The situation in Gaza is bad, but to compare it to the Holocaust is grotesque. Yasmin Qureshi should apologise

February 7, 2014 2:43 pm

As I rule I try to write about the Middle East only when necessary so as to avoid the black hole into which all online commentary about the that subject inevitably falls. But sometimes someone who should know better says something so completely wrong – and they have to be pulled up on it.

Here’s what Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi said in a Westminster Hall debate:

“What has struck me in all this is that the state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land – everything – were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished.

“It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.”

Now it seems very clear to me that the situation in Gaza, and the hardship faced by so many of those who live there, is harsh. The Palestinian people deserve the right to their own state, and have suffered incredibly for many decades. Cameron once called the Gaza Strip a “prison camp” – that seems an accurate description.


But to compare the treatment of people in Gaza to the holocaust is grotesque. Qureshi appears to be comparing the situation in Gaza with the mechanised and industrial extermination of an entire people. No-one who has seen the gas chambers and the ovens of Auschwitz could honestly make such a comparison. No-one who has any knowledge of the mechanical way in which Jews were rounded up, shipped off and murdered in the Holocaust could compare any other form of oppression or repression to that cold, calculated and brutal attempt at extermination.

I’m afraid that however strong your feelings are on the undoubted injustices that the people of Gaza have faced, they are not seeing anything comparable to the holocaust.

Yasmin Qureshi should apologise. And she must do it today.

Update: I’ve had a response from the party – and it’s fair to say I’m not impressed. Here’s what they’ve said:

“These remarks were taken completely out of context. Yasmin Qureshi was not equating events in Gaza with the Holocaust. As an MP who has visited Auschwitz and has campaigned all her life against racism and anti-Semitism she would not do so.”

Except it’s clear from reading the full quote of what Qureshi said (see above) and reading the whole Westminster Hall debate – which we’ve linked to – that Qureshi was making a comparison between the impact of the Holocaust and the situation in Gaza, whether that was her intention or not. Instead of trying to get her off the hook, the Labour Party should be telling Qureshi to apologise.

Update: Yasmin Qureshi has released a statement apologising for any offence caused by her remarks:

“The debate was about the plight of the Palestinian people and in no way did I mean to equate events in Gaza with the Holocaust. 

“I apologise for any offence caused.

“I am also personally hurt if people thought I meant this.

“As someone who has visited the crematoria and gas chambers of Auschwitz I know the Holocaust was the most brutal act of genocide of the 20th Century and no-one should seek to underestimate its impact.”

Qureshi’s apology should draw a line under this, and rightly so. If there was no intention to cause offence or equate events in Gaza with the Holocaust I am happy to accept that. But it’s also a salutary reminder to MPs from all sides of the house – if you’re talking about hugely emotive topics, be careful with your metaphors, and don’t be sloppy with your language…

  • RogerMcC

    Depressing that the first thing to come to mind when reading this piece – with which no sane person should disagree – is Sir Humphrey’s ‘how very courageous minister’.

    But mention Israel and all rationality flies out of the window as we rehearse the same tired and utterly futile arguments for the hundredth time.

  • Pingback: Labour MP compares Gaza to the holocaust. Imagine if it had been a Lib Dem… | Digital Politico

  • ColinAdkins

    I agree. But the failure of western nations to hold Israel to account internationally is the vacuum which allows this type of misplaced comment to fester. Such comments do not help the Palestinian cause one iota because it allows apologists to describe critics of Israel as anti-semites (sub conscious or otherwise).

    • Owen_Morgan

      Well, it’s pretty easy to guess which type of anti-Semite Yasmin Qureshi is.

      • Socialismo

        Genuine question, can one be an Anti-Zionist without being an Anti-Semite?

        • DC Rooney

          Well it really depends. Zionism is a form of nationalism and it is possible to be anti-nationalism. For instance, Marxists could be anti-nationalism because they believe in the ‘brotherhood of man’ and so Zionism falls into the same category as, say, Russian or Polish nationalism. Indeed, prior to WW1 a large chunk of the anarchist movement was Jewish and because of their anarchism were anti-Zionism (or any other nationalism). However, if you have no problem with nationalism (oath of allegiance, national anthem and all) but do not like Zionism then you probably are anti-Semitic.

          The EU has stated in its guidance, however, that comparing Israel to the Nazis is always anti-Semitic.

        • sarah_13

          The only answer to that is to listen to the arguments made by the people who claim to be “anti-zionist” its fairly clear when you hear the arguments.

        • ColinAdkins

          Once you understand Zionism is not a homogenuous set of views then it is more a pointless exercise to try as you have to first explain what precisely you are anti. A large spectrum of Israeli opinion would describe themselves as Zionists probably spanning parts of the left to adherents of a greater Israel.
          I came to this conclusion many moons ago when Sunderland Poly tried to ban their J-Soc on the grounds that Zionism = racism. Anyway I would always prefer to be pro something which in this case is pro-Palestine.

    • gelert

      Why is it only Israel that has to be “called to account” ? We don’t see these loons bothering about any other conflict in the world.

      I’m still waiting for a BDS movement against China with regard to Tibet. A luvvie like Emma Thompson would be inspirational in that role.

      • RogerMcC

        Not that you’d care as you are only here to troll for Israel but there has been an active campaign to Free Tibet for many, many years and Emma Thompson along with other luvvies has actually done her bit for it.

        And there is an active campaign to boycott Chinese goods being developed:

      • sarah_13

        Or some of the other member countries of the Human Rights Council….. Even the most cursory glimpse or visit to many of these countries shows the dangerous hypocrisy that exists within the organisation and their disproportionate and prejudiced focus on Israel. Some other gems coming out of the human rights council are “defamation of religion” legislation suggestions, blasphemy laws…

      • ColinAdkins

        Because two wrongs don’t make a right. I used to work for the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the regime always tried to defend itself by saying but what about such and such a country.

        • gelert

          The Israelis don’t do that. However, people who defend them question why a certain segment of society is obsessed with Israel, often to the exclusion of all else.

          if you’re going to start calling Israel an apartheid country then it’s quite obvious where you are coming from.

          • ColinAdkins

            I didn’t and I won’t. Just stating my experience whilst working for the AAM. However Dennis Goldberg who was the only white trialist with Mandela would have no such inhibitions.
            I am though concerned about the apparent racism in the consitution which confers rights to return on the Jewish disapora largely from Russia and the States yet in negotiations seeks to deny Palestinian refugees the same right.
            All I am saying is that the Syrians may legitimately say we may be bad but the North Koreans are badder.
            I focus on this conflict because I have arrived at an opinion on who are the oppressors and who are the oppressed in this conflict. I am an internationalist and I believe that it is the source of conflict in the region (solve this and the region will enjoy a broader peace). Highlights the double standards of some Western Governments (e.g. nuclear escalation in Iran (a bad thing I agree) but who gave the bomb to Israel who gave the know how to apartheid SA). And through former Palestinian friends from university.

          • gelert

            Typical obsession with Israel to the exclusion of all else. Doesn’t it give you a warm self-satisfied glow ?

            The Arabs have been fighting one another since long before Israel appeared on the scene. If Israel disappeared it would make no difference.They’re a convenient scapegoat for those who demonise Israel, like you.

            Tell your Palestinian friends to start treating woman as equals, instead of little better than cattle. They could also ask Hamas when they will call the election in Gaza that is now four days overdue.

          • ColinAdkins

            No I get that when I sense anti-Arab racism or should I correctly say anti-semitism.
            My Palestinian friends were women. You tell some Orthodox Jews to stop treating women as cattle.

          • gelert

            There is no comparison between the status of women in Arab societies and women in any Jewish group. You are not correct in equating anti-Arab opinion with anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a term coined in 19C Germany to describe hatred of Jews. Yes, I know about Semitic peoples.

            Anyone who has spent time working in an Arab ME country soon acquires a realistic estimate of the Arab mentality in general and, in particular, towards women.

            There are different kinds of anti-Semites.

            There are the kind who are open in their hatred of Jews.

            There are the type who pretend to hate Zionists, not Jews. Usually they will say that some of their best friends are Jews.

            The there is your type. The type that appears to be so innocent and reasonable at first, then starts applying the usual double standards where Israel is concerned. Israel is expected to be perfect and the horrors of other societies are ignored. Snide reference to SA apartheid are common, as is the irrelevant statement that Arabs are Semites, too.

            I think most Jews would prefer the open Jew haters than cowards like you with your holier-than-thou comments that mask the same deep down hatred.

          • ColinAdkins

            I am willing to accept you are an anti-Arab racist (ethnic based generalisations which if applied to Jews would be considered anti-semitic) by your own comments.

          • gelert

            If you had spent time working in the ME you would not so lightly condemn me as racist. I speak of the terrible attitude to women and the brutality, physical and sexual, inflicted on them by men who had no need to fear any legal repercussions, even when the target of their savagery was a girl. Women are devoid of respect and value in the Arab world. It’s the truth and not racist. Your attempt to equate orthodox Jews with people like this is racist.

            If you want to hear real racism, as opposed to your refusal to acknowledge the truth, then ask some Arabs about how they feel about Jews, not just Israelis.

  • EricBC

    Calling for apologies which will not be heartfelt seems a pointless exercise. Could you perhaps tell us what you think such apologies achieve?

    • RogerMcC

      Must be great having your ability to open up windows into people’s souls and assess the quality of their repentance without the necessity of even meeting them…..

      This is a depressingly common trope on the left which is usually left unchallenged when it is dropped into a conversation either because it is shared – or because like myself you just can’t be arsed explaining the whole history of the holocaust and of the Arab-Israeli conflict to someone whose opinions are probably not subject to rational analysis anyway.

      But in this case as an MP she can expect a shitstorm from people pointing out the utter idiocy of her opinions in considerable detail.

      If she is an intelligent woman one really hopes that presented with arguments that this time won’t go away until she admits that she is wrong she might genuinely weigh up the evidence and truly agree that yes, perhaps one of these things is not like the other.

      • RogerMcC

        Or not…….

        • Hugh

          Interesting: first time I’ve seen someone given a down vote for admitting they were wrong. Never retreat, never surrender…

          • RogerMcC

            Votes on Israel/Palestine comments will be more about the Schmittian Freund/Feind divide any mention of Israel/Palestine instantly triggers than what any of us actually say….

          • sarah_13

            Eric BC is right. I’ve heard Ms Qureshi on a couple of news programmes and apart from her general incoherence what stands out is constant attacks on “zionists” , no real objectivity about the situation in gaza or the effect the Hamas “government” is having on the population, the islamist government etc. So I must agree, having heard similar arguments before from people with similar views in respect of gaza and Israel it strikes me that asking for an apology serves no purpose except to make the labour party feel better.

      • EricBC

        Your idiocy is thinking her idiocy will be changed by an apology.

        • RogerMcC

          The ‘or not’ comment below was my acknowledgement of that after I read the ‘apology’.

          You were right – I was wrong….

  • Dougie

    The world complains that Israel has ignored countless UNSC resolutions yet the world has done nothing to enforce them. The world complained that Saddam Hussein ignored several UNSC resolutions, the world did nothing, and then the world complained when George W Bush stepped in to enforce them.
    So, do we want UNSC resolutions enforced or not? Just askin …

  • DC Rooney

    The problem (or at least part of it) is the discussion about the issue on the left is rather one sided. For instance, there have been more UN resolutions against Israel than against all other countries combined since the foundation of the UN. While Israel no doubt commits human rights violations, this is out of all proportion with reality. There is also a tendency to report mad things Israelis say but to never include the mad things Palestinians say.

    • gelert

      We know the countries that move these resolutions and the lack of democracy in their countries. Many countries vote against Israel because of bribes with Arab money. It’s sort of like FIFA.

      • ColinAdkins

        Utter tosh. If I claimed the US tries to veto anti-Israeli motions was because they are funded by Israel I would be accused of being racist. I would also be wrong because Israel is one of the largest recipients of US aid.

        • gelert

          Rather tortuous analogy and false conclusions.

          Israel and the US have common interests in the ME.

          The countries at the UN who receive money, usually Saudi, to vote against Israel are not directly involved; although for some it is because they are Muslim.

          In a similar fashion, there are countries on the International Whaling Commission that take money from Japan in order to thwart whaling bans.

          • ColinAdkins

            Common interests. I know that to be true but please tell me what you think they are.

    • Socialismo

      Palestinians say mad things constantly, just like UKIP, but also like UKIP, they have no power.

      • DC Rooney

        But unlike UKIP they do not bomb the organisation they dislike. And while I don’t like UKIP they are hardly Hamas (an organisation both US and EU has cast as a terrorist organisation, and for good reason)

        • Socialismo

          No, but the IRA did, and when they did we tried them and imprisoned them like criminals – because that’s what they were. If a militant Ukipper were to bomb “Londonistan” as they, with no sense of irony, like to call it, I should expect the police to deal with as a crime.

          • treborc1

            Maybe so but in the end of course a deal was done and the IRA were killers were let out and some of the IRA leaders were given rolls in government.

          • RogerMcC


            Bit of a come down from the days when you’d get beer and sandwiches….

          • Steve Stubbs

            Just like Mandela

          • JoeDM

            “Like criminals”

            They were/are criminals !!!

    • ColinAdkins

      And despite the number of resoutions the international community has not acted. Human rights violations is not adequate enough to describe the illegal occupation of land (post 67 borders).

      • DC Rooney

        I think you rather missed my point. The international community tends to over-focus on Israel. That is not to say I support the settlements, but Israel is by no means the greatest violator of human rights since the foundation of the UN.

        I don’t really know what you mean by a lack of action by the international community. They have passed a rather lot of resolutions in the UN, and the Arab League and EU have given a considerable sum in aid to the Palestinians over the years. Even the UK (historically Zionist in inclination) has condemned the settlements (at least Labour did-possibly the Coalition is supportive?). What is international action if not that?

  • RogerMcC

    “These remarks were taken completely out of context. Yasmin
    Qureshi was not equating events in Gaza with the Holocaust. As an MP who
    has visited Auschwitz and has campaigned all her life against racism
    and anti-Semitism she would not do so.”

    What on earth does ‘allow the same to happen’ mean if not an equation of events?

    Do they think we are idiots who can’t read?

    • RogerMcC

      Evidently we are……

    • Peter Martin

      How do you manage to get 36 upvotes? Is this a record? Are you a very popular fellow or has your Mum rang around all the relatives?

      • RogerMcC

        My mum is an elderly working class Scottish lady who has no awareness of or interest in anything I might say on the internet – and if she did would probably disagree vociferously with me anyway….

        And why shouldn’t stating the bleeding obvious be popular? (as if 39 clicks on an up button signifies popularity…).

    • sarah_13

      Quite. I am astonished that Ms Quereshi is an mp. She must be the most incompetent, incoherent mp in the chamber. I would be interested to know what her constituents think of her. If she were my mp I would be fuming, as far as I can see her main interest is palestine.

