Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Escalating the Israel - Hamas conflict

 Today's MP Letter  



John Penrose MP

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA




Dear John


I write to express my deep concern regarding your Government’s escalation of the conflict in Gaza.


I will make clear at the outset that I support the right of the State of Israel to exist and I condemn the foolish and inhumane attack carried out by Hamas on October 7th. I also condemn the ongoing massacre and destruction that Netanyahu is carrying out in Gaza. I feel deeply ashamed that my country is supporting Netanyahu’s inhumane assault on the civilian population of Gaza. Like the majority of British citizens, I am on the side neither of Netanyahu nor Hamas, but on the side of humanity.


You will claim that Israel has a right to defend itself. Netanyahu’s offensive is the opposite of a defence of Israel. It is creating hatred and resentment across the world, not just against Israel as a state, but against Jewish people everywhere. Even if Netanyahu could kill every last member of Hamas, he is acting as a recruiting sergeant for the Hamas terrorist operation of the future, whatever it may be called.


As you know, the Houthi attacks on shipping will have a devastating effect on world trade and economy, including the UK economy, with another round of fuel price inflation to be expected. The declared aim of the Houthi attacks on shipping is to bring an end to Netanyahu’s attack on Gaza. Your Government’s attacks on Houthi missile capability will not mend the situation in good time, as it is the mere possibility of attack that makes shipping avoid the Red Sea. Instead, your action is just going to make the outlook for global security worse.


During the recent ceasefire, Houthi attacks were reduced. It is likely that a ceasefire in Gaza, coupled with intense diplomatic efforts, could succeed in restoring shipping through the Suez canal far more quickly than military action. Needless to say, ceasefire and a new round of serious diplomacy and peace talks is what the world needs to end the agony of Gazan civilians massacred on a daily basis.


The other problem with your Government’s chosen course of action is that it represents an escalation of conflict in a time of generalised international tension, with Putin already engaged in Ukraine and both Putin and the West engaged in Syria. Escalation is the last thing that the world needs right now. If escalation does not stop, global nuclear war is a distinct possibility.


De-escalation is clearly the best path to take.  Polls on October 19th 2023 showed overwhelming support for a ceasefire (58% believe we definitely should have a ceasefire, 3% believe we definitely should not have a ceasefire ).  All wars come to an end eventually. A just and sustainable  peace is the only realistic future for the Middle East and indeed for the entire world. It can only be obtained when political attention shifts away from the theoreticians of war to those who have realistic plans for how human societies everywhere can work to produce the water, food, energy, shelter and waste management in a sustainable way.


I would be grateful if you could outline how, in your view, the British Government can defend its support for Netanyahu and its policy of escalation of the Netanyahu-Hamas conflict.








Thursday, October 19, 2023

Netanyahu's broken concept of defence

 "Israel has a right to defend itself" has become the mantra that Sunak uses at all media opportunities.

But what does "defence" mean?  Does "defence" give Netanyahu permission to reduce the northern half of Gaza city to rubble along with any people in the area in order to bring about the annihilation of all members of Hamas? Is that what "defence" means?

No, defence in this context means anticipating the terrorist attack mounted by Hamas on October 7th, using the world famed intelligence skills of Mossad. Defence means realising that Hamas was going to react to the perceived outrage at what was happening at the Al-Aqsa mosque. Defence means listening to and acting upon the advice given by Egyptian intelligence agency three days before the attack. Defence means closely monitoring the physical fence between Gaza and Israel, and reacting swiftly to repel any invasion. In all of these defensive moves, Netanyahu failed.

Instead, Netanyahu believes that he has a right to operate a definitive solution for Hamas: he wants to annihilate them by bombing their buildings and - presumably - gas them in their tunnels (because how else can he get them out?). He is trying first to clear the human shield used by Hamas, which is why he has ordered the civilians in northern Gaza to leave their homes before he flattens them.

