103 of the 158 people killed in Gaza by Israeli military action this month were civilians. 30 were children, 12 of whom were under the age of 10. Even if Israel’s self-defence argument is accepted, this was disproportionate and therefore a war crime. Israel also targeted and destroyed civilian infrastructure in Gaza. That was also a war crime since it had no legitimate military purpose. Gaza has been under Israel’s long-standing economic blockade: a collective punishment which is a systemic war crime of itself. Israel remains the occupying power in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It retains ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the people under its control and is in manifest breach of that duty, But the continuation of that occupation is a scandal, since the Palestinians are entitled to legal self-determination.
Israel’s policy has thus been shown to be morally bankrupt. It has also been ineffective, since it has failed to prevent rockets entering Gaza for strikes at population centres in Israel. Firing such rockets is indeed a war crime, but Israel’s crimes against the people of Gaza have created an atmosphere in which those who launch them are applauded as courageous resistance fighters.
Now that the bombs and missiles are silent – at least for the moment – we should ask what happens next. The only way to peace is by good faith negotiations underpinned by the insistence of the international community that each party accepts the legitimate rights of the other as the starting point. This principle should be the British Government’s guiding star.
When Britain recognised Israel as a state in 1949, it did so because Israel met the requirements of a sovereign state under the Montevideo Convention. Palestine now fulfills the same requirements and therefore deserves recognition equally. Britain has a historic responsibility to the people of Palestine, towards whom it undertook a Sacred Trust of Civilisation when it accepted the Palestine Mandate in 1923. The UN General Assembly will almost certainly recognise Palestine this coming Thursday.
If Britain abstains or votes against the motion, it will be a betrayal of that Sacred Trust. It will also give a signal that negotiation and peaceful means of resolving this dispute achieve nothing. It will make Britain complicit in calls for armed struggle as the only way forward. Nick Clegg is lobbying hard within the Coalition for Britain to support the motion:
Do all you can between now and Thursday to add your voice to Nick’s, Contact your MP at once – especially if he or she is a Conservative!
Media enquiries to:
Chair, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine,
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; mobile: 07736882641.