Tim Wise: Misrepresenting Hamas.

April 27, 2015

There is a tendency – since passions are high in the debate – for the partisans on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict to creep into the realms of bigotry to make their case. With anti-Semitism on the rise across the World, it is sad to see those who ordinarily stand against bigotry and privilege, crossing the line into a subtle anti-Semitism in order to strengthen their position. To highlight this, I had noticed that Tim Wise – the usually excellent anti-racial privilege writer – had attempted to completely rewrite the goals of Hamas, downplaying their bigoted & supremacist intentions and history, in order to strengthen his own position:

timwise
– Here, Tim Wise has compared the goals of Hamas to the goals of Einstein and secularists. He stops at that. Hamas want an end to a Jewish state. This is a wildly simplistic and manipulative re-imagining of what it is Hamas actually wants; the basis of which is articulated – contrary to any secular thought processes – in Article 14 of Hamas’ Charter declares:

“For Palestine is an Islamic land…”

– A reader with a basic grasp of 20th Century European & Middle Eastern History will understand that far from having anything in common with secularism – or Einstein, who supported a bi-national state that favoured no single group or religion above any other – Hamas and their ideological struggle – as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – are the product of 1930s/40s Western Fascism infused with a delusional sense of religious ownership of land.

Far from the implication that Hamas share common goals with secularists, in reality, Hamas are an extension of the political far-right, fused with religious dogma; an obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy, that has its birth in Medieval Christendom, perpetuated hideously by the Catholic Church – especially in Germany – only to be exported by the Nazis, and Haj Muhammad Amin el-Husseini – Grand Mufti – to the Muslim World in the 20th Century, and appropriated by the Brotherhood. For the Mufti, anti-Semitism was a religious duty. For the Fascists, it was a socially racist necessity. The mixing of the two gives us Hamas. Mahmoud Al-Zahar of Hamas epitomises that link perfectly. As well as insisting that religious persecution of Jews throughout history, is there own fault (a victim-blaming narrative entirely), al-Zahar had this genocidal warning for the future:

“…there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.”

– The desire to eradicate Jewish people has been the thread (and often successful – as with the massacres in Baghdad, of Jews in 1941) that has held Brotherhood offshoots – like Hamas – to the Mufti’s ideals and the Brotherhood since its early days. Indeed, in the 1920s, the Grand Mufti – prior to his support for the holocaust – disseminated literature that included the phrase:

“O Arabs, do not forget that the Jew is your worst enemy and has been the enemy of your forefathers.”

– Further, as the Nazi’s were making their way through Egypt in the mid-1940s, the Mufti was given free reign to air radio broadcasts direct from Berlin. In one example, he stated:

“kill Jews wherever you find them for the love of God, history and religion.”

– Alongside the Mufti, the Muslim Brotherhood were instrumental in translating both the anti-Semitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and ‘Mein Kampf‘ into Arabic, and continue to spread both. Hamas references the Protocols in its Charter here:

“Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there.”

– The Brotherhood obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy is reflected not just with Hamas, but also in Egypt – the birthplace of Islamism (not Saudi, as many believe) – after the fall of Morsi and his Brotherhood supporters. Both sides of the fight for power have accused the other of being ‘Jewish’ and attempting to implement the Protocols. Hamas continues to do the same.

Contrary to Wise’s misrepresentation, Hamas’ Charter doesn’t simply call for the end to a “uniquely Jewish State“. Allow me to highlight exactly what Hamas’ Charter states:

“As to the objectives: discarding the evil, crushing it and defeating it, so that truth may prevail, homelands revert [to their owners], calls for prayer be heard from their mosques, announcing the reinstitution of the Muslim state. Thus, people and things will revert to their true place.”

– It continues:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.”

– Waqf, in this context, means owned by that single religion. Hamas’ opposes a Jewish state, because it believes the entire region must be subjected to the rules and regulations of their one sect of their one faith. They are religious supremacists. This is reflected in how they police areas in which Hamas has control. For example, Shaul Ganon, of Agudah, a gay rights group in the region, said:

“I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals,they were both beheaded.”

– But what about any peace initiative? Any at all:

“[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion.”

– Unless a peace initiative is designed to completely eradicate Israel, with power in the hands of one religion, and its believers, Hamas are not going to support a peace settlement.

“Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” Sura 2 (the Cow), verse 120 There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.”

– Here, the reason given for opposing a secular and inclusive structure to a Palestinian settlement, is the Jews, and Christians. It is backed by a victim narrative. The Charter isn’t finished with simply declaring the entire region Islamic – and all who live in it, which never ends well for the LGBT community or apostates forced to live under such brutal Theocracies – it then explains who its enemies are. You’ll perhaps note that it has very little to do with an Israeli occupation, and far more to do with the ethnicity of the people, as is consistent with a Brotherhood/Nazi obsession with eradicating Jews:

“Within the circle of the conflict with world Zionism, the Hamas regards itself the spearhead and the avant-garde. It joins its efforts to all those who are active on the Palestinian scene, but more steps need to be taken by the Arab and Islamic peoples and Islamic associations throughout the Arab and Islamic world in order to make possible the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war. “We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Their effort is for corruption in the land, and Allah loves not corrupters.” Sura V (Al-Ma’idah—the Table spread), verse 64.”

– Hamas’ issue with Israel is not simply with perceived oppression in the territories, but with Jews in general. Hamas, in Article 32 of their Charter, calls upon Muslims across the World to oppose the Jewish population, as a precursor to a religiously-ordained ‘next round’ with the ‘merchants of war’.

Article 7 of Hamas Charter quotes Bukhari:

“The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”

– Two key themes run through Hamas’ Charter, as ran through the Muslim Brotherhood’s purpose. Firstly, the entire region must be brought under the control of one religion. A Theocracy. Secondly, supported by their own interpretation of religious dogma, and mixed with 20th Century fascism; Jews are the enemy. Not Israel. Jews. To both ends, Hamas uses the same anti-Semitic propaganda, the same victim of Jewish aggression narrative, the same Jewish global conspiracy narrative, and a call to fight Jews, to further its end-goal of the region entirely engulfed by their particular brand of religious supremacy. Hamas inherited and furthered the 20th Century Islamist & Nazi narrative. They have nothing in common with secularists. For Tim Wise to downplay the role of religious supremacy and its Fascist origins in Hamas’ Charter – and thus, downplay almost a century of genocidal Brotherhood intentions that inform Hamas – is so vastly dishonest, offensive to the principles of secular liberty, and quite clearly crosses the line into anti-Semitism.


Stop The War Coalition: How to be a good Jew.

August 13, 2014

There is a wonderful scene from the sketch show comedy ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ in which Jesus is telling his disciples the story of ‘The Good Samaritan’. Half way through, one of the disciples perceptively notes the inherent racism of the story. The fact that a Samaritan doing something ‘good’ – by Jesus’s standard – warranted a story, implies that Jesus doesn’t consider Samaritans good in the first place. As if it’s a big shock that a Samaritan could do a good deed. I was reminded of this clip this morning, after reading David Wilson’s article for The Stop The War Coalition.

Wilson’s article blurs the lines between two separate issues, as if they’re one in the same. He begins his piece by mentioning the protests against recent Israeli action in Gaza, before quickly switching to the issue of existence of a state of Israel in the first place:

“Numerous Jewish groups joined the march. They marched as Jews to show their opposition to the state of Israel, which for 66 years has endlessly stolen Palestinian land and imposed the most brutal occupation and siege on Palestinians. Jewish marchers saying “not in my name” included, the Jewish Bloc, The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Jews Against the war on Gaza.

These Jewish marchers were part of a long and honourable tradition. Many prominent Jewish figures over the past century — from Albert Einstein to holocaust survivor Primo Levi — have opposed the idea of an ethnically exclusive Israeli state.”

– There is a manipulation going on here. Those Jewish protesters – such as “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” – marching to protest Israeli foreign policy in 2014, are conflated with more radical groups like The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and names from the past who to some degree disapproved of a state of Israel existing in the first place (though the article massively oversimplifies Einstein’s beliefs). Despite the plethora of views represented, they are one long tradition, according to Wilson. This is clearly not the case, when we note what “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” say on their website:

“Jews for Justice for Palestinians is a network of Jews who are British or live in Britain, practising and secular, Zionist and not. We oppose Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people.
We support the right of Israelis to live in freedom and security within Israel’s 1967 borders.”

– Despite Wilson’s implied unity between Jewish groups at the march, and the list of Jewish names he throws forward opposing the existing of the state of Israel, “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” represent a web of views from the Jewish community, and support the existence of a state of Israel. Conflating the two – Israeli policy toward Gaza in 2014, and the existence of a state of Israel in the first place – betrays Wilson’s willingness to manipulate the thoughts and motives of a diverse community for his own ends, used to strengthen his own prejudices. Blurring the lines between the two issues also allows for the false suggestion that those of us critical of the STWC tactics and rhetoric are in fact using the cry of anti-Semitism at any criticism of Israeli policy in Gaza. I’ve seen that excuse a lot recently.

The obvious conclusion most of us would make, is that the Jewish community – like atheists, Christians, Muslims, tall people, people with blue eyes – are a vast group of individuals, all with different beliefs, motives, experiences, memories, from different cultural, economic, and social settings, differing hugely at some points or with more nuanced differences at others depending on the issue. From left to right, from orthodox to non-practicising. This is true of all communities, not worthy of a story in itself, and so I’d suggest Wilson’s article – a sort of patronising “this might surprise you…” article – is his very own ‘Good Samaritan’ moment.

After manipulating the thoughts and motives of such a vast and diverse group to appear to confirm his own ideals, Wilson then goes about creating a false dichotomy that only digs his increasingly anti-Semitic hole much, much larger. Those Jewish folk who opposed the existence of a state of Israel, he refers to as “honourable“. The good Jews, if you will. The implication being that if Jewish folk do not oppose the existence of a state of Israel – or as it seems, disagree with David Wilson – they are less than honourable. The bad Jews. Wilson’s own political beliefs are now the benchmark to judge the ‘honour’ of the entire Jewish community against. A framework of right and wrong for Jews alone, with the moral base being David Wilson’s own political beliefs. If they conform to Wilson’s beliefs, they get a spot at the ‘honourable’ Jew table. In the meantime, he’s prepared a handy “look at these good Jews!” list for Jewish folk everywhere to aspire. It isn’t a new dichotomy, it has its roots in a view of Jews as inherently bad, and has been commented on by Ilana Angel of New Jersey Jewish News:

“It is offensive when people say I am one of the ‘good Jews’. What does that mean? Is the implication that Jews are bad people, but I managed to somehow not be? Is there a private club of ‘good Jews’? How do you qualify to make it into this elite group of chosen people?”

– This is what David Wilson’s article works to accomplish. At first, it blurs the lines between two completely separate issues, secondly it manipulates the plethora of views of the Jewish marchers to seem to be in line with his own, and thirdly it creates a dichotomy of good and bad, right and wrong, based entirely on his own political thoughts. In short, if you’re Jewish, you might want to check with David Wilson at The Stop The War Coalition to find out if you’re the right kind of Jew or not. If you’re lucky, he might even pat you on the head.


Israel & Gaza; It isn’t “being selective” that is the issue…. it’s the motive for the selection.

August 11, 2014

I’ve been writing on this blog for several years now, and every now and again I’ll be asked “why do you focus so much on….” The question is usually followed by “Islam?“, “Christianity?“, “God, even though you don’t believe in Him?“, “The GOP?“, “Tories?“. And for the most part, those people are right. It’s not a big selection of issues that I tend to focus on. I am selective. I focus on religion, because I’m a secular atheist interested and critical of all things religion. I focus on the US Republicans, because I find their shift to the far right to have created an intriguing atmosphere in US domestic politics. I focus on the Tory Party, because, well, I don’t like them. It’s that simple. I am selective. But I’m clear in my motives and my prejudices and on such issues that don’t have a clear right or wrong, I expect a lot of disagreement from others.

In Owen Jones’s latest article for The Guardian on the rise anti-semitism, I tended to agree with much of what he wrote, but some of it I found to be more excuses for his own recent motives. He was correct when he points out that during the protests, a section of the Western right-wing attempted to paint all of those attending, as anti-Semites, which completely dilutes the term ‘anti-semitic’. It was a hideous misrepresentation of many well meaning people with genuine concerns and a wish to see the end of immense human suffering in Gaza. Where Owen slips up, is in his characterisation of the criticisms that I and others have regarding the selective outrage of sections of the Western left. Owen writes:

“The response of many supporters of Israel’s attack has been instructive. In a world where there is so much injustice and bloodshed, they say, why not march against the sectarian murderers of Islamic State (Isis) or Boko Haram? This is known as “whataboutery”: an attempt to deflect from one injustice by referring to the suffering of others. Some defenders of Israel’s governments believe the supposed special attention received by the conflict is itself evidence of antisemitism. But Israel’s atrocities attract this attention because the state is armed to the teeth and backed by western governments, rendering them directly complicit; IS and Boko Haram, on the other hand, are (quite rightly) opposed by our rulers. Demonstrations and protests are generally a means of exercising influence over supposedly democratically accountable governments.”

