Apparently, history was made last week although you’d be forgiven for not noticing. On Monday 13th October, the UK Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to recognise a Palestinian state. The vote was non-binding and many MPs failed to show up, two facts swiftly deployed by the Israeli and US media to allay any disquiet the vote might have provoked, rather like a dummy shoved into the mouth of an anxious baby.

Those same two facts provided convenient cover for the UK Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, when he scurried around Tel Aviv first thing the following morning with his tail jammed between his legs. Sure, the headline in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper announced that British attitudes towards Israel are shifting. But the hard news embedded in that story – and flagged in most others I read – were the assurances from the UK envoy on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, and the millions of Britons whose MPs supported this motion, that UK foreign policy will remain unchanged by the vote. This theme was instantly taken up by the foreign media too, in other countries where Israel requires perpetual placation.

(Although it’s a matter of trade and not diplomacy apparently, I’d wager our static foreign policy means that the flow of UK arms to Israel will continue uninterrupted too, despite significant evidence that war crimes were committed in Gaza. Since last Monday, the Business Secretary Vince Cable certainly hasn’t sought to clarify his department’s position on this.)

Monday’s vote was followed by a similarly momentous speech the next day by the MP Alan Duncan, the Deputy Chair of the Conservative Middle East Council. While I disagree with a number of Mr Duncan’s assertions, his comments on Israel’s bloody-minded expansionism were so forceful I will quote them at length:

Settlements are illegal colonies built in someone else’s country. They are an act of theft, and what is more something which is both initiated and supported by the state of Israel.

It is no exaggeration to say that many settlers are state-supported militia, defying international law, driving out the rightful inhabitants from their land, and creating an illegal economy at the expense of those who have been cruelly displaced. There are all too many accounts of people who have witnessed criminal violence by illegal settlers against the legitimate inhabitants of Palestinian land while the Israeli Defence Force merely looks on.

… No decent person visiting Hebron can fail to be disgusted by what they see. In the centre of this amazing city, settlers have occupied the main central residences, driving out Palestinian families who have lived there for centuries.

… One should not use the word ‘apartheid’ lightly, but as a description of Hebron it is both accurate and undeniable. In South Africa it meant pass cards, no free movement, forbidden areas, and first and second class citizens. So it is in Hebron.

It’s not just the acreage of settlements themselves which offends. Israel also exercises complete control over most of the Palestinians’ land, life and economy.’

Now it’s true that a range of pundits, including many on the right, have weighed in on the change of mood in the country and especially in the Conservative Party, a longstanding and uncritical ‘friend of Israel’ more likely to rationalise war crimes than to condemn them. Andrew Sullivan on his blog, Peter Oborne in the Telegraph, and Philip Stephens in the Financial Times are among those who’ve put a finger in the wind and detected this shift.

And yet here we are, which is to say not very far. Since last Monday’s vote my Twitter feed has emitted the same unrelenting and by now drearily familiar flow of links to the latest mundane Israeli atrocities: the 11 year-old disabled boy who was arrested and blindfolded by Israeli police, the 13 year-old fatally shot in the chest, the five year-old girl mowed down on the street by a settler who fled the scene.

So to those who say the Tories’ tune might change, I say ‘so what?’ For it’s not just a matter of putting money on how history will judge our choices; in Palestine, history is now.

Israel knows this well, hence the violent daily push to Judaize the Al Aqsa complex, Islam’s third holiest site. Hence the aggressive colonisation of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighbourhood by removing sleeping Palestinians from their beds. Hence the daily roundup and detention of Palestinian boys and men (close to 300 in October alone). Gazans remain trapped in the rubble of physical destruction and psychological trauma, and each day illegal, mostly foreign-born Israeli settlers subject the indigenous Palestinian population to terror and violence with the encouragement and support of the country’s political and military establishment. And once again, we are silent, content that we’ve ‘done our bit’.

Here’s what the media haven’t called news since the ‘historic recognition’ of Palestine last week:

Al Aqsa

1. ‘A stain on a silent world’: Teenage boy shot dead by Israeli troops in West Bank via @benabyad

A 13-year-old boy has been shot and killed by Israeli forces in a village near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Bahaa Badr was shot in the chest on Thursday evening during clashes between protesters and Israeli forces [over restrictions at the Al Aqsa mosque] who entered Beit Liqya near the separation wall with Israel.

2. The status of Jerusalem: A mount of troubles via @MRN1SA
Jewish radicals are upsetting the fragile religious balance in the holy city

Before the gates of the Dome of the Rock, a resplendent golden Muslim shrine built on the ruins of what Jews believe was their biblical temple, the besuited deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, Moshe Feiglin, this week swayed from side to side in solemn prayer.

…On the day of Mr Feiglin’s visit Israeli police padlocked Muslim protesters inside the al-Aqsa mosque to keep the peace, and fired stun-grenades and tear gas through its windows. “It feels more secure this way,” said Yoel Cohen, a religious Jew, over the din.

3. Hundreds of Israelis enter Aqsa under armed guard

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Hundreds of Israelis toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday under armed guard for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, as clashes erupted due to restrictions on Palestinian worshipers.

Palestinian men under 50 and all women were prevented from entering the compound for morning prayers and Israeli forces fired stun grenades at worshipers who tried to enter.

4. Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa, kill Palestinian child in W. Bank via @Jew4Peace

Dozens of Jewish settlers on Sunday forced their way into Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, a Palestinian guard of the holy site said.

“A group of Jewish students stormed the complex along with Israeli troops who wandered into the courtyards and verbally attacked the Palestinian religious students within,” the guard, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency…

And let’s not forget Gaza, and the Rampaging Settlers.

5. 5-year-old Palestinian girl hit by settler car succumbs to wounds via @benabyad

A young Palestinian girl who was struck by an Israeli settler vehicle earlier Sunday has succumbed to her wounds, medics told Ma’an.

…The girl and young Nilin Asfour were walking on the main road near the village when they were hit, and were taken to the hospital in Ramallah where their wounds were described as serious.

Jewish settlers take over 2 [more] buildings in E. Jerusalem via @jncatron

Groups of Jewish settlers have stormed and taken over two residential buildings in Silwan neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, a Palestinian official said.

“The Jewish settlers entered the two three-story buildings in Silwan under the protection of Israeli police,” Ahmed al-Ruweidi, the advisor on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office, told Anadolu Agency.

…In September, Jewish settlers seized seven residential building in the same neighborhood – also under the protection of Israeli police.

6. West Bank mosque set ablaze in suspected settler attack via @972mag & @peterfeld

A West Bank mosque was set on fire and vandalized early Tuesday morning in what on the surface appeared to be a hate crime attack by Jewish settlers.

A local Palestinian official, Hamza Dereya, said that Israeli settlers entered the village of Aqraba before dawn, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Advertisements