Tag Archives: egypt

Centre for Palestine Studies and UJIA swap roles on Israel for the night.

There must have been something in the London air last night. While the United Joint Israel Appeal, Union of Jewish Students and “Pro-Israel” Yachad hosted Israel boycotter Peter Beinart via Skype, further down the Northern Line SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies hosted Professor Jean-Pierre Filiu.

Beinart will have been trying his best to persuade his Jewish audience (the talk was restricted to Jewish students and members of Jewish youth groups only) to boycott the livelihoods of innocent Jewish families living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Meanwhile, at SOAS’ usually anti-Israel Centre for Palestine Studies Professor Filiu gave an interesting talk on the history of Gaza. Not only did Filiu recognise Israel’s security needs but he attacked Hamas for its mistreatment of Palestinian women. There were no calls for boycotts.

Filiu’s main thesis was that peace in the Middle East would only come via Gaza as, historically, control of Gaza was pivotal to control of the Middle East. The most recent example was General Allenby who won control of Gaza a month before entering Jerusalem.

Filiu said the Muslim Brotherhood opened a branch in Gaza in 1946 and its founder, Hassan al-Banna, visited Nuseirat sometime before May 1948 to urge his followers to fight for Palestine.

Filiu described Gaza as a “Noah’s Ark” for 200,000 Palestinian refugees, but it was  the Sinai Desert that kept the refugees in Gaza otherwise they would have journeyed on to Egypt. Gaza’s original population was 80,000.

Filiu splits Gaza’s recent history into three 20 year cycles:

“1947 – 1967 Obliteration of Palestine” – Filiu claimed that during the winter of 1948/1949 many children died of hunger and cold and that the Quakers and Turks were the first in to offer tents. The only two political parties were the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists.

In 1955 Ariel Sharon’s Unit 101 launched a raid into Gaza to attack terrorists. An Intifada soon followed. The battle cry of the Brotherhood and the Communists was “Nasser dictator, traitor of the Palestinian cause.”

During Israel’s short occupation of Gaza to try to destroy Fedayeen nests 1,000 Palestinians died out of a population of 300,000. (NB. there are no proper archives on Gaza’s history so figures may well be inaccurate)

After the 1956 Suez Crisis Israel withdrew from Gaza. Egypt took over. The Fedayeen weren’t allowed to operate. Many left Gaza for the Gulf and founded Fatah. The Muslim Brotherhood went underground.

“1967 – 1987 Reoccupation” – This period was characterised by Palestinian civil resistance to Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood’s continued oppression by Nasser, infighting between Palestinian Nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood and a boycott by President Sadat when the Palestinians condemned Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel.

Islamic Jihad was formed and they regarded Palestine as a priority, but not its Islamisation. The 1987 Intifada took both the PLO’s external leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood by surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza turned itself into Hamas.

“1987 – 2007 Cycle of Intifadas” – Filiu said this was a time of collective sorrow, desolation and Palestinian infighting. Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades executed many Palestinians for being collaborators.

The peace process brought hope but when Arafat divorced himself from Gaza Palestinians living there felt they had paid the price for bringing him back from Tunis, especially when Palestinian police opened fire on their own people and many were tortured to death. Gaza totally lost out in the peace process.

Israel again withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but it was Fatah’s change of rules for the 2006 Palestinian elections, hoping to prevent a Hamas victory, that actually allowed Hamas to win. Hamas immediately offered a national unity government but Fatah wasn’t interested in Gaza. After the 2007 coup Hamas fully controlled Gaza.

Filiu said that Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with Fatah and Hamas’ petty war. He acknowledged Israel’s security concerns but said Israel “should deal with the people, not bomb and kill them”. He said there is no other way but for Israel to lift the “blockade” of Gaza, which he viewed as helping Hamas to build a police state and control the population, especially the women.

