By Stuart Littlewood – London
When the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, interviewed Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal last week he was immediately attacked by Britain’s Foreign Office Minister, Ivan Lewis.
Lewis said: ‘It is particularly regrettable that he [Livingstone] learned the wrong lessons from history by handing a propaganda coup to the leader of a terrorist organisation. Hamas has not only breached international law by firing rockets at civilian populations in Israel but continues to violate the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza’.
Perhaps they aren’t paying attention at the Foreign Office. The only people breaching international law in the Holy Land and violating the rights of Palestinians are the lawless Israelis.
As the MP for Bury South, near Manchester, and a former vice-chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, Lewis voted enthusiastically for the Iraq war and against any investigation. In January, with the stench of death and destruction caused by Israel’s blitzkrieg on Gaza still in the world’s nostrils, he told a rally in Manchester: "This community stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel in the good and the bad times. We do not apply double standards to Israel and the challenges that she faces. It’s the first duty of any government in any democracy to protect the security of its citizens. No government in a democracy would survive if it allowed rockets to be fired from a neighbouring territory on to its civilian population and did nothing in response."
He told the crowd that those who fired rockets "are no different to the terrorists who created murderous carnage in London on 7/7".
Even by the standards of today’s political class, it is pretty stupid to pledge Manchester’s support to a vicious, racist regime like Israel, and claim equivalence between the perpetrators of the London bombings and a poorly armed resistance movement desperately trying to defend its 1.5 million citizens under blockade and daily bombardment by an illegal occupier.
In July Lewis told the House of Commons: "Israel is a close ally of the UK and we have regular warm and productive exchanges at all levels." Warm, no doubt, with the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) and thousands more maimed and wounded.
Lewis is also chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation and a trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust. Along with Miliband, he is the unfortunate face of British diplomacy in the Middle East.
A Victory for Truth and Common Sense
Lewis claims Livingstone’s conversation with Meshaal, published in the New Statesman, (see here) as a propaganda coup for Hamas. Actually the interview was a victory for truth and common sense. The Hamas chief was able to speak openly and, for once, be heard in the British media.
One of the functions of a Zionist stooge is to condemn remarks by anyone they brand a terrorist or belonging to a terrorist organization. But nobody buys that terrorist nonsense any more. Few people in the UK, apart from Israel’s hirelings, regard Hamas or Meshaal as terrorists. The general public have come to realize that the racist regime in Tel Aviv, of which Lewis is a devoted fan, tops the terror league.
Meshaal made it clear in the interview that Hamas, since it was formed 22 years ago, has confined its military operations to occupied Palestine. He explained the conflict simply and concisely. "Our struggle against the Israelis is not because they are Jewish, but because they invaded our homeland and dispossessed us. We do not accept that because the Jews were once persecuted in Europe they have the right to take our land and throw us out.
“The injustices suffered by the Jews in Europe were horrible and criminal, but were not perpetrated by the Palestinians or the Arabs or the Muslims. So, why should we be punished for the sins of others or be made to pay for their crimes?"
Asked how many elected representatives of Hamas were locked up in Israeli prisons, he replied that around 4,000 members were in Israeli detention out of a total of 12,000 Palestinian captives. “These include scores of ministers and parliamentarians (Palestinian Legislative Council members). Around ten have recently been released, but about 40 PLC members remain in detention. Some have been given sentences, but many are held in what the Israelis call administrative detention. The only crime these people are accused of is their association with Hamas’s parliamentary group.”
Will No One Offer a Truce?
Livingstone asked how the blockade of Gaza could be lifted. "The rule of international law must be respected," replied Meshaal. "The basic human rights of the Palestinians and their right to live in dignity and free from persecution would have to be acknowledged. There has to be an international will to serve justice and uphold the basic principles of international human rights law. The international community would have to free itself from the shackles of Israeli pressure, speak the truth and act accordingly."
Not a problem for honourable men, surely. But honour is not to be found among those who are bought and paid for.
What was the true cause of the bombing and invasion of Gaza, Livingstone wanted to know. Meshaal referred to the truce with Israel from 19 June to 19 December 2008. The deal entailed a bilateral ceasefire, lifting the blockade and opening the crossings. Hamas observed the ceasefire while Israel only partially did so and then resumed hostilities. “Throughout that period, Israel maintained the siege and only intermittently opened some of the crossings, allowing no more than 10 per cent of the basic needs of the Gazan population to get through.”
Israel blew any chance of renewing the truce by deliberately and repeatedly violating it.
As soon as Hamas is offered a truce that lifts the blockade and opens the crossings, said Meshaal, they will respond positively. So far, no one had made such an offer. Meanwhile the blockade amounted to “a declaration of war that warrants self-defence”.
Livingstone put it to him that Hamas’s refusal to recognise Israel was an insurmountable obstacle to peace. "Israel does not recognise the rights of the Palestinian people," came the reply, "yet this is not raised as an obstacle to Israel being internationally recognised nor to it being allowed to take part in talks.” He pointed out that both Arafat and Abbas recognised Israel but it hadn’t produced peace dividends. "Israel concedes only under pressure.” In the absence of any tangible pressure by the international community, there could be no settlement.
Challenged to clarify whether Hamas wished to establish an Islamic state in Palestine, Meshaal replied that their priority as a national liberation movement was to end the Israeli occupation of their homeland. “Once our people are free in their land and enjoy the right to self-determination, they alone have the final say on what system of governance they wish to live under. It is our firm belief that Islam cannot be imposed on the people.” However, Hamas would campaign for an Islamic agenda as part of the democratic process.
Implementing International Law is Only Solution
Does anyone seriously have a problem with the interview or the fact that it took place? It contains nothing to justify hysterical outbursts from the likes of Lewis. The exchanges showed Meshaal to be articulate and moderate in his language. But this doesn’t fit with the demonized picture carefully painted by Zionist propagandists, and it is easy to see why Israel and its chums wish to keep him isolated and muzzled.
As Meshaal pointed out, the conflict can only be resolved by implementing international law and the human rights charter, and putting pressure on Israel. Deep down, everyone knows that. But such a reminder is unwelcome because it requires action of the kind that would embarrass the major powers, whose leaders foolishly pledged undying loyalty to the Zionist entity and have turned a blind eye to its criminal behaviour for 60 years.
The spectacle of the US House of Representatives voting 404 to 1 to condemn the Palestinians’ makeshift rocket attacks while saying nothing about Israel’s assassinations, ethnic cleansing and military assaults with the most modern weapons, killing women and children in their hundreds, gave us a glimpse of what passes for democracy in the ‘Land of the Free’.
Netanyhu is now trumpeting louder than ever his determination to reject all codes of civilised conduct and continue the crime spree, believing he can do so with impunity. He pushes his luck too far. Obama may cave in but for decency’s sake, and for justice and reason, it is time the rest of us consigned that ridiculous pledge by the west to the wastepaper basket.
Obama meets Netanyahu and Abbas today. Let’s hope he remembers what the man said about implementing international law and upholding human rights. The idea is for Obama to free himself from Israeli pressure and turn the screws on Netanyahu, not the other way round. The idea is to show that there are serious consequences for lawlessness.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.