Dr. Hanan Chehata
With what is appalling timing, given the arrest of Sheikh Raed Salah a week ago on the order of the Home Secretary Theresa May, a certain Major General (ret.) Danny Rothschild is speaking in London on Monday 4th July at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Whitehall; he will follow this on Tuesday 5th with a speech in parliament organised by the Henry Jackson Society, the fanatically pro-Israel think tank. While it is not unusual for high-ranking Israeli military and political officials to be visiting such institutions, the red carpet treatment of Israeli “Defence” Forces veteran Rothschild stands in stark contrast to the treatment of Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah, arrested on the strength of tabloid gossip and Israel Lobbyists’ pressure, and little else.
The difference in the treatment of these two men cannot but, yet again, serve to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of the British government which is, ultimately, responsible for who is and who is not allowed into our country, and who is and who is not afforded a public platform to espouse their cause.
Major General Rothschild’s credentials are impressive: three decades in the IDF; Assistant to the Israeli Chief of Staff; Deputy Director of Military and Intelligence during the Gulf War; President of the Council for Peace and Security in Israel; Member of the Advisory Board of the Central Bank of Israel, and so on. A perfect candidate for a series of high-profile talks one might think. However, scratch below the surface and a litany of offences far more grievous than anything of which Sheikh Raed is accused is exposed.
For example, in a December 2007 interview with Israeli Army Radio, Danny Rothschild called for the assassination of Palestinian leaders, including elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. “In order to stop firing rockets towards Sderot and nearby kibbutzim of the Gaza Strip, Israel must target the decision makers starting from Ismail Haniyeh and not only target cells that fire rockets.” “You must create a situation where Haniyeh and those around him cannot sleep two consecutive nights in the same bed” said the latest senior Israeli figure with blood on his hands to be granted permission to enter the UK. This is far more outrageous than anything allegedly said by the now imprisoned Sheikh Salah; Rothschild’s statement was blatant incitement to kill political opponents, a crime in and of itself.
However, Rothschild clearly sees assassinations abroad as well as at home as just one more weapon of intimidation in Israel’s already massive arsenal. Following the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, a Hezbollah military commander in Syria in 2008, the Major General is reported to have said: “Seeing that Hezbollah believes that Israel carried out this attack, it creates some sort of deterrence as far as we are concerned, and also with respect to Hamas. After all, if Israel can pull off an operation like that in Damascus, it can carry out these types of assassinations anywhere.”
It is not enough to allow entry to the UK simply because someone is a decorated military leader. One must also consider the kind of military operations carried out in their name or under their watch. In the case of Danny Rothschild, for instance, between 1991 and 1995 he was the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
What went on there while he was in charge? In just one of countless human rights abuses to have taken place under his watch, according to the respected Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, “Since the start of the Intifada 232 Palestinian children age 16 and below have been killed by the Israeli security forces. Thirty-eight of them were killed in the past six months (Dec. 9, 1992 – June 8, 1993). This is more than double the number of children who were killed in the entire previous year, and of a magnitude unprecedented since the Intifada began in December 1987. Eighteen of the children killed in this half-year period were below the age of 14.”
The killing of these Palestinian children took place during a period when Danny Rothschild was responsible for activity in that area. Unlike Sheikh Raed Salah, he has blood on his hands and yet Britain’s Home Secretary did not see fit to slap an exclusion order on him as a “threat to public order”. Hypocrisy is perhaps the most polite word for what Theresa May has and has not done in the name of the British people.
Beyond that, Rothschild has been pushing for the “transfer” of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. In 2008 he suggested new tactics to make life so difficult for Palestinians that they will have no choice but to leave their homes; ethnic cleansing by stealth.
In an interview with Israeli radio station Rashat Beit on 24th September 2008 Rothschild was asked by Yaron Dekel how Israel should deal with the security problem in Jerusalem. He essentially said that there were several options available to them including getting rid of a number of Palestinian districts by relocating them in ghettos beyond the wall. His idea was to build a new type of “simple” wall in East Jerusalem – nearby the already existing wall – one that would completely cut off the Jewish neighbourhoods from the Arab ones there.
In his estimation this would exclude 80% of the Arabs of Jerusalem who will suddenly find that the centre of their lives is now in Ramallah and not on Yafa Street in Jerusalem. They would receive all services from the Palestinian side of the wall, and will have no need to enter the western side even to receive postal, health or educational services. This would give Palestinian East Jerusalemites no choice but to seek access to essential services in other parts of the West Bank.
In line with racist Israeli laws on residence, as Palestinians slowly find their “centre of life” moving away from Jerusalem they would no longer be permitted to reside in East Jerusalem and would find themselves transferred forcibly out. Rothschild clearly cares little for the fact that the current “Separation Wall” built by Israel has been condemned universally as illegal (see 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice). Walls get rid of Palestinians, which is good enough for him. This further ghettoisation of an area already militarily occupied and strangled is a form of extreme racism and injustice. The Home Secretary must surely know that ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity.
We all know that the playing field is not level in Israel, which is, after all, a nuclear-armed state with massive military capability; the Palestinian Authority isn’t. Sheikh Raed Salah represents the largest Palestinian political movement in Israel; Palestinians make up one-fifth of the population there and suffer institutional discrimination and racism on every level. He campaigns across Israel for his people’s rights. One would have hoped, therefore, that the British government would provide equality of opportunity for the opposing narratives of the Palestine-Israel conflict to be heard freely in this country. It is hard to believe that the oppression of the state of Israel, an occupying power, no less, would be trumped by democratic and supposedly freedom loving Great Britain; that Britain would be “more Israeli than the Israelis”. That, I suppose, reflects the influence of the pro-Israel Lobby over our government’s policies and, alarmingly, our great offices of state. It should not be forgotten by our politicians (if it ever dawned on them in the first place) that the Israel Lobby is there to protect and promote the interests of the state of Israel, not those of the United Kingdom.
Perhaps it is too late for that stark but obvious message to be taken on board, but the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister could do something to redress the imbalance caused by the Lobbyists’ pressure by arresting, banning and expelling Danny Rothschild, and freeing Sheikh Raed Salah forthwith. Failure to do so will only serve to exacerbate the growing feeling that justice and freedom are no longer rallying cries at the core of British politics.