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Britain’s ‘response to violence in Gaza’ is woefully inadequate

Image of a protest against Israel's actions in the Gaza strip outside the British parliament in London, UK [Boycott Israel/Facebook]
Protest against Israel's actions in the Gaza strip outside the British parliament in London, UK [Boycott Israel/Facebook]

As I write this, at least 52 Palestinians, including children, have been shot and killed by Israeli troops today, Monday 14 May 2018; well over a thousand more have been wounded. If the evidence of the past few weeks is anything to go by, many of their wounds will be life-changing, with amputations likely. The Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip were gunned down as they demonstrated in support of their legitimate right to return to their homes from which their families were driven at gunpoint by “Jewish terrorists” 70 years ago. Some things simply haven’t changed.

The date for the opening of the US Embassy in occupied Jerusalem — 14 May — was chosen by Washington in some sort of sick statement about America’s unquestioning support for Israel. The obscene spectacle of “dignitaries” sitting and applauding each other as they took an “important step for peace” while Israeli snipers gunned down unarmed Palestinians just 60 miles away was grotesque. Those countries which were represented at the peace charade should hang their heads in shame; step forward “those democratic fortresses Paraguay, Guatemala and Hungary” dragged in by Donald Trump, as Simon Tisdall put it in the Guardian.

Britain, of course, played a massive role in the creation of the state of Israel in occupied Palestine, so what about its “response to violence in Gaza” as the Foreign Office headline put it? The statement by Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt MP is woefully inadequate.

“The violence today in Gaza and the West Bank has been shocking. The loss of life and the large number of injured Palestinians is tragic, and it is extremely worrying that the number of those killed continues to rise.” To say that so many dead and wounded civilians shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers is “tragic” is a travesty. Accidents are tragic; deliberate killings are criminal.

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Although, says Burt, the UK supports the Palestinians’ right to protest — you just know that there’s a “but” coming, don’t you? — “but these protests must be peaceful”. He and his media team have clearly ignored the fact that peaceful protesters have been gunned down and killed since these peaceful protests began on 30 March. Israel’s military commanders made it known in advance that the snipers deployed along the nominal border — Israel has never declared its borders, by the way — had orders to shoot, regardless of the level of threat. By the end of that first day, 13 Palestinian protesterspeaceful protesters, Mr Burt — lay dead, many of them shot in the back by the Israeli troops.

According to the veteran British MP, “It is deplorable that extremist elements may have been seeking to exploit these protests for their own violent purposes.” As such, “We will not waver from our support for Israel’s right to defend its borders.” They are the borders which have never been declared by the colonial, expansionist state of Israel, remember, so Israel can basically decide unilaterally where it wants to set up its checkpoints, walls and sniper positions, and fire away. Independent observers and human rights organisations confirm that the Palestinian protesters have never been a threat to Israel’s “borders” or soldiers. Once again, they have been shot while exercising their right to protest against the brutal military occupation of their land.

The US embassy move to Jerusalem - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The US embassy move to Jerusalem – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

So what is the British government going to do about it? It has to do something, right? After all, its predecessors put the Palestinians into this dreadful predicament all those years ago. While acknowledging that “the large volume of live fire [he omitted “used by Israel”] is extremely concerning,” Alistair Burt said that, “We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint.” Greater restraint? That implies that Israel has been showing at least some restraint, something that the casualty figures suggest is a monstrous lie.

READ: Israel envoy to UK says slain demonstrators ‘not innocent civilians’

Burt followed this with the usual platitudes about a two-state solution to be achieved “through negotiation and peace”. He’s fooling no one with this statement, though, for the simple reason that the government of which he is part is infected by Zionism from top to bottom. The minister knows this, and we know it. What’s more, the government’s friends in Tel Aviv know it, which is why they can continue to act murderously with complete impunity. Moreover, the UN will do nothing; it can’t do anything but “urge both sides… to show restraint.” Palestinians, we must assume, have to roll over and die quietly so as not to upset UN and Western sensibilities. No, I can’t see that happening either; and why should it? They have international laws and conventions — for what they’re worth — on their side. That’s the uncomfortable truth that people like Alistair Burt are reluctant to address when they issue such shameful statements.

Israel will continue to be a member state of the UN, despite never fulfilling the conditions for its membership — including allowing the Palestinians to return to their land — but protected by the US and UK veto in the Security Council nevertheless. If the Americans and British ever get upset by blood-soaked Benjamin Netanyahu and decide to abstain at any time, they know that Emmanuel Macron will be there to act on new best friend Donald Trump’s behalf.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, will continue to stand up for their inalienable rights, while the world looks away. If ever any proof was needed that the UN is a spent force in international politics, today’s events are it. The next time that Washington, Britain and Europe claim to be the champions of democracy and human rights, such claims must be drowned out by outrage as we point out that South Africa actually withdrew its ambassador from Israel today in protest at the bloodshed, putting the supposedly “mature” democracies to shame.

Such outrage should include involvement in the peaceful — even you should approve, Mr Burt — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. We may not be able to secure justice for the Palestinians through our governments, but if civil society can hit the Israeli economy where it hurts by entirely peaceful means, maybe we will in the end. The Palestinians are losing their land and lives. What have we got to lose?

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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