By Stuart Littlewood
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
A few evenings ago the BBC World Service broadcast a discussion featuring three people from Gaza and three from the town of Sderot on the Israeli side of the border.
If the programme hoped to bring about a meeting of minds it fell a long way short. To start with, the BBC failed to set the scene or put the discussion into proper context. The Israeli team argued that the Gazans were given the chance to build their economy after Israel had ‘withdrawn’, and if the Qassams would stop they could all live in peace. What might have been an interesting exchange of views degenerated into a boring confrontation. I was left wondering how a calm, constructive conversation would ever be possible.
One of the Gaza team remarked afterwards that their Israeli neighbours showed no empathy, didn’t want to hear the truth and had claimed "God gave us this land". To an outsider like me it seemed that the two sides were as far apart at the finish as when the broadcast began, and on different planets entirely.
Listeners were invited to phone, text or email. I sent two messages:
(1) Why are 3000 Gaza fishermen not allowed to put to sea and earn their living?
(2) The siege has nothing to do with Qassam rockets. Palestinians in the West Bank don’t fire Qassams but the Israelis are still in occupation after 40 years and still stealing the land and water.
Of course they were consigned to the wastepaper basket. I say "of course" because these days I am deeply suspicious of the BBC’s integrity and willingness to handle uncomfortable issues concerning Israel. The first point, about fishing, needs to be raised more often. The second was mentioned by the Gaza team later in the programme but was quickly lost in the hubbub.
Qassams are a ‘gift’ to Israeli propaganda. There is no getting away from the fact that they are indiscriminate weapons and instruments of terror. Westerners will always condemn their use against civilian targets. My own family lived under the onslaught of ‘Doodlebugs’ launched by the Germans against London in World War 2. You could hear them coming, and when the motor cut out it was truly terrifying. The unrestrained use of Qassams loses Gazans their moral high ground and it’s time they realised it.
The plight of the Gazans is blamed on Hamas. "All they have to do is stop firing the rockets towards Sderot and other places in Israel, and immediately there will be no problem with the border crossing," says an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman.
Oh really? Let’s test the truth of that. Islamic Jihad, or whoever deploys the Qassams, would be smart to cease rocketing communities like Sderot for at least two months to test the claim that the siege of Gaza is simply in response to the "rain" of rockets. Then let’s see if the borders are allowed to operate as any other nation’s borders.
Here in the UK a church newspaper has published a chilling report from Fr Manuel Musallam about the cruel conditions in Gaza under siege: “Gaza priest decries Israeli blockade.” Fr Manuel pulls no punches and the editor has received emails, calls and letters from the Zionist lobby objecting to the story and saying how deluded he was to print it.
This country’s leadership is now so spineless that supporters of Israeli human rights abuse are lecturing us about what we should and should not say. The sad thing is that they are feared and obeyed by our politicians.
One can perhaps understand how Zionism seemed attractive to the likes of Balfour and others in the corridors of power in London a hundred years ago. The big question today is the sanity of western leaders who perpetuate Lord Balfour’s catastrophic betrayal of the Arabs and who are bent on pushing the biggest political cock-up of all time to its bitter end. These leaders are now snarling at Egypt for showing a spark of humanity and opening their border to the beleaguered Gazans for respite.
Balfour, would you believe, studied Moral Sciences at Cambridge. Explaining his infamous Declaration of 1917 he said: "In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. The four powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now occupy that land."
The House of Lords was unhappy with his lunatic scheme. Lord Sydenham warned: "The harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country may never be remedied. What we have done, by concessions not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, is to start a running sore in the East, and no-one can tell how far that sore will extend."
Well, it extends all the way to 2008 and goes to the very heart of world peace. And it’s an angry, septic sore with little prospect of healing while mad dogs tear at it.
-Stuart Littlewood is author of ‘Radio Free Palestine’, a book about the plight of the Palestinians. For details see www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk