Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

Clegg’s Clear Stance on Gaza

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 26th December, 2009

Tomorrow human rights activists around the world will be commemorating — but certainly not celebrating — the first anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against the population of Gaza. As was made clear in the report by Judge Richard Goldstone and his UN team, there is sufficient evidence to warrant investigations into both the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas on charges of war crimes. Several senior Israeli politicians amd military leaders are theoretically at risk of being arrested when they traval abroad, though many Western governments have reassured them that they will in fact be safe from prosecution. Just as Israel has consistently violated the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international law — not least by the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the systematic judaisation of East Jerusalem — without any effective international sanction. The British government has been shameful in its relative silence, mouthing token protests at settlement activity, for example, without doing anything pratical to bring Israel to heel — including putting pressure on Washington. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu got a noticeably warm welcome from Gordon Brown when he visited 10 Downing Street a while back.

There is only one mainstream British political party, the Liberal Democrats (and only one party leader, Nick Clegg).  that can hold its head up high on the Palestinian issue, not only for endorsing the Goldstone Report but also for reminding the British electorate of the ongoing suffering in Gaza as well as in the Occupied Territories. The LibDems have rightly condemned Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli communities and other forms of terror activity. But that does not justify the treatment the Palestinian civilian population is still receiving at the hands of the Israeli Defense Force and some militant Jewish settlers. The most urgent priority now is for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, so people there can regain some sort of normality in their lives. Nick Clegg made a clear and brave statement about that in an article in The Guardian earlier this week. So, tomorrow mourn for the victims of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, on both sides of the divide. And stand up for the right of the Palestinians to be treated as dignified human beings.

Link: www.ldfp.eu

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Israel Is Stupid to Rubbish Richard Goldstone

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 18th September, 2009

Richard GoldstoneThe Israeli government has blown a giant raspberry at the UN report into the hostilities in and around Gaza earlier this year, in which an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died. The 575-page document was put together by a small team headed by the eminent South African judge Richard Goldstone. The Israeli authorities refused to allow the team into Israel or the occupied West Bank to carry out their work, but the investigators did go to Gaza and interviewed Israelis in Geneva (the UN’s European headquarters). Israel’s excuse for not cooperating with the investigation was that it was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council which, Tel Aviv says, is biased against it. To mark the appearance of the report, Israeli embassies round the world put out a strong press release rubbishing it (and Judge Goldstone).

Gilad ShalitThey should not have done. The report bends over backwards to be impartial. It slams Gaza’s Hamas rulers — rightly — for the rocket attacks on Israel which did not distinguish between military and vivilian targets, caused terror among Israeli citizens and therefore ‘would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.’ Similarly, the report rebukes Gaza’s security forces for carrying out extraditional executions and the arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment of political opponents. It also calls for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in captivity for over three years and who should, the report argues, be released on humanitarian grounds.

Gaza conflictAlas, the Israeli government has chosen instead to smart at the stern reproaches the report gives over Israel’s conduct of the Gaza offensive, which it describes as a ‘deliberately disproportionate attack, designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population.’ It says that Israeli troops used Palestinians as human shields — a war crime — and that Israeli forces committed ‘grave breaches of the fourth Geneva Convention, which gave rise to ‘individual criminal responsiblity.’ In other words, individual soldiers could find themselves the subject of prosecuton. Moreover, the Golstone team opined, Israels’ blockade of Gaza in the years before the hostilities amounted to intentional collective punishment. And Israeli actions depriving Gazans of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, as wellas denying their freedom of movement, ‘could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, had been committed.’

These are grave charges, but justified ones. The question now is whether the international community — including Britain and other EU member states — is prepared not just to acknowledge this but to enforce the loigcal consequences — in other words the arrest of certain individuals when they are travelling, and/or appropriate sanctions. In the meantnime, the Israeli propaganda machine is doing everything it can to denigrate Judge Goldstone, a man of immense integrity and experience. The irony is that Richard Goldstone is Jewish and has always considered himself to be a friend of Israel. But this is Israeli government, like its predecessor, has an uncany knack of alienating its friends.

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Avigdor Lieberman Needs to Be Slapped Down

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 11th August, 2009

Avigdor_LiebermanThe Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has reportedly reprimanded his country’s Consul General in Boston, Nadav Tamir, for sending an internal memo highlighting how Israel’s refusal to halt settlement growth in the Occupied West Bank is harming US-Israel relations and causing strategic damage to Israel. This is yet one more indication of how totally unsuited Lieberman is for his job. Nadav Tamir should be congratulated for telling the truth. What good are diplomatic memos if they don’t? Binyamin Netanyahu was always taking a risk by giving Lieberman the plum Foreign Ministry, as the price for taking him and his ghastly racist Yisrael Beiteinu party into the governing coalition, but that was a risk Netanyahu thought worth taking in order to hold power. Besides, as Israel has been allowed by successive US administrations to get away with murder in its policies towards the Palestinians for over 60 years, the government in Tel Aviv probably assumes it can carry on with impunity building new homes for Jewish settlers on land in the Palestinian territories in violation of international law, as well as demolishing Arab homes in East Jerusalem as part of the ongoing programme to totally judaize the Holy City.

