The Israeli occupation gets worse and worse

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory – West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza – continues and deepens week after week.  The occupation is of course illegal under international law – as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions which were adopted after World War II.  As a reaction to Germany’s colonising activities in Eastern Europe, they specifically prohibit the colonisation/absorption of land conquered in war (in this case 1967) into the territory of the conquering country.  Just this weekend Netanyahu has confirmed his determination to continue the settlement enterprise and never to give back any land that has been stolen.  This has been reported in Haaretz, the Iiberal Israeli newspaper, which is the source of much of the information in this post.

In Gaza, the siege continues and this prevents the rebuilding of the territory after the last Gaza conflict (2014) and inflicts daily misery on the inhabitants.  In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it is estimated that over 3500 Palestinians have been arrested this year alone.  Many of these are children and every day I read reports of new overnight arrests – children and adults taken from their beds by Israeli soldiers.  Settler violence towards Palestinians has increased dramatically and the Haaretz and Israeli NGO’s regularly report on this.  The settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians are protected by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) whose soldiers rarely intervene.  Prosecutions of settlers for such crimes are almost unheard of.

A particularly serious development has occurred these past two weeks which has really incensed some European governments.  With the start of the new school year the Israelis have decided to demolish several schools.  Some of these have been funded by the Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian governments.  This has been documented this week in an article in the Independent (also confirmed by Haaretz) which reports that 55 schools in the West Bank are currently under threat of demolition.

Belgium is particularly incensed by the demolition of a school in the village of Jubbet Al Dhib where six terrapin cabins had recently been erected so that local children did not have to walk an hour to get to school.  The IDF destroyed the school buildings and confiscated the equipment and furniture, so the children had to sit on the ground in the blazing heat on the first day back while tarpaulins were erected to give some protection from the sun.  The Belgian Deputy Prime Minister issued a statement saying:

These new demolitions and seizures of essential infrastructure are unacceptable: Belgium’s projects aim to meet humanitarian needs and are carried out in strict respect of international humanitarian law…..By undermining such humanitarian projects, Israel contravenes its international obligations as an occupying power.

The Jubbet Al Dhib demolition comes on top of the destruction of school facilities in three other West Bank villages in the last two weeks, all donated by international bodies and NGOs.

Israel loves to claim that it is the only democracy in the Middle East.  It enjoys special privileges as a result of its Association status with the EU.  Its citizens, including the settlers who live illegally on Palestinian land, enjoy visa free travel to the UK and EU countries – something that is not true for Palestinians unless they live in Israel proper and have Israeli passports.  They are allowed to buy arms not to just for their own security, but also to maintain their illegal occupation.  And yet Israel behaves like any other tyranny towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and it thumbs its nose at the European governments that provide aid to Palestine projects which are then destroyed.

How long will the EU countries (including the UK) just carry on admonishing the Israeli government for all its illegal actions, and when will they get serious and start putting pressure on Israel to change its ways.  They could start by making trade with settlements illegal and they could withdraw visa free travel for people living in settlements.

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

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45 Comments

  • I could point out a few things I disagree with here, but I’ll leave it at this: You neglect to mention that these buildings were built without permission, and that is why they were demolished.

    Not because Israel is a “tyranny”, but just the opposite – because it has laws that were not followed.

    You go build a house on Green Belt in Britain, see what the local council has to say about it.

  • Mike MacSween 2nd Sep '17 - 3:01pm

    Israel doesn’t occupy the ‘Palestinian territory’ of Gaza.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_disengagement_from_Gaza

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Sep '17 - 3:12pm

    It seems that it is very difficult for Palestinians to get building permits in the West Bank, far out of proportion to the population.. Perhaps you have a respectable explanation for that Troika?

    I think the fact that the army is needed to conduct such work and that fixtures have been stolen makes the UK Green Belt analogy invalid.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Sep '17 - 3:57pm

    Troika21: Did the settlers in the illegal settlements get the requisite planning permission and if so why are the settlements illegal ?

  • Jonathan Brown 2nd Sep '17 - 4:33pm

    @Troika21 I hardly think you’re comparing like with like. The State of Israel almost never grants permission for any building by Palestinians or NGOs in the occupied territories.

    While it very rarely acts against illegal construction by settlers.

