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.”
“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?
“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.
Sheikh Raed Salah was gone but not forgotten last night at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign event in the House of Commons at which he was due to speak alongside four Labour politicans and one Liberal Democrat.
Many speakers stood up to denounce his detention and potential deportation.
Salah had been arrested the night before after slipping into Britain last Saturday before the Home Office had properly informed the Border Agency that he had been excluded as not being conducive to the public good.
But before last night he had already spoken at Conway Hall on Monday night, in Leicester and in the House of Lords.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail’s front page headline screamed “Secure Britain…What a Joke” and attributed the following, alleged, statements to Salah:
On homosexuality: “It is a crime. A great crime. Such phenomena signal the start of the collapse of every society.”
On Jews: “We have never allowed ourselves to knead (the dough for) the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children’s blood. Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the (Jewish) holy bread.” (After this, alleged, speech 1,000 people rioted).
Salah had served two years in prison for confessing to having financed the terrorist group Hamas.
As last night’s PSC event took place Salah was languishing in prison.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said that Salah’s lawyers, the PSC and Corbyn, himself, were going to challenge the decision. Corbyn also insinuated that the “orchestrated campaign by the Daily Mail” might be behind the decision not to allow Salah into the country.
The meeting itself was on Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem. Speakers included Muslims, Christians and Jews. The intention was to portray Jerusalem as equally important to all the faiths and, therefore, having to be fairly shared with the Palestinians having east Jerusalem as their capital and the Jews having west Jerusalem as Israel’s.
At no stage was it stated that this would leave virtually every Jewish holy site under the control of the Palestinians.
While Palestinians would be able to worship on the Temple Mount, it is highly unlikely that many Israeli Jews would be allowed to pray at the Western Wall. This was certainly the case when Jordan controlled the Western Wall between 1949 and 1967. And they have the cheek to describe Israel as an “apartheid state”!
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi spoke first. She referred to the “apartheid wall that digs deep into the West Bank”. She said Israel has “created a Jewish buffer zone around Jerusalem” and that it had appropriated huge swathes of land in order to Judaise Jerusalem.
Then Palestinian Ambassador Dr. Manuel Hassassian said that the Palestinians will “never compromise over the sovereignty of east Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian state and the hardest nut to crack. If there is political will on the part of Israel, then everything has a solution. But we have a right wing fascist Israeli government that only wants to build settlements and confiscate land. We Palestinians don’t have a partner for peace. We made our historic compromise when we gave up 78% of Palestine in 1988.”
Considering Hassassian’s Fatah party has just joined forces with anti-Jewish terrorist group Hamas Hassassian’s hypocrisy reeks stronger than his aftershave.
Hassassian also referred to the “apartheid wall” and to Israel’s policies in Jerusalem as “ethnic cleansing”. He said that America keeps Israel immune from international law. On Salah’s arrest he said that Salah is in prison now for fighting for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.
He finished off by saying:
“We are resilient, diligent and we will get our state in September with east Jerusalem as our capital. The UK government must be proactive and give us money and aid and say to Israel that you are the occupier and must end this occupation. We hope Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims will live in unity in Mosaic Jerusalem, where I was born. I will never quit defending the rights of Palestinians in that city.”
Ismail Patel, from Friends of Al Aqsa, said it was a “sad day today that his (Salah’s) voice should be silenced in a country known for its freedom of speech. He has more free speech in Israel than in Britain”.
He claimed that the Romans expelled the Jews but it was the Muslims who ended the Jewish dispersion in 637AD and that until 1967 Jerusalem was an open city, apart from 100 years of Crusader rule.
He said “Israel’s slogan was a land without a people for a people without a land”. But now, he said, Israel has a new slogan: “There is no meaning to Israel without Jerusalem as its capital and there is no meaning to Jerusalem without the Temple Mount on which Al Aqsa stands”.
