Discussion Forum

Middle East: demo in HB?

Posted by Cllr Nader Fekri
Saturday, August 5, 2006

Dear all,
Along with the overwhelming majority of people I am appalled at the present situation in the Middle East. Unfortunately, I shall be unable to attend the demonstration in london this week-end and wondered what the general attitude to having a peaceful vigil/demonstration in St George's Square next Saturday (the 12th) say at 12 noon.

This will be exactly one month on from when the current hostilities began, and will give people the opportunity to show their feelings.

Posted by Robert Collins
Sunday, August 6, 2006

If you mean like the "peaceful" Iraq war demo, where I came in for a load of verbals and abuse, just because I didn't blast my car horn in support, then no thanks.

Posted by Pat McCarthy
Sunday, August 6, 2006

At last someone is prepared to do something! Well done Cllr Fekri!!!

Let's fill St George's Square.

It may just be Hebden Bridge, but these days a lot of people with surprising connections live round here. If all the small communities around the country start doing the same, we may just get the message across that the people of these islands want our Government to lead calls for the Middle East slaughter to stop now.

Posted by Heather Sela
Monday, August 7, 2006

As I write this I am sitting in a re-enforced concrete "safe room" for the fourth consecutive hour on the 27th consecutive day of being shelled by Syrian and Iranian made Hizballa rockets. I thought I would relieve the boredom by taking a look at the web site of my native Hebden Bridge. And what do I find? A bunch of armchiar pacifists and "experts" in middle eastern politics pontificating about a situation they obviously know little about!

This war is about the survival of Israel. Nothing less!Iran,Hamas , Hizballa, Jihad Islami have all openly and publicly declared that their ultimate aim is to destroy Israel and wipe it off the map.

65 years ago another organisation almost succeeded in doing just that and 6 million jews were murdered as the world looked on. When genocide of one's people is still within living memory one tends to take similar threats very seriously.

Israel cannot afford to take any chances - one mistake, one slow reaction and this country will not exist. Personally I believe that countries and organisations which advocate the anihalation of other countries or other races of people should not be given any kind of encouragement whatsoever. In case the news has not yet reached H.B., Hizballa is a terrorist organisation and anyone who is naive enough to believe otherwise is invited to come and spend one day with me, my family (also British citizens, by the way) and my neighbours in a bomb shelter. Then decide for yourselves who exactly is targeting civilians in this war.

There will never be peace in the Middle East or anywhere else in this world until people like yourselves in western countries stop encouraging terrorist organisations by means of media support, demos,donations or not buying Israeli avocados in the Co-Op ! If the ordinary people could just get on with life there would be no problem to come to a reasonable solution to the problems. But as we all saw (or should have seen) when Israel evacuated the Gaza strip a year ago, the terrorist elements in the Palastinian society did not allow schools or hospitals to be built. They did not, after getting what they had said they wanted for 38 years, go about creating their own state and providing for their own people. Instead they began launching Kasam missiles at towns and villages inside the internationally recognised border of Israel. For the sake of hope for peace in the middle east (and in my opinion, in Britain and Europe too) terrorists must be stood up to - they are, when all's said and done, no more than bullies.

The tragic events in London on 7.7.05 should have given the west a wake-up call as to the real nature of terrorism. We in Israel unfortunately have to get our heads round days like that almost every day. So "over-reacting" is a very relative concept!

Posted by Coun Susan Press (Labour)
Monday, August 14, 2006

Just so people know - Hebden Royd Labour Party last week passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East and supporting UN peace moves. We are also members of Labour Against The War and will be demonstrating with the Stop The War Coalition in september in Manchester - where Tony Blair will be during Labour Party Conference. The demo calling for an end to war in Iraq/Afghanistan is on Saturday September 23 - watch out for our banner.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Heather, I agree with all you say about Israel fighting for survival. That has been the case since 1947. Every war that Israel has fought has been defensive, and the relatively high civilian casualties in Lebanon is entirely due to the cynical tactics of the terrorists launching their missiles from within residential areas, thus making them target areas for retaliatory strikes.

However, I do think Israel has allowed itself to be provoked into over-reacting. I am less concerned with the fighting which has now thankfully stopped, but with the continuing theft of Palestinian land and water supplies. I understand the building of the wall as a response to the suicide bombers, but Israel has built much of the wall on Palestinian land, and divided and destroyed communities. This is short-term security, because it only stores up resentment and hate for the future. As I wrote in one of my earlier contributions, until we have peace with justice for all, Jew and Arab alike, there will be no real peace, and in a few months or years we will be back where we were last week with death and destruction all around.

Posted by Duncan Watson
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rev Buglass, you evidently have a rather pessimistic view regarding the extent of human agency. Might I tentatively suggest that high civilian casualties in Lebanon are, in part, due to Israel launching missiles into residential areas. Perhaps you would disagree, and instead hold that the Israelis had no choice but to launch missiles into the civilian areas. This reasoning would appear to suggest that you believe the Israelis have no freewill.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sorry, Duncan, but I think you've got a bit too philosophical with this one. We can dig into the Calvinist-Arminian debate if you want, but it really isn't relevant.

