Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 19 August 2014/23 Shawaal 1435
It is rightfully known as the fraud of the century.
It is November 2, 1917. Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary, on behalf of Britain, promises Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there(the Zionists). A letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement seals the deal. In years to come, this letter infamously becomes known as the “Balfour Declaration”.
An ill-considered promise that indeed becomes largely responsible for radically changing the history of the Middle East until the present day. No wonder, says researcher Omar al Taher, that Palestinians, whose land was promised away, collectively refer to it as the “Ominous Declaration”.
“It is worth noting right from the outset that at the time of the declaration, neither Palestine nor the Middle East (save Egypt) were under British colonial control. So here we had a country (Britain) promising to give somebody else’s country (Palestine) to a third party (world Jewry).”
Handing over an entire nation that it did not own to an alien entity had no shred of legality under international law, yet the declaration set into motion a series of ominous developments that steadily led to an increase in Zionist immigration to the Holy Land, the alienation of Palestinians on their own land and, eventually, the large scale dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that they refer to as the Nakba(Catastrophe) and that Israelis consider to be the manifestation of their ‘independence’.
In the years that followed, affection between the former colonial power and the new colonial state blossomed. Britain accepted Israel not as a subordinate recent colony, but as a partner, a pivotal part of the free world.
In the assessment of right wing Israeli historian Benny Morris, relations between Israel and Britain were friendly. “More than friendly,” he says. “They were characterised by admiration. And nowhere in Britain was sympathy and admiration stronger than on the Left and among the young. The Left admired Israel’s social democracy, energy and pioneering spirit..There was huge admiration, too, for the kibbutz movement, with its three hundred-odd collective settlements, in which thousands of young Britons spent months, and even years, as volunteers, enjoying the egalitarian spirit, agricultural labour and sex. British socialists admired Israel’s powerful trade union association, the Histadrut, which had its own publishing company, bank, daily newspaper, health service and industrial plants. Somewhat shamefacedly, there was also keen appreciation of Israel’s military – resourceful, daring and successful.”
The Israeli military adventures of 1967, however, changed all of that. With its occupation of even larger swathes of Palestinian territory – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Israel stirred up a hornet’s nest, awakening many in the West – and in the United Kingdom in particular – to the harsh realities of the Palestinian quest for justice. Successive Israeli clampdowns and repression of the Palestinians, through two Intifadas and successive assaults on Gaza, coupled with the intransigence of the Israeli political leadership to heed the impassioned calls of the international community to cease its illegal settlement activity gave rise to an even more vocal pro-Palestinian solidarity movement in the UK. And, to the disgust of Israel – as it embarked on yet another barbaric assault on the Palestinians this July, all those simmering frustrations in Britain vis-a-vis the Zionist State came spectacularly spilling over.
An estimated 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets of London in one of many rallies to protest Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip. In Glasgow and Aberdeen, Scotland several thousand demonstrated despite heavy rain. Other demonstrations were held in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Dublin, Ireland.
Assembling at Prime Minister David Cameron’s 10 Downing Street residence to march on the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, demonstrators chanted “Stop Israel’s war crimes” and “End Israeli Apartheid”. People were still arriving at the Embassy more than an hour after the protest had set off.
Another national demonstration on August 9, to coincide with an international day of protests against Israel, and solidarity with the people of Gaza, brought yet more staggering numbers of Britons to the streets.
A pro-Palestine group projected the national flag of Palestine on the Houses of Parliament, repeating their call for an end to Israel’s offensive in Gaza.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), projected the flag, along with messages calling for sanctions to be imposed on Israel. Atop the flag was the slogan ‘Free Palestine’.
Emerging as the unlikely spokesperson of such pro-justice sentiment was Jon Snow of the country’s Channel 4.
Snow, who was dispatched to Gaza during the heat of the conflict, posted a series of heart-rendering tweets capturing the unfolding tragedy in the Palestinian territory during his brief stay there.
“If you strangle a people, deny them supply, for years, extreme reaction is inevitable. The one begets the other,” he tweeted on July 20.
“Were any other country on Earth doing what is being done in Gaza, there would be worldwide uproar,” he added.
On his return from the conflict zone, Snow released an “unusually direct and emotional online video about the Gaza conflict“ wherein he speaks directly to camera about how what he saw in Gaza was still etched in his mind”, appealing directly to viewers to take action to stop the conflict.
Snow spoke of his visit to Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital and the wounded children he had seen there, also quoting the official number of child casualties resulting from the conflict.
“That’s what makes this something that every one of us has to confront,” he said. “We have to know that in some way we share some responsibility for those deaths.”
Snow added: “We cannot let it go on… together we can make a difference.”
The video notched up millions of views across various platforms, with more than 700,000 on the Channel 4 News YouTube channel alone.
Equally unusual was the reaction from Channel 4, which, as a mainstream voice, stood firmly behind Snow’s decision to publish the video.
A Channel 4 News spokeswoman said: “As part of our extensive coverage of the ongoing conflict, Jon Snow spent five days on the ground in Gaza witnessing for himself some of the harrowing events and human tragedies.
