Following Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's 'STFU, I'm talking about Iran, not settlements' visit to the UK, the British parliament passed the following resolution on 9 February:
"That this House reaffirms its support for the negotiation of a lasting peace between two sovereign states of Israel and Palestine, both of which must be viable and contiguous within secure and internationally recognised borders; calls on the Government to take an active role in facilitating a resumption of international talks to achieve this; welcomes UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted on 23 December 2016; and further calls on the government of Israel immediately to halt the planning and construction of residential settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which is both contrary to international law and undermines the prospect for the contiguity and viability of the state of Palestine."
While I liked (and disliked) some of the speeches which preceded it, I couldn't help but notice, and be profoundly irritated by, the historical illiteracy of certain MPs when it came to Britain's key role in opening up Palestine to wave after wave of Zionist fanatics from 1918 on. After all, this is their history, and there can be no excuses for not knowing it. So here are some snippets from the debate, both those I enjoyed, and those by MPs in dire need of a remedial history course:
Sir Desmond Swayne (Con), mover of the motion: "On Monday night, when a Bill was passed in the Knesset retrospectively legalising 4,000 homes in illegal settlements, the Israeli Minister of Culture welcomed the result, saying that it was 'The first step towards complete... Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.' The words 'Judea and Samaria' were chosen carefully. When President Trump was elected, the Israeli Interior Minister, no less, welcomed it by saying that we are witnessing 'the birth pangs of the Messiah when everything has been flipped to the good of the Jewish people.'... It is absolutely clear that a significant proportion of the Israeli political establishment is in thrall to an increasingly strident settler movement that regards Palestine as a biblical theme park - Judea and Samaria."
"I am certain that the Prime Minister will have made representations to the PM of Israel on Monday. I last made representations to an Israeli politician at a meeting in the Knesset with the chief negotiator with the Palestinians and Deputy PM. Halfway through that meeting, he stormed out announcing that I had launched a brutal assault - moi! As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am a pussy in comparison with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who is a terrier. I am absolutely convinced that his representations will be much more robust than mine but, so long as they remain representations, the Government of Israel will continue to act with absolute impunity."
[Do we even have one Desmond Swayne in the Australian parliament? Anyone? Rhetorical question.]
Richard Burden (Lab): "What John Kerry was getting at was that if we end up with the de facto annexation of the West Bank, that gives Israel a choice. It can say either that everybody living there should have the vote and rights equal to those of its own citizens, or that they do not. If it says that they do have those rights, the future of Israel with a Jewish majority is at an end. If it says that they do not have those rights, Israel can no longer claim to be a democracy. Not only that, but if there is de facto annexation while Israel maintains a system of laws and controls that discriminate against the majority of people who live in the West Bank and denies them basic rights, what term can we use to describe what we are left with but a form of apartheid?"
[Just imagine what would happen if an Australian MP invoked the word 'apartheid' in connection with Israel.]
Crispin Blunt (Con): "Since Oslo, Palestinians have been betrayed by two decades of factionalised leadership; by the international community in the disastrous consequences of the implementation of the Oslo process; historically by their Arab neighbours in the catastrophic way that they first advanced their own interests ahead of the Palestinian cause; and, also historically, by Britain in our failure to deliver the second half of the Balfour Declaration."
[OFFS, does Blunt seriously thinks that Balfour promising the Zionists "a national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine was fine and dandy, just so long as "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine"?
Think about it: assorted Russian, Polish and Romanian Zionist fanatics score a "national home" in Palestine, while Palestine's "existing non-Jewish communities," which is how the Balfour Declaration dismissively referred to the indigenous Muslim/Christian Palestinian Arab majority (over 90% of Palestine's population in 1917), get mere "civil and religious rights." What a bargain!
Honesty dictates that Blunt's last comment should have been replaced with, The Palestinians have been betrayed historically, by Britain in our CRIMINAL decision to issue the Balfour Declaration."]
Joan Ryan (Lab): "Before addressing the motion, I wish to condemn the rocket attack on Israel last night, when Islamic State fired four rockets from the Sinai Peninsula into Eilat. I expect that the whole House wants to join me in that sentiment."
[LOL Ryan, you'll remember, heads Labour Friends of Israel, and was caught on film, in the recent Al Jazeera expose, licking her lips at the prospect of receiving 1 million pounds from the Israeli Embassy operative, Shai Masot.]
Philip Holobone (Con): "My point was that Britain's connection with the region goes back an awfully long way. For the best part of 30 years after the First World War, we did our best to try to come to a reconciled solution between Arabs and Jews. As a nation we failed, which was why we pulled out in 1948."
[Holobone's historical sketch doesn't go back far enough. The British betrayed a 1915 treaty they had signed with the Arabs promising Arab independence, including Palestine (the Hussein-McMahon pledge), in exchange for a rising against the Ottoman Turks, by doing deals, first with the French, to carve up the Middle East between them (the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916), and second with the Zionist movement, to which they promised Palestine in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
IOW, the British BETRAYED their Arab allies, and by so doing SINGLE-HANDEDLY CREATED TODAY'S PALESTINE PROBLEM.
Any British MP who isn't familiar with these elementary historical facts, and thinks that Britain 'did its best to reconcile Arabs and Jews' (as opposed to unleashing hordes of Zionist fanatics on the unsuspecting Palestinian Arabs) in British-occupied Palestine (1918-1948), should be debarred from holding office on the grounds of historical illiteracy.]
Tommy Sheppard (SNP): "This is the longest-running conflict in the modern era and its solution seems further away than ever, but its very intractability is a reason why we should rededicate ourselves to trying to move the process forward. Every time the international community has considered the competing claims in the region, they have arrived at the same conclusion: that two states living side by side, one Jewish in character and one Arab in character, in peaceful coexistence is the solution to aim for. That was true when Balfour and Sykes looked at it 100 years ago... "
[Bullshit! Sheppard seems to think that when Balfour and Sykes were playing colonial games in the Ottoman Middle East, they found, in Palestine, two equal, indigenous communities, one Jewish and one Arab, who needed a little help from the British to get along together. He doesn't seem to know that the Arabs were not only indigenous to the area, but were, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the population (90%+) at the time, while the Zionists were British-backed and protected European settlers, out to create their very own, exclusive, ethnocratic Jewish (and hence Arabrein) state.]
Andy Slaughter (Lab): "The tragedy of the Palestinians is the occupation. The length of the occupation... The settlements are the embodiment of occupation. Everything else that is wrong in the occupied territories flows from those settlements; 85% of the barrier, which is there to protect the settlements, is on occupied territory. It has been said that the settlements occupy only 1.5% of the land, but they control 42.7% of the land. Palestinians in the West Bank are not allowed to build on 60% of the land."
[A useful rebuttal to the Netanyahu line that the settlements are not the problem.]
Alan Brown (SNP): "On one trip, I saw a settlement positioned, nice and bright, on the top of a hill, with plenty of green shrubbery made possible by the piped water supply. Meanwhile, the closest Bedouin village, despite having electricity pylons running past it, is not allowed to connect to the electricity. The water supply for the settlement runs through the Bedouin village, but the villagers are not allowed access to it. The school in the village is part funded by the EU but has a demolition order hanging over it. That is state intimidation by Israel."