(An open letter to the British Prime Minister)
By Stuart Littlewood
Dear Prime Minister,
I see your image is splashed across the main page of the Conservative Friends of Israel website and your words warmly endorse that country and its regime.
Your loyal lieutenant, the foreign secretary William Hague, cancelled the Syrian ambassador’s Royal Wedding invitation, not that I disagree with such a move. However, the Syrians are only slaughtering their own people whereas the Israelis have been slaughtering their neighbours for 63 years in much larger numbers and continue to do so on a daily basis.
The words Dr Mohamed Khodr uses in his petition to the UN Secretary General and the Security Council calling for a No-Fly Zone over Gaza describe the appalling situation in the Holy Land excellently well:.
“For 44 years of Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the world has been complicit with this illegal occupation in its silence to the suffering, death, injury, home demolitions, imprisonment and torture of civilians, constant confiscation of Palestinian land to build illegal settlements that now house over 500,00 settlers, the Judaization of Jerusalem, destruction of mosques and excavation of Muslim cemeteries, theft of fourth fifths of the water supply to the Palestinians, settler violence, no freedom of movement, the presence of hundreds of humiliating checkpoints, closure of schools and universities at whim, prohibition of Palestinian Muslims and Christians outside of Jerusalem to pray at their Holy Sites, the construction of a “Separation” Fence that confiscates more Palestinian land and divides villages and families, and the outrageous siege of Gaza’s 1.5 million people for 4 years that has led to a deteriorating economy, high unemployment, mass poverty, malnutrition of children, death of civilians due to lack of adequate health care, food, clean water supplies, widespread mental and psychological illness, especially among traumatized children, and thousands of destroyed homes from “Operation Cast Lead” that Palestinians are unable to be rebuild due to Israel’s prohibition of entry of cement and construction materials.
“No other nation on earth could commit these “war crimes” for such a lengthy time without an enraged world acting immediately to end the illegal occupation and suffering of millions of Palestinian refugees in and out of the Occupied territories.
“Throughout its history Israel has defied the UN Charter, hundreds of UN resolutions, international laws and the Fourth Geneva Convention, nor has it ever accepted US, EU and Quartet peace initiatives, nor the Arab Peace Plan of 2002 that met all of Israel’s “peace” demands.
“Israel has never accepted or cooperated with any International investigation into its atrocities against Palestinian civilians, nor has it ever been held accountable for its history of war crimes against the Palestinians that continue till this day.
“On April 2006 the U.N. Security Council affirmed the principle of “Responsibility to Protect” against four crimes: genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity… “If a State is manifestly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.”
“Under International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is considered the “occupying power” and thus the sovereign state responsible for protecting Palestinian civilians, the principle and norm of the “Responsibility to Protect” is applicable to Israel.”
Israel, as you must know, Mr Prime Minister, was founded on terror and thrives on land theft, ethnic cleansing and aggression. True to form, your friends in Tel Aviv now respond to the news of unity between democratically elected Hamas and rivals Fatah in the Occupied Territories with dire threats. It crosses a "a red line", says foreign minister Lieberman who talks of taking an array of measures against the Palestinian Authority, such as preventing free movement for Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad and freezing (again) the transfer of taxes collected by Israel for the PA.
Netanyahu. I hear, warns that Abbas must "choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas" – as if peace has ever been possible with israel – while Ehud Barak as usual is all for using the "iron fist".
You told the Conservative Friends of Israel: "The ties between this party and Israel are unbreakable. And in me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible."
And you recently told a Jewish audience: "I want to be clear, we will always support Israel… when Iran flouts its international obligations Britain is and will remain at the forefront of the international community in ratcheting up the pressure with tough sanctions. We will not stand by and allow Iran to cast a nuclear shadow over Israel or the wider region."
Is this not an irresponsible thing to say when it is Israel which casts the nuclear shadow, menaces the region and flouts international obligations? You seem keen to make Israel’s enemies Britain’s enemies when we have no quarrel with them. In which case how can it be in our national interest to ratchet-up anything?
James Arbuthnot, chairman of the Defence Select Committee and Parliamentary chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel – a dangerous conflict of responsibilities if ever there was one – has said: "Everyone in this House should have an interest in Israel, because it is a country that embodies the values that we should stand for. Israel [has] become a bastion of the rule of law…”
The strenuous efforts by your administration to shield and cosset Israel make us all complicit in that regime’s crimes – that is how the rest of the world sees it.
How does this devotion to a foreign military power square with the Seven Principles of Public Life which your government is supposed to uphold, especially the Principle of Integrity? This lays down that holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
If the Israel lobby has no influence, how do you explain the claim that 80 percent of Conservative MPs are Friends of Israel? How do you explain the appointment of a Foreign Secretary who has been a Friend of Israel since boyhood and a minister in charge of Middle East affairs who is a former officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel?
And why is our Prime Minister, of all people, a patron of the Jewish National Fund, an organisation that stands accused of racist land practices?
Your parliamentary colleague, Sir Gerald Kaufman, a Jew whose family suffered horribly during the Holocaust, knows the Israeli regime for what it really is… "They’re not simply war criminals, they’re fools". He calls Israel itself a "pariah state".
After the Israelis’ Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in which they slaughtered 1400 mostly civilians including hundreds of children, the decent thing, surely, would have been to immediately shut down the Friends of Israel movement. "My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza," observed Kaufman.
But for the Friends of Israel, and the political parties that harbour them, it’s been business as usual. After all, what’s a little wholesale slaughter between “friends”?
I write this on the day of the Royal Wedding – a day that’s supposed to make us intensely proud to be British. The bride came into Westminster Abbey as plain Miss Middleton and left as Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Strathearn and a senior member of a glittering royal family. Such fairy-tale dreams can only come true in England.
You. of course, were at the wedding. As you sat in the Abbey, with its thousand-year history, soaking up the pageantry and splendour and humming along to the anthem “Jerusalem”, did it not cross your mind that in the Holy Land your Israeli friends prevent Palestinian Christians and Muslims from visiting and worshipping at their holy places, many of which are older than Westminster? Thanks to the failure of the international community to discharge its responsibilities their most modest dreams of basic freedoms have remained at the fairy-tale level for decades.
Basking in the glory of this great Royal occasion, as we all are, you’re no doubt feeling extremely British right now, Mr Prime Minister. But true Britishness includes a fearless sense of fairness and justice. The question is, are you British enough to snap your fingers at the evil and unjust Israeli regime?
– 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.