ANVIL in MARTOCK. GAZA WAR 22-2-24

After seven years meeting five or six times a year in Wincanton,, we decided, Greg Atkins and John Baxter, to base ANVIL as an open discussion group to meet monthly In Martock.

Our first session was on Friday 23rd Feb. 24 and was introduced by John Baxter with a response from David Warden. The subject was HAMAS AND THE GAZA WAR. Some 35 came and all had been sent (and said they had read! John’s introductory paper.

Revised and updated as the situation has changed, this is now attached as:
ISRAEL, HAMAS AND THE GAZA WAR
An attempt to understand this complex conflict and suggest a way ahead for Britain.

Israel, Hamas and the Gaza War
An Attempt to Understand this Complex Conflict and to Suggest a Way Ahead for Britain

Email johnbaxter119@nullgmail.com.
Paper revised several times as things have changed. This version 10-4-2924.

What lies ahead in this terrible war since the first days of Israel’s reaction to the Hamas attack on October 7th  2023? We have seen one week of prisoner exchanges and the violent resumption of shelling ever since. Now, totally predictably, the rain and the cold has come and mass starvation wreaks havoc in Gaza. Despite Israeli claims that they are out to “destroy Hamas” and double speak about not aiming at civilians, what is happening in Gasa is a manmade famine. Is this ethnic cleansing or is it genocide?

October 7the 2023 The Hamas Attack. Just What Do We Know Took Place?

The Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7. burst out of Gaza through its Israeli constructed border fences, barriers and watch towers. Its fighters killed 1,180. This consisted of 278 soldiers, 859 civilians 67 police and security. 247 were taken captive, consisting of soldiers, civilians, including foreign workers, women and children. Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners, 107 of whom were between 14 and 17 years old, and three-quarters of whom had not been convicted of a crime, although some were awaiting trial in a military court. In exchange, Hamas released 105 civilians, which included 81 people from Israel, 23 Thais and one Filipino. (I can find no cases of any of them being ill-treated while held in captivity in tunnels)

This attack came as a deeply traumatising and totally unexpected shock to Israeli society, who simply thought, after the Gaza uprising/intifada of 2014, that Hamas had been effectively broken. That was when the IDF had destroyed a third of Gaza City and killed 2,251 Palestinians. However, just before Oct 7th there were conscript warnings that they had seen suspicious behaviour on the Gaza side. These warnings were apparently ignored by their superiors. A report in the New York Times claims that a year earlier the IDF obtained from its agents (working within Hamas) detailed plans of what Hamas intended, but again army and political leadership chose not to believe the Palestinians were capable of carrying out such a plan. This raises a question. If the IDF had been alerted, did they then in fact have plans all ready for what they would do if Hamas attacked and was the mass destruction and mass killing of Palestinians which took place extremely quickly after Oct 7 and which soon reached 25,000 deaths, something which had been carefully pre-planned as an expected possibility?

Certainly Oct 7 was the biggest killing of Jews since the Holocaust. and stirred up vivid memories of it. It also traumatised Israeli society because from day one it was reported by sources within the IDF as having been carried out with the greatest brutality. This was illustrated by smartphone videos, horrible accounts of multiple rape, torture and the killing of babies. There were also IDF escorted tours of the sites involved for journalists. Among those killed and captured were those at a music festival during or after their military training. Described by Israelis as innocent young civilians it is doubtful that Hamas would have seen them this way. Certainly the Hamas fighters exhibited the most terrible hatred towards Israeli Jews, and the Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said “everything we do is justified” “this is just the first time and there will be a second, a third and a fourth.” It seems then Hamas proudly admits to the killings and taking of prisoners, but denies the rapes and tortures as “unislamic” and as Israeli propaganda and this it seems is now generally believed to be the case by Palestinians. At the same time Hamas has admitted in the report they issued that  “some mistakes were made.” Certainly It is hard to see why the Hamas leadership might have thought the use of sexualised violence could be in the interest of their cause when they have denied ordering it. In the past they have always been ready to take responsibility for suicide bombings.

What Is The Context That Lies Behind the Oct 7 Attack?

The question of context. Why has such hatred against Israeli Jews developed amongst Palestinians? This is a question which has to be explored, but which Israeli government, army and media has so far loudly refused to do. Instead it has claimed that sexualised violence was the deliberate policy of Hamas aimed at  intimidating Israelis so Hamas are thus justifiably seen to be monsters.

Certainly the rape and torture of “dozens” (the Israeli claim) of mainly women immediately after their capture if substantiated are foul war crimes, crimes that those who committed them and those who ordered them should be held accountable for. The whole population of Gaza however, is certainly not guilty of such crimes as is being widely asserted by Israeli media and reported in the extreme statements of Netanyahu, President Isaac Hertzog, and members of the Israeli Cabinet. These are all quoted by South Africa in its ICJ (International Court of Justice) case against Israel for intentionally committing Genocide.

Terrorists or Resistance Fighters?

If some Hamas fighters committed sexually driven war crimes, does committing a war crime apply to all those other Hamas fighters who took part in the surprise attack on Israel on Oct 7 with orders and the intention of killing or capturing as many as they could of their occupying enemy? Did they not face an enemy with a huge conscript army of men and women who as they saw it had conviscated their land and were carrying out or had been involved in, whatever their age, the carrying out of the systematic oppression, torture, imprisonment, mistreatment and killing of them and their families for all of their lives? Hamas fighters did this in the expectation that if they entered “the Zionist entity” they would have to fight on until they were martyred/killed by the IDF – as they were. Certainly the response of the Israeli government and the IDF in going after them in killing and permanently wounding non-combatant Palestinians in what will soon amount to at least 40.000 of whom 60% are children, constitutes a grossly disproportionate reaction and a possible genocidal war crime in itself. What is more it is now becoming clear (In Intercept reports) that babies were not killed and that some of the alleged rapes did not happen although the killings certainly did. The BBC thinks there is good evidence rapes took place but when it comes to numbers, at present we just do not know.

On the Palestinian side 60% of the deaths are women and children. As so many bodies remain uncounted under the rubble it is impossible to be certain of numbers except that with no pause in the fighting and shelling, they are rising all the time. Of the numbers involved BBC Verify says: “Israel faces growing concern about the number of civilian deaths, after at least 30,000 Palestinians were reported killed in Gaza – as well as pressure to show it is eliminating Hamas as it vowed after 7 October.
BBC Verify examines Israel’s claims about how many of those killed were combatants. It reports “The Israeli military says it has killed more than 10,000 fighters in its air strikes and ground operations, but there are concerns about whether it is able to separate fighters from ordinary civilians.” That is a polite way of putting it. It seems Aljazeera reports Israel routinely strips the men and boys it detains to their underpants, “to see if they are wearing suicide belts,” blindfolds and handcuffs them for hours prior to “interrogation” to decide if they support or fight for Hamas. How this is carried out and what happens next has not been reported. Are those regarded as Hamas fighters treated as POWs or “terrorists” to be executed? We do not yet know.

Awaiting “interrogation”

The Plight of Palestinians

The numbers of Palestinians killed will now it seems inevitably continue to rise towards 40,000 as a result of the targeted destruction by shelling of what were labelled safe areas together with the UN shelters, schools, hospitals, residential blocks, and homes in both North and South Gaza and Khan Younis. Add to this the cutting off of fresh water, electric power and fuel, even as the Israeli government continues to insist on controlling (and holding back) access into Gaza of UN food, medical and humanitarian aid. This leaves hundreds of thousands homeless and without food or shelter so disease and starvation can wreak havoc upon them while the US sends more ammunition and Blinken makes statements asking Israel to “avoid unnecessary civilian casualties” which in practice Israel appears to ignore.

The Holocaust and the Creation of Israel

How have we reached this? First a perspective. We should never forget the Holocaust for no Jew ever can. Most have family who died in it. The planned extermination of six million Jews (together with millions of others) under Nazi rule can never be forgotten. It is why Jews came to Palestine to escape antisemitism just before and after the Second World War when in May 1948 the creation of the State of Israel was declared. Their aim was to set up a state of their own where all Jews could settle free from antisemitism. They went for Palestine for their scriptures referred to Jerusalem and the Promised Land given them by YHWH and a Jewish kingdom 3,000 years ago (king David) that lasted in different forms until the 66CE revolt against Rome. That resulted in the Romans expelling the Jews to join the already large diaspora around the Empire.

The problem is that although since Roman times a small number of Jews returned and lived in Palestine around Jerusalem (Scholch estimates 4% of the population of 1,970,000 in 1850) alongside Orthodox Christians and other minorities, its population for almost twelve centuries (since 635 CE) has been overwhelmingly Arab, always living under Muslim rule as part of the Muslim Umma. (transnational community) until Allah brings about the Apocalypse. All these communities pre-date the European and Nazi antisemitic Holocaust. It also means both Muslims and Jews (and during the Crusades Christians also) claiming Jerusalem and Palestine as theirs by divine right.

Under the British mandate – set up after World War 1 to provide eventual autonomy for the area – Jews resorted to terrorism against the British to end the mandate as with World War 2 those fleeing Nazi tyranny arrived in desperate boatloads having been turned back and refused entry by several countries, including Britain and the US.  They did this so they could settle Jews from Europe on Arab land despite Arab objections.  There were also tit-for tat killings as Palestinian groups justifiably felt pressured by the Jewish refugees, while the Jews felt they had no-where else to go.  This then escalated into ethnic cleansing lead by Jewish militias.  As a result Palestinians fled for their lives to Gaza and out of Palestine immediately before the State of Israel was declared in 1948.

Wars followed involving the surrounding Muslim states who like the Palestinian communities totally rejected the right of the Jews to set up a Jewish state in Palestine. Faced by a large, well-armed and well-trained army which became the IDF (Israel Defence Force) they were conquered by Israel in a series of wars culminating in 1967 with the conquest of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Hights. In these areas the native Palestinians have been progressively dispossessed, losing their homes, their land, their properties, and on many occasions their lives. As a result many have been forced to live in refugee camps outside Palestine. 250,000 are in Lebanon where Hezbollah, the Iranian backed anti-Israeli Shia militia is strong. There are also 2,180,000 in Jordan where most have been given Jordanian citizenship. Inside the Palestine area they live under Israeli military occupation in steadily worsening conditions. This has meant in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

A minority (1 .5 million) were initially allowed Israeli citizenship, but not equality. Post Oct 7 they have been subject to considerable harassment and arrest, but while showing sympathy towards those in Gaza and the West Bank, they have not revolted against Israel.

From the start the new Jewish state of Israel has been seen as an enormously important focus of identity for Jews both religious and secular and it was given enormous and regularly increasing financial and military support by the US and its Jewish population (7.6 million  in 2020) even as diaspora Jews have moved to Israel. It has developed a much admired innovative and creative “democratic” for Jews culture together with the biggest, best (US equipped) and most powerful army in the Middle East., the IDF, (Israel Defence Force). This is based on the conscription of all citizens, men and women. (Except the Israeli Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who can choose to opt out of national service.)

