20 months ago I felt the need to write about the Middle East ‘conflict’. My focus was aimed at an attempt by the West to bring a settlement to the situation, and peace to the area. Clearly a failed effort we are here once again. Palestinians, sick of being prisoners in the rapidly decreasing land are futilely fighting back. Futile as the current battle is being fought from Gaza, where 1.2m of its1.7m Palestinian residents are refugees, forced from their own land in 1948 to create Israel. Gaza, with a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt which has no army, no air force or navy, whilst Israel has one of the most armed militaries in the world. How do we know? Well, to quote Bill Hicks… we looked at the receipt. Go on, scroll down to Israel…
So what’s happened? Israel says it launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’ to stop militants firing rockets into Israel. Boo! Bad, bad Palestinians. How dare you! Are you not happy being stripped of your land? Are you not happy being held captive in what remains? Are you not happy with the overwhelming support coming in from your neighbours, and the West? Amongst the hundreds of rocket attacks in the recent weeks over 190 Palestinians have been killed, including over 30 children. 4 Israelis have been seriously injured. One Israeli fatality has been reported. These deaths are increasing daily, with Israeli ground attacks imminent.
Two days ago Israel accepted an Egyptian ceasefire proposal and halted its attacks on Tuesday morning. Under the terms of the initiative, the ceasefire was due to be followed by a series of meetings in Cairo with high-level delegations from both sides. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the truce on Tuesday morning, saying: “We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarisation of the [Gaza] Strip – from missiles, from rockets and from tunnels – through diplomatic means.” But he had then added: “If Hamas does not accept the ceasefire proposal, as would now seem to be the case, Israel would have all international legitimacy to broaden the military operation to achieve the required quiet.” In other words, Gaza must lose all of its military arsenal, accept all human rights injustices, and then we’ll stop bombing the fuck out of it.
Unsurprisingly Hamas wanted some concessions – like the lifting of the tight restrictions Israel and Egypt impose on Gaza’s border. A concession as tiny in scale as what is left of their land. Senior Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan has said they were only made aware of the truce initiative through the media and that a ceasefire could not be put in place without the details of any agreement being known. The armed wing of Hamas, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, dismissed the initiative, saying its battle with Israel would “increase in ferocity and intensity”.
Once again the West is fronting up, pushing its political muscle into a region where it doesn’t belong. But then of course it does. Our beloved Mr Cameron, reiterating his “staunch support for Israel” recently said: “It is a concerning situation but we should be very clear about two things; one is that Hamas has been firing rockets continually into Israel and secondly, Israel has a right to defend itself as a sovereign country that’s been under attack.” Such compassion. So balanced. So fair. So, he is supporting action that by the time he made that statement had included:
- Israel launching 1,100 air-strikes – or one air strike every 4.5 minutes
- Dropping 800 tonnes of explosives on Gaza – more than during the entire eight-day war in 2012
- Killing over 100 civilians, half of which were women or children
- Destroying 300 homes
- Making 2000 Gazans homeless
- Killing at least 8 youths as they watched the World Cup semi-final match
- Killing eight members of the Al Haj family in the Gaza city of Khan Younis
- Injuring at least 600 people, who have overwhelmed the hospitals in Gaza, which are running out of basic supplies
Of course we know why Mr Cameron is so keen to support the Israelis. Money talks. Fuck what’s right when there’s money to be made. Data supplied by Vince Cable, Britain’s business secretary published in a report last year from the House of Commons stated the value of all British military exports being processed to Israel totalled £7.9 billion. £7.9 billion. This includes a payment of over £7.7 billion for ‘equipment employing cryptography, software for equipment employing cryptography’. Yes indeed Mr Netanyahu Sir, we’ll give you all the support you require, Sir.
The words of Tony Blair, in his role as Middle East Peace (oh, my sides) Envoy, have a similar tone. He said, after the breakdown of the ceasefire on Tuesday: “(There will be) ”no trust on either side between Hamas and Israel. That is not going to happen in the immediate term and possibly ever.” Blair had previously welcomed the cease-fire, hoping it would “give a chance for a proper, full and long-term solution to Gaza to be put in place. Such a ceasefire can halt the tragic loss of life, stop the rockets on Israel – and open up the possibility of a genuine change in Gaza.” You’ll notice: “stop the rockets on Israel”… those bad, bad Palestinians.
Amongst the barrage of social commentary I’ve particularly enjoyed the words of pro-Palestinian activist Alexei Sayle, who, on the Jews For Justice For Palestinians website wrote: “I would like to send a message of support to my fellow Jews For Justice signatories, it takes a lot of courage to challenge a military superpower in a tiny boat such as the Irene. A courage that the IDF never displays when it is shooting peace activists and keeping a land of one and a half million people on the verge of starvation. The collective punishment of Gaza degrades the state of Israel and eats away at any moral pretensions it may have left.” He also compares Israel to Jimmy Savile, saying “Israel is the Jimmy Savile of nation states. It clearly doesn’t care about damaging the lives of children.” He described Israel as a “teenager that’s never been given any boundaries… is endlessly indulged by its doting parents, the West, and has become a psychopath as a result… it thinks that everybody else is in the wrong and it is in the right.”
What lessons do we learn? Well, if we didn’t already know, human rights count for nothing when there’s money involved. Injustice intensifies when there are bullies as willing buyers, capitalists without principles and weapons for sale. Are you sick of the injustice? This Saturday in London a National Demonstration for Gaza and a free Palestine is taking place. Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” From midday at Downing Street, make your voice heard…