Archive | November 1st, 2016

When Sanctions Are More Appalling than the Atrocities of Aleppo

Adelina Marini, Brussels

The war in Syria starts reminding more and more of the post-war situation at the beginning of the 20th century when the half-destroyed world matured to the need of global institutions, which could prevent armed conflicts through dialogue between warring parties and could take care of respecting human rights and international law. At the beginning of the 21st century this need is just as pressing, although we already do have such institutions. Thus the need to reaffirm the consensus that they really are the best solution that the world has. At the moment, Syria is in the epicentre of a clash between different global powers for influence in the Middle East. The site of Russia’s development of the new version of the 20-th century confrontation – Cold War 2.0.

The devastation of the Second World War laid the foundations of the European Union, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. As euinside reported back then, it got it for the past, the present, and the future, for it was expected to enforce its modus vivendi every time that the threat of devastation appeared in its immediate neighbourhood and beyond. It is exactly in this most important role that the EU has failed last week, when it was expected that following an unprecedented sharp tone by the Union’s foreign ministers in denouncing what is happening in Aleppo and pointing the finger at the two culprits – the Syrian regime and Russia – leaders of member states were going to turn that tone into specific actions, which would lead to ending the bloodshed and war crimes there.

The very least the Union could do was implementing new sanctions towards Moscow. Something that many member states had matured to, who are otherwise critical towards the regime of sanctions against the Kremlin, including Bulgaria. A decision was never reached, however, largely due to Italian PM Matteo Renzi, who believes that sanctions will not solve the problem. Leaders did not waste words in condemning what is going on in Syria with some of them claiming it was their idea to have the discussion on the first day of the October EU summit. British PM Theresa May, who had this summit as her first since she stepped into office, stated prior to the summit start that there should be continued pressure over Russia to put an end to its “appalling atrocities, its sickening atrocities in Syria”.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, too, held back no words and even stated that he supported new sanctions against Russia, despite the high price he is going to pay, due to Bulgaria’s energy fiefdom to Russia. “You know what, I have always said that sanctions are bad for business, the economy, agriculture, anything at all. There is, however, something more important than profits or business, or economic interest – that is human lives. Those are the values, which the EU and all of us respect. […] In this case, what is happening in Aleppo is inadmissible.  If sanctions are severe enough to bring everyone back at the negotiations table, then I would approve wholeheartedly. So, what is currently happening in Aleppo is inadmissible and needs to be stopped by Russia. With all due respect, I realise what I am causing myself, for we are in the middle of negotiations – you know the legacy we received in the energy sector – but more important than that are the values and we will protect them to the end”, he said before the start of the European Council.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny also directly advocated for sanctions against Russia. While leaders were gathering for a busy meeting, European Council President Donald Tusk (Poland, EPP) dropped the word “sanctions”, although there was no specific proposal tabled. “Today is not about decisions but I want to underline that the EU should keep all options open, including sanctions if their crimes continue”. Of a different opinion, however, was the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats), whose position sided with the one of the Italian prime minister. “The issue of sanctions on Russia, related to Syria, is not an issue for discussion or for decision today as it was not for the foreign ministers 3 days ago in Luxembourg [17 October]. Obviously all options are always open, but today work of the EU is focusing first on bringing humanitarian aid in Aleppo, saving lives and making sure that the diplomatic channel maintains the ceasefire as long as we manage to reach the wounded, the people that are dying on the ground and create political space for a solution of the crisis”, said Mrs Mogherini.      .

A call for levying sanctions against Russia came from the European Parliament as well. On the initiative of the Liberals group a letter was sent, supported by the leader of the EPP group, Manfred Weber (Germany), and by the leader of the Greens and the European Free Alliance, Rebecca Harms (Germany), which calls for stricter sanctions. “The indiscriminate use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs against civilians in Aleppo must end. The EU needs concrete leverage to stop Russian war crimes in Syria and a tougher sanctions regime targeting Putin and his inner circle is the most efficient way to achieve this in the short term”, says the letter, initiated by the president of the Liberals group, Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium).

An accent on Syria and Russia was also placed by EP boss Martin Schulz (Socialists and Democrats, Germany), who also calls for sanctions. “In Syria as well as in Ukraine, Russia is the one maintaining the painful status quo. It is Russia which is challenging the global security architecture and the established principles of international law”. Using the fact that the subject of Russia in the meeting’s agenda was broad, not just about Syria, Martin Schulz reminded that when speaking about the relations between the EU and Russia one should not overlook the propagandists and President Putin’s fans, populists on both sides of the ocean.

After a long and emotional discussion the European Council produced a text, which surely caused disappointment among those suffering in Syria, looked pathetic in the eyes of strategic allies of the EU, like the US and Canada, and probably caused smirking in the Kremlin and Damascus. The conclusions have several sentences dedicated on Syria, in which the Council denounces the attacks in Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its allies, “especially Russia” and calls them to end the atrocities and ensure humanitarian access. The Council also calls that all responsible for the violation of international humanitarian law and human rights be held accountable. And the threat at the end: “The EU is considering all available options, should the current atrocities continue”.

Neither the first, nor the second day made it clear how long will the EU continue to tolerate that, which it is so appalled by. And how much longer will it avoid the use of the word “sanctions” in its official documents, in which it denounces the crimes in Aleppo. At the press conference of the night of October 22nd, even the otherwise quite direct Donald Tusk did not mention the word “sanctions” in his statement, which was considerably softer than the one before the summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also avoided using the word, although she did admit that she was ready to back sanctions. François Hollande was cautious, stating that all options were at the table, but first of all sanctions need to be imposed on the Syrian regime.

The Irish prime minister announced that the discussion was quite emotional. It is quite clear that we are dealing with a violation of international law, he said and repeated several times that attacks on hospitals is a war crime. Differing from the rest of the leaders, Mr Kenny did not hide that it was Matteo Renzi who did not support the text of the draft conclusions. The debate over the few sentences was quite strong and emotional at times, he said. Many stressed that there are positions, which are simply inadmissible. Bombing hospitals, intentional bombing of humanitarian convoys, lack of protection for the lives of civilians are violations of international law, he stressed.

“It’s perfectly clear now that the Assad regime has to depend upon air power from Russia and Iranian security and Iranian forces and Hezbollah for others. But it now has gone so far that from president Putin’s point of view they have to maintain the Assad regime as an entity. Otherwise, Syria breaks up. This is very serious and is so sad in this day and age in 2016”, added the Irish prime minister. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfvenand and Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström published a joint position on October 16, in which they state that Russia is responsible not only for its actions on the ground in Syria, but also because it has the strongest influence over the Syrian regime.