– This paragraph highlights my point throughout this debate entirely. It’s probably worth noting that taking issue with Owen’s selective outrage does not make one a “supporter of Israel’s attack” nor a “defender of Israel’s government“. To subtly hint at such, is as ridiculous as suggesting that criticism of Israeli policy, comes from “supporters of Hamas“. It is not worth dignifying with a full retort.

Next, the entire paragraph is irrelevant in an article on the rise of anti-Semitism, there is no reason to include it, and so I suspect the entire article was written as a response to the criticisms Jones has faced in recent weeks. (Mehdi Hasan attempted a similar excuse, which I wrote on here.) It also fails, because whilst he’s correct that demonstrations and protests are a means of exercising influence over a government, there’s no reason – nor precedent – for protests being solely connected to whom the UK/US/West funds and/or arms. The conclusion to his paragraph therefore, does not follow from his overall argument. Protests against the Sri Lankan Civil War urged World leader’s to push Sri Lanka to declare ceasefire. Their motivation wasn’t that the UK had grotesquely sold almost £14mn in arms to Sri Lanka in the recent years of the conflict (that knowledge came later), it was a concern for human rights and a possible genocide. The Global Day of Action for Burma did not include in its demands any reference to funding being the sole justification for their protest, and instead focused on raising awareness and working to pressure governments of the World into taking action. The ‘Stop Kony’ fad of 2012 – whilst it didn’t achieve its key goal, and was doubtless a fashionable fad for many rather than a protest – did achieve significant goals. It raised awareness, leading to Human Rights Watch saying:

“We’ve spent years investigating the horrors perpetrated by the LRA in central Africa – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. We gathered evidence at massacre sites – wooden clubs covered in dried blood, rubber strips from bicycle tires used to tie up the victims, and freshly dug graves – and spoke to hundreds of boys and girls forced to fight for his army or held captive as sex slaves. And we’re elated that #stopKony is a trending topic on Twitter – if anyone deserves global notoriety it’s Kony.”

– It also led to Senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons raising the issue in the US Senate and pledging the US’s support for governments in Africa trying to track down leaders of the LRA. It led to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noting an unprecedented reaction to the atrocities and new commitments to stop the LRA. To a large extent, it worked. Mobilising, protesting, using the power of social media, and all forms of pressure do not require first analysing the financial transactions of the UK. Which leads me to point two:

I am not keen on this new excuse that amounts to a sort “we don’t fund them, so we’re not that fussed” reaction. This is not how the international left traditionally went about its business, and as seen with prior protests, has not been a major theme. It didn’t strike off the list all of those human rights abusing nations or groups that weren’t receiving Western aid. It wasn’t a primary concern, and I’m not sure why it is now. It is also a badly crafted excuse and I don’t buy it as the real motive. Pakistan is one of the biggest recipients of bilateral aid, with a large chunk from the UK, despite Pakistan’s violent grip on Balochistan, to no protests whatsoever from the Western Left. The US funded the gangland regime in Honduras for years, which in turn created a brewing humanitarian crisis on the US/Mexico border with very little registering on the US Left. Afghanistan with its awful Shia Family Law, corruption within the PA, Congo, Jordan, the list goes on, and the murderous, oppressive regimes receive little protest from the left. It is a self-evidently weak excuse, and still fails to do its job, because the selective outrage is still applied inconsistently. Those conflicts may involve the US to a degree (when isolated from all other context), but they don’t directly involve Israel, so the outrage may be limited to a few words of condemnation, in perhaps a Tweet or two about how it’s all the US’s fault. I would also argue that this inconsistency and a tendency to single out Israel under a daily microscope, whilst making excuses for that, has fuelled the rise of the very anti-semitism Jones now rightly argues against.

Thirdly, my criticism is not that Owen and others like him are selective in their outrage. We all do that. I do that. Whether on foreign issues like Gaza, or domestic issues like the Bedroom Tax, we’re all selective and we all have our motives for being selective. Being selective is not a negative in itself. It would be ridiculous of anyone to demand we register equal protest and outrage at every conflict in every part of the World on every single day. That appears to be what Owen believes we’re doing, but it simply isn’t the criticism I have. I am clear with my criticism, and it is based on motive. Motive drives us all in how we select, and that is no different for that particular section of the Left. My criticism is that there is a significant section of the Left that increasingly selects its moral outrage and how it chooses to protest, on the basis of whether or not the crisis and the victims can be used as a vehicle to progress a rabid anti-US/UK/Blair/Israel sentiment. Through this, I am frustrated by their rewriting of history to filter out surrounding context, by underplaying the contribution to the crisis from figures other than the US/UK/Israel, by sharing images that do not show what they purport to show, and articles that are far less than accurate and cannot be dismissed as simple oversight. The motive is not primarily concern for victims (though I don’t doubt that concern for victims plays its part, I’m not suggesting Owen’s section of the Left lacks empathy), nor is it the traditional Left’s motive of fighting oppression where ever it is found. It is the cynical use of conflicts, to progress the underlying narrative of anti-US/Israel/West, that forms the bases of my criticisms.

When such a dogmatic motive for a very narrow narrative lies just beneath the surface, it may not be formed through conscious bigotry, but it manifests itself in simplistic analysis, and manipulative rhetoric that perpetuates bigotry (see Galloway’s recent comments). As previously mentioned, Mo Ansar played to that crowd when working to underplay the devastation caused by Hamas rocket fire. This is also evident in Owen’s past articles. For example, in his article entitled “Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians” – a noble fight – it doesn’t take Owen long to simplistically blame the US and UK, betraying the original point of the article:

“It is, unsurprisingly, the Middle East where the situation for Christians has dramatically deteriorated in recent years. One of the legacies of the invasion of Iraq has been the purging of a Christian community that has lived there for up to two millennia.”

– Yup. It’s the West’s fault. For the rest of us, it is the ‘legacy’ of a plethora of causes, that to an extent includes the incompetent conducting of and the aftermath of the invasion, the sectarian and disuniting policies of Maliki’s government, but those are given their strength by religious turmoil for centuries including the massacre of Assyrian Christians in the 1930s, private funding for groups like ISIS from donors elsewhere, Saddam’s relocation of Christians away from strategic resources and an emphasis on the notion that Christians are to be ‘tolerated’ in those areas, rather than considered equal. It is not simply ‘legacy of invasion, blame the US’. The problems are rooted far deeper. The context far wider.