  • franknowzad

    Socialists never apologise, they just get the BBC to cover up for them.

    • treborc1

      F*ck me mate socialist to day are people like Blair and Miliband it would take one hell of an imagination to attach socialism to these people, Conservatism maybe, socialism not a hope. Blue labour theme is not all conservatism is bad, and One Nation well look it up.

  • gelert

    Funny prison camp that has shopping malls, a 5 star hotel plus a rapidly expanding population. Gaza was part of Egypt. but they don’t want it. Who can blame them ?
    Rockets still being fired regularly into Israel.

    Anyone know when Hamas will call an election ? It was due in 2010, if I’m not mistaken.

    • Anon

      Agree with all of this, gelert. And we must remember that those in Gaza enjoy a greater life expectancy than those in Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, the list goes on…

      • RogerMcC

        Don’t forget Egypt.

        If they fully opened the Raphia Crossing there’d almost certainly be more people queuing to get in than to get out.

    • RogerMcC

      Factually Gaza was never annexed by Egypt – between 1948 and 1967 it was under a military government and had Egypt indeed claimed sovereignty and granted citizenship to its residents it might well be a very different place.

      As for elections these would be not for Gaza which no more exists in legal terms than ‘The West Bank’ but for the whole Palestinian Authority area – and neither Fatah or Hamas will agree to allow an election which might turf either (or one might dream both) out of power over the territory they won in the civil war that they fought after the last election.

      So one can’t really blame Hamas alone.

      And given that the Palestinian Assembly can’t actually meet anywhere due to Israeli travel restrictions and to some of its members actually being in Israeli jails the Israelis are hardly blameless either.

      Really did not want to get dragged into this……

      • sarah_13

        When are Hamas likely to have another election in Gaza, I can’t seem to find details on this, the last one being in 2007? Surely some semblance of democracy might be helpful, or is it because in a free and fair election, without the threat of violence, hamas would not win?

  • RogerMcC

    One really has to question the judgement of anyone who clearly and unambiguously makes a speech equating the Holocaust and Gaza without meaning to do so.

    Was her body possessed by some malicious spirit when she uttered those words?

    However that, I suppose, is it.

    No explanation of why she should have held such an opinion or what new information caused her to suddenly change her mind – just a denial that this was ever her opinion at all and a passive aggressive implication that anyone who actually read her words and took them to mean exactly what they said has hurt her personally.


    • gelert

      She’s been reading the Grauniad and watching the BBC.

  • P4TP

    Palestiean Children suffer different laws, they can be hooded and taken away from their homes, tried in military courts often in a language they do not understand!
    The Holocaust began with segregation then put into law, fueld by racial supremacy and enabled through propaganda – sound familiar? ‘We know to well that our freedom is in complete without the freedom of the palestiain people’ – Nelson Mandella. Gaza is not a Holocaust it is a par-tyde.

    • Anon

      I know that homosexuals suffer harrassment in Gaza and then have to flee to Israel for refuge. And I also know that Palestinian children are handed over to Palestinian authorities if they commit a crime. And I also know that Arabs enjoy more freedom in Israel than anywhere in the Middle East and climb to high positions in society, such as becoming judges, when in the Lebanon, Palestinians are not allowed to join professions including the law.

      • Socialismo

        When someone is acting like a tyrant, you improve nothing by pointing out the other tyrants.

  • Pingback: Qureshi under fire for equating Israel’s actions with the Holocaust | Engage

  • gelert

    She’s apologised. No doubt after some arm-twisting.

  • jason green

    But she has not apologised for her comments, she has only apologised for any offence caused. And I think, quite rightly so. She did not compare the full horror of the Holocaust with the plight of the people of Gaza. She compared specific injustices faced by Jews that are very comparable with those faced the people of Gaza. For that reason, she owes no-one an apology for her comments.

    • Steve Stubbs

      She is entitled to her opinions, and to voice them, no matter how ridiculous they are.

      But then again she is a female Labour MP, so presumably was selected for her gender, not her reasoniing abilities.

    • RogerMcC

      But those specific injustices are only comparable if you are utterly ignorant of both the history of the Warsaw Ghetto and of the Palestinians.

      Read some actual books – picking two at random from my bookshelves:

      ‘Words to Outlive Us: Eyewitness Accounts From the Warsaw Ghetto’ edited by Michael Grynberg.

      ‘In the Warsaw Ghetto Summer 1941: Photographs by Willi Georg with passages from Warsaw Ghetto Diaries’

      I’ll even give you the amazon links:

      Or if that is too much of a challenge how about watching some films – off the top of my head I can name at least four which depict the horrors of the ghetto:

      The Pianist,
      A Film Unfinished.

      Then come back and tell us with a straight face how ‘very comparable’ life (which for almost every inhabitant ended in a horrible death) in the Ghetto was to life in Gaza.

      • jason green

        The only thing I need to come back and tell you is that you need to reappraise your comprehension of the word “specific”.

        • Hugh

          One of the specific injustices she mentioned – and the one immediately preceding her comparison with modern day Gaza – was that “of course, many millions perished”.

          No reappraisal necessary, I would have said.

          • jason green

            As even you, yourself say, that preceded any specific comparisons made.

          • Hugh

            No, it was what she was comparing modern day Gaza to.

        • RogerMcC

          That is precisely what I am asking you to do.

          Here’s the three ‘specific’ injustices your heroine thinks – or now it appears didn’t think at all but still somehow inexplicably managed to say – applied to both the Warsaw Ghetto and to Gaza:

          ‘Their properties, homes and land – everything – were taken

          ‘and they were deprived of rights.

          ‘Of course, many millions perished’.

          So go on: tell us how these three specific injustices – deprivation of property, of rights and of life itself – were manifested in firstly the Warsaw Ghetto from 1940-43 and secondly in Gaza today:

          Do Gazans own nothing at all because the Israelis have taken everything from them down to the last gold tooth pulled from their murdered corpses?

          Have Gazans been deprived of each and every human right by the Israelis (despite those Israelis having withdrawn from the Strip in 2005 leaving its inhabitants under the actual rule of first Fatah and then Hamas)?

          Are the Gazans nearly all dead?

          Because surely that is what your ‘very comparable’ would require you to prove.

          • Socialismo

            If I steal all of your money and you steal most of someone else’s, who is guilty of theft?

            One need not suffer the same loss to have suffered a comparable loss.

          • RogerMcC

            So if I take everything from you and kill you, your family and everyone you ever known but you steal some money from me then surely because we’ve both had something taken from us our losses are very comparable?

            And she doesn’t actually say comparable she says the very same.

            Because that is the different orders of magnitude the two losses represent.

          • Socialismo

            I’d like neither to happen to me as both are horrific and deplorable.

            However, to test your supposition, had she said

            “It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same sort of thing to happen in Gaza.”

            Would you still object?

          • RogerMcC

            a) She didn’t.

            b) Even if she had of course I would still object.

            The monstrous difference in orders of magnitude – in this context above all people starved, shot, gassed and beaten to death – is my problem.

            Had she omitted the ‘of course many people perished’ then that would have at least established that she was talking about some discrete elements of the Holocaust – the expropriation of property and deprivation of rights – which can indeed be compared to other cases of state plunder and discrimination including the Palestinian Nakba.

            But that would still be dubious as we all know that while for many (but not all) Palestinians the Nakba ended with the loss of homes, property and rights (such as they were under British colonial rule) for the Jews that was just the beginning of a continent-wide process of mass extermination and that this and not the theft and discrimination is what makes the Holocaust the Holocaust.

            It also draws the monstrous analogy between Jews and Nazis which is to my mind utterly unforgivable.

            But if you can’t see that there is no point arguing with you.

          • Socialismo

            Perhaps there is no point arguing with me, but I’m not arguing, I’m discussing — and I’m pretty confused as to why any discussion of human barbarism has to axiomatically accept that all of the atrocities in human history pale in significance when compared to the holocaust.

            If you put absolute stall on scale, who cares about the holocaust, why not just focus on the inhumanity and 40,000,000+ person death count of slavery?

            But that’s not how it works. Every egregious act is egregious in its own way and to its own magnitude, and comparison is generally, as in this case, justifiable.

            With that said, I’d still say that her emphasis of “Their properties, homes and land – everything – were taken away, and they were deprived of rights.” clearly states the parallels between the situations.

          • RogerMcC

            I’ve spent the last week or so reading histories of the American Civil War and Reconstruction so am all too aware of the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade (but 40 million is a massive overstatement of the death toll even if you count every war in the interior of Africa that resulted in any enslavements at all).

          • Doug Smith

            So it isn’t Israel that is to blame for shifting “further and further to the right”?

            That simply won’t wash. A quick look at Ariel Sharon’s record will show how Israel has been misled into the self-administration of problematic destabilisation.

          • RogerMcC

            It is absolutely their responsibility in that like Israel’s beleaguered and ever-dwindling real Left they can theoretically ignore the siren calls of their right wing and vote for peace.

            But there is nothing like enjoying global pariah status (without this having any real consequences for most ordinary Israelis as there is no effective boycott of Israel) to bind an actually deeply fractured society together.

            But obviously offering them all a big hug isn’t going to change hearts and minds either.

            Here more than anywhere Max Planck’s dictum that civilisation only advances one funeral at a time may hold true.

          • jason green

            Again, where was the specific comparison with Warsaw ghetto Jews? And as I said, an understanding of comprehension would have informed you that as it was a full stop and not a semi colon that separated the two statements, they are self evidently independent of each other.

          • RogerMcC

            a) The Ghetto comes into it as an element of the Holocaust which is commonly compared to the Gazan experience as an element of the Palestinians suffering.

            If as Ms Qureishi does you compare the totality of the holocaust and its every killing field to just Gaza then your case is more rather than less absurd.

            b) If punctuation is the only straw you have left to clutch at firstly this is reported speech so it is not even her punctuation. Secondly what possible subject can the statement ‘the same’ point too if not the list of wrongs in the previous two sentences?

          • jason green

            Commonly compared by who? Obviously not Ms Qureshi. And any sensible comparison would only compare elements of the Warsaw Jews suffering, And any sensible reading of such comments would recognise this.

            Again, where does Ms Qureshi compare the totality of the Holocaust with the plight of the Gazans?

            There is only one sentence in which she made the comparisons. During the Holocaust, many Jews had ‘their properties, homes and land – everything – taken away, and they were deprived of rights.’ Do you deny that the very same injustices have been, and continue to be, meted out to Gazans?

          • RogerMcC

            “What has struck me in all this is that the state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land – everything – were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished. It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.”

            (note that there is no break in the original text as there is in Mark’s quote above).

            If you cannot see that this passage directly compares what happened to the Jews to what is happening in Gaza then there is no arguing with you.

            And yes if she had only stated that some things specifically not including genocide and millions perishing that happened to Jews in the Holocaust had happened also to Palestinians her statement would have been considerably less foolish.

            But she didn’t.

          • jason green

            I believe that you are wilfully and deliberately misreading and misinterpreting Ms Qureshi comments. Anyone reading your comments would have to come to the same conclusion, and infer the one and only reason for you to do so. Her saying that “of course, many millions perished” is, as I read it, a distinction. Of course you would like to infer that she is claiming that the Israelis have killed millions of Gazans.

          • RogerMcC

            We are at an impasse here because you can not accept that anyone should have to apologise for comparing Israel to the Nazis (even when they actually do apologise at least after a fashion) and so will read her embarrassingly incoherent stream of consciousness accordingly.

            Even if you accept that ‘many millions perished’ is intended however ineptly as an qualification this really amounts to ‘so Mrs Lincoln – apart from the assassination was the play really as mediocre as the reviews say?’

            Jews have been robbed, enslaved, discriminated against and subjected to local pogroms for most of their recorded history.

            What makes the Holocaust different from the rest of that dismal history is not the robbery and discrimination but the extermination of millions

            To imagine even with actual explicit qualifications (as opposed to a possible and implicit one) that you can separate what was merely the Germans warming up for their real work from the whole totality of the Holocaust shows an embarrassing lack of both historical imagination and cultural empathy.

            If you really wish to advance her incoherence as a defence you’d be better off focusing on her apparent statement that actually it is not the Jews at all who are perpetrating these crimes in Gaza but that they ‘allow’ bad things to happen there.

            So in her eyes are the real perpetrators of these Holocaust-like crimes Hamas and is she implicitly advocating that Israel should reoccupy Gaza to restore the property and rights of the Palestinians?

            I imagine not – but with a speech as hopelessly muddled as this one that is every bit as valid an interpretation of that last sentence as yours is of the preceding one.

            There should be just one rule in politics – unless you are actually talking about the Holocaust itself don’t ever mention the Holocaust.

  • Socialismo

    I’m not Muslim or Arab. And I’m happy to point at the swathe of horrific sexist and bigoted acts across the Muslim world, but I see no problems in comparing the scale of suffering between Palestine and the Holocaust.

    The Gazan Palestinians are beholden to a foreign Government and periodically attacked whilst being systematically prevented from accessing building materials to repair the damage.

    The Gazans have disproportionately suffered the killing of children.

    The Gazans have been subjected to the illegal use of weapon (e.g. White Phosphorus)

    The Holocaust was vile, dehumanising and unforgivable, but its horrific death toll belies its 7 year duration.

    The relatively (and mercifully) small directly attributable death toll of the Gazan Occupation, on the other hand, belies its 27 year history as a “Non-Country” where its population has few exercisable rights, has been subjected the destruction of homes, property and means of trade and has been subjected to periodic military collective punishment.

    I’m actually more bothered by the retraction than the comment — and for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think this is not a Jewish problem, I think this is an Israeli one.

    • RogerMcC

      How can duration belie anything?

      And if as I suspect you are arguing that a long period of history where a people are somewhat oppressed but not very many actually got killed is worse than the Holocaust because it didn’t really take long for the Germans to kill all those Jews that may well be the the stupidest thing I’ve heard in 30-odd grim years of arguing about this subject.

      And given that you think duration is so very important where you get 7 years and 27 years from?

      The Holocaust is generally dated by historians from the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 (prior to which Jews were segregated, discriminated against, plundered and subjected to local massacres but not exterminated en masse as part of a planned final solution) to the fall of the Third Reich in 1945 – so that’s 4 years.

      Presumably you are counting from Kristallnacht but the Nazi persecution of the Jews started 5 years before that from their very first days in power.

      As for Gaza it has been un-occupied territory in a peculiar limbo-state (given that it isn’t even effectively part of the Palestinian Authority) for 8 years now.

      Prior to that it was militarily occupied by Israel for 38 years and then by Egypt for 19 years (and before that by Britain for 31 years and the Ottoman Empire for 400 years – and one could go on 2,500 more through Mamelukes, Ayubids and the rest all the way back to the days of King Saul and the Philistines before you can talk about it as an independent state).

