Thursday, January 08, 2009

Israel and the west will pay a price for Gaza's bloodbath

Seamus Milne

[big snip]

The same trend can be seen in the wider Middle East, where Hamas has won powerful new supporters, including democratic Turkey, while western allies, such as the Egyptian and Saudi dictatorships, have lost more credibility by being seen to have tacitly supported Israel's attempt to crush Hamas at the expense of the Palestinians of Gaza.

Most of those Palestinians are in fact refugees or the families of refugees from the towns of southern Israel, including Ashkelon and Ashdod, which have been targeted by Hamas - and from which they were ethnically cleansed when Israel was established in 1948.

But the bulk of the western media would have us believe that the cause of this war is Hamas's firing of mostly home-made rockets into Israel - which no state could tolerate without retaliation. In this myopic fantasy land, there is no 61-year national dispossession, no refugee camps, no occupations, no siege, no multiple Israeli violations of UN security council resolutions and the Geneva conventions, no illegal wall, no routine assassinations, no prisoners and no West Bank.

Nor would you have much sense that - as Akiva Eldar, the Israeli Ha'aretz columnist, wrote this week - "Gaza is still, practically and according to international law, occupied territory", and part of one political entity with the occupied West Bank. Or that the US, Britain and the EU, while paying lip service to ceasefire calls, prepared the ground for this barbarity with money, arms and diplomatic support as hope of a viable two-state solution has disintegrated before our eyes.

Pressure now has to be brought to bear not only on Israel, but on those governments that support it - including Britain's. That's why the call by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, for an arms embargo on Israel and the suspension of the EU's new cooperation agreement with Israel - the first mainstream party leader to do so - is so significant. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, calls it naive. In reality, the naivety lies in imagining that the west can continue to underwrite the injustice and bloodshed inflicted with no respite on the Palestinian people, without paying a price for it.

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