Has the death of over 2,200 made Israel or Gaza more secure?

Tonight’s news that Israel & Hamas have agreed a long-term ceasefire is welcome and I hope with all my heart that this time it hold and that the people of Gaza and southern Israel can look forward to at least a long term period of calm and peace so that they can begin to start rebuilding their lives after more than 7 week of rockets, bombing & fighting.

Now that the guns are falling silent, perhaps it is time to look to see who has won the most from the fighting and who has lost the most.

Sadly for all those who want see peaceful co-existence between Israel & Palestine, the winners seem to Hamas and the other extremists in Gaza.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of lifting the restrictions on goods going in and out of Gaza and also letting the residents of Gaza travel outside the small sliver of land they have been trapped in.  My problem is that by allowing Hamas to claim victory in achieving this, Israel has legitimised the use of violence from Hamas.  While there will now be a period of calm, I fully expect Hamas to use this period to rearm and regroup.

From what I have read so far, there does not seem to be any independent force put in place to make sure that none of the much needed materials being letting for reconstruction are not diverted into rebuilding the tunnels & other Hamas infrastructure or to make sure that Hamas will not smuggle in more weapons & arms to prepare for their next offensive against Israel.

Israelis now need to ask themselves whether the entirely avoidable fighting this summer has been worth it.  Have Netanyahu, Lieberman & Bennett made Israel more secure & stronger or have they weakened Israel and left its standing in the world at an all-time low?  I wrote in July, at the start of the conflict, that the Israeli Government was wrong to allow itself to be pulled in to another round of fighting in Gaza (Is the Government of Israel insane?), it pains me to see that the outcome I predicted has happened.

As a British Israeli living in the UK, I can see how much the hatred of Israel has grown and that fewer people are willing to defend Israel, not just in its actions in Gaza which few can defend but its right even to exist.  By refusing to engage with President Abbas & the moderates in the Palestinian National Authority at the end of the Kerry Peace Initiative, the current Netanyahu Government have missed an opportunity to isolate and defeat Hamas and has now been forced to accept an agreement that does not give the residents of Southern Israel real long term security.

Because of the ceasefire agreement put in place, I fear that it will not be long there will be yet another round of the conflict will be sparked. Both Israel & Hamas will accuse the other of acting in bad faith.  Israel will be loath to allow some of the developments needed for the reconstruction of Gaza and Hamas will try to use the relaxation on the blockade to smuggle in weapons & military material.  Both will use these as a pretext to either re-impose the blockade or to restart firing rockets and before long we will be back at square 1.

I wish I could be more cheerful and hopeful for the future but until the leaders on both sides start to put the long term benefit of their citizens before their short term political needs, there will be no long term solution to bring peace & security to both the long suffering people of Gaza or the the people of Southern Israel.

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A Dark Day

Today has been a dark day in both Palestine and Israel.

In Gaza, Hamas has shown the contempt in which it holds the long-suffering residents of that small strip of land.  It is willing, more than willing, to shed the blood of the women & children of Gaza in trying to peruse its long term aims.  By recommencing, or at best allowing others to do so, the firing of rockets into Israel in pursuit of photo opportunities of Gazans killed and maimed by the retaliatory bombardment from Israel (and it is clear that there is no other reason for the rockets from Gaza)  Hamas has proved once again that it is not a defender of Palestinians but rather an enemy of allowing peaceful co-existence. Hams wants to destroy any possibility of Israel lifting the blockade and allowing the people of Gaza to benefit from trade with the outside world.

However, the reaction by the Israeli Government to a few dozen pinpricks from Hamas has, as it has been for the last 2 months since the original kidnapping & murder of the 3 Israeli teenagers, been out of all proportion to the threat Hamas poses.  I had hoped that for once wiser and more mature counsel would be listened to and Israel wouldn’t return to the behaviour of the school yard.   If the last few weeks have shown anything it is that even overwhelming force will not stop the rockets and only ends with a stronger Hamas, many dead civilians and further worsening of Israel’s standing in the world.  But no, the failed attitudes of the last 10+ years have repeated themselves and once again, Israel has given Hamas exactly what Hamas and it supporters wanted, more deaths on the streets of Gaze, more pictures of children killed or wounded.

At times, the actions of Khaled Mashaal, Binyamin Netanyahu, Mohammed Deif, Naftali Bennett and the other leaders of Hamas & the Israel Government seem to be working together to perpetuate the fighting and not to try to stop it.  On both sides, the leaders are gaining support from their own political constituency for standing up to the enemy.  Those more cynical than me might even think that they are actually co-ordinating their actions.   Neither side seem to be worried about the cost in lives that the fighting takes as long as they keep their hold on power.  Neither side seems to be concerned with actually finding a real solution that will allow the people of Gaza to rebuild, no build for the first time, a life for their family that has a future where the rockets, missiles, bombs &  destruction has no part.

As I said at the beginning, this day, Friday 8th August, has been a dark day.  What has given me hope is the work of those on both sides to bring the people of Palestine & Israel together in peace, the thousands of Israelis that have contributed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, the thoughtful considered articles on the web that show not all Palestinians & Israelis are consumed hatred of the other side (Taking the peace process into our own hands, SAVIR’S CORNER: The aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, Against the war: the movement that dare not speak its name in Israel and Israel’s fake victory are a few examples). Do not let the darkness of today extinguish the light that these people bring.