When it came to the crisis with the self-titled ‘Islamic State’ – ISIS – in Iraq, the focus for Jones was another overly simplistic analysis, in which surrounding context can just be dismissed, in a quest to blame the US/UK. This time, the self-serving motive was less subtle: “We anti-war protestors were right; the Iraq invasion has led to bloody chaos”. It’s almost as if there wasn’t bloody chaos – a couple of genocides, nothing to see here – prior to the Iraq invasion. In his incredibly reductive analysis, Jones chooses to ignore the Iraq that Saddam left behind devoid of any semblance of democratic institutions, a massive Syrian civil war, ignore the Arab Spring, ignore a power play between Saudi Arabia – seeking to weaken Maliki whilst also opposing Jihadists at home – and Iran in Iraq & Syria, ignore what seems to be support for anti-Shia groups in Syria from private donors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ignore a largely heavy handed Shi’ite security force in Iraq, ignore the fight for a resurrected Caliphate from extreme elements within Islam for decades (it’s difficult to blame Blair for the popularity of al-Nabhani’s ideas and the strength of Hizb in the 1980s/90s across the globe), ignore centuries of sectarianism (including Saddam’s hideous massacre of around 100,000 Shi’ite Muslims in and around Karbala and al-Najaf a year before Blair took over as leader of Labour), ignores al-Maliki’s sectarian governance, ignores a weak Iraqi constitution, ignores the tensions between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. All surrounding context is filtered out, because it doesn’t indicate a line directly from Blair to ISIS.

So, we can discount the ‘we fund them’ excuse, because it doesn’t seem to extend far beyond Israel, and still leaves us with the same criticism of the motives for selection. We can discount the ‘we protest to pressure the government’ because that is the case with most protest movements regardless of whether or not we fund the culprits. We can discount the ‘whataboutery’ complaint, because it isn’t the criticism we actually have in the first place. My conclusion remains the same; there is a purpose in working to oversimplify conflicts in the manner that the Galloway-left often does. Being selective is not the issue. The motive is the issue. In this case, ‘being selective’ is focused entirely on how a crisis can be used to progress an anti-US/Israel narrative. Manipulated and reductive history, dismissal of all surrounding context, blatantly false or emotive images and information, and awful excuses, are all utilised to that end. And I’m fine with that bigoted motive, if only they’d admit it, because at the moment it gives the rest of us on the Left a bad name.


Israel & Palestine: The underlying racism.

July 26, 2014

For most, it is doubtless the case that what fuels their interest in the conflict in Gaza and Israel, is a desire to see a peaceful resolution, with the region secure for all who live on the land. I have no doubt that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians just want to live a peaceful co-existence. But for others – including many in the leadership of both Israel and Palestine – the fuel is Messianic conquest; a desire to see the region controlled by their faith and their faith alone. Basic civil rights and protection of the people are a secondary concern. With this religiously motivated superiority complex, comes a familiar dehumanisation process aimed at those deemed to be the enemy. This comes from both sides of the aisle.

In the Arab world, it takes just one inoffensive cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad to spark off a campaign of violent reprisals. Yet, Arab-Muslim media outlets daily print cartoons portraying Jews (not Israelis) in the most offensive tone possible. The caricatures of Jews follows centuries of anti-semitism from the Catholic Church, appropriated by the Arab World. In 2002, Tishrin in Syria printed a cartoon of the Statue of Liberty smashed to pieces and replaced by a statue of a Jewish stereotype; a man with a long beard, and hat, crooked nose, holding the Torah in place of the Constitution, suggesting a Jewish takeover of the United States. In 2005, Al-Yawm in Saudi Arabia published a photo of the Jewish star of David interlaced with the words “Born to Kill”. In Qatar in 2006. Al-Watan published a cartoon of crooked nosed monstrous-looking villain chiseling a star of David underneath the Dome of the Rock. Most hideously of all, the website of the Arab European League published a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, and the caption: “Write this one in your diary, Anne“. The racist cartoons published by the Arab press help to perpetuate a narrative that has existed for centuries, that insists that Jewish people are inherently evil, seeking to dominate the World (ironic, given the oppressive dominance of Islam over the functions of state in many of those countries). In 1543 Martin Luther wrote:

“I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnaped children, as related before. I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and this by means of a Christian, a pot of blood, with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was found. There are many other similar stories.”

– Blood libel, caricaturing the Jewish people as inherently monstrous and murderous. This hasn’t stopped. It simply moved to a new form of media. Cartoons, alongside educational material in Palestinian textbooks for children that frame Jewish folk as the enemy, and horrifying pictures posted almost daily on social media of those killed in the Syrian civil war, reframed to look as if they were killed by Israeli troops. Also on social media, we see those deeply partisan few posting completely false statements by Israelis, to give credit to their deeply partisan comment:

gaza
– The irony of this specific Tweet, is that the quote is massively exaggerated, and works to perpetuate racist narratives that portray Jews as seeking complete domination. The Ben Gurion letter is a blueprint for his Zionist vision, and anti-Arab in tone. But the quote above, is wildly inaccurate and works to suggest a much more violent tone to the letter. Ben-Gurion – According to ‘Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting In America’ (CAMERA) actually said:

“We do not wish, we do not need to expel the Arabs and take their place. All our aspirations are built upon the assumption — proven throughout all our activity in the Land — that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs in the land [of Israel]. And if we will have to use force, not for the sake of evicting the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but rather in order to secure the right that belongs to us to settle there, force will be available to us.”

– The blatant misrepresentations, the cartoons, the pictures from other conflicts that someone somewhere has sat and purposely manipulated, are all a continuation of centuries of anti-semitism, and it all plays into the hands of a group like Hamas, whose main goal isn’t the safety and security of the Palestinian people (their method of using civilians as shields for their weapons is evidence enough of that), but complete dominance of the entire region that they’re convinced was divinely ordained for they alone.

This racist and supremacist attitude is of course not restricted to the Arab side of the conflict. In Israel, Professor Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University studied 124 school textbooks on history, citizenship, and literature, concluding that the textbooks of the 1950s through to the 1970s told of an ancient industrious land of Palestine, ruined by the Arabs, and now to be saved by the returning Jewish people. Bar-Tal says the textbooks insisted that Jewish people were there primarily:

“…improving the country in ways they believe the Arabs are incapable of.”

