Category: Israel/Gaza

Thank you, Amnesty International

Amnesty International in the UK is calling on people to write to the Foreign Minister urging Britain to support efforts to isolate and condemn Israel. They write:
The UN-mandated International Independent Fact Finding Mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, has published its findings on the 22-day conflict in Gaza and southern Israel in December 2008-January 2009. The carefully argued report, which is consistent with the findings of Amnesty International, concludes that both the Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups committed grave violations of international law including war crimes and, possibly, crimes against humanity.
The Amnesty website encourages us all to send messages calling “on the UK government to spare no efforts to ensure war criminals do not get away with murder”. In an email to members, they express concern that the UK government may do no such thing.
But Amnesty’s website allows people to individualise their messages — to write their own thoughts, which they cheerfully pass on to the Foreign Minister. So I’d like to thank Amnesty for giving me a chance to write this instead of their text:

I am a member of Amnesty International but I do not agree with their call on the public to encouage Britain to support the Goldstone report.
As you know, Israel refused to cooperate with this UN commission because it was certain that the result would be accusations that Israel committed war crimes. The commission was biased from the start. Israel was right not to cooperate with it.
Amnesty is wrong to call on us to ask you to help bash Israel — clearly what is needed is a re-launch of the peace process, based on the Road Map, and not something that will only benefit Hamas.

An open letter to Amnesty International

The following letter has been sent to the editor of Amnesty International’s magazine in the UK.
Kristyan Benedict’s article on “10 Days in the West Bank” (Amnesty Magazine, July/August 2009) takes up three full pages but still manages to tell only one side of the story.
Benedict begins by mentioning that Bethlehem University was closed for three years – but doesn’t say why. No doubt it was closed during the three most violent years of the first Intifada (1987-90) because of incidents of violence taking place there — but there’s no mention of this. Why was it closed? Did she ask?
She then quotes a Palestinian activist saying how hard it is to resolve conflict “when people are constantly being provoked to retaliate”. This presumably refers to only the Palestinian side (as if Israelis are never provoked by anything) but also reads like a justification for violence, an attempt to understand why some Palestinians choose to become suicide bombers, for example.
The delegation she was on then visited the separation barrier and told of the (presumably) negative impact it had on Palestinians. But not a word about why it was built. Not a mention of the vast number of lives saved by the huge reduction in the number of terrorist attacks carried out in Israel.

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Is Israel a victim or aggressor?

That was the title of a debate held on Thursday evening at Durham University and hosted by the Durham Union Society. I was invited to be one of the three proponents.
Other speakers included Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist Federation and Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion as proponents. The opponents were Keith Sonnet from UNISON, Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian academic who lives in the U.K., and a student who substituted for a speaker who could not attend.

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Israel, Gaza and the Unions: The Need for a Global Fight-Back Against Anti-Semitism

Fifteen years after the historic Oslo accords, Israel finds itself isolated as never before in the international labour movement. The erosion of support for the Jewish state has not been affected in the slightest by Israeli concessions over the years. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, the closing of all Jewish settlements in Gaza and the withdrawal of troops, the acceptance of the right of Palestinians to their own state, the ongoing attempts to reach agreement with the PLO – none of these has slowed down the growing hostility toward Israel on the Left and in the trade unions. Read the full article here – on Democratiya.

Protestors remember war victims, denounce ‘Holocaust’ bombing

bombenholocaust.pngBy police accounts, it was the largest demonstration of its kind. Some 6,000 protestors gathered to remember the innocent victims of a bombing campaign that was so terrible it could be compared to the Holocaust. In fact, the banners they carried explicitly called it a ‘bombing Holocaust’.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in London? Nope – neo-Nazis yesterday in Dresden.
The German left did not participate in the protest. Instead, they staged a counter-demonstration.
Just like the British left should have done when pro-Hamas demonstrators marched through London streets shouting anti-Semitic slogans.

Workers Liberty – a muddled message on Gaza War

An online discussion of this article can now be found on the AWL website, here.
* * *
yestopeace.jpgThe most recent issue of Solidarity features a number of articles about the conflict in Gaza. These articles do the AWL no credit.
Ira Berkovic’s “Who speaks for Jewish people in Britain?” reports on the rallies organised by the Jewish community in Britain without once mentioning the politics of those rallies. That’s extraordinary. More than that, it’s dishonest. As even the BBC reported, these rallies called for peace and an end to Hamas terror. They were not the mirror-image of the pro-Hamas rallies which – as you reported elsewhere in Solidarity – did call for the destruction of the Jewish state.
But to be fair, I think the comrades of the AWL may not be deliberately misrepresenting the Jewish community rallies. I think the article actually reveals the depth of your ignorance. You don’t actually know what the rally was about — because you weren’t there.

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A “decisive loss for Israel”?

Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau, thinks that Israel has lost the battle in Gaza. He certainly has the right to think that. And one can understand why Hamas leaders will want to say such things. But why anyone outside the ranks of that organisation would want to listen is beyond me.
Anyone watching television news in recent days, now that foreign reporters have been able to enter Gaza, can see with their own eyes what has happened.
Whatever one thinks of what Israel did, whether it was provoked or not, whether it should or should not have attacked, the fact remains that Israel attacked Gaza with overwhelming military force.
The only way that could have turned into a Hamas victory would have been divine intervention. But not only was there no divine intervention, no earthly power came to Hamas’ aid either. Not their fellow Islamists in Hizbollah. Not their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank. Not even their sponsors, Iran.
Everyone had kind words for them, but in the end they faced the full power of the Israel Defence Forces alone.
It takes a very special way of looking at things to see here some kind of victory for Hamas.

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Press.tv Debate on Gaza War – now online

programs20090121191143906.jpgLast week I was invited to appear on Press TV – the Iranian-backed satellite news channel. It was supposed to be a debate on Gaza, with Jeremy Corbyn MP moderating. The show is now available for viewing online here. Today I donated my fee for appearing on the show to Magen David Adom – Israel’s emergency medical service.
Tomorrow I will be debating at Imperial College London. Here are the details:
Title: Israel/Hamas: Who is the aggressor?
Sponsor: ICU Political Philosophy Society
Date/time: Thursday, 22.1.09 19:30
Venue: Clore Lecture Theatre, Huxley Building,
Imperial College – South Kensington SW7 2AZ
Other participants include:
Chris Doyle, Directory, Council for Arab and British Understanding
Husam Zomlot, Senior Political Advisor to the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission to the UK

Liberal Democrat leader responds

The office of Nick Clegg MP, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has responded to my letter. You may recall that the entire point of my letter was to answer Clegg’s failure to cite the Nazi rocket attacks on Britain in 1944-5 as a precedent for what Israel has suffered for the last several years from Hamas. (The photo below shows a damaged building hit by V1 rockets in London in 1944.)
v1rocketdamage.jpgBritain’s response to those attacks was to intensify the strategic bomber offensive against Germany even though the Third Reich was in already in defeat and could not really defend itself against aerial bombardment. The vast majority of victims of those bombings were civilians, including thousands of women and children.
In my letter, I did point out the irony of the fact that Clegg’s predecessor as party leader actually helped plan the firebombing of Dresden – something which the Liberal Democrats today would almost certainly characterize as ‘disproportionate’ and even a ‘war crime’. But that is not what they thought at the time, when German V1 rockets were falling on London.
You’ll see that the letter I’ve received from Clegg’s office is boilerplate and makes no reference to any points I raised (such as at the very least dismissing the analogy I made). Click on ‘Read more’ to read the full text of their reply.

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