    Palestinians are treated very differently by the State of Israel. As John makes clear in his opening paragraph, the Government of Israel doesn’t even hide its colonising agenda any more.

  • Troika21 2nd Sep ’17 – 1:55pm……….I could point out a few things I disagree with here, but I’ll leave it at this: You neglect to mention that these buildings were built without permission, and that is why they were demolished…..Not because Israel is a “tyranny”, but just the opposite – because it has laws that were not followed…….You go build a house on Green Belt in Britain, see what the local council has to say about it…..

    Until February many Israeli settlements were built not just in contravention of international law but also were illegal under Israeli law…What did Israel do? It passed a law retroactively legalising the settlements…

    You ask what happens if you build on green belt in the UK; retroactive permission doesn’t happen…

  • Miranda Pinch 2nd Sep '17 - 5:12pm

    The problem with your comment Troika21, is that Israel denies building permits to Palestinians living in most of the West Bank (Area C (60%) and even parts of Area B), which is not Israel. For that reason it forces them to build ‘illegally’, yet allows Israeli settlements to be built on that same Palestinian land or turns the land into a park or military zone. When an occupier even prevents villagers who have existed long before Israel existed or who are refugees from Israel, from improving their properties , having solar power, digging wells or even rainwater cisterns, even animal shelters and sanitation, yet allows illegal settlements which it provides with electricity, mains water and proper roads, then you have to ask what those Israeli laws represent? Should those whose land is occupied, accept the very discriminatory laws applied to them? Is that just? Is that the action of a democracy or a government that cares about human rights or international law?

  • John,

    this is a disturbing news. I don’t think sanctions are the way forward though. The Middle East is in turmoil with devastating wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. With Hamas and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in control of Gaza the threat of Islamic terrorism from that quarter remains ever-present

    Security considerations are always going to prevail in Israel until their is a workable resolution to the ongoing conflict based on a two-state solution. I don’t see how sanctions on settlers in occupied territories will aid that effort.

  • Miranda Pinch 2nd Sep '17 - 6:17pm

    JoeB, I think you, as so many others , forget that Hamas was a product of the occupation, not the cause of it. Whatever you may think or believe about Hamas, they were democratically elected and suffered an immediate coup as well as being labelled as terrorists. The result has been collective punishment of 1.8 million people in a land area about the size of the Isle of Wight. Israel controls the airspace, the sea, the borders. It even has drones continually monitoring the area, and uses herbicides on the internal land bordering their barrier, which poisons the land. It claims such behaviour is for security reasons as well as its denial of much needed imports, and huge restriction of exports. It also prevents Gaza fisherman from making any sort of a living by restricting the fishing waters and firing at them frequently.
    Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world and a population, 45% of which are under 14 years of age.
    Do you really believe that treating children in this way creates any sort of security for Israel? These children continually suffering from trauma, lack of electricity, health care and drinkable water are hardly likely to feel goodwill towards Israel. In fact Gaza could be seen as a factory to create generation after generation of Palestinian children who do not need to be taught to hate Israel, their living conditions are enough in themselves.

  • Miranda,

    Hamas was founded as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood established in 1928. It was founded in 1987 to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    These aims are incompatible with a peaceful solution in an area that comprises a mix of Jews, Christians, Muslim and secularists. As incompatible as the aims of the ultra-orthodox Jewish minority in Jerusalem and the settlements for a Jewish state across the biblical territory of Israel.

  • Thank you to those who have pointed out to Troika21 that the permit system is managed in a way which often makes it impossible for Palestinians to get permits. The fundamental point however is that Israel has no right under international law to be imposing its laws and its wishes in this way. The occupation is illegal. The UN has told the Israelis time and time again that they should withdraw to the 1967 borders.

    Mike MacSween – your suggestion that Gaza is not occupied is incorrect. The territory is controlled in such a way that there is no exit by sea and exit by land is rarely allowed. The population are prisoners under siege and this therefore amounts to occupation.

    JoeB – I am not actually advocating sanctions against Israel. I avoid buying Israeli goods because of the occupation but that is a personal decision. What I am advocating here is effectively trade with the settlements. The settlements exist on stolen land where buildings and livelihoods have been destroyed. Staying in settlement hotels, eating in settlement restaurants, buying goods that have been produced on this stolen land etc. are all being complicit in illegal activity.