The leaders were sharply criticised during the debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday morning when the presidents of the European Council Donald Tusk and the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP) reported on the results of last week’s summit. The leader of the EPP group in the EP Manfred Weber (Germany) stated that with their decision leaders have practically accepted war as a legitimate tool for achieving goals. “The Council was supposed to give an answer to this, but this has been a very weak response. We have been discounting the possibility of instruments that we should use”, he said and added that the language of force is the only one that Putin understands. The boss of Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pittella (Italy), noted that nothing was done on the Syria subject at the summit. “The silence of the European Council is deafening”, he concluded.

Not less critical was the leader of the group of European Conservatives and Reformists Syed Kamall (Great Britain). “Economic sanctions are beginning to have an effect on Russia – but not nearly enough. Yet, even at this point, leaders could not agree to go further. Now we see one EU country, Spain, offering to refuel that same Russian fleet that is likely to inflict more atrocities on the civilians of Aleppo. What kind of signal does that send about our resolve? We needed a summit of action, a summit of clarity, we needed a summit of decisiveness. Yet again, this is not what we got”, said the MEP.

According to Pavel Telička (Czech Republic, ALDE), the text about Russia surely made Russians laugh. “I guess even a few hours after the Council meeting we can see that we made a mistake, and that our policy does not work. It is costing lives and it is not getting us any closer to a solution”, stated Luděk Niedermayer (EPP, Czech Republic). At the end of the debate, President Tusk said that he supported during the meeting those who had the strongest positions on the role of Russia in Syria. He thanked Guy Verhofstadt, Manfred Weber, and Rebecca Harms for their letter. “It was a real support for me”.

Russia – the destroyer of the EU?

Syria was not the only context discussed during the summit last week. The subject was raised of Russia’s role in the EU, the disinformation campaign, its interference in the Balkans. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, for whom this summit was also a début, like for Theresa May, stated that Russia’s influence on countries in the Croatian neighbourhood is obvious in many aspects, varying from political-historic relations to economic and energy interests, connections with political parties, and even military cooperation. He is firmly convinced that the more the EU hesitates in its policy of enlargement, the greater the space being opened for Russia’s influence.

According to Donald Tusk, the “menu” of the discussion on Russia included also cyber-attacks, interference in the political process in the EU and elsewhere, violations of airspace and the investigation of the taking down of flight MH17, where dozens lost their lives. Tusk portrayed the discussion as “a sober assessment of this reality, and no illusions” and reminded MEPs that the purpose of the EU is not to quarrel with Russia, but to find a mechanism which works. This, however, could not be at the expense of European values and interests.

For the first time Russia appears as a standalone subject in the programme of a summit since 2009, when it was included in the leaders’ agenda because of the gas crisis of that same year. After that it has been discussed on several occasions in the context of the Union’s energy policy and following the annexation of Crimea. The October summit, however, was the first one during which there was talk about relations with Russia in principle. The goal was to draft all possible aspects, so that a more thorough discussion can be held in December about relations with this state. So far, however, it looks like the EU can just be soft and too soft at that towards an ever further radicalising Russia. Thus, the EU is betraying its principles and even the very motives for its formation.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Does Kremlin Finally Have a Man in Croatia?

Adelina Marini

There numerous subjects in today’s press in the countries of former Yugoslavia, but the most important ones seem to me to be the first foreign visit of the new Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (to Bosnia and Herzegovina, of course), the ongoing Serbian drama around the Belgrade-Priština dialogue, and the spy novel, starring Russia. Let us begin with the fact that Moscow’s attention is now directed at the new political star of Croatia Ivan Pernar – leader of the anti-European and anti-NATO party Live Wall, which managed to secure eight seats in the September 11 snap parliamentary elections. Not a day goes by without having the vocal MP cause outrage in Croatian public domain, but this week he managed to draw the attention of Kremlin-sponsored Russian media as well.

Jutarnji listreports that due to his anti-globalist, anti-NATO, and anti-EU positions, Ivan Pernar is now interesting to the Russian Sputnik agency, which is known by its content to be a main conductor of the policies of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. Due to his performances, Ivan Pernar got invited for an interview by Sputnik, in which he stated that Brussels is nervous because there are people, who question EU bureaucrats’ fairy-tale of a better life in the EU, as well as the so called peace and stability, which NATO ensures. “Their alliance destroyed and diminished national freedoms and sovereignty instead of protecting them. NATO supports the destruction of legitimate governments through bombardment, instead of advocating for democracy”, said Pernar in the interview.

And more: “If it was not for Russia, no one would have stood against this. The USA would have been able to bomb and destroy any state, which does not serve their interests”, further said Pernar, quoted by JutarnjiAccording toVecernji list, ever since he entered Parliament, Ivan Pernar has turned into one of the most famous politicians both in the country and abroad. The newspaper reports that Pernar gave an interview to the Russian Sputnik agency, in which he spoke of NATO, Russia, and the USA, qualifying NATO as “a threat to the entire world, just like Germany under Hitler”. Leftist-oriented website Index chose a different accent on Ivan Pernar. The website reports, that MP Grozdana Perić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party has complained that she is tired of listening to Pernar.

This enraged the former leader of Live Wall Ivan-Vilibor Sinčić, who replied through his Facebook profile. “Well, we have had to listen to you for 25 long years. For 25 long years you polluted us with lies, demagoguery, gibberish. 25 long years of your stealing, looting, destruction. What more do you have to tell us that you did not have the opportunity to in these 25 years? […] Now is the time for us to speak. Now is the time for our country’s policy to begin to be created by some new kids”, says in Sinčić’s posting.

Dayton must be upgraded

On the other hand, the leading piece of news in Croatia, but in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well, is the first visit abroad of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. Most media quote his interview for the Croatian Vecernji list, in which he says that the first and key foreign policy priority of the new government is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European path and also the equal status of Croats as one of the three constitutional peoples of the country. In his interview for Vecernji, Mr Plenković is far more cautious by backing President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s position that the Dayton peace agreement needs to be amended, but underlines that this needs to be a decision of the political players in BiH. “The key is in their consensus, which I am convinced is possible and could receive strong support from the international community”.

