By Stuart Littlewood in London, UK
The abysmal performance of western TV and radio interviewers when dealing with issues surrounding Israel is not only embarrassing but a blot on the escutcheon of journalism.
Have the nation’s truth-seekers fallen under some wicked spell? Are their researchers on strike? Did somebody nobble the programme editors?
While we wait with mounting frustration for our broadcasters to get their act together, here are 20 simple questions the BBC and others seem anxious not to ask……
On Rockets and Sieges
(1) The numbers of home-made Qassam rockets launched at Israel are diligently counted and quoted, but how many sophisticated munitions have Israel’s F-16s, helicopter gun-ships, armed drones, tanks, occupation troops and navy patrol boats fired into the crowded humanity that packs the Gaza Strip? We are never told.
(2) Why should we believe the claim that the siege of Gaza is about rockets “raining down” on Sderot? Palestinians in the West Bank don’t fire rockets yet the Israelis are still in occupation after 40 years, still stealing their land and water, and now dumping their toxic waste there.
(3) Israelis say that if the rockets stop, things will be OK…. Does that mean Gaza will be able to trade freely with the outside world like any other country, and people will be able to come and go freely? Will you and I be able to visit Gaza without Israeli hindrance?
On the Collective Punishment of Gazans
(4) Why can’t Gaza’s 3,000 licensed fishermen put to sea and earn their living without being harassed and fired on? What is the status of Palestinian territorial waters under international law? Why are half the hospitals’ dialysis machines out of action and the chronically sick dying in agony for want of proper medication?
(5) Which parts of the Declaration of Human Rights and Geneva Conventions don’t Israelis understand?
On the War on Christianity
(6) Israelis use ‘administrative’ controls to disrupt the life and work of the Christian Church in the Holy Land. No Muslim or Palestinian Christian living outside Jerusalem is allowed to visit the Holy Places in the Old City without special permission. Christian priests, many of whom are Jordanian, cannot go home to see their families because Israel’s new visa policy would prevent them returning to their parishes. The Catholic priest in Gaza has been trapped there for 9 years knowing that if he visits his folks the Israelis won’t allow him back into the Strip. “We seek a life of freedom—a life different from the life of dogs we are currently forced to live,” he says. What should be our response to attempts by Israel to paralyse the Church?
(7) Is it not shameful that our elected politicians, who are mostly Christian themselves, show so little concern? Is it not doubly shameful how the leaders of western Christendom seem oblivious to the Israeli government’s war against Christian communities? Beware those pseudo-Christians in high places, who talk the talk but won’t walk the walk. How many top brass have visited Gaza to show solidarity with the flock? At the present rate there will soon be no Christians left in the place where Christianity began, and churchmen will wake up one morning to find the Holy Land, from which their whole power and purpose are derived, stolen from under their noses.
On Illegal Settlements
(8) Israel has expropriated agricultural land and key water resources in the Palestinian West Bank for its own use. More than 38% of the territory now consists of Israeli settlements, outposts, military bases and closed military areas, Israeli-declared nature reserves or other infrastructure that’s off-limits to Palestinians. Jews-only highways linking settlements to Israel, and the 580 checkpoints and roadblocks, have fragmented Palestinian communities, blocked access to their lands and severely restricted movement. How can this be right?
(9) The freezing and dismantling of Israeli settlements are a cornerstone of major peace initiatives. The most recent, the Quartet’s 2003 ‘roadmap’ endorsed by the UN Security Council, is perfectly clear on the question of illegal settlements. Israel is under an obligation to….
a) immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001,
b) freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements) consistent with the Mitchell Report,
c) take "no actions undermining trust, including confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property".
Why have none of these obligations been met?
(10) A year ago the General Assembly reaffirmed that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, "are illegal and an obstacle to peace" and demanded "the immediate and complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities". Why is Israel still stealing Palestinian land for more illegal construction? By vowing to press ahead with settlement building, Israel’s prime minister Olmert again signals contempt for international law and world opinion… further proof (if ever it were needed) that Israel isn’t interested in peace.
On the Evil of the Wall
(11) In 2004 the International Court of Justice, sitting at the request of the UN General Assembly, concluded that the route chosen for the Separation Wall “gives expression in loco to the illegal measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements". The ICJ ruled the Wall illegal and declared that it should be dismantled where it encroaches onto Palestinian land. Why hasn’t this been done? Why is Israel still building it? If Israelis feel a wall is necessary for security reasons why don’t they build one on their own territory?
