Jewish News reports the UK proudly announcing a new package of aid totalling £1.5 million to buy medicines and equipment for 11 hospitals in Gaza. The money will also provide services for around 4,000 people.
Live fire across the border by Israel’s snipers, slaughtering some 111 Palestinians, mostly civilians and including women and children, and wounding and maiming thousands more, shamed Britain into this latest gesture.
Middle East minister Alistair Burt made the announcement on a visit to Gaza. He said: “I am deeply concerned about the worsening situation in the Gaza Strip, and today’s UK aid package gives a message to the world, and to the people of Gaza, that we have not forgotten them or their plight.
Oh, how nice. Handing out £1.5 million of our tax money saves Burt the chore of calling the Israeli psychopaths to account. It is another cowardly subsidy to keep the illegal occupation of the Holy Land going.
Burt added: “We have been clear that a political settlement is the only way to ensure lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike. All parties must redouble their political efforts and return to the negotiating table, not only to address the deteriorating conditions in Gaza, but to ensure tragedies of the past months are not repeated.”
Why should Palestinians ‘negotiate’ for their rights and freedom? And given the Israelis’ track record could a political settlement with them ever be fair or just? Without justice there can be no lasting peace. And without law there’s no justice. So why the continual focus on ‘negotiations’ while ignoring the rule of international law?
The BMJ (British Medical Journal) recently described the horror on the ground:
“Since 2014 Israel has further tightened the passage of essential medicines and equipment into Gaza, and of the entry of doctors and experts from abroad who offer technical expertise not available locally. Gazan hospitals have been depleted of antibiotics, anaesthetic agents, painkillers, other essential drugs, disposables, and fuel to run surgical theatres. Patients die while waiting for permission to go for specialist treatment outside Gaza. All elective surgery has been cancelled since last January 2018, and 3 hospitals have closed because of medication, equipment and fuel shortages. Medical personnel have been working on reduced salaries. Gazan health professionals find it almost impossible to get Israeli permission to travel abroad to further their training.The regular episodic military assaults on Gaza and the current targeting of unarmed demonstrators are part of a pattern of periodically induced emergencies arising from Israeli policy. The cumulative effects of the impact on healthcare provision for the general population have been documented in multiple reports by NGOs, UN agencies and the WHO..This appears to be a strategy for the de-development of health and social services impinging on all the population of Gaza.
“The current systematic use of excessive force towards unarmed civilians, including children and journalists, is provoking a further crisis for the people of Gaza. Since 30 March 2018, snipers firing military grade ammunition have caused crippling wounds to unarmed demonstrators. As of 23 April 5511 Palestinians, including at least 454 children, have been injured by Israeli forces, including 1,739 from live ammunition according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. As of April 27, the death toll has reached 48 and additional hundreds wounded.”
The UK claims its aid is already providing Gazans with access to clean water and improving sanitation facilities to help stop the spread of deadly disease. So what? It does nothing to end Israel’s blockade, the day-to-day, hour-to-hour misery of economic strangulation and the helplessness of imprisonment within that tiny, overcrowded coastal strip.
Mr Burt and his Foreign Office colleagues are a large part of the problem. We’ve heard Burt many time before spouting appeasement, giving away money and urging lopsided negotiations rather than enforcing UN resolutions and international law and imposing sanctions. Seven years ago, as the new minister in charge of Middle East affairs, he was handing the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister Salam Fayyad and his boss, president Mahmoud Abbas, £17 million for their sterling work. The official reason for such largesse with our hard-earned tax money was the dynamic duo’s progress towards creating an independent, viable Palestinian state “living in peace with a secure Israel”.
Their only real achievement, however, was having turned the Occupied Territories into a police state of the most sinister kind on behalf of their Israeli puppetmasters. The gift was also a sweetener to get the Palestinian leaders back to the negotiation table. “It is critical that both sides find a way to return to talks,” said Burt. “The current impasse is of great concern and I urge all parties to take immediate steps to secure a lasting peace… We firmly believe that this should see a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is the solution which offers the best prospect of a just and sustainable peace.”
That was 2011. Where’s the peace?
“Enemies of peace will continue to use the conflict for their own purposes…”
Talk is cheap when you have no intention of following up with action. And Mr Burt was not about to transform himself into a man of action for peace. Why not? Because he’s a creature of the Israel lobby. He used to be an officer of that detestable club of Israel flag-wavers, the Conservative Friends of Israel. The Foreign Office is stuffed with them thanks to our then prime minister, David “I’m-a-Zionist” Cameron, an individual so misguided that he proclaimed: “In me you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible.” What a ridiculous commitment for a British prime minister to make to a lawless, racist entity that respects nobody’s human rights, continually defies international law and shoots children for amusement (see ‘The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force’ by surgeon David Halpin and latest reports on the use of dum-dum and other soft-nose or ‘exploding’ rounds by Israeli snipers).
It is a disgrace that the Conservatives, who weren’t given a clear mandate to govern and resorted to forming a coalition with the wimpish Liberal Democrats, chose to vomit their infatuation with the thuggish Israeli regime all over the British nation and the Arab world. They continue their nauseating behaviour to this day.
In a speech to the Board of Jewish Deputies, Burt recalled how he had worked from the age of fifteen for an MP who was a president of the Board and a founder of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and how this “had a lasting effect upon me, and on my interests in Parliament”. He said: “Israel is an important strategic partner and friend for the UK and we share a number of important shared objectives across a broad range of policy areas.”
Can anyone think of a single objective they’d wish to share with those people?