Plenković also gave an interview for one of the most circulated Bosnian newspapers Dnevni avaz, which is placed on the title page. The newspaper introduces the Croatian PM as “the person seen as the new leader of the region”. In this interview, Plenković is far more specific in talking about membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina in NATO and also about Russia’s influence. On the first subject the former MEP reminds that back in 2010 a decision was made at the NATO summit in Tallinn that BiH will be invited to the Membership Action Plan. This plan, however, could not be activated until all 63 properties of the former Yugoslav Peoples’ Army (JNA) are registered as assets of the BiH Ministry of Defence, which has not yet been done. Andrej Plenković believes that it would be a historic injustice for BiH to remain in the periphery of South-Eastern European countries.

In the Avaz interview Plenković says that it is time for leaders in BiH to begin talks of a constitutional reform and that the stage has arrived, where it is necessary to reform the Dayton peace agreement. Regarding Russia, Plenković says that the more indecisive the EU is in implementing the policy of enlargement towards the European neighbourhood, the larger space will be opened for closer relations of the region with Russia.

A scandal between Russia and Serbia?

Blicquotes Russian media, according to which there is an unprecedented scandal in relations between Moscow and Belgrade. It is exactly the resolution of these problems, which was the main goal of the visit of Russia’s number one intelligence officer Nikolai Patrushev to Belgrade on Wednesday. Commersantcomments on Danas’s Thursday discovery that several Russian nationals were deported from Serbia for their participation in the preparation of terrorist actions in Podgorica and that this information was not disproved by anyone. According to the front page of Blic, Patrushev left, accompanied by the espionage suspects. The headline of Politika is that Serbia is positioned in between foreign agencies. The newspaper disproves allegations that Mr Patrushev came to Serbia in an emergency.

The daily recalls that all the way back on October 10 it quoted the Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Chepurin that such a visit is scheduled. “The calendar of visits, announced and long prepared, disproves all the speculations that Patrushev arrived by surprise and in a hurry to Belgrade to resolve hot issues, like the Montenegro case for example, as well as the idea that the signing of a memorandum is just a smokescreen”, reports Politika.

Regarding this spy affair, in a commentary for the most circulated daily newspaper in Montenegro – Vijesti – Dragoslav Dedović criticises the already legendary press conference of Aleksandar Vučić, from which the aforementioned affair broke. “It could be said that Vučić, in his cautious ‘not East, nor West’ rhetoric is a worthy successor to Tito’s detached balance act on the Cold war wire. In any case, one could conclude from the chaotic statement in front of journalists, that we are talking about a Western agency. And here you have Montenegro. Someone has been tracking Milo Đukanović every day. ‘There is no way this was done by those down there, who were apprehended, which is something I am in no position to comment’, said Vučić. Meaning it is not them, but someone else. Who, then? ‘Very serious people’. Who? ‘Criminal organisations with foreign elements’ was the reply of Vučić. Whatever that means. Simply, Milo caught the wrong people for the right thing. Because, however, there are no politicians from Montenegro or Serbia in these gangs, it turns out that word is of criminal gangs with foreign elements, who have helped Milo stay in power anyways, because danger for him and Montenegro was real, but the adversary, presented to the Montenegro society, was a fake one”, writes Dragoslav Dedović in his commentary.

The Belgrade-Priština dialogue

Today’s headline of Danas states that it is not Kosovo, but Russia that is the main obstacle for the opening of new chapters in the negotiation process of Serbia with the EU. According to the newspaper’s diplomatic sources the delay in this process is due to the stalling of the reforms process, which has slowed down perceptibly since the new government’s term commenced. The newspaper quotes MEP Franc Bogovič (EPP, Slovenia), who believes that Serbia is uselessly wasting too much time after the huge amount of effort it has dedicated. The headline of Vecernje novosti in turn transfers the blame fully on the Albanians. The newspaper runs an interview with President Tomislav Nikolič, who believes that Albanians are using the negotiations with Serbia to squeeze out more rights and if this does not work, through negotiations they are trying to gain acceptance and membership to organisations, which are supposed to be organisations of states. According to Nikolič, the crossing of a red line is approaching.

Serbian state television RTS quotes an interview by Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi for the Austrian Die Presse, in which he says that facts about the Belgrade-Priština dialogue are presented to be worse than they actually are. He is convinced that both sides will soon reach the point where they will again be able to negotiate normally.

The TV channel also reports on the meeting of PM Aleksandar Vučić with the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague Serge Brammertz who again criticised Serbia for failing to hand over the Serb radicals wanted by the Tribunal – Petar Jojić, Jovo Ostojić, and Vjerica Radeta.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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The Israeli Trumpess: Miri Regev

Miri Regev

By Uri Avnery

What will Donald Trump do if he loses the elections in a week and a half from now, as most polls indicate?

He has already declared that he will recognise the results – but only if he wins.

That sounds like a joke. But it is far from being a joke.

Trump has already announced that the election is rigged. The dead are voting (and all the dead vote for Hillary Clinton). The polling station committees are corrupt. The polling machines forge the results.

No, that is not a joke. Not at all.

This is not a joke, because Trump represents tens of millions of Americans who belong to the lower strata of the white population, which the white elite used to call “white trash”. In more polite language they are called “blue collar workers”, meaning manual workers, unlike the “white collar workers” who occupy the offices.

If the tens of millions of blue collar voters refuse to recognise the election results, American democracy will be in danger. The United States may become a banana republic, like some of its southern neighbours, which have never enjoyed a stable democracy.

This problem exists in all modern states with a sizeable national minority. The lowest strata of the ruling people hates the minority. Members of the minority push them out of the lower jobs. And more importantly: the lower strata of the ruling majority have nothing to be proud of except for their belonging to the ruling people.

The German unemployed voted for Adolf Hitler, who promoted them to the Herrenvolk (master people) and the Aryan race. They gave him power, and Germany was razed to the ground.

The one and only Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is a bad system, but that all the other systems tried were worse.

From Joe McCarthy to Martin Luther King – and back?

As far as democracy is concerned, the United States was a model for the world. Already in its early days it attracted freedom lovers everywhere. Almost 200 years ago, the French thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote a glowing report about the Democratie en Amerique.

My generation grew up in admiration of American democracy. We saw European democracy breaking down and sinking into the morass of fascism. We admired this young America, which saved Europe in two world wars, out of sheer idealism. The democratic America vanquished German Nazism and Japanese militarism, and later Soviet Bolshevism.

… here come this man, Donald Trump, and tries to rip apart the delicate ties that bind American society together. He incites men against women, whites against blacks and hispanics, the rich against the destitute. He sows mutual hatred everywhere.