– Bar-Tal goes on to say that the Israeli textbooks were portraying Arabs as:

“…tribal, vengeful, exotic, poor, sick, dirty, noisy, colored”
“…they burn, murder, destroy, and are easily inflamed.”

– Eli Yishai – ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, and former leader of Shas – grew up as these textbooks that worked to dehumanise the Arab population of Palestine were prevalent. It is no surprise that Yishai now has an awful lack of consideration for human beings in Gaza. In 2012, Yishai said:

“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

– This horrendous attitude was reflected by Gilad Sharon – son of Ariel Sharon – who also in 2012 said:

“We need to flatten all of Gaza. The American’s didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough – so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.”

– It takes a special kind of desensitisation to human suffering in order to advocate the comple ‘flattening’ of a city, invoking the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as desirable. Further, a poll of students in Israel conducted in 2010 by Israeli research institution Maagar Mochot, found that over half of those surveyed believed Arab-Israelis should not be banned from election to the Knesset. The majority of those who wished to see Arabs banned from the Knesset, were very religious, whilst almost half of secular Israeli teens also concurred that Arabs should be banned. Therefore, almost half of the secular students surveyed, along with a vast majority of religious students supported the institutionalisation of racism.

The lack of moral decency from the racists on both sides isn’t confined to a few supremacists. It is entrenched in media outlets, it shapes the debate, it ensures a new generation are ingrained with the same hatred through school textbooks, it goes viral on social media, it pushes ordinary people to embrace the extremes like Hamas, it empowers the religious supremacists, it serves a victim mentality used to justify sadistic acts of violence against innocents, and so by extension, it prevents a peaceful resolution.


Mehdi Hasan and the nature of complicity.

July 17, 2014

The horrifying stories and pictures coming out of Gaza as Hamas launch rockets indiscriminately across the border, and Israel bombard the isolated region resulting in innocent lives lost and fear gripping both sides, rightfully strike at our collective sense of humanity. But it is the romanticised notion of a David and Goliath situation, and the bizarre attempts to either refuse to acknowledge the crimes of Hamas (upon Palestinians as well as Israelis), any wrongdoing whatsoever on the Palestinian side, or to explain away anti-Israeli sentiment whilst willfully silent on abuses elsewhere when they crop up, that seems to be the centre of the Galloway-left response.

Mehdi Hasan’s article for Huffington Post, entitled “We Single Israel Out Because We in the West Are Shamefully Complicit in Its Crimes” was one such attempt to justify a moral compass that only swings into action on human rights and oppression, when it involves Israel or the West in general, isolated from all surrounding context. Hasan says:

“According to the likes of Ben-Ami, there are much more vile regimes, and more violent groups, elsewhere in the world. Why pick on plucky Israel? What about the Chinas, Russias, Syrias, Saudi Arabias, Irans, Sudans and Burmas? Where are the protests against Isis, Boko Haram or the Pakistani Taliban?”

– The criticism from ‘the likes of Ben-Ami’ is a correct one. Western faux-liberals are essentially silent on the crimes of ISIS or Boko Haram, or Hamas. If they do offer criticisms, it’s very quickly glossed over with a criticism of the US or Israel. A sort of “Yeah ISIS is bad, but Blair…” mentality. There are very few willing to stand up for those lives threatened and lost due to blasphemy laws across the religious World, instead having a collective meltdown whenever someone publishes a cartoon of Muhammad. There isn’t a care in the World for the people of Balochistan. The hideous treatment of the LGBT community in the Middle East and Uganda only gets a passing mention by Hasan in a horrifyingly self serving article, in which they’re just a tool to explain to the reader why he doesn’t consider himself a homophobe. Mehdi goes to great lengths to explain why it is he feels the need to focus so much time and energy on Israel. I don’t buy his excuses.

One of Hasan’s ‘complicity’ points in his new article, is that Israel is funded to a large degree by the US. This is of course true, but it is also true – to a much less extent, but still represents ‘complicity’ in the same form – of the Palestinian Authority. By 2010, the main contributors to the Palestinian Authority – amounting to around $1.8bn in 2008, and $1.4bn in 2004 – were the EU and the US. This, despite a ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO)report on widespread corruption within the PA. MEMO, referencing an EU report, quotes a figure of $2bn in aid to the PA, lost to corruption. It quotes a Kuwaiti newspaper in 2005, that accused Arafat of transferring large amounts of aid money to foreign bank accounts. A senior official at the Ministry of Finance in Palestine was caught trying to flee to Jordan with $100mn. In 2012, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights released a report accusing the Palestinian Authority of:

“…inhumane practices and human rights violations.”

– In 2013, blogger Anas Awwad – a critic of the PNA – was arrested and charged with “extending his tongue” against the policies of the PA and President Abbas. Similarly, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq – a lecturer at a university in the West Bank – was arrested for criticising Abbas. If the EU and US is complicit in the crimes of the Israeli leadership, which in turn means we should single out Israel, then they are also complicit in the crimes of the Palestinian leadership , as are those offering their unquestioning support for the Palestinian leadership, and so by implication, we should single the PA leadership out too. A leadership that has enriched itself, to the detriment of the Palestinian people.

According to the World Bank, Pakistan is one of the biggest receivers of US aid, with $3508.6mn in 2011 alone. Why no outrage at the Pakistani treatment of the Baloch region? Why very little mention of the millions displaced people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas? Are we not complicit in that and should we be therefore singling Pakistan out for special criticism? Should we be less outraged, because less money (even though it’s still a huge amount) is given to Pakistan than Israel? If so, by Mehdi’s standards, we should be marching on London right this second.

In 2011, $977.8mn of US aid went to Jordan. Human Rights Watch reported that Jordan had been turning away Syrian refugees who happen to be of Palestinian heritage, or sending them to holding camps near Ramtha, simply for being Palestinian. Jordan also prohibits the right to convert from Islam. Are we not complicit in that too? Should we be singling out Jordan for their anti-apostasy laws, and their ill treatment of Palestinians?

The Democratic Republican of Congo received $5532.5mn in US aid in 2011, despite torture of civilians by authorities, and members of the army using rape as a way to punish those from communities they dislike. Are we complicit with those too, and should Hasan therefore be more vocal in his criticism?