The problem is entirely pragmatic. Hezbollah chooses to site missile launchers in residential areas. Having located launch sites with counter-battery radar, Israel knows exactly where incoming rounds originate, and is in a position to take out the launcher within minutes of the launch. The choice is whether to do so and prevent further missiles from that site, or decide to leave it because it's in a residential area, and allow it to continue launching into Israeli residential areas. (Note in passing that simple fact: although it is easy to find Israeli military installations and bombard them, Hezbollah launches non-precision weapons at cities like Haifa, just as they've been launching crude katyusha rockets into the Galilee for years.)

Now, your family is under attack, but taking retaliatory measures will hurt the people among whom their attacker is taking refuge. You can risk hurting the innocent, or you can let your family go on getting hurt. Is that a choice? Do you really need philosophical speculation about human agency?

Personally, as a Christian, I would love to be a pacifist. However, pacifism only works when everyone obeys the rules, and my experience has shown that doesn't happen. So I'm inclined to a more pragmatic approach. Call me a pragmatic idealist if you like; theoretical and theological speculation have their place, but they won't help the folk who have faced bombardment, and will face it again unless the opposing sides can be brought to a just and fair settlement.

Posted by Heather Sela
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rev Buglass - firstly I must say that both your knowledge and comprehension of the middle east are very impressive and sadly unusual! Nobody likes the wall we were forced to build as a barrier between us and the suicide bombers. Nobody thinks that it is any kind of a solution either - terrorists will still get through - but it does help a bit with damage control.

Please bear in mind when the wall was begun. Israel had just suffered one of the bloodiest periods in our history. Over a period of about six weeks there had been suicide bombings at least once a day. Hundreds of civilians - including many school children - had died. I don't know if you have ever seen first hand the victims of a suicide bomber. I'm a nurse , so I've had more than my fair share of that experience, and believe me, no matter how many times you see charred children, it never gets any easier. The citizens of this country were in uproar - how come our government could not protect us against these terrible attacks? So the wall was born.

Hopefully there will come a day when Israel and a moderate Palestinian state will be able to exist side by side, but until then, the Israeli government still has an obligation to try to prevent its citizens from being blown up on their way to school or work. There is intention to take down the wall - just as soon as it is safe to do so. As for the "theft" of Palestinian land - it is true that in certain areas, because of topographical difficulties, the wall encroaches on what used to be Jordanian (not Palestinian!) land before June 1967, but at other points along the wall it goes the other way and encroaches upon Israeli territory in a deliberate attempt to be as fair as possible. Also, please don't forget where the Palestinians get their electricity from, where a large number of the men work, where they get medical treatment and so on..

In reply to Duncan - in addition to the Rev. Buglass' explanation of the proportions between Lebanese and Israeli casualties I would like to point out several additional points. Over 4,000 rockets were launched by the Hizballa into northern Israel over the last 5 weeks. As we sadly saw in Kfar Giladi, one rocket can kill 12 people. I'll leave you to do the math!

The difference is that our government provides protection for its citizens thereby reducing casualties to a minimum. Are we to be blamed too for being better organised? Is it our fault that our politicians spend money on bomb shelters instead of lining their own pockets?

I think Golda Meir summed it up when she said, "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us ."

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thank you, Heather, for your further explanation. I do understand the reasons for the wall, and I do remember the reports at the time of the suicide attacks. However, that is not the whole story. The wall was originally supposed to follow the Green Line, a large section of which ran west of Jerusalem. Instead it has been built east of Jerusalem, and encroaches miles into what used to be Jordanian territory before 1967, but is now recognised as Palestinian land. It has divided Palestinian communities, separated people from their work and families, from their land, and from their water resources. Had it followed the Green Line, it would have been much shorter, and much more effective. It was also declared to be illegal by the International Court of Justice. As I say, I understand the reasons for it - at least the stated reasons; I have watched Ariel Sharon at work since 1982, and have never trusted him. The plan which he launched looks less like a security barrier, and more like a prison for the Palestinians.

Israel has my friendship, and my sympathy. But a friend cannot be uncritical. I note your point about where Palestinians come to work, which does make me wonder whether the plan to have two separate states can ever be viable. The only remedy, in one state or two, is that Jew and Palestinian must learn to live together in peace and justice.

Posted by Heather Sela
Sunday, August 20, 2006

I presume , Rev Buglass , that despite the way it sounds you would not actually advocate the building of a wall west of Jerusalem, thereby cutting Israel's capital city off from the rest of the state and in effect returning us to pre-1948 days!

I'm sure you would not like to see the residents of Jerusalem once more besieged and starving as convoys carrying food and other essential supplies failed to reach them because of Arab ambushes. Actually, the wall is not quite as hermetically sealed as people like to make out. A few months ago I had to travel to ammunition hill in Jerusalem and coming up the road from the dead sea which approaches Jerusalem from the north east, inadvertently took a wrong turning and rapidly found myself on the "wrong" side of the wall! A simple U- turn solved the problem.

