raises the issue. According to the supplement, in 2005 the Bank of Montreal head and his wife Elizabeth started Fighting Anti-Semitism Together (FAST), a coalition of non-Jewish business leaders and prominent individuals. FAST sponsored a lesson plan for Grades 6 to 8 called “Choose Your Voice: Antisemitism in Canada”. Over 2.4 million students in 19,000 schools have been through the FAST program. A year ago FAST added Voices into Action, an anti-racism lesson for Canadian high schoolers that devotes a third of its plan to the Nazi Holocaust in Europe.
Unfortunately, FAST does not appear to be an example of business leaders struggling for social justice. Rather, it’s part of what Norman Finkelstein dubbed the “Holocaust Industry”, which exploits historical Jewish suffering to deflect criticism of Israeli expansionism.
In its “What We Stand For” FAST calls on Canadians “to speak out against all forms of bigotry, racism and hatred”, yet the Compers’ were honoured guests at a 2009 Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian–Arab citizens who make up a fifth of Israel’s population. (What would we think of anti-racist activists who attend KKK meetings?)
In a 2006 article titled “BMO head slams one-sided Israel critics” the Canadian Jewish News reported on FAST’s Quebec launch: “Singling out Israel for blame in the Middle East conflict, even by those of good faith, is fanning anti-Semitism, Bank of Montreal president Tony Comper says. It may not be the intent, but the effect of condemning Israel alone is providing justification for hatred of Jews in Canada and internationally, Comper warned more than 400 business executives. … In underscoring the serious threat of anti-Semitism worldwide, Comper suggested that ‘a second Holocaust’ is possible if Iran acquires nuclear arms and attacks Israel.” In his speech Comper cited CUPE Ontario and the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada’s support for boycotting Israel as spurring anti-Semitism.
FAST supporters include a who’s who of the corporate elite: President TD Bank, Ed Clark; CEO of CN, Hunter Harrison; CEO of Manulife Financial, Dominic D’Allessandro; CEO of Bombardier, Laurent Beaudoin; president of Power Corporation, André Desmarais; President RBC Financial, Gordon M. Nixon and many others.
According to the Canadian Jewish News supplement, the Toronto couple also sponsored the Elizabeth and Tony Comper Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism at the University of Haifa in Israel. The Center operates an online Ambassadors Program, which reports the paper, “gives students intellectual material and technical skills to combat online the global boycott, divestment and sanctions anti-Israel movement.”
The supplement was partly sponsored by Larry and Judy Tanenbaum. Larry was one of a half-dozen rich right-wing donors that scrapped the hundred-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress in 2011 and replaced it with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. As the name change suggests, this move represented a shift towards ever greater lobbying in favour of Israeli nationalism.
The Compers provided over $500 000 to the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Established in 2008, Larry and Ken Tanenbaum gave the U of T five million dollars and helped raise more than ten million more for the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies.
Andrea and Charles Bronfman gave over $500 000 to the Anne Tanenbaum Centre, which has close ties with the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies. In 1997 the Bronfman family provided $1.5 million to create an Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies at the U of T. “Fifty years after its rebirth, the miracle of modern Israel is of broad interest,” said Charles Bronfman at the launch.
The long-standing Zionist family put up $1 million to establish a Jewish Studies program at Concordia two years later. An orchestrator of opposition to Palestinian solidarity activism at the Montreal university through the 2000s, Concordia Jewish studies professor Norma Joseph was also “instrumental” in setting up the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies. In 2011 multi billionaire David Azrieli gave Concordia $5 million to establish the first minor in Israel Studies at a Canadian university. After attending an Association for Israel Studies’ conference organized by the Azrieli Institute, prominent anti-Palestinian activist Gerald Steinberg described the Institute as part of a “counterattack” against pro-Palestinian activism at Concordia.
The Israeli nationalist tilt of McGill’s Jewish studies is actually inscribed in a major funding agreement. In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish Studies department partly for an “education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel.” But, Hillel refuses to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”
The individuals driving Jewish studies and anti-Semitism lessons in Canada overwhelmingly back Jewish/white supremacy in the Middle East and encourage the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism.
Unfortunately, support for anti-Palestinian racism, along with colonialism and western imperialism, makes one question their “anti-racism” credentials.
Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
In another example of the lengthy sentencing practices especially targeting Palestinian youth and women in Jerusalem, Shorouq Dwayyat was sentenced to 16 years in Israeli prison by a Jerusalem court on Sunday, 25 December. Dwayyat, 19, from the village of Sur Baher, was also fined 80,000 NIS (approximately $21,000.) She was shot by an Israeli settler and seized by occupation forces on 7 October 2015 in eastern Jerusalem and accused of attempting to stab an Israeli settler. Witnesses reported that she was harassed by the settler prior to the alleged incident.
Dwayyat is a student at Bethlehem University who was studying history and geography. She graduated from high school, achieving a result of 90% in the national secondary Tawjihi examinations in 2015.