“He made this video blog for the Channel 4 News website after being deeply affected by what he saw first-hand. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive and we are extremely proud of the work our reporting teams have done and continue to do in very challenging conditions to cover this conflict.”
The video reportedly also prompted an eight-year-old girl to write to the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond to express her concern.
“I think that it is sad that so many people in Gaza are being injured or dying, especially women and children. It’s our fault,” she wrote.
“We are killing the people of Gaza by giving Israel weapons. We need to take our part in it and stop giving Israel weapons or who knows how long this is going to go on for. I would appreciate it if you could talk to the government of Israel and try to stop this tragedy.”
Separately, British television personality Piers Morgan also took to Twitter to air his frustration with Israeli policy.
“You deliberately shell a UN facility full of women & children – you lose any moral high ground. Enough, Mr @netanyahu ….ENOUGH. Israel’s making a massive mistake with this monstrous child-slaughtering military strategy. Someone needs to rein @netanyahu in… fast.”
Confirming this groundswell of opposition to Israeli policy, was YouGov poll conducted on July 27 that revealed that 62 percent of British adults believed that Israel was guilty of war crimes in Gaza.
Ordinary citizens, medical personnel, youth, media practitioners – all testimony to serious image crisis Israel is facing in Britain today.
But perhaps most noteworthy this time round were the voices of discontent with Israeli policy that emerged from the corridors of British power.
The assault on Gaza created considerable unease within Tory ranks, with one prominent pro-Israeli MP pressuring the government to alter its stance on the ongoing crisis due to the scale of Palestinian suffering.
Conservative MP Margot James, an aide to former Foreign Secretary William Hague, wrote to new Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, urging him to rethink the coalition’s policy towards the ongoing conflict.
In her letter, the Stourbridge MP expressed sorrow and disbelief at the sheer scale of Palestinian suffering that has emerged since the bloody conflict began three weeks ago. Ms James told Hammond she was writing to him on behalf of many of her constituents who had contacted her directly to “register their despair at the loss of life in Gaza.”
Ms James unequivocally declared her support for Israel’s “right to security” and the ability for its citizens to “live without fear of bombardment.” But she argued that the rapid and reprehensible termination of “so many Palestinian lives, homes, hospitals and schools” cannot be considered in any form proportionate to the “crude rocket fire” to which Israelis are subjected.
Former UK deputy Prime Minister John Prescott also weighed in on the debate with an outspoken column about the hostilities in Gaza.
“A nation which blasted a hospital, shelled and killed children from a gunboat as they played football on the beach and was responsible for 1,000 deaths, at least 165 of them children, in just two weeks.
Surely it would be branded a pariah state, condemned by the United Nations, the US and the UK. The calls for regime change would be deafening.
But these howls of protest are muted. The condemnation softened.
For this is Israel,” he wrote.
“Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.
Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.
Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were civilians, mostly women and children.
But who is to say some of the other 20 per cent weren’t innocent too? Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and executioner in the concentration camp that is Gaza.
And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it,” he boldly explained.
Confronted with criticism that his concentration camp parallel was inappropriate, Prescott actually defended his sentiments, citing a the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a Concentration Camp:
“A place in which large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labour or to await mass execution.”
“.. that is what Gaza is today – a camp where the mass killing of people, significantly women and children and many under UN protection, has been happening for three weeks.”
His call came after the Gaza debacle claimed its first British political casualty – the resignation of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a minister who was the first Muslim woman to sit in the Cabinet.
“I think the question marks that Sayeeda Warsi has raised about the arms export licenses which we issue to arms exporters selling to Israel are very serious ones and I share her concerns”, the Liberal Democrat leader said in a statement on his website.
“It’s obvious to me that however much Israel has every right to defend itself from those rocket attacks from Hamas, nonetheless the Israeli military operation overstepped the mark in Gaza,” he continued.
“This outrageous spectacle of these three UN schools being hit by Israeli military action. That’s why I believe that the export licenses should now be suspended,” wrote Clegg, who added that he believes that “the actions of the Israeli military, overstepping the mark in Gaza, breach the conditions of those export licenses and that’s why we want to see them suspended pending a wider review of whether they should be revoked more permanently in the long run.”
“I believe we will be able to make an announcement on this, finally, very shortly. It’s taken a little bit longer than I’d like to have this agreed across government but I think it’s very important that in response to clearly what appears to be disproportionate military action of Israel in Gaza, we should be suspending the arms export licenses that presently exist,” Clegg said.
The outspokenness of so many within Britain, and moreso the establishment, and their willingness to publicly challenge Israel, regardless of what their motivations may be, points to a cataclysmic shift in Western attitudes relating to the Middle East conflict.
As Robert Fisk notes, “there was a time when our politicians and media had one principal fear when covering Middle East wars: that no one should ever call them anti-Semitic.”
“So corrosive, so vicious was this charge against any honest critic of Israel that merely to bleat the word “disproportionate” – as in any normal wartime exchange rate of Arab-to-Israeli deaths – was to provoke charges of Nazism by Israel’s would-be supporters. Sympathy for Palestinians would earn the sobriquet “pro-Palestinian”, which, of course, means “pro-terrorist”.”