Let’s also not forgot that George Galloway handed £25,000 to Hamas live on TV a few years back. That was in 2009. On April 7th 2011, Hamas shot a Kornet anti-tank missile at a school bus in southern Israel, killing 16 year old Daniel Viflic. If even a penny of that £25,000 went to procuring the missile that killed Viflic – or any act of violence since 2009 by Hamas – Galloway is complicit, and Hasan remains silent.

Hasan goes on to ask:

“Which other country is in receipt of $3billion a year in US aid, despite maintaining a 47-year military occupation in violation of international law?”

“Which other country’s prime minister could “humiliate” – to quote the newspaper Ma’ariv – a sitting US vice-president on his visit to Israel in March 2010, yet still receive 29 standing ovations from Congress on his own visit to the US a year later?”

– Well, they’re very specific comparative criticisms. He’s right. No other country has maintained a 47-year military occupation, receiving $3bn in US aid. However, that particular crime (and it is a crime) doesn’t negate the crimes of other nations receiving similar amounts. It’s just one specific crime he mentions. For example, Whilst the US gave just over $3bn in aid to Israel in 2012, it gave over $12bn in economic and military aid to Afghanistan in 2012. This, despite Aghanistan’s National Security Agency accused of torturing suspects, and harassing journalists, and despite the LGBT community facing long jail terms and despite Karzai signing into law the hideously misogynistic ‘Shia Family Law’. Israel may be occupying a region, but in Afghanistan, religious supremacists occupy the entire country, by enshrining its unjustifiably privileged position into the function of state. To rephrase Hasan’s question, which other country is in receipt of $12bn in US aid, despite enshrining religious supremacy to the point where women and the LGBT community are relegated to second class, and criminals?

He’s also right again. No other Prime Minister received 29 standing ovations after humiliating the Vice President. Because that’s a very specific criticism. However, according to Kenya News Online and The Daily Caller, President Karzai humiliated the President of the United States, more than once. Very specific comparative criticisms posed in this way, do not add any credit to the overall point, and appear weak when placed into context.

Indeed, we could also argue that statements Mehdi has made in the past (non-believers lacking intelligence, living like animals, whilst Muslims have the moral high ground), render him complicit in the perpetuation of religious supremacist narratives that continue to manifest as human rights abuses. Complicity, like every other point of debate in the Israel and Palestine conflict, is easy to use against those so deeply partisan on the subject on both sides. In this case, the argument from Mehdi did not seem to be a high quality, well reasoned argument, solely because that wasn’t its aim. Its aim was to absolve Mehdi of his inconsistent moral compass, that lays dormant until a global event that involves Israel or the US appears, at which point, his moral compass spins wildly out of control.


Stop underplaying Hamas’s rocket attacks.

July 11, 2014

Those innocent lives lost as a result of Israeli attacks on perceived Hamas locations in Gaza are not the victims of just one side, they are the victims of both sides and the fact that both leaderships find it easier to hurl rockets at each other, to provoke each other, than they do to negotiate a settlement that protects all civilians in the region. They are the victims of the failures of leadership not just in Israel and Palestine, but the international community also. Too often, those seeking to highlight the plight of the Palestinians and the misery caused by occupation and bombings, try hard to underplay the misery caused by those in groups like Hamas seeking to kill as many as possible.

A couple of days ago, Mohammed Ansar posted this:

mopalestine
– I see variants of this theme all too often. The image of an apparent Hamas rocket on a barely scratched road implies a pathetically inconsequential capability from the group. When Ansar chooses a picture of a charred road, rather than a picture of dead or injured Israelis to highlight what happens when a rocket from Gaza strikes Israel, he does so consciously, the image of one rather than the other is chosen for a purpose, and so the image Ansar shared works only to dehumanise those victims of Hamas’s rockets in the past, and the recent terror inflicted upon those in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, Eshkol, Sderot and more, by subtly hinting that those rockets do no real damage. Ansar then posted pictures of the bodies of victims of Israeli bombs in Gaza. This works to downplay the horrific consequences of rocket fire by Hamas (dismissed as a charred road), whilst highlighting the horrific consequences of the bombings by Israel. The political motivation of such a hideously manipulative tactic, is fuel for the fire of groups like Hamas, and when emulated on the opposite side, fuel for the fire of religious fanatics in Israel.

Contrary to Mo Ansar implying impotence of Hamas rocket fire, between 2001 and 2012, 64 people have been killed by Hamas’s rockets and hundreds more injured, whilst over 4000 in Sderot alone are treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In 2004, a nursery school in Sderot was the victim of a Qassam rocket, that killed Mordechai Yosepov, 49, and Afik Zahavi, 4. Hamas then claimed responsibility for an attack that wounded 30 and killed Yuval Abebeh, 4, and Dorit Benisian, 2 in Sderot.

In July 2006, the town of Ashkelon was hit when a rocket from Gaza struck a school – empty at the time, thankfully – and destroyed classrooms. In March 2008, again in Ashkelon, a rocket injured seven people. In May 2008, another rocket into Ashkelon hit a shopping mall, with four treated for severe injuries, 15 for minor injuries and 87 for shock. Most shockingly in Ashkelon, Iman Shefi – a Palestinian woman from Beit Lahiya – was in an Israeli hospital in Ashkelon, having given birth to two premature babies. Whilst in hospital, Hamas rockets were fired directly at it. Shefi said:

“I was scared that the rockets would hit the Ashkelon hospital where my two babies are.”

– Given the awful situation that Iman Shefi and her children (who are both safe and well) found themselves in, and being from Gaza too, she showed real class and integrity, and a sense of common cause with those affected by Hamas’s bombs in Israel when she said:

“I dream that my children will not have to go through what I have had to, that they will grow up in an era of peace. I pray that the residents of Sderot will not be angry with us. I sympathize with their suffering and don’t want them to be harmed, but we are victims as well. We have no control over the Hamas. They do as they please, in contradiction of the Quran. I do not want the Hamas in power, but I am not sure that Abu Mazen can stop the shooting.”

– Hamas do not care the heritage, or age of those they purposely hurl rockets at. The aim is to kill.

On March 18th 2010, a rocket claimed by both Ansar al-Sunna, and Fatah’s militant wing, al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades killed Thai national Manee Singmueangphon. He was working at an agricultural community in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Fifty other Thai nationals were treated for shock.

