Well, I’m back and a lot has happened in the few days since I returned from Israel.
Fatah and Hamas have come together in unholy matrimony after years of slaughtering each other and vying politically for dominance of Palestinian society in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Why? Why now?
Why do two factions suddenly decide to make nice whilst holding a knife behind their back ready to plunge into their new friends’ chest?
For months Fatah have been pursuing Plan B: to have the UN support the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state on the so-called 1967 ‘borders’. Plan A was to continue or restart peace talks with Israel.
But Plan A stalled because Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are incapable of making peace with Israel. They have carefully cultivated an image of peace-seeking victims who have abjured terrorism and military action and pursue diplomacy.
Even though the PA continues to demonise Israel, to deny Jewish rights to any of the land, to regurgitate anti-Semitic narratives in the media and in the schools, its public and international face is one of the noble victim.
Creating a state on the 1967 ceasefire lines is a risky policy for reasons I have previously discussed; principal risk is that if Palestine equates to the land beyond the Green Line, then surely Israel equates to the land behind the Green Line.
This amounts to a de facto recognition of a permanent and settled view of Israel and makes it difficult, in theory, to pursue the long-term goal of a state from the River to the Sea.
The Palestinians are aware but are determined to continue to tear up all the Oslo Accords and go against all UN Resolutions; to nullify 60 years of history, negotiation, legally binding agreements. Tear it all up and go headlong for a unilateral declaration and bypass Israel. Something only possible because so many countries, member states of the UN, are conniving at this attempt to stamp all over Israel’s right to a negotiated peace.
A big stumbling-block to the UN recognition of a viable Palestinian state is the severed limb that is the Gaza Strip run by the Hamas preventing a unified state on all the land of the PA. Without this unity a UN vote in favour of a state will be more difficult, if not impossible.
So the conversation between Hamas and Fatah must have gone something like this:
Fatah: Will you marry me? It is a marriage of convenience. We need you to pretend we are married but we cannot consummate the marriage because we just don’t love each other and we have a different strategy to fulfil our goal of destroying Israel. But we’ll never be able to fulfil our dearest wish unless we appear to be unified.
Hamas: So you really want to destroy Israel? Why do you recognise their right to exist? We can never accept this.
Fatah: Just think. Our own state, a base from which we can pursue our next step: the Right of Return. Once we have a state and we can flood Israel with Palestinians, their pathetic democracy will mean that eventually we will have political supremacy.
We can still attack Israel and allow our military wings to continue the struggle whilst condemning their actions. We will have the political and diplomatic mastery whilst continuing the struggle. If they attack us, the world will condemn.
Hamas: What’s in it for us?
Fatah: we will allow you to continue with operations whilst we hold elections. We must have the semblance of democracy. We both want the same thing. Let the people decide whose method to follow. Let’s marry so we can destroy the Zionists.
Hamas: We agree. But we will win. Our marriage will be annulled as soon as we have attained our goal.
Fatah: So be it. Now let’s put together a joint statement….
So this first marriage is a sham designed to achieve stage one of the destruction of Israel which has always been the goal of both Hamas and Fatah. The terrible truth is that all negotiations have always been in bad faith.
Once there is an internationally recognised state will the Palestinians have a more just cause in the eyes of the world to rise up against the occupier and attack illegal settlers? What will the status of 1/2 million Israelis be?
The result can only be a severe escalation in violence. And the world will blame Israel once again.
Just as the West is crowing about the Arab Spring and all those wonderful freedom-loving democracies of which not one has yet materialised, the UN may be backing the creation of a new, undemocratic, terrorist state.
Go figure. Yeah, you got it in one; it’s OK because Israel is involved.
Wedding No. 2
William Wales and Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
I didn’t think this had anything to do with Israel until a correspondent in Jerusalem, an ex-pat Brit and a religious Jew, wrote to me that he had just discovered the true meaning of the hymn Jerusalem and would never enjoy it again. And he added that the Royal Family had Nazi roots.
I took great exception to both these assertions. There followed a series of emails trying to convince me that George VI was a Nazi or at least a Nazi lover. Several references to the Mountbattens and other royals and their Nazi sympathies proved, he claimed, that the Royal Family was Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist.