During the Q&A Filiu was asked about the possibility of a one state solution. Filiu said a two state solution was the only way forward and that this is what the PLO had just asked for at the UN and that this had been celebrated even in Gaza.

Apart from Filiu’s wanting Israel to lift all restrictions on Gaza, which would lead to increased suicide bombings in Israel, it was as objective and interesting a talk about the conflict and Hamas as I have heard from any non pro-Israel organisation.

Palestinian Ambassador to Britain: “The only solution is one state”

I wondered whether to write about this as it will come as a surprise to very few. Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador* to Britain, delivered, while speaking at Caabu’s Emergency Meeting on the Crisis in the Middle East held in Parliament on Wednesday evening moments after the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, what seemed to be the unofficial line of the Palestinian Authority on the future of Israel and the Palestinians.

Hassassian claimed it was his personal view but if this is the approach taken by other Palestinian ambassadors then there is no hope for peace.

Hassassian offered two completely contradictory positions. He wanted a two state solution but, personally, thought that a one state solution was the only way forward. He said:

“I would like to see a two state solution, but the Oslo peace treaty is dead. If you look at the ground, what is happening today, there is nothing left to salvage of a two state solution. As a representative of the Palestinian authority I must tell you that I am for a two state solution. But I want to remove my authority cap and put it aside and become the kind of person who is observing what is left of the two state solution. Ladies and gentleman, there is no two state solution left. We have to look to other, what I call, ingenious ideas and look outside the box and the only thing that comes to my mind is very simple; there is only one solution, which is a one state solution. Of course liberals from Israel’s centrists, and extremists, are going to panic and be terrified when you say ‘One state solution'”.

Hassassian also spoke of Israel not being interested in peace and having a “war agenda” and time “being not on the side of Israel”.

He finished his speech with this:

“We (the Palestinians) are the only, the only, country in the Middle East that are practicing democracy par excellence.”

and

“I think they (Israel) should be lucky to have the Palestinians as their neighbours.”

During the Q&A I asked the Ambassador how long he thought, in the event of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it might take for Hamas to murder or imprison Fatah/PLO officials in the West Bank like they did in Gaza?

He replied:

“If Israel strikes a deal with the PLO to relinquish the occupied territories…any kind of solution on the West Bank, any kind of a breakthrough in peace with Israel, I think, will undermine the power of Hamas.”

These are fine words, but how can Israel “relinquish the occupied territories” and still be sure that Palestinian terrorists won’t bomb Tel Aviv or Ben Gurion airport, for example? Can Israel afford to take such a risk after seeing what is unfolding in Syria with a future takeover by Islamists opposed to Israel’s existence? And just because Egypt and President Morsi are being reasonable now doesn’t mean they will always be, does it?

But far more than that, Israelis are never going to vote their own country out of existence after all they have worked for and sacrificed. Demanding a one state solution is only a recipe for further Israeli and Palestinian blood to be spilled.

At the end even a CAABU member came over to tell me he thought the Palestinian Ambassador’s rhetoric wasn’t progressing the Palestinian cause much.

Hassassian has been an ambassador here for seven years. Is such a long term normal? Or do ambassadorial changes go the same way as Palestinian elections; few and far between, if at all?

I have nothing against Hassassian. However, his call for a one state solution is deeply problematic considering that the international formula, supposedly accepted by the Palestinian Authority, is two states for two people.

As Herzl said of a future Jewish state, which seemed a distinct impossibility anywhere at the time, “If you will it, it is no dream”. If Hassassian and his fellow diplomats can’t even bring themselves to will a separate Palestinian state then they should step aside and let others take the opportunity of working towards that desired national goal.

* I am informed that Manuel Hassassian is technically not an “Ambassador” seeing that there is no formally recognised Palestinian state. He is, therefore, referred to as Palestinian General Delegate in London.

Muslim Brotherhood’s Dr Kamal El-Helbawy defines who is a Jew, and who isn’t.

Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, Andrew Murray, Seumas Milne at the SOAS Respect meeting.

Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, Andrew Murray, Seumas Milne at the SOAS Respect meeting.

When I went to SOAS on Sunday for the Respect Party’s public meeting Where now for Egypt and the Middle East?, chaired by The Guardian’s Seumas Milne, I didn’t expect a sermon on who is, and who is not, a Jew.

Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, Chair of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and former speaker for the Muslim Brotherhood in the West, was updating us on the political situation in Egypt as he saw it. He welcomed the fact that 75% of the new Egyptian parliament was now Islamic, but said that he hoped for increased Coptic Christian participation and the promotion of women.

The Muslim Brotherhood isn’t especially keen on Jews. For example, Hamas, the Brotherhood’s subsidiary in Gaza, remembers us in their Charter by calling for us to be killed.

However, Dr Kamal El-Helbawy seemed to be concentrating on Egypt’s pressing internal issues. Could this be a new Egypt; a Light Unto the Arab nations, I thought? Fifteen minutes into his speech and Dr Kamal El-Helbawy still hadn’t mentioned Israel and the Palestinians.

Finally, Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, a self-proclaimed scholar of comparative religion, introduced the subject as follows (see clip 1 below):

“I have Jewish friends who are really Jewish. They stay with me, they eat with me, they sleep with us at home. Who are real friends. Like Neturei Karta people. Like Dovid Weiss and hundreds of others, who are real Jews. And we respect them and we love them. We are brothers in humanity if not in religion. But unfortunately the ones we have in Israel, the Zionists, are not Jews. I am happy with what usually my dear brother George Galloway says ‘atheist Jews’. Even I say they are Zionists. They have nothing, nothing at all related to Jewish religion. Moses did not order people to kill each other and the Christ did not ask people to kill each other or colonise each other or destroy each other or stop, for example, Iran doing good research in atomic energy.”

During the Q&A I said I thought it disrespectful of him to tell us who is, and who isn’t, Jewish and that just because one might disagree with someone’s political view shouldn’t make anyone less of a Muslim, Jew or Christian for it. To applause he responded (see clip 2 below):

“I have 100% right to define. I am a scholar of comparative religion as well. And I understand, and I have many friends who are Jews, and I don’t believe that the Nobel Laureate Peres is a Jew at all, is a Jew. Who is a Jew is the one who follows Moses, peace be upon Him. Who’s a Christian is the one who follows Jesus Christ, peace upon Him. Who is a Muslim is the one who follows Muhammad the Prophet, peace be upon Him. So it is not difficult to define who is a Jew and can measure who is a Jew, who is not. If you kill you are not a Jew, because Moses did not ask you to kill people. If you ousted them from their lands and houses and destroy them you are not a Jew.”

Meanwhile, Gorgeous George described (see clip 3) the Balfour Declaration as “142 words that have produced nearly a hundred years of misery and disaster in the Middle East” before continuing:

“Mark Sykes hated Jews. He was a vicious, foul anti-Semite, but he loved Israel and he loved the idea of Israel. Like so many he saw Zionism as a means of ensuring that he would never have to look at Jewish people on the streets of London. He talked openly about ‘we’ll be able to clean the East End of London if we can create Israel and, by one means or another, encourage or otherwise, the Jews of the East End of London to go and live in Palestine’. He hated Arabs also who he described as venal and lazy.”

Amid all this fascination with Jews Galloway, Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, and Andrew Murray, founder of the Stop The War Coalition, rejected all types of outside intervention in the affairs of Syria instead calling for the revolution to be allowed to take place from the ground upwards on the basis that there had never been an example of outside intervention working effectively in the Middle East and that such intervention always took place out of pure self-interest.

Clip 1: Dr Kamal El-Helbawy discusses Israel and the Palestinians

Clip 2: Dr Kamal El-Helbawy responds to criticism of his definition of Jews

Clip3: George Galloway on Mark Sykes and more

“Naqba Day” extremists spew hate outside Israeli Embassy.