On House Demolitions and the Right of Return
(12) In 1948 the newly established state of Israel began demolishing the homes of Palestinian refugees to prevent their return. More than 125,000 houses were systematically destroyed. Since 1967, 18,000 more have been demolished, making another 100,000 Palestinians homeless. Demolishing homes is a deliberate Israeli strategy to inflict collective punishment and break the Palestinians’ will to resist the occupation; to achieve a silent ethnic transfer; and to ensure that Israel’s control of the Occupied Territories and their resources becomes permanent. Apart from the fact that these acts breach every rule in the book, every convention and every declaration governing civilised conduct, how would the Israelis like it if they were the victims?
(13) Why can any Jew from anywhere in the world, who has never before lived in Israel and whose ancestors have never lived in Israel, go and live in Israel – or ‘squat’ in an illegal outpost in Palestine with Israel’s blessing – while Palestinians who can prove title to their former houses may not?
(14) Nearly 10,000 Palestinians, including women and children, have been abducted and languish in Israeli prisons, many without charge or trial. 30+ Palestinian parliamentarians, democratically elected, are also imprisoned. What civilised country would do this?
On Ethnic Cleansing
(15) The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, begun in the months before and after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is still going on in and around Jerusalem and in Gaza. Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger argues for an ethnic cleansing programme to transfer Gazans out and dump them in the Sinai desert. Haaretz reports that he wants Britain, the EU and the US to assist in the construction of a Palestinian state in the middle of nowhere. “They will have a nice country, and we, the Jews, shall have our country and we shall live in peace.” This leading advocate of ethnic cleansing says Muslims should recognize that "our land is the Holy Land and Jerusalem belongs to us”. Do we in Britain wish to associate with people who hold such views?
(16) Since the land occupied by Israel was taken by terrorist means, employing gangs such as the one that blew up the British mandate government in the King David Hotel in 1946 killing 90, by what moral yardstick do British and other western leaders ‘do business’ with the Israeli Government but not with Palestine’s democratically elected Hamas leadership?
(17) Remembering that most Israeli prime ministers have been responsible for authorising war crimes against the Palestinian people, why are the words ‘terrorist’, ‘militant’ and ‘extremist’ applied only to Palestinians? They fit successive Israeli governments like a glove, and given Israel’s lawless and inhuman conduct in Palestine and Lebanon, which has outraged world opinion, why isn’t it branded a terrorist state?
On Our (Uncritical) Support
(18) For decades Occupied Palestine has received British and European aid. If Palestinians had been left in peace, free to trade and develop in the normal way, there would no need for aid. In effect British and EU taxpayers are subsidising Israel’s illegal occupation and the economic strangulation it imposes. Why should we think this acceptable and continue to pick up the tab?
(19) Why is there such strong support for Israel at the heart of British government? Why have so many MPs and MEPs allowed themselves to be drawn into the ‘Friends of Israel’ web? How can supposedly bright people with information at their fingertips still be ignorant of Israel’s apartheid practices, wholesale land thefts, careless slaughter of children and other atrocities? Can we take it that they approve of the slow genocide inflicted on defenceless civilians, the middle-of-the-night snatch squads, the house demolitions, the torture and assassinations, and the crushing of Christian and Muslim communities? Is it not foolish and insulting for them to claim we share Israel’s beliefs and values, and should even share foreign policy? A well-respected Jewish MP recently called the Israeli government “a gang of amoral thugs”. Isn’t that about right?
On the Two-State Solution
(20) Israel and friends are pushing for a two-state solution… eventually, when it suits them and their land grab is complete. To warped minds this will give the racist regime and its supremacist ideals some kind of seal of approval. By that time the shrunken and shredded remnants of Palestine will have become a permanently impoverished and ghettoized mini-state, trashed and raped of its resources, traumatised, subservient, easy to control and never capable of prospering. Israel’s scheming allies, who include western governments (though not western peoples), go along with this grubby plan. Can someone please explain why we, the citizens of a Christian democracy once mandated with responsibility for Palestine’s future wellbeing, would wish to soil our hands with it? The ethical choice, surely, is a single state with Jews living alongside their Arab neighbours as equal citizens and sharing the land within a common legal and democratic framework. That, after all, was the original intention, and the developments of the last 60 years are a gross perversion and betrayal. Only the Palestinians themselves have had the courage to resist it.
When the Day of Reckoning comes to the Middle East – and engulfs the meddlesome West – much of the blame will rest squarely on the lack of journalistic rigour here and in the US, which has allowed a delinquent political élite to work their evil too long.
-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. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk