By Stuart Littlewood – London
What our Foreign Office minister said on his recent visit to Israel and Occupied Palestine shows more clearly than ever why the struggle in the Holy Land extends all the way to our own front door here in the UK.
The new minister in charge of Middle East affairs, Alistair Burt, was there to reward the sterling work of the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister Salam Fayyad and his boss, president Mahmoud Abbas, with a gift of £17 million. This largesse no doubt made the British government feel better about doing naff-all to right the catalogue of wrongs going back to 1917.
The official reason was that Burt is impressed by the dynamic duo’s progress towards creating an independent, viable Palestinian state "living in peace with a secure Israel".
Their only real achievement, however, is the way they have turned the Occupied Territories into a police state of the most sinister kind with torture, rape and other extreme forms of cruelty a regular feature of the prisons they run.
This bonus from the British taxpayer is supposed to pay for schooling for over 4,400 children, fund 340 teachers, and help 15,000 people continue to receive clean water, says Burt.
More likely it’s a sweetener to get the Palestinian leaders back to the negotiation table. Burt seems desperately keen for that to happen, though God knows why. "It is critical that both sides find a way to return to talks. The current impasse is of great concern and I urge all parties to take immediate steps to secure a lasting peace…
“We firmly believe that this should see a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is the solution which offers the best prospect of a just and sustainable peace.
“I also hold firmly the view that settlement construction is illegal, wrong and should stop. It blights the lives of Palestinians and is an obstacle to peace."
Talk is easy when you have no intention of following it up with action. Mr Burt is not about to transform himself into a man of action for peace. Why not? Because he’s an Israel lobby stooge. He used to be (and maybe still is, for all I know) an officer of that infamous bunch of Israel-firsters, the Conservative Friends of Israel.
The Foreign Office is stuffed with them, all appointed by our new prime minister, David “I’m-a-Zionist” Cameron. This misguided individual is famously quoted on the Friends of Israel website as saying: “The friendship… will deepen, because the ties between this party and Israel are unbreakable. And in me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible.”
What a ridiculous commitment for a British prime minister to make to a lawless, racist state that respects nobody’s human rights, continually defies international law and shoots children for amusement (see ‘The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force’, a horrific article by surgeon David Halpin).
It is a disgrace that the Conservatives, who were not given a clear mandate to govern, nevertheless vomit their infatuation with the thuggish Israeli regime all over their much more level-headed coalition partners (the Liberal Democrats), the whole British nation and the Arab world.
In a speech to the Board of Jewish Deputies in London last year, Burt told his audience he had worked from the age of fifteen for an MP who was a president of the Board and founder of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and how this “had a lasting effect upon me, and on my interests in Parliament”.
He said: "Israel is an important strategic partner and friend for the UK and we share a number of important shared objectives across a broad range of policy areas.”
Offhand, can anybody think of a single objective they would wish to share with those people?
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he said that “without an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis then peace in the Middle East is unobtainable”.
He added, apparently oblivious to the irony of his remarks: “Those who are enemies of peace will continue to use the conflict for their own purposes… We cannot allow those who want to pursue a violent agenda to succeed… As a friend to both sides, we are committed to a two state solution and we will continue to support the efforts of the US to broker a peace deal between both sides.
“And as an honest broker, the UK Government does not believe that economic sanctions or embargoes on Israel [are] the way to engage or to influence it.”
The “friend to both sides” and “honest broker” he refers to has been happy to use economic sanctions to collectively punish the Gazans, who are no threat to us, and thinks nothing of threatening the Iranians, who are no threat to us. Why so queasy about doing the same to Israel, which is a threat to everyone? All else has failed. Could it be that Mr Burt is actually no more interested in peace than the Israelis?
“And I know some of you here are concerned about Universal Jurisdiction…. We have prioritised resolving this and look to see legislation introduced to Parliament…”
His eagerness to sabotage the Geneva Convention’s principle of Universal Jurisdiction so that suspected Israeli war criminals can walk the streets of London without fear of arrest, reflects his party’s eagerness to appease the whining of the psychopaths.
Needless to say the Jewish Chronicle was ecstatic about Burt’s appointment as a Foreign Office minister, which it said sent "as clear a message as possible about the direction of the new government in the region. Mr Burt is listed as an officer in the parliamentary group of Conservative Friends of Israel and has been passionate in campaigning for visiting rights to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for the past four years… The appointment of Mr Burt and Mr Lidington will be seen as an attempt to distance the Foreign Office from its Arabist, ‘Camel Corps’ reputation.”