It is time for Washington and its allies — including Britain and the European Union — to take firm action to show that this intransigence by Israel and the arrogance on the part of Netanyahu’s government are completely unacceptable. The EU-Israel association agreement should be suspended with immediate effect and the Americans should stop underwriting Israel’s budget until there is not only a halt to new settlement building but also the beginning of the forced withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank, starting with Hebron (where a small group of radical settlers is terrorizing the Palestinian inhabitants, while being protected by the Israeli army). As for Lieberman himself, it is up to the Israeli courts to decide whether the corruption allegations against him have any foundation. My objection to him is purely political. He is totally unfit to be the Foreign Minister of a country that claims to be a progressive democracy. And he and his ilk seem determined to lead Israel blindly down the road to perdition.

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Ahmadinejad Harms the Palestinian Cause

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st April, 2009

mahmoud-ahmadinejadThe Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, looked smugly satisfied when British and other Western delegates to the UN anti-racism conference in Geneva walked out yesterday, once he started his anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rant. While his uncompromising words — including yet another questioning of the reality of the Holocaust — may have played to a certain radical gallery, they were disastrous for the Palestinian cause. As a result of his intervention, once again Israel and Jews worldwide can portray themselves as victims, whose very existence is threatened by Iran. The Palestinian issue, which the Iranian leader was supposedly highlighting, was effectively sidelined, as so often is the case.

There are many reasons to criticse Israeli policy; I do so often myself. There was no justification for the sickening scale of the assault on Gaza earlier this year, for example. But to couch such criticism in terms that play into the hands of those who cry ‘anti-semitism’ anytime Israel is scrutinised is counter-productive. Far from helping the Palestinian cause and their just struggle for dignity, freedom and statehood, Ahmadinejad has put it back. And he has persuaded the rational world — if it wasn’t persuaded already — that he is anti-semitic himself. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was right to attack the speech as contrary to the very purpose and spirit of the conference. Maybe Ahmadenijad thinks his display of arrogance will improve his chances of being re-elected in the forthcoming presidential elections back home. But actually he has damaged the reputation of Iran, as well as doing the Palestinians a disservice.

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Petitioning for the Palestinians

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 4th March, 2009

jf-and-ajmal-masroor-at-fco     This afternoon I was at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with Ajmal Masroor, LibDem prospective parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow, with a petition from Tower Hamlets residents calling on the British government to be more proactive in promoting peace and justice in the Middle East. If I had been able to bend Gordon Brown’s ear before he went off to Washington for his parley with Barack Obama, I would have urged him to try to get the US President to commit himself to work with the EU not only to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip but also to guarantee the creation of a viable Palestinian state and its security, just as Israel, within its proper boundaries, should have a guarantee of peace and security. For too long, the United States, with various European countries in its wake, has pursued a one-sided policy in the region, which far from helping the cause of peace, has actually hindered it. Even if Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair are not exactly the ideal sort of people I wuold have chosen to be handling the relevant dossiers, George Mitchell is a step in the right direction. And other players, such as the Arab league, need to be brought into the picture.

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What Next for the Palestinians?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th February, 2009

Anyone who feared that current economic difficulties might have diverted people’s attention away from international questions would have been disabused by the healthy turnout at Thursday night’s Pizza and Politics at La Forchetta in Bethnal Green, hosted by Tower Hamlets LibDems, when the Bethnal Green and Bow PPC Ajmal Masroor and I spoke on prospects for peace in the Middle East. Things have not gone well for the Palestinians in 2009, what with the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and the subsequent swing to the right in the Israeli elections, though maybe the picture is not entirely negative. The election of Barack Obama injects at least a modicum of hope that Washington might be less of an uncriticial benefactor for Tel Aviv and that the new President will create a completely new atmosphere in US relations with the region. I also pointed out in my remarks that although the idea of Bibi Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister is depressing, past evidence has sometimes shown that hawks are more effective at making peace concessions than doves. But the main thrust of my contribution was that the EU must assert its soft power in the Middle East in a more united and effective way than it has done so far, using both carrot and stick. All parties to the conflict have to be made to recognise that only a lasting, negotiated settlement that respects the human rights and security of all the region’s peoples can bring an end to decades of suffering.

Link: www.tower-hamlets-libdems.org.uk

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The BBC’s Gaza Gaffe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 25th January, 2009

The BBC’s outrageous decision to bar the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)* from broadcasting an Appeal for the people of Gaza is another nail in the coffin of the organisation’s credibiity and international standing. Moreover, it breaches the corporation’s own guidelines about emergency appeals, namely:

1) the disaster must be on such a scale and of such emergency as to call for swift international humanitarian assistance;

2) the DEC agencies (or some of them) must be in a position to provide effective and swift humanitarian assistance at a scale to justify a national appeal.

3) there must be sufficient public awareness, and sympathy for the humanitarian situation as to give reasonable grounds for concluding that a public Appeal would be successful. 

Having myself been on a London march in which tens of thousands of people were calling for an end to the recent  bloody onslaught on Gaza, I have no doubt of the strength of public opinion regarding the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza now that hostilities have ended. The BBC management’s excuse that somehow there would be a conflict of interest because of the graphic images of dead and wounded children and other victims shown as recent news itelms is, frankly, bollocks. I first became concerned about international affairs and humanitarian fundraising during the Biafra conflict in the late 1960s, when TV film footage of starving children there had a powerful role in raising public awareness in Britain and boosting funds sent to charities.

The BBC should immediately reverse its ignoble decision not to screen the DEC Appeal for Gaza and the people within the Corporation who were ultimately responsible should seriously consider resigning,  if the BBC is to salvage its ever more battered reputation.

Polite messages of protest to the BBC can be sent via the link below.

* The Disasters Emergency Committee groups the 13 largest overseas aid agencies in Britain, such as the British Red Cross, Christian Aid and Oxfam

Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

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