Middle East – time to talk

10th April 2018


No immunity for the press in Gaza

While the right wing press in the UK focuses its attention upon the alleged problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza continues apace.  The condemnation of the Israeli government and its actions in killing, at the last count, at least 27 civilians has not been as loud or vociferous as the calls for Jeremy Corbyn to take action against alleged anti-Semites in Labour’s ranks.

As Corbyn has made absolutely clear time and time again, antisemitism is a cancer which must be cut out wherever it rears it head in society, at whatever level.  He has made it clear that he includes the Labour Party in that statement and has been equally clear that he would apply the same approach to racism of any description.  Such an unequivocal position has not been forthcoming from the government of the day or the cheerleaders of the Tory press.  Clearly they are wary of such hostages to fortune.

Corbyn has been equally forthright in his condemnation of the recent shooting of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza.  The world’s fourth biggest military force uses its might against people with little more than stones to throw.

In a message read out to a demonstration outside Downing Street opposing the killings, Corbyn demanded that UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, supported the call of the United Nations for an independent inquiry into the killings in Gaza and the removal of arms sales that could be used in violation of international law.  Corbyn stated that

“…firing live ammunition into crowds of unarmed civilians is illegal and inhumane and cannot be tolerated.  The silence from international powers with the responsibility of bringing a just settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict must end.”

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has not commented.

It is 70 years since 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their land in order to make way for the State of Israel as part of the post World War 2 settlement.  Over the years there have been attempts at reconciliation, most famously the 1993 Oslo accord between Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat.   Even then the Palestinians were prepared to settle for less than half a loaf, with Arafat agreeing to settle for a mere 22% of historic Palestine as a state.

With the present Israeli government it is clear than not even as little as that is on offer.  The illegal occupation of the West Bank continues in defiance of international law.  Since Hamas gained control of Gaza in June 2007 the Israelis have intensified the land, sea and air blockade while placing strict limits on Palestinians it allows to leave through Israel.

Life in Gaza has been described as being in an open air prison.  In an Israeli invasion launched in December 2008 more than 1,400 Palestinians died.  In February 2010 nine Turkish activists were killed in an Israeli attack upon an aid flotilla looking to break the blockade.  In November 2012 an Israeli missile assassinated Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari, resulting in confrontation which led to 174 Palestinian deaths.  In July 2014 the Israelis launched Operation Protective Edge, killing 2,100 Palestinians of which 495 were children.

It is estimated that, because of the 10 year old Israeli blockade, 80% of the population of Gaza are dependent upon humanitarian assistance.  Tap water is undrinkable.  On a good day Gaza will enjoy four hours of electricity.  Medicines are in short supply and over 60% of under 25 year olds are unemployed.

The recent protest by Palestinians, the “Great March of Return” had been intended as a series of peaceful protests leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba or catastrophe, when Palestinians were forced from their homes.

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories has launched a campaign against the shooting of unarmed civilians, pointing out that it is illegal in international law.  As the site states,

“Like all other countries, Israel’s actions are subject to the provisions of international law and the restrictions they impose on the use of weapons, and specifically the use of live fire. The provisions limit its use to instances involving tangible and immediate mortal danger, and only in the absence of any other alternative. Israel cannot simply decide that it is not bound by these rules.”

B’Tselem has launched a campaign entitled “Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot”. The campaign will include newspaper advertisements clarifying to soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators.  Clearly not all Israelis are anti-Palestinian, just as not all of those opposed to the actions of the Israeli government are anti-Semites.  Some are actually Jewish.

For more information go to https://www.btselem.org/

The West meanwhile continues to focus upon its war of intervention in Syria, with claims of another chemical weapon attack upon civilians being levelled at the Syrian government.  With no evidence yet to show, recent events have already been a pretext for an Israeli raid on a Syrian air base, killing 14 people, and may yet result in further action from the United States.

Jeremy Corbyn, once again, has suggested that,

“The need to restart real negotiations for peace and a political settlement in Syria could not be more urgent.”

Without doubt it is time to talk but whether the US / Israeli / Saudi axis which leads the intervention will allow it, remains to be seen.  Given the recent appointment of further hawks, such as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton in the White House, the prospects for anything like a just settlement in the Middle East look bleak.  Still, every ounce of public pressure must be employed to keep their war plans at bay.





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