Thursday 16 October 2014

Last word

My final word (I hope) on the HoC debate on the Palestinians’ bid for statehood. 

Over on Harry’s Place Sarah AB’s take on it has prompted several people to express sympathy with MP Richard Ottoway’s purportedly sorrowful confession that he’d lost faith in Israel when it chose to annex all that extra land in area C. People are saying that Israel makes it very difficult for her supporters when she constantly grants permission for more settlements.

 Well, supporting Israel is not easy. Why should it be?  It’s not likely to be easy. 
 “ The real friends of Israel are those that oppose the settler movement.” they say. “Israel is her own worst enemy!” 
Why? So that these real friends can say “Look everybody, Israel occupies the moral high ground?“

In these complex circumstances, support is not something you can just reserve for Israel on condition that, in the eyes of the world, it unfailingly occupies the moral high ground. If that were a condition, as soon as Israel defended itself in any way at all it would be jeopardising that position and sacrificing the appended support. A “moral high ground only” precondition for supporting a country at war is no support at all. 

How many times have you heard a ‘Palestine’ supporter saying “I was a staunch  supporter of the Palestinians until Abbas lost the moral high ground by colluding with Hamas. Or until Abbas stated that any future Palestinian state would be Jew free. Or until Abbas stopped honouring murderers by naming streets after them. Or in fact saying “I stopped supporting Abbas when he violated the Oslo agreement by making a unilateral bid for statehood. He blew it for me when he did that, and now I’m in favour of Israeli settlements.” 

No, you don’t hear that very often. Not ever. If you travelled all the way down Ottoway’s road you’d arrive at confining your support only to a passive Israel. An Israel that tolerates Hamas’s rockets, dismantles the barrier, eases the blockade, sacrifices a few citizens to a suicide bomber or two, and allows Palestinians to return their grannies’ former homes with their giant keys; one that lies down, rolls over and surrenders, and that’s the kind of Israel that would garner universal approval, without a doubt.

Rt Hon Sir Richard Ottaway MP Croydon South

I daresay there are perfectly legitimate arguments for settlement building, but in this climate who is listening? In fact I have heard several credible justifications for it, but even if one were to give the Israel-bashers full benefit of the doubt and concede that the Israeli government acts out of pure malice, defiance, to thumb their noses at the Palestinians and wrong-foot their own supporters, it pales into total insignificance beside the obstacles to peace that the Palestinians themselves put up, and which most of the world doggedly fails to acknowledge. 

What if Netanyahu were to impose his own set of preconditions? Supposing Netanyahu insisted that Israel cannot contemplate a two state solution until the P.A. and Hamas recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state? Or, until the PA and Hamas put an end to incitement in all shapes and forms? Or if they agree to accept ‘normalisation‘  of Israeli / Palestinian relations? What if Israel refuses to negotiate till Hamas disbands, or puts down its arms, like the IRA had to, before going any further? 

If Israel put its supporters pride before the feelings of the Israeli public, Israel’s supporters would be delighted. If the Israeli government carefully considered how not to make its supporters look foolish when formulating policies instead of considering  the wishes and well-being of its own people, supporting Israel would be a doddle. Demanding that the Israeli government prioritise consideration of “us” in their policy-making is a truly weird definition of ‘true friendship’  

This is starting to look like an “Israel right or wrong” argument. It’s not really. I think I’m saying that Israel doesn’t have to be ‘seen to be right’ every single time it makes a move in order to 'deserve' continued support.  If, however Israel does something its supporters vehemently disagree with, they have a perfect right to say so, bearing in mind that doing so inevitably aids her enemies.

That’s how I see it at the moment, (written late last night) but I’m open to alternatives.
This morning.
Aah. I see the argument has opened up. A much broader spread of views below the line has popped in to the comments field overnight. I was going to steal from a comment (from  nitsanc  to Gene) which illustrates one of my points: (I paraphrase)
Elliott Abrams did a study that found that almost all of the building taking place is in areas that every peace proposal has envisioned staying within Israel. Why is building within those towns such a cause for outrage from people who claim to be pro Israel?
If they are pro Israel then they must be at least equally outraged when Palestinians build within areas that are envisioned to stay within Palestine, right? Calling the designating of state land ‘annexation’ and getting up in arms over building in certain areas shows no understanding of Israel. It buys into this notion of settlements, regardless of where they are, as some horrible war crime, when in fact almost every segment of Israeli society could never countenance giving those particular areas up.
Gene replies:
It doesn't matter. Settlement expansion is not essential to Israel's security and probably undermines it. Settlement expansion undercuts support for Israel even among its friends (and don't say Israel doesn't need friends like that). You can agree with most of what Netanyahu says and does while still understanding that.
To which:
I'll also point out, BTW, that Israel is the only one in this situation adhering to Oslo. While Oslo did not limit settlement construction, it did prohibit the moves made by both the Palestinians and now the International Community. Add to that the fact that Obama went back on Bush's commitments, what incentive does Israel have to trust any of these parties to abide by a future agreement? And what incentive do the Palestinians have to make any concessions?

I see that several of the other points I was trying out have been articulated by others while I was asleep. Instead of ranting further, I commend this estimable Harry’s Place thread  to the House.  


  1. (Sorry - comments can't be longer than 4,096 characters, so I'll split up my long comment into two parts.)