      Anyway enough is enough….

      • Socialismo

        I take 7 years from Kristallnacht indeed, prior to that it was pernicious and racist but there was a fundamental progression at Kristallnacht from largely descrimatory behaviour, itself not unlike the treatment of Blacks in most of European held Africa and even some southern US states to sustained and systematic violence.

        I take 27 years from the first intifada which again seems to me to be a pronounced shift, albeit a less horrific (by degrees, however “gassed or bombed” is hardly a welcome choice) one. I could happily have taken it from 1967 or even 1948, but I felt that 27 years was a) uncontroversial and b) generous to the Israelis.

        Finally there is nothing “Unoccupied” about Gaza. Try crossing Rafah or Sailing to the coastal territory and you realise very quickly exactly who maintains border control.

        I am not saying that one is equal to the other, they are quite different, but as documented large scale examples of Human Cruelty, they are alongside slavery, the Colonisation of America, the Apartheid in South Africa and a plethora of other horrific incidents, examples of the worst that humankind has to offer.

        • RogerMcC

          Gaza was occupied when Israeli troops and police roamed every street and every important decision was taken by Israeli officials.

          That ceased to be the case in September 2005 since when the primary direct oppressor of the Gazan people has been first Fatah and then Hamas.

          Of course Israel controls the borders but if the analogy is with a prison it is one where the only guards are outside and the prisoners have been abandoned to run their own affairs (which is not as unusual as its sounds – British Imperial penal colonies, much of the Soviet gulag system and some large American and Carribean slave plantations operated in a similar manner)

          And if you count the first and second Intifadas as periods of increased oppression – which of course they were – then you really have to take out the long period between when Palestinians were not being daily shot down in the street or blowing themselves up in pizza parlours.

          The problem is applying analogies at all – the situation of Gaza is historically pretty much sui generis and should be treated as such without dragging in irrelevant historical baggage.

        • David Sigeti

          Socialismo wrote:

          “Try crossing Rafah or Sailing to the coastal territory and you realise very quickly exactly who maintains border control.”

          What a deranged comment. The Rafah crossing is controlled by Egypt and the Hamas regime in Gaza. Israel has nothing to do with it. You cannot make this stuff up.

        • David Sigeti

          The fact that Israel controls its own border with Gaza, as of course the Hamas regime does too, does not imply that Israel “occupies” Gaza, anymore than it implies that Gaza occupies Israel. If controlling your border with another country implies that you “occupy” it, then every non-island country in the world is occupying all of its neighbors and, of course, its neighbors are occupying it. What nonsense.

          As for the naval blockade that Israel maintains on Gaza to prevent the importing of large amounts of heavy arms (like the rockets that Hamas has used to fire deep into Israel), if maintaining a naval blockade means that you are “occupying” a country, then Britain “occupied” Germany for the entire duration of the first world war. Again, nonsense.

          This “Israel still occupies Gaza” meme is a sure give-away that the person propagating the meme has gone completely around the bend. It is this bizarre irrationality that makes the obsessive Israel-bashers so similar to the antisemites of the first half of the twentieth century. Their thinking has become so completely disconnected from reality that they can pretty much convince themselves of just about anything, no matter how vicious. There is literally nothing Israel can do that will make a dent in such willfully blind hatred.

          • RogerMcC

            This is utterly disingenuous.

            The border crossings into Gaza are not like those which divide two equally sovereign nations where the default assumption is that anyone can cross who has a valid passport (and visa if required).

            Israel has by treaty rights to dictate who and what can enter and exit Gaza even through the Egyptian crossing at Rafah and exercises those rights extremely restrictively.

            As we have seen Israel will even take violent action to prevent ships reaching port in Gaza without its permission.

            Israel also considers itself entitled to intervene militarily in Gaza whenever its security is threatened and has lobbed 155mm artillery shells by the thousand into Gaza (although surprisingly few of these actually kill anyone) in retaliation for rocket attacks (which unlike Israeli precision guided munitions are so inaccurate that they also rarely kill anyone even when aimed at population centres).

            It is indeed true that no Israeli soldiers or police have patrolled the streets of Gaza since 2005 and that in that sense there is no occupation.

            However that does not mean that Gaza is in any meaningful sense a sovereign state (least of all from the POV of Israel) – rather it is a large native reservation whose borders are effectively sealed by a dominant power which alone decides who or what can enter and leave.

            There are rational reasons why this is so and arguments can be made that as long as Gaza remains run by a vicious Islamist faction so it must remain – but it is deceitful to pretend that this is in any sense a normal situation or that the only people who might consider it an unnatural and unfortunate state of affairs are irrational anti-semites.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “The border crossings into Gaza are not like those which divide two equally sovereign nations where the default
            assumption is that anyone can cross who has a valid passport (and visa if required).”

            This is complete fiction. There is no “default assumption” about who can enter a country of which they are not a citizen. The only “default assumption” is that a sovereign state has the right to determine who enters its borders.

            “Israel has by treaty rights to dictate who and what can enter and exit Gaza even through the Egyptian crossing at Rafah and exercises those rights extremely restrictively.”

            More fiction. Israel has absolutely no control over who enters or leaves Gaza via the Rafah crossing. Please try to stay in touch with reality.

          • RogerMcC

            There are agreements between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority which define how these border crossings operate.

            Even after the Israeli withdrawal it was for a lengthy period able to control whether Egypt opened its crossing by simply refusing to let the requisite EU observers required by the agreement into Gaza through their crossing.

            It has also been able by diplomatic pressure to force Egypt to close Rafah altogether on an intermittent basis and between 2005 and 2010 only 8% of those wishing to enter or exit were allowed through.

            Only since June 2010 has Egypt opened the crossing most days for holders of PA passports and daily crossing volumes are indeed now much higher.

            But more to the point while Gaza had a perfectly good airport no planes may land there and while it has a port you really do not want to try and sail your boat into it.

            But if your definition of normality is a country whose citizens may normally only enter or leave via one crossing point on land and when they do leave can actually not visit the rest of their country (i.e the West Bank) without major bureaucratic hurdles then you are welcome to it.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “There are agreements between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority which define how these border crossings operate.”

            There is no currently operative agreement to which Israel is party that has any effect on the operation of the Rafah crossing. This has been true beyond a shadow of a doubt since Hamas, which was never party to any such agreement, staged a coup and took over Gaza in June 2007. At that point, everyone agreed that the previous agreements that had governed the operation of the crossing were no longer in force. Since that time, the crossing has been operated when and only when Hamas and Egypt agree that it will be and Israel has no say in the matter.

            “It [Israel] has also been able by diplomatic pressure to force Egypt to close Rafah altogether on an intermittent basis and between 2005 and 2010 only 8% of those wishing to enter or exit were allowed through.”

            Israel is not able to “force” the sovereign state of Egypt to do anything, and certainly not with “diplomatic pressure”. This is starting to sound like the usual bizarre exaggerations of “Jewish power”.

            “But more to the point while Gaza had a perfectly good airport no planes may land there and while it has a port you really do not want to try and sail your boat into it.”

            Gaza does not have a “port” – it has a yacht harbor. That harbor is not large enough to accommodate even the Mavi Marmara and some other smaller vessels that have been in the various “Gaza flotillas”.

            As we discussed above, Israel maintains a naval blockade of Gaza. In addition, it controls Gaza’s airspace. Obviously, given that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which refuses to accept the existence of the state of Israel, considers every Jew in Israel a legitimate target for murder, repeatedly launches rocket attacks on the population of southern Israel, and advocates genocide in its charter, Israel is not going to allow the importation of heavy arms into Gaza if it is able to prevent it. This is entirely within Israel’s rights and if the Israeli government did not do everything that it could to prevent such importation, it would be criminally delinquent in its duty to protect its citizens.

            “But if your definition of normality is a country whose citizens may normally only enter or leave via one crossing point on land and when they do leave can actually not visit the rest of their country (i.e the West Bank) without major bureaucratic hurdles then you are welcome to it.”

            As I wrote above, I would certainly not describe the situation of Gaza as “normal”. Why RogerMcC keeps implying that I do is beyond me.

          • RogerMcC

            Our disagreement is not primarily factual – neither of us regard Gaza as ‘occupied’ by Israel.

            For me the problem is one of tone more than content.

            Confronted with a commenter who is wrong about Gaza (but does actually make some attempt to engage with counter-arguments in his other comments) you immediately resort to a blanket mass ad hominem attack:

            ‘This “Israel still occupies Gaza” meme is a sure give-away that the person propagating the meme has gone completely around the bend. It is this bizarre irrationality that makes the obsessive Israel-bashers so similar to the antisemites of the first half of the twentieth century. Their thinking has become so completely disconnected from reality that they can pretty much convince themselves of just about anything, no
            matter how vicious. There is literally nothing Israel can do that will make a dent in such willfully blind hatred’.

            Now that is literally true of all too many self-appointed enemies of Israel.

            But labourlist’s purpose is not to facilitate the prosecution of feuds and the exchange of insults however much pleasure they may give us.

            It is at least intended to be a community of Labour Party members and supporters who ultimately share a common purpose and who can debate amongst ourselves.

            And not being a left micro-sect many Labour members have very strong opinions on Israel and disagree profoundly with each other.

            But unless someone is clearly trolling, here at least their opinions however wrong deserve to be answered on a factual point-by-point basis without questioning their sanity and motives.

            (I regularly fail at that myself but at least am aware that I do so).

            And specifically having rechecked the facts I accept that my understanding of the operation of the Rafah crossing is out of date – that agreements that were in operation when I last took a close interest have fallen into abeyance – and that consequently Palestinians in Gaza have had more freedom of movement since mid-2010 than they enjoyed over the whole previous 62 years (including the 19 year period of Egyptian military administration from 1948-67).

            Nevertheless we both know that should Egypt’s operation of that crossing seriously threaten Israel’s security that border would be closed even if took a military and diplomatic crisis to achieve it.

            Anyway before I die I would love to participate in just one ‘debate’ about Israel/Palestine which did not instantly descend into boilerplate rhetoric, ludicrous historical analogies, absurd hyperbole and ad hominem attacks….

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC, I understand where you are coming from. I, too, used to be much less confrontational in answering attacks on Israel. However, in the last several years, I have more-or-less taken the gloves off. The fact is that, for a long time, a large fraction of the rational defenders of Israel have consistently failed to call antisemitism what it is. This consistent failure has allowed the other side to become more and more deranged in its arguments and to adopt more and more of the ideas, themes, and tropes of classical antisemitism. More importantly, these ideas, themes, and tropes have come to be accepted as reasonable in broader circles than just the obsessive Israel-haters, especially in Europe. That this has happened is not surprising — failure to call out irrational bigotry (or any kind of irrationalism, really) is almost guaranteed to result in it growing, and will certainly result in it being treated as reasonable opinion. Seriously, what do you think is gained by failing to call irrational bigotry by its name?

            You, yourself, do an excellent job of countering many of the gross falsehoods and bigoted judgements of the Israel-haters. Certainly, you should not change your careful analysis and attention to the facts. But debating with bigots without calling them out for what they are runs the risk of legitimizing them — simply by engaging with them as rational interlocutors you create the impression that their lies and bigoted judgements are if not correct then at least worthy of consideration. The solution, of course, is to combine factual refutation and argument with a clear statement of the bigoted character of the position that you are attacking.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC, thanks for acknowledging the situation with the Rafah crossing. A couple of factual points:

            The period in the last 65 years when the Gazans enjoyed the most freedom of movement was during the first twenty years or so of the Israeli occupation. Immediately after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, the inhabitants of the occupied territories were free to enter Israel and the other territories. Initially, they were prohibited from staying in Israel overnight but this limitation was removed within a couple of years. This situation continued until the outbreak of the first intefadeh in the late eighties. All the security fences, legal restrictions on movement, and checkpoints are the product of the violence that has characterized the situation for the last twenty-five years, not of the occupation as such.

            In addition, the inhabitants of the territories were able to travel internationally during the first twenty years of the occupation. I am not certain what the exact situation was but it was certainly better for the Gazans than under the Egyptians, when they were completely confined to the Strip, and probably better than currently, given the frequent closing of Rafah by the Egyptians.

            You wrote that:

            “Nevertheless we both know that should Egypt’s operation of that crossing seriously threaten Israel’s security that border would be closed even if took a military and diplomatic crisis to achieve it.”

            In referring to Israel closing the border, I presume that you mean by reoccupation of a strip of Gaza along the border (the so-called Philadelphia Corridor).

            Actually, Israel has tolerated a great deal of activity on the Gaza-Egypt border that seriously threatened its security without ever considering reoccupation of the corridor. All the longer-range rockets that Hamas used to expand the Israeli population within range of their fire from several tens of thousands to more than a million came into Gaza through the border. There was clearly some level of Egyptian tolerance for this weapons smuggling, as the military regime that took power in Egypt last June seems to have been able to pretty much completely cut it off.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “Anyway before I die I would love to participate in just one ‘debate’ about Israel/Palestine which did not instantly descend into boilerplate rhetoric, ludicrous historical analogies, absurd hyperbole and ad hominem attacks….”

            Roger, I think that you need to recognize that the conflict between the Arab/Muslim world and Israel is a war. It is not necessarily raging full blast at any given time, but the Arab/Muslim world simply does not (with certain notable exceptions, like many Turks and Indonesians) recognize the right of the Jewish people of Israel to national self-determination or even the right to live in Israel at all. There is no way that you can expect calm debate when one side has a position like this. And the only way that someone can defend the side with such a position in the liberal democracies is to invent all sorts of lies about the other side and to apply all sorts of bizarre double-standards to them.

            This is not to say that everything that Israel has ever done has been reasonable, or that there are not extremists on the Israeli side or people who resort to “boilerplate rhetoric, ludicrous historical analogies, absurd hyperbole and ad hominem attacks.” But the conflict is existential (for the Israelis) because that is how the Arab/Muslim world wants it. This pretty much guarantees that debate will be anything but calm and polite.

          • David Sigeti


            I wrote a number of responses to your comment above but they seem to have been posted at the highest level rather than under this thread. As I am having considerable trouble with the posting mechanism I would prefer to leave them where they are and just alert you here to their presence. Don’t worry, they continue in the spirit of less-adversarial discussion that we have both now adopted.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “As we have seen Israel will even take violent action to prevent ships reaching port in Gaza without its permission.”

            Presumably, this is a reference to the Mavi Marmara incident. The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish vessel that was part of a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. In order to understand the incident, it is helpful to know something about the status of naval blockades under international law. If you have any questions about what I write below, just check the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea on the web site of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The manual is the most authoritative source on the topic it addresses.