Our childish attitude gave way to a more mature view. We learned about the genocide of the native Americans and about slavery. We saw how America is seized from time to time by an attack of craziness, such as the witch hunt of Salem and the era of Joe McCarthy, who discovered a communist under every bed.

But we also saw Martin Luther King, we saw the first black president, and now we are probably about to see the first female president. All because of this miracle: American democracy.

And here come this man, Donald Trump, and tries to rip apart the delicate ties that bind American society together. He incites men against women, whites against blacks and hispanics, the rich against the destitute. He sows mutual hatred everywhere.

Perhaps the American people will get rid of this plague and send Trump back where he came from – television. Perhaps Trump will disappear like a bad dream, as did McCarthy and his spiritual forefathers.

Let’s hope. But there is also the opposite possibility: that Trump will cause a disaster never seen before: the downfall of democracy, the destruction of national cohesion, the breaking up into a thousand splinters.

Miri Regev, the Israeli “Trumpess”

Can this happen in Israel? Do we have in Israel a phenomenon that can be compared to the ascent of the American Trump? Is there an Israeli Trump?

Indeed, there is. But the Israeli Trump is a Trumpess.

She is called Miri Regev.

She resembles the original Trump in many ways. She challenges the Tel Aviv “old elites” as Trump incites against Washington. She incites Jewish citizens against Arab citizens. Orientals of eastern descent against Ashkenazis of European descent. The uncultured against the cultured. The poor against all others. She tears apart the delicate ties of Israeli society.

She is not the only one of her kind, of course. But she overshadows all the others.

After the elections for the 20th Knesset, in March 2015, and the setting-up of the new government, Israel was overrun by a band of far-right politicians, like a pack of hungry wolves. Men and women without charm, without dignity, possessed by a ravenous hunger for power, for conspicuousness at any price, people out for their own personal interest and for nothing else. They compete with each other in the hunt for headlines and provocative actions.

… She incites Jewish citizens against Arab citizens. Orientals of eastern descent against Ashkenazis of European descent. The uncultured against the cultured. The poor against all others. She tears apart the delicate ties of Israeli society.

At the starting line they were all equal – ambitious, unlikable, uninhibited. But gradually Miri Regev overtakes all the others. All they can do, she can do better. For every headline grabbed by another, she can grab five. For every condemnation of another in the media, she gets ten.

Binyamin Netanyahu is a dwarf, but compared to this bunch he is a giant. In order to remain so, he appointed each of them to the job he or she is most unsuited for. Miri Regev, a rude, vulgar, primitive person became minister of culture and sports.

Regev, 51, is a good looking woman, daughter of immigrants from Morocco. She was born as Miri Siboni in Kiryat-Gat, a place for which I have deep feelings, because it was there that I was wounded in 1948. Then it was still an Arab village called Irak-al-Nabshiyeh, and my life was saved by four soldiers, one of whom was called Siboni (no connection).

For many years, Regev served in the army as a public relations officer, rising to the rank of colonel. It seems that one day she decided to do public relations for herself, rather than for others.

Since her first day as minister of culture she has supplied the media with a steady stream of scandals and provocations. Thus, she gradually overtakes all her competitors in the Likud leadership. They just cannot compete with her energy and inventiveness.

She declared proudly that she sees her job as the elimination of all anti-Likud people from the cultural arena – after all, “that’s what the Likud was elected for”.

Uncultured revolution

All over the world, governments subsidise cultural institutions and creative people, convinced that culture is a vital national asset. When Charles de Gaulle was the president of France, he was once approached by his police chiefs with the request to issue an arrest warrant for the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, because of his support for the Algerian freedom fighters. De Gaulle refused and said: “Sartre too is France!”

Well, Regev is no de Gaulle. She threatens to withdraw government subsidies from any institution that publicly opposes the policy of the right-wing government. She demanded the cancellation of the programme of an Arab rapper who read from the works of Mahmoud Darwish, the adored national poet of the Arab citizens and of the entire Arab world. She demanded that all theatres and orchestras perform in the settlements in the occupied territories, if they want to keep their subsidies.

This week she won a resounding victory when Habima, the “national theater”, agreed to perform in Kiryat-Arba, a nest of the most fanatical fascist settlers. Indeed, no day passes without news of some new exploit by Regev. Her colleagues explode with jealousy.

The basis of Israeli Trumpism and of Miri Regev’s career is the deep resentment of the Oriental – or Mizrahi – community. It is directed against the Ashkenazim, the Israelis of European descent. They are accused of treating the Orientals with disdain, calling them “the second Israel”.

Since those recruits of Moroccan descent saved my life near the birthplace of Miri Regev, I have written many words about the tragedy of Mizrahi immigration, a tragedy of which I was an eyewitness from the first moment. Many injustices were committed by the established Jewish population against the new immigrants, mostly without bad intentions. But the greatest sin of all is rarely mentioned.

Emasculated pride

Every community need a sense of pride, based on its past achievements. The pride was taken away from the Mizrahim, who arrived in the country after the 1948 war. They were treated as people devoid of culture, without a past, “cave-dwellers from the Atlas mountains”.

This attitude was a part of the contempt for Arab culture, a contempt deeply embedded in the Zionist movement. Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, the right-wing Zionist leader and forefather of the Likud party, wrote in his time an article entitled “The East”, in which he expressed his disdain for Oriental culture, Jewish and Arab alike, because of its religiosity and inability to separate state and religion – a barrier to any human progress, according to him. This article is rarely mentioned nowadays.

The pride was taken away from the Mizrahim… They were treated as people devoid of culture, without a past, “cave-dwellers from the Atlas mountains”. This attitude was a part of the contempt for Arab culture, a contempt deeply embedded in the Zionist movement.

The Oriental immigrants came to a country that was predominantly “secular”, non-religious and Western. It was also very anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. The new immigrants understood quickly that, in order to be accepted in Israeli society, they must get rid of their traditional-religious culture. They learned to distance themselves from everything Arab, such as their accent and their songs. Otherwise it would be difficult to become part of the country’s new society.

Before the birth of Zionism – a very European movement – there was no enmity between Jews and Muslims. Quite the contrary. When the Jews were expelled from Catholic Spain, many centuries ago, only a minority immigrated to anti-Semitic, Christian Europe. The vast majority went to Muslim lands and was received with open arms all over the Ottoman Empire.