“Israel’s Zionist ideology of occupation, oppression and expulsion wishes to create an exclusively Jewish state. It wants to be a Jewish democracy only, by denying other faiths equal rights. Never again should mankind oppress another because of the difference in their faith as was done in Germany during the Holocaust. The Palestinians have been expelled just because they are Palestinians. If we want ‘Never Again’ to come true we must motivate ourselves to keep the Palestinian presence in former Palestinian land, in a state where all faiths are equal and not a state where only Jews have the right to exist.”
Hind Khoury, of Sabeel, which is described as “an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians”, said she wanted east Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state and west Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.
She said that Israel is seeking to Judaise and de-Palestinise the city. She agreed with Ambassador Hassassian that the Palestinians had recognised Israel’s existence in 1988. She said that nothing justifies Israel’s exlusive claim to the West Bank and she was worried that “our churches will become Museums”.
Labour MP Richard Burden said that Palestinians must pay $26,000 for a building permit in Jerusalem and that the permits take many years to obtain from the Israelis. He said it was a case of the “creeping ethnic cleansing of a city by bureaucratic decree”.
Burden, referring to the Salah affair, said he had no truck with racism or anti-Semitism, but a person should be convicted on the basis of evidence, not innuendo:
“If the Home Secretary can produce evidence then fair enough, but the obligation is on her. If our government is as activist as this maybe it could show more activism and tell the Israeli authorities that it is about time they stopped demolishing Palestinian homes…Brave Jewish Israelis are also saying this.”
Last night BBC’s Newsnight had a piece about the Salah affair and as the credits were about to roll the presenter said that Burden had just phoned in to say that although he had been due to speak alongside Salah last night he had no input into arranging Salah’s visit. And his point is?
Labour Lord Alf Dubs had recently returned from his first ever visit to the West Bank and was “shocked” by what he saw: “Israel’s government is its own worst enemy.”
He called for a peaceful two state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital, but this, he said, would be impossible with Israel’s “deliberate” settlement policy. He also described his visit to an Israeli military court:
“The security was so tight we had to leave our business cards on entering. In the dock were two Palestinian kids aged 14 and 15. Their handcuffs had been removed, but their legs were still shackled. The fifteen year old was in tears, which was very disturbing to see.”
Diana Neslen, of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said she is a “dissident Jew”. She spoke of the “obscene wall that snakes around” Jerusalem. She said that until 1967 another wall divided the city, but although Jews could not visit the Western Wall then, they were “otherwise free and without restriction”.
She said that Israel had destroyed the houses that faced the Western Wall when it captured the Old City in 1967, but “gaining territory was no substitute for losing one’s soul”.
She also said that now many Palestinian cannot pray on the Temple Mount and that “this shows how unfit Israel is to be the guardian of the Holy sites…Israelis do not see the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine worthy of human decency”.
She described how on June 1st “white shirted young people” marched through east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah district screaming “Death to Arabs”, “Burn the Arabs” and “Burn the Arab villages”:
“It was like Mosley marching through the East End protected by the police, but Mosley was prevented from marching. Those who like to excavate anti-Semitism never condemn these outrageous scenes. Shameful silence breeds violence”.
She said some “brave Israeli and Jewish dissidents” did make a stand. One was Lucas Kerner who, she said, was wearing both a “Jewish skullcap and a Palestinian keffiya”, but he was attacked by police.
Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge brought down the curtain. Her whole talk was about the Salah affair. She berated “the power of the Israel lobby here as well as in the USA”. She said she is “deeply ashamed of the Liberal Democrat part of our government”. She said that if you met Salah you would know that what has been said about him is not true.
She said that the proposed change in the law on universal jurisdiction was a case of “the Israel lobby at work. They lobbied on that and are getting their way and I suspect they lobbied on this. I am deeply ashamed and I am considering my future in my party.” (see poll below)
Jenny, you’ll be doing everyone a favour if you resign, mostly the Liberal Democrat party.
Meanwhile, Reverend Stephen Sizer was there last night as the official photographer. He is back from his recent trip to Malaysia where he said on TV:
“The far right in Britain is forming an alliance with Zionists because their common enemy are the Muslims.”
And so ended another evening where the Palestine Solidarity Campaign sunk to new lows. For my part even if Salah did not say what he is accused of saying about Jews and homosexuals the fact that he has been convicted of financing Hamas is enough to exclude him from Britain. (UPDATE: Sheikh Salah is a homophobe. Read Haaretz interview with him)
Would we let in to Britain someone who has financed Al Qaeda?
Meanwhile, in the queue for last night’s event someone was telling me that the Zionists controlled the world financial system and that Israel controlled British foreign policy and was responsible for 9/11. But, he assured me, he was not anti-Semitic.
Photos/audio from last night:
Sarah Colborne (PSC Chief), Martin Linton, Ben White, Diana Neslen last night.
Jeremy Corbyn MP congratulates "dissident Jew" Diana Neslen.
Palestinian Ambassador Dr Manuel Hassassian, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Richard Burden MP, Lord Alf Dubs
Richard Burden MP, Lord Alf Dubs, Hind Khoury (Sabeel)
Lubna Masarwa (Middle East Monitor), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Ben White (anti-Zionist activist)
Prof. Chinkin and Colonel Travers (3rd & 4th from left)
On wednesday night Colonel Desmond Travers, one of Richard Goldstone’s four person UN team that looked into the possibility of war crimes having been committed during the Gaza War, spoke in Parliament. At the end of this blog is the transcript of his talk.
He’d spoken on March 8th at LSE and I was left incredulous that such a man could actually have a bearing on whether politicians and soldiers could end up serving life in prison for war crimes.
At LSE Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin, who was also on the team, made startling admissions as to how this investigation, which found that war crimes were committed mainly by Israel but also by Hamas, was conducted.
Questionable credibility of Travers and Chinkin:
1. Israel destroyed 14 mosques during Operation Cast Lead which, Israel claimed, was due to Hamas storing weaponry inside them. Travers said he had inspected two of the mosques and had found no evidence of secondary explosions. Despite the important question of how this was forensically tested it leaves open the even bigger question of why he didn’t visit the other 12 mosques.
2. Palestinian witnesses from Gaza had been heard in open sessions, where the public could hear what was said. But knowing the callousness of Hamas towards traitors, for example throwing them off the top of high buildings in Gaza while handcuffed, which Palestinian in his or her right mind would dare tell the truth?
3. Chinkin had signed a letter to the Times published on 11th January 2009 part of which stated:
“Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.”
At LSE Travers was pressed on his recent statement, with its dark undertones, that “Britain’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists.”
When he was pressed as to why he didn’t examine the other 12 mosques for secondary explosions he replied:
“If I was Hamas I would not store weapons in an open space such as a mosque.”
2. Neither Travers nor Professor Iain Scobbie, of SOAS, viewed anything wrong in having public, as opposed to, private hearings eventhough Travers closed with this incredible statement about Hamas:
“One of the main things I hate about Hamas is the knee-cappings they carry out”
3. Travers was asked to explain his “Jewish Lobby” comment three times but each time, like at LSE, he refrained. And when both his credibility, in light of that comment, and Chinkin’s credibility, in light of her letter to the Times, were both challenged he just replied:
“You can join the long list of whingers.”
4. There were also the issues of Travers’ new assertion that “now there are now no mistakes in war” (see transcript below) especially in light of three Israeli soldiers being killed by “friendly fire” during the Gaza War, and totally anonymous testimony given by Breaking The Silence that Travers has accepted unquestioningly.
Finally, Jocelyn Hurndall, whose son, Tom, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2003 and who subsequently died nine months later, was at the talk to continue to seek justice for her son and it really does put into perspective all the bickering during the Q&A.
However, before we can even start to consider whether the “facts” given to us in the Goldstone Report are credible we have to establish whether both the investigators and their methods were credible in the first place.
In my view both Chinkin and Travers were not credible and neither were their methods.
It is the first principle of law that justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.
Travers’ and Chinkin’s take on that seems to be not to let the facts get in the way of a good story.
TRANSCRIPT OF TRAVERS’ TALK
Ambit of investigation:
Travers called the six month investigation “thorough” and told us that its ambit, as formulated by Richard Goldstone, was as follows:
“To investigate all the violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been commited at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from the 27th December 2008 and 18th January 2009, whether before, during or after.”