            Israel is maintaining a naval blockade of Gaza in order to prevent the importing of large amounts of heavy arms, like the longer-range rockets that Hamas has periodically used to bombard 1,000,000 inhabitants of southern and central Israel. This blockade is entirely legal, as the United Nations’ Palmer Commission conclusively showed.

            The navy of a state maintaining a naval blockade has the right (by some interpretations, the duty) to board and inspect any merchant vessel that it suspects is attempting to break the blockade. Such merchant vessels are required to permit such boarding and inspection. A merchant vessel that is found to be attempting to break a blockade is subject to confiscation. In addition, the navy is entitled to take any steps that are necessary to prevent a merchant vessel from breaking the blockade, up to and including sinking the ship, although they are, of course, required to use the minimal force necessary to prevent violation of the blockade.

            Prior to the Mavi Marmara incident, multiple flotillas had openly attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In all of these cases, the Israeli navy had taken command of the vessels and piloted them to Israel, where the vessels, passengers, and crews were released in short order, in spite of the right that Israel had to confiscate the vessels. Although the crews of the vessels generally refused to allow the Israelis to board and the crews and passengers generally resisted the boarding (non-violently) no one was killed in any of these incidents and I do not believe that anyone was even seriously injured. The same was true of all the other ships in the same flotilla with the Mavi Marmara.

            In the case of the Mavi Marmara, Islamists took control of the upper decks of the ship and violently ambushed the Israeli naval commandos when they attempted to board, in spite of the promises by the organizers of the flotilla to the Israelis that the Israelis would meet only non-violent resistance. Video of the fighting released within a few hours of the incident showed Islamists furiously beating commandos who had fallen to the deck with wooden and metal clubs and throwing one barely conscious commando overboard. Videos taken by the Islamists themselves before the boarding showed them sawing off pieces of the ship’s railing to use as clubs. In addition, in interviews with Al-Jazeera (an Arabic-language television network that sympathizes with Islamists) broadcast before the incident, the Islamists described their intention to attack the Israelis and their desire for martyrdom and chanted the genocidal “Khaybar” chant that Muslim extremists use to threaten Jews.

            The commandos were originally holding only paint-ball rifles, as they only expected to need to use crowd-control measures. Once several of their number had been severely injured and several abducted (and, according to tapes of the Israeli communications, they had begun to take live fire), the commandos began to use the handguns that they had strapped to their shins. In the ensuing fight, nine Islamists were killed, all by Israeli fire. Although multiple commandos were seriously injured, all survived. The only flotilla passengers killed or injured were Islamists who participated in the attacks on the commandos.

            So, the only “violent action” that Israel has taken against ships attempting to break its blockade of Gaza was clearly taken in self-defense against a violent ambush on Israeli forces when they attempted to board the Mavi Marmara, a boarding that was completely legal and with which the crew and passengers were legally required to comply.

          • RogerMcC

            I perfectly understand and will even defend the rationale for Israel maintaining an effective sea, air and land blockade of Gaza as long as it is ruled by a terrorist organisation which refuses to accept the very agreements under which Gaza was given self-government.

            I was only pointing out that although this might seem quite unexceptional to a citizen of say North Korea, for most of the people who might find themselves reading labourlist living in such a state of partial blockade is not normal and that regarding it as an unfortunate situation to live under does not require you to be a hate-filled, anti-semitic loon (although of course many such people exist and are drawn like flies to comments threads like this one).

            And if you read my other comments they attack strongly Ms Qureshi and take issue with several other anti-Israeli statements which I regard as inaccurate.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC, I understand that you support Israel’s right to defend itself and that you have taken a lot of heat from people who are genuine Israel-haters. I have, in fact, appreciated many of the posts that you have written on this article.

            However, your responses to my posts have included many very inaccurate statements. I have responded to them in ways that I believe are appropriate, based on how reasonable (even if incorrect) any given statement was. Some of your statements have not been reasonable at all.

            As to Socialismo, to whom I was originally responding, he might reasonably be described as “a hate-filled, anti-semitic loon” and he is certainly not merely characterizing the situation as “unfortunate” or not “normal”. Obviously, not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic. But demonizing Israel with vicious lies certainly is antisemitic and that is what Socialismo was doing.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “Israel also considers itself entitled to intervene militarily in Gaza whenever its security is threatened and has lobbed 155mm artillery shells by the thousand into Gaza (although surprisingly few of these actually kill anyone) in retaliation for rocket attacks (which unlike Israeli precision guided munitions are so inaccurate that they also rarely kill anyone even when aimed at population centres).”

            Every sovereign state is entitled to defend itself when attacked. This includes the right to retaliate against attacks. So Israel does not consider itself to have any special “entitlement” that does not apply to every sovereign state. Phrasing the situation as if Israel was doing something that a sovereign state is not allowed to do, while admitting that it is retaliating against attacks from Gaza, is just weird.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “However that does not mean that Gaza is in any meaningful sense a sovereign state (least of all from the POV of Israel) – rather it is a large native reservation whose borders are effectively sealed by a dominant power which alone decides who or what can enter and leave.”

            No one here is claiming that Gaza is a sovereign state, although, frankly, I think that it would be entitled to that status if the Hamas government chose to claim it.

            As I have repeatedly pointed out, Israel does not control Gaza’s borders, as Gaza shares a border with Egypt over which Israel can exert no control. And, in any case, Gaza’s borders are certainly not “sealed” as Gaza imports about 20,000 metric tons of goods by truck through the crossings into Israel every week, not to mention the large amounts of fuel that are pumped in from Israel and the electricity and water that also comes from Israel. Moreover, many thousands of Gazans travel to Israel every year, mostly for advanced medical treatment or to accompany such patients.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “…it is deceitful to pretend that this is in any sense a normal situation or that the only people who might consider it an unnatural and unfortunate state of affairs are irrational anti-semites.”

            I never said that the situation with Gaza is “normal” so I certainly camnot be being “deceitful” by “pretending” that it is. Nor would I dispute that the situation is “unfortunate” (to say the least). And, yes, that includes for the Gazans as well as the Israelis. But telling vicious lies about the situation (as Israel’s enemies do constantly) certainly is antisemitic. I am not saying that this is true of RogerMcC, as he at least has the sense to repudiate the bizarre idea that “Israel is still occupying Gaza”, but it certainly is true of Socialismo, to whom I was originally replying.

    • DC Rooney

      This rather assumes that the Israelis are blockading (they are no longer occupying) Gaza due to racial prejudice. This is untrue. The barrier was erected only after Israel came to believe that it was under attack by Hamas. While we can argue as to the proportionality or validity of the Israeli response, to equate it with the Holocaust is to give the blockade a meaning it just simply lacks.

      • Socialismo

        I think the only basis for the ejection of Arabs from Mandatory Palestine was racial prejudice.

        I believe the phrase was “A Jewish state for a Jewish People” — How many would defend the BNP’s “British State for an Anglo-Saxon People”?

    • David Sigeti

      There has been no “illegal use of weapons” (by the Israelis, that is) in Gaza. In the case of white phosphorus, the shells that held it were not even weapons, they were smoke bombs. And using them in the way that the Israelis did, to cover the movements of their troops, is perfectly legal.

    • David Sigeti

      Comparisons of the Israelis to the Nazis are pure sadistic antisemitic taunting. The give away is that no one ever makes similarly lunatically exaggerated comparisons of the Israelis to any other group of notorious murderers, like the Japanese fascists, or the Mongols, or Stalin. Just to the Nazis. Ugh.

    • David Sigeti

      Socialismo wrote:

      “I don’t think this is a Jewish problem, I think this is an Israeli one.”

      Sorry, but it you are demonizing an entire nation with insanely exaggerated comparisons to the Nazis, then you are bigoted against the people of that nation. If 70% of the people of that nation are Jews, constituting 41% of the Jewish people, then you are an anti-Jewish bigot, that is, an antisemite. There is no getting around it.

    • David Sigeti

      Socialismo wrote:

      “its population … has been subjected the destruction of homes, property and means of trade, health provision, educational establishments and has been subjected to periodic military collective punishment.”

      And so, of course, has the population of southern Israel, which has been subjected to something like 8,000 rocket attacks from Gaza since the Israelis pulled out of Gaza in 2005. And every one of the rocket attacks has been an unambiguous war crime, since they have no military purpose and their only purpose it to kill, maim, and terrorize the Israeli population.

      Israeli attacks on Gaza on the other hand are targeting combatants. This is apparent if one simply looks at the demographics of the Gazan casualties. In Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009, for example, according to the Palestinians own figures, 75% of the dead were males over the age of 16. Males over the age of 16 constitute only 25% of the population of Gaza, but they are, of course, the vast majority of the combatants. So it is clear that the Israelis are overwhelmingly targeting combatants.

      In light of the above, it is clear that the population of Gaza is not “subjected to periodic military collective punishment.” Rather, they are subject to the fortunes of war, a war that they began and maintain by their incessant bombardment of the population of southern Israel.

  • DC Rooney

    ‘I am also personally hurt if people thought I meant that’

    Imagine people hearing what she said rather than what she meant. Shocking.

    • Socialismo

      Auschwitz was horrible, but there’s nothing wrong with comparing two deplorable acts.

  • Pingback: The situation in Gaza is bad but to compare it to the Holocaust is grotesque. Yasmin Qureshi is right to have apologised | OzHouse

  • Daniel Speight

    The problem we have with any mention of the Israel-Palestine situation is that what looks like an organized attack on the supposed transgressor kicks in. The charges of antisemitism fly and in this case it’s against what I take is a Labour Muslim MP. There is something rather unsavoury about this lynch mob reaction. The ‘like’ votes for RogerMcC comment looks very similar to the times we have seen large votes in favour of BNP or similar comments and also when Shapp’s bot is let loose.

    There should be opportunity for grown-up discussions on the middle-east conflict without this braying defense of Israel. And just in case I am now the target of it, my position is I support a two state solution and I also support a Zionist Jewish state in Palestine, but not a Zionism as preached by Netanyahu or his father.

    • Hugh

      Why does the criticism of what she said look more “organized” to you than any other criticism of an MP’s comments; what exactly is it about the like votes for RogerMcC comment that give them a racist flavour exactly; and where on this thread is the support for Israel “braying”?

      • Daniel Speight

        Hugh it’s mainly the amount of up votes that gives the game away in my view. It’s abnormally high for LL which is something we see when the far right jump on an anti-immigrant comment, or when we see what looks like an organized Tory vote in support of a comment. I can’t think of other times we get to see it.

        Braying? Well maybe Sarah_13 will serve as an example in this case.

        Quite. I am astonished that Ms Qureshi is an mp. She must be the most incompetent, incoherent mp in the chamber. I would be interested to know what her constituents think of her. If she were my mp I would be fuming, as far as I can see her main interest is palestine.

        The danger is when we see it hurt Labour’s electoral prospects as in the last London mayoral elections. I don’t think I hold a unique view of this as both Alex Hilton on commented on it and even Peter Oborne of the Daily Telegraph has made similar suggestions if I remember correctly.

        • Hugh

          You seem unable to distinguish between the far right and right, and rather paranoid with it. I rather doubt an organised Tory vote exists. Right wingers just appear to be more interested in politics and more likely to read political sites. And right wingers are, on average, more sympathetic to the Israeli cause.

          And if you found that comment braying, one wonders how you cope on this site – with much of the braying targeting Conservative or Lib Dem politicians. What hurt Labour’s mayoral contest, incidentally, was picking a candidate who was so utterly flawed. I’m not sure whether that was your point.

          Lastly, when people mention the BNP, they’re not usually trying to call to mind the party’s economic policy, so I don’t think I was constructing a straw man by suggesting you were implying racism. I accept I was wrong if you say so, but it was an easy enough mistake to make.

          • Daniel Speight

            No Hugh, I was trying to comment on the very few times when we do see large vote counts on comments on LL. You seem to have trouble understanding this. Of course I could be totally wrong and it was either the quality of Roger’s comment that caused it or maybe that Roger has a fan club. As I said I would rather stick with Occam’s Razor.

  • Pingback: Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP, Criticised For Gaza Holocaust Comparison - The Morning News

  • Steve Stubbs

    Long but interesting discussion between a number of people with quite entrenched views. As an interested outsider, not with any axe to grind over the middle east, Palestine or Israel, can someone tell me where I am wrong in thinking the following.

    Gaza is not occupied by Israel.

    Israel controls only its own borders with Gaza, and not the border with Egypt. It has not intercepted or shot down any aircraft flying straight into Gaza from international airspace.

    Hamas uses Gaza, which it controls, to launch rocket attacks on Israel.

    Israel responds to these attacks with targeted responses.

    Israel inspects shipping heading into Gaza by interception in the Mediterranean to check them for arms, which could be used to attack Israel. They do not stop the passage of other goods and materials. Arms coming into Gaza are primarily coming over the Egyptian border.

    Israel is a democratic country that has elections for its rules and controllers.

    Hamas does not have elections in Gaza and rule by the right of the gun.

    More Palestinian citizens of Gaza (and the west bank come to that) have been killed by other Palestinians in inter-factional fighting and control by violence than by Israel.


    I could go on, but it seems to me that the only Israeli action I can object to is what right in international law do they have to stop and inspect shipping in waters that are not theirs.

    And I an totally bemused that the EU ships bucket loads of money (including ours) to the Palestinian authorities, who clearly cannot be trusted to use it only for the humanitarian purposes for which it intended.

    • ColinAdkins

      How about the illegal occupation of the West Bank?
      How about equality before the law: property rights, collective punishments (e.g. what happened to the homes of the murderers of Rabin)?
      The constitutional right to return for Jews but not for Palestinian Arabs.
      The failure to contain racist attacks by settlers on the indigenous population.

      • Steve Stubbs

        Bear in mind Israel would not be occupying the West Bank if Jordan had not involved itself in the attack on Israel in 1967. Having said that, the only possible solution is a return to the pre-1967 boundaries, with perhaps Jerusalem being held independent of both Jordan or Israel under UN control. (Palestine did not exist as a country then, and still does not of course).

        However reality gets in the way of that solution, in the form of the half a million or so settlers on the West Bank. The sheer number means that the withdrawal option, same as when they withdrew from Gaza, is not practical for the Israel Government. (Mind you, to read some of the comments on here you would think that Israel is still occupying Gaza).

        The UN states that the right to return for Palestinian Arabs is limited to those who left Israel after and during the 1948 war, and NOT their descendants. It is a very small remaining number in that the youngest must be 66 by now. I did see that number recently but can’t remember where. I take it that you therefore also support the right to return of the remainder of the several hundred thousand jews who were expelled from Arab countries at the same time? Or is it just a one-way street?

        Failure to contain racist attacks by settlers on the indigenous population. And also to contain racist attacks on Israeli citizens and visiting tourists? I understand that’s why they built a wall. To keep the terrorists out, rather than as per the East Germans, to keep the people in.

