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10 Questions About Gaza – Part 1

10 Questions About Gaza – Part 1

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
W. H. Auden

Here are ten questions everyone should try to answer before adding their unconditional or qualified support to the genocide being perpetrated in Gaza, and which UK politicians, journalists and Zionists have refused even to ask, let alone to answer.

This article is my attempt to answer them.

1. What is a Jew?

Their barbaric acts are acts of evil. There are not two sides to these events. There is no question of balance. I stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. The United Kingdom stands with Israel against this terrorism today, tomorrow, and always.”
Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister (9 October, 2023)

Being a Jew is not the same as being a follower of Judaism, since many Jews are secular. And like all religions, Judaism itself is radically divided between different factions, beliefs, practices and political goals. It isn’t a language, as not all Jews speak Hebrew, which like Arabic is a Semitic language; and fewer still speak Yiddish, the German dialect developed by the Ashkenazi Jews.

For a lot of people, Jews are a race, although there’s no biological basis to that claim; perhaps a culture, although how that encompasses, say, Ethiopian Jews and the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe is unclear; or a set of practices, although whether these extend beyond religious rituals is also in question. Nor is it a nation.

The State of Israel was created by the United Nations in 1947 from the British Mandate of Palestine, and the current population, excluding the occupied Palestinians territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is 21 per cent Arab and 17 per cent Muslim. And of the 15.2 million people worldwide who identified as Jewish in 2022, 7.18 million live in Israel, less than the 7.3 million that live in the USA.

Despite this lack of a clear identity, being a Jew is officially passed down through the mother, which qualifies the child as a ‘womb-Jew’; but it is also possible to convert to the practices and beliefs of Judaism, which also qualifies the converted as a Jew, whatever their parentage, ethnicity, race, nationality, culture or languages they do and don’t speak. It is also, however, the terrible history of the oppression of Jews.

Indeed, perhaps it is this that is at the core of Jewish Identity, certainly since the genocide of the Jews leading up to and during the Second World War the Jews call the Shoah, the Hebrew word for ‘catastrophe’. On 14 November 1935, the first supplemental decree to the Reich Citizenship Law defined ‘Jews’ not as members of a religious or cultural community but as a race defined by hereditary. It was by this criteria that those falling within the power of the Third Reich were progressively stripped of their rights as citizens and, eventually, selected for extermination. It’s one of history’s stranger outcomes that this definition of a Jew is retained today by both the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the racially apartheid State of Israel.

Being a Jew, consequently, is now defined less by what it is and more by the threats to its largely manufactured identity, which is to say, by the definition of anti-Semitism. In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance formulated a definition of anti-Semitism that has since been adopted by 43 countries, including the UK and the USA but not Palestine, and is supported by the United Nations and the European Union. This definition of anti-Semitism includes the following examples:

  • The targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (e.g. denial of the Holocaust or display of a swastika in Germany).
  • Criminal acts are antisemitic when the target of attacks, whether they are people or property, are selected because they are Jewish.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israel policy to that of the Nazis.

I’d like to think that any lawyer worth his fee would pull these definitions to pieces. Does ‘targeting’, for instance, mean with rockets fired from the ruins of Gaza, or in a report by Amnesty International that accuses Israel of presiding over a ‘cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity’? Where does the conception of Israel as a ‘Jewish collectivity’ leave the 1 in 5 of the population that is Arab? And in this age of mass immigration, why does loyalty to a homeland — even if it is an imaginary one — constitute a crime?

Is the British child of Pakistani ethnicity who supports the Pakistani cricket team now to be considered a terrorist threat to the security of the UK? Is the journalist who observes and even celebrates this support now to be condemned as ‘anti-Asian’?

As for the racism with which the State of Israel was brought so violently into existence, it has demonstrated this continuously and with increasing openness through the 75 years of its occupation, starting, most violently, with the Nakba, the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’.

Finally, the possession of history and its symbols has always been a defining characteristic of fascist and totalitarian regimes, and the State of Israel has repeatedly used anything other than obedient adherence to its accounts of history — not only of the history of the ‘Holocaust’ but of its own history — to accuse the non-compliant of anti-Semitism. As an example of which outside Israel, the author and political satirist, CJ Hopkins, has been found guilty by the German courts for displaying a swastika on his book, The Rise of the New Normal Reich, which even the most COVID-compliant judge couldn’t mistake for a promotion of fascist ideology.

Unfortunately, in its justification for such crude acts of censorship as in so many other aspects of policy — not least of which is its reduction of the Palestinian people to its very own Untermenschen — the policies of the State of Israel and its supporters have drawn and will continue to draw comparison with those of the Nazis.