Those who cannot accept Israel, do not help Palestine

I have been clear that the actions of the current Government of Israel in Gaza are wrong, the attempts to rid Gaza of Hamas by force was always going to end up with the killing of civilians (something Hamas also knew and was prepared to accept) and likely to be counter-productive.  Nothing can excuse the way Netenyahu & other political and military leaders in Israel have the fighting start & then continue when it became clear it was not working. Israel’s security cannot be built on the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian women & children and whoever claims it will be is no friend of Israel.

Having said that, those who write long, hate-filled diatribes calling Israel’s actions in Gaza genocide & mass murder are just as extreme as any from the other side defending what Israel has done.  Many cannot even bring themselves to mention Israel so much is their hatred.. 

In 1947, Palestine was partitioned by the UN, most of the Jewish population accepted the plan the Arabs rejected it.  On the day in 1948 when the British withdrew from Palestine, the surrounding Arab countries invaded the newly independent state of Israel.  In the ensuing war the Arabs lost & Israel won. 

Yes Israel conquered some of the areas that had been assigned to the Arab state under the partition plan & yes, hundreds of thousands on Arab refugees were expelled/encouraged to leave and many of these ended up, destitute, in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan (who annexed the area now known as the Wet Bank) and in the Gaza Strip (which was occupied by Egypt).   What many of those posting against Israel don’t want to mention is that there were also refugees in the other direction, hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from/encouraged to leave the Arab countries they had lived in for generations.  Many of these Jews also ended up destitute in refugee camps, this time in the new and very poor state of Israel.  The difference between the Palestinian refugees & the Jewish refugees is that one group were left to rot in camps and dependant on charity from UNWRA and the other were absorbed by Israel into society, rehoused within just a few years and now are an Integral part of the country.

I am not going to justify Israel’s existence, there is no need, it does exist and all need to accept it, just as Israelis need to accept Palestine as a nation.  I realise the future of Israel & Palestine are linked, that Israel cannot be secure without  a free Palestine, but neither can Palestine be free without a secure Israel. 

The current round in the conflict in Gaza helps no-one.  Israel must stop and withdraw back to the 1949 armistice lines.  Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel & infiltrating squads of militants into Israel.  Only then can a plan for the reconstruction of Gaza be put in place under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority & guaranteed by the Arab League & the UN.  The blockade of Gaza must be lifted, not only to allow much needed humanitarian aid in, but also to allow Gazan goods to be traded with the rest of the world.  However Hamas must not be allowed to use this to re-arm or to use material for civilian reconstruction to rebuild tunnels.

There are two nations between the Jordan River & the Mediterranean Sea, both exist and are not going to disappear; both have justice on their side; both have the right to a free, secure homeland where children can grow free from the shadow of violent conflict. 

Those who blindly support one side or the other help neither and only help feed the conflict and condemn the area to more bloodshed, more deaths, more grieving parents burying their children.

Welcome

SAM_0825Welcome to a new home for my occasional blog about the different issues that concern me.  I don’t promise to be a regular blogger, there may be weeks between blogs or it might be just days.

The areas that interest me are (in no particular order) :

  • Politics – I am the vice-chair & Campaign Manager for Bassetlaw & Sherwood Lib Dems so it is no surprise that I have a distinctly tetchy relationship with our local MP, John Mann.  I am aslo active in the regional party and regularly attend Lib Dem Federal Conferences.
  • Fairtrade & Trade Justice- I have been involved with the Fairtrade for Bassetlaw group since it was founded in 2008 and was secretary of the group between 2009 & 2013 before steeping down and taking a brake from it while I get involved in other areas.  I am also concerned to make sure the developing world is treated fairly & that the developed countries recognise its past exploitation of other counties and help them catch up.
  • Energy – I have been a supporter of Sustainable Energy for many years and the recent rise of “Unconventional Gas Extraction”, both nationally & locally, is something I oppose.  I have helped set up the Bassetlaw Against Fracking local action group and am still involved in its activities
  • Israel/Palestine – I lived in Israel between 1978 & 1987, on Kibbutz Mishmar David & Kibbutz Harel, and served in the Israeli Army both as a conscript for 18 months and then as a reservist.  I still have family & friends in Israel and its future is one of my main concerns.  I am of the opinion that Israel can only be secure when the Palestinian people have their own state alongside it and Palestine can only exist in peace when Israel can be sure of it’s security.  I do what I can to support inter communal reconciliation between Israel & Palestine, Arab & Jew, between two peoples who both have justice & both deserve their own homeland
  • Peace – Growing out of my experiences in Israel, I also do what I can to support the Peace movement generally.  Every year for Remembrance Sunday, I wear a both a Red Poppy, to remember the fallen, & a White Poppy, to state that it should never happen again.

I should make very clear that all the views expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Lib Dems (locally or nationally) or any other group I am associated with.

I hope you like these musings and I look forward to seeing your responses.