        On your point of equality under the law, I don’t know enough to comment, being only an interested but uninvolved bystander.

        • ColinAdkins

          So Jews who have not lived in Israel/Palestine for many generations have a right to return but only Palestinians who left in 48 have a right to return? How does that work? Israeli settlers act with near impunity against Palestinians e.g. threats, assault, destruction of property.

          • Steve Stubbs

            You are misinterpreting (I think deliberately) what I said. Re-read it. I stated the UN position on the right of Palestinians to return, i.e. only those who left what became Israel in the 1948 war. I asked that therefore the the right of Jews to return to the Arab countries which expelled them after that war must also exists. Logically if must. I was not talking about Jewish immigration into Israel from foreign born Jews. I was referencing the survivors of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forcibly expelled from Arab lands after the establishment of the State of Israel – which itself was mandated by the UN

            I take it that you as someone who objects to I quote “Israeli settlers act with near impunity against Palestinians e.g. threats, assault, destruction of property.” you are also objecting to the current and ongoing persecution of Christians in many Arab lands? As in assault, rape, destruction of property and outright murder? Or are they somewhat different in your view?

          • ColinAdkins

            Steve, why are you trying to infer that I wouldn’t object to the persecution of Christians in Arab lands. On the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands of course I support their right to return but that should be pursued as a distinct issue from the rights of Palestinians to return to Israel/Palestine on the same basis of the Jewish diaspora. Arabs are not a homogenous ethnic group they are Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis etc etc.

  • Jeremy Poynton

    A prison camp? With shopping malls? Oh do **** off.

    • Jeremy Poynton

      Gaza used to have a fabulous water park as well. Hamas burnt it down. Men and women mixing. Can’t have that, can we? Mediaeval, barbaric death cult.

    • RogerMcC

      Prisons have shops as well as flourishing black markets.

      And apparently the best radio Sony has ever made is only sold in American prisons so they represent a marketing sector in themselves.

      Plus with the American trend to privatised mega-prisons if not a mall a supermarket within a prison is actually quite conceivable.

      But in any case while Gaza does live under a state of semi-blockade as has been pointed out to me in this thread since mid-2010 it has been quite feasible for any Palestinian resident to leave as long as you don’t mind only being able to go to Egypt.

      And that Gaza hasn’t emptied but population continues to grow at a quite remarkable rate probably tells you more about conditions in the rest of the Arab world than conditions there.

      • David Sigeti

        RogerMcC, once Gazans get into Egypt, they are free to go pretty much anywhere in the world that accepts their passports (which is pretty much everywhere). I believe that the Israelis will prevent them from entering Israel or the West Bank unless they have special permission (which is often granted). The reason is, of course, to prevent Gazan-trained terrorists from getting into a position to kill Israelis. Obviously, this restriction is a problem for Gazans with relatives in the West Bank but otherwise their travel is pretty much unrestricted.

        The problem right now is getting through Rafah into Egypt.

        • RogerMcC

          So we actually do agree that escaping from Gaza is indeed not just a matter of turning up and demanding to leave.

          While the 40,000 monthly crossings (counting both directions) at Rafah and considerably fewer crossings into Israel do belie the ‘prison’ narrative they are surprisingly low for a population of 1.5m who are supposed to be living lives of profound poverty, misery and fear – particularly given that many if not most of these crossings are not people leaving to make new lives for themselves but shuttling back and forth between Egypt and Gaza.

          And what happens to a Gazan who does persuade both Hamas and Egyptian officials that he is a deserving case that should be let out?

          In Gaza he will be to a limited but real extent fed, clothed housed, educated and medically treated by UNRWA and the various other NGOs that operate there.

          In Egypt he will lose all that support, will not be a citizen, will have no right to work or reside permanently (even Palestinians who cross from Gaza with a plane ticket to a third country are granted leave to stay in Egypt for no more than 72 hours – and until July 2012 would actually have been escorted the whole time by a security guard to ensure that they do leave) and if he does acquire those rights he will be competing for jobs with millions of unemployed Egyptians.

          Plus in an again authoritarian Egypt Palestinians may feel not much more physically safe in Cairo or Alexandria than they are in Gaza.

          And unless he is wealthy or extremely well qualified what are his chances of legally getting out of Egypt given the increasing racism and xenophobia of Western governments?

          How many Palestinians from Gaza have won the right to live in Britain for instance?

          • David Sigeti

            As for the ability of the Gazans to leave (and return to) the Strip, I have a number of comments:

            In the first place, I do not believe that there are anywhere like 40,000 crossings per month through Rafah now. When the crossing is open it can handle this throughput, but the Egyptians have kept it closed almost all the time for a while now.

            This policy has a couple of causes. The first is the Egyptian military government’s general hostility to Islamists like Hamas. The second is the fact that Gaza has, for a couple of years now, served as a safe-haven, source of weapons, and training ground for various Muslim extremist groups that have carried out very bloody attacks on Egyptian soldiers and security forces. Since the coup in which the Egyptian military overthrew the Islamist government in June, these attacks have steadily escalated in severity and frequency. The Egyptian military has kept the crossing mostly closed as a matter of self-defense. (Note that this is identical to the reason why the Israelis keep Gazans from entering Israel, but with none of the exceptions for medical need and none of the massive provisioning that Israel provides in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.)

            Now, certainly, the fact that *both* Israel and Egypt put severe restrictions on Gazans entering their territory severely limits the ability of Gazans to travel. As Gaza is effectively at war with one of its neighbors and nearly so with the other, the obvious solution is for Hamas to stop the infiltration of Islamist extremists into Egypt and suppress those groups within Gaza, as well as the groups that continue attacking Israel in spite of the effective cease fire that Hamas apparently wants to preserve. Taking such steps would probably result in the opening of Rafah and might even result in relaxation of restrictions on entering Israel, if the effort appeared to represent a genuine commitment to long-term quiet.

            Once Rafah is open again, the remaining problems with the treatment of Gazans in Egypt could be relaxed, provided the danger of attacks originating from Gaza really does go away. Whether the Egyptians choose to relax the restrictions or not would be up to them. The Egyptian record in their treatment of Gazans is not exactly stellar (actually, it is terrible) but it is certainly possible that it could improve. We can only hope.

            I am not aware of any restrictions on travel by Gazans outside of Egypt and Israel that is any different from how other international travelers are treated. For people from poor states with few opportunities, inability to emigrate to an advanced country seriously limits their life prospects, but that is problem that the Gazans share with several billion other people. And I am not aware of any “increasing racism and xenophobia of Western governments”, or at least of any recent effects of racism and xenophobia on travel or immigration policies. In the US, immigration laws have not changed significantly in nearly half a century, except for a major amnesty for illegal immigrants about twenty-five years ago, and nothing about the laws or, as far as I know, the practice prejudices Palestinians.

          • RogerMcC

            The 40,000 comes from a report by Gisha which has a graph going up to Jan 2014.


            However as the graph key in my browser is unreadable I seem to have misread it – 40,000 was the figure for 2006 and the number now is indeed much lower with the crossing open only a few days per week.

            In which case much of what I’ve said here is wrong and the open air prison narrative is a largely accurate one.

            So the question for debate is who holds the keys and if the Egyptians are joint-jailers why is it precisely that they do not restore the relatively open border of 2006?

            Partly this would be internal – Egypt regards Gazans as a potential economic burden and Hamas as a political threat in so far as it is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

            But to return to my original point to you clearly the tripartite relationship between Egypt-America-Israel must be a factor.

            Israel also has reasons for wanting that gate to be only selectively opened and while its relations with Egypt may not be what they were under the Sadat and Mubarak regimes, America retains huge influence on Egypt and will support Israeli interests.

            So after a rather circular argument we are pretty much back to where we were originally……

          • David Sigeti

            There is no evidence at all of the US “supporting Israeli interests” with respect to Egyptian policy on Gaza. This is just fiction. Moreover, there is no evidence that Israel has had any influence on Egyptian policy on Gaza. The Egyptian military government sets its policy based on its own interests as it sees them. In particular, it hates Islamists and regards them as an existential threat. And it certainly believes that it has to do everything in its power to stop the bloody attacks against Egyptian forces that have been repeatedly launched from Gaza. Neither Israel nor the US will have any influence over the Egyptian government (or really any other government) when it believes that it is fighting an existential threat. This is how sovereign states behave.

            Beyond the above, the military government is now very angry with the US, as they believe, with some justification, that the US was actively promoting Islamism (of what the Obama administration believed was the “moderate” variety) as an important component of some kind of post Arab Spring democracy in the Arab world. Plus, they are very angry over the lack of support that they received from the US when they overthrew Mursi last June. And they just signed an agreement to receive $2 billion worth of arms from Russia. The influence that the US has on the Egyptian government is now at the lowest point since Anwar Sadat switched from allying with the Soviet Union to allying with the US, including being lower than it was under Mursi.

          • RogerMcC

            Are we talking as of now, the last 6 months, the last year, the last 30 years?

            Because if we are talking about Gaza’s predicament we cannot ignore the historical dimension or that policies particularly on the Egyptian side can change overnight.

            And given that can we really make dogmatic statements about influence being either total or ‘fiction’?

            Egypt traditionally tends to play regional and global powers according to what it can get from them so even under Nasser American influence never completely dissipated and even under Mubarak it was never wholly a satellite of Washington.

            When deciding to open or close the Rafah crossing Egypt considers multiple factors and takes account of multiple representations and it is absurd to argue that Israel’s absolutely vital security interests have no influence at all on Egyptian decisions even if at no point does any direct communication take place – Egypt knows in general terms what Israel will tolerate and what the consequences might be of pushing them too far.

            Anyway while this argument has clarified a couple of issues for me and led me to revise an opinion that was factually wrong we clearly are now going round in circles and nitpicking away.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, I do not think that we are just nitpicking. I think that you are fundamentally misreading the relationship between the Egyptian and Israeli governments and the current attitude of the Egyptian government toward the US. It is impossible to understand what is going on when one believes that Israel has significant influence over the Egyptian government, particularly on a matter that the Egyptians believe to be existential, or when one does not take into account the current estrangement of the Egyptians from the US.

            Beyond that, as to the question of “what Israel will tolerate and what the consequences might be of pushing them too far,” Israel certainly tolerated much freer passage through Rafah for several years. They may not have been happy with it but there was never any hint that they might take any action that would have been of any concern to the Egyptians.

          • RogerMcC

            Totting up the numbers in the Gisha graph suggests that over the last 10 months there have been around 220,000 crossings in either direction or 22,000 a month.

            However for August 2013 to Jan 2014 the figure seems to have been on average well below 10,000 a month.

            As a common reason for being allowed out into either Egypt or Israel is to seek short term medical treatment the numbers truly leaving Gaza must be even lower.

            So for a city of 1.4 million people one chances of escape must be depressingly low.

          • David Sigeti

            Just a couple of factual points.

            The Gaza Strip is not a city, it is several cities and actually quite a bit of open land. Take a look on Google Maps and you will see that about half the land use is agricultural. There *is* a city named Gaza, of course, for which the Strip is named, but it is only a part of the Strip.

            I do not think that very many people go from Gaza into Egypt for medical treatment. I suspect that Gaza’s medical facilities are at least as good as Egypt’s. Gaza’s basic medical care is certainly good by regional standards. The patients who go from Gaza to Israel for medical treatment are all seeking advanced treatments that are not available in Gaza. I suppose that some of these treatments could be available in Egypt, but I think that Israel has always been the preferred place to get them.

            I think that the population of the Strip is over 1.6 million.

          • RogerMcC

            Well aware that Gaza is divided into several municipalities and is actually no way near as crowded as imagined – but colloquially we all tend to talk about Gaza as a single city-state.

            And the actual population is highly debatable with claims that numbers are significantly inflated.

            As for medical treatment the problem is not lack of facilities or trained staff but of medical supplies and reliable power:


            And of course no sensible person would go to Egypt rather than Israel for medical treatment – however if the need is urgent and Israel is refusing admission on security grounds while Egypt is allowing it then you may have no choice.

          • David Sigeti

            I just read the article to which you linked. Almost everything discussed in the article is, I think, a relatively new issue. I think that these issues are primarily consequences of the closing of the smuggling tunnels by the Egyptian government over the last several months. It is clear that the loss of the goods that had been coming through the tunnels has seriously impacted the quality of life in Gaza.

            This is particularly true of the end of the flow of fuel through the tunnels. Egypt subsidizes most kinds of fuel for the benefit of its own population and the smuggled fuel was being purchased at these subsidized prices. Since the fuel from Egypt was cut off, the Hamas regime has refused to take delivery of fuel to run Gaza’s main power station that would come through Israel, for which they would need to pay market prices, and has insisted that Egypt resume the flow of fuel at subsidized prices. In addition to wanting to get fuel more cheaply, Hamas absolutely does not want to pay taxes to the Palestine Authority, which it would need to do on the fuel from Israel.

            You will note that the WHO article takes no note at all of the actions of Hamas that have seriously exacerbated the situation.

            In any case, the situation has recently changed and is still very much in flux. The changes should not affect our understanding of the situation before they began but they obviously should effect our understanding of the current situation and the future. If Rafah were to be returned to full operation, we might very well see a substantial flow of Gazans into Egypt for medical care. But I do not believe that that has been happening much until maybe very recently.

          • RogerMcC

            WHO produces very detailed breakdowns of cross-border medical referrals which shows that Egypt is indeed not the preferred destination of most patients.

            But salvation for Gaza can only come from the overthrow of Hamas and that can probably only happen if the alternative Palestinian leadership regains the credibility it lost due to Israel’s refusal to stop its colonisation of the West Bank with settlements.

            Israel alone has the power to break the vicious circle but I have no faith whatsoever that it will do so.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC, you wrote:

            “But salvation for Gaza can only come from the overthrow of Hamas and that can probably only happen if the alternative Palestinian leadership regains the credibility it lost due to Israel’s refusal to stop its colonisation of the West Bank with settlements.”

            The idea that some kind of change in Israeli settlement policy will lead to the overthrow of Hamas in Gaza is pure speculation and, to be frank, ridiculously farfetched. You have to assume that such a policy change will actually make a change in the relative popularity of Fatah versus Hamas, that this change in popularity will apply to Gaza as well as the West Bank, and that Hamas’ loss of popularity will lead to its being overthrown, even though it holds all the cards in Gaza and can probably stay in power no matter how unpopular it is. No one in a position of power in any government is likely to make a decision based on such a tenuous string of assumptions.

            “Israel alone has the power to break the vicious circle…”

            Now this is getting downright weird. Israel does not take action based on your farfetched and entirely speculative scenario, and now they “alone” have the power to “break the vicious cycle”. Come back to Earth.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, it seems that you are under the impression that Israeli concessions will produce reductions in enmity from Palestinians and the Arabs generally. Absent any knowledge of the history of the conflict, this is a reasonable hypothesis, but it has been proven wrong repeatedly by experience over the last twenty years.