Despite these and other flaws, the IHRA definition laid the ground on which Zionists today can and do denounce any criticism of Israel and its genocidal attack on Gaza as ‘anti-Semitism’. We saw the same trope deployed by Matt Hancock, the UK Secretary of State for Health during the first 15 months of lockdown, in January of this year, when he publicly denounced Andrew Bridgen MP for raising the dangers of Pfizer’s mRNA gene therapy as ‘anti-semitic, anti-vaxx conspiracy theories’ that ‘have no place in this House or our society’. And in March of this year, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, employed the same trope when he denounced those opposed to his Ultra Low Emission Zone scheme as aligned with the ‘far-right’, ‘COVID-deniers’, and ‘vaccine-deniers’, to which he later added ‘conspiracy theorists and Nazis’.

Now, in anticipation of the practised outrage of Zionists ready to denounce me as ‘anti-Semitic’ for this brief review of history, my point in saying this is not to deny the existence of a Jewish people or even the right to existence of the State of Israel, catastrophic as that existence has been for the Palestinian people on whose land it has been constructed at such a high cost in death and suffering. The State of Israel exists, and given their genocidal treatment of the Arabs — both Palestinians and Bedouin — with whom they more or less peacefully shared the land for millennia, it is likely to be catastrophic for the Israeli people if it ceased to exist — as catastrophic, indeed, as the erasure of Palestine has been for the Palestinians. Perhaps, given the terror of its existence, many would say the Israelis deserve such a catastrophe; but only the fundamentally religious and the politically fascist entertain such realities.

Any policy for the future of Israel that will stop the killing, suffering and brutal treatment of the Palestinians and Bedouin while not condoning furthers catastrophes must begin from the fact of the existence of the State of Israel — most obviously in the formation of two states, and not a state and its occupied territories. How that will come about and succeed is, hopefully, a problem that will be resolved by diplomacy and not by military means. But it’s hard, if not impossible, to negotiate with a state that is in military occupation of your land, is killing, imprisoning and torturing your people, murdering your new-born children, starving your communities, destroying your farms and businesses, and is intent on reducing the survivors to inmates of a concentration camp. The collaboration of the West in allowing this criminal situation to continue and escalate for 75 years amounts to complicity in the current genocide, which is the inevitable outcome of the apartheid policies pursued with increasing violence, brutality and inhumanity by the State of Israel.

My point in starting with this question — What is a Jew? — is that any solution to the historical reality of Israel and the crimes committed to establish and maintain its existence over 75 years of military occupation will never come from the mystical claims of a Jewish homeland based, as Gore Vidal once said, on the sacred books of a Bronze-age nomadic tribe from the Southern Levant. These are fundamentalist religious beliefs that are employed by the cynical practitioners of Western imperialism to justify the occupation of Palestine and the brutal and increasingly genocidal treatment of the Palestinian and Bedouin peoples. As the coverage and response to 7 October have amply demonstrated, both these beliefs and the politics they serve seek to reduce the terms in which a solution between two polities could ever be arrived at to imperious demands to condemn Hamas ‘barbarism’, to shrill denunciations of criticism of Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza as ‘antisemitism’, to condemnation of the violent acts of desperate people — who, in Israel, are treated as citizens without rights, in the West Bank as a colonised people, and, in Gaza, as inmates of a concentration camp — to ‘terrorism’.

Before lending our voices to this Zionist discourse that has silenced all other voices in the Middle East for 75 years, we should reflect that the terminology used to describe the killing of Israel civilians and soldiers on 7 October by Hamas militants, compared to the many times greater numbers of Palestinian civilians and Hamas militants killed by the Israel Defence Forces both before and since then is deliberate, strategic and in the service of the geopolitical goals of the State of Israel, the United States of America and the West in general.

This is not a conflict between Arabs and Jews, or between Islam and Judaism, and the respective claims of their adherents to that thin strip of land on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that has borne the names of Canaan, Palaestina, Judaea, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Mamluk Sultanate, a part of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate for Palestine. As anyone who has studied the history of the State of Israel knows, it is a conflict whose least murmur reverberates around the world, not only in our Cabinets and Parliaments but on our streets. Those who reduce it to imaginary racial, ethnic or religious identities and their ancestral rights to ancient tribal lands granted to them by their God do so because it ignores the political realities of the present and the history that created them. Any opinion on what has been happening in the Gaza Strip since 7 October that does not simply mouth the discourses of Zionism, Islamic fundamentalism or Western imperialism must begin, therefore, with an understanding of these political realities.

