Dear Prime Minister
I am very pleased that you have been calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel-Palestine. This marks a clear difference from the statements not only of President Bush but also of Tony Blair during the 2006 assault on Lebanon. Your stand shows some degree of British independence, and I thank you for it.
I am much less pleased to read this Downing Street statement: “We are working urgently with international partners to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including trafficking of arms into Gaza. Moderation must prevail.”
‘Trafficking of arms into Gaza’ is a symptom of the conflict, as you must know, and not an underlying cause. And ‘moderation must prevail’ seems a much less useful statement than ‘occupation must stop.’
The ceasefire was not broken by Gaza’s homemade rockets, but by Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel's refusal to allow economic activity in the Strip. Jews for Justice in the Middle East report, “Israeli forces have carried out an average of 33 incursions, 42 arrests or detentions, 12 woundings and 0.84 killings a week in the West Bank during the ceasefire.”
You will put your calls for moderation down to ‘balance’, which sounds very fair to people who know nothing of the conflict. I would ask how useful (or useful to whom?) is ‘balance’ for treating a situation in which the two sides are so very unequal? At the time of writing, 440 Palestinians and 4 Israelis have been killed. This is the immediate context. Expanding the perspective just a little bit, before the latest massacre Gaza was, according to the Red Cross, suffering “chronic malnutrition.” To punish the Palestinians for electing Hamas, Israel has worked to destroy Gaza’s economic infrastructure and social fabric over the last eighteen months. It is remarkable that a population on the Mediterranean is being quite literally starved with not a murmur from Europe. Indeed, European governments have collaborated in this crime as much as the client Arab dictatorships usually called ‘moderate’. Europe imposed sanctions on the occupied. As the siege bit deeper, the EU upgraded its relations with the occupier.
Before the siege, Gaza, 80% of whose inhabitants are refugees, was already impoverished and brutalised by occupation. Israel was born in ethnic cleansing and has continued through occupation and apartheid. (According to Bishop Tutu, Israeli apartheid is “worse” than the apartheid regime in South Africa.) Even people who sympathise with the causes of Zionism should be able to recognise this: in Palestine the natives have been ethnically cleansed and occupied by a much more powerful incoming population. This is the root of the conflict. Decades of imaginary ‘peace processes’ have not changed the base reality one jot.
It is time to abandon ‘balance’ and speak plainly. To speak, at least. Real peace will only come with honesty and justice. Continuation of the current diplomatic charade will eventually seal the doom of Israeli Jews as well as Palestinian Arabs, and will solidify the current Western-Muslim divide.