    1st part

    I hope that you and Craig carry on writing for many, many years to come, and carry on writing even if by some miracle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved within the next few years. I turn to your tremendously varied and very accomplished blog just about every day, although I've never commented before now. I count myself as pretty active - I defend Israel and question the Palestinian version of events publicly at demonstrations organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Sheffield branch) and I write often to organizations of one sort or another, such as other branches of the PSC, and to individuals, such as MP's. But I've never written to the BBC. The BBC bears a huge responsibility for misinforming so many people, by stressing distressing images again and again and again at the expense of thoughtful analysis (rather than one picture being worth a thousand words, one picture may need a thousand words of commentary.) I'm so glad, then, that your blog, and a few others, are scrutinizing the BBC so carefully.

    You write ' ... Israel doesn’t have to be ‘seen to be right’ every single time it makes a move in order to 'deserve' continued support.' This is an overwhelmingly important point. Israeli transgressions, real or imagined, don't cancel its moral advantage, so that Hamas now has the moral advantage and should be supported.

  2. 2nd part

    Hamas is a radical Islamist organization, of course, but not sufficiently known or recognized is the evidence that a large section of the Palestinian people sympathize with radical islamist views.

    Percentages below are from the Pew Research Center's extensive surveys of attitudes in Islamic countries.
    Support in Gaza for suicide bombings has declined but 62% of people in Gaza still believe that suicide bombings are often justified or sometimes justified to protect Islam. This is the highest level of support in the Islamic world.
    66% of people in the Palestinian territories believe in execution for those who leave Islam.
    Stoning to death for adultery may not be practised in the Palestinian territories but 84% of Palestinians support the punishment.
    Homosexuality is legal in Israel but illegal in Gaza and punishable by imprisonment for up to ten years. 89% of people in the Palestinian territories believe that ‘homosexuality is 'morally wrong.'
    Honour killings have increased dramatically in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Minister of Women's Affairs, Rabiha Diab, blamed Israel for the increase in honour killings. Claims to victimhood will do nothing to solve the problem, of course.

    The conviction that a woman must always obey her husband is widely held (87% support in the Palestinian territories.) 

    There's widespread Palestinian support for such cruel punishments as amputation of the hand. 76% of people in the Palestinian territories support these punishments.

    Nazi Germany deserved to lose the Second World War, not Great Britain. The moral superiority of Great Britain, the evil of Nazi Germany, are not erased by the fact that British bombers killed a total of 593 000 German civilians, according to some estimates, and converted vast areas of German towns and cities to rubble. The British policy of area bombing during the Second World War involved the deliberate targeting of civilians.

    It's a gross misconception to believe that Israel can't possibly be a liberal, humane state in view of its attacks on Gaza by bombing from the air and other means. It's a gross misconception to believe that totalitarian states, such as the Nazi state, may kill many civilians and destroy many civilian homes, but that democratic states, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, can be expected always to fight wars without doing the same, killing many civilians and destroying many civilian homes.

    It's a gross misconception to equate Israelis with Nazis, just as it's a gross misconception to equate the British and the Americans with the Nazis - or to equate the Palestinians with Nazis, for that matter.

    When a democracy is fighting for survival, in the midst of extreme danger, then the measured response which is approved by armchair critics is an ideal not often attained.

    To overcome fanatical opposition, the armed forces of a democratic state often have no alternative but to use extreme force. To use slight force would be to guarantee defeat.

    All the same, the armed forces of democracies have often used force which was excessive and cannot claim to have never broken the rules of war.

    There are many extenuating circumstances in the case of Israeli military action, such as the giving of warnings time and again. There are no extenuating circumstances which could excuse the firing of rockets, indiscriminate weapons, from Gaza. Casualties would have been few if Hamas had followed this principle: Stop firing rockets and stop breaking ceasefires. After Operation Cast Lead they ought to have recognized the realities, but obviously they never did. And now the international community is donating 5 billion pounds, I believe, for reconstruction in Gaza. If Hamas had recognized realities, there would be no need for reconstruction.

  3. Israeli's have increased the life expectancy of Arabs by living amongst them. They eradicated polio and the PA's non co-operation with Israel led to the Arab's sewage system collapsing. There are hundreds of Arab settlements in Israel, so why can't Jews live amongst Arabs ???. AND Of course, Israeli security is at stake !!! Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005 - look where it got them!.

    1. Indeed. Not only that, but Jews will be forbidden to live in any eventual Palestinian State. All so-called supporters of human rights who support the Palestinian cause are calling for the creation of a country with a human rights violation built into it. It's difficult to respect them.

  4. II think it would be a wonderful snub to the British, and really show what a monstrous impertinence that Commons debate on recognizing Palestine was, if the Knesset debated recognizing an independent Scotland.

  5. PS Forgot to add that I totally agree with Paul Hurt (above): I hope you and Craig carry on fighting the good fight for as long as you have breath - all power to your pens!

  6. Paul Hurt,
    Thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed comment, and thank you for your supportive words.
    PSC meetings look like an ordeal for anyone with dissenting views. I’ve seen terrible videos of such meetings on Richard Millett’s blog.

    Douglas Murray has a good piece on Gatesone. The frustration of common sense being shouted down with cries of “Israeli government propaganda”.

    BBC Watch debunks the BBC’s and Sir Richard Ottoway’s use of ‘expropriation‘ and ‘annexation’. As Hadar says, Sir Richard made a fool of himself. Shame he’s unaware of it.

    Thanks to David P and Anons, too, for your contributions. Your kind comments are much appreciated.

    1. I'd like to add my thanks to Sue's. Thank you to everyone who sticks with us and is kind enough to comment.


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