The Present Context for Palestinians

So where are we now? It appears the total Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel stood at around 7.5 million pre Oct 7. This is larger than Israel’s total Jewish population of 7 million. It means that in the whole of the Palestine area, the Eretz Yisrael or Greater Israel of Jewish aspiration, over half the population live without basic rights and under military occupation. This means they are constantly ordered about and checked by the young male and female conscripts over what they can and cannot do or go in what they see as being their own country. Gaza alone, pre-7 October, had 2.3 million forced to live fenced in what has been widely described as an open prison. It is a prison the IDF evacuated from in 2005 after a disastrous attempt at military rule. However water, electricity and fuel has remained under tight and deliberate Israeli control which amounts to a continuing occupation which under international law places Israel under obligations to provide water, food, and power and to respect hospitals and UN facilities. Gaza’s unemployment rate was 46% and the youth unemployment rate 70% pre–Oct 7. It is now off the chart. Unable to produce enough food most became dependent on UN and other international food aid and only a small number were able to get employment passes to work in labouring jobs in Israel. That has now stopped entirely.

Since 1967, 800,000 Palestinians, or roughly 20% of the total population and 40% of the male population of Palestine, have been imprisoned by the Israeli state at some point. About 100,000 have been held in administrative detention. That is without “trial” by the Israeli military courts – where it seems 99% are found guilty. 70% of Palestinian families have had one or more family members sentenced to jail terms in Israeli prisons as a result of activities against the occupation” (Wikipedia reports). Pre-Oct. there were 2,070 Administrative Detainees, 200 child prisoners and 62 female prisoners and Israel admitted holding 7,000 political prisoners. The numbers now have surely more than doubled and are far greater and hard to estimate as IDF daily raids continue.

These huge detention and imprisonment numbers, though they apply mainly to the West Bank and East Jerusalem rather than Gaza, are under reported in Western media, possibly because they are old news and have been going on for so long. (i.e. particularly since ‘67) To have such a proportion of the population denied legal, property or political rights, subjected to imprisonment (and often the demolition of their family homes) and the serious mistreatment, beatings and torture that is widely reported as going with it, perpetuates in Palestinians a deep sense of injustice and in many a visceral hatred of Israeli Jews. It shows that for Palestinians prisons are not about the punishment of crime, but of the brutal, systematic oppression and intimidation by those who occupy their land. This goes with the use of a relentlessly discriminatory bureaucracy backed by force and fear. This also motivated Hamas to launch Oct 7 and take hostages (or as they would say prisoners) since it has linked the freeing of prisoners in exchange for hostages as essential for any pause or cease-fire in the war from day one.

The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas

So what of Hamas, the body whose members have been ruling Gaza since 2007 and are also strong on the West Bank? HAMAS is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement which defines what it is about.  It was founded by Palestinian imam and activist Ahmad Yassin in 1987. This was after the outbreak of the First Intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation. Severely disabled he was seen as their spiritual leader until his assassination by Israel in 2004.  Hamas has ruled Gaza ;since 2007. That is since Israel chose to withdraw after years of hated military occupation. Hamas broke away from the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat (which was nationalist and non-religious) as it adopted the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to Palestine. This is that Palestine, after a thousand years of Muslim rule, is historically a Muslim land, part of the Ummah, traditional Muslim community, and Muslims should be committed to armed resistance against Israel until it can be replaced by an Islamic Palestinian state. Thus, Hamas rejects the rights of Jews to settle on Palestinian land and set up their own state. This also means they have rejected plans for a two-state solution. (By far the best and most comprehensive article on Hamas I have read has just come out by Joshua Leifer in the Guardian Weekly 29 March 24. It shows Hamas is a movement with various leading figures and policies though all united in rejecting the right of Jews to impose a Jewish state on the land and people of Palestine. At the same time pre Oct 7 they were more pragmatic than Israel now makes out and were ready to negotiate some place for Jews in Palestine.

In 1988 Hamas revised its clearly anti-Jewish charter saying it was not against Jews, but “the Zionist entity” of Israel. The Wikipedia article also lists several occasions when it was willing to negotiate. Now Hamas rules Gaza as a one-party Islamic autocracy which tolerates a small Christian minority. Because from the start Israel has carried out a policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders and potential leaders. This means current Hamas leadership roles and locations are kept hidden and constantly on the move and no-one knows for certain where real power lies. Two smaller affiliated parties also dedicated to fighting Israel, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP are tolerated and work with Hamas (and took part on Oct 7).

Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt and Hamas is labelled by them (and the US and UK) as a “terrorist state” for its use and support of the suicide bombing of Israelis living their normal lives. All Palestinians however are aware that Israeli adults do military service in the IDF which often involves them in military and security duties, and they are ready, as in this current war, to be called up. This means that for Palestinians they are not seen as simply civilians.

Hamas tolerates little dissent concerning its basic opposition to Israel, but runs Gaza with different and on occasion differing, departments and with no single leader. These include External Relations (Based in Qatar) Defense, Health, Education, the Economy and Social Services. These are run well enough to get support. Its military wing is filled with young men ready to die as “martyrs” who have known nothing but unemployment and the harsh restrictions of Israeli rule all their lives. It has built a complex and extensive network of tunnels across Gaza and under most buildings to store men, arms and rockets. The rockets have been used for years against Israel but have been largely ineffective as Israel has obtained an effective defensive missile system from the US. The tunnels have been the declared focus for IDF action in the current war, justifying their destruction of everything and everyone above them on a massive scale.

According to observers Hamas has the likely backing of the majority of the populations of both Gaza and the West Bank in its opposition to Israel, if not its call for a clearly Muslim state. Given what Israel has been doing since Oct 7th this is hardly surprising. So, deprived of fresh water, land to farm or sea to fish, and a reliance on food aid from outside to survive, it is hard to imagine a more hopeless place that Gazans had to live in than this grossly overcrowded strip of land.

The Two State “Solution”

The two-state solution is what the PLO, led by Yassar Arafat had agreed to aim for at America’s instigation under Jimmy Carter as the way out of an endless conflict. It was signed at Camp David by both parties, Israel and the PLO in 1993, but it was never implemented after the assassination of the Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by an Israeli opponent. Many on the Israeli side were quite against it and in 1996 Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister and he has always been against any recognition of a Palestinian state. On the Palestinian side it was seen that the Israelis never made more than quite disproportionate offers, taking all the best land for themselves and building settlements on the West Bank which went right against the two-state policy.
There are now over 500,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied West Bank and 220,000 Jewish settlers in Occupied East Jerusalem. This has made the two state aim even more difficult and unlikely as the illegal Israeli settlers are backed by the IDF and they terrify, kill and confiscate land and Palestinian properties at an increasing rate. Since Oct 7 things have got much worse with mass arrests and over 420 killed, 4,500 injured.

So, what else has and could happen?

The PA Palestine Authority nominally runs the West Bank and is led by the 86yr old Mahmoud Abbas. He is without meaningful authority and has been systematically subverted by Israel who has it appears even surreptitiously supported Hamas to weaken any of his plans for a two-state solution. He has now appointed a new “technocratic” PM to work towards a two-state solution without consulting Hamas, who are annoyed.

It seems likely, if unproven, that the Hamas’s Oct 7 carefully planned action of invasion, killings and kidnap was a deliberate provocation of Israel and its mighty IDF for it was pretty obvious Israel was likely to respond in an extreme way that would kill many women, children and non-combatants. At the time Hamas also saw that Israel was getting closer to doing deals with Arab states whose rulers, like Saudi Arabia, oppose the Muslim Brotherhood jihadi approach and have failed to back Palestinians strongly. They now seem more interested in working economically with Israel than helping Palestinians overthrow Israel. Since Oct 7 they have however all been arguing for a two state solution.

Hamas probably thought that If Israel over-reacted to their Oct 7 attack and killed large numbers of Gazan civilians that might, as it has, stir up anti-Israeli sentiments and pro-Palestinian support in the Muslim world. It could also stir up international sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, again as in fact has happened.

However, again, did the Hamas leadership incite or order the extreme acts of rape and torture which Israel has made so much of and claims took place as deliberate Hamas policy? Or were they the work of out-of-control criminal elements? This is what some Palestinians have claimed on Aljazeera. We do not know. Hamas spokesmen either deny they happened at all or suggest they were not committed by Hamas members. Such a reaction suggests Hamas does not see such behaviour as being in its own interest.  On the other hand the evidence survivors and Israel have produced of atrocities seems strong.  They claim that “dozens suffered” in appalling ways. The Israelis certainly blame the Hamas leadership and the Palestinians who back Hamas as bearing responsibility for what happened. This means so far there has been little Israeli sympathy expressed or felt for the plight of the bombed-out people of Gaza who have been dying – not in dozens, but in tens of thousands.

Since Oct 7 Israel certainly has responded to Hamas in the most extreme of ways. The relentless destruction in Gaza of Palestinian buildings of all types, from homes to hospitals and of everything the people own leaving them with nothing, including what looks like a deliberate destruction of all cultural artefacts, manuscripts, archaeology and old buildings,  first in Gaza City, then in the South and in Khan Younis could hardly be more complete. The scenes of devastation as seen on the BBC and Aljazeera of screaming children, the dead and dying, women and the elderly and children brought out from beneath the rubble to bombed out hospitals where they have had arms and legs amputated have been hard to watch. As rain and flooding adds to these pictures things get worse every day. Now famine and starvation sets in as Israel blocks food, medicine and all forms of humanitarian aid in all but deliberately ineffective ways.

The IDF say these civilian losses are an “unintended consequence” what the Americans have called “collateral damage” as they have sought Hamas in their tunnels beneath the buildings. Their aim they say is “The destruction of Hamas” and all its structures. It is not revenge for Oct 7th. Who can believe that for the bombing and shelling has been so widespread and devastating. What’s more with the IDF claiming the use of advanced AI which gives it unprecedented access to accurate data about who lives where in Gaza as it plans its bombing, it cannot claim what it does is indiscriminate. Gaza city has now been almost completely flattened and after ordering the population to move south, the same shelling has been carried out there. This means Gasa has been turned into an uninhabitable killing field.

Also, what is meant by “destroy Hamas”? Can any amount of force kill the Palestinian desire for freedom from Israeli rule and the creation of some form of Palestinian state? What more could Israel do to make sure their state and every Jew in it is deeply hated by Palestinians? Is not this declared Israeli policy simply a slogan for international consumption to make what the IDF is doing look comparatively acceptable after the horrors of Oct 7? So what might be the real objective of Israel in this war if it is not just “to destroy Hamas”?

Greater Israel

The destruction of Gaza City by Israel and the continued killing of Palestinian civilians increasingly looks as if Israel’s government will now aim, without clearly actually saying so (for fear of upsetting internal and external allies?) to impose, while under Netanyahu, a policy which has long been popular amongst Israel’s right wing. This is to pursue a Greater Israel (Eretz Israel) policy. Certainly this is what members of his cabinet such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir who is responsible for the West Bank, have openly declared to be what they want. That means while appearing to be simply going after Hamas fighters and all “terrorist supporters”, they are also setting about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians not only out of Gaza, but out of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such an imposed single state solution will mean the killing or driving out of the country to Egypt, the Lebanon or Jordan all but the most cowed, compliant and demoralised Palestinians. These could remain and would be useful in servant roles and as unskilled labour instead of importing people, as has been happening, from Thailand. (30,000)

On the other hand surely the shadowy Hamas leadership (whose deputy commander in Gasa has just been killed according to the IDF) must have expected an extreme Israeli reaction to Oct 7. Did they expect it to be as extreme as this massacre has so far turned out to be? We do not know. Still, whether intended by Hamas planners or not, and even if there is a rejection of the way Hamas has handled its war against Israel, this mass killing by Israel has very effectively made it impossible for any Arab or Muslim state, be it Sunni or Shia, EVER to accept what Israel is and has done. Again, this seems to be just what Hamas hoped Oct 7th would achieve

Openly adopting a Greater Israel policy would certainly provoke dangerous international reactions from Arab states and Iran. At best this would keep Israel on a very expensive perpetual war footing that would drag down its economy. At worst it could set off (as the US, the UK and EU fear) a wider international conflict and possibly nuclear war. (Israel has its own nuclear bomb.)

