The Palestine Israel Problem

I wish I understood more about the history and root causes of the situation in Palestine and Israel. It is a huge understatement to say it is complicated, but it is complicated. There are factions and interests both local and global. There is history and neither France nor the UK comes out well.

I am not going to give a history lesson. I can’t. I don’t understand it at all. There are plenty of articles and libraries you can go to if that is what you want.

Israel feels under threat and I understand that, but nor is an average stateless Palestinian well placed. When I was in Dubai I met many and over a shisha, they would try to explain their plight. I tried but could never fully understand what it felt like not to have a home country. I can travel on my British passport almost wherever I want. Try and do that when you only have Palestinian papers.

Yesterday 58 Palestinians were killed in Gaza while Israel says it was defending its borders, but you need two sides to fight a war and the PLA and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon are not without fault. They have fuelled the conflict.

Surveys suggest that there is support from the populations in both Israel and Palestine for a two-state solution. It seems obvious but as ever politicians are being held hostage by their own ambitions and fringe supporters.

There was a time when America might have been ‘an honest broker’ between the warring parties, but that is now past. The USA, in moving its Embassy to Jerusalem has shown bias and allegiance.

And there lies the problem. We walk on eggshells when we criticise Israel and run the risk of being labelled antisemitic. We have to get over that, but we can’t. Jerusalem is not just the centre of Israel but a global religious centre. It has importance for all faiths. Israel cannot be allowed to claim it for just the Jewish faith.

First and foremost, this is a humanitarian disaster of potentially epic proportions. With the increasing problem in Iraq and Iran, the focus of the Middle East wars will move away from Syria, widen and has all the signs of becoming global.

I am not going to take sides. Wherever you look there is fault. While I carry on in my cosy, insulated life, today, I feel sad.

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Anti-Semitism in the UK

There was a day, long ago when with other families we were all walking one bank holiday in the countryside. The sun was shining, and the children were happy and running on the narrow rural roads. I think it was Louise who asked when we arrived at the pub for a rest if I had seen the helicopter in a field. To this day I don’t know if she was teasing me because my powers of observation are notoriously poor. I could easily have walked past something as large a helicopter and not seen it.

This week a problem for the Labour party, the official parliamentary opposition, won’t go away. They have been accused of being anti-Semitic. I believe their leader Jeremy Corbyn when he says he is against all prejudice, but he needs to get a grip on his party and do something.

Europe is forever scared with right-wing anti-Semitism but from the left, it is new to me. I don’t know where it comes from but possibly it is the conspiracy theory that business, banks and capitalism are a Jewish cabal. You will need to find the anti-Semites an ask them.

It is a problem that has been rumbling under the surface for a long time. Ken Livingstone, the former MP, and Mayor of London is still under review and not kicked out of the party for very unsavoury anti-Semitic remarks. Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite trade union, one of the largest donors to the party, talking of the allegations last autumn said it was ‘mood music’.

I am not in the Labour party. I might not care much for their political opinions, but I do care for the health of our democracy.  I don’t know if it is institutionally anti-Semitic but there is a helicopter hiding in their midst and the party leadership needs to find it and do something immediately. It is imperative for the future of the Labour party and our democracy.

However, and there is always a big however, I am not going to walk totally with the liberal left and say that I approve of every policy of the State of Israel. In fact, I disagree with quite a lot. I am walking into the mire that is anti-Zionist.

I lived in Dubai and there were a great many Palestinians working for me, and with great sadness, I used to listen to their stories of homelessness, loss, and a life without a passport. At times it was harrowing. Like many, I watched with horror as Israel bombed the children of the Gaza strip in 2014. I wanted it to stop every bit as much as I wanted the Palestinians to stop bombing Israel.

What happened in the Second World War to Jews has awful beyond comprehension. It affected not just a whole race but everyone. It was pivotal to my father’s personality. He was a young Captain in the Royal Engineers at the end of the war and was one of the first into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He never would and never could talk about it, but I know it changed him forever.

Indirectly in May 1948, the sum of all those experiences led to the acceptance of Israel as an independent State recognised by the United Nations. This wasn’t only a reaction to the horrors of the war but a continuation of attempts for resolution initiated with the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1920 creation of the British Mandate of Palestine.

I also fully understand the Israeli State’s needs to maintain security. I would be very upset if the British government stopped defending my country, however, and here we go again with another however, I do not think that that allows the Israeli government the right to annex land and make the Palestinians wandering, homeless, nomads.

I am willing to be educated in informed debate, but I am not willing to be called anti-Semite or anti-Zionist because I disagree with the Israeli Government’s policies. The Holocaust will never, ever be forgotten but there comes a time when we must move forward. Not everyone who disagrees with Israel’s actions is prejudice. I am not pro-Palestinian, nor I am pro-Jew. I am not anti-Semitic nor am I anti-Zionist, but I am pro-peace.