            In that time, Israel has carried out three major withdrawals, all of which constituted huge strategic risks for its population: The withdrawal from the areas in the West Bank and Gaza where roughly 95% of the Arab population lived, as part of the Oslo Accords in the nineties; the withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000; and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. The initial Oslo withdrawals produced, within a matter of weeks, the first suicide bombings in Israel, launched, of course, from the areas that Israel had ceded to the Palestine Authority. These attacks escalated over a period of two years until a series of horrible bus bombings in Jerusalem threw the 1996 elections to Binyamin Netanyahu after Shim’on Peres lost a 20% lead in the last month before the elections. And, of course, the Oslo withdrawals made the terrible terrorist attacks of the second intefadeh possible.

            The withdrawal from Lebanon led, within a few months, to a kidnapping attack in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and their bodies held hostage by Hizballah for four years. Over the next few years, Hizballah turned southern Lebanon into a vast armory of Katyusha rockets, the sole purpose of which is to kill, maim, and terrorize the civilian population of northern Israel. This armory was, of course, used against the Israeli population when Hizballah started the 2006 war with another cross-border attack. Since 2006, the Lebanese/Israeli border has been mostly quiet but Hizballah is now estimated to have as many as 100,000 rockets in southern Lebanon, a fair percentage of which Hizballah claims have ranges that put almost all of Israel under threat.

            The withdrawal from Gaza produced an immediate approximately 50% increase in rocket attacks on Israel from the Strip and led eventually to the take-over of Gaza by Hamas. It probably played an important role in Hamas’ victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections as, rather than seeing the withdrawal as an overture from the Israelis to be reciprocated, many Palestinians interpreted it as a victory for violent “resistance” and decided that they should redouble their efforts to destroy Israel.

            Each of these withdrawals produced an increase in enmity and violence, not a decrease. Claiming that the next concession will be different is just a case of refusal to face reality, a refusal that can have terrible consequences which the Israelis, quite wisely, are loathe to suffer.

          • RogerMcC

            I have very few illusions about either Israelis or Palestinians and am in fact profoundly pessimistic that there is any hope at all of real progress.

            If Israel had elected a long series of strong left-wing governments which halted settlement building and negotiated in good faith with Fatah after Oslo then it is indeed fully possible that the Palestinians wouldn’t have played ball but instead held out for a full right of return, the 1967 borders without revision etc.

            But Israel didn’t and in fact the electorate moved so decisively to the right over the next two decades that Ariel Sharon’s faction of the Likud ended up as a centrist ‘peace’ party.

            Now I don’t actually see Israel’s behaviour as irrational – the first priority of any state must be its own self-preservation and surrender of Gaza and the West Bank might indeed be suicidal given that there will always be a large segment of Palestinians who will never accept Israel’s right to exist at all, are willing to kill indiscriminately to express it and might in time be able to gain control of the territories Israel had ceded and pose a real existential threat.

            So if I were actually living in Israel rather than being sat in a comfortable armchair at the other end of Europe I suspect I would think very differently.

            But lets not pretend that Israeli policy is anything other than the cynical, dishonest and occasionally brutal realpolitik it is.

            That the Palestinian leadership are no less shabby and in the case of Hamas are vicious fanatics that have no place in any civilised society doesn’t alter this.

            What we have here is not any simple black-white narrative but a complex and tragic disaster in which we should never forget it is primarily ordinary Palestinians who pay the price.

          • David Sigeti

            Just some comments on the general situation for Gazans:

            The worst thing about life in Gaza is unquestionably the periodic violence that erupts between Gaza and Israel. Of course, the greatest danger to civilians in Gaza is getting caught in the cross-fire when Israel attacks combatants from Hamas or one of the other terrorist groups. If these groups would cease attacking Israel and cease obvious preparations for such attacks (like digging tunnels into Israel or sending rocket crews into Sinai to carry out attacks on Eilat), this danger would go away.

            The second worst thing is probably the restrictions on travel and exports that are maintained by both Egypt and Israel. These problems could mostly go away if the Gazans ceased attacking the Egyptian military and security forces, regardless of their relations with the Israelis. Rafah could easily be turned into a conduit for massive amounts of imports and exports as well as large numbers of people, provided the Gazans can convince the Egyptians that this would not be dangerous. Such a development would be very good for the Gazans and probably good overall.

            After violence and the restrictions on travel and exports, poverty is probably the Gazans’ biggest problem. It is important to keep this problem in perspective. Gaza is poor but not as poor on average as Egypt. Gazans are better fed, receive better medical care, live longer, are better educated, and are generally better off economically not only than Egyptians but also, by many measures at least, than Jordanians, Syrians (before the civil war, that is), and the inhabitants of many other Arab countries (the ones without oil, that is). In other words, by regional standards, the Gazans are really not terribly poor. At the same time, not everything is relative and, from the point of view of Gazans, economic progress would be very desirable (see the paragraph below).

            Finally, one should consider the problem of dependence on aid. If extreme poverty is only averted with massive dependence on aid, as is certainly the case with Gaza, there are many problems such as chronic unemployment and a population that is pessimistic about possibilities for improvement in either the general their individual situations. The obvious solution to this problem as well as to the problem of poverty is building up local businesses and industries, especially for export. The Gazans’ ability to do so is clearly very limited given the current restrictions on exports. So, once again, the first step in a solution comes down to the Gazans making peace with their neighbors.

          • RogerMcC

            All of which is mostly true up until the last sentence.

            The Gazans were indeed criminally wrong to vote for Hamas and reject the whole treaty which alone offered hope of progress to a two-state solution.

            But they did so in a context of Israel’s inexorable electoral shift to the right and its continued and deliberate sabotage of that peace process by its buildings of settlements.

            So a true first step would be for Israel to stop doing the one thing which all sensible observers agree is truly undermining any possibility at all of resuming progress to a just two-state solution.

            Stopping all new settlements and ending the expansion of existing ones does not threaten Israel’s security in any way.

            Now it is all too possible that the Palestinians will never negotiate in good faith – but that does not remove Israel’s responsibility to cease systematically undermining the only remote prospect of lasting peace that remains.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, there has not been a new settlement created by the Israeli government since 1999. There has not been a new settlement created “illegally” (according to Israeli law, that is) that was later recognized by the Israeli government since 2003. The so-called “outposts” are essentially all the new settlements created in the last fifteen years and they are overwhelmingly tiny collections of mobile homes on barren hilltops, often in remote areas.

            Moreover, there were only a handful of new settlements created

            between the victory of the Labor Party in the 1992 elections and 1999. New settlements are not a problem.

          • David Sigeti

            As for expansion of existing settlements, this has been entirely vertical for a long time. Essentially no new land has been taken for settlements since about 2000 and very little since 1992. The so-called “built-up areas” of the settlements together with their security perimeters have amounted to about 5% of the West Bank for about twenty years now.

            The settlements *have* increased in population a lot in the last twenty years, but the great bulk of this increase has been in the settlements that are within a few kilometers of the Green Line in areas that Israel has always intended to keep in any final settlement and which have been part of Israel in every concrete proposed two-state solution like, for example, the private Geneva Initiative.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “So a true first step would be for Israel to stop doing the one thing which all sensible observers agree is truly undermining any possibility at all of resuming progress to a just two-state solution.”

            Given that the settlements have not significantly increased territorially in about twenty years, this statement just indicates how bizarrely skewed the debate on the conflict is. Somehow, Jews building homes in existing Jewish towns and living in them is “undermining” the two-state solution much more than the constant murderous violence that *all* the Palestinian factions have directed at Jews periodically since the creation of the Palestine Authority (and long before that too, of course). Not to mention the constant glorification of individuals whose sole notable achievement was the mass murder of Jews and the constant bizarre historical revisionism that has, for example, made it an almost universal belief among Palestinians that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

            The constant propagation of the most extreme and murderous nationalist and religious hatred and the willingness to massively rewrite both ancient and recent history leave the Palestinian population completely unprepared for peace with Jewish neighbors. As a result, whenever Israeli concessions have given them the opportunity to advance the program of mass-murder and ethnic cleansing that has dominated their politics since at least 1936, they have jumped at the chance, as they did with the withdrawal of Israel from the areas ceded to the Palestine Authority in the mid-nineties and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

            *This* is the greatest barrier to a two-state solution, not Jews living where some people think that they should not.

          • David Sigeti

            Being politically opposed to settlements is fine. Yes, the ones that are deep in the West Bank *do* create problems for a two-state solution. For this reason, I have been opposed to settlements since I first learned about them in the late seventies or early eighties (which is when they really got going).

            But characterizing them as the principle barrier to a two-state solution, effectively ignoring that extreme irredentist and murderous ideology of essentially *all* the Palestinian factions and its repeatedly bloody effects, is to be willfully blind.

            Moreover, it is astonishing when liberal and progressive people are absolutely blind to the fact that, in many cases, they are advocating ethnic cleansing based on only the Jewish identity of the settlers. You would think that this might give them some pause, but it never seems to do so.

          • David Sigeti

            A final point about settlements: It is a symptom of the terribly skewed nature of the debate on the conflict that no one ever seems to ask why a Palestinian state could not have a fairly small (maybe 12%) Jewish minority. Thinking about why everyone seems to ignore this question can be illuminating.

            The underlying reason is that it is generally accepted that the life of a Jew in a Palestinian state would not be worth a plugged nickel. The history of Palestinian Arab violence against Jews, and its spectacular popularity among the Palestinian people, has been so horrible for so long that almost everyone believes that the only way the settlers could survive would be by abandoning their homes and moving to Israel. The passive acceptance of this situation, with essentially no criticism of the murderous racism that creates it, is about as clear an example as one can imagine of the nearly complete abandonment of progressive and liberal values that characterizes the discussion on the anti-Israel side.

            I should point out that there is a minority of the settlers who say that they want to stay in their homes even if they become part of a Palestinian state. These are generally people who are committed to co-existence and good relations with their Arab neighbors. They may be unrealistic, but their existence should be noted.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, just a note about posting. A number of my posts have never appeared. I have been unable, until now, to see any pattern in the process. I have now discovered that short posts seem to appear pretty reliably. This is why I answered your post above in a number of short replies (relative to my earlier responses). I hope that this does not interfere with communication. If you have been having similar problems, you might want to try the same solution.

        • RogerMcC

          Though I suspect neither of us are regular readers of the electronic intifada site there are some deeply depressing recent pieces there on the Egyptian treatment of Palestinians who do manage to get there:

          But it really shouldn’t be Egypt’s problem at all.

          If it were not for the intransigence of both Israel and Hamas (and Fatah without whose corruption and incompetence Hamas would never have gained such mass support) the resolution to Gaza’s problems would lie not far away across the Sinai desert but in Israel whose modern economy could provide employment, investment, education, healthcare etc in either a one- or two-state solution.

          But any actual solution other than the perpetuation of the status quo seems more impossible every day.

          • David Sigeti

            What “intransigence” of Israel is preventing the resolution of Gaza’s problems?

          • RogerMcC

            Settlements, settlements, settlements…..

            Israel’s continuing to colonise the West Bank exposed Fatah’s impotence and led to Hamas gaining control of Gaza in 2007.

            Had Fatah continued to deliver progress however slow towards a solution then Palestinian voters may have forgiven its corruption and incompetence in other respects.

            As it could not even deliver the hope of progress Hamas filled the void.

            I have no illusions that guilt is shared between every party and every last voter on both sides of the Green Line but Israel being still a more or less functioning democracy with massive military and economic superiority over its enemies does have more options.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, it is clear that you need to know much more about the settlements than you now do in order to understand how much they are (or are not) a barrier to the two-state solution. I suggest that you read my posts from a couple of hours ago to get a better understanding of the situation. If you have responses, I would like to see them.

            Note that the figures you quote indicate that 75% of the growth in the settlements is natural growth — in other words, people having babies. Just going by your figures, this means that the annual increase in settler population due to births (offset by deaths of course) is over 4%. This gives you a clue as to what is going on. This kind of birth rate is characteristic of only one population in the West Bank, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews.

            There are only a few Haredi settlements but two of them (I am not certain that there are any others) are the largest and third largest settlements in population, Modi’in Ilit and Betar Ilit. About two and a half years ago, more than fifty percent of the growth in settlement population was in these two settlements. The distance from the Green Line to one of these is about one kilometer and to the other is about two kilometers. There is no large Arab population between either settlement and the Green Line. These settlements have been included in Israel in every concrete two-state solution that has ever been proposed, including the Geneva Initiative. So how much of a barrier to the two-state solution is this “growth of the settlements”?

          • RogerMcC

            Do you really believe that any likely Israeli government now would remove by force every other settlement than these two and would grant the PA an equivalent exchange of territory?

            And in fact the two settlements you name have a population of 97,000 or just 28% of total settlers – so the other 72% represent the real issue.

            What for instance of the 23 settlements in the Jordan valley who are there for no other purpose than to provide a barrier between any putative Palestinian state and Jordan?

            What of the numerous settlements which even Israel defines as illegal but which for some reason never get removed when to do so would impact relatively few settlers and send a real message?

            Disagreeable as this argument has been it has at least clarified for me how truly hopeless the prospects of a two-state solution (and there really is no other) now are and the genius of Sharon and the other visionary masterminds of the original settlement programme which has now done exactly what it was always intended to do.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “Do you really believe that any likely Israeli government now would
            remove by force every other settlement than these two and would grant
            the PA an equivalent exchange of territory?”

            Of course I do not believe that. Whatever gave you the impression that I did? I brought up Modi’in Ilit and Beitar Ilit in order to show how limited the “problem of settlement growth” is, not to define which settlements Israel might keep in an eventual two-state solution.

            In the Clinton parameters, 80% of the West Bank settlers were included in areas assigned to Israel, amounting to about 5% of the land in the West Bank. I see no reason to believe that the proportion of settlers who could be included in Israel has decreased since 2000, and considerable reason to believe that it has increased given the disproportionate growth of Modi’in Ilit and Beitar Ilit. So, let us say 20% of the settlers in the West Bank are in a Palestinian State. This is roughly 70,000 people. This is a lot of people to relocate, but doing so is not out of the question at all.

            There is also the possibility that they could stay in a Palestinian State as either citizens of that state or dual citizens. We have already discussed the Palestinian extremism that makes it unlikely that a Jew would be minimally safe in a Palestinian State, but note that a drastic reduction in Palestinian extremism is a necessary condition for any successful two-state solution. So, as long as we are speculating about a drastic reduction in Palestinian extremism, why not consider that it could make a Jewish minority in a Palestinian State possible. If it does, the problem of the remaining settlements (including illegal outposts) is solved without any relocations at all.

          • RogerMcC

            Every argument I make you shift your ground.