  • Miranda Pinch 2nd Sep '17 - 7:48pm

    JoeB, the democratic elections were encouraged and properly monitored in 2006. In fact the growth of an alternative to Fatah was also encouraged. Yes, they are an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they have recently separated themselves from, but there is much that we could argue on their background and intentions, not to mention that they have been openly prepared to accept the existence of Israel on the 67 borders and the violent anti-Palestinian rhetoric coming from Israeli leaders at least matches any from Hamas about Israel and probably exceeds it.
    There are still a few Christians living in Gaza and they seem to cohabit very well. Many Palestinian Christians say it is the conditions that drive them away – conditions imposed by Israel, not Hamas or fellow Muslims.
    I will add that in 2009 I visited Sterot on the border of Gaza and was told that 5 years previously they swam in the sea in Gaza and the farmers from Gaza sold fruit and veg to them in Sterot. The Israeli Jews we spoke to blamed their government for the changes, not Hamas.
    Putting all that aside, the conditions are still collective punishment on an overcrowded tiny area of land with 45% under 14s who have known nothing of Israel except its brutality.

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Sep '17 - 11:28am

    We could go further and perhaps if we are out of the EU, we will do. I would support invoking sanctions against Israel until it improves the lives of palestinians living in Gaza and The West Bank. It is a terrible example of a mature democracy behaving like this.

  • Marylin Dixon 3rd Sep '17 - 12:21pm

    Note Amnesty International have a new campaign asking governments to ban settlement goods – https://www.amnesty.org.uk/ban-israeli-settlement-goods-local-groups

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Sep '17 - 1:30pm

    @john kelly – Gaza has a border with Egypt -not just with Israel. so Israel can’t be occupying it but controlling its borders

  • Miranda Pinch 3rd Sep '17 - 2:17pm

    Simon, if another group of people control your access to land sea and air, whether you can enter or leave an area, restrict what can come in or go out, assassinates those living within your area at will using drones, reduces the internal land available by frequent incursions spraying herbicide on your crops, demolishes homes and flattens agricultural land, shoots at fishermen who go anywhere near the externally imposed restrictions, monitors everything going on within your area and even has a registry of inhabitants, what would you call that?
    Israel, as the occupier, has responsibility for the welfare of those living in Gaza under international law. Egypt does not and why should it?
    The laws of occupation apply if a state has “effective control” over the territory in question. I think what I have described if ‘effective control’, don’t you?

  • Larry Saltzman 3rd Sep '17 - 7:01pm

    Excellent article. The human rights situation in Gaza and the West Bank is horrific and the Palestinians are really suffering at Israeli hands. Israel will rarely grant permits for the Palestinians to build on their own land so they have an excuse to demolish whatever the Palestinians build.

  • Miranda,
    Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an “almost systematic campaign” of human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities, with the security forces belonging to the PA and Hamas being responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.
    In 2012, the Human Rights Watch presented a 43 page long list of human rights violation committed by Hamas. Among actions attributed to Hamas the HRW report mentions beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, hanging of alleged collaborationists with Israel, and torture of 102 individuals. According to the report, Hamas also tortured civil society activists and peaceful protesters. Reflecting on the captivity of Gilad Shalit, the HRW report described it as “cruel and inhuman”. The report also slams Hamas for harassment of people based on so called morality offenses and for media censorship.[499][500] In a public statement Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director of HRW claimed, “after five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights and grants impunity to abusive security services.” Hamas responded by denying charges and describing them as “politically motivated”
    In 2015 Amnesty International released a report saying that Hamas carried out extrajudicial killings, abductions and arrests of Palestinians and used the Al-Shifa Hospital to detain, interrogate and torture suspects during the Israel–Gaza conflict in 2014. It details the executions of at least 23 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel and torture of dozens of others, many victims of torture were members of the rival Palestinian movement, Fatah.

    I think we need to recognise there a no good guys here, on either side of the conflict, and innocent civilians are caught in the middle. All we can do is support UN efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict, when the Netanyahu coalition comes to an end.