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he said that “without an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis peace in the Middle East is unobtainable”. Oblivious to the irony of his remarks, he went on: “Those who are enemies of peace will continue to use the conflict for their own purposes… We cannot allow those who want to pursue a violent agenda to succeed… We are committed to a two-state solution and we will continue to support the efforts of the US to broker a peace deal between both sides. And as an honest broker, the UK Government does not believe that economic sanctions or embargoes on Israel [are] the way to engage or to influence it.”
The “honest broker” has been happy enough to use economic sanctions to collectively punish the Gazans who are no threat to us, to punish the Iranians who are no threat to us, and even to punish the Russians who could swat us like a fly. Why so queasy about doing the same to Israel, which is a real and present danger to everyone?
I do, however, applaud Burt’s words condemning the enemies of peace who use the conflict for their own ends and his determination not to allow those who want to pursue a violent agenda to succeed. But it surely cannot have escaped his notice that Netanyahu doesn’t want peace. Land-grabbing, ethnic cleansing and other high crimes are what he does, so the jackboot of Israeli occupation stays on the Palestinians’ neck and any peace plan is treated with contempt. More to the point, no-one in the international community – and certainly not Burt – has actually told us what a two-state solution looks like. No-one, that is, since Ehud Barak made his absurd “generous offer” back in 2000.
When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993 they were ready to accept a meagre 22% of pre-partition Palestine and recognise Israel within the ‘Green Line’ borders (i.e. the 1949 Armistice Line established after the Arab-Israeli War). Conceding 78% of the land that was originally theirs was an astonishing compromise.
But it wasn’t enough for greedy Israel. Its “generous offer” demanded the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within the 22% remnant. It was obvious on the map that those settlement blocs created impossible borders and already severely disrupted Palestinian life in the West Bank. Barak also demanded the Palestinian territories be placed under “Temporary Israeli Control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control probably indefinitely. This two-state arrangement also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian State. What nation in the world would accept that? The idiotic reality of Barak’s offer was hidden by propaganda spin.
Later, at Taba, Barak produced a revised map but withdrew it after his election defeat. The ugly facts of the matter are documented and explained by organisations such as Gush Shalom, yet Israel lobby stooges in the UK government continue to peddle the lie that Israel offered the Palestinians a “generous” peace on a plate.
In lockstep with Netanyahu’s crazed ambitions?
Since then, Netanyahu has made it clear several times that Israel will not voluntarily give up any land it illegally occupies to a Palestinian state. “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. … This is the inheritance of our ancestors. This is our land.” So says an intruder who, like most of his unpleasant colleagues, actually has no ancestral links to ancient Israel. The Israeli regime occasionally gives the impression of going along with talks for propaganda reasons but will always ensure they go nowhere. Look at its track record.
Meanwhile Burt and others are still busy promoting the fantasy of a peace process that’s just around the corner. Why? Are they in lockstep with Netanyahu to prolong the conflict in order to buy more time to steal more territory? Or perhaps they need help in spotting the patently obvious: that the peace process is dead, belly-up, a write-off…. and has been for 20 years.
The Jewish Chronicle was ecstatic about Burt’s appointment as a Foreign Office minister, which it said sent “as clear a message as possible about the direction of the new [Conservative] government in the region. Mr Burt is listed as an officer in the parliamentary group of Conservative Friends of Israel and has been passionate in campaigning for visiting rights to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for the past four years…”
Funny how Burt was so concerned for Shalit, a trained killer whose capture and detention he called “outrageous” while ignoring the thousands of Palestinian civilians (including women and children) abducted from their homes and left to rot in Israeli jails without trial.
And his stance on Palestinian independence has always been nonsensical. I remember Burt saying that we would not recognise a Palestinian state unless it emerged from a peace deal with Israel. London “could not recognise a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders.” He’d been talking earlier about a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Why had he suddenly lost the plot? And where does he suppose Israel’s borders are? Is Israel ever within them? Where does he think Israel’s capital is? And where does Israel claim it to be? In other words, is Israel where Israel ought to be? If not, how can he possibly recognise it let alone align himself with it?
“We are looking forward to recognising a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements…” Israel’s illegal settlements are classed as war crimes. Since when did Her Majesty’s Government approve of negotiating with perpetrators of such crimes? Besides, the Holy Land’s status was ruled on long ago. International law has spoken. But instead of enforcing law and upholding justice Mr Burt and his Government chums still push for more discredited, lopsided talks. He was one-time president of the Oxford Law Society and graduated with a law degree but he shows remarkably little regard for international legal process these days.
And where does Burt suppose the Palestinians’ offshore boundaries run in regard to the huge reserves of marine gas and oil in the Levantine Basin? Israel wants the lot and the question for many years has been: will Gaza ever get a whiff of its own gas? What does Mr Burt, wearing the British government’s “honest broker” hat, say?
Don’t be surprised at the answer. Burt is or was a political adviser to the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative foreign policy think tank. Signatories and patrons include Richard Perle, William Kristol, Ambassador Dore Gold (former foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel), Natan Sharansky (chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel), Denis MacShane, David Trimble (founder member of the Friends of Israel Initiative), Robert Halfon MP (former political director, Conservative Friends of Israel) and Stephen Pollard (editor, The Jewish Chronicle).
After working on jet fighters in the RAF Stuart became an industrial marketing specialist with manufacturing companies and consultancy firms. He also “indulged himself” as a newspaper columnist. In politics, he served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor and member of the Police Authority. Now retired he campaigns on various issues and contributes to several online news & opinion sites. With a lifelong passion for photography, he has produced two photo-documentary books, one of which can be read online at www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.