Opinion: Crimea/Palestine – unfavourable comparisons

As a Liberal Democrat one is appalled by the heavy handed way that Russia has moved into Crimea with an apology for a referendum. It may be the wish of the majority but this invasion is totally against international law and indeed tears up the post-Soviet treaty between Russia and Ukraine. The criticism of Russia is led by the USA and strongly supported by the rest of Europe. Many in Europe and the Middle East are wondering why the same critics have been so mute in the face of not dissimilar aggression and occupation of Palestine by Israel.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank has continued now for 47 years. International Law (set out in Geneva and Hague conventions) prohibits the colonisation of territories that have been seized in war, but that is just what has happened in Palestine. Israel continues not just to build illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem but regularly abuses the legal process to evict Palestinians and demolish their homes and livelihoods. The maps below showing how Israel has steadily colonised the West Bank, leaving a pitifully small amount of land for the Palestinians, are deeply shocking.

Ethnic cleansing is effectively being carried out in East Jerusalem, there is plenty of evidence of Arab prisoners (including children) being subjected to brutal and degrading treatment and Jewish settlers are often protected by the army when they uproot Palestinian olive groves and throw stones at Palestinian homes. Palestinian children who throw stones or protest in other ways at the punitive policies of the occupiers are often shot and killed or maimed. Israeli crimes against Palestinians are rarely prosecuted. If any other country that claims to be a model democracy were to behave in this way the Western nations would be in uproar. George Burnett in a carefully argued paper (pdf) available on the LDFP website has cited many of these abuses while considering whether Israeli behaviour in the West Bank amounts to the practice of apartheid. The Paper concludes that apartheid practices are sadly present in the West Bank.

Pressure is building on Israel to change its ways and make a fair and reasonable peace with its Palestinian neighbours. In the Jewish community in the UK there is widespread support for a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with land swaps. European and even American public opinion is moving against the Netanyahu government. The EU has moved a little way (thanks to Lib Dem MEP’s and their allies in Strasbourg) to put economic pressure on Israel by insisting that goods produced in illegal settlements do not receive favourable tariff benefits. There is a growing pressure to step up sanctions on Israel – remembering how they helped to bring down Apartheid in South Africa. The UK Foreign Office has, under coalition government, put much more pressure on Israel through the EU than Labour ever did. But our foreign policy still defers too much to the USA. It is high time that our government followed an independent foreign policy. Israel/Palestine is the first issue on which to choose to be different, support the Palestinian leadership’s request for further UN recognition and treat Mr Netanyahu the same way that we treat Mr Putin.

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* John Kelly is vice-chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

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9 Comments

  • “It may be the wish of the majority [of Crimean’s], but this invasion is totally against international law”
    Heaven forbid that we listen to the majority seeking self determination. Listening to voters,…(shivers)…That will never do.
    “But our foreign policy still defers too much to the USA.”
    Yes we really need to hear what instructions Washington DC have given to William Hague as to what is our UK foreign policy on Israel.

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Apr '14 - 8:58am

    We’ve had two recent examples, Egypt and Ukraine, where democratically elected governments were overthrown by coups or “people’s riots” …which seem to have been encouraged by various factions in the West. The Egyptian case looks like it’s turning back into an authoritarian regime as was the case with Mubarak. Hamas was also disapproved of. Is this a case of “democracy is great as long as somebody we like is elected?”

    On the I/P situation, the maps tell the story. 2 state solution is not going to happen; clearly Israel is an apartheid state, and the Palestinians should be given full citizenship. I expect that would create difficulties for the rest of the Israelis, but having made 2 state impossible, there’s not much alternative.

  • >>Palestinian children who throw stones or protest in other ways at the punitive policies of the occupiers are often shot and killed or maimed.
    Israeli crimes against Palestinians are rarely prosecuted.
    If any other country that claims to be a model democracy were to behave in this way the Western nations would be in uproar. <<

    Good points, John.

  • John Kelly, thank you for this excellent and concise piece . You provide a link to a paper by George Burnett, which I would recommend that everyone reads — it is only 8 pages and it provides a very clear statement as to,why Liberal Democrats as the party of International Law shoud act.

    Of course if anyone does not have the time to read the paper, it only takes a couple of seconds to look at the maps in your piece above and to take in what has been done to Palestine.

  • jenny Tonge 5th Apr '14 - 12:06pm

    The maps say it all.
    What do the Zionists in our party say ?
    What is their defence .

  • The map (which was on the LD Friends of Palestine stall at Conference) seems to presuppose that the whole area from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan is Palestine, and thus to deny the right of the State of Israel to exist, notwithstanding its establishment in 1947-8 in accordance with UN resolutions and international law. There never has been an independent State of Palestine. From 1948 to 1967 the West Bank was occupied by Jordan and the Gaza strip by Egypt. No one called them occupied territories then. The West Bank and Gaza came into Israeli control as a result of the Six Day War in 1967. UN Resolution 242 then called for a settlement based on two principles: a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles: Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict and termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force. The Khartoum Arab Summit responded to Resolution 242 that there would be “no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel”.

    Now fortunately the Arab World and Israel recognise the only solution to the conflict is a two state solution accepting the rights of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples to have their national homelands within secure and agreed borders.

  • The maps are factually correct. They are not disputed by any rational or objective observers.

    Jonathan,
    Your closing sentence says that Israel recognises the rights of the Palestinian people. This would seem to be at odds with the facts on the ground. Daily reports from Palestine make it clear that the actions of the Israeli Government, police and armed forces do not recognise nor respect the people of Palestine. George Burnett’s paper points out that under international law the system operated by the Israeli government is an apartheid system. Nelson Mandela recognised this and said so in no uncertain terms during his lifetime. Many Liberal Democrats worked hard to bring an end to the system of oppression in Mandela’s country , we should now do the same in the country of the Palestinians.

  • Jonathan
    The so called “six day war” the Jews of Israel keep calling it was not a “War” at all. It was a preemptive attack by Israel firstly on Ejypt catching them by surprise and destroying all their airforce while it was parked on the airport hangers , they then went for the artillery with air bombardment when the Egyptions had no Air cover.
    Having destroyed the Egyption armed forces Israel then immediately went after a preemptive attack on the Golan heights and captured the land there.
    So this was a preemptive aggression egged on by Britain, France and USA with Russia tricking the Egyptions and Syrians into false spence if security. This the where Israel started the aggression and have. Not stopped since.

  • It seems a two state solution is the only global political solution available, despite the one state solution being the only one geographically practical.

    I find it hard to see an end-game which doesn’t result in a combined secular Israel/Palestine , and allows Palestinian refugees back with some degree of restitution. Unlike Ukraine, there is no neat line to draw between them.

    The alternative from a zionist perspective seems to be that the Palestinians just wither away and die, either by their own accord or with significant resistance/assistance – I hope no humanitarian people think this is acceptable.

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