  • It really is time for talking to stop and for sanctions against Israel. The UK Parliament voted to recognise Palestine, it’s time to ratify. Israel is in breach of many UN resolutions. It carries out human rights abuses daily and compels its own young people into the military, to be complicit in wrongdoing. #BDS#FreePalestine

  • Miranda Pinch 3rd Sep '17 - 10:36pm

    Joe. No one pretends that Hamas are nice and you are right that all sides commit human rights violations. However the primary cause of suffering in Gaza is the blockade and all that has wrought, including the increasing extremism found there.
    I will point out that there are many governments supported by the UK that routinely carry out human rights violations such as Saudi Arabia, not to mention Israel itself. Hamas is not occupying the land of anyone else and exists in an extreme situation and in isolation. To suggest any sort of equality of guilt is to ignore the basic facts on the ground.
    Your final paragraph seems like the usual, this year, next year, sometime, never option as Israel flouts every UN resolution and not only might Netanyahu continue for some time, his next in line may be no better or worse. By then Gaza will have become totally uninhabitable as it is not far off that now. It is very late in the day now, by then it will be too late.

  • Thank you, John Kelly, for your informative and factual post concerning struggles of Palestinians and the fact that these conditions occur regularly. My hope is that the international community including more people in the USA will stand for justice for Palestinians.

  • From the standpoint of international law, it is important to note that prior to 1967, there was no other recognized sovereign power in the territories. Israel’s capture of Judea-Samaria-Gaza and the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 did not constitute an illegal “occupation” of someone else’s land, because prior to 1967, there was no legal or recognized sovereign power there. The Jordanian occupation Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem during 1949-1967 was illegal, having been carried out in defiance of the United Nations Security Council.

    Furthermore, Israel captured the territories in self-defense. Israel took over Judea-Samaria-Gaza and the Old City of Jerusalem in self-defense, in response to aggression by Jordan and Egypt in June 1967. Had Jordan not invaded Israel –ignoring pleas by Israel to stay out of the war– Israel would not control Judea and Samaria today. As former State Department Legal Adviser and former head of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Stephen Schwebel, has written: “Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defence has, against that prior holder, better title.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Sep '17 - 11:57pm

    Interesting after an article and comments more , shall we say, moderate than often on this subject, that the attempt to explain and defend Hamas and the terrible current Palestinian Authority , is met by the as usual, substantive and insightful comments from Joe Bourke that explain a lot more than all the critics of Israel, justified as they are.

    The nature of the regime in the current government of Israel is not worth defending any more than most of us would if Trump endured a decade or two.

    Anyone who thinks the present outrages committed by either side, are all the doing of Israel , just read the comments by Human Rights Watch on Hamas . Enough said.

    Horrible governments make for imperfect democracies but democracies they are.

    That is more than i any other country in the region.

    And when LGBT Arabs and Muslims in Gaza are as free as those who are Israeli citizens are, we can call it two sides of the same coin.

  • John Kelly makes a strong case for action. And is suggesting limited action. I don’t see any reasons why his suggestions could not be party policy.

    I think it is our moral duty to take action against Israeli to try to get it to abide by international law regarding the occupied territories. A great injustice has been done to the Palestinian people by the state of Israel going back to 1948 and by us going back to 1917. I am pessimistic that any Israeli government would give what I consider justice to the Palestinian people or even abide by UN resolutions regarding what they should do.

    Perhaps peace can only be achieved once both sides give up any hope of an exclusive national state for their people and both sides accept Palestine and Israel has to exist as one secular country with two peoples with totally equal rights.

  • Miranda Pinch 4th Sep '17 - 8:24am

    Lorenzo. Your comments seem to refer to Hamas and the PA as opposed to Israel as equal in their awfulness. The issue is not whether Hamas or the PA are ‘good’, it is simply that Israel, that calls itself a western style democracy with ‘the most moral army in the world’ is the occupier and oppressor of another people. Neither the PA nor Hamas, for all their faults, are occupying, demolishing, oppressing and intimidating Israelis. Once the occupation and blockade has been lifted and Palestine has autonomy, then, and only then, can you speak of two sides.
    Whatever anyone may think of Hamas and Fatah (both counter-productive to their own people), both live under extreme conditions imposed on them by Israel and have no access to Israel’s so-called democracy. In fact both live under military law, whereas the illegal settlers occupying much West Bank land live under civil law and have citizens rights in Israel, despite living on stolen Palestinian land.
    This is not a conflict between two equals and never has been. It is occupier and occupied. It is oppressor and oppressed. It is modern well funded military and lethal crowd control against a largely unarmed civilian population. There is no equality of any kind in this scenario.