            Citing what was not even actually agreed in 2000 is kind of problematic given that when they held those negotiations there were 177,000 settlers and now there are 321,000.

            Even if that 80% still stood there is still realistically no chance in any immediate future I can foresee of Israel forcibly removing 80,000 settlers who were put where they are precisely for the purpose of making a functional Palestinian West Bank state impossible.

            And as I have said here I do not consider the thinking behind the whole colonisation and reservation strategy irrational – Israel of all countries has to think first of its continued survival and the basic physical safety of its citizens not just now but for generations and centuries to come.

            So it may indeed be that only some truly miraculous conversion of the whole Palestinian people to Gandhian pacifism could persuade the Israeli electorate that they could safely give up some settlements and resume progress to a two-state solution.

            But such a conversion is even more implausible.

            So we have an impasse which is likely to continue for decades (as will this argument if one of us does not give up trying to have the last word).

            And in the interval perhaps all one can really do is attempt to correct the more egregious historical errors perpetrated by apologists for either side (which was the whole point of the article we are supposed to be commenting on) and express one’s impotent disgust at what history has wrought.

            Which I think has to be my final word here.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger McC wrote:

            “Every argument I make you shift your ground.”

            Where do you think that I shifted my ground? As near as I can tell, you misinterpreted what I was saying about Modi’in Ilit and Beitar Ilit, reading into my earlier comment something I had not been saying, and I corrected your misinterpretation. How is that “shifting my ground”?

          • RogerMcC

            Shifting your ground is of course a perfectly valid tactic.

            I myself shifted the argument from Gaza to settlements.

            You responded by asserting quite specifically that much if not most of the increase in settlement pop is natural and happening in Haredi settlements, citing two which are indeed just over the putative border and can be removed as a problem through a relatively minor land exchange.

            I pointed out that these two settlements which you and not I brought into the argument represent just 28% of the settler pop and that the real problem is the remaining 72%.

            You riposted by bringing up the 2000 negotiations when it was suggested that 80% of settlements would be included in a land exchange.

            I pointed out that those 2000 negotiations failed and that in any case the total settlement population has almost doubled since then and those facts on the ground are now changed again.

            I also asserted that even if the 80% ratio still stood it is now inconceivable to me that Israel will in fact remove dozens of settlements and 80,000 settlers at gunpoint.

            Rather than answer those last two points you are accusing me of misinterpreting you – however I did implicitly accept your assertion that you only brought up those two settlements as an example of a much larger class of settlements that could be reasonably included in a land exchange by moving on to address that point.

            Even so while I expect I am now the only person reading them your responses have been valuable as I do know enough about Israeli politics to see that they do reflect an underlying consensus within Israeli society – that in the last analysis no progress is possible unless the Palestinians completely surrender and prove that they can be trusted to run micro-states which are no threat at all to Israel.

            And given the massive imbalance of military and economic power between the two sides I accept that this is now how it is and how it will be for at least several more decades to come.

            So all I am now doing in this interminable exchange is expressing my moral disgust not at Israel (or the Palestinians and the other global players in this awful game) but at the whole arc of history within which these two peoples have imprisoned themselves.

            And so I really can’t take sides in the simple and tribal way I used to – this is a long and drawn out tragedy which destroys and ruins lives – not a football match or an academic debate.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC, you wrote:

            “Do you really believe that any likely Israeli government now would remove by force every other settlement than these two and would grant the PA an equivalent exchange of territory?”

            I would call the above a misinterpretation of what I was saying. Do you really disagree?

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, as to who may be following this discussion, I have no problem with continuing the discussion whether or not we have an audience. If you would like to do it under other auspices, like Facebook, that would be fine with me, too.

            Just to be clear, in case there is any confusion, I am not Israeli. I am an American. My knowledge of Israeli politics comes from extensive reading including Yaacov Lozowick’s book and blogs, Israeli news sources on the web, and other bloggers. I have some competence in modern Hebrew, enough to read a newspaper article with considerable help from dictionaries or Google Translate, but the process is so slow that almost all my reading is done in English.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “…in the last analysis no progress is possible unless the Palestinians
            completely surrender and prove that they can be trusted to run
            micro-states which are no threat at all to Israel.”

            I fail how anyone is demanding that the Palestinians “completely surrender”. In a comment a couple of days ago, I said that,

            “the kind of thinking that would make a two-state solution possible…would include a real rejection of terrorism as a legitimate tool of resistance and a
            refusal to glorify it, recognition of the national rights of Israeli
            Jews (as in, for example, the principle of “two states for two
            peoples”), a recognition of the long Jewish connections to the Land of
            Israel, and a willingness to reject the insane lies that have so often
            been used to incite mass violence against Jews by Palestinian Arabs
            (like the supposed “threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque”).”

            What part of this do you consider to be “complete surrender”? Do you honestly think that these things are *not* required for a successful two-state solution?

            The only way that these requirements would constitute “complete surrender” is if the Palestinian cause is completely and inherently tied to murderous irredentist extremism and the constant production of vicious lies about Jews. I do not believe that that is the case. If you do, then I think that you are subjecting the Palestinians to the classic “tyranny of low expectations”. This is not helpful for either Palestinians or Israelis. The Palestinians are moral agents like everyone else. Right now, they choose to be irredentist and murderous. When they want, they can choose to be otherwise.

            Nor do I see anyone demanding that the Palestinians be content with “micro-states”. The West Bank, with whatever land exchanges are part of an agreement and even without Gaza, is not a “micro-state”. Even Gaza alone has room for all its inhabitants. Not to mention a potentially central location for commerce on the eastern Mediterranean. Singapore has about twice the area of Gaza with about three times the population and it does just fine as an independent state. Even an independent Gaza, if it was at peace with its neighbors, would have the potential to do quite well. Combined with the West Bank, and taking into account the relatively well-educated populace, the Palestinians could potentially create a very prosperous society, especially if they were to use their knowledge of Hebrew (and other languages as well) to serve as a conduit for Israeli technology into the Arab world.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, as to the roughly 70,000 settlers outside of the “settlement blocks” (which is how the Israelis refer to the large settlements close to the Green Line that will presumably be included in Israel in a two-state solution), I pointed out that the conditions that would allow them to live as a national minority in a Palestinian State are also necessary for a two-state solution, so hoping for such an outcome is no more utopian than a two-state solution is (or ever was). So, I *have* answered your point about this population.

            In addition, I do not think that it is impossible that these people could be relocated, especially if Europe comes through with the massive aid they are suggesting they would provide to facilitate a two-state solution. 70,000 people is less than 1% of Israel’s population. The Israelis have a history of taking in massive waves of immigrants. 70,000 is peanuts compared to the 1,000,000 Russians who immigrated in the 1990s, let alone the 600,000 Jewish refugees who immigrated in the first three years of the state when the initial population was one-tenth what it is now.

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC, you wrote:

            “And so I really can’t take sides in the simple and tribal way I used to…”

            How did you used to take sides, with the Israelis or the Palestinians?

          • RogerMcC

            More weariness and depression than anger.

            I used to be a very active supporter of Israel because I genuinely believed in the Oslo peace process and a two-state solution.

            What changed for me was not some revelation or any particular event but simply following the result of Israeli election after Israeli election and seeing the triumph of politicians like Sharon, Netanyahu, Liberman, Benet etc and the growing marginalisation of the real Israeli left.

            I remember a sarcastic Doonesbury cartoon from 1982 with Yasser Arafat coming out with the then very popular line ‘this is not the Israel I knew’.

            That’s pretty much my position now – Israel has changed to a point where I can no longer spring to its defence other than when as in the case of Ms Qureshi here the attacks are logically and historically absurd.

            In fact it is just another capitalist state and should be analysed and treated as such – something which both its left enemies and its left defenders rarely seem to remember.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, I am sorry that I did not reply yesterday. I wanted to take some time to think about what you wrote.

            The first point that I want to make is that I think that you are under the false impression that Israel has somehow moved to the right since Oslo. Pretty much no one who is knowledgeable about Israeli politics who is not trying to pull the wool over the eyes of people who are not would say this, at least not without huge qualifications. At the time of Oslo, the Labor Party prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was adamantly opposed to a Palestinian State, and he kept saying so right up until his death. Support for a Palestinian State was a marginal position among Israeli politicians twenty years ago. Twenty years later, all four prime ministers over the last fifteen years have endorsed a Palestinian State. This is a major shift to the left in Israeli politics.

            And this move to the left was strong enough that prime minister Ehud Barak offered Yassir Arafat essentially everything that the Palestinians could reasonably demand and more in 2000.

            If you want to think about more recent politics, just look at the elections of 2006. In those elections, the winning party was Kadima, a party that was based on a single program that can only be described as left-wing, unilateral disengagement. Note that the Israeli voters handed Kadima that victory even though the disengagement from Gaza had already resulted in a 50% increase in rocket fire on Israel from Gaza and after the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. Of course, the kidnapping of Gil’ad Shalit by Hamas in an incursion from Gaza, the war with Hizballah in Lebanon after another cross-border attack and double kidnapping, and the Hamas takeover in Gaza sank disengagement as a credible strategy during the Kadima government, but Ehud Olmert, the Kadima prime minister, still made an offer to Mahmoud Abbas in October 2008 that was even better for the Palestinians than the Clinton parameters or Barak’s offers in 2000.

            And this latest election, contrary to the predictions of the anti-Israel propagandists, resulted in a moderate move to the left. The center parties lost one seat, the left picked up five, and the right lost four (roughly). In practice, the big winner was the center left, primarily Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. In alliance with the national-religious Jewish Home party, Yesh Atid has pursued a program of reducing the subsidies and privileges of the Haredim, especially exemption from military service, and other measures to bring the majority of Haredi adult men into the workforce and Haredi education into the modern world. So where is the move to the right?

            Now, it is true that the Labor Party has fallen on hard times, as has Meretz, primarily because they more-or-less bet the farm on Oslo and lost. But the other parties, especially Likud, have moved to the left and the center has become a strong, sometimes the dominant, player, albeit with a shifting party configuration. This hardly represents some kind of overall shift to the right.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger McC wrote:

            “What of the numerous settlements which even Israel defines as illegal but which for some reason never get removed when to do so would impact relatively few settlers and send a real message?”

            They get removed all the time. They also get abandoned for lack of services. Sometimes, after they are removed, they get rebuilt. And then removed again.

            The IDF ignores the vast bulk of illegal building in the territory it controls (Area C of the West Bank). Mostly, this illegal building is done by Arabs but some of it is done by Jews. The IDF is busy trying to keep people from killing each other (mostly Arabs killing Jews but also the other way around) and tends not to worry overmuch about other issues.

            And, as you acknowledge, the number of settlers in the outposts is small. Actually, after looking at some statistics on the web, I am beginning to think that it must be tiny. The Wikipedia article on “Population statistics for Israeli West Bank settlements” gives the population of the *legal* settlements in the West Bank (not Jerusalem) as 344,391 in 2011. Now, I am not aware of any estimate of the *total* number in the West Bank in 2011 that is over 350,000. This suggests that there are only a few thousand settlers in the outposts.

            So, it sounds like the outposts are hardly a problem for the two-state solution at all.

          • David Sigeti

            It turns out that Peace Now has a nice spreadsheet with a lot of information about all the settlements and outposts. The last year referenced is 2011. Doing a quick sum, I find a total of 9689 settlers in the outposts.

            I will not attempt to post a link, but if you just go to the Peace Now website and click on the menu at the top labeled “settlements” and choose “Settlements and Outposts”, you will get to the right page. The spreadsheet is at the link “DOWNLOAD Settlements and Outposts Numbers and Data”.

          • RogerMcC

            This appears to be more up-to-date (having 2013 data) but doesn’t break down settlements by type.


            I would also like to see an actual breakdown of natural expansion through births exceeding deaths vs ‘immigration’ but can’t find one in English and have no Hebrew.

          • David Sigeti

            Just a note: It appears that the list to which you link includes settlements but not outposts.

            The link you provided to the page on B’tselem’s web site states as fact that the growth rate was 6% in 2011, and that “approximately 25% of the increase in the number of settlers was the result of relocation by Israelis and of the arrival of new immigrants to Israel who chose to live there.” This could be wrong, of course, but I suspect that it is not far off. The numbers are probably coming from official Israeli government statistics about the Israeli population, which are about as accurate as such statistics in any other developed country. I would not put a high level of trust in *anyone’s* statistics about the Palestinian population, but the Israeli government’s statistics about its own population are probably reliable.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, I would strongly urge you to read the book “Right to Exist” by Yaacov Lozowick. It is about ten years old but still very relevant. Even if you do not agree with anything that Lozowick says about “the situation” (as the Israelis call the conflict), you will understand how the broad center of Israeli political opinion thinks about it. It is clear from the arguments that you make that, despite your broad knowledge on the subject, you really have had little contact with this critical body of opinion. The book is very readable and you will learn many fascinating things about Israeli society and history about which the vast majority of even relatively well-informed people in the West have not a clue. Seriously, it is an eye-opener.

          • RogerMcC

            I actually do know a fair bit about the settlements and Israeli history (certainly far more than it turns out I knew about the current situation Gaza).

            Of course much of that population increase is ‘natural’ (if that is what you call a systematic programme of creating a racist confessional state by outbreeding everyone else) but that is irrelevant to the question as to whether there should be any settlements in the West Bank at all.

            Now clearly it is no longer possible to remove every settlement and even less likely that the inhabitants will choose to stay under Palestinian rule.

            So some major territorial adjustments would have to be made and had Israel ceased to build new or expand existing settlements after Oslo then a new border might have been drawn and a functional Palestinian state (however restricted its sovereignty) might have been viable.

            But 20 years and quarter of a million more settlers later I accept that this is probably now impossible.

            The real difference between us would appear to be that I cannot regard this outcome and the continuation of the current situation for ever more with equanimity.

            However inevitable it may have been historically and however much responsibility the Palestinians and the Arab states share for bringing it about one should be disgusted at what the Zionist dream has come to in our time.

            And it is the failure of left apologists for Israel to express that disgust and the dogged insistence that only the Arabs are too blame for their own predicament and implication that if only they were to become better people and lose all ressentiment all would somehow be well that depresses me most.

            But all this argument is futile – Israel (and Fatah and Hamas and Egypt) will carry on along this course quite oblivious to anything anyone else says and we will still be having much the same discussion in 20 years time.

          • David Sigeti

            A couple of details in this post, then a general response:

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “…had Israel ceased to build new or expand existing settlements after Oslo then a new border might have been drawn and a functional Palestinian state (however restricted its sovereignty) might have been viable.”

            As we discussed earlier, the Israeli government built very few settlements after Oslo. On the list from B’tselem that you posted, I count five or six, and two of those have no population listed, so I suspect that they were never actually built.

