Just some scattered thoughts before I head off to work so apologies if any lack of coherence.
1. Back in 1988, during the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising), I was shocked at just how defenceless the Palestinians were. They were an occupied people and their land was being eroded daily by illegal Jewish settlements. They were facing an occupier that was being financially, militarily and diplomatically supported by the USA. Recall the images of Israeli soldiers beating Palestinian protestors with their rods – these soldiers were following an official Israeli government policy to ‘break the bones’ of those children. What did the UK government – the government that played a key role in the dispossession of the Palestinians – do? Nothing
2. I recall being told by one of my Islamic teachers that Shaykh Ahmad Yasin – the founder of Hamas – had said that if the Palestinians took the path of active resistance to Israeli occupation then – as far fetched as it seemed – he believed that Israel’s racist state would be dismantled within forty years.
3. During the 1990s and 2000s the Palestinians seemed to follow divergent paths. One – the path promoted by the UK and the USA: to renounce violence and enter ‘peace talks’ with the Israelis. Well, we know where that led. It led to the utter humiliation of the Fatah party as the Israelis continued to expand their illegal Jewish settlements and to kill the idea of a ‘two-state solution’ with facts on the ground. The other path was the one followed by Hamas and other resistance factions which decided that only the path of resistance and jihad would bring serious results.
4. The Palestinians obviously could not match the Israelis in conventional warfare so they had to adopt other – now, what is that fancy word? Ah, yes – asymmetric – methods to exact a price from the Israelis for their illegal occupation and routine killing of Palestinian civilians. Hence the arrival of the suicide bombers – or martyrdom operations – which gave the Israelis a taste of the same medicine that they had been inflicting on the Palestinians for decades.
5. In the latest Gaza conflict, we have seen Hamas – while still massively outgunned – now fire Iranian supplied fajr rockets at Tel Aviv. It helps improve the balance of deterrence and so the Israelis now need to factor in what their own public will be exposed to if they decide to engage in more military adventures and more land theft.
6. It was notable that in Tuesday’s debate in the House of Commons, our Foreign Secretary was asked about Iran’s supply of arms to Hamas:
Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend have any information on the supply of sophisticated weaponry to Hamas from the Iranian regime?
Mr Hague: I do not have any information I can give the House of Commons on that, but I do believe Iran is involved in sending weapons to Hamas, as I mentioned on the television a couple of days ago. That contributes further to this type of crisis, of course, instead of turning people’s minds to a negotiated settlement and a peaceful way forward, and Iran should desist from that.
So there you have it. The official UK position is for the Palestinians to be defenceless and enter into negotiations with the Israelis. Negotiations which have got absolutely nowhere for decades while the Israelis continue their land grab. How convenient.
7. In his article in the Guardian, Seumas Milne concluded by saying:
“…no ceasefire is going to prevent another eruption of violence. Whatever is finally agreed won’t end Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land or halt its war of dispossession against the Palestinian people. That demands unrelenting pressure on the western powers that underwrite it to change course. But most of all, it needs a change in the balance of forces on the ground.”
8. We in the UK have a role to play in both of these areas ie putting pressure on the UK government to adopt a fairer stance in the Israel-Palestine conflict and also helping the Palestinians change the balance of forces on the ground.
9. Hamas’s regional position has clearly strengthened in the past couple of years. The Israeli killing of the Turkish aid workers on the Mavi Marmara has resulted in the Turkish government – once a key ally of the Israelis – now vocally speaking out about the Palestinians. Just this week, President Erdogan called Israel a “terrorist state”. It is a significant development. Similarly, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the victory of Muhammad Mursi in the Egyptian Presidential elections has meant that Hamas is no longer also isolated in the region.
10. If people around the world continue to mobilise to help the Palestinians achieve justice – as they did against South Africa’s apartheid – who is to say that Shaykh Ahmad Yasin might not be proved right and the racist state of Israel might well too be consigned to history within the next fifteen years?