Before that, in Muslim Spain, the Jews achieved their crowning glory, the “Golden Age”. They were integrated in all spheres of society and government and spoke Arabic. Many of their men of letters wrote Arabic and were admired by Muslims as well as Jews. Maimonides, perhaps the greatest of Sephardic Jews, wrote Arabic and was the personal physician of Saladin, the Muslim warrior who vanquished the Crusaders. The ancestors of these Crusaders had slaughtered Jew and Muslim alike when they conquered Jerusalem. Another great Mizrahi Jew, Saadia Gaon, translated the Torah into Arabic. And so on.

It would have been natural for Oriental Jews to take pride in this glorious past, as German Jews take pride in Heinrich Heine and French Jews in Marcel Proust. But the cultural climate in Israel compelled them to give up their heritage and pretend to admire solely the culture of the West. (Eastern singers were an exception – first as wedding performers and now as media stars. They became popular as “Mediterranean singers”.)

If Miri Regev were a cultured person, and not merely a minister of culture, she would have devoted her considerable energy to the revitalisation of this culture and giving back pride to her community. But this does not really interest her. And there is another reason.

Mizrahi peace lovers?

This Mizrahi culture is totally bound up with the Arab-Muslim culture. It cannot be mentioned without noticing the close relationship between the two for many centuries, during which Muslims and Jews worked together for the advancement of mankind, long before the world heard of Shakespeare or Goethe.

I have always believed that restoring pride was the duty of a new generation of peace-lovers that will arise from among the Mizrahi society. Lately, men and women from this community have reached key positions in the peace camp. I have high hopes.

They will have to fight the present culture minister – a minister who has nothing in common with culture, and a Mizrahi woman who has no Mizrahi roots.

I hope for a Jewish-Mizrahi revival in this country because it can advance Israeli-Arab peace and because it can strengthen again the loosened ties between the different communities in our state.

As a non-religious person I prefer the Mizrahi religiosity, which has always been moderate and tolerant, to the fanatical Zionist-religious camp that is predominantly Ashkenazi. I have always preferred Rabbi Ovadia Josef to the Rabbis Kook, father and son. I prefer Arie Der’I to Naftali Bennett.

I detest Donald Trump and Trumpism. I dislike Miri Regev and her culture.

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Despicable Balfour: A story of betrayal

    Balfour, Britain and Israel

    The 2 November marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which began the still-ongoing colonisation of Palestine and sowed the seeds of an endless nightmare for the Palestinian people, both those who were forced to flee at gunpoint and those who have managed to remain in the shredded remains of their homeland under Israel’s brutal military occupation. 

    A movement called the Balfour Declaration Centenary Campaign is urging action and wants an apology.

    We call on the international community and all peace and justice loving people to join the campaign to call on the government and parliament of the United Kingdom to:

    1. Reject the Balfour Declaration, including its role as an instrument of displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people;

    2. Issue an official apology to the Arab Palestinian people for their role in issuing the Balfour Declaration and making possible the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people;

    3. Acknowledge their historic, legal and moral responsibility for damages sustained as a result of the implementation of the Balfour Declaration

    4. Institute reparations to the Palestinian people in accordance with the provisions and principles of international law, justice and equity, which guarantee the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland and the right of self-determination.

    A century of ethnic cleansing and denial of Palestinian rights

    In his excellent book, Blood Brothers, David Hazard charts the life of Father Elias Chacour, a remarkable Christian Palestinian who grew up on the shores of Galilee and saw his beautiful world shattered by the Israeli occupation. Like countless others, he was made a refugee in his own country.

    Mr Hazard describes an encounter he had with a young Palestinian, one of millions who suffer daily persecution, harassment and humiliation at the hands of Israeli soldiers and settlers.

    A seventeen-year-old girl trembling with grief and rage told me how she witnessed her teenage cousin being shot through the head by Israeli soldiers. They had been walking to school together and the soldiers were taunting him. In response he had picked up a rock. She accused me and all Americans of knowing about these daily abuses against Palestinians but not caring. I tried to tell her that most Americans do not know about these tragedies, and that we would never support those who perpetrate them. But her belief that the average American is savvy about international politics was as strong as it was naive. “Of course Americans know we’re suffering over here,” she retorted.“You’re the most powerful nation on earth. And everyone has a television. I know you know.”

    Americans aren’t alone in ignorance of their complicity. British people too seem largely unaware of how tragedy was allowed to overtake the Palestinians, and how this once-peaceful province of the Ottoman Empire, renowned for its antiquities and culture, became a land scarred by conflict, where everyday the humiliation of illegal occupation stokes the fires of hatred. You cannot get in or out, or move around, without running the gauntlet of Israeli customs, baggage searches, roadblocks and checkpoints under the sneer of contemptuous, sun-glassed troops. Even in the remote countryside you’ll run into one of six or seven hundred armed checkpoints. And that’s what visitors have to put up with. Imagine what it’s like for residents.

    The so-called “Israel Defence Forces” is largely made up of conscripts – men and women – teenagers drafted in and trained to use lethal force. They have a reputation for being trigger-happy. Of course, they don’t all wish to play the thug or necessarily agree with their orders.

    The truth about Palestine doesn’t sit well with Britain’s now crumbling reputation for fair play. Its name has been airbrushed from maps and purged, like a dirty word, from the diplomatic lexicon. Even today the subject is only haphazardly taught in our schools. For older generations like mine it was never on the curriculum. To understand why, one must at least dip a toe into the complicated history of the last 100 years. To help readers over this hurdle, I offer this “potted” version. At least it will explain why, 10 years ago, I went to see Palestine for myself.

    For centuries long our land enslaved
    by Turkish kings with sharpened blade.
    We prayed to end the Sultan’s curse,
    the British came and spoke a verse.

    “It’s World War One, if you agree
    to fight with us we’ll set you free.”

    The war we fought at Britain’s side,
    our blood was shed for Arab pride.

    At war’s end Turks were smitten,
    our only gain, the lies of Britain.

    Stephen Ostrander’s simple verse manages to cut through a mountain of rhetoric to the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    There was a Jewish state in the Holy Land some 3,000 years ago, but the Canaanites and Philistines were there first. The Jews, one of several invading groups, left and returned several times, and were expelled by the Roman occupation in 70AD and again in 135AD. Since the 7th century Palestine has been mainly Arab. During World War I the country was ‘liberated’ from Turkish Ottoman rule after the allied powers, in correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca in 1915, promised independence to Arab leaders in return for their help in defeating Germany’s ally.

    At the same time, however, a new Jewish political movement called Zionism was finding favour among the ruling élite in London, and the British government was persuaded by the Zionists’ chief spokesman, Chaim Weizman, to surrender Palestine for their new Jewish homeland. Hardly a thought, it seems, was given to the earlier pledge to the Arabs, who had occupied and owned the land for 1,500 years – longer, say some scholars, than the Jews ever did.

    The Zionists, fuelled by the notion that an ancient Biblical prophecy gave them the title deeds, aimed to push the Arabs out by inserting millions of Eastern European Jews. They had already set up farm communities and founded a new city, Tel Aviv, but by 1914 Jews numbered only 85,000 to the Arabs’ 615,000. The infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917 – actually a letter from the British foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, to the most senior Jew in England, Lord Rothschild – pledged assistance for the Zionist cause with apparent disregard for the consequences to the native majority. Calling itself a “declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations”, it said:

    His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing and non-Jewish communities…

    Balfour, a Zionist convert, later wrote:

    In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. The four powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now occupy that land.

    There was opposition. Lord Sydenham warned:

    The harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country may never be remedied. What we have done, by concessions not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, is to start a running sore in the East, and no-one can tell how far that sore will extend.

    The American King-Crane Commission of1919 thought it a gross violation of principle:

    No British officers consulted by the commissioners believed that the Zionist programme could be carried out except by force of arms. That, of itself, is evidence of a strong sense of the injustice of the Zionist programme.

    There were other reasons why the British were courting disaster. A secret deal, called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, had been concluded in 1916 between France and Britain, in consultation with Russia, to re-draw the map of the Middle Eastern territories won from Turkey. Britain was to take Jordan, Iraq and Haifa. The area now referred to as Palestine was declared an international zone. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Balfour Declaration and the promises made earlier in the McMahon-Hussein letters all cut across each other. It seems to have been a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing in the confusion of war.

    Some distinguished Jews opposed a “national home” in Palestine

    After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Lenin released a copy of the confidential Sykes-Picot Agreement into the public domain, sowing distrust among the Arabs. Thus, the unfolding story had all the makings of a major tragedy. Subsequent crimes – on both sides – flow from this triple-cross. The Zionist organisation asked permission to submit its proposal for Palestine to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, hitching a ride on the British request to be granted a mandate over Palestine in order to implement the Balfour Declaration. The Zionist case included the statement that

    the land itself needs redemption. Much of it is left desolate. Its present condition is a standing reproach. Two things are necessary for that redemption – a stable and enlightened government, and an addition to the present population which shall be energetic, intelligent, devoted to the country, and backed by the large financial resources that are indispensable for development. Such a population the Jews alone can supply.

    Prominent US Jews opposed to this move handed President Woodrow Wilson a counter-statement objecting to the Zionists’ plan, and asked him to present it to the peace conference. It said the scheme to reorganise the Jews as a national unit with territorial sovereignty in Palestine

    not only misrepresents the trend of the history of the Jews, who ceased to be a nation 2,000 years ago, but involves the limitation and possible annulment of the larger claims of Jews for full citizenship and human rights in all lands in which those rights are not yet secure. For the very reason that the new era upon which the world is entering aims to establish government everywhere on principles of true democracy, we reject the Zionistic project of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

    Foreseeing the future with uncanny accuracy, it went on to say:

    We rejoice in the avowed proposal of the Peace Congress to put into practical application the fundamental principles of democracy. That principle, which asserts equal rights for all citizens of a state, irrespective of creed or ethnic descent, should be applied in such a manner as to exclude segregation of any kind, be it nationalistic or other. Such segregation must inevitably create differences among the sections of the population of a country. Any such plan of segregation is necessarily reactionary in its tendency, undemocratic in spirit and totally contrary to the practices of free government, especially as these are exemplified by our own country.

    The counter-statement quoted Sir George Adam Smith, a noted biblical scholar and the acknowledged expert on the region, who had said:

    It is not true that Palestine is the national home of the Jewish people and of no other people… It is not correct to call its non-Jewish inhabitants “Arabs”, or to say that they have left no image of their spirit and made no history except in the great Mosque… Nor can we evade the fact that Christian communities have been [there] as long as ever the Jews were… These are legitimate questions stirred up by the claims of Zionism, but the Zionists have not yet fully faced them.

    America, England, France, Italy, Switzerland and all the most advanced nations of the world, it said, are composed of representatives of many races and religions. “Their glory lies in the freedom of conscience and worship, in the liberty of thought and custom which binds the followers of many faiths and varied civilisations in the common bonds of political union… A Jewish state involves fundamental limitations as to race and religion, else the term “Jewish” means nothing. To unite church and state, in any form, as under the old Jewish hierarchy, would be a leap backward of two thousand years…

    We ask that Palestine be constituted as a free and independent state, to be governed under a democratic form of government recognising no distinctions of creed or race or ethnic descent, and with adequate power to protect the country against oppression of any kind. We do not wish to see Palestine, either now or at any time in the future, organised as a Jewish state.

    But Wilson apparently failed to put the document before the Conference.

    In 1922 the League of Nations placed Palestine under British mandate, which incorporated the principles of the Balfour Declaration. Jewish immigration would be facilitated “under suitable conditions” and a nationality law would allow Jews taking up permanent residence to acquire Palestinian citizenship (in sharp contrast to the Jews-only law now operated by a dominant Israel). But the high commissioner was soon recommending a halt to Jewish immigration for fear that it would create a class of landless Arabs. That same year the British government, aware of Arab concerns that the Balfour Declaration was being interpreted in an “exaggerated” way by Zionists and their sympathisers, issued a White Paper to clarify the position.

    “The terms of the Declaration referred to,” it said,

    do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish national home, but that such a home should be founded “in Palestine”. In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organisation, held at Carlsbad in September 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development…

    It is also necessary to point out that the Zionist Commission in Palestine, now termed the Palestine Zionist Executive, has not desired to possess, and does not possess, any share in the general administration of the country. Nor does the special position assigned to the Zionist Organisation in Article IV of the Draft Mandate for Palestine imply any such functions. That special position relates to the measures to be taken in Palestine affecting the Jewish population, and contemplates that the organisation may assist in the general development of the country, but does not entitle it to share in any degree in its government.

    Further, it is contemplated that the status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status.

    “It is necessary,” said the White Paper with masterly ambiguity,

    that the Jewish community in Palestine should be able to increase its numbers by immigration. This immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals. It is essential to ensure that the immigrants should not be a burden upon the people of Palestine as a whole, and that they should not deprive any section of the present population of their employment.

    However, the White Paper flatly denied that a promise had been made to the Arabs ahead of the Balfour Declaration.