Hezbollah flag, with gun, on streets of London.

Hezbollah flag, with gun, on streets of London.

It is testament to the power of propaganda that the Palestinians and their “supporters” still react with incredible rage to an event that never concerned them and that happened 63 years ago.

1948 was the Jewish Spring, when the Jewish people decided that no more would they subject themselves to the whims of societies that were less than welcoming to them.

Pogroms in Russia, the Holocaust and being treated as dhimmi by Arab countries had taken their toll and by 1948 they had fought off British colonial rule in their ancient homeland and through the United Nations re-created a Jewish state in British Mandate Palestine that has been thriving ever since.

63 years later we finally have the Arab Spring, although it is turning into an Arab Slaughter with Christians now being attacked in Egypt and Libya and Syria massacreing their own people, the latter probably with the help of Iran.

But in 1948 the Arabs thought they would massacre not their own people, but the Jews. But it didn’t happen. The Jews won. It was the ultimate insult for these Arab countries that had treated their own Jews as inferior subjects for so long.

In response many Arab countries forcibly ejected their own Jewish populations. Around 900,000 Jews from Arab countries, who were indigenous, lost everything. Racist laws forced them to leave the Arab countries with nothing.

Out of a Jewish population in Arab countries of about 1,000,000 pre-1948 only 5,000 remain now. It was an ethnic cleansing of the highest order.

Yet, 63 years later instead of creating something positive the Palestinian national identity is marked by hatred and disaster. Their self-identity is based on little that is positive, but on what they claim has happened to them. It is a victim mentality of the highest order. “Naqba Day” is a symbol of their victimhood.

And so to London today where about 200 of their most extreme supporters called for Palestinians to get even more violent. They screamed “Victory for the Intifada” and waved the Hezbollah flag with its AK47 gun on it.

They called for jihad against Israel, called Israel a “terrorist state” and called for Israel’s destruction. Goodness knows what they were saying in Arabic. Please let me know if you can translate the clips below.

The Naturei Karta turned up about two and a half hours late to a heroes welcome. Children sat atop the shoulders of the extremist anti-Israel protesters; another generation about to grow up fed with lies and hate.

Meanwhile, the pro-Israel protesters sang “The People of Israel live”, which was slightly more positive than the hate-filled anti-Israel protesters. You will sense the hatred from the following clips:

The photos.:

Israeli Embassy

Israeli Embassy

Naturei Karta

Naturei Karta

View from Wagamama's

View from Wagamama's

My Interview with Natan Sharansky.

Natan Sharansky: Chairman of Jewish Agency and former Soviet Prisoner

Natan Sharansky: Chairman of Jewish Agency and former Soviet Prisoner

On the 25th anniversay of his release from a brutal soviet gulag, Natan Sharansky spoke to me about Russian immigration, Egypt and chess. (The interview appears in this week’s Jewish News).

What is your greatest personal achievement of the last 25 years?

Apart from becoming a grandfather twice-over this year, one million Jews moved to Israel since the Soviet Union fell apart and have successfully integrated. I was heavily involved in that.

This has also been Israel’s greatest achievement during this time. I don’t know of another country that has increased its population by 20% and where those immigrants have been as successful as anyone else in society.

And Israel remains a vibrant democratic Jewish society, with one of the most successful economies in the world, despite being surrounded by dictatorships and fundamentalists and being demonised in the free world.

How important is the Diaspora to Israel?

Israel is an important part of the Jewish identity for all Jews. I’m very happy for Jews to move to Israel, but Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews are all part of the same important process.

Are you worried by current events in Egypt?

There’s always reason to be worried. We always have to be ready to defend ourselves against our enemies. But events in Egypt are also a unique opportunity.

The 100-year pact between the free world and Arab dictators to keep the Arab street stable has finally been broken. I have always believed in the power of democracy and the desire of people to live in freedom.

