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Stop apologising for Israel’s atrocities!

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The brutal and heart-rending images that have been emerging from Israel’s inhumane offensive in Gaza are hopefully awakening public consciousness and stirring the conscience of people around the world. There were huge demonstrations in some countries, including England. Even in Tel Aviv, Israel, thousands marched, calling for peace, while making the point that the conflict could only be solved by a political settlement, preferably one based on a two-state arrangement.{{more}}

Israel has for too long commanded the sympathy of the West, based, perhaps, on their complicity in its creation in 1948. The creation of Israel had major support as a sort of compensation for the hideous murders of thousands of Jews during the Second World War. Today some of Israel’s strong supporters are becoming its fiercest critics. A State created by a resolution of the United Nations has become one of the biggest violators of UN resolutions, dating back to 1967. Israel has succeeding in getting western opinion to see the victims of their carnage, the Palestinians, as the aggressors. It is similar to the situation with our Caribs here, where they were considered brutal and savage for defending their land. (I use the word carnage, for although other countries have been guilty of greater atrocities, we have to bear in mind that we are dealing with small populations).

The US has been very supportive of Israeli aggression. While President Obama has been critical of Israeli attacks on UN buildings and the killing of civilians, including children, he continues to restock Israel’s enormous armoury. US presidents, despite the occasional criticism of Israel, have always followed this up by reminding Israel that they remain true friends. Recently, when the UN Human Rights Commission voted to have an investigation into Israel’s activities in Gaza, there was one negative vote. You guess who! Of course, the United States!

Despite the many different dimensions of the conflict in that part of the world, I have always maintained that there can be no peace until the Israel-Palestine issue is resolved. America has the capacity to lead with this, but has lost credibility because of its undiminished support for Israel. Israel is so heavily dependent on US support, military and otherwise, that the US can call the shots. Foreign policy, of course, and especially for the US, is a playing out of domestic politics and interests. Among other things, the Jewish lobby remains a powerful force in American politics.

There is an astonishing amount of hypocrisy floating around. Israel and the United States claim to be defenders of democracy, but only when it serves their interests. Hamas’ victory in the elections in 2006 brought a different dimension to the crisis. Israel had pulled out its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but retained control of borders, sea port and airspace. It responded to Hamas’ victory by tightening the blockade, severely limiting imports into Gaza and virtually all exports from Gaza. Hamas, they describe as a terrorist organisation, but the African National Congress had once been so described and some of the early rulers of Israel were considered terrorists. So, what is new!

Hamas, after its electoral victory, made efforts to hold out an olive branch to Israel. They were willing to go along with the two-state arrangement, based on the 1967 borders and to agree to a truce on a long term basis. This, Israel rejected. Efforts recently to form a Unity-Government drew the wrath of Israel and the United States. Israel’s policy, when carefully examined, is to take control of Palestinian lands and to treat Palestinian citizens in Israel as second class citizens.

Let us examine the current situation that was provoked by the kidnapping of three Israeli students. Hamas was originally blamed and Israel began its assault, claiming to be looking for the teenagers and their abductors. But Israel had known shortly after the incident that the students were killed and by a group not affiliated to Hamas. They did not release this information for about two weeks, as they stepped up their carnage in the area. Along with Egypt, they drew up proposals for a truce and used what they referred to as Hamas’ rejection to intensify their assault. As it turned out, this proposal was never communicated to Hamas. So, Israel’s initial assault was based on their so-called search for the teenagers and Hamas’ rejection of a proposal they didn’t get. Hamas, of course, responded by firing rockets into Israel and this then becomes the cause célèbre.

Efforts to reach a settlement are brokered by Egypt, which is fiercely hostile to Hamas. The Palestinians in Gaza want a lifting of the blockade, since they are unable to travel freely, being blocked, particularly from the West Bank, where many residents have not seen their relatives in years. They are also denied access to clean water and medical support. They are sticking out, too, for the opportunity to establish a seaport, promised to them since the Oslo accords of 1993. Israel is not willing to go along with these. For to do so, in their view, is to give Hamas a diplomatic victory, following their military defeat.

The only hope lies in public support for the cause of the Palestinians. We just have to remember the effort to secure a boycott of South Africa’s apartheid regime and the failure of some governments to go along until public support began to demand divestment from companies doing business in South Africa and the growth in opposition to the regime from all corners of the world skyrocketed. We must remember Mandela’s comment when he visited Yasser Arafat: “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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