2. What is Gaza?

We are imposing a complete siege on Gaza. There will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything will be closed. We are fighting against human animals and we are acting accordingly.”
Yoav Gallant, Israel Minister for Defence (9 October, 2023)

In 1948, Palestinians fleeing the Nakba fled to the Gaza Strip, whose borders were fixed by the armistice between Israel and Egypt in 1949. Initially administered as a protectorate of Egypt, Gaza was subsequently occupied by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War. To encourage Palestinians to emigrate, Israel began to consider and perhaps impose restrictions on Gaza’s access to water. Between 1967 and 2005, Israel established 21 settlements in Gaza that together occupied 20 per cent of its already limited territory. In 1987, on the 20th anniversary of the occupation, the First Intifada launched a series of protests, civil disobedience, strikes against Israeli employers, boycotts of Israeli institutions and the withholding of taxes. In 1994, following the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Gaza’s administration was taken over by the State of Palestine, which also exercised partial authority over areas in the West Bank. However, Israel retained control over Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters, which it began to enclose in a militarised border barrier.

In 2000, the Second Intifada marked the beginning of rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian guerrilla fighters and the tearing down of the Gaza barrier, which Israel began to rebuild the following year. In 2004, the barrier was extended to the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. In 2005, Israel formally declared an end to its military occupation of Gaza and withdrew 9,000 Israeli settlers from the settlements. In 2006, Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist political party, won the Palestinian legislative elections and expelled Fatah, the social democratic party founded by Yasser Arafat, from the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip that continues to this day.

Although Israel describes Gaza as a de facto independent state, it maintains direct external control over the Strip and indirect control over life within it. In addition to Gaza’s air and maritime space, Israel also controls six of Gaza’s seven border crossings, only one of which was still open in October 2023, and it reserves and exercises the right for its military, the Israel Defense Forces, to enter Gaza at will. Israel maintains a buffer zone within the already limited territory of Gaza, which in 2010 it expanded to 300 meters, and on which newly-built Palestinian homes are regularly bulldozed. Farmers who try to cultivate the land are gunned down by Israeli Defence Forces. Palestinians, who are effectively imprisoned in the Gaza Strip, are dependent on the State of Israel for water, electricity, gas, telecommunications and other utilities, and the population is not free to leave or enter, or to import or export goods freely. As a result of this blockade, the Gaza Strip, with a population of 2.3 million people on 365 square kilometres of land in which 17 per cent is off limits to Palestinians, is the third most densely populated political authority in the world, and 70 per cent of its inhabitants live below the poverty line.

In December 2021, Israel announced the completion of the enhanced militarised barrier by which its blockade of Gaza is maintained. This runs 65 kilometres (40 miles) around the Gaza Strip and out into the Mediterranean Sea. The double-walled barrier cost US$1.1 billion to construct, extends 6 metres above ground and an undeclared number of metres below ground to block tunnels, and is armed with antennas, cameras, radars and a sea barrier. Watchtowers every 2 kilometres are equipped with remote-controlled machine guns, and motion sensors are inserted into the fence and the ground beyond. As a result of the buffer zone on the Gazan side of this barrier, 35 per cent of arable land and 85 per cent of fishing waters along the Gaza coast are off-limits to Palestinians. Under rules of engagement for Israeli soldiers, any Palestinian in this buffer zone, whether on land or sea, is shot on sight.

After 15 years of maintained blockade — but before the current attacks, which are exponentially worsening the living conditions — 52 per cent of Gaza’s population were unemployed, 80 per cent were dependent on international assistance, and 97 per cent of the drinking water was contaminated. 39 per cent of pregnant women in Gaza and 50 per cent of Gaza’s children were anaemic, and 17.5 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition. This is primarily because Israel only allows food imports that are vital for the survival of the civilian population. This threshold of survival is determined using a mathematical equation that calculates the minimum level of calories necessary to sustain Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians at a level just above the United Nations’ definition of hunger.

In February 2022, Amnesty International made a submission to the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee that was based on its 2022 report, ‘Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crimes against Humanity’. Among its many condemnations of human rights abuses, it stated:

All governments and regional actors, particularly those that enjoy close diplomatic relations with Israel such as the USA, the European Union and its member states and the UK, but also those states that are in the process of strengthening their ties — such as some Arab and African states — must not support the system of apartheid or render aid or assistance to maintaining such a regime, and cooperate to bring an end to this unlawful situation. As a first step, they must recognize that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and other international crimes, and use all political and diplomatic tools to ensure Israeli authorities implement the recommendations outlined in this report and review any cooperation and activities with Israel to ensure that these do not contribute to maintaining the system of apartheid. Amnesty International is also reiterating its long-standing call on states to immediately suspend the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons, munitions and other military and security equipment, including the provision of training and other military and security assistance.

This detailed and rigorously documented 280-page report on the human rights abuses committed by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people under its power was immediately condemned by Zionist organisations around the world as an ‘anti-Semitic’ attack on the State of Israel. This condemnation and dismissal of the Amnesty International report was echoed by government ministers in the USA, UK, Germany, France, Austria, the Czech Republic and Australia.

