December 7, 2022

Dr Mohamed Doufani

THE Palestine-Israel conflict is the longest-running postwar hotspot. 

We use the term “conflict” as shorthand for the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their homeland, Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and, effectively, the Gaza Strip, and its racial discrimination against Israeli citizens of Palestinian heritage. 

Despite the fact that all of this is illegal under international law, Israeli propagandists and political lobbyists often retort with a bizarre defence which goes something like this: “We are not the only ones committing international crimes, so why pick on us?” 

And, of course, they smear critics with the slur of “anti-Semitism”. 

To be sure, there are other obdurate international issues that bear some similarities to the Palestine conflict. Tibet is often mentioned as one such example, and now we have the Russia-Ukraine war, where the Russian land grabs seem to mimic Israel’s land thefts in the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

It is also true that current problems in the Arab world and beyond have somewhat eclipsed the Palestine-Israel conflict, pushing it down the  priorities list of many people. The cost of living crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war with its potential to escalate come to mind. In the Arab world, many people are still suffering from the consequences of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the savagery and aftershocks of the 2011 Arab Nightmare, in addition to economic hardship, unemployment, corruption, poor governance and dictatorship. 

Nevertheless, the Palestine-Israel conflict is unique in many respects, and it is this uniqueness that justifies giving it special attention. 

Tail wagging the dog

First, Israel is the only state in the world that wields considerable influence over much more powerful countries — the United States, Britain, all members of the European Union, to mention but a few. 

To do this, it uses well-oiled political lobbies, front organisations, and its own diplomats and intelligence assets to penetrate the domestic politics of the targets states (the US and EU states, for example) by buying and influencing key politicians and media outlets, and to undermine those who refuse to go along with it. 

According to the investigative journalism website Declassified UK, in May 2021 a third of the members of the British cabinet, including then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had been funded by Israel or pro-Israel lobby groups. 

It said British MPs had been courted in a variety of ways, including trips to Israel funded by pro-Israel groups. Boris Johnson himself went on a five-day trip to Israel in November 2004, three years after he first entered parliament. His trip was jointly funded by the Israeli government and Conservative Friends of Israel, a Westminster lobby group which does not disclose its funders but has claimed 80 per cent of Conservative MPs are members.

The extent to which Israel is openly penetrating the British political system  was amply illustrated in a four-part Aljazeera TV documentary, aired in 2017, which highlighted Israel’s influence in the UK’s Labour Party. In one of the episodes, an Israeli intelligence officer is filmed discussing a potential plot to “take down” elected British politicians – including a minster.

The United States, especially the Congress, is even more under the influence of Israel. That was brought into sharp focus when in May 2011 Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went over the head of President Barack Obama and addressed a joint session of the US Congress directly. In his address, he received 29 standing ovations which, the ABC news outlet pointed out, “compares to just 25 for President Obama’s last State of the Union address”. 

Nuclear and chemical weapons

But Israel’s penetration of Western political systems is not the only factor that justifies the focus on its behaviour towards the Palestinian people and its own Arab citizens, and its contempt for international law. When Israel’s lack of respect for, and casual violations of, international law are viewed alongside its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, then the whole world, not just the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbours, have serious cause for concern.

In 2013, a hitherto secret CIA document revealed that US spy satellites had uncovered in 1982 “a probable CW [chemical weapon] nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert”, and that “Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry”.

In September 2013,  the Times of Israel, citing reports by the US Defence Intelligence Agency and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, disclosed that “Israel possesses a stockpile of 80 nuclear warheads”. Israel, it continues, “began to produce nuclear warheads in 1967 and gradually built up its arsenal, producing between two and three warheads each year until it amassed 80 warheads in 2004, and “is estimated to have produced enough fissile material for 115 to 190 warheads”.

The paper noted that previous estimates had put the number of warheads in Israel’s possession at up to 400. It cited “foreign reports” as saying that Israel “has the capacity to deliver a nuclear payload via a variety of methods, including ballistic missiles, aircraft and submarine-launched cruise missiles”. 

In addition to all this is the human rights aspect of the Palestine-Israel conflict which justifies singling out Israel for special attention. Yes, the Arab region is abound with human rights violations, as witnessed in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But Israel is different for all the reasons that have been mentioned, and because it is, in effect, an outpost of the West, the tail that wags the dogs from Washington through London, Paris, Berlin and all the way to Sydney. What Israel does — land theft, ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, open contempt for, and disregard of, international law and international institutions — sets international precedents and transforms the law-based international order to one where the only law is that of the jungle.

So, giving special attention to Israel’s lawlessness and criminal behaviour is not an obsession based on prejudice, and it is certainly not “anti-Semitism”. Israel is neither “the Jews” nor the guardian of Jewish history and collective memory, both of which it cynically exploits for political advantage.

Giving Israel special attention and demanding that it be held to account for its behaviour quite simply underlines the civilised world’s concern for justice, human rights, international law and international peace.

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Dr Mohamed Doufani is an editor, writer, analyst and commentator specialising in the Middle East and North Africa, and Russian and US foreign policies. The article has been taken from redressonline.com

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