…from Stuart Littlewood, Britain
First published June 10, 2021
An online petition was recently sent to the British Government demanding sanctions against Israel. It said: “The Government should introduce sanctions against Israel, including blocking all trade, and in particular arms. Its disproportionate treatment of Palestinians and settlements that are regarded by the international community as illegal are an affront to civilised society.” 385,225 signed.
The Government promises a debate on the petition on 14 June. But its response includes this statement from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office issued yesterday (my comments in italics):
The UK is firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel. Our close and varied relationship means we are able to express clearly when we disagree.
HM Government has made its position on sanctions clear. While we do not hesitate to express disagreement with Israel whenever we feel it necessary, we are firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions. We believe that open and honest discussions, rather than the imposition of sanctions or supporting anti-Israeli boycotts, best supports our efforts to help progress the peace process and achieve a negotiated solution.
• Open and honest discussion with Israel has never worked. You happily slap other nations with sanctions.
HM Government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. We consider all export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework. We continue to monitor the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and keep all licences under careful and continual review as standard.
• Clearly your risk assessments aren’t strict enough.
The UK welcomed the recent announcement of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza on 20 May, which is an important step to ending the cycle of violence and loss of civilian life.
During the Foreign Secretary’s visit to the region on 26 May he reiterated the UK’s firm commitment to the two-state solution as the best way to permanently end the occupation, deliver Palestinian self-determination and preserve Israel’s security and democratic identity. The UK will continue our intensive diplomatic efforts in the region, focussed on creating the conditions for a sustainable peace.
• The cycle of violence and loss of civilian life didn’t end after previous ceasefires. Israel continued ‘mowing the lawn’. Why are you committed to the two-state solution when you’ve allowed Israel to establish facts on the ground that make a viable Palestinian state impossible? What do you think a Palestinian state will look like when you eventually get around to recognising one?
Haven’t you yet understood that Israel doesn’t want peace until it has annexed the whole of Palestine and that your stance simply aids the Zionists’ criminal ambition? Haven’t you heard Israeli leaders repeated say they will never allow a Palestinian state? And by the way Israel has no “democratic identity”, it’s a deeply unpleasant ethnocracy.
Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK and we collaborate on issues of defence and security. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering. The UK unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and locations within Israel.
We strongly condemn these acts of terrorism by Hamas and other terrorist groups, who must permanently end their incitement and rocket fire against Israel. We are also concerned by reports that Hamas is again using civilian infrastructure and populations as cover for its military operations.
• As long as we are a strategic partner of Israel we will never be trusted in the Middle East. We have no enemies in the region, not even Iran, so why provoke hostility? And given Israel’s track record how can anyone feel comfortable swopping defence and security secrets? You persistently accuse Hamas of incitement when it is the Palestinians who are under illegal military occupation and blockade.
You complain about Hamas firing garden-shed rockets but never condemn the Israelis for bombarding tightly-lacked Gaza with devastating state of the art ordnance deliberately mis-aimed to cause horrendous slaughter of civilians. Also check the definition of terrorist and consider whether it fits the Israeli regime better than Hamas.
We are clear that all countries, including Israel, have a legitimate right to self-defence, and the right to defend their citizens from attack. In doing so, it is vital that all actions are proportionate, in line with International Humanitarian Law, and are calibrated to avoid civilian casualties.
• Israel has no comprehension of “proportionate” and no right of self defence against the people it illegally occupies, murders and dispossesses. It has never complied with international Humanitarian Law, whereas the Palestinians have every right under international law to mount an armed resistance, makeshift though it is, against the occupier.
The UK is strongly opposed to the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, just as we oppose any calls for boycotts which divide people and reduce understanding.
• It is nonsense to claim the UK as a whole is opposed to sanctions against Israel. Only self-serving supporters of the apartheid regime oppose sanctions.
The UK position on evictions, demolitions, and settlements is longstanding and clear. We oppose these activities. We urge the Government of Israel to cease its policies related to settlement expansion immediately, and instead work towards a two state solution. Settlements are illegal under international law, and present an obstacle to peace.
We want to see a contiguous West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as part of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders. Our position was reflected in our support for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and we continue to urge Israel at the highest level to halt settlement expansion immediately.
• You may well oppose these things but that’s not enough. Haven’t you noticed – the Israelis don’t give a damn? What HM Government wants to see doesn’t matter to them. Their expansion programme is unstoppable except by applying firm and effective consequences. UNSCR 2334 was adopted four and a half years ago. It says Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”.
It demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Is Israel biting its nails thinking the sky is about to fall in on them? No, it laughs in the UN’s face. What has the British government and other members of the Security Council done in that time to concentrate Israel’s mind and ensure compliance?
We advise British businesses to bear in mind the British Government’s view on the illegality of settlements under international law when considering their investments and activities in the region. Ultimately, it will be the decision of an individual or company whether to operate in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but the British Government would neither encourage nor offer support to such activity.
• Nevertheless you continually reward Israel for its crimes against humanity with favoured trading deals and special collaboration agreements.
We have also made clear our concerns about the increasing rate of demolitions and evictions of Palestinians. The UK is focused on preventing demolitions and evictions from happening in the first place through our legal aid programme, which supports Palestinians facing demolition or home eviction.
• The demolitions and evictions have been going on for 73 years. You haven’t in the least been focused on preventing them. And using UK taxpayers’ money to sustain Israel’s criminal policy is utterly gross.
As a strong friend of Israel, and one which has stood up for Israel when it faces bias and unreasonable criticism, we are continuing to urge Israel to not take steps such as these, which move us away from our shared goals of peace and security.
• Why are you “a strong friend” of this apartheid entity in the first place? You shame us all. Israel’s idea of peace and security is far removed from anyone else’s. It’s shocking to hear that you (implying we) “share” their goals.
The occupation will not end and peace will not be achieved by symbolic measures, but by real movement towards renewed peace negotiations which create a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security side-by-side with Israel.
We will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to refrain from taking actions, which make peace more difficult. And will continue to encourage further confidence building steps towards meaningful bilateral peace negotiations between the parties.
• What, more lopsided ‘negotiations’ overseen by the most dishonest broker on the planet? Are you SERIOUS? The occupation will end and peace will be achieved only when justice is done and seen to be done. International law has spoken. Now deliver it, please, instead of endless shaming us with your dangerous delusions.
The entire British Government would do well to recall George Washington’s wise words: “The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave… a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.”
Yes, “slave” fits Israel’s stooges at Westminster admirably.
9 June 2021