Thursday, 8 April 2010

Baroness Deech defends Israel

Regulars to my blog know of my support for Israel, a country and people constantly persecuted.
After returning from tonight's Amber Valley BNP meeting I put on the TV to catch up on what has been happening in the House of Lords.

I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear someone speak in Israel's defence, someone who has the same views as myself and something rarely heard. That someone was Baroness Leech and the following is just a taster of her speech:

My Lords, it is customary to congratulate a noble Lord on securing a debate on an important and topical subject. Unusually, on this occasion I am not certain that there is anything singular about the debate. We have had 143 Questions in this House about Israel in the past 12 months. On my rough count, the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, has put down more than 40 since the start of 2009. Indeed, he has asked 193 Questions on this subject, and initiated three debates, since he entered the House. One may well wonder what effect these have had and why his party's Weltanschauung is so narrow. I imagine that the suffering people of Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, the Western Sahara and Tibet would welcome similar attention to the minutiae of their oppression. Before anyone says that Israel should be held to a higher standard, let me say that the rule of law applies to all equally. It is not right to apply a higher standard to some and let off others who abuse human rights with a lower standard.

Any noble and learned Lord will know that a legal system links obligations and rights under law. Israel was admitted to the UN more than 60 years ago on the strength of the right of self-determination accorded to all peoples, as asserted in the charter. This has never been accepted by most of the Arab world, permanently in breach of this right by denying Israel's right to security and to enter into diplomatic relations. The context of what I have to say is set by this and by Isaiah Berlin. He believed in a two-state solution and called the creation of the state of Israel a victory for freedom because it,

"restored to Jews not merely their personal dignity and status as human beings, but what is vastly more important, their right to choose as individuals how they shall live".

He meant free from the pressure of the non-Jewish world. This is what is at stake.

Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza have abused international law by targeting civilians with thousands of rockets-a crime against humanity. They have held Gilad Shalit captive for nearly four years without access from the Red Cross or contact with the outside world. They have captured journalists for no good reasons and they have launched rockets from mosques during conflict. Hamas has the obligation to recognise the state of Israel, renounce violence and accept existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. This is part of the road map.

In relation to Gaza, the problems arise from the seizure by Hamas of control with a view only to fomenting violence, not promoting peace, as can be seen by the contrast with the standard of living in the West Bank. There are two borders to Gaza. One can well understand why the Israeli one is closed, but the Egyptian Rafah crossing could be opened again if the EU restored its Border Assistance Mission, which it says it is ready to do.

As regards Jerusalem, I am sure that noble Lords realise that divided cities do not work. Belfast, Berlin and Nicosia were all untenable; and the walls come down in the end. Jerusalem has been the cultural, religious and political focal point of Judaism for more than 3,000 years and has only ever been divided once, between 1948 and 1967. When Jordan occupied old Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed in at all, the Jewish quarter was vandalised, 60 synagogues were destroyed and prayer at the western wall was impossible. Reunification came about because in 1967 Jordan answered the call of Egypt and Syria and attacked Jerusalem. Since reunification the city has flourished and Israeli and Arab quarters have grown and prospered.

The Jerusalem issue is in reality used as an excuse not to resume negotiations. The non-negotiators see the delegitimisation of Israel as the way to get what they want. The future of Jerusalem will depend not on international law but on negotiation. There are many perspectives on international law. I recommend-but do not have time to examine-that of Professor Lauterpacht. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that Jerusalem should be the capital for both, which must depend on a working relationship, not bombs on buses. 

That negotiation will flourish only when the malign influence and harassment from those who blame solely one side are removed from the equation. I support the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, in that regard. By placing all blame on Israel, the peace process is distanced. Generous offers were made to the Palestinians by Olmert and at Camp David and were rejected. The Palestinians see no need to hurry to settle because they get more offered every time. Peace will come only with Palestinian realism and acceptance of international law-namely, Israel's right to live in security. Palestinian teachers must stop teaching the next generation to hate Jews and restore Israel physically on their maps. Sixty years have been wasted since the two-state solution was rejected in 1948.

What, then, can the British Government do? They could regain some influence by starting to recognise Israel's legitimate concerns and displaying balance. Following the road map, they must persuade Hamas to stop the rockets, end smuggling of arms into Gaza and free Gilad Shalit. The UK should tell the Palestinians to sit down at the negotiating table and behave like the statesmen of the international community that they wish to be. What is the alternative? If the alleged breaches of international law by Israel were pressed home, if she did what some noble Lords apparently want her to do and, for example, accepted a one-state solution with return of the Palestinians, there would be an end of the state that provided a haven for the Jews. There would no doubt be destruction, both human and material, and no longer a corner of the earth where Jews can be assured of freedom from persecution. If Jerusalem were divided again, that part would once again be a no-go area for Jews and again one might expect vandalising of homes and places of worship, as happened in Gaza when it was evacuated.
We all know that in the end Israel has a history of trading land for peace. I am sure that that will come about once there is a Palestine. I have no doubt in my heart that that will be the case.

The actual elimination of Israel has become acceptable talk among many westerners. The one-state solution is a euphemism for this because Jews would be in a permanent minority. This has not been a happy situation in which to be in some Islamic states. In other words, Israel would risk being destroyed and another Judenrein state might take its place, as seems likely in relation to Palestine even if there is a two-state solution. Ending the so-called occupation is no solution until Hamas drops the aim of destruction as in its charter.

For 2,000 years the moral quality of any state or culture could be judged by the way it treated its Jewish population. Israel is the great moral criterion of our age, and the community of nations will be judged by the way it treats the tiny Jewish state in its midst. Over the centuries Jews have been held responsible from time to time for the world's ills when it seeks a scapegoat, and now it is Israel. When words like "apartheid", "tentacles", "the international Jewish community" and "the blood of children" are used in this context, noble Lords should recall that those phrases were familiar to the ancestors of the present Israelis. They knew their significance and how to regard them.

Those who call for the elimination of or damage to Israel by selective use of international law are on the wrong side of history, morality and justice. Israel has a history of obeying the law and doing the right thing when peace is ready to be offered. We should be optimistic about this.

I recommend you read Lord Ahmed's (and others) reactions. The full transcript can be found HERE

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