Meeting at Hammersmith Thursday 6th October
The event, held in a Methodist Church of God in which a Palestinian flag was draped across the preachers lectern, was sadly misleading. Much was made of Israel’s destruction of Palestinian homes and schools, the Apartheid Wall and buses, the Palestinians paying taxes to live in East Jerusalem and only benefitting from 8% of investment, but no context given. The constant referral to the Apartheid Wall was left without any reference as to why it had to go up in the first place. The endless loaded descriptions of Israel’s military occupation of the territories was presented without referencing how it came to be. And in a final admission by one white British woman: she stated Israel has no right to exist and that the concept that Jews had lived in Israel for 4000 years was, “a load of twot.”
There was a historic presentation to begin with in which facts were misrepresented and inaccurate. Dates given were wrong, events were incorrectly expressed and misleading. Words such as force, control, and creeping expansionism, were frequently used. No-one would discuss the fact there was no such place as Palestine until 70AD when the Romans attempted to wipe out all evidence of the Jewish homeland of 2000. No mention was made that a remnant of Jews has always lived in the land.
An interesting comment was, “it doesn’t matter about Israel’s religious beliefs but only international law.” This statement epitomised for me, the man with a plank in his own eye trying to remove the speck from another. No mention was made of the Arab claim to Jerusalem as their religious site, or that the thousands of Grad rockets launched into Israel were a violation of international law. No mention was made of the Palestinian people embracing militant Islam with its desire to drive Israel into the sea. No recognition given to Israel’s existential threats and addressing them - to work together to find peace.
A British civil servant stood up and talked about law, used phrases like illegal possession, he stated that Palestinians were treated as second class citizens, had to have Jerusalem residency permits, experienced discrimination in receiving access to public services, that their rights to residency could be revoked if they left Jerusalem and that this was why they build illegally to accommodate their expanding families. He stated discrimination was demonstrated by the delivery of poor roads, lack of sewage and water, disparity in building laws and that the residents of West Jerusalem get away with more than those in the East when it comes to building permits.
He went on to say that any Israeli who marries a Palestinian cannot have their spouse live with them in Israel, or their children. He stated the annexation was illegal under international law - yet failed to address any of Israel’s concerns about security and the restraining of militant groups operating within the territories.
No mention was made that Israel had always accepted a two state conceptually, but that the Palestinians had refused it.
A Church leader, Stephen Sizer, spoke of the misinterpretation of the Bible and how Zionism had become a new mission for many Christians. He said they were wrong. He stated Israel had become a Christian theme park and that the set itinerary for most groups was to see only what Israeli authorities want them to see. That the wall, they called Haffrodah (!) was in Dutch, the Afrikaans equivalent for segregation based on race, hence the Apartheid theme.
He made no mention of the 1.2 million Arabs who want to live in Israel, nor the jobs, medical benefits and aid given to thousands of Palestinians.
He used an interesting analogy of Israel being like a child who puts his hand in a cookie jar and wants to take out three biscuits at once – but cant. The three biscuits are called Israel, Democracy and Occupied Territories. He stated Israel cannot take all three, only two.
He used quotes from various international figures about South Africa as a comparison and the removal of apartheid, but failed to point out that since then, South Africa now has a major crime epidemic with many leaving the country. He talked of East and West Jerusalem being autonomous, but didn’t explore the problems as for example seen in East and West Berlin, where it failed and those left in the East had a torrid existence.
Finally, a lady stood and talked about the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and schools, which was an effective speech. I could not respond because I do not know what is happening there – but would like to.
Overall it was disappointing and misleading. All the good that Israel does was never mentioned of course. They exploit emotive words such as apartheid, evictions, ethnic cleansing, segregation, colonisation and war crimes (Gaza). Never do they talk about the militants that operate from schools and community centres in Gaza, the butchering of a Jewish family a few months ago, and the thousands of Grad rockets that land on Israeli soil - and the rest.
They complain that the borders of Gaza are unfair, discriminatory and restrictive, yet what do they expect to happen if they gain independence? The phrase wanting to have ones cake and eat it springs to mind.
My overall view was that they talk a good talk and have certainly mastered the exploitation of emotive language and narrative. Israel has much catching up to do in the PR game and needs to do so soon.
Howard Stern is a Christian Zionist Federation Spokesman for Israel and works as a professional negotiator and mediator. Howard is also organising a conference on12th November 2011 entitled ‘Israel’s Future and Ours’ on the challenges facing Israel today. If you wish to attend please contact go to www.hagoshrim.org,uk.