My Lords, before I speak about recent developments in Palestine, I want to put on record two personal statements. The first is that I am not anti-Semitic but I am anti-injustice, and the treatment of the Palestinians over the last six decades, by Israel and the international community, has been a gross injustice which has eaten away at peace in the Middle East and served to fuel extreme Islamism and terrorism. The second statement is that I believe that Israel has a right to exist within the 1967 borders; of course I do. Hamas leaders, who I have met in Damascus and Gaza, also accept the existence of Israel within the 1967 borders laid down by the United Nations. Sadly, of course, this has not happened and the actions of the state of Israel are becoming more and more dangerous for Israel itself, the Middle East and the wider world.
The Arab citizens of Israel are marginalised and discriminated against in every way. New laws are being passed all the time to make life more and more difficult for them-on marriage and property rights, for example. Money spent on Arab-Israeli schools, water supplies and infrastructure is a fraction of that spent on Jewish citizens and, as we know, the state of Israel has now been declared the Jewish state of Israel, which has wider implications even for us in how we relate to that country.
It is difficult to see how what is left of the West Bank, for example, will ever form the basis of a secure and prosperous state of Palestine. The security barrier and the settlements, linked by settler-only roads, have gobbled up huge amounts of Palestinian land and the land left to the Palestinians is being made unusable. The whole settler enterprise was referred to as “vandalism” by my party leader, but it is not mindless. It is the deliberate humiliation of the Palestinians since the Oslo agreement-a carefully thought-out strategy, designed to make life for Palestinians impossible.
In Gaza, as many noble Lords who have visited have pointed out in this House, conditions are much worse and no one has dared to say that the real purpose of the blockade is to deliberately ruin the fishing, agricultural and manufacturing industries of Gaza in order to reduce those very talented, hard-working and extremely cheerful people to unemployment and grinding poverty. Our Government deal with these violations of international law by “urging restraint” and “expressing concern”. Those are worthy sentiments, but they do not stop the relentless ethnic cleansing, land grab and what many people would describe as terrorism by the Israeli Air Force, with its targeted assassinations. Because of the pro-Israel lobby’s bullying tactics against anyone who speaks the truth, Israel is allowed to act with impunity.
The Arab spring will not favour Israel. Israel is losing its friends rapidly. Egypt and Turkey are already alienated and others will follow. Even the US Defense Secretary, Mr Panetta, has recently warned Israel to,
“get to the damned table”,
“reach out and mend fences”.
In America, the tide is beginning to turn against Israel. In the nearly 700 letters I have received since my comments at Middlesex University two weeks ago, only 5 per cent were critical. Among the huge support I received for my comments and for the Palestinians, there were many letters from citizens of the United States of America. That has never happened to me before. Therefore, Israel may not be able to rely on the USA for ever. Then what will happen? Israel may indeed have to change in form, a concept discussed by Gideon Levi in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on 4 March.
The warning was clear in Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible, and repeated by St Paul in our own New Testament. It has been the philosophy for many of us throughout our lives that,
“whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”.
This must be one of the reasons why Israel is trying now to divert attention towards Iran, with talk of nuclear weapons, which is a scenario eerily reminiscent of the run-up to the attacks on Iraq in 2003. An attack on Iran, if it is allowed to happen, will set the Middle East on fire. That is a fire that could spread to the rest of the world. I beg the Minister, in his reply, to recognise the danger of Israel’s behaviour and give us some reassurance that the Government understand and will start taking action to control that country and give justice to the Palestinians before it is too late.