Even before the current attack, the United Nations estimated that, since January 2008, 5,365 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had been killed by the Israel Defense Forces, 1,206 of them children, 586 women; and 62,998 had been injured. Respectively, that’s 1 in 382 of the population that had been killed and 1 in 19 injured in just 16 years. These figures don’t include the arrests, beatings, imprisonment and torture inflicted upon the Gazans by the Israel Defense Forces.

Prior to 7 October, there were about 5,200 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons. Within 3 weeks of the attack on Israel, this figure has risen to over 10,000 prisoners, around 4,000 of whom were labourers from Gaza working in Israel, plus a further 1,070 Palestinians arrested in overnight raids in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most are being held in the military base at Be’er Sheva, the capital city of the Negev, where, like the population of Gaza, they have been denied medical attention and water, and are subjected to beatings of their handcuffed and naked bodies, resulting in broken limbs. Much like the prisoners held by the USA in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, the Palestinians are being held under the Unlawful Combatants Law, which means they are detained indefinitely and without access to judicial review. To qualify as an ‘unlawful combatant’, one only has to participate, ‘directly or indirectly’, in so-called ‘hostile’ acts against the State of Israel.

The readiness with which Jews, in Israel and elsewhere, describe the Palestinians as ‘savages’ reflects the brutality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and demonstrates how maintaining and justifying its ‘cruel system of domination and crimes against humanity’ for 75 years has inured them to treating Palestinians as they were once treated themselves. We should bare these facts in mind, and the history of apartheid and genocide to which they testify, before describing Palestinians as ‘terrorists’, ‘barbarians’, ‘human animals’, and all the other dehumanising epithets we’re being encouraged to use in response to the highly unlikely attack on Israel by the militant wing of Hamas.

3. How Did Hamas Escape?

As a Brit, our sense of justice transcends all of this. People who go out and do this sort of thing aren’t somehow freedom fighters or militants. They’re pure and simple terrorists. They are murdering people for the sake of murdering civilians in a hateful, disgraceful, disgusting way. And I say that as a Brit and as a human being as well as a Jew.”
Grant Shapps, UK Minister for Defence, (11 October, 2023)

Given these circumstances, there would appear to be no chance that Hamas, in the early hours of 7 October, could have breached the security barrier around the Gaza Strip at six separate points and gone on a killing spree for 8-26 hours before the Israel Defense Forces arrived. This has led people to speculate that Israel let them through, and therefore to conclude that the USA must have known they would, which means everything that has happened since was planned.

Perhaps the strongest support for these speculations is that the Israel Government has refused to explain why the Israel Defense Forces, with 173,000 active personnel, 193 fighter jets, 38 attack helicopters and 1,760 tanks on standby, and with numerous advance warnings of an attack, took 8 hours to arrive at the Re’im music festival that reportedly had been moved to a location 4 kilometres from the Gaza barrier two days before; a further 30 minutes to reach the Nir Oz kibbutz, just 2 kilometres from the barrier; more than 13 hours to reach the Be’eri kibbutz, about 4 kilometres away; and 20 hours to reach the Kfar Aza kibbutz, also 2 kilometres from the barrier. None of these locations are more than 35 kilometres from the military bases of the IDF’s Southern Command and its two infantry and two armoured divisions stationed in and around the city of Be’er Sheva; and yet it took almost 3 days for the Israel Defence Forces to reach the Gaza Strip barrier.

The second strongest support for the veracity of these speculations is that Western media has either refused to ask how this miraculous assault could have penetrated the most secure border barrier in the world or proposed unlikely excuses about the ‘unprecedented’ speed, surprise and coordination of the attack combined with urgings to look forward to Israel’s response rather than how this catastrophic failure of security and military response could have occurred.

In response to this apparent miracle, the National Unity Government hastily convened by Benjamin Netanyahu has described the Hamas attack as Israel’s ‘9/11’, referring to the terrorist attacks on the US homeland on 11 September, 2001. And, I suppose, if you believe that, half an hour after two passenger planes struck the World Trade Center, causing three towers to collapse on their own footprint, a third was allowed to strike the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defence and one of the most defended buildings in the world, then you probably do believe that the inmates of the world’s largest concentration camp can escape its high-tech security barrier, and this is your 9/11 moment.

Back in the real world outside the phantasmagoria of US foreign policy, Efrat Fenigson, an Israeli journalist who served in the intelligence service of the Israel Defense Forces for 25 years, gave her opinion about the likelihood of Hamas launching this attack.

A year ago, there was a military operation in Gaza to prepare for such events. And ongoingly, there are trainings for these kinds of scenarios. This raises serious questions — for me, anyway — about Israeli intelligence. What happened? Two years ago, there was a successful deployment of underground barriers with sensors to alert exactly on these kinds of terrorist breaches. Israel has one of the most advanced and high-tech armies. How come there was zero response to the border and fence breaches? I cannot understand that. There is no way, in my view, that Israel did not know what [was] coming. A cat moving alongside the fence is triggering all forces. So this? What happened to the “strongest army in the world”? How come border crossing were wide open? Something is very wrong here. Something is very strange. This chain of events is very unusual and not typical for the Israeli defence system. So, to me, this “surprise attack” seems like a planned operation on all fronts.