    It is not the case, as has been represented by the Arab Delegation, that during the war His Majesty’s Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine. This representation mainly rests upon a letter dated the 24th October 1915 from Sir Henry McMahon, then His Majesty’s High Commissioner in Egypt, to the Sharif of Mecca, now King Hussein of the Kingdom of the Hejaz. That letter is quoted as conveying the promise to the Sharif of Mecca to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him. But this promise was given subject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty’s Government as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge.

    Nevertheless, it is the intention of His Majesty’s government to foster the establishment of a full measure of self-government in Palestine. But they are of the opinion that, in the special circumstances of that country, this should be accomplished by gradual stages…

    From then on, the situation would go from bad to worse.

    In 1937 the Peel Commission declared that British promises to Arabs and Zionists were irreconcilable and unworkable. Too late, Britain dropped its commitment to the Zionists and began talking about a Palestinian state with a guaranteed Arab majority and protection for minorities.

    The Zionists reacted furiously. Their underground military wing, the Haganah, and other armed groups, unleashed a reign of terror in the run-up to World War II. They continued their attacks on the British after the war and tried to bring in hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees.

    In 1946 they blew up the south wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the British mandatory government, killing 91. This terrorist act was ordered by David Ben-Gurion in retaliation for the arrest of Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang members suspected of attacks on the British. He then thought better of it and cancelled the operation but Menachem Begin, who led the Irgun, went ahead. Both Ben-Gurion and Begin, who had a big price on his head as a wanted terrorist, became Israeli prime ministers.

    Throughout this period the United States was reluctant to allow Jews fleeing Europe to enter the empty spaces of North America, preferring to play the Zionist game and see them funnelled into Palestine. In 1945 the new US president, Harry Truman, offered Arabs this excuse: “I am sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands of those who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”

    However, Truman was frequently exasperated by the Zionist lobby and on one occasion had a delegation thrown out of the White House for their table-thumping antics. He wrote:

    I fear very much that the Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on top they are just as intolerant and cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath.

    American author Gore Vidal provided an intriguing insight.

    Sometime in the late 1950s, that world-class gossip and occasional historian, John F. Kennedy, told me how, in 1948, Harry S. Truman had been pretty much abandoned by everyone when he came to run for president. Then an American Zionist brought him two million dollars in cash, in a suitcase, aboard his whistle-stop campaign train. “That’s why our recognition of Israel was rushed through so fast.” As neither Jack nor I was an anti-Semite (unlike his father and my grandfather) we took this to be just another funny story about Truman and the serene corruption of American politics.

    By now this monster Britain had breathed life into, was running out of control. The Arabs, tricked and dispossessed, were outraged. The collision has been fatally damaging to the West’s relationship with Islam ever since. As the violence escalated, Gandhi was moved to comment:

    Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English. They [the Jews] have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism.

    With the mandate about to expire in 1948 an exhausted Britain handed over the problem to the United Nations and prepared to quit the Holy Land, leaving a powder-keg with the fuse fizzing. The newly-formed UN thought it would save the situation by partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish states and making Jerusalem an international city. But this gave the Jews 55 per cent of Palestine when they accounted for only 30 per cent of the population. The Arab League and the Palestinians of course rejected it.

    Map 1: 1947 UN Partition of Palestine

    Map of 1947 UN Partition Plan

    Under the UN Partition Plan the Jews received 55 per cent of the country (including both Tel Aviv/Jaffa and Haifa port cities, the Sea of Galilee and the resource-rich Negev) although they accounted for only a third of the population (548,000 out of 1,750,000) and owned only 6 per cent of the land. The Jewish community accepted the Partition Plan; the Palestinians (except those in the Communist Party) and the Arab countries rejected it.

    The UN partition of Palestine never did stand close scrutiny. At that time, as some commentators have pointed out, UN members did not include African states, and most Arab and Asian states were still under colonialist regimes. The UN was pretty much a white colonialist club. The Palestinians themselves had no representation and they weren’t even consulted.

    The first vote failed to reach the required two-thirds majority: 25 for partition, 13 against and 19 abstentions. To ensure success in the second vote, a good deal of arm-twisting was applied to the smaller countries, but again it fell short. At the third attempt France was persuaded to come “on board” after the US threatened to withdraw desperately needed post-World War II aid, and on 29 November the UN voted to partition Palestine into three parts: a Jewish state on 14,000 sq km with some 558,000 Jews and 405,000 Palestinian Arabs; and an Arab state on 11,500 sq km with about 804,000 Palestinian Arabs and 10,000 Jews. Jerusalem, including major religious sites, would be a corpus separatum, internationally administered.

    Map 2: Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories

    Map of 1949 Israeli-Arab armistice line

    By the end of the 1948 war Israel controlled 78 per cent  of the country, including half the territory that had been allocated by the UN to the Palestinians. Around 750,000 Palestinians living in what became Israel were made refugees: only 100,000 remained in their homes. More than 418 villages (two-thirds of the villages of Palestine) were systematically destroyed by Israel after their residents had left or been driven out. The Arab areas were now reduced to 22 per cent  of the country, the West Bank was taken by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt. The 1949 Armistice Line (the “Green Line”) remains the de facto boundary of the state of Israel until today. Since 1988, when the Palestinians recognised Israel within that boundary, it has been the basis of the two-state option.

    This ludicrous carve-up was quickly followed by shameful incidents at Deir Yassin, Lod and Ramle. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were uprooted from their homes and lands and to this day are denied the right to return. They received no compensation, and after their expulsion Jewish militia obliterated hundreds of Arab villages and towns. No sooner had Britain packed its bags than Israel declared statehood on 14 May 1948 and immediately set about expanding control across all of Palestine.

    The following day, 15 May, is remembered by Palestinians as the Day of Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe), which saw the start of a military terror campaign that forced three-quarters of a million Palestinians from their homeland to make room for the new Jewish state. Some 34 massacres were allegedly committed in pursuit of Israel’s territorial ambitions.

    An event permanently etched on the Palestinian memory is the massacre at Deir Yassin by Zionist terror groups, the Irgun and the Stern Gang. On an April morning in 1948 130 of their commandos carried out a dawn raid on this small Arab town with a population of 750, to the west of Jerusalem. The attack was initially beaten off, and only when a crack unit of the Haganah arrived with mortars were the Arab townsmen overwhelmed. The Irgun and the Stern Gang, smarting from the embarrassment of having to summon help, embarked on a “clean-up” operation in which they systematically murdered and executed at least 100 residents – mostly women, children and old people. The Irgun afterwards exaggerated the number, quoting 254, to frighten other Arab towns and villages. The Haganah played down their part in the raid and afterwards said the massacre “disgraced the cause of Jewish fighters and dishonoured Jewish arms and the Jewish flag”.

