Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gagged while Gaza is crushed

12 January 2008

Stuart Littlewood calls on readers to request the Committee on Standards in Public Life to examine whether there is undue Israeli influence at the heart of the British government that is preventing it from taking a principled stand on Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

The British government has maintained a strict silence on the cruel blockade of Gaza and efforts by Israel and its Western allies to crush the civilian population and eliminate their democratic choice, Hamas.

Not a word of criticism has been heard from the great and the good about this wickedness.

In the meantime, some 20 surgeons, academics and others, with knowledge of Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories, have written urging Britain’s corruption watchdog, the Committee on Standards in Public Life, to examine whether there is undue Israeli influence at the heart of the British government.

One of these, David Halpin of www.doveanddolphin.co.uk, is a trauma surgeon who has advised the Hamas government on how they should investigate the use of illegal weapons by Israel and last year led a team of seven UK doctors into Gaza. The Dove and Dolphin Medical Centre, named after David's charity, was opened then.

The Israel lobby's deep penetration of our political system, many feel, is preventing Britain from taking a principled stand on Middle East matters, including the long catalogue of violations of Palestinian human rights, the Gaza siege being a particularly nasty example.

Our minister with responsibility for Middle East affairs is a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. His shadow is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. Indeed, a large majority of Conservative MPs and MEPs are Friends of Israel. The lobby also claims a considerable number of Labour MPs and ministers. The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel website brazenly states that its first aim is to maximize support for the State of Israel within the party and Parliament.

All MPs (and many parliamentary candidates) are exposed to the lobby's influence and a large number apparently carry its message into their parliamentary work, causing damage to our democracy and harm to Britain's interests and reputation abroad.

The regime's tentacles reach into the Standards Committee itself, where the three political party appointees are top-ranking Friends of Israel or closely connected to Friends of Israel. The committee, as everyone knows, is there to uphold the famous Seven Principles of Public Life. The presence at the heart of government of people pledged to promote the interests of another country – and not declaring their dual allegiance – undermines at least five of these sacred principles.

What will the public, already sick of our politicians, make of this,bearing in mind that for 60 years Muslim and Christian Palestinians have been terrorized, murdered and dispossessed by a regime so warmly embraced in our name?

The secretary of the committee says that it is not the sort of issue that's likely to be pursued. Ducking and weaving already, then. However, the watchdog has a brand-new chairman, Sir Christopher Kelly, who took over just a few days ago. Will he be up for the challenge?

Meanwhile, the Israeli government, with Britain's connivance, continues to impose its vicious siege on innocent civilians – including the Christian community – apparently determined to turn Gaza into another Warsaw Ghetto. What a disgraceful way to start the New Year.

This morning [10 January] the following email arrived from a senior doctor in Gaza:

I am writing so fast as the charge of my battery will be lost while we live in the gloom with the seldomly available electricity. My children are studying on candles for their exams.

Today a friend of mine, he is the head of pharmacy in the Ministry of Health, asked for some life-saving medications for a cancer patient, the very limited resources that we have were not enough to meet his need. I could not sleep when I went home, thinking that additional victim will die because we do not have money to pay for his treatment. Two days ago the elevator had fallen at Al-Remal clinic, thank God there were no injuries... Our generators are surrendering, I lost one three days ago in Bayt Hanoun hospital and today I need another one for Al-Dora paediatric hospital. There are no vegetables for the hospitals because we can't cover the supplier's invoice.

The disaster is with those who have no bread in their homes, yes bread and I mean it, as I know one family like that in Gaza, the father is a cardiac patient, the family is nine members, two of them are disabled, and their elder son who is a university student found himself the bread winner of this family at once. I swear that they have nothing to eat unless somebody of the neighbours send them food.

Winter is not that cold in Gaza but it can still chill the bones of children in the primary school of my elder daughter, as the principal of this school sent me a letter saying that they need to fix the broken windows as the wind blows the classes and they have no financial resources. We will see how we can manage that, but this is not the only school.

The situation in the local market is just funny, the shelves are almost empty in many of the supermarkets of the poor Gaza ... the people call it here in Arabic Al-Hisar, which means the siege. This is what we have in Gaza for the new year of 2008.


Readers are invited to join in pressing the Standards Committee to uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life and banish from Parliament lobby groups acting on behalf of foreign powers. Please write to:

Mr Charles Ramsden
Secretary to the Committee
Committee on Standards in Public Life
35 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BQ
email: public@standards.x.gsi.gov.uk

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