It will severely test US and Western support for Israel as its actions break international law as South Africa and then the General Assembly of the UN has called on the ICJ to investigate.
.
Adopting the Greater Israel policy will also provoke antisemitism outside Israel, particularly if diaspora Jews continue to feel they need support Israel’s current policies actively rather than bravely say as a significant number have, “not in my name.”
.
Even a more moderate, attempt to preserve the “status quo” reaction by Israel to hold back the IDF and the settlers in the West Bank or a change to a “saner government” that might even talk about a “two state solution” will quickly become extremely expensive as successors or survivors of Hamas target Israelis any way they can after the horrors they and their families have suffered.

Eventually US aid will not be enough to support Israel in the way it has become accustomed and US opinion and even US Jewish opinion (as just seen in the comments of Schumer) will become increasingly divided over what has been done by Israel – with unpredictable results threatening Biden. A Trump presidency could confuse everything even more for what he will do cannot be predicted.

Likely longer-term effects of the Current Policies

Surely Israel will fester with internal divisions as has been seen with Netanyahu’s attempt to muzzle high court criticism. It will be surrounded by ever more hostile states. Even the IDF will become a problem as extended military service and frequent call-ups prove to be extremely expensive and intrusive. This would contribute to a crumbling economy and inflation. Israeli society is already unstable and polarised. Instability leading to increasingly autocratic rule may become increasingly likely and a threat to what Israelis see as their democracy and respect for the law. This will all make living in Israel less attractive, even apart from continuing Hamas inspired attacks. (As the US VP spokesperson remarked “Israel may win a tactical victory but suffer a strategic defeat.” 3rd Dec.

Will this not make as the months pass many of those (22%) dual national and overseas related Israelis and even born Israelis feel increasingly unsafe? As this conflict continues surely they will ask would they and their children not be better off and safer back in the US, UK, EU etc., despite the antisemitism Israel has provoked world-wide by its behaviour? Already it seems half a million have left since Oct 7. How many more may start to leave? 20%, 30%, 50%?

Oft Forgotten. Climate Change

On top of this climate change is making the whole area more difficult to live in year on year. The impact of Climate Change on this war has so far been ignored. The Carnegie Endowment reports, “The countries of the Middle East are among the world’s most exposed states to the accelerating impacts of human-caused climate change, including soaring heat waves, declining precipitation, extended droughts, more intense sandstorms and floods, and rising sea levels.” This will make the rebuilding and restoration of Palestine after this war even more difficult as year on year it should be expected climate problems (extreme heat and lack of water) get worse. Will this help or hinder co-operation?

Conclusion. Two Totally Opposed Long Term Goals. Greater Israel or Islamic Palestine.
The Israeli Historian Yuval Noah Harari has summarised where things stand in an article for the FT thus:

The tragedy of Gaza: both sides are being “rational”
Many people see the seemingly intractable differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians as “irrational”. In fact, they’re anything but. For the Palestinians, the “founding event” of their modern identity is the 1948 Nakba, when the nascent state of Israel drove 750,000 of their people out of their ancestral homes. In the decades since, Palestinians have suffered “repeated massacres and expulsions” at the hands of Israel and other regional powers. Their perfectly rational fear is that, were it not for the international community, Israel would seek to “expel most or all of them” and establish a Jewish-only country. Numerous politicians and parties, including Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, have openly talked of creating “Greater Israel” – the expansion of settlements in the West Bank is viewed as part of this “abiding wish”.

For the Israelis, of course, the founding event of their modern identity was the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust. In 1948, the Palestinians and their Arab allies sought to “annihilate” their new country; when those and subsequent efforts failed (in 1956 and 1967), Arab nations took revenge by driving 800,000 Jews out of their ancestral homes in countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria. “At least half of Israeli Jews are the descendants of these Middle Eastern refugees.” The Israelis’ perfectly rational fear is that the Palestinians would happily kill or expel them all – as their leaders have repeatedly advocated. The two sides, in short, both have good reason to believe that the other lot are an “existential threat”. Their decades-long impasse is the result not of “unjustified paranoia”, but of “a sound analysis of the situation”

What might we (individuals, parties and government) promote here in the UK?

Call for an immediate and Permanent Cease Fire. Allowing the IDF to continue its policies of going after Hamas while killing Palestinian families and the total destruction of everything they have is out of all proportion to what happened on Oct 7 and will not get the 120 hostages back. Natanyahu continues to declare that the military aim is not vengeance, but to “Destroy Hamas”. This is simply impossible. Belief in an independent Palestine, Islamic or neutral, will live on and Hamas has to be recognised as having much support amongst Palestinians if there are ever to be negotiations. (as Peter Hain argues)

The basic policy of all three parties,

Tory, Labour and LD, the press and the BBC has been DO NOT UPSET THE UK JEWISH LOBBY by saying anything that could possibly be construed as antisemitic. This approach could dangerously alienate our Muslims (3.9 million) who include many who have Palestinian relatives. Calling the pro-Palestinian demonstrations which have attracted huge numbers “hate marches” as Conservative Cabinet members have is a great mistake since the police have reported they have been overwhelmingly peaceful and include a large number of non-Muslims and a significant Jewish minority.

The Jewish State and Antisemitism

Over the last 30 years the UK Jewish population (Total c 271,000 plus.) has become increasingly pro-Israel (as a result of relentless Israeli propaganda) and they have been encouraged to see almost any criticism of Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state as an expression of antisemitism, or if voiced by Jews, as betrayal.
This includes saying that it is antisemitic to declare that the Jewish state is built on the military occupation of land which historically belongs to Palestinians (Arabs and others) and has been taken from them by force. This means denying that they can legally or morally build a state on other peoples’ land while at the same time denying them the vote or legal rights. (Like invading Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea) Still a minority of Jews remain bravely critical of the policies Israel has adopted.

A Two State Solution?
The UK, US, EU, LDs and some liberal minded Jews (and currently former PM and mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert) speak of a Two State Solution as the answer. To continue to do so now is surely no more than political rhetoric. Israel has never been honest about proposing an equitable or believable Two State Solution that Palestinians could possibly accept. (see Ahron Bregman. Cursed Victory)
As noted a majority of Israelis and members of the current cabinet reject any moves towards a Two State Solution. They have wanted to see a Greater Israel free of “disruptive and untrustworthy” Palestinians develop undeclared, bit by bit, house by house and farm by farm. Oct 7 has given them a reason to speed up this process of driving Palestinians out of their territory by killing them ( 507 including 81 children Amnesty  since Oct 7) taking over homes and farms. We wait to see how far they will continue to push this in the light of foreign criticism. No sign of a let up yet.

A Single Democratic Palestine?
Apparently, when asked, many Palestinians before this war wished for a single neutral federal state with equal rights for all. (As promoted by British Palestinian Dr Ghada Karmi.) The snag for Israel with that is it would leave the Jews as a minority in what would then become Palestine. For them that is currently totally unacceptable. At the same time after Oct 7 it is hard to see Palestinians being prepared to live alongside and co-operate with Jews after what has been done to them, or for support for Hamas to have melted away. Of course Israelis and many Palestinians would not accept the sort of repressive Islamic state Hamas might want, but it should be remembered that historically Muslim rule has meant toleration for Christians and Jews so long as they do not seek to rule.

Israel an Apartheid State
Despite their rejection of a democratic single state with equal rights for all, Israeli spokespersons have also sought to deny that Israel is an apartheid state based on racial and religious discrimination. Instead they call themselves a democracy. (Just like white South Africans did) With half the population excluded this rings hollow. (Read the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty arguments on apartheid. The case against Israel is overwhelming.)
So what is the way ahead? Surely one thing stands out.
AFTER THIS TERRIBLE WAR IT IS SURELY IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE THAT JEWS CAN EVER FEEL SAFE OR ACCEPTED IN PALESTINE.
Sooner or later all, or a very significant number will want and need to leave and the present State of Israel in its current apartheid form as a Jewish state will become militarily, economically, and politically unsustainable. It will increasingly become an unsafe place for Jews to live in or feel happy in.

Despite Olmert we need recognise a Two State Solution is currently not on the table. (Think Serbia and Albania.) We are faced by two deeply polarised communities. It is just not possible to imagine Palestinians working with Israelis to build a democratic Palestine with equal rights for all and a secure place in it for Jews, or Jews handing over a great deal of land, property and political power to Palestinians.

This means the conflict is likely to continue for some time. That means the total impoverishment and further mass killing and long-term wounding of thousands of Palestinians of whom nearly half are children, and the economic and political diminishment of Israel into a further militarised pariah state even if they win in the short term a brutal “victory.” At the same time Hamas will fight on, using rockets, the limited munitions it has, and with suicide bombings driven by the hatred of those who have lost so much.

Peter Hain. The Only Way Forward is Negotiation With Hamas

In an article which gives an excellent analysis of where we are based on his political experience in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East, Lord Peter Hain argues in the Guardian (Jan. 24) that war will solve nothing. Only tough face to face negotiations which include Hamas can ever provide a solution which would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in Palestine in peace and security. Again he speaks of them doing this to aim at a two-state situation. He argues neither side can win militarily and recognises neither side are anywhere near being ready to negotiate or to give up their current goals – which are Greater Israel or Islamic Palestine.

Optimistically he calls for the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, The Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria the EU and yes Iran, all getting together to organise negotiations. The hope being this would stop the conflict becoming much wider. It is hard to see this happening any time soon. He also speaks of Hamas being extremist and terrorist which the use of suicide bombing has been. Surely however Israeli governments have condoned or ordered from the start (1948) terrorist and extremist ways of operating when they thought it was necessary. There has never been a time when the Jewish immigrants coming into Palestine have attempted to do anything but create an exclusive Jewish state on other people’s land. At the same time they have denied them any political, legal, or other rights. Because of guilt over its own record of antisemitism and the Holocaust, the West has gone along with this, effectively ignoring the claims of Palestinians for equal rights. But surely, in the face of what Israel has done and is doing now, this can no longer be accepted or tolerated by the West or the international community, particularly as the West and the EU backs the rights of Ukraine.

Without the cruelty, rape and torture perpetrated by some Hamas fighters on Oct 7th  the attack on Israel could be seen as being as legitimate as the French underground taking on their Nazi occupiers, or black South Africans taking on white power in the days of apartheid. Similarly, as Hain knows, the IRA regarded the bombings and killings they carried out as legitimate in their struggle for a united Ireland. The point is no Arab or Islamic country accepted the right of the new Jewish immigrants of 48 to set up a Jewish state in Palestine and the UN was only able to get a majority vote in favour of it because Stalin was able to order the whole Eastern block to vote for it.  The UK abstained while the US was pro.