  • Change.org has a petition online this morning to ask our government to intervene and pressure the Israeli government to rebuild one particular EU funded school that it has destroyed in a Bedouin village . https://www.change.org/p/rt-hon-alistair-burt-mp-save-the-school-the-israelis-have-just-knocked-down?recruiter=10850602&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=triggered

  • Miranda,

    I don’t disagree with anything you say, only as to how we in the UK can help the situation.

    The Security Council reaffirmed last year that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.

    The the Council reiterated its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It underlined that it would not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the two sides through negotiations.

    The Council called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction. It further called for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism. The Council called on both sides to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground and rebuild trust and confidence.

    Also by the text, the Council called on all parties to continue to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final-status issues in the Middle East peace process, and within the time frame specified by the Middle East Quartet (European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations, United States)
    The US position was that settlements undermined Israel’s security and eroded prospects for peace and stability. The US maintains, however, that Israel had been treated differently from other States for as long as it had been a member of the United Nations. In 2016, 18 resolutions adopted in the General Assembly and others in the Human Rights Council had all condemned Israel. It was because of that bias that the United States abstained. The US would not have let the resolution pass had it not addressed terrorism and incitement to violence.

    No progress can be made in this conflict without keeping the US onside and that means continuing to address terrorism and incitement to violence by all sides, not just Israel.

  • Kenneth Bauzon 4th Sep '17 - 5:24pm

    With the mainstream media sorely missing critical discussion about the continuing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories and the aggressive settler movement in these territories, it is refreshing to see an article like this. It is important not to conflate the security of the State of Israel with the legitimacy of this occupation, much less the justification for the settlements, illegal under international law, and the mal-treatment of Palestinians living in these territories, including the cynical and mean-spirited siege of Gaza, all in contravention of the Geneva Conventions and existing humanitarian laws. To buy into the Israeli government’s claim that these territories are “not” occupied but, rather, “disputed” is to ignore the fact that, in the absence of a “final status agreement” with the Palestinian Authority, that the Israeli State has gone ahead unilaterally to impose its own version of a one-state solution, minus the Palestinians.

  • Miranda Pinch 4th Sep '17 - 6:32pm

    JoeB. There is one simple thing that the British government could do and that is to recognise Palestine as a State. Fully recognise it. By doing so it would give Palestinians some status and enable them some sort of equality in negotiations. As long as Palestinians are criticised for defending themselves and fighting against the occupation of their land, while Israel literally gets away with murder and state violence without, at least, recognition that the Palestinians also have full state rights, then things will remain as they are, which is what Israel wants. Israel’s economy is based on armament sales and security. Peace would cause problems for Israel. Giving Palestinians full recognition would weaken Israel’s stranglehold and make their actions even more obviously illegal and counter to every and any human right.
    Britain could also follow up its concerns about, for instance, Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children in detention, by sanctions, as it does with many other countries.
    Israel is indeed treated differently, it seems to have total impunity and continued financial support no matter how it behaves. That is indeed special treatment!

  • David Pocock 4th Sep '17 - 11:56pm

    I never really know what to think of this issue really. I am loath to pick a side, I can see a lot of wrong on both.

    I just hope one day they all can wake up and realise there will never really be peace until both sides want it. And until that day there will be blood.

  • Miranda,

    Jews for Justice for Palestinians (a 2000 strong group of British Jews) publish their aims on their website http://jfjfp.com/

    – Lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires justice, mutual recognition and respect.
    – Peace requires ending Israel’s illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, including its illegal blockade of Gaza.
    – Peace requires Israel to acknowledge its responsibility in the creation of the Palestinian refugees, and its obligation to negotiate a just, fair and practical resolution of the issue.
    – Violence against civilians, no matter who commits it, is unacceptable.
    -Israel’s repressive policies in the West Bank and Gaza are breeding hatred and resentment.
    – Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinian citizens is unacceptable.
    – It is crucial that Jews speak out for Palestinians’ human rights.
    – The humanitarian values of Judaism have been corrupted by the Israeli state’s abuses of human rights.
    – Britain, the EU, the USA, Russia and the UN must be persuaded to implement UN resolutions on Palestine.

