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First it forged its passports, now Israel dictates to Germany

The dust from the Al-Mabhouh murder and forged passports affair has barely settled, yet Israel is again infuriating its European allies. After the furore following Al-Mabhouh's assassination in Dubai, during which Israeli agents used forged passports from several European countries, Israeli officials would have been well advised to stay low, say nothing and do nothing stupid. This simple requirement is apparently too difficult for the Israelis, such is their arrogance.

A report published by As Sama News Agency claims that Israel has lodged an official complaint with the German government for inviting the Palestinian Minster of Health in the Gaza Strip, Dr Bassem Naeem, to attend an academic conference in Stuttgart, also to be attended by the former Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, Avraham Burg. Germany, you may recall, is one of the countries whose passports were forged by the Israelis.


Writing in the Guardian in September 2003, Burg pointed to the futility of state-sanctioned assassinations. Under the title "The end of Zionism" he said, "We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below from the wells of hatred and anger, from the 'infrastructures' of injustice and moral corruption." Apart from satisfying a disturbing – and disturbed base instinct, the assassination of Al-Mabhouh achieved nothing. Many other Hamas figures, including its founder Shaikh Ahmad Yasin, have been assassinated but the Islamic resistance movement continues to grow.

Thus, in the context of the Al Mabhouh assassination, nothing good will result for Israel. It would, therefore, be more edifying to identify the reasons why Palestinians like Al-Mabhouh feel compelled to resort to armed struggle. According to Avraham Burg, the reasons are obvious: "The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice."

Since the publication of Burg's article in September 2003 the political landscape of Palestine especially the Gaza Strip has changed. The Israeli settlements in Gaza have been dismantled and a new political order now holds sway over the territory after the successful elections that were acknowledged as free and fair by international monitors.

As for Gaza's Health Minister, Dr. Naeem, clearly it is in Israel's interest to deny him an international audience. If nothing else, the invitation itself represents a rejection of the siege imposed on the territory which is now in its fourth year. Furthermore, Bassem Naeem is an eyewitness of the consequences of Israel's aggression against Gaza in 2008-9. Though one of many such assaults, Operation Cast Lead was, evidently, one assault too many. Dr. Naeem's record is thus vital for an appreciation of the mental and physical impact of the campaign on Gaza's population. Moreover, he is in a unique position to report on the damaging effects on Gaza's children and the elderly of the ongoing illegal and immoral siege. It is important that people in Europe, in this case the Germans, hear what Dr. Naeem has to say, and then decide whether they want their government to be complicit in what was clearly a war crime committed by the Israelis in Gaza.

Dr Bassem NaeemTo argue that the invitation was wrong because Dr Naeem is a Hamas minister is a red hearing. European and American officials meet with Hamas figures regularly in the Middle East and elsewhere. Last year, a number of former diplomats wrote an open letter published by the Times online calling for a change of strategy toward Hamas. They included Gareth Evans (Australian Foreign Minister, 1988-96), Alvaro de Soto (UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Envoy to the Quartet, 2005-07), Michael Ancram (former Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary, 2001-2005), Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon and Shlomo Ben-Ami (Israel Foreign Minister, 2000-01). The letter was clear: "Whether we like it or not, Hamas will not go away. Since its victory in democratic elections in 2006, Hamas has sustained its support in Palestinian society despite attempts to destroy it through economic blockades, political boycotts and military incursions."

Apart from the shibboleth of "no engagement with Hamas" there is yet another side to this attempt by Israel to prevent the world hearing an alternative narrative about the Israel-Palestine conflict; the Israeli assault on academic freedom that is now spreading from America to Europe. Throughout the past decade Palestinian academics and their supporters have been harassed by pro-Israeli "thought police". The cases of Professors Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad at Columbia University are but two prominent examples. They were victimized because the Israel lobby can't tolerate, or afford to have, anything remotely resembling a genuinely open debate about Palestine.

In this context, therefore, Germany's response should be unequivocal: Germany is a democracy, it is sovereign and it is independent. Its history is, in this sense, irrelevant; it should not be dictated to, especially by a state that discriminates against its citizens and espouses racist, supremacist policies to deny a specific racial group of its citizens from participating fully in the political, social and economic life of the country. Until and unless Israel ends the policies designed to prevent the full development of its Arab citizens, it will not deserve to be listened to.

Avraham Burg was right when he wrote in 2003 that Israelis have a choice: "Jewish racism or democracy. Settlements, or hope for both peoples." He added that "Israel's friends abroad Jewish and non-Jewish alike, presidents and prime ministers, rabbis and lay people should choose as well." Israel must be made to understand that human callousness and injustice leads only to self-destruction.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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