He said that in addition to Hamas and Israel being investigated, Fatah/PLO were also investigated as were claims of discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens.
“188 people were interviewed, 200 reports studied, 30 videos watched, thousands of photos viewed (at least 1,200) and 10,000 documents perused. Two field visits to Gaza were made in June and July 2008 for a week each time.”
“Public hearings, which took place in Gaza, Amman and Geneva, were undertaken for Palestinians and Israelis who wanted to come before us to relate their experiences. We even spoke to the father of Gilad Schalit. Therefore I want to stress that we were not on some sort of witch-hunt which some perceive we were. You can download the interviews from the website and they are all very telling. We found no evidence that the witnesses were coerced or interfered with whatsoever. I have no doubts as to the veracity of what we were told.”
Provocation and Proportionality:
“We looked back as far as June 2008 when the ceasefire was in place between Israel and Hamas as we know that insurgents can use this time to rearm and sometimes that rearming has to stopped by pre-emptive military strikes such as the one that occured but that theory of mine did not survive our enquiries. The initial attack was on 27th December by guided munitions. It was very severe by any military standards. It was extreme and occasioned most of the casualties in Gaza. 1417 people were killed, although B’Tselem gives a lower figure. The higher figure is becoming more applicable as people are still dying and bodies are being recovered from collapsed buildings. 99 policeman were killed in the initial attack on a police graduation parade. The defence used was that these were Hamas police. We examined the inter-relation worldwide between police and military forces. However, that connection was unfounded. In newspaper obituaries we found mention that some of the police were Hamas members but we concluded that they may have been a) politically affiliated or b) families just wanted to optimise their pension compensation arrangements. I perfectly understood that. My father was a policeman and I could see my mother doing the same. He died at 42.”
Death and Destruction:
“280 schools and six university buildings were destroyed, 240 policemen were killed, 14 mosques were attacked, two of which I examined carefully. Two hospitals, Al-Shifa and al-Quds, were attacked. 29 ambulances were destroyed, killing 16 medics or ambulance drivers. After that initial bombardment being a paramedic was the most dangerous job to carry out. I find that very troubling. These air strikes were deliberate attacks on the infrastructure of Gaza. These were not Hamas infrastructure but infrastructure that maintained society. The destruction of schools, hospitals and mosques was particularly troubling and together with farms, homesteads, agricultural land, sewage farms it becomes very troubling.”
“The ground incursion started on 3rd January and was led by the Golani brigade from northern Israel and the Givati brigade from the south east. They both held certain positions and while they rested reservists were brought in. It was these reservists who produced the evidence for Breaking the Silence. These couragous soldiers decided to reveal their concerns about the behaviour of their colleagues. Some of these incidents were of ‘human shields’ and that of a 59 year-old man forced to enter a building where Hamas operatives were hiding. When he came out he spoke of seeing two or three Hamas operatives inside. The soldiers beat him up so they could be ceratin of the veracity of what he had described. They made him go in a second time and this time bring a camera. So he went in and took photographs of what he saw and when he came out they wanted him to go in a final time but he refused and so they beat him up again. Eventually they sent in a dog with a camera on its back and it was killed by a Hamas operative. The the IDF collapsed the building on top of the two Hamas soldiers which i haven’t got an issue with that but they also collapsed this man’s building which was adjacent to it and while he watched it collapse he wondered if his wife and children were still inside. By great good fortune they had escaped. This incident shows you how easily rules of engagement are so easily broken and those that formulate them should be very careful. The account of the man used as a human shield was replicated precisely by one of the soldiers from Breaking The Silence. This proves that witnesses are telling the truth.”