Needless to say, anyone questioning the official account of the Hamas attack is now accused of anti-Semitism. The fact Western media is not addressing it with anything more than the by now familiar round of ‘fact checks’ and ‘debunking’ indicates that this is the question that has been ruled out of bounds; but this is the question every politician and Zionist justifying the genocide in Gaza must be asked.

Sitting at our laptops in the UK or USA or other countries that have refused to call for a ceasefire, we should recall the size of the Gaza Strip over which the Israel Defence Forces — which this year was ranked the fourth strongest military in the world — have complete control. For those in London, this superimposition (below) shows how it fits inside the UK capital. This is worth bearing in mind when estimating the likelihood of Hamas militants breaking out and attacking Israel.

Also of consideration is the benefits both Israel and the USA derive from this unlikely attack. By starting another war in the Middle East, most immediately with Iran (‘All roads lead to Iran’, as the former US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, was quick to place in the public’s mind), the US has the means to economically destabilise the Arab nations threatening the US dollar as the reserve currency of the world, which is what BRICS represents. Formed in 2010 by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, in 2024 BRICS is set to welcome Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina. This would bring 46 per cent of the population of the globe within its orbit, 29 per cent of global GDP and — of most concern to the West — 43 per cent of oil production. Worst still for the hegemony of the West, numerous other states have applied for membership of BRICS, including Kazakhstan, Belarus, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal, Congo, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

In confirmation of just how seriously the West takes this threat to its hegemony and, I would suggest, its real interest in Gaza, the USA has sent a second carrier strike group, led by USS Dwight D. Eisenhower with 9 aircraft squadrons, two destroyers and a cruiser, to join the first group, led by the largest carrier in the world, USS Gerald R. Ford, off the coast of Gaza. Clearly, this vast reserve of firepower hasn’t been deployed to help the fourth strongest military in the world kill even more Gazans than it already has.

There is also the strange circumstances recorded in the footage apparently released by Hamas militants of their break-out from the Gaza Strip. I don’t know the provenance of this footage, which claims to show Hamas forces passing through the unarmed Gaza security barrier in the early morning of Saturday, 7 October; but we might ask who is the fair-haired white man in the Ray-Ban sunglasses carrying an assault rifle and directing the motorcyclists in the Hamas headscarves? One thing’s certain, he isn’t Palestinian. By his black uniform, he could be Israeli police. Or is he CIA? Where do we recognise that buzz-cut, gum-chewing strut from? Why is he walking past ‘terrorists’ towards Gaza? Why did he wave at them? What’s he doing there? And where’s the Israel Defence Forces as these militant civilians struggle to get their motorcycles over the ramps laid over the pre-cut fences?

Let’s break this footage, which is taken from the head camera of the Hamas motorcyclist, down into stills. At 0:41, a white man waves at the Hamas militant struggling to get his bike over the ramp (top left). At 0:53, the white man gestures to the motorcyclist and shouts something — perhaps ‘Here’ (top right). At 0:54, the white man passes by the motorcyclist (bottom left). And at 0:59, the white man continues to help other motorcyclists passing through the fence (bottom right).

In contrast, at 0:44 this still (above left) from the previous footage, shows what the so-called ‘elite’ Hamas militants were wearing: flak jackets over short-sleeved white shirts, combat trousers and trainers, with distinctive, bright-green Hamas scarves wrapped around their heads. Interestingly, we can see in this another still of the White man at 0:54 (below left) that he does have one of the Hamas headscarves, but it’s wrapped around his left wrist. It looks like he’s taken it off someone. Perhaps it was from the man lying injured but still moving on the Gaza side of the barrier (0:32 below right), who appears by his clothes — flak jacket over a white shirt — to be a member of Hamas. But then, who killed this man, if the Israel Defence Forces were not present? And if they were, where are they now? Perhaps the Hamas scarf the White man has picked up is a memento for the folks back in Texas. Or perhaps it’s to identify himself to the Hamas militants. Either way, I can’t see this man living in the Gaza Strip. Can you?

Admittedly, it’s always difficult to derive conclusions from footage whose provenance is unknown and whose quality is relatively poor; but who thinks that the men standing at the gaps cut into the Gaza security barrier are Palestinians or members of Hamas? And if they aren’t, then who are they? It would help if speakers of Arabic or Hebrew could tell us what is being said, what is written on the White man’s uniform, and whether he is speaking either language. But if he does say ‘Here!’, we might ask ourselves what nationality speaks English no matter where they are in the world, even on the Gaza border? I know what my answer would be.