Classes at the university were cancelled for two days after her shooting and arrest in October 2015.
Dwayyat was severely injured by the four bullets lodged within her body, unlike the Israeli man she was accused of attempting to stab, who suffered no serious injuries. Following the court’s ruling, the Israeli Interior Ministry stripped the imprisoned Dwayyat of her Jerusalem residency, claiming “breach of trust,” using the case as a mechanism to further the Israeli state policy of attacking Palestinian existence in Jerusalem. Amjad Abu Assab of the Prisoners’ Committee in Jerusalem said that “this is a racist policy… with the aim of killing the spirit of challenge by Jerusalemites and preventing any manifestation of rejection of occupation in the occupied city of Jerusalem.”
She is one of 52 Palestinian women – including 12 minor girls – imprisoned in HaSharon and Damon Israeli prisons and now is serving one of the longest sentences. The longest-held Palestinian woman prisoner, Lena Jarbouni, is serving a 17-year sentence in Israeli prison. The recent trend of particularly elevated sentences include those against Maysoon Musa (15 years), Nurhan Awad (13.5 years) and Israa Jaabis (11 years).
Stop worshipping Israel, learn the ugly truth … and find a new speechwriter!
This is still a Christian country, as your colleague David Cameron reminded us not so long ago. But you wouldn’t think so when non-Christian creeds are given exceptional protection and privileges to smooth their ruffled feathers. Your government is even introducing new laws to stifle questions about Israel’s legitimacy and quash criticism of its criminal policies. We have entered a sinister era of censorship and harassment as the gulf between government and public widens.
In an excruciating speech to a Conservative Friends of Israel lunch earlier this month, you told 800 guests that the British government will be marking the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration next year “with pride”. Yet that ill-conceived letter by the British foreign secretary caused a running sore in the Middle East that has lasted a hundred years. And Britain’s failure to make amends continues to endanger the whole region and cause grief for millions.
You said some astonishing things too about Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. For example, Britain stands “very firmly” for a two-state solution and the two sides must “sit down together, without preconditions, and work towards that lasting solution”. It is plain to nearly everyone that this futile and lopsided mantra is a ploy designed to buy Israel all the time it needs to establish enough irreversible ‘facts on the ground’ to ensure permanent annexation. But like all leaders before, you go along with it, And you’re careful not to mention that international law has already spoken and it’s high time for enforcement – or sanctions.
There seems little comprehension among you and your colleagues of the consequences for the Middle East, and indeed the whole world, if Israel is allowed to achieve its ambition to expand its borders to the Nile and the Euphrates.
You even praise Israel for being “a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance”, when it is obviously neither. Maybe an ethnocracy, or a theocracy, but certainly no liberal democracy. As for your remark that it is only when you walk through Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that you see a country where people of all religions “are free and equal in the eyes of the law” and “Israel guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities, and it wants to enable everyone to flourish”, have you ever walked through East Jerusalem?
What really offends me, though, is your belief that our two countries share “common values”. That’s straight out of Tel Aviv’s hasbara instruction manual. And it is deeply insulting to anyone who lives by Christian values, which are alien to the Israeli regime given its crimes against humanity and cruelty to the indigenous people it terrorises. I don’t suppose too many British people feel they have much in common with a criminal foreign power that tortures children.
However, the speech did provide mild amusement when you unwisely attacked the successful BDS campaign – that’s boycott, divestment and sanctions – calling it wrong and unacceptable and warning that your government would “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”. Two hundred legal scholars and practising lawyers from 15 European countries promptly slapped you down in a statement that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right. One expert pointed out that advocating for BDS is part of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Another said BDS is civil society’s response to the international community’s irresponsible failure to act. Repressing it amounts to support for Israel’s violations of international law and a failure to honour the solemn pledge by states to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.
Of course, if your Israeli friends don’t like BDS, they only have to comply with international law like everyone else, get back behind Israel’s internationally recognised borders and leave the Palestinians alone.
Just think for a moment about the shredded remnants of Palestine, the endless misery in Gaza and the obscene 8-metre wall with gun towers imprisoning Bethlehem and its Christian community – all courtesy of Israel. Remember that in their 2014 blitz on Gaza Israel killed more than 500 children, injured 3,374, left more than 1,500 orphaned and 373,000 in need of psycho-social support.
There are 1.75 million people, including about 800,000 children under 15, packed into the tiny Gaza enclave with no escape. They have suffered horribly under Israeli blockade – a collective punishment which as you know is considered a war crime – for nearly 10 years. And your own ministers report that 90% of Gaza’s water is not fit even for agricultural use. The puzzle is why your government would have any truck with anyone who subscribes to an Israel fan club.
According to Wiki, you are the daughter of an Anglican priest and a regular churchgoer. The Holy Land is the well-spring of your religion, is it not? I wonder what the Good Lord, looking down on the hell-hole Balfour created and Western politicians have perpetuated, thinks of your performance this Christmas.
Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting radiofreepalestine.org.uk.