On April 7th 2011, Hamas shot a Kornet anti-tank missile at a school bus in southern Israel, killing 16 year old Daniel Viflic. On August 20th 2011, Hamas fired 64 rockets into Gaza, in which 500,000 people rushed to bomb shelters, and 38-year-old Yossi Shoshan of the town of Ofakim, and on his way to ensure his 9 month pregnant wife was safe, ended up killed. The same day, a four month old baby was badly wounded, as well as a 9 year old boy. On October 29th 2011, Moshe Ami of Ashkelon was killed after suffering serious shrapnel wounds as a result of a rocket sent from Gaza by Hamas.

Between March 9th – 15th 2012, Hamas and other groups in Palestine fired 300 grad missiles into Israel. In less than a week. 23 people were injured, 11 whilst fleeing in terror, for cover. on October 12th, the militant “Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem” fired a rocket into Israel, which exploded in the garden of a family home, and sent shrapnel into a child’s bedroom. Two were taken to hospital for acute stress reaction. A little over a month later, on November 15th 2012, Mirah Scharf (25), Itzik Amsalem (24), and Aharon Smadja (49) were killed by a rocket attack on an apartment in Kiryat Malachi. Mirah Scharf was a female emissary to New Delhi in India, and had come to Israel to give birth, when she was murdered by terrorists. Ahron Smadja was a father to an eight month old baby girl. The residents of the building were running for any cover they could find, as the rockets flew over, killing three of them.

As well as Mo Ansar, Owen Jones writing for the Guardian says:

“The macabre truth is that Israeli life is deemed by the western media to be worth more than a Palestinian life.”

– He then goes on to reverse his point:

“Israel under renewed Hamas attack”: this was last night’s BBC headline on the escalating bloodshed in Gaza. It is as perverse as Mike Tyson punching a toddler, followed by a headline claiming that the child spat at him.”

– All those killed, injured or terrified mentioned above over the years, are flippantly dismissed here as similar to the inconsequential spit of a child on a heavyweight boxer.

Let’s stop playing the “who kills the most” game, because it isn’t a game. Each civilian death must be regarded as an unacceptable tragedy regardless of which side of the border they happen to reside, for any serious discussion on peace to be workable. Each death is the responsibility of the leadership on both sides. Each death reaffirms the failures of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, along with the international community, in coming to a negotiated settlement. The partisans who post insensitive and dehumanising comparisons like the one above, work only to provide fuel for those who seek no peaceful resolution, believing their side to be the sole victims of the aggressive opposite, when the reality is that both leaderships – for decades – shoulder the blame as the people they are supposed to be protecting continue to suffer.


The rights of Palestine.

July 8, 2014

palestineisrael

The history of modern revolutions is one in which – more often than not – oppressive regimes are threatened and overthrown by the forces of self-proclaimed ‘liberation’ whom themselves become the new oppressive regimes. The Cuban revolution replaced the US backed heartless and brutal regime of Fulgencio Batista, with the vicious and oppressive long lasting Castro regime. The French revolution sought to liberate the country from the excesses of monarchy, and resorted to Robespierre’s reign of terror, swiftly followed by Napoleon. The US revolution attempted to enshrine the concepts of human liberty, and the pursuit of individual happiness and did so to a great extent, whilst the Founding generation held slaves and extended democratic rights to propertied white men only (John Adams; the nation’s second President, warned against extending the vote to women). It is for this reason – the replacement of one form of deep oppression with another – that I tend to be reluctant to support a Palestinian state under its current leadership.

As a blogger on secularism and religion, I’m often asked about my thoughts on the Israel & Palestine conflict and which side I find myself on. I’ve neglected to write much on the subject, because I find it a difficult question to answer, whilst simultaneously a simple question to answer. It is a particularly difficult and confusing subject, where the balance of my opinions change from week to week.

It is a difficult question – not least because whatever you say on the subject, someone somewhere takes great offence in a way that no other subject can elicit – because I understand the grievances of both. I understand that Israel is a nation surrounded by nations that wish it extinct, that rockets are fired daily across its borders (today, a rocket from Gaza was intercepted over Tel Aviv), that its establishment (whilst poorly designed and implemented) was the result of historical oppression from Russia to Germany including centuries of anti-Jewish bigotry spewed by the Catholic Church, Mahmoud Abbas’s constant reference to Israel as Muslim and Christian only, and that the Arab press is horrifically racist in its representations of Jewish people as rats controlling some sort of hidden global conspiracy. I understand the paranoia and suspicion driving Israeli policy.

Equally, I understand that the Palestinians have a perfectly reasonable claim to the land and I find it hard to disagree with a ‘right’ to return though recognise how completely unrealistic Israeli acknowledgement of that ‘right’ is to any settlement deal. I understand that recent Palestinian history has been marred by forced removal as well as fleeing in fear from land, their chaining to a strip in Gaza and treated as prisoners, the Israeli right wing who have nothing less than viciously racist views that dehumanise Palestinians enough to make awful policy in the occupied territories palatable. Netanyahu’s deliberately provocative statements in the past, that the Palestinians suffer daily not only from the threat of Israeli bombs dropping around them, but from being used as shields by Hamas, and that the ceaseless building of settlements is a daily provocation. Indeed the average Palestinian is stripped of their natural human dignity by the political squabbles of the fanatical religious leaders of both sides of the argument. Earlier this year, Wajih al-Ramahi – a 15 year old Palestinian boy – was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at the Jalazone refugee camp, for what seems to be no justifiable reason. This sort of crime – and the fear of this sort of crime – is a brutal reminder to the Palestinians that they are not free, and whose lives and liberty are to be treated as occupied and owned indefinitely by Israel.

However, It is an easy question, because my answer is; I take no side on this. I am critical of those who openly support Israel’s provocative policy of settlement development in the West Bank and defend their violent overreactions, and I am critical of those on the Western Galloway-left that are willing to abandon the principles of human rights, civil liberties, and freedom regardless of sexuality, faith, gender, belief and ethnicity if it means tacitly supporting any group that refers to itself as liberators fighting Israeli aggression.

I do however support the establishing of a state of Palestine. I feel I need to make that clear, because it seems that if you register concerns about the details of a future Palestinian state, you’re accused of abandoning the Palestinians in their fight for freedom, when in fact, the opposite is true. For the freedom of all Palestinians, the methods, and goals of their leadership requires thorough analysis and critique. To ignore those methods and goals, regardless of how oppressive they are, for the sake of supporting any reaction against Israel, is to abandon that freedom for a lot of Palestinians.