4. What is a Free Palestine?

With God and the IDF’s help, after we turn Khan Younis too into a football field, I’m sure there will be international pressure at some point — hopefully after we finish the job — to rehabilitate Gaza. We need to take advantage of that — to take advantage of the destruction that we will wreak upon them — to tell the countries of the world that each one of them should take a quota — it can be 20,000 or 50,000 — to say that they too should shoulder the burden.”
Ayelet Shaked, former Israel Minister of Interior (23 November, 2023)

The birth of the State of Israel is typically traced back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the British Government declared its support for the creation of a ‘nation home for the Jewish People’ in Palestine. However, at the time of the declaration, Palestine was a region in the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire with only a small minority Jewish population.

The real basis for its establishment was the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 that was agreed in secret between the British and French governments, and which, in anticipation of the defeat of Turkey in the First World War, carved up the lands now known as the Middle East into states whose borders took little or no account of the ethnic and religious distinctions between the Arab people. At the time, however, it was the Suez Canal running through Egypt between the Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea and the quick access it granted to its Indian and Asian colonies that was Britain’s primary interest, not oil. But the First World War had indicated the importance of oil to the future of the Empire, and it’s within the context of its discovery that the history of the State of Israel must be situated if we are to understand current events.

Oil was first discovered in what we now call the Middle East in the following countries in the following years: in Egypt in 1886, in Iran in 1908, in Iraq in 1927, in Bahrain in 1929, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 1938, and in Qatar in 1940. These were all, at the time of the discoveries, formal or de facto protectorates of the British Empire, which in 1947 carved the State of Israel out of its Mandate for Palestine. But oil continued to be discovered in the Middle East after the Second World War: in Syria in 1956, in the United Arab Emirates in 1958, in Oman in 1964, and in Jordan and Yemen in 1984; but by then Britain had withdrawn from all these former colonies, and the baton of colonialism has been passed to the USA.

Most recently, in 2000, oil was discovered in the territorial waters of Gaza. As Israel has declared its intention to ‘manage the security’ of the Gaza Strip indefinitely once it has been ethnically cleansed of Palestinians, the Ben Gurion Canal project, joining the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, has been revived. Locating the latter point in a Gaza Strip razed to the ground and cleared of living inhabitants would considerably reduce the length and cost of the canal, increase its security and offer an alternative to the Suez Canal, which Egypt’s new alliance with the BRICS nations threatens.

These considerations seem to me to be crucial to any discussion of what a ‘Free Palestine’ might look like, and what is meant by this phrase that has become a cry heard not only in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank but across the world since 7 October. Two weeks later, I was asked what I meant by this phrase — which I have not used — by David Scott, a former editor of UK Column who has interviewed me several times previously, and which produced the following conversation on Twitter.

David somewhat selectively cited some of these in a news report aired by UK Column on 23 October, so I am reproducing them here in full.

David Scott: I have been asking several politicians today what they mean, exactly, by ‘Free Palestine’. So far, I have not received a single answer from any politician and only incoherent ones from their fans. Which is odd, don’t you think?

Simon Elmer:It might begin with opening the borders to the Gaza Strip, freeing the Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s jails, removing the Israeli settler towns in the West Bank, rebuilding the Bedouin villages destroyed in the Negev, returning Palestine to the Palestinians and compensating them for 75 years of military occupation.

DS: Immediately there are problems. On 7 October, the borders to the Gaza Strip were open. It did not go well for humanity on that day. What makes you think it will be different next time? Secondly, ‘returning Palestine to the Palestinians’, who do you mean and what land do you mean?

SE: If you include Palestinians in humanity — which I do — it hasn’t been going well since 1948 when the State of Israel was created at the point of a gun. But if you mean that Palestine was created by a mandate of the British and its borders are no more real than those claimed in the religious books of a Bronze-age Levantine tribe, I agree. But even if we accept the absurdity that Jews have a divine right to land granted them by the God of Abraham, the historical reality is that Israel is an outpost of US imperialism that allows it to destablise every country in the Middle East that threatens to withhold its oil from the West. If you’re arguing that, after 75 years of occupation, the idea of Israelis and Palestinians living together as they once did is a pipe dream, I agree, and that two states (not one state and a concentration camp) is the solution. But that won’t solve the problem of US imperialism.

DS: Why then did the proposition fail on Arab refusal to countenance the idea in 1937 and again in 1947? And, of course, this is not 75 years of anything, it is 103 years. Why do so many miss out an entire generation of the story? Is it because it shows that their narrative is false?

SE: I’d imagine because, after 400 years under the Ottoman Empire and then being arbitrarily carved up by the British and French governments, the Arab tribes wanted to rule themselves, and suspected — accurately — that an Israel State would be a colony from which the West would control the Middle-East. But that’s 100 years ago, since when a lot of blood has been spilled and continues to be — on both sides, admittedly, but not equally. There is no defence for the treatment of Palestinians by the State of Israel, or for US intervention in the Middle East, or for what is happening now in Gaza.