The JC continued: “Mr Burt will have to work hard within the Arab world to build credibility and prove that he is an honest broker. He will not be helped by his commitment to the Evangelical Christian movement."
Burt’s deep concern for Shalit, whose capture and detention he calls “outrageous” while ignoring the thousands of Palestinian civilians (including women and children) abducted and left to rot in Israeli jails without trial, wins him no credibility.
At the Jerusalem Post they were rubbing their hands in glee. The director of the Conservative Friends of Israel called Burt’s appointment excellent news. “I have traveled to Israel with Alistair on numerous occasions. He has an excellent knowledge and understanding of the complex issues of the region and is well-placed to approach the brief with the balance and fairness it requires.”
London Muslim, on his blog, confessed he had been “under the impression that one of the qualities needed to be a Minister in the FCO was that you championed Britain rather than a foreign government that practices Apartheid and fakes British passports before carrying out assassinations. My impression was also that when MP’s take the oath… they swear allegiance to Liz [Queen Elizabeth] and her heirs not Israel.
“Burt is a Christian Evangelical who like many of his eschatology ilk particularly in America will be hoping for Armageddon in the Middle East”.
Yes, let’s hang on to that bleak thought.
Ditching Law and Justice for Lopsided ‘Negotiation’
Stopping off in Jordan, Burt announced that Britain would not recognise a Palestinian state unless it emerged from a peace deal with Israel. London could “not recognise a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders."
London recognizes Israel. Where does Burt suppose Israel’s borders are? And is Israel sitting inside them? Where does he think Israel’s capital is? And where does Israel claim it to be? In other words, is Israel where Israel is supposed to be, within internationally defined borders? If not, how could he possibly recognise it let alone align himself with it?
Burt had talked the previous day about a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. In the space of a few short hours he seemed to have completely lost the plot.
"We are looking forward to recognising a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements because our position is again very straightforward: We wish to see a two-state solution, a secure and recognized Israel side by side with a viable Palestine, Jerusalem as a joint capital and agreed borders," Burt said.
Negotiations about illegal settlements? Since when did Her Majesty’s Government negotiate over criminal acts and crimes against humanity? Unless of course Alistair Burt is now answering to Queen Hillary Clinton, who has rejected in advance an anticipated Palestinian resolution in the UN condemning unlawful Israeli settlement building. Queen Hillary says the issue of illegal squats can be resolved through “negotiations” between Palestinians and Israelis and to hell with international law. Mr Burt obliges by chiming sweetly with this conspiracy. "That’s where we want to get to. When we get there, that of course will imply recognition of a state of Palestine."
Many people are betting that, compared to the borders already defined by law and UN resolution, any “negotiated” solution will be worth diddly-squat.
As for a unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians, he said it would mean ambiguity on crucial issues like the capital of the state, its borders and the fate of refugees.
Again, Mr Burt hasn’t been paying attention. These things were ruled on long ago. But instead of enforcing international law and upholding justice, as he should, he co-operates with the most dishonest peace brokers on the planet to revive discredited, lopsided talks between dispossessed victim and criminal occupier. Where’s the honour in that?
Aiming to Grab Gaza’s Gas Too
And talking of boundary recognition, where does Mr Burt suppose the Palestinian state’s offshore boundaries are? Huge reserves of marine gas and oil have been found in the Levantine Basin, which comprises Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and their territorial waters.
In a report by Manlio Dinucci, the Israeli government with Washington’s backing considers it is entitled to all the energy reserves.
A coastal state may exploit offshore gas and oil reserves within a zone extending 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the shore, so the Palestinian Authority also has a claim. According to the map drawn up by the US Geological Survey, the major portion of the gas deposits (around 60%) lie in the waters and territory belonging to Gaza, so we can expect the US-Israeli ‘Axis of Greed’ to ruthlessly exploit the Palestinians’ disunity and deprive them of their natural resource, just like they’ve stolen their water.
If the Israelis plan to grab the lot “with Washington’s backing”, is London signed up to this act of grand larceny too?
The question for many years has been: will Gaza ever get a whiff of its own gas? What does Mr Burt, wearing the British government’s “honest broker” hat, say?
– 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.