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: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory