Press coverage of the Commons vote that the UK should recognise the state of Palestine disproves one argument made against the motion: that no-one cares what backbench British MPs think. Every Israeli online newspaper covered the vote and many said their government should take it seriously as a sign of European anger and impatience with Israeli policies.
This is the first part of the historic House of Commons vote on recognising the state of Palestine, and of Palestine / Israel and the UK’s responsibility (or impotence) more generally. It is striking how long the debate lasted (hence several parts), how many MPs spoke – and how little support Israel’s stance enjoys amongst them.
This is the second part of the exceptionally engaged and well-informed debate on the UK recognising Palestinian statehood. Again, MPs who have been traditionally pro-Israel remark on their disillusion and again the anger with Israel’s intransigence is cross-party. Questions are over the value of the UK expressing an opinion.
The resolution was passed with only 12 voting against. It is clear from the speeches how much MPs were influenced, or strengthened, by messages from their constituents to support the motion. It is thus also true how feeble the pro-Israel lobby was on this occasion. No-one used the antisemitic card – British Jewish anger with Israel was cited – and only one used the Syria gambit. The result is a success for all of us who campaign for Palestinians and against antisemitism.
Shlomo Sand, Israeli, intellectual, historian, controversialist, Jewish. Previously, he has disputed the idea of that one can be Jewish if one does not practise Judaism. Here he says he no longer considers himself Jewish because that means being identified with Israel’s racist policies. Psychologically, it seems unlikely that he can excise this aspect of his identity. Politically, it shows an odd ignorance of the life of non-Israeli Jews. Plus Bertell Ollman on the same theme.
The purpose of the Cairo donors’ conference – attended by over 50 nations plus international organisations – was to organise pledges of money for the reconstruction of Gaza. An inevitable other effect was to produce statements that this cycle of destruction must be stopped. UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon was unequivocal: ‘We must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: A restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.’
The vote on a backbench motion that the UK should recognize the state of Palestine is more controversial than it might seem at first sight. This is testament to Britain’s pro-Israel lobby which has been insisting that such a vote will damage peace negotiations. Although the Labour leadership has decided to whip its MPs into the Yes lobby, the divisions are within parties rather than between parties.
In an order that does not bode well for the future, PM Netanyahu has instructed police to stop Palestinian protests – which have been going on for 3 months – in E. Jerusalem ‘in a fundamental manner’. And in a knowingly provocative move, police have joined forces with right-wing religious groups to assert their right of access to the Al Aqsa compound, E. Jerusalem.
Donors met last weekend in Cairo to plan reconstructing Gaza. Not only is Israel leaving the cost of the damage it caused to outside agencies, it is also insisting that those agencies put Israel’s ‘security’ demands first. It has subcontracted the role of checking the end-use of all building materials to the UN. With winter approaching and thousands of people homeless, the agencies feel they have no choice but to accept Israel’s dictates.
It is thought there are about 4.5 million Palestinian refugees (original refugees plus descendants) living in camps in Jordan and Lebanon. (Most of the sizeable refugee populations in Iraq and Syria have made their way to safer camps.) Although the refugee issue is no longer top of the agenda, it is still a salient issue says the ICG in a new report. And first the separate, calcified camp leadership must be removed and refugees brought into the Palestinian national community.
Last month, a Left-Green caucus of MEPs nominated three young Arab men for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. One of them, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, an often imprisoned Egyptian blogger, fell foul of the WSJ’s thought police. It denounced his violent anti-Zionist remarks as anti-Israel and the caucus withdrew his nomination.No-one defends his remarks that zionists are not human beings; but this is not the Nobel Peace Prize.
The ideal of a neutral, international body to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity has a long history but only came to fruition 12 years ago with the creation of the ICC (from which Israel has withdrawn). The PA has not applied to join because Pres. Abbas wants to use it as a bargaining chip with Israel – a tactic the EU supports – which might make sense if negotiations were progressing. Lotte Leich argues the EU should welcome the PA signing up to the ICC instead of giving way to demands for impunity.
Under attack by Israel and the USA for recognising the Palestinian state, Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallström said “it’s not the United States that decides our politics”. Three cheers for Sweden. The Swedish decision has effectively dismissed the argument that the State of Palestine must be born through negotiations writes Daoud Kuttab who gives the history to this decision.
In the early days, theere was not, for most, a conflict between being a liberal and being a zionist. Hopes that a Jewish home could be created that was run on the principles of democracy and universal human rights were high. That hope has long since gone. The zionism triumphed, forcing out the liberal and making liberal zionism an oxymoron. Ran Greenstein traces the history.
Or rather, as the Telegraph’s Peter Oborne argues in this cogent piece, the alternative is Israel leaving the community of civilised nations as it struggles to maintain control over a mass of angry Palestinians through a military-controlled system of apartheid. Surely even the Conservative Friends of Israel, the largest organisation in Europe dedicated to the cause of Israel, cannot wish for this.
Most nations have a founding date of national consciousness. ‘In popular descriptions among Palestinians, Israel’s military assaults have often been compared to the Mongol wars, or the Tatars, where all destruction is permissible, and nothing is sacred.’ But that 13th C moment is true of all Arabs, and Palestinians are insisting on their unique role in resisting invasive destruction against the complacency of other MidEast nations.
Aliyah is a hallowed term for ‘going up’ to Israel. Yerida is the derogatory term for emigrating from Israel. Without the mass immigration from Russia and former Soviet Republics it’s hard to know which would have been larger. The cost of living, parochialism – in place of the (double-edged) virtue of cosmopolitanism – and oppression by right-wing dogma are amongst the reasons cited by Israelis, and the band Shmemel, for moving to more open societies in the USA and Europe.
It took new laws and supreme court rulings to make segregation in buying or renting property in the USA illegal. That state action against local racism is presumably an American value which Obama is expressing when he rebukes Netanyahu for Jews-only settlements. Richard Silverstein is aghast that Bibi should claim that that view is ‘unAmerican’, and details some of the practices that ensure Jewish/Arab segregation.
Not for the first time, the US administration has condemned Israeli plans to build new homes on Palestinian land. Netanyahu’s response, that this rebuke is ‘unAmerican’ shows his normal cheek – and a new carelessness about US-Israel relations. He appears to be asserting that Israel has a free market in which there are no ethnic considerations governing property ownership.
The determined ethnic cleansing of E. Jerusalem continues, spearheaded by Elad, the Ir David Foundation. It wants Jewish families to move into Palestinian properties and, to keep them empty until such families can be found, have invited settlers to move in as armed guards for the payment of $136 a day.