So, to be clear; my view is that the Palestinians have a right to be free, to self determination, to statehood, and to protection from oppression. That means all Palestinians, not simply Muslim, heterosexual Palestinians. The problem is, that isn’t what the Palestinian leadership has ever promoted. For that reason, it continuously amazes me just how willing Western ‘liberal secularists’ are to abandon their principles and overlook the stated goals and crimes of Hamas, in the quest to form a state of Palestine. The crimes of Hamas, are articulated by Amnesty:

“The human rights violations perpetrated … have included killings of fugitives, prisoners and detainees, injuries caused by severe physical violence, torture and misuse of weapons, the imposition of house arrest, and other restrictions that have been imposed on civil society organisations.”

– It is inexplicable given the circumstances, that anyone claiming to be of the left in the West, would support – in any form – the further enshrining of power for groups like Hamas. It cannot be considered an ‘ends justify the means’ situation – despite a lot of liberal secular Westerners claiming their reluctant support for Hamas is based on – because the end goal for Hamas is not a free state of Palestine, but a state as far removed from democratic, secular liberalism as possible. Indeed, Article (6) of Hamas’s charter notes:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Only under the shadow of Islam could the members of all regions coexist in safety and security for their lives, properties and rights.”

– Throughout Hamas’s charter, are references to the region being Islamic by divine right, and their goal to ensure all in the region are tied to it. Hamas’s reason for being, isn’t to ‘free’ Palestine, it is to chain Palestine to Hamas’s interpretation of a single faith. Secular liberals cannot reasonably offer any support to Hamas given their aims, methods, and public declarations. Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, co-founder and senior leader of Hamas, described gay people as being:

“…a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.”

– The rights of the LGBT community are not going to be protected in a Palestinian state with Hamas allowed a say in its foundation and constituting. Any defence of Hamas – any defence whatsoever – by those claiming to be secular or liberal, is an insult to those of us who are.

As well as Hamas’s goal being the subordination of the entire region to Islam, President Abbas tends to be just as provocative and hints at religious war for Jerusalem being an obligation on all Muslims when speaking directly to Muslims in Palestine (rather than an international audience, at which point, he advocates two states). For Abbas, this is a religious conflict. In 2010, on Al-Jazeera, Abbas said:

“I say to the leaders of our Arab nation and to its peoples: Jerusalem and its environs are a trust that Allah entrusted to us. Saving it from the settlement monster and the danger of Judaization and confiscation is a personal commandment incumbent on all of us.”

– Abbas is clear with his “Judaization” anti-Semitic rant; the land belongs to Islam. A revolution to replace one oppressor, with another. Jerusalem has of course been occupied by Jews, invaded by Christians, invaded by Muslims, and should in the 21st Century be open to all to visit and enjoy, not controlled by one faith. I find it impossible to support the establishing of a state whose leadership is infected by religious supremacists. If Hamas achieved their stated aims tomorrow, I would suggest that the tacit support for their cause and defence of their actions from those Western secular liberals over the years, would shroud any future complaints of Hamas’s human rights abuses in a deep sea of hypocrisy, by those who were willing to turn a blind-eye to atrocities and Hamas’s commitment to further abuses, pre-statehood. What good is an international liberal left, if it is only willing to voice concerns over the oppressive nature of a state, after it has facilitated the establishment of the same oppressive state?

The basic law established in 2002 as a proposed constitutional framework for a future Palestinian state and enacted by The Palestinian Legislative Council enshrines one religion, and binds all who live in the proposed state of Palestine, to that one religion in some form, whilst offering the impression of freedom for all. Its authors therefore have assumed for themselves the privilege of state supremacy for one faith:

“The principles of the Islamic shari`a are a main source for legislation.”

“Arabic is the official language and Islam is the official religion in Palestine.”

“The Palestinian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations.”

– This privilege for one faith cannot be an acceptable source of law making for anyone claiming to be a secular liberal. The implication is clear; a Palestinian state is to some degree an Islamic state. The two are to be considered inseparable. This is where I tend to part company with many of my fellow liberal secularists who seem unwilling to question, or worse, to offer tacit support to such a framework of state.

For me, Statehood must not precede human and civil rights, on a secular, liberal framework. Liberal, secular, civil rights and protections must precede statehood. The rights of all Palestinians – be they Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish, male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, Hindu, old, young – must be the starting point of any framework for statehood, with no privilege granted to any single faith.

Enshrining religion into the fabric of a new state brings with it human and civil rights abuses that are evident in the nations that enshrine Islam in the Middle East, and Christianity in Africa, regardless of assurances of “human rights protections”. In Jordan, the state inhibits the right to convert from Islam, does not recognise Baha’i marriages and the King has to be Muslim. In Lebanon (arguably the least oppressive Arab state in the Middle East), the right to legally change gender is prohibited, there are penalties for blasphemy, and Buddhists and Hindus are not allowed to marry. A Palestinian state must not enshrine the oppression of any group, must uphold civil rights with respect to belief, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and the basic right to expression and secular education. At the moment, the Palestinian leadership is far from a force for liberation, severely lacks respect for basic rights, and is extremely oppressive.

In 2012, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights released a report accusing the Palestinian Authority of:

“…inhumane practices and human rights violations.”

– In 2013, blogger Anas Awwad – a critic of the PNA – was arrested and charged with “extending his tongue” against the policies of the PA and President Abbas. Similarly, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq – a lecturer at a university in the West Bank – was arrested for criticising Abbas. Hamas enforced the wearing of the headscarf for all women entering government buildings. The Palestinian Education Ministry is run by Osama al-Muzayni, on his watch, schools in Gaza City have begun teaching children to speak Hebrew as the “language of the enemy”. The BBC found that at one schools in Gaza City, whilst the girls were quick to speak of the enemy of Israel and learning the language so they’ll know if an individual Israeli wishes to harm them, only one in thirty of the girls had actually met an Israeli. As well as not trusting the Palestinian leadership with the liberal and secular civil rights of all, I do not trust them with respect for free expression of the opponents of their policies, nor with the educating of vulnerable minds away from perpetual conflict and hate.

Palestinians are all who live on the land – regardless of gender, faith, ethnicity, sexuality, hair colour, eye colour – Palestinians are not a single religion or a single sect of a religion or a single history. Nor are adherents to one single religion inherently privileged above others. Nor is adherence to one particular religion enough to qualify those believers to legislate and punish others according to its dictates whilst enshrining their own privileg. For me it is simple; there can only be the illusion of human and civil rights, unless a constituted Palestinian state protects all, and privileges none. Palestinians have the right to self determination and a state of their own, with secure boarders and protected civil rights free from fear. Palestinians have a right to a state. Islam doesn’t.