    I think we can all support these statements and aims. Hamas, however, and in particular its military arm, are a problem that can’t be ignored or justified as simply a resistance movement. We have seen enough of these fundamentalist Islamist movements to know what to expect. We need to tread carefully in not giving implicit support to jihadist groups that embed themselves in the wider Palestinian community..

  • Miranda Pinch 5th Sep '17 - 8:30am

    Joe, I think you have ignored all the points I have made about Hamas and Gaza. The reduction of so many points back into the ‘let’s blame Hamas’ argument is to justify doing nothing in the face of such huge injustice and the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza, which is, in effect, the collective punishment of 1.8 million people, 45% of whom are children under 18.
    Hamas is relatively moderate compared to many other far more extreme Islamic militants, that it is trying to keep in check in that overcrowded suffering community. The situation, created by Israel, provokes and breeds hate and militancy, it certainly does not bring peace of any kind or,indeed, security for anyone.
    So you think the continuing inhumane treatment of a whole population is OK?
    Are Palestinian lives, their living conditions and their security so unimportant?

  • Miranda,

    the statements and aims of Jews for Justice for Palestinians is I think a well ordered summary including the emphasis on implementing the UN resolutions on Palestine. This should not lead to British parliamentarians becoming apologists for groups like Hamas.

    According to Human Rights Watch, the Hamas-controlled government of Gaza stepped up its efforts to “Islamize” Gaza in 2010, efforts that included, according to the organization, the “repression of civil society” and “severe violations of personal freedom.”
    Palestinian researcher Dr. Khaled Al-Hroub has criticized what he called the “Taliban-like steps” Hamas has taken. He wrote, “The Islamization that has been forced upon the Gaza Strip–the suppression of social, cultural, and press freedoms that do not suit Hamas’s view[s]–is an egregious deed that must be opposed. It is the re-enactment, under a religious guise, of the experience of [other] totalitarian regimes and dictatorships.”
    I do not see a conflict in speaking out against repression in Palestine whether it is undertaken by Israeli security forces or by Islamist groups like Hamas.
    Israel faces Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, the Islamic State on the Syrian border with the Golan heights, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza strip. Not recognising these security challenges is unlikely to engender any kind of fruitful dialogue with more liberal minded Israeli’s.

  • Miranda Pinch 5th Sep '17 - 1:24pm

    Joe, I am not ignoring security considerations, nor human rights violations by Hamas or anyone else. Yet again you choose to ignore the point I am making. If Hamas is that bad, then imprisoning all those men, women and children with them is tantamount to abuse and radicalisation, so why not improve their lot, even let them out, so that they don’t succumb to such indoctrination!
    Otherwise, I could conclude that the creation of a growing number of extremists within that open sewer is exactly what Israel and others want?!
    I repeat. Treating human beings the way that Israel is treating the largely innocent population of Gaza is beyond inhumane and far more likely to increase then decrease radicalisation. That is not being an apologist. It is being a realist!

  • @ Joe Bourke

    I expect we could all support the “statements and aims” of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. I particularly like item 3 Israel having to deal with the right of return question fairly. I wonder what the last one means in practice.

    In a multi-faith society perhaps political parties based on one religion should be banned especially where the political party doesn’t recognise other religious beliefs or no belief as equal. Democracy is not a good on its own, it has to have a liberal environment for it to work because without that liberal environment human rights can be supressed.

  • I’ll limit myself to a few points.
    1. Whenever this conflict is raised, the debate tends to descend into “the other side is worse”. Excusing or justifying wrongs committed by one group of people by reference to other wrongs committed by other groups is itself wrong in principle. Treating this conflict as having 2 ‘sides’ is a profoundly unhelpful thing to do as well. As Liberals, we should be attributing personal responsibility to malefactors, and putting individual human beings and their rights first. Policies should be aimed at reconciliation and maximising overall welfare of Palestinians and Israelis living in that part of the world.

