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The 'Israel-Palestine problem' according to Lord Steel
Last uploaded : Sunday 11th Nov 2012 at 04:59
Contributed by : Carol Gould


[Editor's Note 16 November 2012: The Israeli-Palestinian situation is in the news again. Hundreds of rockets are being launched by Islamic Jihad by their own admission and by Hamas from Gaza into Israel as far north as Tel Aviv. If only the Palestinians would seek peace and not conflict...]

10th November 2012


Just what did Liberal Democrat peer Lord Steel mean when he said on BBC Radio 4’s ’Any Questions’ on Friday 9th November that the Obama administration must engage with ‘the Israel-Palestine problem that is causing so much trouble around the world and for us here in Britain?’ I was astonished that my colleague Charlie Wolf did not challenge this so I am offering my own response.

Since when is the Israeli-Palestinian situation causing havoc around the world and in Great Britain?

Let’s just look at ‘trouble around the world.’ Is turmoil in Sri Lanka or Burma Israel’s fault? Is bloodshed in the Maghreb in North Africa Israel’s fault? I am reminded of a joke about an Italian football team travelling in Argentina in a bus driven by a Chilean that collides with a truck driven by an Australian. The United Nations security Council convenes in emergency session to condemn -- you guessed it -- Israel !

In the past two months the news cycle in Britain has been obsessively focussed on the Hillsborough Enquiry, the absconding of Megan Stammers with her teacher, the tragic disappearance of a little girl, the Jimmy Savile scandal and at present the leadership crisis at the BBC. How does Lord Steel, therefore, come to his assessment that ‘the Israel-Palestine problem’ is causing so much trouble ‘for us here in Britain?’

Yes, the misery Israel has suffered for sixty-four years surrounded by hostile neighbours since its birth out of the ashes of the Holocaust has been a festering sore that successive American administrations have tried to heal. Bill Clinton spent eight years facilitating the Oslo accords which did, to his credit, result in a peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. Although many deplored the sacrifice of the Sinai, won in the Six Day war as Egyptian squaddies fled from the tough Israelis, in a deal facilitated by Jimmy Carter, the peace agreement with Egypt was a step forward in ending hostilities. Tony Blair sent Lord Levy to the region and for awhile everyone thought -- despite attacks against Israeli civilians in a protracted Intifadah -- peace might reign.

Then in 2005 Ariel Sharon, the hawk of all time, bowed to international pressure and evacuated every last settler from Gaza making the area ‘Judenrein,’ a Nazi term for a region ethnically cleansed of Jews. The Jews of Gaza left behind thriving businesses, agricultural establishments and schools but Hamas took over and soon those buildings and enterprises were left to to to rot and become store rooms for rocket launchers and ordinance. Greenhouses became arsenals. Gaza, about which the world had bleated for decades was ‘occupied by Israel’ was now free and instead of becoming a centre of commerce and cultural life degenerated into the vortex of a new war to annihilate Israel.

So, how does Lord Steel come to see this as ‘trouble around the world?’ There is an insurgency in Nepal, Kashmir and Pakistan. Egypt is wracked by unrest as is Libya, whilst Syria’s bloodbath unfolds unabated. Not one Syrian has been killed by an Israeli in its civil war but 40,000 have died in murderous violence of their own making. Lebanon has been in internecine turmoil for the past two months and Nigeria has suffered a year of attacks on its churches by Boko Haram. Piracy carries on in the Straits of Malacca and the simmering drug conflicts in central and South America continue unresolved. Is any of this Israel’s fault? Was the genocide in Rwanda and were the killing fields of Cambodia the offshoot of the Arab-Israeli situation?

If Israel has caused change around the world it emanates from its remarkable scientific and medical institutions that churn out innovations faster than do most of the countries in the rest of the globe. Its brilliant researchers win Nobel Prizes and its relief organisations fly off to remote locations around the world to help with disaster relief, most recently to the USA during superstorm Sandy.

And yes, I would be branded a fool were I to say that the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been mentioned by terrorists in their suicide videos over the years but when set against the wider ravages of the world their words pale into insignificance. Yes, the Palestinian-Israeli situation hit home when it caused me to be heckled by ‘Boycott Israel’ demonstrators at the South Bank Literature Festival in 2011; the BBC Prom broadcast had to be abandoned for the first time in history when the Israel Philharmonic was disrupted by loud Boycotters. If this is what Lord Steel is referring to as ‘trouble for us here in Britain,’ yes it is, but it is always perpetrated by destructive people who contribute nothing to his dream of a resolution of his so-called ‘Israel-Palestine problem.’

Robert Fisk, a perennial critic of Israel, said on September 11th 2001 that the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York were generated by Osama bin Laden’s hatred of the American presence in Muslim countries and not by Palestinian rage. The State Department's human rights report on Sudan issued in March 2007 claims that ‘.. parties to the conflagration committed serious abuses, including widespread killing of civilians, rape as a tool of war, systematic torture, robbery and recruitment of child soldiers.’ It is estimated that two million people have died in the Sudanese civil war. Is this one of David Steel’s examples of ‘trouble around the world’ caused by pesky Israel?

Lord Steel refers to trouble ‘for us here in Britain caused by the Israel-Palestine problem.’ More often than not demonstrations by radical groups in the United Kingdom have been directed at the United States and its interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. If a confrontation between Iran and Israel erupts in the coming year it will no doubt affect the world but the idea that unrest around the globe is the fault of Israel and its warlike neighbours is sheer folly. Israel and its inventions, revolutionary technological developments and cultural contributions to the world is a marvel and its venomous neighbours would do well to lay down their arms and play music, write poetry and heal the sick -- all skills at which Israelis excel. Lord Steel’s ‘trouble’ would evaporate overnight if Israel’s enemies would begin to model themselves on the Jewish State and give only good things to the world.


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