Andrew Phillips: No relief for the Palestinians while Israel enjoys impunity

The West should now look to the imposition of escalating cultural and economic sanctions on Israel

Share
Related Topics

To visit Gaza for a third time in five years still induces a gut reaction of pity, depression and anger – pity at the hopeless, helpless plight of the Palestinians; depression about their future and, ironically, that of Israel too; and anger at the latter's cynical policies – and impunity.

I was part of a pan-European Parliamentary delegation which also enjoyed complete political access in Egypt, including meetings with its Foreign Minister and Speaker, plus the head of the Arab League. In Gaza we met the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues, NGOs and the head of the indispensable UN mission (UNRWA).

Relations between Israel, Palestine and Egypt are grotesquely complicated and intractable. There are rights and wrongs on all sides and, indeed, mutual fears. The Mubarak establishment harbours deep anxieties about infection of the Egyptian street by the populist, faith-based Hamas. The legacy of Jewish history fosters an almost genetic insecurity, and the Gazan Palestinians live in traumatised dread of another pulverisation.

The last one, a year ago, left around 1,400 Palestinian dead (against 13 Israeli fatalities) and many thousands wounded. As we saw, their already poor infrastructure, most factories, many schools and public buildings and thousands of houses were obliterated or severely damaged. One meal was hosted for us by Palestinian MPs in their wrecked debating chamber.

Following the Gaza blitz the UN raised a $4.5bn restoration fund. Not one dollar has been spent, so vindictive is Israel's siege by land, sea and air. Bare survival is thanks to the tunnels under the Egyptian border, but they are now being blocked off. If and when that is complete further radicalisation of the Palestinians and working class Muslims elsewhere is inevitable, and with it more terrorism in the West, of which the abuse of Palestine is the greatest engine.

Gaza, then, is a ghetto of 1.5 million abandoned people – half under 18 and 80 per cent unemployed – with plenty of time to feed on their resentments. Unsurprisingly, 30 per cent want to leave their prison.

But what for me and many explodes the Israeli apologia for their conduct in Palestine, and particularly its security claims, is its relentless colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlers now totalling around half a million. Nothing could be as provocative, except perhaps the assault on, and siege of, Gaza conducted with the same controlled violence as characterises the occupation of the West Bank with its hundreds of humiliating and disruptive checkpoints and a pass system which outdoes that of old South Africa.

And what about the law? Israel – cradle of lawyers – is in cavalier breach of International Law, the United Nations Charter, its Conventions and Resolutions, and yet is protected from the consequences which should follow (harken to Tony Blair on defiance of UN resolutions last Friday!). Israel is now more "rogue state" than the "strategic partner" David Miliband recently labelled it.

All this is replete with tragedy and paradox. The psychic wounds of the unspeakable Holocaust are still raw and unmanageable and also sustain the collective guilt of the West, warping political judgments and norms in the process. Israel does what it wants, the latest example being their humiliating rebuff of President Obama's insistence that they stop their colonisation. The Palestinian voice is puny by comparison.

This history, which constrains so many liberal Jews in the West from speaking out on Palestine, as they otherwise surely would, is matched by the public silence of many non-Jewish critics for fear of being branded anti-Semitic – as unpleasant a tag as exists. All this has profoundly dangerous potential.

So Israel, effectively unhindered by the US or ourselves, is deluded by the "triumph" of its machiavellian diplomacy into believing that the tactics of divide and rule, obfuscation and procrastination, will forever enable it to frustrate justice for the Palestinians. Yet for Israel to defy the UN steadily undermines its own legitimacy, given the UN was its only begetter and may yet be needed as its main guarantor.

As for token Palestinian resistance, I sense they at least agree with the Jews in the lesson hard learnt by the latter, never to acquiesce in one's own oppression, whatever the odds. So Israel least of all should be surprised at the defiant trickle of Hamas rockets, against which their criminally disproportionate retribution in Gaza looked like nothing so much as the abused becoming the abuser. I returned, as usual, miserable and ever more convinced that tough love is overdue to help save the remarkable nation that is Israel from itself. The West should now look to the imposition of escalating cultural and economic sanctions. Nothing else has worked and time may be short. There will be a hullabaloo, but carrying on as heretofore would be the sin.



Lord Phillips of Sudbury is a Liberal Democrat peer

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms