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Posts

Open Letter to LFI Re: Visit to Labour Party Conference by Ehud Barak

To: Labour Friends of Israel

BM LFI
London
WC1N 3XX

Open Letter to LFI Re: Visit to Labour Party Conference by Ehud Barak

Dear Luciana Berger,

As you probably know, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) is the largest Jewish peace group in Europe. We represent a significant body of opinion within the Jewish community in the UK. It is for this reason that we are writing to you to inquire about the nature of the invitation that Labour Friends of Israel extended to Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, to attend your reception on 29th September at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton.

Given the controversy over the invasion of Gaza that took place when Mr Barak was defence minister, it would be illuminating if you could tell us something about the nature of the discussion that took place.

For example, what was Mr Barak’s response when you asked him – as I assume you surely did – why Israel ignored its ceasefire committment to open the crossings into Gaza, and why it chose to break the ceasefire on November 4th, thus putting at risk the residents of southern Israel he claims the invasion was designed to protect?

If he did not answer those questions, perhaps he was more forthcoming about why Israel declined the opportunity to negotiate a ceasefire extension?

The people of southern Israel live under the terror a rocket might fall on them. The terrible news that they are still falling on these towns and their inhabitants means their dread continues. Did Mr Barak acknowledge that the invasion – given the claims Israel made for their attack – was a failure?

Since 2002, around 20 Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets. The Palestinian death toll in the same period has been bigger by a factor of 15,000%. One death ought to be more than enough for civilised people to say “no more” and to condemn all violence.

So how did Mr Barak express regret about the appalling loss felt by families in Israel and Palestine when their children and relatives died in such a fruitless military exercise?

The only time the towns of southern Israel have enjoyed a degree of peace from rocket fire was during the negotiated ceasefire. What did he say when you urged, as a friend should, about the prospects of negotiating a further ceasefire in order to bring much needed relief to residents of Sderot, the Negev towns and Ashkelon? When I was there in 2008, residents of Sderot made it crystal clear to me that if it means an end to the rocket attacks, they want their government to take on the responsibility of negotiating with Hamas to achieve such an end.

Or was he content to allow the fears of these citizens to be sacrified on the altar of Israel’s military prowess?

These are events which took place in December 2008 and January 2009. But last month the respected international jurist Richard Goldstone published the results of an inquiry into the actions of both sides. He examined reports that the IDF targeted civilians, used them as human shields, and gratuitously destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza to no military purpose, while using white phosphorus in civilian areas. He considered the accusation that Qassam rockets launched by Hamas deliberately targeted the civilian population of Israel.

Did you ask Mr Barak why Israel was so desperate to discredit the report? Did you point out that although the initial mandate of the UNHRC was restricted to Israeli actions, it was Richard Goldstone himelf who insisted that it be extend to cover the actions of Hamas? Having accepted the job only when his demands were met, what did Mr Barak say regarding why the Goldstone enquiry was refused access to Israel and why Israel refused to give evidence to the Goldstone enquiry?

Clearly, as an organisation that asserts it is not uncritical of Israel, a question about Israel’s continued crippling blockade against the people of Gaza, denying them materials for reconstruction, toys, school equipment and why it refuses to observe the Paris Protocols agreed as part of the Oslo Accords in respect of fishing limits would not have gone amiss. How can Israel demand that previous agreements be observed by Palestinians when it ignores them itself?

Given that the report demands a UN inquiry into the conduct of the invasion and response only if Israel and Hamas decline to use a six month period to mount their own investigations, what was Mr Barak’s explanation for the Israel’s desire to bury the report? Did you or other LFI members explain that rather than ducking their heads into the sand, this could have be an opportunity for Israel to demonstrate its often trumpeted claim to be the only democracy in the region by mounting it’s own independent investigation?

In the contemporary world, with the capacity of experts to investigate breaches of international law and the instant news coverage on You Tube, ordinary people are no longer convinced when states, like Israel, denigrate the outcome of fair investigations. It behoves Israel to provide a more thoughtful response than the unconvincing protests it has retreated to thus far. They have been reminiscent of the chants heard on the terraces of Millwall FC in response to accusations of hooliganism: “No one likes us, we don’t care!”

Surely it is in this quest that Israel’s true friends are best able to help. By urging on Mr Barak that Israel provide the answers to questions that many are asking, Labour Friends of Israel would demonstrate that it is more than a platform for Israeli government propaganda and accepting of any action that the Israeli government and its members take.

True friends expect and return both honesty and accountability. When someone is exhibiting destructive behaviour patterns, the genuine hallmark of a friend shows in the degree to which they are prepared to insist on a change in that behaviour. Few people show more commitment to Israel than Judge Goldstone, who has been a pillar of the Zionist establishment, and a supporter of numerous causes in Israel. But good friend that he is, he does not shut his eyes to behaviour outside democratic and civilised standards. We would wish for no less from LFI. We will be publishing this as an open letter on our website and distributing it to others. You will, of course, be given equal space on our website for any reply you care to make.

Yours sincerely

Chair, Jews for Justice Palestinians

On behalf of the executive committee of JfJfP

http://jfjfp.com

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