    Deir Yassin signalled the ominous beginning of a deliberate programme by Israel to depopulate Arab towns and villages – and destroy churches and mosques – to make room for incoming holocaust survivors and other Jews. In any language it was an exercise in ethnic cleansing, the knock-on effects of which have created an estimated 4 million Palestinian refugees today.

    By 1949 the Zionists had seized nearly 80 per cent of Palestine, provoking the resistance backlash they so bitterly complain about today. Many Jews condemn the Zionist policy and are ashamed of what has been done in their name.

    UN Resolution 194 had called on Israel to let the Palestinians back onto their land. It has been re-passed many times, but Israel is still in breach. The Israelis also stand accused of violating Article 42 of the Geneva Convention by moving settlers into the Palestinian territories it occupies, and of riding roughshod over international law with their occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

    But expulsion and transfer were always a key part of the Zionist plan. According to historian Benny Morris, no mainstream Zionist leader was able to conceive of future co-existence without a clear physical separation between the two peoples. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, is reported to have said:

    With compulsory transfer we have a vast area [for settlement]… I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.

    He showed astonishing candour on another occasion when he remarked:

    If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it is true, but 2,000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti- Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country.

    General Moshe Dayan, hero of the 1967 war, made it known to Palestinians in the territories that “you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes, may leave, and we shall see where this process will lead.” That appears to have been the general attitude ever since.

    In 1967 Israel used a number of Arab threats designed to check Zionist ambitions, including a blockade of their Red Sea port, as a pretext to launch war. In a series of pre-emptive strikes against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Israel succeeded in doubling the area of land under its control, seizing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, violating both international law and the UN Charter, which says that a country cannot lawfully make territorial gains from war. It was reported that Israel demolished 1,338 Palestinian homes in the West Bank and detained some 300,000 Palestinians without trial.

    The UN issued Security Council Resolution 242, stressing “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and calling for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”. It was largely ignored, thus guaranteeing further discord in the region.

    Israel’s most notorious prime minister, Ariel Sharon, made a name for himself in 1953 when his secret death squad, Unit 101, dynamited homes and massacred 69 Palestinian civilians – half of them women and children – at Qibya in the West Bank. His troops later destroyed 2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 12,000 people and deporting hundreds of young Palestinians to Jordan and Lebanon.

    Then in 1982 he masterminded Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, which resulted in a massive death toll of Palestinians and Lebanese, a large proportion being children. An Israeli tribunal found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and removed him from office. But he didn’t stay in the background for long.

    By the end of 1967 there were just three illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. By the end of 2005 the total was 177. “When we have settled the land,” the then chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, Rafael Eitan, remarked in 1983, “all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle”.

    By 2015 there were 196 illegal Israeli settlements in addition to  232 settler outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, and upwards of 750,000 settlers residing there.

    Apartheid and occupation: “in practice there is little difference”

    So what sort of person was responsible for this misery and mayhem in the Holy Land – the “running sore” Lord Sydenham predicted? At Cambridge Arthur Balfour read moral sciences (no, seriously!). Much good it did the poor Palestinian Arabs he helped dispossess.

    Described as born lazy, aloof and having an attitude problem, he was convinced of his personal superiority and wished to keep the vulgar world at arm’s length. Balfour famously remarked: “Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all.”

    He had been prime minister (1902-05) and was regarded as weak. At the time of the Declaration blunder he was foreign secretary. In the words of one commentator, Balfour’s career “stretches before our eyes in a flat and uneventful plain of successful but inglorious and ineffective self-seeking”. He was said to be a man who would make almost any sacrifice to remain in office. In this case, he sacrificed the Arab homeland. In 1922 the League of Nations put Palestine under British mandate, which incorporated the principles of the Balfour’s Declaration.

    How have things turned out?

    John Dugard, Professor of International Law and former Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, explained on Aljazeera the differences and similarities between apartheid South Africa and apartheid Israel.

    Of course, the regimes of apartheid and occupation are different. Apartheid South Africa was a state that practised discrimination against its own people. It sought to fragment the country into white South Africa and black Bantustans. Its security laws were used to brutally suppress opposition to apartheid. Israel, on the other hand, is an occupying power that controls a foreign territory and its people under a regime recognised by international law [as] belligerent occupation.

    However, in practice, there is little difference. Both regimes were/are characterised by discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation (that is, land seizures).

    Israel discriminates against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in favour of half a million Israeli settlers. Its restrictions on freedom of movement, manifested in countless humiliating checkpoints, resemble the “pass laws” of apartheid. Its destruction of Palestinian homes resembles the destruction of homes belonging to blacks under apartheid’s Group Areas Act. The confiscation of Palestinian farms under the pretext of building a security wall brings back similar memories. And so on. Indeed, Israel has gone beyond apartheid South Africa in constructing separate (and unequal) roads for Palestinians and settlers.

    Apartheid’s security police practised torture on a large scale. So do the Israeli security forces. There were many political prisoners on Robben Island but there are more Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

    Apartheid South Africa seized the land of blacks for whites. Israel has seized the land of Palestinians for half a million settlers and for the purposes of constructing a security wall within Palestinian territory – both of which are contrary to international law.

    Dugard suggested there is sufficient evidence for a legitimate enquiry into the question of whether Israel violates the prohibition of apartheid found in the 1973 Apartheid Convention and the Rome Statute.

    Sydenham’s “running sore” has been festering for a century, crippling the Middle East and turning the Holy Land into an abomination. Balfour and his fellow Zionist stooges in the corridors of British power clearly had no understanding of the true purpose and base methods of Zionism.

    This is also true of present-day Christian-Zionists. Some Christian churches have rejected Zionist doctrine as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation. They deplore the cosy relationship between Christian Zionist leaders and the governments of Israel and the United States that impose their pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. And they condemn the teachings of Christian Zionism that support those policies as they encourage racial exclusivity and perpetual war.

    In other words, no Christian with a functioning brain cell should touch Zionism with a bargepole. Yet the upper echelons of our government and many Western churches are riddled with Zionist sympathisers. Unless they are smoked out, a hundred years from now an outraged civil society will still be calling for government apologies for the actions of that lunatic Balfour and his successors.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Despicable Balfour: A story of betrayal

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