Yes, but democracy led to Hamas governing Gaza.

Islamic fundamentalism has more chance of succeeding the longer the Arab world is ruled by dictators, including the likes of Yasser Arafat. Democratic dissidents from places like Egypt have been telling the free world for a long time that they are the only true partners for peace, not the dictators. Now that millions of Arabs are saying the same thing I hope the leaders of the free world will, finally, embrace this call.

So what is happening could be good for Israel?

Much depends on whether the leaders of the free world link the assistance they give to Arab leaders to democratic reforms. The people of the Middle East have made their choice. But if the free world doesn’t support them we could end up with more dangerous regimes like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

Will the Arabs ever accept a Jewish state in the Middle East?

Initially, it isn’t easy for people to lose something they believe is theirs. On the other hand 63 years of a Jewish state is long enough for it to be accepted. Middle East dictators have kept Israel as an external enemy for their own internal stability.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the free world, including Israeli leaders, did not, or chose not to, understand that it was important for these dictatorships to encourage hatred towards Israel. Tunisians and Egyptians have now demanded a new life, but haven’t been mentioning Israel.

If Middle East leaders now concentrate on improving their citizens’ lives, instead of encouraging hatred towards Israel, the chances of Israel being accepted will improve. Democracy will encourage this, so it’s in Israel’s interests for democracy to succeed in the Middle East.

Are you critical or supportive of Avigdor Lieberman?

He is part of our democracy. I don’t agree with him on everything but his demonisation is part and parcel of Israel’s demonisation. As long as he is acting within the framework of Israeli democracy he cannot be a threat to that democracy.

Finally, did you really beat Gary Kasparov at chess?

Yes! I had many years of playing chess in my head while in prison in the Soviet Union, so I was very well prepared!

If Egypt falls to the Brotherhood, Hamas could “go overseas”.

Hamas

Hamas

It needs no overstating that what happens next in Egypt is of crucial importance to not only Israel but the world.

It is obviously not right for the Egyptians to live under the yoke of oppression and poverty but as a people they need to draw lessons from the Iranian Revolution of 1979 so as to not go from one extreme to another.

In the rush for deserved freedom they could end up worse off.

In the 1979 Revolution Ayatollah Khomene’i was the figurehead behind which liberals, communists and religious Muslims coalesced to force out the Shah.

But once the Shah was ousted that coalition was soon quashed in a bloody Islamist coup, which led to the installation of extreme religious rule and a worse civil liberties situation than under the Shah.

Egypt is at a similar stage. The banned Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, has not been actively calling its supporters on to the streets but their presence is casting a dark shadow over proceedings and they will make their play for power when the time is right.

If Egypt ends up like Iran then all bets are off. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty will be under serious threat and for the first time in 38 years the prospect of war between Israel and an Arab country will be rekindled.

Then there’s Hamas. The “siege” of Gaza by Egypt has been far more brutal than anything Israel has imposed.

But an Islamist Egyptian government, whether democratically elected or imposed by force, would allow Hamas freedom of movement through Egypt which would increase its access to Israel and the rest of the world.

An Israeli woman was murdered after the Gaza-Egypt border was breached by frustrated Gazans in February 2008 when a suicide bomber from Gaza crossed into Israel from Egypt.

Israel needs to complete the security wall that will run the length of its long border with Egypt as soon as possible.

Some argue that, unlike Al Qaida, Hamas’ terrorism is purely limited to attacks on Israel. But lack of international activity by Hamas could well be purely down to lack of opportunity due to it being hemmed in Gaza and cracked down on in the West Bank.

Hamas could take heart from just how successful the PLO was in bombing its way to the negotiating table.

Although the PLO attacked civilians in Israel 181 times between 1967 and 1979 between that same period there were at least 201 PLO attacks on aircraft and other civilians outside Israel, which, all told, involved attacks on the property and civilians of some 40 countries (Israel and Palestine – Assault on the Nations of Law, Julius Stone).

