Friday, 2 January 2009

SLAUGHTER IN GAZA


The New Year opens with news that the Israelis have bombed the parliament building and the offices of Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, both places I have visited myself for discussions with PLC members and with Haniyeh when he was prime minister of the shortlived Palestinian unity government.

The current death toll stands at 4 Israelis to 380 Palestinians, a ratio of nearly 1:100. I join in condemnation of the killing of Israeli civilians on both humanitarian and political grounds (what on earth does it accomplish except to provide the Israeli government with an excuse for its actions), but how can Israel´s actions be described as anything other than slaughter?

On the first day of Israel´s attack I took part in a discussion on Al Jazeera with Mark Regev, the Israeli government´s appallingly brilliant spokesman and propagandist (day after day he is allowed by journalists to get away with defending the indefensible). He demanded that Hamas and the Palestinians do this and that. I pointed out that the demands are always one way, why are not questions also being asked of Israel, about its blockade of Gaza, the expansion of the Jewish settlements, the stealing of Palestinian land, etc etc?

The firing of missiles – however primitive many of them are – with the intention of killing Israeli civilians provides a justification for Israel´s actions that is impossible to dismiss. No politician could ignore them. Those of us who are horrified by the killing in Gaza are forced to criticise its grossly disproportionate nature rather than condemn it outright.

The reality that this obscures is that the Israelis have the Palestinians tied like a donkey on a rope. They deny the animal much that it needs, they poke it and humiliate it. From time to time the donkey kicks out. The Israeli response is then to shout ¨Bad Donkey,¨ and to hit it, and hit it, until it is cowed and subdued. The failure of the West is to bring in the police and make an arrest for mistreatment of an animal!

The racism that goes to the heart of the Israeli Government's approach is to assume that the Palestinians can be beaten and beaten until they are subdued and will then do what they are told. It fails to recognise that the Palestinians might respond to such treatment in exactly the same way as Israelis would – with defiance.

The response from the West to the events of the past week has been utterly hopeless. Perfectly good words from George W Bush backed by no action at all (I expect no better from Obama). France and Germany united in their unswerving support for Israel. Miliband gives the impression that he wants to go a bit further in his criticism of Israel policy but clearly has no support for that from Gordon Brown, hence his dismissal as ¨naive¨ Nick Clegg's call for a halt to the development of a closer EU-Israel partnership. ¨Naive¨. Why?

It is time for Liberal Democrats to call a halt to the attempt to ride two horses and to try not to upset the Israeli lobby. Our support for the Palestinian cause is well enough known amongst those (by no means all!) in the Jewish community who will not countenance criticism of Israel. It is not well enough known amongst the majority who are appalled by Israel´s behaviour.

We should make clear that we will campaign tooth and nail for a viable and independent Palestinian state and will demand an end to deals with an Israeli government that bases its policy approach on a stance that is fundamentally racist.

9 comments:

Arthur Spellbound said...

I assume you're based in Brussels. If you're in London though, do take some time off to join the protest tomorrow.

Maybe I'll see you there. (i'll be the one shouting "Free Free Palestine!")

Hughb said...

This kind of cartoon depiction of the conflict - where all the good guys wear white hats and are unimpeachably good and all the bad guys wear black hats are irredeemably bad - is as stupid as it is naive.

Gil said...

I am a Zionist and I doubt there is any real purpose to commenting here. However, your last paragraph seems to suggest that the Jews in this country can get stuffed because there ain't any votes from them. How soon will it be before you call for steps to be taken against Jews like myself?

Did you complain like this about Pakistan sending sending racist terrorists who murdered Christians and Jews in Mumbai? Or will you not do so because many of your consitutents are of Pakistani origin?

Non-jewish Londoner said...

You sir are fundamentally racist.

GGL said...

I agree with every point, and support you all the way.

Israel's terrorism is totally unjustifiable. It's clearly "genocide".

Andy Lee said...

I absolutely agree with the sentiments of this blog-post. Whilst no-one can deny that Israel has the inherent right of Self Defence (as all sovereign states do) the criteria which have clearly ascertained the level of jus cogens is that only acts which are necessary and proportionate should be done by way of self defence.

The scale of the Israeli onslaught is neither necessary nor proportionate. As Avi Shlaim wrote in this weeks Guardian:
“The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel's insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine

Israel seem to habitually breach rules of international law and the world needs to wake up to the fact that Israeli leaders should be held accountable for these breaches.

Earlier this decade Hamas leaders (such as Sheikh Ahmad Yassin) were killed by way of targeted missile strikes by Israel. These ‘extra-judicial killings’ were clearly recognised by most of the international community as a violation of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law. Israel continued.

The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on Israels so-called “security fence” in July 2004. It concluded that “The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied palestinian territory... are contrary to international law”. The Wall still stands and Israel dismissed the report as “Biased”!
http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1671.pdf - Full opinion.

As Michael Byers points out is his book “War Law” that European governments view Israel as an occupying power and legally constrained by the rules set out in the Forth Geneva Convention of 1949, the Convention relative too the Protection of Civilian persons in Time of War. At a minimum, Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to Israel, the first part states:
“In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ' hors de combat ' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.”
http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebART/375-590006

Israel’s actions have cost the lives of 700 Palestinians, many of whom are civilians, the Red Cross are being impeded in their desire to collect and care for the wounded and sick and have gone as far as to demand “urgent access to wounded as [the] Israeli army fails to assist wounded Palestinians”
http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/palestine-news-080109?opendocument

the Israeli state was and remains in breach of Common Article 3 and once this conflict finally comes to an end the world has to hold Israeli leaders accountable for these crimes against humanity.

In the mean time, the Lib Dems call for a British arms embargo on Israel is a very sensible first step which should be repeated by all EU member states. Then escalating trade embargo’s should be considered until the bloodshed ceases.

Gil said...

GGL: 'Israel's terrorism is totally unjustifiable.'

Unless this is satire, another one of the Israel haters showing their command (not) of out language: Can terrorism ever be justifiable, GGL?

Anonymous said...

Regarding your comments on the State of Israel, do you know what the word "projection" means?

Anonymous said...

hope you can continue your work on this.. this issue needs to be spoken about more often.. thanks Mr. Davies for your courage