DS: Not 1948, 1920. Why miss 28 years of the story? Anyway, none of this is addressing my questions. None of this is more than hand-wringing and virtue signalling, as it does not equate to a meaningful, practical way forward. So my question remains: what is meant by ‘Free Palestine’?

SE: The British expressed similar exasperation when people talked of a free Egypt, or India, or Iraq, or Jamaica, or Kenya, or Libya, or Burma, or Britain’s other former colonies. Calling for an end to the brutality of occupation isn’t ‘virtue-signalling’. How it’s done is another question. As the hawks in Washington like to repeat: if Israel didn’t exist they would have had to invent it. And, of course, they did invent it, and for their own ends. The ‘way forward’ for Palestine and Israel isn’t two states: it’s addressing the threat of US imperialism to the rest of the world.

DS: We are not talking about a colony or outpost of Empire, we are talking about a specific problem. If you mischaracterise the problem then any prospect of progress is lost. Those who consider that there is a better solution need to step up and discuss the realities.

SE: If you don’t characterise the State of Israel as an outpost of the US Empire, how do you characterise it? But whatever the solution to the problem of 75 years of occupation is, none of it has bearing on what’s happening right now in Gaza, which under both the Hague and Geneva Conventions is a war crime.

DS: It is a unique situation. Like the Western world as a whole, Israel depends on US support at present, but that can (and will) change. That is not the core of the problem. And once again it is 103 years, dropping 28 years down the memory hole is deception.

Beyond the reference to the British mandate for Palestine being created in 1920 and the refusal of the Arabs to accept the creation of an Israel State — which history has shown to be more than justified — I still don’t understand what David meant by referring to the 28 years between 1920 and 1948, so I cannot respond to his accusation that I was dropping some part of history down a ‘memory hole’.

However, the argument that, since the Arab inhabitants of the Southern Levant didn’t have a country until the British Mandate, and that even then it wasn’t a sovereign state, the Palestinian therefore people don’t exist, is a familiar one no less genocidal in intent for being repeated throughout history. There were no Welsh until the Saxons called them ‘foreigners [Welisc]’; but that doesn’t mean Brythonic tribes weren’t cultivating these isles before the invading Romans named it Britannia.

Nomenclature has always been the tool of colonialists. You might ask why Cymri nationalists want their own nation, and not a Principality of the British Royal Family, when the country now called ‘Wales’ has only existed as a subject nation. In terms of invasion and occupation, the Ottomans were the equivalent of our Romans, the British of the Anglo-Saxons, and the Israelis of the Normans; but living under them all were the people who call themselves Palestinians.

We should recall that the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ — which refers to the Jordan River on the Eastern border of Palestine and the Mediterranean Sea on its Western edge — and whose utterance has been made a crime in, of all places, Germany, which the UK Government is considering designating as ‘hate speech’, and which Twitter (now ‘X’) has concluded implies genocide and promised to censor under its terms of service, is a platform of the Likud Party of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and appeared in the Original Party Platform of 1977, which states:

The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable. Between the sea and the Jordan there will only be Israel sovereignty.”

None of us, of course, expect the Likud Party to be declared a terrorist organisation by the UK Government, as Hamas — or, to give it it’s full name, the Islamic Resistance Movement — has been; or for Benjamin Netanyahu to be declared a terrorist, which under international law he undoubtedly is; or for assertions of Israel sovereignty over the Gaza Strip to be declared in violation of international law or even of the terms of service for Twitter.

On the contrary, despite committing some of the worst war crimes and violations of human rights of any member states of the United Nations since the Second World War, the State of Israel attracts none of the condemnation or concerted sanctions the UN and EU currently imposes on Afghanistan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Burundi, the Central African Republic, China, North Korea, Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Russia, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

It is within the context of this vastly unequal and incommensurable access to speech, to the law and its enforcement, to the threat and use of military force, to means of defence, to human rights, to means of subsistence, to medical care, and to the unconditional political, financial and military support of the West that any discussion of what a ‘Free Palestine’ means should take place if it is to go beyond the impasse reached by David Scott and myself, and formulate what he rightly called a ‘practical way forward’.

As the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said two days after the Hamas attack was launched: ‘there is no question of balance’ between these two polities that are not at war, but in a conflict in which one state, that of Israel, exerts its vast, illegal and unchecked power over the population of another.