I won’t rehearse the discussion, it was my reaction that was important. Why should I spring to the defence of the Royal Family?
It’s all about loyalty and national identity. It tells me I am truly British and I won’t take such defamation even from an Israeli Jew. The possibility that there may be a thread of truth in what he says is difficult to confront because of these loyalties, even though I am not a great royalist.
I don’t believe the current Royal Family is Nazi in any way, that is absurd, but there may some anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism lurking, unspoken. After all, there has never been a State visit to Israel whilst the Gulf states are good friends of the royals despite their appalling human rights records. Or do the royals just do what their government tells them?
The royal couple were reported to be intending honeymooning in Jordan. A strange choice. Maybe a quick trip to Israel whilst they are there would be nice. I think not. We don’t want to be upsetting any of Britain’s Arab interests, do we.
As for Jerusalem, the hymn, music by Hubert Parry, I am aware that it is about William Blake’s vision of England as a New Jerusalem and its Christian message does not offend my Jewish sensibilities in any way. When I watch the Last Night of the Proms I am more than happy to sing along even though I know its about Jesus striding across the hills of England. Who cares? The music is sublime and the words uplifting.
And, more food for thought, the royal wedding had both a hymn called Jerusalem and the glorious ‘I was Glad’, also by Parry, based on Psalm 122, which asks us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. A Psalm which we are told was written by King David himself.
So Jerusalem was at the very heart of this wedding and Jewish liturgy at the core of the ceremony, its most moving moment as Kate floated down the aisle with her father to the rousing strains of ‘I Was Glad’ – was there a dry eye in the house?
Earlier this week we awoke to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He was then buried at sea.
Celebrations in the West left me cold.
Sorry, I cannot rejoice at the death of any man. This does not mean that I don’t believe that it was right to kill him. I would have preferred that he were brought to justice but that was probably impractical. I can also understand people in New York and Washington feeling that justice has been done.
The significance of sending in an assassination squad to kill a terrorist is this: if it’s OK for the US to kill a terrorist in this way and for the leaders of the Western world to applaud this action, then surely it is OK for Israel to eliminate terrorists?
In the future, Israel can say, ‘what is the difference between our action and that of the US? If you do not condemn them, then why do you condemn us? If it is legal for them, then it is legal for us.’
This state assassination, however justified morally, if it is justifiable morally, poses questions for the future and, indeed, for the present; after all, is not Nato ambiguously attacking Col. Gaddafi in Libya in order to ‘protect civilians’. What is the legality of this, let alone any question of a broad interpretation of UN Resolution 1973.
Such actions by Western nations may have repercussions when trying to prosecute other national actors for similar procedures against what these nations consider proper targets for assassination. The actions of the Sri Lankan army against the Tamil Tigers might be justified along the same lines. You may shout ‘moral equivalence’ and you may be right, but the UN and the international courts might have a different view. Or do powerful countries have rights that weaker countries do not?
Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told German TV the operation could have incalculable consequences in the Arab world at a time of unrest there.
“It was quite clearly a violation of international law.”
It was a view echoed by high-profile Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.
“It’s not justice. It’s a perversion of the term. Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them,” Robertson told Australian Broadcasting Corp television from London.
“This man has been subject to summary execution, and what is now appearing after a good deal of disinformation from the White House is it may well have been a cold-blooded assassination.”
Robertson said bin Laden should have stood trial, just as World War Two Nazis were tried at Nuremburg or former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague after his arrest in 2001.
It is interesting to note a link to Wedding No. 1 in that Hamas condemned the killing whilst Fatah, true to their drive to be seen as a national player in tune with the West, applauded it. However, in private, they are probably chewing their knuckles in anger and frustration. Not that they were Al Qaeda supporters, but any victory for the US and, by association, Israel, is a big blow. It is also interesting that the Fatah military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, were reported to condemn the killing.
This apparent difference between Fatah and its military wing demonstrates the ongoing joint diplomatic and military attack against Israel. Fatah can have its pitta bread and eat it; they can condemn the murders committed by Al Aqsa and appear to be statesmanlike and against violence whilst actively continuing to pursue violence under the cover of a faux organisational separation. Not too disimilar to Sinn Fein and the IRA.