Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"The only democracy in the Middle East"

I receive a regular e-mail newsletter from Mazin Qumsiyeh www.qumsiyeh.org, a Palestinian Christian. His latest tells of an attack by Israeli police on a peaceful demonstration at Ush Ghrab, on the edge of Beit Sahour, a Christian-majority town near Bethlehem. They have already lost land to the illegal expansion of Israeli East Jerusalem. The Israeli army used Ush Ghrab as a base until 2006, when they evacuated it. The municipality has since installed a children's playground on the site and wanted to build a children's hospital, but were not allowed to do so.

On Sunday about a hundred demonstrators walked peacefully to Ush Ghrab, led by a priest, with the intention of celebrating mass. They were accompanied by Israeli and international supporters. Suddenly Israeli police jeeps arrived and gave orders - in Hebrew - to disperse within one minute. The demonstrators asked in English and Arabic for an explanation, but soon the police were throwing tear-gas grenades at them. The priest continued praying for humanity and understanding. A father carrying his child kicked a gas canister away. The crowd held their ground, and eventually the police left. The demonstrators will be back next Sunday; watch this space. The incident can be seen on youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4he1vayLrfo

It is important to remember that not all Israelis - still less all Jews - are Zionists; the most vocal opposition to the government comes from Israelis inside the country and from groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestine outside it. Nor are all Zionists Jewish; on the contrary, many of the most uncritical supporters of Israeli government policy are gentiles such as George Bush and Tony Blair. One suspects that in many cases fervent declarations of love for Israel come from those who are anxious to hide a secret anti-Semitism.

Israel can only be called democratic if you ignore the fact that it exercises almost total control over the lives of millions of Palestinians who are not represented in the Knesset. True democracy will come only when it is recognized that the massive colonization of the West Bank has made the 'two-state solution' impossible and that some form of federal single state must be brought into existence.

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