“Or so it was until the latest bloodbath in Gaza,” he argues, “which is being so graphically covered by journalists that our masters and our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic, but fear of their own television viewers and readers – ordinary folk so outraged by the war crimes committed against the women and children of Gaza that they are demanding to know why, even now, television moguls and politicians are refusing to treat their own people like moral, decent, intelligent human beings.”
Peering at the rubble in Gaza, many have queried what purpose the current conflict served to advance the goals of any of the two adversaries. As Gaza faces the bewildering task of rebuilding, and Israel licks its military wounds, and negotiations for a just outcome falter, perhaps the most palpable outcome to the conflict is not been witnessed in Gaza or Israel, but rather, miles away in Europe. The pendulum of public sentiment has swung most spectacularly against Israel, and most significantly, this has occurred in a country that played such pivotal a role in the establishment of the Zionist State.
As a British Jew grimly told Mondoweiss, “shifting positions on Israel is(sic) so hard and scary, there needs to be a bridge. Create the safe place today that says; Israel is moments away from International condemnation, an irreversible decline in its standing with the American public and pariah status, for Israel, Israelis and Jews.”
“You can’t legally argue every Israeli position. Human rights trumps emotional attachment. Israel screwed America is a better argument than Israel is sort of a democracy. Israel waged wars, but lost the big battles. American Jews, this is wrong, you will not win in the court of public opinion. Israel will lose, try to salvage something.”
“The urgency with which peace needs to happen cannot be over stressed. BDS is here. The truth is here.”
Zionist sympathizers and apologists in other parts of the world aught to better awake and take heed.
Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 19 August 2014/20 Shawaal 1435
The latest Israeli assault – which has claimed 2,000 members of the Gaza community (overwhelmingly civilian) – was always designed to destabilise the Palestinian political process towards sovereignty and self-determination. The violence has achieved just that, and in the process, slowed the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Tel Aviv and the Palestinian political leadership, who have spent the past 21 years negotiating the process, are now not discussing the future but locked in on-and-off discussions to resolve the latest assault.
But, indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – a Tel Aviv scheme to perpetuate occupation, apartheid and siege – have achieved nothing. This is the umpteen time this sort of thing is happening, explained Gaza-based political analyst Dr Abu Shark adding that and that excludes the several United Nations resolutions, dating back to 1948, that have failed.
“The United Nations never implemented [the resolutions calling for our rights to self-determination, the right to return and sovereignty] simply because of the influence and pressure of the different American administration and the West and because of the weakness of the Arab and Muslim world. Unfortunately the West uses double standards when it comes to Palestine and Arabs and Muslims are too weak,” the political analyst told Cii’s Sabahul Khair. He dismissed both the Arab League as well as Egypt, whose coup regime leader, Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, is widely seen as Tel Aviv’s stooge.
On why the negotiations, brokered by the same Egypt, failed, he said it was apparent that Binyamin Netanyahu’s Israel, which routinely metes out “collective punishment” on ordinary and unarmed civilian Palestinians, was never going to change its radical and violent approach.
“I think the Israelis are beating around the bush, they don’t want to give any concessions. They don’t want to end the siege, the occupation. They don’t want to allow us to build our airport or our seaport. They don’t want to release our political prisoners from the concentration camps. They don’t want to allow our fishermen to go to fish in our own sea,” Shark said.
“The Israelis, of course, reneged on whatever point reached (during the negotiations) in Egypt. The negotiations failed simply because the Israelis did not want to give us our own rights and they insist on continuing their aggression, occupation, and siege simply because within the Zionist Cabinet there are differences (of opinion).”
Under Netanyahu, who doesn’t even recognise Palestinians as a people, the Knesset is generally unwelcoming and has embarked on a series of actions to force Palestinians into exile while encouraging many more Zionist members of the Jewish community to “return” to Israel.
“They are perpetuating the occupation simply because the whole world is silent, there’s a conspiracy of silence. The Arabs are weak, the Muslims are weak. The United Nations, unfortunately, is supporting (Israel). America is supporting them,” Shark said, stressing that complicit in the genocide – that continues to claim Palestinian lives – is the West, and particularly the US, for arming Israel and standing by this pariah state.
“They feel that they should impose their own conditions on the Palestinian people. The Palestinians, of course, will never ever accept this and they are ready to defend themselves until we achieve our (freedom). We hope that the whole world will, of course, come to support the Palestinians,” Shark pleaded with Cii listeners, adding it was about time for the international community to “impose conditions that would force them to withdraw from the Palestinian land. To force them to lift the siege and to force them to let us live like human beings, and with honour and dignity.”
The Gaza-based analyst expressed fear that if the whole world community did not support the Palestinians and, instead, stood and “idled by and supported Israel – whether it is through the United Nations or through the veto by the Americans, or by giving them weapons” the situation would only worsen. “There can never be peace unless, and until, the Palestinian people achieve their goals and attain their rights,” Shark said.