It is a mistake then to simply write off Hamas as a terrorist movement as Israel would like us to. The idea of a free Islamic Palestine is not unreasonable for those Palestinians who think the Jews have had no right to set up in Palestine a discriminatory Jewish state.  Their view can never be destroyed by force, in fact force makes it grow and become more extreme and jihadi as may have happened. To do that is to succumb to Israeli propaganda. Netanyahu, his government (Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir) and the IDF are all guilty of breaking international law and carrying out terror acts repeatedly. Like the IRA, as Peter Hain argues, Hamas has to be negotiated with.

Israel’s attempt to build a one state solution “from the river to the sea” consisting of a Greater Israel is long standing (48) and they are using this war to further it while denying this when talking to the UK, the EU or the Americans, if not to each other. (See Arnold Bregnan. Cursed Victory) As the consequences of bombing and shelling Gaza flat were obvious from day one, the current disease, drought, famine, and death in conditions of mass and unavoidable homelessness and starvation has to be seen as deliberate. It is also impossible to imagine Israelis giving up enough land voluntarily to provide anything like an equitable and acceptable territorial solution for the formation of a state of Palestine. As things stand a two-state solution is far away.

I am not pro Hamas. I see the autocratic jihadi Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood as a step backwards for moderate Muslims who appreciate the values of human rights, democratically based law and government and the education and social liberation of women yet continue to appreciate the basic Five Pillars of their religion. (Belief in God and the Prophet, Prayer, Fasting, Charitable giving, and Pilgrimage) Egypt voted in a Muslim Brotherhood government in 2011. They made such a mess of running the country that they provoked the “Arab Spring” which saw them thrown out by popular demand. Sadly, only to be replaced by the El-Sisi military dictatorship. A jihadi Hamas can only be defeated once a democratic Palestine is in place. Then it can lose in an election.

3/3/24 On 29th February the killing of at least 112 Palestinians around food trucks was reported. After an initial denial the IDF admitted it opened fire when its men “felt threatened” by the crowds seeking food from the trucks. A UN report from the local hospital says most of the wounded were suffering from gunshot.
This appalling event looks very much like an IDF massacre by out-of-control troops. The changing Israeli reports clearly lack plausibility. What possible threat did this unarmed crowd, desperate for food, pose to Israeli troops and their tanks? Will Biden and the US continue to accept the Israeli account of what has happened? Will this event change the minds of the UK Gov and UK Jews as regards their support of Israel? We shall see.

Here are some points we might discuss besides the need for an Immediate Ceasefire. There may be many more.
1. There needs to be a radical re-evaluation of our relations with Israel with no more pretence that the Jews have a greater right to rule Palestine than the Arabs. For a start we need condemn any move by Israel to further a Greater Israel by forcing Palestinians out of Jerusalem, expanding settlements on the West Bank or occupying what is left of Gaza.
2. Encourage a rebuild. The people of Gaza require urgent relief – just to prevent a health catastrophe, let alone provide them opportunities to rebuild their lives. It looks as if Israel has made around 2 million Palestinians homeless and the death toll will continue towards at least 40,000. Who will fund that and the short and long-term medical needs of the Gazan wounded and survivors? Humanitarian aid is desperately needed. UNHCR. Here the US should help for it provided all the weapons for the killings.
3. Call for the repair and reparation by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where Palestinians have lost properties.
4. Call for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred sites and the Temple Mount to be placed under UN protection and administration so all may worship unhindered.
5. Call for the UK to recognise immediately the State of Palestine as 193 UN nations have.
6. Call for open, free and fair elections for Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem organised by the UN without Israeli or Hamas interference to elect a new Palestinian Authority to negotiate with Israel and run the above with the end in view of an open, democratic state of Palestine.
7. Condemn apartheid Israel for the way its policies and actions provoke antisemitism outside Israel, not just among Muslims, so causing a problem for diaspora Jews everywhere.
And Particularly Here in Britain:
8. Protect and support UK Jews and Muslims against antisemitism and Islamophobia. Protect free speech, argument and public protest while prosecuting hate speech and violence.
9. Remind Jews it is NOT antisemitic to criticise the State of Israel for its racist and discriminatory policies against Palestinians. Also it is not antisemitic to question the legitimacy of Israel to act as a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine. Many Jews have done so.
10. Continue to re-assure our population of the right of free speech and of peaceful public protest and demonstration and that hate crimes will be prosecuted.
11. Promote consistent criticism of human rights violations, war crimes and violations of international law. Politicians of all parties need to criticise both Israel and Hamas in a consistent way using the same criteria they have used to criticise Russia in the Ukraine conflict. The outbreak of this war saw a dangerously one-sided support for Israel and ignoring of the Palestinians plight.
12. Call for the release by Israel of all prisoners convicted under military law and administrative detention. Recognise they are all, whatever they might have done, the prisoners of an illegal occupying power they have a right to resist.
13. The UK has for years been working closely with the IDF in its development of drones, AI and military technology. This is now being reportedly used over Gaza “in a search for hostages.” This needs to be re-assessed in the light of the civilian deaths caused by the IDF.
14. Encourage a return of Jews to the democracies as Israel rejects the above moves and the conflict continues. Many if not most Jews see themselves as sharing Western, liberal, law-based democratic values, be they religious, or as many are, secular. They do not see themselves, or wish to be seen, as supporters of mass murder and ethnic cleansing. Is it not likely that as the conflict drags on life in Israel will become increasingly unsafe, costly and unpleasant. Many Jews (particularly the 22% with dual citizenship and their relatives) will then have an option. A policy of Come and Join Us and Bring Us Your Skills can never be called antisemitic.

The Jews who wish to remain in Palestine
If the war continues with Israel rejecting effective negotiations with any Palestinian group as it fights on for a Greater Israel, what might happen? Surely it will find itself both an international pariah and increasingly unsustainable. If it broke down would the remaining Jews be ready to live in an impoverished single state Arab ruled Palestine dealing with a deteriorating climate? Would the Palestinian majority in that state who had fought on against Israel or who had simply suffered enormous family losses be ready to accept them?

And what of the thousands of Israeli Jews who had come from the Muslim lands they lived in for centuries (The Sephardim) but which they had to leave after the setting up of a discriminatory Israel, or the large number who came from antisemitic Russia? And what of the Orthodox who might still wish to stay in the Holy Land for religious reasons? The position for all these Jewish groups is really difficult. It will depend on which countries might offer them asylum if they decide they need to leave Palestine.
The other big question will be what sort of Palestine might emerge as the current war grinds on to some sort of endgame. Will there still be a place in it for Jews after this Gaza massacre?

There is one certainty. Oct 7 2023 will cast a very long shadow for the current government of Israel has carried out a massacre on a scale and intensity which will not be forgotten across the world and particularly by all Muslims. It inevitably brings to mind an earlier Holocaust.

Post Script 7/1/2024t A Personal View
As a student of religion and former specialist teacher of Religious Studies I am not anti-Jewish. I introduced and taught about the Holocaust in two schools years before it was done in History. I think we greatly under-appreciate what Judaism has contributed in its key thinking to both Christianity and Islam and more than that  to our widely shared humane liberal values. I also admire and appreciate the outstanding achievements of Jews who have settled here and whose contributions to our society have been out of all proportion to their numbers. In fact the whole development of Western liberal, democratic society has been enormously enriched by those with a Jewish background. Think of the arts, philosophy, politics, the media, economics, science, law, medicine and business for a start. Without their exceptional input our whole culture would be greatly impoverished. However, as a former South African who lived under apartheid, I have come to see the way the state of Israel has developed into an apartheid state on Palestinian land as being a terrible mistake. Increasingly in this Gaza war it undermines and betrays the very humane values and achievements so many Jews have stood for.

Genocide
South Africa has charged Israel with the specific crime of Genocide at the ICJ (International Court of Justice.) I grew up under apartheid and I listened to all 6 hrs of the case being put by both sides. SA presented the case meticulously, far better than this paper does. It argued successive Israeli governments have been out to break, kill and exclude Palestinians from their land, have done so since 1948, and now want to finish the job. Israel’s attempt to deny this rang hollow, as did the attempt to dismiss clear genocidal statements made by its PM, cabinet and army leader. The ICJ preliminary judgement and call for Israel to stop killing Palestinians carefully listed what has been happening. This may yet embarrass the West and encourage a less pro-Israeli stance. However, the Israeli description of how Hamas works in and under hospitals and its use of families as human shields seems believable if pretty inevitable in such a crowded place. This may be the reason the ICJ has not called for an immediate cease fire. Hamas appears to be heartless and cynical in its behaviour towards its own civilian backers as they die from Israel’s bombs in their thousands while its militia fights on from their tunnels.  Since we hear no criticism of Hamas from Palestinians in Gaza we need ask is this because they live under fear or because they back them in the fight? We just do not know. Now the US and the UK bomb the Houthis in Yemen for backing Hamas and firing on shipping. As a result the whole Muslim world and the South and East see the West as hypocritical supporters of an apartheid state – even as Ukraine gets starved of support.

Prolonged Occupation
28/2/24PS Things have changed. The UN General Assembly has asked the ICJ to rule on what Israel should do with the occupied territories. Some 50 countries argue Israel should withdraw from them immediately. If the court backs this as the needed legal outcome when its judgement is expected in July, that would make further material support by Israel’s allies (US and UK etc) illegal. What might happen then?

19/3/24. A Hamas leader, Marwan Issa has been killed and arrests made in raid on al Shifa hospital by IDF. Biden has been tough with Netanyahu and Israel has sent negotiators to Doha. Will anything come of this before Netanyahu lets the IDF attack Rafah?

4/4/2024 The World Central Kitchen Charity has had seven of its members killed in an IDF Drone strike despite their careful liaison. It looks very deliberate as it has the effect of stopping further food aid getting to Gaza as starvation grows. Alex Younger, former MI5 head said it was “hard not to conclude that insufficient care is being paid to the collateral risks of these operations, one way or another. What happened is essentially systematic of an approach to targeting that has on occasion bordered on the reckless and fundamentally undermines therefore what must be Israel’s political purpose, which is to sustain some moral high ground and some moral purpose.”

The Guardian has published a letter from senior lawyers and three former supreme court justices, warning that the UK government was breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel. Several Conservative MPs have urged Rishi Sunak to stop arming Israel after this strike. For retired judges this is an extremely rare intervention.
Lyall Grant, a former national security adviser, said the facts had changed considerably since the government’s lawyers last assessed the situation in Gaza in December. Since then, the international court of justice has suggested in an interim judgment that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza. Last week, the UN security council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which Israel has not abided by.

“Will a tactical victory for Israel eventually lead to strategic defeat?”
“Israel cannot hope to succeed as a pariah opposed by the rest of the world.” Schumer. Most senior US Jewish congressman. March 2024

Sources for Reference I Have Found Useful

Books: A History of Israel 2002 and Cursed Victory 2014 both by Ahron Bregman who lectures in the Dept of War Studies Kings College London. This meticulously written history which focuses on ’67 made me aware of just how deep seated and consistent the Israeli policy of working for a Greater Israel is and what Israeli politicians are prepared to say and do and lie to work towards it.