With freedom to operate freely through Egypt Al Qaida style international bomb attacks by Hamas could make Western nations pressurise Israel even more. Countries attacked might threaten to withdraw support for Israel if Israeli doesn’t acquiesce in making concessions that could compromise its own security.

In the same vein Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq after the Madrid bombings.

Hezbollah, which claims to be protecting Lebanon from Israeli aggression, “went overseas”. In 1992 it killed 29 people when it blew up the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 87 died when it blew up the Jewish Community centre located in the AMIA building in the same city.

Although international warrants were issued for arrests of the perpetrators they are now safely ensconced in Iran. Hezbollah has denied involvement just as it is denying involvement in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

Hamas is an acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”. “Palestine” does not feature in its name and it has never claimed any pretence that its terrorist operations were restricted to what it considers “Palestine”.

Unlike the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) at least Hamas is honest in that respect.

A Story of Two Flotillas

1940 Dunkirk evacuation (kingofpeace.blogspot.com)

There are two flotillas of ships sailing today and the contrast could not be more different.

The brave:

Today is the 70th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk that gave us the term the “Dunkirk spirit”. It was a crucial moment in World War Two.

Between 27 May and 4 June 1940 338,000 British and French soldiers were rescued from the beaches of northern France having been pushed back by the invading Germans.

700 vessels ranging from pleasure craft to fishing boats worked under a hail of German bombs to take the Allied troops off the beaches and ferry them to larger ships so they could be brought home.

Winston Churchill called it a “miracle of deliverance” and the evacuation is seen as one of several events in 1940 that determined the outcome of the war.

To mark the anniversary a flotilla of 60 small ships set sail from southern England and will return on 31 May.

The not-so-brave:

Then there is another flotilla supported by Viva Palestina and a Turkish charity. This one has just set sail to try to break the so-called “siege of Gaza”.

The website of Viva Palestina, which has conducted past convoys to Gaza, states in its narrative on the current flotilla: “The Israeli government has turned Gaza into a prisoner camp and has been carrying out a genocide. This camp and genocidal acts very much resemble Hitler’s actions in history.”

Israel and Egypt have imposed restrictions on Gaza to stop Hamas, the Islamist resistance movement, firing thousands of Kassam rockets into Israel.

Any such comparison of Gaza to the Holocaust, in which six million Jews and four million gays, communists, gypsies and disabled people were systematically murdered, is purely sickening.

The people of Gaza should blame Hamas for their suffering, not Israel.

But then we know what happens if they so much as protest against Hamas. Hamas is notorious for binding the hands and legs of so-called “traitors” before throwing them off the tops of buildings to certain death.

Either that or the “traitors” are shot in both knees.

Hamas doesn’t do trials.

When Viva Palestina conducted a convoy to Gaza in February/March 2009 George Galloway, according to the Charity Commission, confirmed that £25,000 of personal money was handed to Hamas along with 100 vehicles.

I hope the current flotilla will at least bring something constructive to the area but when Viva Palestina tried to enter Gaza from Egypt in January an Egyptian border guard was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

While Israel does in fact let in necessities and aid to Gaza it is Islamic extremists who are making life in Gaza intolerable, even to the extent of destroying a United Nations summer camp for children. They accused the UN of promoting immorality.

The current convoy is trying to enter Gaza via sea instead of land after the extended trip Viva Palestina was sent on by the Egyptian authorities in January.

So we recall today the brave men and women of the Dunkirk evacuation for their bravery 70 years ago while under heavy bombardment from the Nazis.

There will never be enough gratitude that we can show them for what they did.

The same may not be said for the activists on the convoy currently en route to Gaza*.

* The father of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit asked the current convoy to carry a parcel and letter into the Gaza Strip for his son, who has been kept in isolation by Hamas for coming up to four years now. The activists refused.

Gaza flotilla