Netanyahu believes that this is a fine solution to his problems. His calculations are simple. If Hamas has 10,000 members, and he kills all 10,00 of them, then Hamas has zero members, and the Hamas problem is solved. 

The reality is not so simple. Not only will many Hamas members will have moved out of North Gaza City with the civilians, but also for every Hamas member killed, another Hamas member will be created because of the grief and hatred caused by the killing. "He that is killed will always kill again". Hamas, or another hate-motivated anti-Israeli movement will arise from the ashes and rubble of Netenyahu’s “solution”.

Netanyahu's actions are not defensive, they are designed to relieve emotions of anger and hatred and express the desire for retribution, but they are not going to solve the problems of Israel in the long term. Defence means long term planning to reduce hatred on both sides, for instance, collaboration in meeting the needs of both communities in Israel-Palestine for water. Defence means working with peace-loving citizens with both communities. There are at least nine cross community citizens’ organisations in Israel Palestine – The One Voice Movement, the Parents Circle family forum, Hand in Hand – Centre for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel,
Peace Now, Combatants for Peace, The Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation, EcoPeace Middle East, The Palestinian-Israeli Journal, and Women Wage Peace. If these organisations were given a louder voice in broadcast and written media, hope might be a slightly stronger emotion.

There is more, much more, to defence than bombing people and houses to smithereens.


Saturday, October 14, 2023

Doing the same thing and expecting a different result


Israel has a right to defend itself - yes, for sure

But Israel does not have a right to break international law in a misjudged process of  revenge and destruction in an attempt to stamp out terrorists once and for all.

Netanyahu must realise that he cannot exterminate Hamas physically. Even if he could magically destroy every member of Hamas tomorrow, it would not solve his problem, because Hamas is an expression of hatred, nor a finite number of people.

By killing Hamas, Netanyahu is generating yet more Hamas. 

This issue can and must be solved by dialogue. 

They may say “But there have been dialogues before”. 

True, but also there have been wars before, and we still have wars.

Einstein said “Insanity is when you do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result”. 

These wars always create more wars.

War is irrational. Negotiation involves reason. 

By going to war, Netanyahu is expecting too much of his generals and his soldiery. 

The risk for the world is too great. 

If “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, the “other means” here is in fact the abandonment of rationality. Real politics, great politics, statesmanship, involves intense thought and vision. 

Let us hope that somewhere in the political world there is a group of people who have the vision, intelligence, and communication skills to get us out the highly dangerous tragedy that is the Middle East in 2023.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Israel-Palestine: three options

 We have three options with regard to the tragedy in Israel-Palestine. 

We can be on the side of the Israelis. 

We can be on the side of the Palestinians. 

Or we can be on the side of humanity, which puts us on the side of both (as communities of humans) and neither (as political groupings).

Wars divide public opinion in a binary way. The majority will reject the “humanity” option as naive, and will produce a seemingly endless reel of historical facts and factoids to back the case of one side or the other.

We need to be knowledgeable about the history, to understand the motivations of both sides, especially the intensity of Israeli intention never again to be passive subjects of genocide. 

But we need to focus with great determination on the future. What is the future of the “Holy Land”? 

Is it simply to be laid waste by a never ending series of manifestly unholy wars?

Or is it to be an inspiration to the whole world, as a place where people decided that hatred is not a helpful emotion, and that cooperation is better than conflict in creating a better life for all humans?

When we look at I-P from the latter point of view, the first and most striking feature of the land is that it is semi arid. Water is in short supply, and this limits the amount of food that can be grown. 

Already Friends of the Earth Middle East are working on cross community projects relating to water, especially around Jordan.

This approach can be taken further in a water harvesting project, where the EU and UK could supply kit for communities to gather water

There are numerous organisations which promote cooperation between the two communities. Here is a Chat Gtp link for nine of them

If we look to the past, there is no solution, just endless war.

If we ask how two peoples can life together in the future, we find that it involves cooperation in constructing adequate amounts of water, food, energy, housing. sanitation, health, education and social care for everyone living in the land.