TV: Aljazeera Freeview 253 on TV gives hourly coverage and excellent reviews. See The Listening Post series  It is pro-Palestinian. The BBC and Chanel 4 news both give good coverage.  More on Radio 4. On I-Player Jeremey Bowen has his History of Israel. Filmed 1992 which gives excellent background and he continues to give excellent balanced reports.  Bregman was involved in making his film. Wikipedia has huge coverage of every aspect of the conflict. I also read with great care the Guardian Weekly and the Economist for their careful and well-researched journalism.

 

 

 

 

 

By John Baxter.  Email johnbaxter119@nullgmail.com. Paper revised several times as things have changed. This version completed 10-4-2924.

What lies ahead in this terrible war since the first days of Israel’s reaction to the Hamas attack on October 7th  2023? We have seen one week of prisoner exchanges and the violent resumption of shelling ever since. Now, totally predictably, the rain and the cold has come and mass starvation wreaks havoc in Gaza. Despite Israeli claims that they are out to “destroy Hamas” and double speak about not aiming at civilians, what is happening in Gasa is a manmade famine. Is this ethnic cleansing or is it genocide?

 October 7the 2023 The Hamas Attack. Just What Do We Know Took Place?

The Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7. burst out of Gaza through its Israeli constructed border fences, barriers and watch towers. Its fighters killed 1,180. This consisted of 278 soldiers, 859 civilians 67 police and security. 247 were taken captive, consisting of soldiers, civilians, including foreign workers, women and children. Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners, 107 of whom were between 14 and 17 years old, and three-quarters of whom had not been convicted of a crime, although some were awaiting trial in a military court. In exchange, Hamas released 105 civilians, which included 81 people from Israel, 23 Thais and one Filipino. (I can find no cases of any of them being ill-treated while held in captivity in tunnels)

This attack came as a deeply traumatising and totally unexpected shock to Israeli society, who simply thought, after the Gaza uprising/intifada of 2014, that Hamas had been effectively broken. That was when the IDF had destroyed a third of Gaza City and killed 2,251 Palestinians. However, just before Oct 7th there were conscript warnings that they had seen suspicious behaviour on the Gaza side. These warnings were apparently ignored by their superiors. A report in the New York Times claims that a year earlier the IDF obtained from its agents (working within Hamas) detailed plans of what Hamas intended, but again army and political leadership chose not to believe the Palestinians were capable of carrying out such a plan. This raises a question. If the IDF had been alerted, did they then in fact have plans all ready for what they would do if Hamas attacked and was the mass destruction and mass killing of Palestinians which took place extremely quickly after Oct 7 and which soon reached 25,000 deaths, something which had been carefully pre-planned as an expected possibility?

Certainly Oct 7 was the biggest killing of Jews since the Holocaust. and stirred up vivid memories of it. It also traumatised Israeli society because from day one it was reported by sources within the IDF as having been carried out with the greatest brutality. This was illustrated by smartphone videos, horrible accounts of multiple rape, torture and the killing of babies. There were also IDF escorted tours of the sites involved for journalists. Among those killed and captured were those at a music festival during or after their military training. Described by Israelis as innocent young civilians it is doubtful that Hamas would have seen them this way. Certainly the Hamas fighters exhibited the most terrible hatred towards Israeli Jews, and the Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said “everything we do is justified” “this is just the first time and there will be a second, a third and a fourth.” It seems then Hamas proudly admits to the killings and taking of prisoners, but denies the rapes and tortures as “unislamic” and as Israeli propaganda and this it seems is now generally believed to be the case by Palestinians. At the same time Hamas has admitted in the report they issued that  “some mistakes were made.” Certainly It is hard to see why the Hamas leadership might have thought the use of sexualised violence could be in the interest of their cause when they have denied ordering it. In the past they have always been ready to take responsibility for suicide bombings.

What Is The Context That Lies Behind the Oct 7 Attack?

The question of context. Why has such hatred against Israeli Jews developed amongst Palestinians? This is a question which has to be explored, but which Israeli government, army and media has so far loudly refused to do. Instead it has claimed that sexualised violence was the deliberate policy of Hamas aimed at  intimidating Israelis so Hamas are thus justifiably seen to be monsters.

Certainly the rape and torture of “dozens” (the Israeli claim) of mainly women immediately after their capture if substantiated are foul war crimes, crimes that those who committed them and those who ordered them should be held accountable for. The whole population of Gaza however, is certainly not guilty of such crimes as is being widely asserted by Israeli media and reported in the extreme statements of Netanyahu, President Isaac Hertzog, and members of the Israeli Cabinet. These are all quoted by South Africa in its ICJ (International Court of Justice) case against Israel for intentionally committing Genocide.

Are All the Hamas Fighters Guilty of War Crimes?

If some Hamas fighters committed sexually driven war crimes, does committing a war crime apply to all those other Hamas fighters who took part in the surprise attack on Israel on Oct 7 with orders and the intention of killing or capturing as many as they could of their occupying enemy? Did they not face an enemy with a huge conscript army of men and women who as they saw it were carrying out or had been involved in, whatever their age, the carrying out of the systematic oppression, torture, imprisonment, mistreatment and killing of them and their families for all of their lives? Hamas fighters did this in the expectation that if they entered “the Zionist entity” they would have to fight on until they were martyred/killed by the IDF – as they were. Certainly the response of the Israeli government and the IDF in going after them in killing and permanently wounding non-combatant Palestinians in what will soon amount to at least 40.000 of whom 60% are children, constitutes a grossly disproportionate reaction and a possible genocidal war crime in itself. What is more it is now becoming clear (In Intercept reports) that babies were not killed and that some of the alleged rapes did not happen although the killings certainly did. The BBC thinks there is good evidence rapes took place but when it comes to numbers, at present we just do not know.

On the Palestinian side 60% of the deaths are women and children. As so many bodies remain uncounted under the rubble it is impossible to be certain of numbers except that with no pause in the fighting and shelling, they are rising all the time. Of the numbers involved BBC Verify says: “Israel faces growing concern about the number of civilian deaths, after at least 30,000 Palestinians were reported killed in Gaza – as well as pressure to show it is eliminating Hamas as it vowed after 7 October.
BBC Verify examines Israel’s claims about how many of those killed were combatants. “The Israeli military says it has killed more than 10,000 fighters in its air strikes and ground operations but there are concerns about whether it is able to separate fighters from ordinary civilians.” That is a polite way of putting it. It seems Aljazeera reports Israel routinely strips the men and boys it detains to their underpants, “to see if they are wearing suicide belts,” blindfolds and handcuffs them for hours prior to “interrogation” to decide if they support or fight for Hamas. How this is carried out and what happens next has not been reported. Are those regarded as Hamas fighters treated as POWs or “terrorists” to be executed? We do not yet know.

Photo Aljazeera

The Plight of Palestinians
The numbers of Palestinians killed will now it seems inevitably continue to rise towards 40,000 as a result of the targeted destruction by shelling of what were labelled safe areas together with the UN shelters, schools, hospitals, residential blocks, and homes in both North and South Gaza and Khan Younis. Add to this the cutting off of fresh water, electric power and fuel, even as the Israeli government continues to insist on controlling (and holding back) access into Gaza of UN food, medical and humanitarian aid. This leaves hundreds of thousands homeless and without food or shelter so disease and starvation can wreak havoc upon them while the US sends more ammunition and Blinken makes statements asking Israel to “avoid unnecessary civilian casualties” which in practice Israel appears to ignore.

The Holocaust and the Creation of Israel

How have we reached this? First a perspective. We should never forget the Holocaust for no Jew ever can. Most have family who died in it. The planned extermination of six million Jews (together with millions of others) under Nazi rule can never be forgotten. It is why Jews came to Palestine to escape antisemitism just before and after the Second World War when in May 1948 the creation of the State of Israel was declared. Their aim was to set up a state of their own where all Jews could settle free from antisemitism. They went for Palestine for their scriptures referred to Jerusalem and the Promised Land given them by YHWH and a Jewish kingdom 3,000 years ago (king David) that lasted in different forms until the 66CE revolt against Rome. That resulted in the Romans expelling the Jews to join the already large diaspora around the Empire.

The problem is that although since Roman times a small number of Jews returned and lived in Palestine around Jerusalem (Scholch estimates 4% of the population of 1,970,000 in 1850) alongside Orthodox Christians and other minorities, its population for almost twelve centuries (since 635 CE) has been overwhelmingly Arab, always living under Muslim rule as part of the Muslim Umma. (transnational community) until Allah brings about the Apocalypse. All these communities pre-date the European and Nazi antisemitic Holocaust. It also means both Muslims and Jews (and during the Crusades Christians also) claiming Jerusalem and Palestine as theirs by divine right.

Under the British mandate – set up after World War 1 to provide eventual autonomy for the area – Jews resorted to terrorism against the British to end the mandate as with World War 2 those fleeing Nazi tyranny arrived in desperate boatloads having been turned back and refused entry by several countries, including Britain and the US.  They did this so they could settle Jews from Europe on Arab land despite Arab objections.  There were also tit-for tat killings as Palestinian groups justifiably felt pressured by the Jewish refugees, while the Jews felt they had no-where else to go.  This then escalated into ethnic cleansing lead by Jewish militias.  As a result Palestinians fled for their lives to Gaza and out of Palestine immediately before the State of Israel was declared in 1948.

Wars followed involving the surrounding Muslim states who like the Palestinian communities totally rejected the right of the Jews to set up a Jewish state in Palestine. Faced by a large, well-armed and well-trained army which became the IDF (Israel Defence Force) they were conquered by Israel in a series of wars culminating in 1967 with the conquest of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Hights. In these areas the native Palestinians have been progressively dispossessed, losing their homes, their land, their properties, and on many occasions their lives. As a result many have been forced to live in refugee camps outside Palestine. 250,000 are in Lebanon where Hezbollah, the Iranian backed anti-Israeli Shia militia is strong. There are also 2,180,000 in Jordan where most have been given Jordanian citizenship. Inside the Palestine area they live under Israeli military occupation in steadily worsening conditions. This has meant in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

A minority (1 .5 million) were initially allowed Israeli citizenship, but not equality. Post Oct 7 they have been subject to considerable harassment and arrest, but while showing sympathy towards those in Gaza and the West Bank, they have not revolted against Israel.

From the start the new Jewish state of Israel has been seen as an enormously important focus of identity for Jews both religious and secular and it was given enormous and regularly increasing financial and military support by the US and its Jewish population (7.6 million  in 2020) even as diaspora Jews have moved to Israel. It has developed a much admired innovative and creative “democratic” for Jews culture together with the biggest, best (US equipped) and most powerful army in the Middle East., the IDF, (Israel Defence Force). This is based on the conscription of all citizens, men and women. (Except the Israeli Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who can choose to opt out of national service.)

The Present Context for Palestinians

So where are we now? It appears the total Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel stood at around 7.5 million pre Oct 7. This is larger than Israel’s total Jewish population of 7 million. It means that in the whole of the Palestine area, the Eretz Yisrael or Greater Israel of Jewish aspiration, over half the population live without basic rights and under military occupation. This means they are constantly ordered about and checked by the young male and female conscripts over what they can and cannot do or go in what they see as being their own country. Gaza alone, pre-7 October, had 2.3 million forced to live fenced in what has been widely described as an open prison. It is a prison the IDF evacuated from in 2005 after a disastrous attempt at military rule. However water, electricity and fuel has remained under tight and deliberate Israeli control which amounts to a continuing occupation which under international law places Israel under obligations to provide water, food, and power and to respect hospitals and UN facilities. Gaza’s unemployment rate was 46% and the youth unemployment rate 70% pre–Oct 7. It is now off the chart. Unable to produce enough food most became dependent on UN and other international food aid and only a small number were able to get employment passes to work in labouring jobs in Israel. That has now stopped entirely.