    2. Making EU or UK trade with settlements illegal is not as easy as it sounds ; harms the many Palestinians who also work in and around, or produce goods or services consumed in or by settlements; and more importantly is unlikely to make any meaningful difference. Ditto restricting travel to the EU (who counts? what to do with people who have second homes there, study there or, as children born there, have no other home? How do you check where they live? )
    3. People live in settlements mostly for one of 3 reasons: they have an ideological desire to do so; or it is the most affordable place; or they grew up there. Most of the ‘settlements’ are not farms or production centres but dormitory towns for people who work in Israel proper, or central Jerusalem. You will not deter more than a trivial number of people from living in a house they have bought with their own money (or perhaps built, but usually bought) for either ideological or economic reasons (or is their home town because they were born there to settler parents), by making them apply for a visa to visit the EU.
    4. Restricting travel and trade with Israel, and treating it as a hostile state, is more rather than less likely to reinforce the ultra-nationalists, and undermine the more liberal elements who see the EU as an ally. We see that pattern almost everywhere that sanctions boycotts or blockades are imposed on a government that is disliked by third countries. Not least, in North Korea and Cuba and in Gaza itself.

  • Miranda,

    I abhor the manner in which Israel treats Palestinians in the occupied territories and West Bank, and can see no justification for the acts of destruction that John Kelly describes in his article. I think the policies of the Netanyahu administration are a huge mistake in this regard and agree such treatment is itself a cause of radicalisation (just as indiscriminate Internment was in N. Ireland in the 1970s).
    I temper that knowledge with the understanding that groups like Hezbollah, Islamic State and the more radicalised elements of Hamas and Fatah would slaughter every Jewish man, woman and child in Israel if they had the means to do so. Sanctions won’t change that state of affairs. Only leaders being elected to power in Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the vision to deliver security based on justice, mutual recognition and respect for the multi-faith community that lives in the region can change the situation.
    Judging by election results and the Israeli press, there are significant numbers of Israeli’s who think as the British Jews for Justice for Palestinians do. It is to these more Liberal minded Israeli’s that we should direct our moral support and encouragement, together with the moderate Palestinian organisations that seek only to live in peace with their neighbours.

    Baroness Falkner gave us some good advice on the Middle East when she said “First, do no harm” is not a bad candidate for the first rule of diplomacy, and when she went on to warn we need to be careful that we do not get into the situation of the United States in Afghanistan in the 1980s where the United State’s conviction that the enemy of my enemy is my friend led it to support Bin Laden and the Taliban http://www.acronym.org.uk/old/parliamentary-records/201207/baroness-falkner-lord-lamont-urge-commitment-diplomacy-iran-syria?page=show

  • Miranda Pinch 6th Sep '17 - 7:20am

    Joe, you say ‘I temper that knowledge with the understanding that groups like Hezbollah, Islamic State and the more radicalised elements of Hamas and Fatah would slaughter every Jewish man, woman and child in Israel if they had the means to do so.’
    To lump those groups together as if they were one and same is absolutely wrong and shows a sad degree of ignorance, I am sorry to say. Hamas has been prepared to recognise Israel on the 67 borders and made some other reconciliatory in recent years and Fatah has been as good as Israel’s security force in the West Bank. Yes, there are nasty violent people in every society that will do their best to destroy the peace or ‘wipe the others out’ . That includes many of the extreme Jewish settlers, and by their rhetoric, even members of the Israeli government themselves, but is that a reason to deny human rights, equality, a life, to innocent men, women and children? Is not the very best security and defence for all sides to improve conditions and reduce the inhumanity and fear?
    ‘Do no harm’ in such circumstances is to do nothing, which is in line with the saying ‘When powerful ‘men’ do nothing, then evil prevails’. However, Britain does not do nothing. It funds, it trades, it deals in armaments that are all very much something. ‘Do no harm’ is the ultimate head in the sand cop out which ignores reality or just chooses not to know.

  • A Social Liberal 6th Sep '17 - 7:17pm

    Building and settling people in territories captured in war is against the Geneva Conventions and as such any Israeli government minister or leader who countenanced or facilitated this should answer as others who act counter to international law have.

    However, turning a blind eye to the activities of Palestinian organisations as Miranda, John and others do is to beggar belief. Which Israeli political party threw their political opponents off high buildings, which Israeli party commited mass murder against those who would vote against them? Which Israeli government has refused to hold a general election five years after one was due – these are the actions of Hamas. That is, the political wing of Hamas not the terrorist side.