Palestinians told to leave their homes:
“This was very troubling. There were those that were forced to leave homes so Israel could use them as strongholds but if they encountered an Israeli checkpoint they ran a very high risk of being shot and even if they were carrying white flags it did not protect them. This evidence was replicated by Breaking the Silence as soldiers were told that any person they then encountered in their vicinity was likely to be the enemy. The dropping of leaflets early on ensured that those who were left in Gaza were potential aggressors. Is that sufficient to absolve a military commander of his obligations? It is not. And anyway where were they to go? The double whammy was that those who knew Israel’s route into Gaza exited their areas and stayed with friends or family elsewhere. Often those houses where they stayed were struck by missiles and the possible explanation for this is that the thermal signature of a high density of occupation in some houses was enough to alert the missilers to target that place. As a result you were damned in you did go and damned if you didn’t go.”
Destruction of food sources:
“This was also troubling. We went to the only flour mill functioning in Gaza. It was struck and destroyed by an air attack. People now have to pay for their flour in Israel with a food price-hike on top of their other troubles. Israel claimed it was not struck from the air but was damaged by a tank shell during an exchange of fire with Hamas operatives in the area. But Israel’s argument was demolished by a Guardian journalist who saw the bomb fragments the following day. It was a Mark 84 JDAM bomb. Then there was the main chicken farm with 35,000 chickens. The family was locked away while the hatcheries were bulldozed. These were very troubling incidents. Then Israel, in what was called ‘Operation the Day After’, started bulldozing factories, farmland, wells and all the trees. I found that personally very difficult to comprehend. 6800 dunams of land had been destroyed. That figure has now increased to 20,000 dunams because the degradation is cumulative when land is adjacent to sea, sand or sewage and that land is left untended. 140,000 olive trees, 136,000 citrus trees and 22,000 fruit trees were destroyed. The agricultural destruction was my particular cause of pain.”
“Now there are no mistakes in war”:
“Today we have the undreamt of luxury of precision weapons. There are no accidents, there are no miscalculations and there are no errors. There may be soldiers among you who disagree with me but that is my view, especially in the armies that have emerged in the last five or six years, because the technologies are there and they are inexpensive. Therefore I have to make assumptions that the amount of destruction that was applied to the territory of Gaza would lead to other consequences if the blockade was left in place. As long as the blockade continues the degradation of life in Gaza will continue. I could argue that the blockade is the continuation of the war by other means.”
“There is an evolving doctrine in the Israel defence community. This doctrine has an influence on other armies in the West. The most ubiquitous symbol of the war that was repeatedy flashed onto our screens was the discharge of White Phosphorous over the city. There are claimes that 3,500 WP shells were discharged on a defenceless city. This is an extremely troubling action. WP will burn through the skin to the bone. It affects those who treat it. 14 people were killed by it. WP should never be used either in an undefended area or on a battlefield. Ireland got rid of WP from its arsenal in the 1970s.
Shrapnel, heavy metal and tungsten were also used. One boy had tungsten in his spine and he is now likely to develop cancer and you have to call tungsten’s use into question. It is particularly troublesome if used in powder form such as DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive). It is not detectable in the system and will also cause cancer and tumours. Then there are Fleschettes, little darts, which are designed on impact with human flesh to ‘tumble’ and aggravate the injuries internally. Sometimes when they meet the flesh they break and so portions of the darts go in different directions inside the body. This is in breach of the Geneva Conventions and should be banned and condemned out of hand.
There were certain weapons used, or suspected to have been used, with deep penetrator capabilities to take on the tunnels and underground bunkers that may have been in Gaza and were certainly on the border with Gaza and Egypt. It is reasonable to surmise that these weapons penetration abilities can only be arrived at by the use of hardened warheads which use materials containing alloys, which are highly toxic, or uranium or depleted uranium, which are highly toxic, and so there is an urgent need to institute investigations of the soil, the air and the water in that area not only in Gaza but in soil to the east of Gaza, in Israel, because of the prevailing westerly winds. Any toxicities released as a result of the weapons will travel.
Although we have handed in the Goldstone Report there are further revelations. This morning I got hair sample results of 65 people who lived close to four or five major impact sites and their finding reveal an array of toxic chemicals in the hair samples, some of which are tungsten, which is carcinogenic, and some is uranium. Therefore while I confine myself to the Goldstone Report’s findings I will not be discharging my duties to you adequately if I did not reveal to you subsequent findings which add further wieght to this report, which cannot be ignored and which will not go away.”