Since 1967, 800,000 Palestinians, or roughly 20% of the total population and 40% of the male population of Palestine, have been imprisoned by the Israeli state at some point. About 100,000 have been held in administrative detention. That is without “trial” by the Israeli military courts – where it seems 99% are found guilty. 70% of Palestinian families have had one or more family members sentenced to jail terms in Israeli prisons as a result of activities against the occupation” (Wikipedia reports). Pre-Oct. there were 2,070 Administrative Detainees, 200 child prisoners and 62 female prisoners and Israel admitted holding 7,000 political prisoners. The numbers now have surely more than doubled and are far greater and hard to estimate as IDF daily raids continue.

These huge detention and imprisonment numbers, though they apply mainly to the West Bank and East Jerusalem rather than Gaza, are under reported in Western media, possibly because they are old news and have been going on for so long. (i.e. particularly since ‘67) To have such a proportion of the population denied legal, property or political rights, subjected to imprisonment (and often the demolition of their family homes) and the serious mistreatment, beatings and torture that is widely reported as going with it, perpetuates in Palestinians a deep sense of injustice and in many a visceral hatred of Israeli Jews. It shows that for Palestinians prisons are not about the punishment of crime, but of the brutal, systematic oppression and intimidation by those who occupy their land. This goes with the use of a relentlessly discriminatory bureaucracy backed by force and fear. This also motivated Hamas to launch Oct 7 and take hostages (or as they would say prisoners) since it has linked the freeing of prisoners in exchange for hostages as essential for any pause or cease-fire in the war from day one.

 The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas

So what of Hamas, the body whose members have been ruling Gaza since 2007 and are also strong on the West Bank? HAMAS is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement which defines what it is about.  It was founded by Palestinian imam and activist Ahmad Yassin in 1987. This was after the outbreak of the First Intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation. Severely disabled he was seen as their spiritual leader until his assassination by Israel in 2004.  Hamas has ruled Gaza ;since 2007. That is since Israel chose to withdraw after years of hated military occupation. Hamas broke away from the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat (which was nationalist and non-religious) as it adopted the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to Palestine. This is that Palestine, after a thousand years of Muslim rule, is historically a Muslim land, part of the Ummah, traditional Muslim community, and Muslims should be committed to armed resistance against Israel until it can be replaced by an Islamic Palestinian state. Thus, Hamas rejects the rights of Jews to settle on Palestinian land and set up their own state. This also means they have rejected plans for a two-state solution. (By far the best and most comprehensive article on Hamas I have read has just come out by Joshua Leifer in the Guardian Weekly 29March 24. It shows Hamas is a movement with various leading figures and policies though all united in rejecting the right of Jews to impose a Jewish state on the land and people of Palestine. At the same time pre Oct 7 they were more pragmatic than Israel now makes out and were ready to negotiate some place for Jews in Palestine.

In 1988 Hamas revised its clearly anti-Jewish charter saying it was not against Jews, but “the Zionist entity” of Israel. The Wikipedia article also lists several occasions when it was willing to negotiate. Now Hamas rules Gaza as a one-party Islamic autocracy which tolerates a small Christian minority. Because from the start Israel has carried out a policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders and potential leaders. This means current Hamas leadership roles and locations are kept hidden and constantly on the move and no-one knows for certain where real power lies. Two smaller affiliated parties also dedicated to fighting Israel, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP are tolerated and work with Hamas (and took part on Oct 7).

Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt and Hamas is labelled by them (and the US and UK) as a “terrorist state” for its use and support of the suicide bombing of Israelis living their normal lives. All Palestinians however are aware that Israeli adults do military service in the IDF which often involves them in military and security duties, and they are ready, as in this current war, to be called up. This means that for Palestinians they are not seen as simply civilians.

Hamas tolerates little dissent concerning its basic opposition to Israel, but runs Gaza with different and on occasion differing, departments and with no single leader. These include External Relations (Based in Qatar) Defense, Health, Education, the Economy and Social Services. These are run well enough to get support. Its military wing is filled with young men ready to die as “martyrs” who have known nothing but unemployment and the harsh restrictions of Israeli rule all their lives. It has built a complex and extensive network of tunnels across Gaza and under most buildings to store men, arms and rockets. The rockets have been used for years against Israel but have been largely ineffective as Israel has obtained an effective defensive missile system from the US. The tunnels have been the declared focus for IDF action in the current war, justifying their destruction of everything and everyone above them on a massive scale.

According to observers Hamas has the likely backing of the majority of the populations of both Gaza and the West Bank in its opposition to Israel, if not its call for a clearly Muslim state. Given what Israel has been doing since Oct 7th this is hardly surprising. So, deprived of fresh water, land to farm or sea to fish, and a reliance on food aid from outside to survive, it is hard to imagine a more hopeless place that Gazans had to live in than this grossly overcrowded strip of land.

The Two State “Solution”

The two-state solution is what the PLO, led by Yassar Arafat had agreed to aim for at America’s instigation under Jimmy Carter as the way out of an endless conflict. It was signed at Camp David by both parties, Israel and the PLO in 1993, but it was never implemented after the assassination of the Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by an Israeli opponent. Many on the Israeli side were quite against it and in 1996 Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister and he has always been against any recognition of a Palestinian state. On the Palestinian side it was seen that the Israelis never made more than quite disproportionate offers, taking all the best land for themselves and building settlements on the West Bank which went right against the two-state policy.
There are now over 500,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied West Bank and 220,000 Jewish settlers in Occupied East Jerusalem. This has made the two state aim even more difficult and unlikely as the illegal Israeli settlers are backed by the IDF and they terrify, kill and confiscate land and Palestinian properties at an increasing rate. Since Oct 7 things have got much worse with mass arrests and over 420 killed, 4,500 injured.

 So, what else has and could happen?

The PA Palestine Authority nominally runs the West Bank and is led by the 86yr old Mahmoud Abbas. He is without meaningful authority and has been systematically subverted by Israel who has it appears even surreptitiously supported Hamas to weaken any of his plans for a two-state solution. He has now appointed a new “technocratic” PM to work towards a two-state solution without consulting Hamas, who are annoyed.

It seems likely, if unproven, that the Hamas’s Oct 7 carefully planned action of invasion, killings and kidnap was a deliberate provocation of Israel and its mighty IDF for it was pretty obvious Israel was likely to respond in an extreme way that would kill many women, children and non-combatants. At the time Hamas also saw that Israel was getting closer to doing deals with Arab states whose rulers, like Saudi Arabia, oppose the Muslim Brotherhood jihadi approach and have failed to back Palestinians strongly. They now seem more interested in working economically with Israel than helping Palestinians overthrow Israel. Since Oct 7 they have however all been arguing for a two state solution.

Hamas probably thought that If Israel over-reacted to their Oct 7 attack and killed large numbers of Gazan civilians that might, as it has, stir up anti-Israeli sentiments and pro-Palestinian support in the Muslim world. It could also stir up international sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, again as in fact has happened.

However, again, did the Hamas leadership incite or order the extreme acts of rape and torture which Israel has made so much of and claims took place as deliberate Hamas policy? Or were they the work of out-of-control criminal elements? This is what some Palestinians have claimed on Aljazeera. We do not know. Hamas spokesmen either deny they happened at all or suggest they were not committed by Hamas members. Such a reaction suggests Hamas does not see such behaviour as being in its own interest.  On the other hand the evidence survivors and Israel have produced of atrocities seems strong.  They claim that “dozens suffered” in appalling ways. The Israelis certainly blame the Hamas leadership and the Palestinians who back Hamas as bearing responsibility for what happened. This means so far there has been little Israeli sympathy expressed or felt for the plight of the bombed-out people of Gaza who have been dying – not in dozens, but in tens of thousands.

Since Oct 7 Israel certainly has responded to Hamas in the most extreme of ways. The relentless destruction in Gaza of Palestinian buildings of all types, from homes to hospitals and of everything the people own leaving them with nothing, including what looks like a deliberate destruction of all cultural artefacts, manuscripts, archaeology and old buildings,  first in Gaza City, then in the South and in Khan Younis could hardly be more complete. The scenes of devastation as seen on the BBC and Aljazeera of screaming children, the dead and dying, women and the elderly and children brought out from beneath the rubble to bombed out hospitals where they have had arms and legs amputated have been hard to watch. As rain and flooding adds to these pictures things get worse every day. Now famine and starvation sets in as Israel blocks food, medicine and all forms of humanitarian aid in all but deliberately ineffective ways.

The IDF say these civilian losses are an “unintended consequence” what the Americans have called “collateral damage” as they have sought Hamas in their tunnels beneath the buildings. Their aim they say is “The destruction of Hamas” and all its structures. It is not revenge for Oct 7th. Who can believe that for the bombing and shelling has been so widespread and devastating. What’s more with the IDF claiming the use of advanced AI which gives it unprecedented access to accurate data about who lives where in Gaza as it plans its bombing, it cannot claim what it does is indiscriminate. Gaza city has now been almost completely flattened and after ordering the population to move south, the same shelling has been carried out there. This means Gasa has been turned into an uninhabitable killing field.

Also, what is meant by “destroy Hamas”? Can any amount of force kill the Palestinian desire for freedom from Israeli rule and the creation of some form of Palestinian state? What more could Israel do to make sure their state and every Jew in it is deeply hated by Palestinians? Is not this declared Israeli policy simply a slogan for international consumption to make what the IDF is doing look comparatively acceptable after the horrors of Oct 7? So what might be the real objective of Israel in this war if it is not just “to destroy Hamas”?

Greater Israel
The destruction of Gaza City by Israel and the continued killing of Palestinian civilians increasingly looks as if Israel’s government will now aim, without clearly actually saying so (for fear of upsetting internal and external allies?) to impose, while under Netanyahu, a policy which has long been popular amongst Israel’s right wing. This is to pursue a Greater Israel (Eretz Israel) policy. Certainly this is what members of his cabinet such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir who is responsible for the West Bank, have openly declared to be what they want. That means while appearing to be simply going after Hamas fighters and all “terrorist supporters”, they are also setting about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians not only out of Gaza, but out of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such an imposed single state solution will mean the killing or driving out of the country to Egypt, the Lebanon or Jordan all but the most cowed, compliant and demoralised Palestinians. These could remain and would be useful in servant roles and as unskilled labour instead of importing people, as has been happening, from Thailand. (30,000)

On the other hand surely the shadowy Hamas leadership (whose deputy commander in Gasa has just been killed according to the IDF) must have expected an extreme Israeli reaction to Oct 7. Did they expect it to be as extreme as this massacre has so far turned out to be? We do not know. Still, whether intended by Hamas planners or not, and even if there is a rejection of the way Hamas has handled its war against Israel, this mass killing by Israel has very effectively made it impossible for any Arab or Muslim state, be it Sunni or Shia, EVER to accept what Israel is and has done. Again, this seems to be just what Hamas hoped Oct 7th would achieve

Openly adopting a Greater Israel policy would certainly provoke dangerous international reactions from Arab states and Iran. At best this would keep Israel on a very expensive perpetual war footing that would drag down its economy. At worst it could set off (as the US, the UK and EU fear) a wider international conflict and possibly nuclear war. (Israel has its own nuclear bomb.)

