By Stuart Littlewood in the UK
To help straighten out their addled thinking, western leaders should pay attention to the charities operating on the ground. They have first-rate intelligence and shrewd judgement. Furthermore they remain uncorrupted, one hopes, by pests like the Israel lobby.
Last week a coalition of eight leading charities or NGOs, including Oxfam, Save The Children and Christian Aid, issued a powerful report warning of the appalling situation that has been allowed to develop in Gaza by the international community.
And it clearly signposts a sensible way to resolve the problem.
Their report The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion says in a measured and polite way all the things that activists have been shouting for months. It is written in simple language and provides an excellent ‘idiot’s guide’ for politicians and government ministers.
Israel’s conduct is stated in a nutshell… "Israel retains effective control of the Gaza Strip, by virtue of the full control it exercises over the Gaza Strip’s land border, its air space and territorial waters, and the movement of people and goods. Hence, the Israeli authorities are bound by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population in the OPT. The blockade, in response to indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel, constitutes a reprisal against a civilian population and is forbidden by international humanitarian law."
What part of this do leaders of Britain, the EU and the US not understand?
The report delivers several key conclusions and recommendations, the most important of which are perhaps these….
(1) "We ask the UK government and EU to actively promote plans for the reopening of the Gaza crossings in line with the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), brokered by the US and EU in 2005, and to renew their efforts to ensure the full implementation of the AMA. Negotiations must ensure all agreements include full provision for imports as well as exports of goods and the movement of people. We call for the negotiation of an agreement between the divided Palestinian leaderships and with Israel to open the crossings into the Gaza Strip, and that this process is supported by an independent third party.
(2) "We call on the UK government and EU to ensure that the Israeli government lifts movement and access restrictions throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories to facilitate long-term Palestinian economic development."
Obvious, isn’t it? So why have western governments been dragging their feet over this?
And the charities issue a sharp rebuke to the Quartet: "We maintain that members of the Quartet (and the Middle Eastern countries involved in the negotiations) have an obligation, as state parties to the Geneva Conventions and other international human rights treaties, to ensure respect for international law."
Certainly not Ehud Olmert, who sticks two fingers up at international law yet again by approving the construction of hundreds of new housing units at Givat Zeev, an illegal Jewish settlement on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. Israel is obliged under the terms of the ‘road map’ to cease building new settlements and freeze construction on existing ones. If Olmert’s contempt doesn’t finally convince Western leaders that Israel isn’t interested in peace, I don’t know what will. Israel already has 121 Jews-only settlements and 102 squatter outposts on Palestinian land. Some 270,000 Israelis currently live in illegal settlements in the West Bank, with another 200,000 thought to be in settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies,” says Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Or has everyone forgotten?
‘Twisted and Warped’
So is anyone at all listening? Certainly not the Jewish National Fund patron and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose party depends on Zionist cash. And certainly not opposition leader David Cameron, who has declared himself a Zionist and proud of it, presumably to please his Zionist backers. Both these gentlemen voted for the war on Iraq, therefore their judgement will always be suspect. Neither has the nerve so far to roundly condemn Israel’s genocidal tactics against Gaza.
What of the Liberal Democrats’ new leader Nick Clegg? In a speech to his party at their Spring Conference he said he wanted a new style of politics…. "There are vested interests at play – in the establishment parties, in the big central bureaucracies that run things in Britain today.
"Someone’s got to take on the vested interests. Someone’s got to challenge the established order of things. And it’s got to be us, it can only be us. I don’t just mean vested interests determining government policy here at home. Our whole international political system – and Britain’s role within it – is twisted and warped by powerful people determined to promote their own interests.
"What better example is there than Iraq? If there is one thing this illegal war has taught us, it is this – that when others choose to ride their tanks over the top of international law, our government must not roll over or join in."
Bravo, Mr Clegg. If you mean what you say about purging the twisted and warped system, you could start by embracing the charities’ report and supporting the call to UK and EU governments to ensure open borders for Gaza and free movement of people and goods to and from the outside world. Nothing less will do. And Britain, honour-bound to make amends for decades of betrayal, should guarantee those freedoms.
As for the EU, Gunnar Hökmark MEP, chairman of European Friends of Israel (goal: “Expand and reinforce European support of Israel”) in the European Parliament, said that they would "change the political agenda of the European Union…. we have chosen to stand up for Israel."
One can only wonder who in their right senses would stand up for the brutal Israeli regime that shows complete disregard for international law and the human rights of others. Yet the EFI claims a membership of some 1,000 members of parliament from all of Europe’s mainstream political parties, illustrating the determination of Israel’s propaganda chiefs to “twist and warp” at the heart of Europe as well as in the parliaments of member states.
The EFI calls the charities’ report “biased” and quotes an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman as saying: “NGOs should focus their criticisms on the Hamas terrorist organization.” So predictable.
All it takes is for men and women with ordinary God-given integrity in the governments of Britain and the EU to follow Oxfam’s step-by-step proposals and pressure the rogue regime to behave decently.
But they’ll have to speak in the only language Israel understands: sanctions. And begin with suspending trade agreements.
-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