Before writing his Comment is Free article (Before we talk to Hamas, the Guardian, 20 August), I wonder if Israel’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s (that’s London to you and I) Ron Prosor looked at the CiF main webpage and noticed the quote from CP Scott in 1921: comment may be free, “… but facts are sacred”. What a difference there would have been if he had taken note.
His main message was “No missiles means no blockade… It’s that simple”. Obviously not simple enough so let’s try again – no occupation means no resistance to said occupation, ergo no missiles. When Palestinians feel secure from Israeli F16s and Apache gunships, resistance will end. Now that really is that simple.
It is interesting that Prosor insisted upon Hamas taking note of and adopting the Quartet’s conditions, when his own government rejected the international group’s memo in March calling for a Palestinian state to be based on the pre-1967 borders. Typically, he calls on the Palestinians to fulfil all of his country’s conditions before Israel is prepared to do or give anything in return.
Nobody, not even Hamas from what I have read on the issue, takes the Hamas “Charter” seriously, except perhaps Israeli ambassadors and Israel’s apologists who never cease reminding us that it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. Let’s look at it from the other side, though: Israel has never declared its borders and has been expanding since independence was declared in 1948. Zionism – Israel’s founding ideology – exists to grab ever more of historic Palestine. Israel is, therefore, intent on the destruction of Palestine and has made every effort for the past 62 years to do just that. Ron Prosor’s country, of course, knows all about “the routine… execution of its political opponents”, as 1,400 fresh graves in Gaza after last year’s invasion, nine corpses on the Freedom Flotilla and numerous other victims of “targeted assassinations” can testify.
Israel may have withdrawn physically from Gaza but it still controls all of the borders, airspace and sea approaches (witness its commandos’ terrorism on the Mavi Marmara), turning Gaza into what even a pro-Israel David Cameron called “a prison camp”. It has also created a “buffer zone” on Palestinian territory.
When the Ambassador wrote, “In 2006 [Hamas] kidnapped Gilad Shalit”, he missed a great opportunity to add “after Israeli soldiers kidnapped Mustafa and Osama Muammar and beat their father” but, of course, that would put Shalit’s capture in context which simply won’t do. Or he could have mentioned the 8,000 plus Palestinians held in Israeli jails, many without trial. Oh, but that would be going too far; we can’t have people thinking that the Palestinians might have 8,000 reasons for holding on to any Israeli as a bargaining chip, can we?
By the way, the “bloody coup in 2007” was, he might recall, action by the elected Hamas government to pre-empt a coup by a group within Fatah funded by Prosor’s own government and the USA. Surely he remembers that, or did the boys in Tel Aviv tippex that bit out of his briefing papers? What about “routine torture” in Gaza? That’s Israel’s speciality; Ron Prosor’s country is the only member state of the UN whose judiciary officially condones torture of its political opponents.
Then he mentioned the forbidden c-word: context. An international group of humanitarians from 40 countries are transformed into “Hamas supporters” on board the aid flotilla, the cargo manifests of which had been checked by Israel’s once close ally Turkey; the Ambassador knows there were no weapons on board, or any likelihood that there would be, but Israel’s macho “defence” forces just couldn’t resist it, could they? Action was taken to stop “the flood of weapons”, it is claimed, because “after years of missiles, the bombardment became unbearable”. Let’s put that in context, shall we? The town of Sderot, the target of most of these missiles, is built on the ruins of the Palestinian town of Najd, ethnically-cleansed by Jewish militias in 1948 just two days before Israeli independence was declared; it was home to more than 700 Palestinians. They or their descendents now probably live in refugee camps in Gaza that are bombed with regularity by the Israel “defence” forces. In fact, just two weeks ago I saw the results of such an attack in Deir al-Balah refugee camp in Gaza; was Ron Prosor ever in Gaza when he was an officer in the IDF? If not, he should go someday and see for himself what Israeli “defence” means to innocent civilians. Israel didn’t really target the “terrorist infrastructure” last year during its invasion of Gaza, that’s why more than 300 children were killed by its brave soldiers and airmen.