It will severely test US and Western support for Israel as its actions break international law as South Africa and then the General Assembly of the UN has called on the ICJ to investigate.
.
Adopting the Greater Israel policy will also provoke antisemitism outside Israel, particularly if diaspora Jews continue to feel they need support Israel’s current policies actively rather than bravely say as a significant number have, “not in my name.”
.
Even a more moderate, attempt to preserve the “status quo” reaction by Israel to hold back the IDF and the settlers in the West Bank or a change to a “saner government” that might even talk about a “two state solution” will quickly become extremely expensive as successors or survivors of Hamas target Israelis any way they can after the horrors they and their families have suffered.

Eventually US aid will not be enough to support Israel in the way it has become accustomed and US opinion and even US Jewish opinion (as just seen in the comments of Schumer) will become increasingly divided over what has been done by Israel – with unpredictable results threatening Biden. A Trump presidency could confuse everything even more for what he will do cannot be predicted.

Likely longer-term effects of the Current Policies
Surely Israel will fester with internal divisions as has been seen with Netanyahu’s attempt to muzzle high court criticism. It will be surrounded by ever more hostile states. Even the IDF will become a problem as extended military service and frequent call-ups prove to be extremely expensive and intrusive. This would contribute to a crumbling economy and inflation. Israeli society is already unstable and polarised. Instability leading to increasingly autocratic rule may become increasingly likely and a threat to what Israelis see as their democracy and respect for the law. This will all make living in Israel less attractive, even apart from continuing Hamas inspired attacks. (As the US VP spokesperson remarked “Israel may win a tactical victory but suffer a strategic defeat.” 3rd Dec.

Will this not make as the months pass many of those (22%) dual national and overseas related Israelis and even born Israelis feel increasingly unsafe? As this conflict continues surely they will ask would they and their children not be better off and safer back in the US, UK, EU etc., despite the antisemitism Israel has provoked world-wide by its behaviour? Already it seems half a million have left since Oct 7. How many more may start to leave? 20%, 30%, 50%?

On top of this climate change is making the whole area more difficult to live in year on year. The impact of Climate Change on this war has so far been ignored. The Carnegie Endowment reports, “The countries of the Middle East are among the world’s most exposed states to the accelerating impacts of human-caused climate change, including soaring heat waves, declining precipitation, extended droughts, more intense sandstorms and floods, and rising sea levels.” This will make the rebuilding and restoration of Palestine after this war even more difficult as year on year it should be expected climate problems (extreme heat and lack of water) get worse. Will this help or hinder co-operation?

Conclusion. Two Totally Opposed Long Term Goals. Greater Israel or Islamic Palestine.
The Israeli Historian Yuval Noah Harari has summarised where things stand in an article for the FT thus:

The tragedy of Gaza: both sides are being “rational”
Many people see the seemingly intractable differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians as “irrational”. In fact, they’re anything but. For the Palestinians, the “founding event” of their modern identity is the 1948 Nakba, when the nascent state of Israel drove 750,000 of their people out of their ancestral homes. In the decades since, Palestinians have suffered “repeated massacres and expulsions” at the hands of Israel and other regional powers. Their perfectly rational fear is that, were it not for the international community, Israel would seek to “expel most or all of them” and establish a Jewish-only country. Numerous politicians and parties, including Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, have openly talked of creating “Greater Israel” – the expansion of settlements in the West Bank is viewed as part of this “abiding wish”.
 For the Israelis, of course, the founding event of their modern identity was the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust. In 1948, the Palestinians and their Arab allies sought to “annihilate” their new country; when those and subsequent efforts failed (in 1956 and 1967), Arab nations took revenge by driving 800,000 Jews out of their ancestral homes in countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria. “At least half of Israeli Jews are the descendants of these Middle Eastern refugees.” The Israelis’ perfectly rational fear is that the Palestinians would happily kill or expel them all – as their leaders have repeatedly advocated. The two sides, in short, both have good reason to believe that the other lot are an “existential threat”. Their decades-long impasse is the result not of “unjustified paranoia”, but of “a sound analysis of the situation”

What might we (individuals, parties and government) promote here in the UK?

Call for an immediate and Permanent Cease Fire. Allowing the IDF to continue its policies of going after Hamas while killing Palestinian families and the total destruction of everything they have is out of all proportion to what happened on Oct 7 and will not get the 120 hostages back. Netanyahu continues to declare that the military aim is not vengeance, but to “Destroy Hamas”. This is simply impossible. Belief in an independent Palestine, Islamic or neutral, will live on and Hamas has to be recognised as having much support amongst Palestinians if there are ever to be negotiations. (as Peter Hain argues)

The basic policy of all three parties, Tory, Labour and LD, the press and the BBC has been DO NOT UPSET THE UK JEWISH LOBBY by saying anything that could possibly be construed as antisemitic. This approach could dangerously alienate our Muslims (3.9 million) who include many who have Palestinian relatives. Calling the pro-Palestinian demonstrations which have attracted huge numbers “hate marches” as Conservative Cabinet members have is a great mistake since the police have reported they have been overwhelmingly peaceful and include a large number of non-Muslims and a significant Jewish minority.

The Jewish State and Antisemitism
Over the last 30 years the UK Jewish population (Total c 271,000 plus.) has become increasingly pro-Israel (as a result of relentless Israeli propaganda) and they have been encouraged to see almost any criticism of Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state as an expression of antisemitism, or if voiced by Jews, as betrayal.
This includes saying that it is antisemitic to declare that the Jewish state is built on the military occupation of land which historically belongs to Palestinians (Arabs and others) and has been taken from them by force. This means denying that they can legally or morally build a state on other peoples’ land while at the same time denying them the vote or legal rights. (Like invading Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea) Still a minority of Jews remain bravely critical of the policies Israel has adopted.

A Two State Solution?
The UK, US, EU, LDs and some liberal minded Jews (and currently former PM and mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert) speak of a Two State Solution as the answer. To continue to do so now is surely no more than political rhetoric. Israel has never been honest about proposing an equitable or believable Two State Solution that Palestinians could possibly accept. (see Ahron Bregman. Cursed Victory)
As noted a majority of Israelis and members of the current cabinet reject any moves towards a Two State Solution. They have wanted to see a Greater Israel free of “disruptive and untrustworthy” Palestinians develop undeclared, bit by bit, house by house and farm by farm. Oct 7 has given them a reason to speed up this process of driving Palestinians out of their territory by killing them ( 507 including 81 children Amnesty  since Oct 7) taking over homes and farms. We wait to see how far they will continue to push this in the light of foreign criticism. No sign of a let up yet.

A Single Democratic Palestine?
Apparently, when asked, many Palestinians before this war wished for a single neutral federal state with equal rights for all. (As promoted by British Palestinian Dr Ghada Karmi.) The snag for Israel with that is it would leave the Jews as a minority in what would then become Palestine. For them that is currently totally unacceptable. At the same time after Oct 7 it is hard to see Palestinians being prepared to live alongside and co-operate with Jews after what has been done to them, or for support for Hamas to have melted away. Of course Israelis and many Palestinians would not accept the sort of repressive Islamic state Hamas might want, but it should be remembered that historically Muslim rule has meant toleration for Christians and Jews so long as they do not seek to rule.

Israel an Apartheid State
Despite their rejection of a democratic single state with equal rights for all, Israeli spokespersons have also sought to deny that Israel is an apartheid state based on racial and religious discrimination. Instead they call themselves a democracy. (Just like white South Africans did) With half the population excluded this rings hollow. (Read the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty arguments on apartheid. The case against Israel is overwhelming.)
So what is the way ahead? Surely one thing stands out.
               AFTER THIS TERRIBLE WAR IT IS SURELY IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE THAT JEWS CAN EVER FEEL SAFE OR ACCEPTED IN PALESTINE.
Sooner or later all, or a very significant number will want and need to leave
and the present State of Israel in its current apartheid form as a Jewish state will become militarily, economically, and politically unsustainable. It will increasingly become an unsafe place for Jews to live in or feel happy in.

Despite Olmert we need recognise a Two State Solution is currently not on the table. (Think Serbia and Albania.) We are faced by two deeply polarised communities. It is just not possible to imagine Palestinians working with Israelis to build a democratic Palestine with equal rights for all and a secure place in it for Jews, or Jews handing over a great deal of land, property and political power to Palestinians.

This means the conflict is likely to continue for some time. That means the total impoverishment and further mass killing and long-term wounding of thousands of Palestinians of whom nearly half are children, and the economic and political diminishment of Israel into a further militarised pariah state even if they win in the short term a brutal “victory.” At the same time Hamas will fight on, using rockets, the limited munitions it has, and with suicide bombings driven by the hatred of those who have lost so much.

Peter Hain. The Only Way Forward is Negotiation With Hamas
In an article which gives an excellent analysis of where we are based on his political experience in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East, Lord Peter Hain argues in the Guardian (Jan. 24) that war will solve nothing. Only tough face to face negotiations which include Hamas can ever provide a solution which would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in Palestine in peace and security. Again he speaks of them doing this to aim at a two-state situation. He argues neither side can win militarily and recognises neither side are anywhere near being ready to negotiate or to give up their current goals – which are Greater Israel or Islamic Palestine.

Optimistically he calls for the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, The Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria the EU and yes Iran, all getting together to organise negotiations. The hope being this would stop the conflict becoming much wider. It is hard to see this happening any time soon. He also speaks of Hamas being extremist and terrorist which the use of suicide bombing has been. Surely however Israeli governments have condoned or ordered from the start (1948) terrorist and extremist ways of operating when they thought it was necessary. There has never been a time when the Jewish immigrants coming into Palestine have attempted to do anything but create an exclusive Jewish state on other people’s land. At the same time they have denied them any political, legal, or other rights. Because of guilt over its own record of antisemitism and the Holocaust, the West has gone along with this, effectively ignoring the claims of Palestinians for equal rights. But surely, in the face of what Israel has done and is doing now, this can no longer be accepted or tolerated by the West or the international community, particularly as the West and the EU backs the rights of Ukraine.

Without the cruelty, rape and torture perpetrated by some Hamas fighters on Oct 7th  the attack on Israel could be seen as being as legitimate as the French underground taking on their Nazi occupiers, or black South Africans taking on white power in the days of apartheid. Similarly, as Hain knows, the IRA regarded the bombings and killings they carried out as legitimate in their struggle for a united Ireland. The point is no Arab or Islamic country accepted the right of the new Jewish immigrants of 48 to set up a Jewish state in Palestine and the UN was only able to get a majority vote in favour of it because Stalin was able to order the whole Eastern block to vote for it.  The UK abstained while the US was pro.

It is a mistake then to simply write off Hamas as a terrorist movement as Israel would like us to. The idea of a free Islamic Palestine is not unreasonable for those Palestinians who think the Jews have had no right to set up in Palestine a discriminatory Jewish state.  Their view can never be destroyed by force, in fact force makes it grow and become more extreme and jihadi as may have happened. To do that is to succumb to Israeli propaganda. Netanyahu, his government (Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir) and the IDF are all guilty of breaking international law and carrying out terror acts repeatedly. Like the IRA, as Peter Hain argues, Hamas has to be negotiated with.

