Opinion: It is time for those who believe that violence doesn’t work to stand up

Banksy: DetailLast October, I wrote a piece for LDV called “Time to do away with LD Friends of Israel & Friends of Palestine” and other pieces on the subject on my own irregular blog.

After the tragic events of the last three weeks, with the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers being found murdered and now a Palestinian youth having been killed in Jerusalem, seemingly in “revenge”, I feel I need to speak out, even it is to “state the obvious”.

In addition to the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair, the Israeli reaction to the kidnapping and killing of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach has cost at least six other deaths of Palestinians on the West Bank & yet unknown numbers of lives in Gaza. We here in the UK need to be strident in the commendation of the extremists on both sides who, through their rhetoric, have encouraged the violence.

What else should we do, living in safe comfortable Britain, to try to bring an end to this current upsurge in violence?

One thing none of us should do is to act as cheerleaders for one side or the other to say that any of the violence is justified, that one side or another has the right to attack those on the other. Most of us do not have relatives or friends in the area and we cannot imagine what it is to be caught up in these events.

Our role, especially in a political party that tries to build bridges with those we don’t always agree with must be to support the moderates on both sides calling for calm and a reduction in the violent rhetoric extremists on both sides seem to like to engage in. There are many groups and individuals in both Palestine and Israel who are calling for dialogue, compromise and understanding of the other side. These are the people we need to be supporting.

Ten days ago I was at a meeting in Bethlehem where Abdul-Majid Atallah, the Mufti of Bethlehem, spoke movingly about how, despite being subject to arbitrary arrest & administrative detention (a form of interment), does not hate Israelis and wants a peaceful settlement. There are many like him in Palestine and also others like Uri Savir and Uri Avnery in Israel who want the same. As Liberal Democrats, these are the people we should be supporting, not the extremists or the men of violence on either side.

Finally I would like to repeat the words of Rabbi Hillel the Elder, first said over 2000 years ago. When asked to explain the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible), he said “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn”.  This saying has become known as the Golden Rule and appears in different forms in all the three monotheistic religions as well as many other. We would all do well to follow it and call on all sides in Palestine and Israel to do the same.

Editors’ note: Given the unfortunate tendency of posts relating to this area of the Middle East to attract large numbers of comments that breach our comments policy, all comments below this piece will be moderated before publication.

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* Leon Duveen is a Liberal Democrat activist in Worksop, Nottinghamshire

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13 Comments

  • LOL Goverments use violence all the time SO think this a bit rich LOL
    YES Even UK Police army navy airforce yes US

  • 100% agree (that doesn’t happen often)! Great post and although it should be all obvious, it clearly isn’t. 🙂

  • Daniel Henry 3rd Jul '14 - 12:03pm

    I’m not sure I follow your point Terry.
    Can you explain what you actually mean?

  • Tim O'Brien 3rd Jul '14 - 12:21pm

    I fully endorse the sentiment of your blog. However where are these men of peace? Why are their voices not heard?

    The west unfortunately has a somewhat one sided view of the “Palestinian question”. Yes, Hamas has an unacceptable policy of driving Israel into the sea (not doing a very good job of it are they?) but equally Israel follows a policy that says the Palestinians do not exist as a nation, when patently they do.

    And despite the innumerable rockets fired into Israel by Hamas, Hezbollah and other like minded groups, a lot more Palestinians have died over the years that Israelis in this pointless tit-for-tat war that I imagine is built on misguided principles drawn from the respective “book of faith”.

    We heap criticism on Palestinians, but the west seems to acquiesce (well, we occasionally object. Very quietly) to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his more Hawkins predecessors continual occupation and expansion into disputed territory . No politician these days should be allowed to get away with claiming prehistoric rights to bits of land in the way that Netanyahu does. The west underwrites the Israeli economy. the USA pours billions of dollars in, including military aid. It is true that the west (EU, mainly, I believe, but could be wrong) has provided some finance to the PLA, though as soon as any is used to develop infrastructure it seems Israel has a go a t demolishing it in none of its retaliatory raids.

    Money is in my view the key. if People, anywhere, are able to earn a decent wage, live in reasonable conditions (ie: reasonable housing, public infrastructure, rule of law etc..) and give their children an education , then they do not want war. The west needs to be more even handed in its approach: help Palestinians to achieve these objectives by giving them a lot more money than they are getting at the moment and withdraw funds from Israel when it refuses to respect Palestinian rights in the territory they live now. then compromise may be reached. But so long as we play the Cold War game of supporting none side, while others (in this case almost every Muslim country in the world) support the other, we are going nowhere.

    We will still have to address extremists like those who are fighting out their “islamic reformation” at everyone’s expense and use the Palestine/Israel conflict as an excuse, but that is another matter.

  • The murders of these Jewish and Palestinian teenagers are a horrific act, representing the worst of human depravity.
    The fear, hatred and cycle of violence such acts generate is almost as bad as the crimes themselves.

    There are indeed many groups and individuals in both Palestine and Israel who are calling for dialogue, compromise and understanding of the other side that we should be supporting. Abdulateef Al-Mulhim writing for the Arab News
    http://www.arabnews.com/arab-spring-and-israeli-enemy is among them, as is Gideon Levy, the campaigning Israeli journalist at Haaretz.

    Life could be so much better if we all followed the ‘Golden Rule,’ but sadly human history and frailty holds out little hope for maintaining such a state of peace and goodwill.

  • Terry, whilst you can condemn all Governments for their use of violence, including our own, I don’t think it is “rich” for Leon to support the cessation of violent acts. We can be universal in our condemnation of the use of violence and our ultimate goal should be to create a more peaceful world. In doing so surely we should support those moderates across the world who share our opinion.

  • iantha kirkup 4th Jul '14 - 6:41am

    I have worked and lived in Israel and have Jewish friends there, but as a Christian am accutely aware of being an outsider. It is a complex tale of a victim race at last with a chance to return home, creating other victims in the process. I could not hope to even start imagining a solution. But the situation in Israel effects us in Britain, our perceived support of America who in turn are percived to support Zionist Jews in Israel makes us a legitimate terrorist target in some minds.

    Can Britain do anything to help the situation in Israel? When I first went to Israel a decade ago Jews told me we see parallels between our situation and yours in Northern Ireland. Well look at the two countries now, so perhaps Britain is in a position to offer discreet advice on how we deal with the situation without creating martyrs?

  • Matthew, thanks for posting the link to the well-argued joint call for a two-state solution by the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, and the UK-based Israeli academic, Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor.

    Also your Link to the Jewish Chronicle article on the Board of Deputies treasurer Laurence Brass visit to the occupied territories, after which he said he was horrified at what he witnessed during in a West Bank village, describing it as an “eye-opener”.

    Gideon Levy, the Haaretz jounalist has been visting the West Bank for three decades and reporting on what he has encountered there. In this Independent article http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/is-gideon-levy-the-most-hated-man-in-israel-or-just-the-most-heroic-2087909.html the writer asks – Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?

    Levy appeals to anybody who is sincerely concerned about Israel’s safety and security to join him in telling Israelis the truth in plain language. “A real friend does not pick up the bill for an addict’s drugs: he packs the friend off to rehab instead. Today, only those who speak up against Israel’s policies – who denounce the occupation, the blockade, and the war – are the nation’s true friends.” The people who defend Israel’s current course are “betraying the country” by encouraging it on “the path to disaster. A child who has seen his house destroyed, his brother killed, and his father humiliated will not easily forgive.” He says his mission is to ensure that Israeli’s cannot say “We didn’t know.”

    Last week he wrote a piece entitled – The Palestinian teen whose death went unnoticed by Israel.

    “Mohammed Dudin, 15, was shot to death by IDF troops using live fire during Operation Brother’s Keeper. No one took responsibility for the killing and no one called his killers terrorists. He was a boy of 15. His mother did not appear this week before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, his sisters did not issue a heartrending public letter, no mass prayers were organized in his honor, nor was a memorial assembly held. No one accused the soldiers who killed him with live fire of perpetrating brutal terrorism, no one took responsibility for his killing.”

    That conflict is reminiscent of the Northern Ireland that Iantha kirkup comments on above. Israel in confronting Islamic Terrorism needs to take great care to avoid dehumanising the Palestinian population. Too many younger Palestinians are being drawn to fundamentalism as a reaction to repression and helplessness in the face of what all neutral observers consider a brutal occupation.

  • Leon Duveen 7th Jul '14 - 2:25pm

    This isn’t directly connected to the post I wrote but shows that within Israel, there is a growing feeling that the occupation of the West Bank is damaging Isreal society and allowing the cancer of intolerance & racial hatred to spread.-http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.603431

  • Leon,

    the conclusion to the Haaretz article seems to echo your message well enough:

    “This newspaper and the small but valiant community in Israel that continues to insist on having a discussion about human rights, in not closing our eyes to the injustices carried out in our name, in believing in an Israel and in a Zionism that can flourish untainted by racism and hate crimes, rather than continuously having to delude itself, are daily accused of being self-hating defeatists for telling the ugly truth. Now those who criticize us are waking up to reality for a few brief moments — but already are putting themselves back to sleep with the soporific talk of Jewish values and how much more ruthless the other side is.

    Wake up and stay awake: There is no guarantee it won’t happen again. It will, and then you will be forced to go through the stages of denial and delusion once more.

    Either come to terms with the fact that Jewish values, whatever they mean, are no safeguard against cruelty and depravity, and that we are living a lie of exalted morality, or get used to these rude awakenings.”

    There is a minority community that gets forgotten in this conflict – the Palestinian Christians that get caught between Moslem and Jewish sectarian hostility and conflict http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/senior-catholic-cleric-if-jews-want-respect-they-must-respect-others-1.463320

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