Thursday, January 15, 2009

british jewish mp: israelis not simply war criminals, but fools

Today's House of Commons debate on Gaza saw some particularly passionate and eloquent contributions, and a probably unprecedented level of crticism of Israel. The Guardian has a useful timeline with notes on the debate.

The speech by Sir Gerald Kaufman, the veteran Jewish Labour MP and former chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, was especially outspoken. Kaufman (78) has a long record of criticising Israeli policies - although he has been friends with leading Israeli politicians, as well as with the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and is certainly no admirer of Hamas.

In 2002, during Israel's invasion of the West Bank, he told the House of Commons:

It is time to remind Sharon that the star of David belongs to all Jews, not to his repulsive Government. His actions are staining the star of David with blood. The Jewish people, whose gifts to civilised discourse include Einstein and Epstein, Mendelssohn and Mahler, Sergei Eisenstein and Billy Wilder, are now symbolised throughout the world by the blustering bully Ariel Sharon, a war criminal implicated in the murder of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila camps and now involved in killing Palestinians once again."

Kaufman's speech during the Gaza Debate:

Madam Deputy Speaker, I was brought up as an Orthodox Jew and a Zionist. On a shelf in our kitchen was a tin box of the Jewish National Fund into which we put coins to help the pioneers building a Jewish presence in Palestine. I first went to Israel in 1961 and I have been there since more times than I can count. I have family in Israel and I have friends in Israel. One of them fought in the wars of 1956 1967 and 1973, and was wounded in two of those.The tiepin I am wearing is made from a campaign decoration awarded to him, which he presented to me.

I’ve known most of the prime ministers of Israel, starting with the founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion. Golda Meir was my friend. So was Yigal Allon, deputy prime minister, who as a general won the Negev for Israel in the 1948 War of Independence.

My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed.

Madam Deputy Speaker, my grandmother did not die to provide cover to Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits continuing guilt among Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.

The implication is that Jewish lives are precious but the lives of Palestinians do not count.

On Sky News a few days ago a spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibowitch, was asked about the Israeli killing of – at that time – 800 Palestinians. The total is now 1000. She replied instantly: “Five hundred of them were militants.” That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.

The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said that her government will have no dealings with Hamas because they are terrorists. Tzipi Livni’s father was Eitan Livni, chief operations officer of the terrorist organisation Irgun Zvai Leumi who organised the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in which 91 victims were killed including four Jews.

Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism.

Jewish terrorists hanged two British sergeants and booby-trapped their corpses. Irgun, together with the terrorist Stern Gang, massacred 254 Palestinians in 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin.

Today the present Israeli government would be wiling, in circumstances acceptable to them, to negotiate with the Palestinian president Abbas of Fatah. It’s too late for that, Madam Deputy Speaker. They could have negotiated with Fatah’s previous leader, Yasser Arafat, who was a friend of mine. Instead, they besieged him in a bunker in Ramallah, where I visited him.

It is because of the failings of Fatah since Arafat’s death that Hamas won the Palestinian election in 2006. Hamas is a deeply nasty organisation, but it was democratically elected and it is the only game in town. The boycotting of Hamas, including by our own government, has been a culpable error from which dreadful consequences have followed.

The great Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban, with whom I campaigned for peace on many platforms, said: You make peace by talking to your enemies. However many Palestinians the Israelis murder in Gaza, they cannot solve this existential problem by military means. Whenever, and however, the fighting ends there will still be one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza and two and a half million more Palestinians in the West Bank who are treated like dirt by the Israelis with hundreds of road blocks and with the ghastly denizens of the illegal Jewish settlements harassing them as well. The time will come, not so long from now, when they will outnumber the Jewish population in Israel.

It’s time for our government to make it clear to the Israeli government that its conduct and policies are unacceptable and to impose a total arms ban on Israel. It is time for peace – but real peace, not the solution by conquest which is the Israelis real goal which it is impossible for them to achieve. They are not simply war criminals – they are fools.


PEN Atlas said...

Thanks for posting this, Susannah, and for all your beautiful, raging, humane, livid, clear-eyed posts of poems and texts this week. A reminder of the complex human responses to conflict and genocide that can never be conveyed in CNN soundbites. Thanks especially for the line about Einstein and Eisenstein, the great tradition of Jewish anti-Zionist radicals and socialists who would have been (and were) appalled by Israel's militancy.

Anonymous said...

Yes Susannah,

Thanks for the opportunity to show this one too: