During last week’s Labour Party Conference new leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed a Friends of Israel fringe meeting. Pro-Israel propaganda outfit Engage, in an email to all and sundry, complained that Corbyn failed to mention ‘Israel’ at all.
He refused to utter the word “Israel”. He refused to say that he was for the right of Israel to exist, even within the ’67 borders… He avoided saying anything about his previous stated support for Hamas and Hezbollah, both anti-semitic, both terroristic, both annihilationist of Israel….
He talked about the “siege of Gaza”, he talked about the plight of refugees “across the region”. He veered from talking about Palestine to talking about the region, maybe Syria, maybe Iraq – there was, more than once, a studied ambivalence…
Corbyn, according to Engage, didn’t show that he understood why the campaign to boycott Israel was so menacing to Jews in the UK or that he understood the relationship between campaigning to boycott Israel and anti-semitism.
Is there a relationship? The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement thinks not.
It seems the incident was provoked when a Jewish donor to the party, Michael Foster, stood up at the meeting and demanded that Corbyn say the word ‘Israel’. Later Foster was given a platform on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme to expand his gripe, and he challenged Corbyn to “say that you recognise Israel and that you believe in it”.
Corbyn didn’t answer. Why should he? These inquisitorial demands by an increasing desperate regime in Tel Aviv and its propagandists are becoming tiresome.
The standard response is to toss it back and ask: “Which Israel would you like me to recognise – Israel according to the 1947 UN Partition? Israel on the 1949 armistice lines (i.e. pre-1967 borders)? Or today’s Israel illegally occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and blockading Gaza? As Israel has never declared its borders and continues to steal Palestinian territory and resources it is impossible to recognise any of it.”
There are plenty reasons for questioning Israel’s claim to legitimacy without sounding in any way anti-semitic. For a start the UN had no business partitioning Palestine or handing over more than half the territory to a minority of intruders for a state of their own without even consulting the native Palestinians.
Nevertheless the UN General Assembly passed a resolution (181) to divide Palestine for the purpose of creating two states, one Arab, one Jewish. Jerusalem was to remain a ‘corpus separatum’ under international control. The carve-up gave the Jews 56% of the land and the Palestinians only 43% despite their large (two-thirds) majority and the fact that Jews owned less than 6%. The General Assembly resolution was non-binding and needed to go before the Security Council for approval. It never did.
The Arabs rejected the carve-up as unfair but the Jewish population took it as a green light and unilaterally announced the formation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948. Not content with the UN’s generous ‘gift’ they set out on a terror rampage and by 1949 had expanded their control to 77% of Palestine and expelled three-quarters of a million non-Jews at gunpoint and massacred many more.
Israel’s membership of the UN in 1949 was conditional on the new state complying with UN Resolution 181, which included a guarantee of the rights of minorities and religious rights, including free access to and the preservation of Holy Places, and constitution of an Economic Union between the two states (i.e. a custom union, joint monetary system, joint administration of main services, and equal access to water and energy resources).
It also required Israel’s compliance with Resolution 194 (dated December 1948) which called on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. Israel has never fulfilled its obligations, so strictly speaking should have been kicked out of the UN.
The 1967 war saw the Israeli military occupying the remaining 23%. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 242 demanding the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” But the US has used its veto dozens of times to ensure that this and the many other UN resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal occupation have never been enforced.
Apologists claim that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. That’s a lie. They withdrew their soldiers but continue to occupy Gaza’s airspace, coastal waters, airwaves and all entrances and exits – except the Rafah crossing into Egypt where they nonetheless have a supervisory influence – effectively turning the tiny coastal enclave into a prison camp. Israel is still regarded by international law and the UN as the occupying power with responsibility to protect. But over the last 8 years Israel has intensified its Gaza occupation into a vicious blockade punctuated by massive bombardment and slaughter of civilians including many hundreds of children.
The Free Palestine Movement describes the present situation as well as anyone:
“Israel has made up its mind to rid itself of all the Palestinians in the territories it controls. It does not care for demonstrations, declarations, warnings, resolutions, moral outrage, denunciations, international law or any other form of condemnation from any part of the world…. Israel has inexorably killed or expelled half of the entire Palestinian population and dispossessed three-quarters from their homes
“Israel wants the land, but not the people on it. It will pursue its ethnic cleansing project to completion…. The US, Europe and other western nations like Canada and Australia have the power to stop Israel, but they are using it to enable the genocide, not prevent it. Israel has so thoroughly inserted itself into the political, economic and media structures of these countries that it is unrealistic to expect this to change soon.”
So-o-o-o, if YOU are asked to recognise Israel what will you say? Or will you play it cool, sidestep the tripwires and say nothing?