5. What is the Alliance between the UK and Israel?

Today I’ve seen a glimpse of what millions experience every day. The threat of Hamas rockets lingers over every Israeli man, woman and child. This is why we are standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”
James Cleverly, UK Foreign Secretary (11 October, 2023)

In May 2021, the Israel Defense Forces, which included 160 fighter jets, bombed the Gaza Strip with high-explosive weapons dropped on heavily populated areas for 11 days. The planes dropped their loads from high altitude, which facilitated them gaining the velocity required to penetrate the surface of the ground. A delayed fuse meant their one tonne payload of explosives detonated underground, destroying the cellars, bunkers and tunnels in which not only Hamas militants but also Gazan civilians took cover from the bombardment.

In one half-hour period, the IDF dropped 450 such bombs, the largest in their arsenal, at a rate of one every five seconds into the subsoil of Gaza, sending shockwaves through the earth.

The result was 259 Palestinians killed, including 66 children and 41 women, and 2,211 injured. In addition, 6 hospitals and 11 medical clinics were destroyed, 53 schools, a bookshop that held an estimated 100,000 books, as well as 1,042 homes and commercial units in 258 buildings, including 4 residential tower blocks. The Israeli Government claimed these towers were being used by Hamas for military purposes. However, Human Rights Watch has challenged the truth of this claim, declaring that the air strikes ‘violated the laws of war and may amount to war crimes’. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that, as a result of these strikes, 72,000 Palestinians in Gaza were displaced.

During the Israeli offensive, social media posts by Palestinian activists documenting the effects of the bombing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were censored or removed and their accounts suspended. Meta subsequently issued a statement that there had been a ‘technical glitch’ at the time. At the end of the month, Israeli police arrested 348 Palestinians. In August 2021, in mass protests along the Gaza barrier, 40 Palestinians were injured, including a 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. Omar Hasan Abu al-Nil later died from his wounds. The protests continued into September, when more Palestinians were killed by the Israel Defense Forces. During the last days of the air strikes on Gaza, the foreign ministers of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia visited the State of Israel to expressed their countries’ support for its actions.

In a speech made in the House of Commons during the air strikes, the UK Minister for the Middle East, who at the time was James Cleverly, declared that Israel had a ‘legitimate right to self-defence’. In response to questions about the UK’s arms deals to Israel and its complicity in the deaths, Cleverly added: ‘The UK has a robust arms export licensing regime and all export licences are assessed in accordance with it’.

In actual fact, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, between 2013 and October 2023 the UK Government has approved 1,223 Standard Individual Export Licenses for the sale of armed goods to the State of Israel amounting to the value of £496 million. This includes £184 million on technology; £125 million on aircraft, helicopters and drones; £39 million on target acquisition, weapon control and countermeasure systems; £25 million on grenades, bombs and missiles; £49 million on training equipment; £39 million on other electronic equipment; £11 million on directed energy weapons; £5.6 million on armoured vehicles and tanks; £4.7 million on small arms; £2.9 million on warships; £2.4 million on imaging equipment; £2.1 million on ammunition; and £1.2 million on armoured plate, body armour and helmets.

The size of these contracts is in keeping with the practices UK arms dealers. Between 2011 and 2020, the UK licensed £16.8 billion of arms to countries criticised by Freedom House, some £11.8 billion worth to those on the Foreign Office’s own Human Rights Watch List. Of the 53 countries listed, the UK sold arms and military equipment to 39 of them. And far from having a robust licensing regime, the UK had also approved 71 open licences to Israel, which allow for unlimited exports, the contents of which is not published by the UK Government.

On top of this direct arming of the Israel Defense Forces, BAE Systems, the UK arms manufacturer and largest ‘defence’ contractor in Europe, produces 15 per cent of the value of every US F-35 fighter, the same model that was used in the bombing of Gaza in May 2021 and since October and November 2023. At a cost of $80 million each, Israel has ordered 50 of these stealth fighters for its ‘defence’. Of the six F-35 fighters delivered to Israel in 2022, the UK’s share has been estimated at £58 million, far higher than the value of Standard Individual Export Licenses. Since 2016, the total value of the parts provided by UK for F-35 fighters amounts to some £336 million.

In December 2020, Israel and the UK announced a joint military agreement whose contents are classified, but which is thought to cover air, land, maritime, space, cyber and electromagnetic warfare. The British Armed Forces already deploys Israeli-manufactured drones over theatres of war. In November 2021, the UK signed a 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel, promising a closer alliance on cybersecurity and technology, the use of which is not confined to Hamas militants, dissident Palestinians or Gazan children. Israeli spyware has previously been used against journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in the UK.

On 12 October, 2023, following a meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that, to support the fourth strongest military in the world in its genocidal attack on the 2,375,000 civilians in the Gaza Strip, it was sending Royal Airforce reconnaissance aircraft, 2 Royal Navy ships to patrol the Eastern Mediterranean, 3 Merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

In support of this decision, James Cleverly, who by then had been promoted to UK Secretary of State for Defence, declared: ‘The UK is clear and has been consistently clear that Israel has the right to self-defence.’


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