By Stuart Littlewood – London
Britain’s prime minister, Gordon Brown, marked the start of the New Year in a way that many campaigners for justice and liberty will find lamentable.
The charity MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians) had written an open letter to Brown asking him to "urgently use all available diplomatic means to bring an immediate and unconditional end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip".
It reminded Brown that a year after the assault on Gaza, in which almost 1,400 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 injured, civilians continued to pay a devastating price. "Across the Gaza Strip, over 3,530 homes were completely destroyed and more than 2,850 severely damaged. Tens of thousands more homes suffered structural damage."
A recent MAP survey of the most vulnerable families shows that only 2% have been able to repair their homes from damage inflicted in last winter’s bombardment. Families now face the winter in tents or in the rubble of their destroyed homes.
Furthermore “the blockade is directly compromising one of the people of Gaza’s most basic human rights; the right to health. Israeli authorities continue to routinely, and without explanation, block or delay the entry of medical supplies and equipment, leaving hospitals less able to cope. As hospitals falter, patients seeking care outside the Gaza Strip are routinely denied exit for life-saving medical treatment…”
And that’s not all. A public health disaster is looming: with no spare parts for maintenance or repair, water and sewage treatment facilities cannot function. “The World Health Organisation reports that over 80% of Gaza’s water is no longer safe to drink, while up to 80 million cubic litres of untreated or partially treated sewage is being dumped into the sea daily."
The letter also reminded Mr Brown that the British Government had said Israel’s blockade must end, and emphasized the need for fine words to be backed up by meaningful diplomatic action. It was signed by nearly 4,000 people.
And what was Mr Brown’s response?
“Your open letter to me of 27 December in The Observer was right to draw attention to the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, one year after a conflict that cost over a thousand Palestinian lives and those of over ten Israelis.
“As I have made clear repeatedly to the Israeli government, it is unacceptable that Israel continues to prevent aid from reaching those who so badly need it in Gaza. EU Foreign Ministers reinforced our call for full humanitarian access earlier this month.
“Alongside diplomatic pressure, I pledge that the UK will remain in the forefront of the humanitarian effort. Following the offensive a year ago, we spent £20 million on humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.
“And on 28 December, Douglas Alexander announced a total package of £53.5 million for Palestine, with a particular focus on Gaza – including £5 million of new funding for the United Nations’ work with Gazan refugees.
“While Hamas’ actions can be no justification for preventing aid reaching the people of Gaza, Hamas must remove the menace of rocket attacks against the people of southern Israel, and release Gilad Shalit.
“Ultimately, we can only give the people of Gaza real hope when genuine negotiations bring a lasting and just peace settlement. The parameters of such a potential agreement are clear. In the coming year, we must pursue still more vigorously a comprehensive peace based on secure and viable states of Israel and Palestine. For all of our futures, those who oppose justice and peace for the peoples of the region must not be allowed to prevail.
1 January 2010”
He hasn’t budged an inch and just gets siller.
Britain spent £20 million on humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza last year? Where and when? Can any of it be accounted for?
“I pledge that the UK will remain in the forefront of the humanitarian effort,” says Mr Brown. No, Viva Palestina are at the forefront while Brown and the other loafers twiddle their thumbs.
And what has the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit got to do with this? Why isn’t Mr Brown evenhanded enough to call for the release of 11,000 Palestinians who are rotting in Israeli jails? Doesn’t he know that Israel’s troops continue to abduct Palestinians on a daily basis?
And hasn’t it dawned on Brown yet that you can make something clear to the Israelis till you’re blue in the face but they’ll take no notice unless you’re prepared to act?
As for “negotiations”, is international law suddenly negotiable? Are UN resolutions negotiable?
Is “real hope” only available from Britain at some distant future point in time when non-existent negotiations have brought a lasting and just peace settlement? What gobbledygook is that? Humanitarian action is needed now – today – and surely must leapfrog interminable, bogus peace processes.
If the parameters of a peace settlement are so "clear", why don’t the British government and the other western powers stop dithering and implement them? For decades our scheming, conniving western leaders have failed to deliver one jot or tittle of justice to the Holy Land. Instead, they have allowed the enormity of Israel’s crimes to escalate, for which the lawless entity continues to be admired and rewarded in the higher echelons of British government to the point where certain ministers plan to change our laws to protect wanted war criminals and let them walk free on the street of our capital city.
And have you looked at the map recently, Mr Brown? What is clear to most people is that your “comprehensive peace based on secure and viable states of Israel and Palestine" is now impossible, especially for Palestine, without forceful action by the international community.
While Brown was penning his reply to MAP, the Gaza Freedom Marchers were composing their excellent Cairo Declaration calling for an end to Israeli apartheid. In it they point to our own governments having given Israel direct economic, financial, military and diplomatic support and allowing it to behave with impunity.
They point to the contempt for Palestinian democracy shown by Israel, the US, Canada, the EU and others after the Palestinian elections of 2006.
They point to the war crimes committed by Israel during the invasion of Gaza a year ago and make no bones about the need to end the charitable status enjoyed by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), of which Brown is unwisely a patron.
And while Brown prattles about how unacceptable it is that Israel still prevents aid from reaching those who so badly need it, there is no sign that he’s prepared to do anything about it. On the other hand Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, is much more positive. He tells UN Radio: “Israel does not respond to language of diplomacy, which has encouraged the lifting of the blockade, and so what I am suggesting is that it has to be reinforced by a threat of adverse economic consequences for Israel.”
So let’s hear it, Mr Brown. Let’s hear the S-word… SANCTIONS.
After all, you’re not afraid to deploy sanctions against poor beat-up Palestinians, and against Iraqis, and against Iranians – none of whom have ever posed a threat to Britain.
So you shouldn’t flinch from using sanctions against the thugs for whom last year’s killing spree wasn’t enough and who now threaten a second Gaza onslaught.
– 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. Contact him at: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.