Looking at what is happening in Britain in the context of the ongoing destruction of innocent civilians in Israel and Gaza, I am left wondering how far Rishi Sunak’s administration will go in denying the obvious truth that what is now being done to the Palestinians in Gaza is as wrong and as barbaric as what Hamas did to innocent Jews and others in southern Israel on October 7th.
Right-wing Tory print media in Britain have been demanding that pro-Palestinian street demonstrations should incur bans, arrests, and prosecutions of those who call for Intifada. The fact that demonstrators in their tens of thousands have taken to the streets to call for a halt to the slaughter of innocent people in Gaza seems to have little or no effect on the Tory leadership or their media cheerleaders.
James Cleverly, the UK’s foreign secretary, has advised supporters of Palestine to stay at home, saying: “There is no need, no necessity for people to come out. It causes distress. This is a difficult, delicate situation.”
Suella Braverman, the home secretary, has suggested that use of Palestinian flags, which she thinks may be waved legitimately “in some circumstances” may amount to hate crime in others. Any protest, she says, involving offensive placards or chants could exacerbate community relations, and the perpetrators need to be “appropriately dealt with” so that “communities feel protected”. Food for thought for those considering hate speech legislation here.
Sunak seems impervious to the damage he and others are doing to western interests by writing Netanyahu a virtual blank cheque in his dealings with Hamas and the people of Gaza. In terms of foreign policy, he appears as inept as his predecessor, Liz Truss, was on economic matters.
Hamas is a vicious, barbarous, repugnant terrorist organisation. Innocent Palestinian men, women and children have not morally or legally forfeited their lives, limbs, loved ones and homes because of what Hamas did on October 7th.
Those who leave their homes and take to British streets to protest what some western politicians justify in Gaza are not advocating terrorism; on the contrary, they demand that mass killing, maiming, terrorising, and brutalising should stop. Advice that they stay at home is grotesque.
It is plainly true, as António Guterres pointed out, that the Hamas atrocities on October 7th did not occur in a vacuum. Netanyahu’s government called for his resignation and ended facilities for UN officials saying, “it’s time to teach them a lesson”.
The Hamas mass murder and hostage taking of October 7th was in fact roundly condemned by Guterres. He rightly referred to a half century in which the Palestinian people endured suffocating occupation and saw their land “steadily devoured by settlements”.
And it is settlements policy that lies at the heart of the matter. Only extremists like Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran and others believe in the destruction of the state of Israel. But, curiously, they join forces with Netanyahu and his hard-right Zionist coalitionists in rejecting and undermining the two-state solution.
Ultimately, the Palestinian people will have to accept that the aim of entirely reversing the Nakba expulsions of Arabs in 1948 is as impossible and misconceived as the Zionist programme of settling the West Bank – or, as they call it, Samaria – is utterly illegal and wrong.
The Camp David and Oslo accords were inching towards accepting these realities. Hardline Palestinians equally rejected their outcomes.
Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli premier who sought peace, was caricatured as betraying Israel and depicted in Nazi uniform at Likud rallies before his assassination by a Zionist extremist in 1995, the year Israel evacuated its illegal settlements in Gaza.
These questions remain. How can a military operation in Gaza succeed? Now that northern Gaza is cut off, will it be pulverised in the search for Hamas in their bunkers and tunnels? Will Hamas still exist in the south of the Gaza Strip? Will southern Gaza also have to be razed? Will all those who survive be rounded up to search for Hamas members among them? Will torture techniques be used to identify and locate the entire Hamas movement? Or will finding and killing the Hamas leadership suffice? Will there be internment of Hamas detainees or mass graves?
How long will all this take? What will happen to the survivors among the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza? Who will be in charge? Who will be allowed to rebuild? When will the Israelis leave? What will they leave behind? How many of the hostages will survive the razing of Gaza and the hatred of their captors? What will happen on the West Bank?
Write your answers, please, on the back of the blank cheques that Biden, Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen so foolishly posted to Netanyahu. If you can’t answer, maybe our children will figure it out some way, some day.