Israel’s attempt to build a one state solution “from the river to the sea” consisting of a Greater Israel is long standing (48) and they are using this war to further it while denying this when talking to the UK, the EU or the Americans, if not to each other. (See Arnold Bregnan. Cursed Victory) As the consequences of bombing and shelling Gaza flat were obvious from day one, the current disease, drought, famine, and death in conditions of mass and unavoidable homelessness and starvation has to be seen as deliberate. It is also impossible to imagine Israelis giving up enough land voluntarily to provide anything like an equitable and acceptable territorial solution for the formation of a state of Palestine. As things stand a two-state solution is far away.

I am not pro Hamas. I see the autocratic jihadi Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood as a step backwards for moderate Muslims who appreciate the values of human rights, democratically based law and government and the education and social liberation of women yet continue to appreciate the basic Five Pillars of their religion. (Belief in God and the Prophet, Prayer, Fasting, Charitable giving, and Pilgrimage) Egypt voted in a Muslim Brotherhood government in 2011. They made such a mess of running the country that they provoked the “Arab Spring” which saw them thrown out by popular demand. Sadly, only to be replaced by the El-Sisi military dictatorship. A jihadi Hamas can only be defeated once a democratic Palestine is in place. Then it can lose in an election.

3/3/24 On 29th February the killing of at least 112 Palestinians around food trucks was reported. After an initial denial the IDF admitted it opened fire when its men “felt threatened” by the crowds seeking food from the trucks. A UN report from the local hospital says most of the wounded were suffering from gunshot.
This appalling event looks very much like an IDF massacre by out-of-control troops. The changing Israeli reports clearly lack plausibility. What possible threat did this unarmed crowd, desperate for food, pose to Israeli troops and their tanks? Will Biden and the US continue to accept the Israeli account of what has happened? Will this event change the minds of the UK Gov and UK Jews as regards their support of Israel? We shall see.

Here are some points we might discuss besides the need for an Immediate Ceasefire. There may be many more.
1. There needs to be a radical re-evaluation of our relations with Israel with no more pretence that the Jews have a greater right to rule Palestine than the Arabs. For a start we need condemn any move by Israel to further a Greater Israel by forcing Palestinians out of Jerusalem, expanding settlements on the West Bank or occupying what is left of Gaza.
2. Encourage a rebuild. The people of Gaza require urgent relief – just to prevent a health catastrophe, let alone provide them opportunities to rebuild their lives. It looks as if Israel has made around 2 million Palestinians homeless and the death toll will continue towards at least 40,000. Who will fund that and the short and long-term medical needs of the Gazan wounded and survivors? Humanitarian aid is desperately needed. UNHCR. Here the US should help for it provided all the weapons for the killings.
3. Call for the repair and reparation by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where Palestinians have lost properties.
4. Call for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred sites and the Temple Mount to be placed under UN protection and administration so all may worship unhindered.
5. Call for the UK to recognise immediately the State of Palestine as 193 UN nations have.
6. Call for open, free and fair elections for Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem organised by the UN without Israeli or Hamas interference to elect a new Palestinian Authority to negotiate with Israel and run the above with the end in view of an open, democratic state of Palestine.
7. Condemn apartheid Israel for the way its policies and actions provoke antisemitism outside Israel, not just among Muslims, so causing a problem for diaspora Jews everywhere.
And Particularly Here in Britain:
8. Protect and support UK Jews and Muslims against antisemitism and Islamophobia. Protect free speech, argument and public protest while prosecuting hate speech and violence.
9. Remind Jews it is NOT antisemitic to criticise the State of Israel for its racist and discriminatory policies against Palestinians. Also it is not antisemitic to question the legitimacy of Israel to act as a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine. Many Jews have done so.
10. Continue to re-assure our population of the right of free speech and of peaceful public protest and demonstration and that hate crimes will be prosecuted.
11. Promote consistent criticism of human rights violations, war crimes and violations of international law. Politicians of all parties need to criticise both Israel and Hamas in a consistent way using the same criteria they have used to criticise Russia in the Ukraine conflict. The outbreak of this war saw a dangerously one-sided support for Israel and ignoring of the Palestinians plight.
12. Call for the release by Israel of all prisoners convicted under military law and administrative detention. Recognise they are all, whatever they might have done, the prisoners of an illegal occupying power they have a right to resist.
13. The UK has for years been working closely with the IDF in its development of drones, AI and military technology. This is now being reportedly used over Gaza “in a search for hostages.” This needs to be re-assessed in the light of the civilian deaths caused by the IDF.
14. Encourage a return of Jews to the democracies as Israel rejects the above moves and the conflict continues. Many if not most Jews see themselves as sharing Western, liberal, law-based democratic values, be they religious, or as many are, secular. They do not see themselves, or wish to be seen, as supporters of mass murder and ethnic cleansing. Is it not likely that as the conflict drags on life in Israel will become increasingly unsafe, costly and unpleasant. Many Jews (particularly the 22% with dual citizenship and their relatives) will then have an option. A policy of Come and Join Us and Bring Us Your Skills can never be called antisemitic.

The Jews who wish to remain in Palestine
If the war continues with Israel rejecting effective negotiations with any Palestinian group as it fights on for a Greater Israel, what might happen? Surely it will find itself both an international pariah and increasingly unsustainable. If it broke down would the remaining Jews be ready to live in an impoverished single state Arab ruled Palestine dealing with a deteriorating climate? Would the Palestinian majority in that state who had fought on against Israel or who had simply suffered enormous family losses be ready to accept them?
And what of the thousands of Israeli Jews who had come from the Muslim lands they lived in for centuries (The Sephardim) but which they had to leave after the setting up of a discriminatory Israel, or the large number who came from antisemitic Russia? And what of the Orthodox who might still wish to stay in the Holy Land for religious reasons? The position for all these Jewish groups is really difficult. It will depend on which countries might offer them asylum if they decide they need to leave Palestine.
The other big question will be what sort of Palestine might emerge as the current war grinds on to some sort of endgame. Will there still be a place in it for Jews after this Gaza massacre?
There is one certainty. Oct 7 2023 will cast a very long shadow for the current government of Israel has carried out a massacre on a scale and intensity which will not be forgotten across the world and particularly by all Muslims. It inevitably brings to mind an earlier Holocaust.

Post Script 7/1/2024t
As a student of religion and former specialist teacher of Religious Studies I am not anti-Jewish. I introduced and taught about the Holocaust in two schools years before it was done in History. I think we greatly underappreciate what Judaism has contributed in its key thinking to both Christianity and Islam and more than that  to our widely shared humane liberal values. I also admire and appreciate the outstanding achievements of Jews who have settled here and whose contributions to our society have been out of all proportion to their numbers. In fact the whole development of Western liberal, democratic society has been enormously enriched by those with a Jewish background. Think of the arts, philosophy, politics, the media, economics, science, law, medicine and business for a start. Without their exceptional input our whole culture would be greatly impoverished. However, as a former South African who lived under apartheid, I have come to see the way the state of Israel has developed into an apartheid state on Palestinian land as being a terrible mistake. Increasingly in this Gaza war it undermines and betrays the very humane values and achievements so many Jews have stood for.

Genocide
South Africa has charged Israel with the specific crime of Genocide at the ICJ (International Court of Justice.) I have listened to all 6 hrs of the case being put by both sides. SA presented the case meticulously, far better than this paper does. It argued successive Israeli governments have been out to break, kill and exclude Palestinians from their land, have done so since 1948, and now want to finish the job. Israel’s attempt to deny this rang hollow, as did the attempt to dismiss clear genocidal statements made by its PM, cabinet and army leader. The ICJ preliminary judgement and call for Israel to stop killing Palestinians carefully listed what has been happening. This may yet embarrass the West and encourage a less pro-Israeli stance. However, the Israeli description of how Hamas works in and under hospitals and its use of families as human shields seems believable if pretty inevitable in such a crowded place. This may be the reason the ICJ has not called for an immediate cease fire. Hamas appears to be heartless and cynical in its behaviour towards its own civilian backers as they die from Israel’s bombs in their thousands while its militia fights on from their tunnels.  Since we hear no criticism of Hamas from Palestinians in Gaza we need ask is this because they live under fear or because they back them in the fight? We just do not know. Now the US and the UK bomb the Houthis in Yemen for backing Hamas and firing on shipping. As a result the whole Muslim world and the South and East see the West as hypocritical supporters of an apartheid state – even as Ukraine gets starved of support.

Prolonged Occupation
28/2/24PS
Things have changed. The UN General Assembly has asked the ICJ to rule on what Israel should do with the occupied territories. Some 50 countries argue Israel should withdraw from them immediately. If the court backs this as the needed legal outcome when its judgement is expected in July, that would make further material support by Israel’s allies (US and UK etc) illegal. What might happen then?

19/3/24. A Hamas leader, Marwan Issa has been killed and arrests made in raid on al Shifa hospital by IDF. Biden has been tough with Netanyahu and Israel has sent negotiators to Doha. Will anything come of this before Netanyahu lets the IDF attack Rafah?

4/4/2024 The World Central Kitchen Charity has had seven of its members killed in an IDF Drone strike despite their careful liaison. It looks very deliberate as it has the effect of stopping further food aid getting to Gaza as starvation grows. Alex Younger, former MI5 head said it was “hard not to conclude that insufficient care is being paid to the collateral risks of these operations, one way or another. What happened is essentially systematic of an approach to targeting that has on occasion bordered on the reckless and fundamentally undermines therefore what must be Israel’s political purpose, which is to sustain some moral high ground and some moral purpose.”
The Guardian has published a letter from senior lawyers and three former supreme court justices, warning that the UK government was breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel. Several Conservative MPs have urged Rishi Sunak to stop arming Israel after this strike. For retired judges this is an extremely rare intervention.
Lyall Grant, a former national security adviser, said the facts had changed considerably since the government’s lawyers last assessed the situation in Gaza in December. Since then, the international court of justice has suggested in an interim judgment that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza. Last week, the UN security council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which Israel has not abided by.

“Will a tactical victory for Israel eventually lead to strategic defeat?”
“Israel cannot hope to succeed as a pariah opposed by the rest of the world.” Schumer. Most senior US Jewish congressman. March 2024

Sources for Reference I Have Found Useful

Books: A History of Israel 2002 and Cursed Victory 2014 both by Ahron Bregman who lectures in the Dept of War Studies Kings College London. This meticulously written history which focuses on ’67 made me aware of just how deep seated and consistent the Israeli policy of working for a Greater Israel is and what Israeli politicians are prepared to say and do and lie to work towards it.

TV: Aljazeera Freeview 253 on TV gives hourly coverage and excellent reviews. See The Listening Post series  It is pro-Palestinian. The BBC and Chanel 4 news both give good coverage.  More on Radio 4. On I-Player Jeremey Bowen has his History of Israel. Filmed 1992 which gives excellent background and he continues to give excellent balanced reports.  Bregman was involved in making his film. Wikipedia has huge coverage of every aspect of the conflict. I also read with great care the Guardian Weekly and the Economist for their careful and well-researched journalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.