            As I mentioned on another thread just a minute ago, I see no reason to believe that the increase in settler population has changed the boundaries that would include 80% of the settlers in Israel. The remaining 20% are, of course, now a larger number, but not impossible to relocate. I also pointed out that the conditions for them to be able to remain in a Palestinian State (essentially, a drastic reduction in Palestinian extremism) are also necessary for any successful two-state solution. So, I see no reason to believe that the growth of the settlement population in the last twenty years has somehow made the creation of a viable Palestinian State significantly less possible.

            “And it is the failure of left apologists for Israel to express that
            disgust and the dogged insistence that only the Arabs are too blame for their own predicament and implication that if only they were to become better people and lose all ressentiment all would somehow be well that depresses me most.”

            No one thinks that the Palestinians need to become angels for a two-state solution to work and implying that anyone does is just dishonest. But there is a huge gap between the the current glorification of the mass-murder of Jews and lunatic historical revisionism of Fatah (not to mention the openly genocidal and expulsionist ideology of Hamas) and the kind of thinking that would make a two-state solution possible. Such thinking would include a real rejection of terrorism as a legitimate tool of resistance and a refusal to glorify it, recognition of the national rights of Israeli Jews (as in, for example, the principle of “two states for two peoples”), a recognition of the long Jewish connections to the Land of Israel, and a willingness to reject the insane lies that have so often been used to incite mass violence against Jews by Palestinian Arabs (like the supposed “threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque”). And some kind of recognition that their own extremism has played a major role in their suffering would be very helpful. On the other hand, there is no reason that the Palestinian people need to forget about any part of their own history (that actually happened, of course), including their own suffering at the hands of the Jews and others. They do not need to be angels, just good neighbors (or at least not murderous ones).

          • David Sigeti

            RogerMcC wrote:

            “The real difference between us would appear to be that I cannot regard this outcome and the continuation of the current situation for ever more with equanimity.”

            I do not expect that the current situation will continue “for ever
            more”. If and when the Palestinians decide that they really want peace with their Jewish neighbors and are willing to abandon the behaviors and ideas that currently make a final-status agreement impossible, all sorts of things become possible. The conventional two-state solution with removal of settlers from the Palestinian State, a Palestinian State with a Jewish minority, the “Jordanian option”, some kind of autonomy with possibly a connection to Jordan for foreign policy questions, some kind of loose federation with Israel, all of these things might be possible in a generation or maybe even somewhat less.

            Just look at how much things have changed in our lifetimes. From a focus on a two-state solution in 1947, to the disappearance of Palestinian nationalism from 1948 until after the Six-Day War, to a focus on some kind of “land for peace” deal between Israel and the Arab states in the aftermath of that war, to the reemergence of (an admittedly extremist) Palestinian nationalism in the late sixties and seventies, to the
            Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, to a partial moderation of Palestinian nationalism and grudging acceptance of at least a temporary peace with Israel starting in about 1988, to the current impasse. Along the way, there was the allegiance of a large fraction of the Palestinian population to Jordan and the claim of Jordan to speak for the Palestinians, the eventual divorce between Palestinian nationalism and Jordan, the movement of the center of the struggle from the Arab states to the Palestinian diaspora and then to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, etc., etc., etc. Things change and, if the two-state solution comes to seem impossible (and I do not think that we are there yet), something else will arise to take its place.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, I think that you are just going through the process of disillusionment that almost everyone on the Israeli left and those of us who sympathize with them have gone through since the start of the second intefadeh. The difference, for the Israelis at least, is that they cannot afford to despair as they still have to live with the conflict. And, given perennial Israeli optimism, they are not particularly tempted to. They have learned to live with disappointment in the prospects for a two-state solution, at least in the immediate future, and there is no reason why those of us whose involvement is entirely vicarious cannot do so as well.

            Really, you should read “Right to Exist”, and it would not hurt to read as many posts as you can on Yaacov Lozowick’s blog (which is sadly now mostly inactive but still available). You will get a kind of perspective that almost never makes its way into the Western press, even though it is the dominant perspective in Israel. In addition to making it possible to understand Israeli actions, which you really cannot do without knowing what they are thinking, it is refreshing and uplifting. Give it a try.

            I am not doing to post links as those seem always to sink my posts. “Right to Exist” can be found simply by searching for the title at Amazon. You can find Lozowick’s blog just by searching on his name and the word blog. He has had a couple of blogs and the relevant one is on Blogspot.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, the standard explanation for Hamas winning the Palestinian elections in 2006 is that the electorate was sick of the corruption of Fatah and believed (with some reason) that Hamas would be more honest. I am not sure that I entirely buy this explanation, but it was certainly a major factor.

          • RogerMcC

            So are Palestinians primitive folk who can only vote on one issue?

            Had Fatah continued to make progress towards a two-state solution rather than have its impotence daily demonstrated as Israel continued to build its settlements and rendered with each unit built a functional West Bank state less and less feasible, then I suspect the failings of its officials might have been overlooked by more voters.

            In the end it is all about the settlements – are you for them or are you against them?

            Pace the Johanson/Sodastream affair the hardly anti-Zionist Bloomberg News made this absolutely central point:

            ‘One can be a friend of Israel and a friend of a future Palestine, as Oxfam is. Or one can be a friend of Israel and a friend of Israeli settlements, as many right-wing Israelis are. But one cannot be a friend of Israeli settlements and a friend of a future Palestine’


            Without the cessation and removal of settlements from the West Bank there is no viable two-state solution (and I seriously suspect that as the settlements have reached a point where no Israeli government can remove them that solution and any hope of real progress may already be dead).

            And Gaza is not even part of that argument and will remain a poor blockaded enclave ruled by fanatics until that wider issue has been resolved.

          • David Sigeti

            Roger, if you are going to insist that it was Israeli settlement policy that led to voters supporting Hamas over Fatah in 2006, you should at least provide some evidence for your contention. I have never read anything by anyone who actually follows internal Palestinian politics that supported your thesis. Of course, there are people who will write this in the course of attacking Israeli settlement policy, but none of them, as near as I can tell, ever provide an ounce of evidence for their thesis — they just assume that it must be true. And none of them seem to actually know anything about actual Palestinian politics — they seem to think that they can just intuit it with no actual study.

  • Pingback: Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi apologises for comparing Gaza to the Holocaust. | RichardMillett's Blog

  • robertcp

    She was right to apologise. The Israelis’ treatment of Palestinians is not comparable with the Holocaust. It is, however, comparable with events such as the expulsion of Germans from eastern Europe after the Second World War, Apartheid and settler states in the Americas and Australasia.

    • RogerMcC

      In fact the expulsion of the Germans from the former Prussia, Sudetenland, Silesia etc was unlike that of the Palestinians accompanied by the deaths of certainly hundreds of thousands and by some calculations as many as 1.5 million (which even so pales into insignificance compared to the death toll inflicted by the Nazi occupiers on their subject nations) civilians.

      But other than a few neo-nazis nobody in Germany is demanding the return of Silesia and East Prussia to a new Reich – any more than the Poles are demanding back the Eastern Volhynian and Galician provinces Stalin forced them to exchange for the new ethnically cleansed German ones so that the Soviet border could be shifted westward.

      And you miss a far more obvious comparison.

      In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Oriental Jews lived in the Muslim world in settlements scattered from Morocco to Iran – many of which dated from biblical times.

      And almost all of these Jews were then expelled from the Arab world in direct vengeance for the formation of the state of Israel.

      The overall numbers are comparable to the Palestinians driven out of Israel, the massacres which forced them to move were on a similar scale to atrocities such as Deir Yassin (but involving tens or at most hundreds rather than millions and so were not at all comparable to those which has taken place in Europe in and just after WW2) – and like the Palestinian exiles these Mizrahim often arrived in their new homes carrying nothing except their grief and bitterness.

      But unlike the Palestinians in Lebanon, Gaza, Jordan etc these refugees were not denied citizenship and kept in perpetual refugee camps for generation after generation but were (however slowly and painfully) integrated into Israeli society.

      And this is the inconvenient truth that Palestinians ignore – for every Arab expelled from Israel in 1948 a Jew was expelled from the Arab world and in the majority of cases had nowhere else to go than Israel.

      And in many cases those very homes which the Palestinians had lost were occupied by Jews who had lost their homes in Iraq or Morocco or Syria.

      Which brings us to another comparison.

      In 1918 many of what we now think of as Turkish cities along the Aegean and Black Sea coasts were inhabited largely by Greek citizens of the Ottoman Empire whose ancestors had lived there since the days of Homer.

      After a disastrous attempt by the Greek state to liberate these ancient Greek territories the Turks retaliated by expelling their Greek population – while the defeated Greeks retaliated by expelling their large Turkish minority.

      As with the Palestinians and the Mizrahim there was no ‘justice’ in this process – the Greeks expelled from Smyrna and Sinope and Trapezos had not for the most part fought for their would be liberators while the Turks expelled from Macedonia and Crete had been generally loyal subjects of the Greek state.

      But despite a still lingering resentment nobody in either state seriously now imagines that this population exchange should be somehow magically reversed or even that reparations are due.

      So forced population exchanges like that of the Palestinians for the Mizrahi are historically not at all uncommon and in almost all other cases however bitter the memories of the original exile generation they were eventually accepted as irrevocable.

      But only in the case of the Palestinians was a massive population (growing from 700,000 in 1948 to 5 million today) of perpetual refugees maintained at the expense of the the UN and of their grudging host nations in the expectation of their eventual victorious return.

      And 66 years later their great-grandchildren are still waiting.

      This is to say the least a remarkable state of affairs.

      • robertcp

        You raise some valid points but the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and they had nowhere to go unlike the Jews, Germans, Greeks and Turks mentioned above. As you say, Jews had lived in the Muslim world since biblical times, which suggests that anti-semitism was less severe than in Europe.

        • RogerMcC

          I hate having to make these points as I am well aware that for Israel-apologists they serve a very particular purpose of de-legitimising all Palestinian claims including those who still live under Israeli occupation (and whatever you might call the situation in Gaza) and of the large Arab minority in Israel itself.

          But there has been a huge amount of ink spilled arguing about how far the 1948 population transfer represented ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Israel and if it did the continued existence of whole Arab towns and villages indicates that it was far less complete than other population transfers that have been labelled as ethnic cleansings.

          And the low number of actual civilian deaths relative to the numbers displaced from both Israel and the Arab world (‘low’ only given that this was just 3 years after the end of World War II and in the context of the other far bloodier population transfers taking place taking place at that very time) also separates it from other examples of ethnic cleansing.

          (another transfer I should have mentioned was that accompanying the partition of India and Pakistan which was still taking place when the Israeli one began and which by some calculations caused a million deaths).

          it is simply wrong to state that Palestinians in 1948 (and 1967 when another quarter of a million or so new refugees were created) had nowhere else to go.

          They all actually did ‘go’ somewhere.

          In a majority of cases they moved from the Israeli-occupied part of the British Palestinian Mandate to the Egyptian and Jordanian occupied part.

          In others they moved into refugee camps in Egypt and Jordan proper, Lebanon, Syria, , Iraq , Kuwait etc.

          And they were all Arabs who in simple fact had far more in common culturally and linguistically with the Arab nations they moved to in 1948 (and 1967 for the smaller second wave), than the Mizrahi Jewish refugees had with their Ashkenazi dominated new Israeli homeland.

          Few Mizrahim spoke Hebrew other than as a ritual language, few had had much prior contact with modern zionist ideas, many were illiterate even in Arabic, most came from relatively backward communities economically and had great difficulty adapting to a modern industrial society and even today many of their descendants are far more conservative religiously and socially than secular Westernised Jews.

          Had the Arab states accepted defeat and simply given their refugees full citizenship then the integration of the exiles from Palestine should actually have been less problematic than that of the Mizrahim has been into Israel.

          But the fact is they didn’t.

          However unlike Likudnik Israeli apologists I dion’t deny the refugees themselves agency – the grand irony of this whole tragic situation is of course precisely that the Palestinian diaspora quickly turned itself into a mirror image of zionism and created a true nation-in-exile and arguably might well have done so even if the refusal of Arab states to accept them as immigrants rather than perpetual refugees hadn’t forced them to.

          • robertcp

            We seem to agree that the position of the Palestinians should not be compared to the Holocaust but the position of refugees will need to be addressed in any settlement.

  • persiancat

    surprised George Galloway hasn’t waded into this one…..Oh, he’s too busy representing the people of Bradford West in the House of Commons !!!!!!!!!!

  • Steve Stubbs

    Well she does a very good impression of one then.


  • Comment Jim Murphy has set out an ambitious (and Labour) vision for development

    Jim Murphy has set out an ambitious (and Labour) vision for development

    Since its earliest days Labour has been an internationalist party and proud of it, too. From Keir Hardy and Harold Wilson to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, those who shaped Labour’s vision in the 20th and early 21st Century regarded the fight against poverty overseas as a natural extension of the fight against poverty at home. If Labour wins in 2015, we look forward to our proud tradition continuing. But with the clear focus of the current leadership on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Party democracy is important, so let’s fight for it

    Party democracy is important, so let’s fight for it

    Contrary to popular belief (and by popular belief, I mean the belief that prevails amongst the Shadow Cabinet and its apparatchiks) the Labour Party does not exist as a fan club for the Parliamentary faction. The Labour Party is an instrument through which ordinary people can shape their own lives and change the future of this country in a direction that is beneficial to our people. The recent decision by the Labour leadership to vote with the Coalition and implement […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What can Labour offer young people?

    What can Labour offer young people?

    Tony Blair proclaimed in 1997 that his three main priorities in government were ‘education, education, education.’ This has not translated to an increase in votes from young people.  Voter turnout between 1997 and 2005 amongst those aged 18-24 fell from an estimated 54.1% of this age range in 1997, down to 38.2% in 2005.  By contrast, voter turnout amongst those who are aged over 65 has never fallen below 70% since 1964.  As voters aged over 65 are more likely […]

    Read more →
  • News Iraq Inquiry report now expected in 2015

    Iraq Inquiry report now expected in 2015

    Sir John Chilcot’s report into the Iraq War is now not expected to be published until spring 2015, leaving worries for Labour as to how it will affect the election campaign. The Independent reports that “discussions between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office remain deadlocked, and a year-long stand-off is now unlikely to be resolved before the current parliamentary session ends. Even if a deal were reached over the summer recess, legal protocols and procedures would push the Iraq report’s […]

    Read more →
  • Featured MPs should not be employing their own staff

    MPs should not be employing their own staff

    Over the weekend, Eric Joyce made a very sensible suggestion. He may have a penchant for violence that is unbecoming of a Member of Parliament, and he may be some way down the list of people you’d go to for comment on Parliamentary standards – but on this one issue he was completely right. Joyce went on Sky News yesterday and said that MPs should not be employing staff directly, they should be employed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority […]

    Read more →