I am someone who refers to Hamas as the democratically “elected representatives of the Palestinians”; not particularly “fondly”, I might add, it’s just the reality, something to which Prosor appears to have an aversion. I sometimes even “fondly” wonder what that great ex-terrorist Nelson Mandela would have done if he had been born in Palestine. Resist the occupation of his country? Probably. Be labelled a “terrorist” for doing so? Undoubtedly. International law means little to the Israelis, but it means a lot to the Palestinians, who have the legal right – some would say duty – to resist the military occupation of their land. The “terror” arises from the Israeli occupation and its paraphernalia of check-points, house demolitions, deportations, military incursions, targeted assassinations, detentions… the list goes on. Context, as the Israeli Ambassador knows, is important.
A “Mediterranean Dubai” sounds a bit nightmarish, especially if it attracts Israeli tourists using false passports. But anyway, Israel controlled Gaza for almost 40 years; what did successive Israeli governments do to improve the lot of the Palestinians living under its illegal occupation? Israel occupies the West Bank and its Ambassador claims that “reducing roadblocks” is “significant progress” when they shouldn’t even be there in the first place! That’s chutzpah; you’ve got to hand it to him.
Does Israel really need talks, direct or otherwise, to know that when you occupy someone else’s land there has to come a day when you have to end that occupation? The ex-speechwriter in Prosor’s own embassy’s Hasbara [propaganda] Department, Paul Gross, wrote in the Jerusalem Post recently that “there is no getting away from the fact that a democratic state cannot permanently rule over another people who are denied the basic rights of citizenship”. He added – too late for Ron Prosor, unfortunately; maybe he should get his job back – “pro-Israel activists and diplomats should not be expected to defend the indefensible”. So the Ambassador shouldn’t try to make the “offer” of direct talks sound like some great concession on Israel’s part; it isn’t. His country and its settlers have no right to be in the West Bank in the first place. If someone broke into the Ambassador’s residence, would he think they were being incredibly magnanimous for “offering” to talk about conditions being right for them to get out? Of course he wouldn’t. The “unprecedented moratorium on settlement construction” isn’t even worth consideration because it simply isn’t what it claims to be; the Israeli Prime Minister has already said that settlement construction will continue, prompting the pro-Israel Daily Telegraph to say “Netanyahu sets obstacles to Middle East Peace”.
In his article, Ron Prosor mentioned the 1993 Oslo Accords, which required Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza years ago. His governments may have “initiated” the accords but they have done nothing to implement their terms. On the contrary, the “confidence-building measures” he claims are wanted by Israeli citizens surely cannot be represented by the “separation wall”, massive influx of settlers, Palestinian house demolitions, deportations of Palestinians from their own land and suchlike. Those measures may well build confidence in Israel but let me assure the Ambassador that they do little to give those Palestinians not dependent on US and Israeli largesse for their salaries any confidence at all that Israeli governments mean it when they say that they want peace; a bigger piece of Palestine, maybe, but peace in Palestine, no way.
Prosor is very eloquent in English, but “suburb” isn’t a valid alternative for “settlement” which describes more accurately Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem. However, it’s good to hear that “a security barrier” – not the “security barrier” – is coming down around the settlement. I wonder when the rest of the illegal structures will be removed.
If life was as black and white as Ron Prosor’s Comment is Free piece purports to claim, statements like “Hamas has always torpedoed peace efforts through suicide bombings, kidnappings and missiles” might have some credence, but he and we know that it’s not true. The situation is much more complex and he should give Guardian readers a little more credit for being able to consider the conflict with a greater degree of comprehension than “Israel good; Hamas bad”. A little more balance on his part and acceptance that Israel is not the perpetual victim would be a first step on the path to a genuine peace, not one imposed by the Israeli government on a battered and defeated Palestinian Authority with nowhere else to turn; a peace where justice for the people of Palestine has a pivotal place.