    Other facts that the pro Palestinians forget is that hundreds of Palestinians cross from the Gaza to both Israel and Egypt every day – and when the crossings are closed it is because of security concerns. They would rather not bring into the conversationthe the inconvenient truths that the EU manned the Rafah crossing for many years, or that after the war of independence Israel handed over the Gaza to a fledgling Palestinian Authority, or that a previous Israeli government forcibly removed jewish settlers from both the Gaza and the Sinai.

    Rather than call for sanctions, John, Miranda et al should perhaps concentrate on convincing the Israeli people to vote for progressive, liberal political parties rather than ones which support Netenyahus policies on the West Bank and the Gaza.

  • Miranda,

    Baroness Falkner’s position on diplomacy is sound. Al Quaeda was formed from the mujahadeen forces fighting the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, funded and equipped by the United States.

    Gaza has a number of terror groups including the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine. The Islamic State has reportedly begun to take a foothold in the Palestinian territories. Israeli security sources claim that in late 2014 and early 2015 hundreds of Hamas and Fatah supporters have defected to the Islamic State.

    There are a number of armed groups associated with Fatah including Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Fatah waged a war of terror for decades until its was militarily defeated first in Jordan, and then in Lebanon and ultimately in the West Bank, by the IDF. It is only since President Abbas succeeded Arafat that there has been any credible engagement with the roadmap peace process; and it is currently the only Palestinian faction that the international community and Israel recognise.

    I am aware that Hamas has said it is open to considering recognition of Israel in the framework of the group’s efforts to join the Palestine Liberation Organization in a unity pact with Fatah.

    The precense of these terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank does not excuse the repressive actions of Israel’s government against innocent Palestinian citizens. It does however explain why sanctions will have no effect in changing behaviour, and why the people on the ground who can actually change this state of affairs – concerned and politically engaged israeli’s and Palestinians with voting rights – are the only genuine route to a lasting and just settlement.

  • @ Joe Bourke
    “Gaza has a number of terror groups including the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine. The Islamic State has reportedly begun to take a foothold in the Palestinian territories. Israeli security sources claim that in late 2014 and early 2015 hundreds of Hamas and Fatah supporters have defected to the Islamic State.”

    And the reason Palestinians turn to ever more extreme terrorists if the failure of the Israeli government to give justice to the Palestinian people. (It should be remembered that Israel was born out of terrorism and many of its earliest leaders were former terrorists.)

    As every year passes it becomes harder for Israeli to give justice to the Palestinian people. The Israeli government if it ever wants a two-state solution will have to deal with the leaders of the Palestinians no matter how much they wished the leaders were different people. Once justice has been given to the Palestinian people, solutions will be needed to de-radicalise them and create a liberal democracy.

  • Miranda Pinch 7th Sep '17 - 8:20am
  • The 2017 Manifesto stressed the Libdem commitment to “a negotiated peace settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” leading to a two-state solution.
    At the launch,Tim Farron’s also condemned “Hamas’ rocket attacks and other targeting of Israeli civilians”, while criticising what is described as “disproportionate force used by all sides”. The manifesto, also condemns Israel’s settlement policy, saying expansion “undermines the possibility of a two-state solution”.

    Recognition of an independent Palestinian state may be supported by Libdems,if and when it is considered, such a move would enhance the chances of peace.

    One of the best pieces on this issue that I have seen posted in recent years was an article by Leon Duveen arguing that it was time to combine Lib Friends of Israel and Lib Dem Friends of Palestine into a single group that share a common aim. https://www.libdemvoice.org/time-to-do-away-with-lib-dem-friends-of-israel-and-friends-of-palestine-36908.html.

    His argument is a simple and compelling one “As a party we should be encouraging the voices in both Israel and Palestine that call for peace and reconciliation, not having separate groups within the party that act as flag bearers for their side and seem to only want to point out the failing of the other.”

  • Just seen the motion for conference http://www.ldfp.eu/palestine-post-newsletter/conference-motion-on-the-centenary-of-the-balfour-declaration-17th-september-2017/ jointly agreed by both Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) and Friends of Israel (LDFI).

    Pleased to see the motion concludes that the time is now right for the British Government to recognise the State of Palestine; while noting the expectation remains that free and fair elections in Palestinian territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority will take place, to be conducted by the Palestinian Authority and facilitated by the state of Israel.

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