I expected to be disappointed by Barrack Obama in his second term. I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. Today, he backed the Israeli government’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza. UK foreign secretary William Hague was not so explicit, but he made clear where his sympathies lie.
Of course, some will try to portray those of us who criticise Netanyahu’s government as apologists for Hamas. The vast majority of us are not. I don’t support Hamas any more than I support Netanyahu. Many people have conveniently forgotton that Hamas was originally built up and encouraged by the Israeli government who saw it as a counterweight to the power of secular Palestinian independence movements.
In reality, the lives of innocent Palestinians and Israelis are being sacrificed by the Israeli government and Hamas on the altars of their long-term ambitions. It is vital that the Israeli government engages in dialogue with Hamas instead of attacking civilians and putting its own population at further risk of attack.
I was therefore very pleased to hear of demonstrations in Tel Aviv by Israelis opposed to the bombing of Gaza. I was also pleased to be sent a copy of the following statement, produced the The Other Voice, a group of Isrealis living near Gaza:
“We, members of the villages and townships in the Gaza-enveloping region call on the Israeli government to stop mucking around with our lives and immediately enter into diplomatic and political contacts with the Hamas Government! We are sick and tired of being sitting ducks who serve political interests.
“Rockets from there and bombardments from here do not protect us. We have played around with those games of the use of force and war for long enough. And both sides have paid, and are continuing to pay, a high price of loss and suffering. The time has to come to endeavour to reach long-term understandings which will enable civilians on both sides of the border to live a normal life.“The Other Voice describe themselvse as a group of residents of Sderot and other places in the Gaza -enveloping region who have maintained a continuous link with residents of the Gaza Strip. The group advances “neighbourly and communicative relationships throughout the South and the entire land”.
A statement expressing similar views has been released by the Da’am Workers’ Party, a left-wing party that includes both Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. I admit that my knowledge of the party is minimal, but I heartily agree with their statement on this issue. Here it is:
“The military operations in Gaza are a direct result of four years of time-wasting by Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which persistently refused to negotiate an agreement to put an end to the conflict. During this time, this same government continued to build settlements in the occupied territories.
“This latest military operation will not solve the security problems of Israel’s residents in the south. On the contrary, the operation will merely grant legitimacy to the Hamas government and its claims that Israel is not interested in peace. The operation weakens the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and makes his overtures to Israel the target of mockery and derision among the Palestinians. Israel is also putting Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood leadership in an awkward position, provoking President Mohammed Morsi. “Under cover of the warfare in Gaza, Netanyahu’s government is trying to marginalize demands for social justice and present the security issue as the only legitimate issue for public debate. Poverty, unemployment, the retrenchment of welfare services and of course the austerity programme and budgetary cuts planned by Bibi’s future government are presented as irrelevant.
“Furthermore, we must not ignore Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s manoeuvre in trying to use Gaza to win another term of office, as his prospects currently look poor.
“Two sides will benefit from Israel’s military action: the right-wing government in Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza. The extremism on both sides will continue to thrive while the two peoples, who seek peace and social justice, will pay the heavy price.”