I'm not quite sure who recognizes the former Jordanian West Bank as palestinian territory as you say. Just as the Egyptians refused to take back the Gaza strip when offered it in the framework of the peace agreement between them and Israel in 1979, the Jordanians too seemed to have few qualms about giving up on the West Bank, thereby in effect leaving Israel with the palestinian headache. One would have thought that both Egypt and Jordan would have been keen to get back the territory they'd lost in 1967 and even that they may have used the opportunity to create a homeland there for their poor Palestinian brothers, a homeland that, with a little investment and generosity from the not so poor surrounding arab states, could have flourished and prospered.

I know it sounds terribly cynical but sometimes I do ask myself in whose interest is it to prolong this conflict for so long? Sadly, although Ehud Olmert won the last elections largely because of his "Itcansoot" or "coming together" manifesto, which would have brought the Israeli settlers from the West Bank back within pre-1967 borders, the Hizballa, ironically, have probably put a stop to that now.

The Israeli people have learnt a bitter lesson over the past few weeks. We have learnt at great cost that it is not enough that we are in love with the concept of peace - if our neighbours do not want it too then it cannot be. Since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 the residents of the north of Israel have invested millions of shekels in building tourist attractions in the area. A large proportion of the families in this area rely upon tourism for at least part of their income, myself included.

Whilst we were building Bed & Breakfast facilities, the Hizballa were building fortifications and buying weapons in preparation for the war that has just taken place, and, mark my words, will yet return. We have come to understand that the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory does not guarantee us peace and quiet. It didn't work in Lebanon or Gaza, and there is no reason now to delude ourselves into thinking that it might work in the West Bank. Sad? Pessimistic? Sure! But unfortunately true and realistic. It takes two to tango , as they say. And in the mean time the Israeli government, regardless of its political inclinations (I'm not an Ariel Sharon fan either!) still has a responsibility to protect its citizens from terror attacks. So I expect the wall will be around for a while yet. As for it being a "prison for the Palestinians" - walls make for barriers on both sides. Both sides are prisoners of this situation and just because Israel is a more prosperous, advanced state (through hard graft , I may add!) it doesn't mean that people here are suffering any less.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Thursday, August 17, 2006

No, Heather, of course I don't want pre-1948 conditions, nor do I want Jerusalem to be cut off from the rest of Israel.

My point was simply that certain boundaries have been agreed and recognised, and the wall goes a long way into Palestinian territory. As regards the land, 40% of the West bank is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. The wall in many place is built upon Palestinian land, in a way which does divide communities. Two of my friends have spent several months working in Israel as accompanists and observers, and I have spoken with them at length about their experiences.

As regards your other comments, I agree: Hezbollah has made it very clear that they do not want Israel to exist, and it is very clea that they have spent the time since the last cease-fire buying rockets. Lebanon has been powerless to stop them: I believe the Lebanese Army is outnumbered by Hezbollah. If I were Israeli, I wouldn't tust them either. It is a very difficult situation.

The vision for Israel in 1948 was for a multi-racial community, which would include and bless all who lived in it - there is an ancient welcome in Judaism for the non-Jew "stranger/neighbour in our midst." That vision has since foundered on the threats of the extremists on both sides - both the Jewish settlers who insist on Eretz Yisrael as a Jewish homeland to the exclusion of Palestinians, and the Palestinians who wish to remove the Jews. Only when the extremists are silenced, and the community in all its parts exist in justice and peace, will Israel truly be Israel. But I really don't know if it will ever happen, because too many idiots seem to be bound on hate.

Posted by Heather Sela
Sunday, August 20, 2006

Rev. Buglass - Israel is a multi-racial community. Druze , Bedouins , Circassins, Christians, Jews and Muslims all live here together already with equal rights and obligations and intricate social and business ties. During the recent war in Lebanon for example I had two families of Druze friends staying with me. Katyusha rockets had fallen very close to their house and their children were terrified, so when they phoned to ask if they could come to stay with us, we naturally were delighted to be able to help.

As with any multi-racial community, Israel can only embrace those who aspire to the common goals of the community - mutual respect for each others' cultural and religious customs and a common effort on all sides to make the community prosper in all senses of the word.

No community of whatever size can accept within it people whose aim is to destroy it! Yes, Israel like any society has its share of extremists, but as one saw a year ago in the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel does not let them dictate the tone. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the Palestinian society. I am afraid that it would seem that the very entity of the Palestinian "struggle" has changed from being a secular issue to a religious issue in the past few years, particularly since the Islamic extremist Hamas got into power.

The fact that I am a nice, good person who works in a profession for the benefit of others and has lots of Arab friends does not guarantee my immunity from being blown up on a bus or in a cafe. The fact that I am a Jew makes the aforementioned events probable. I appreciate how hard it is to imagine the concept of one's life, one's very existance being constantly under threat. When I lived in Hebden I couldn't imagine it either. Then I hadn't a clue about basic things that today are commonplace to me, like whether one has more chance of being killed by terrorists breaking into one's house if one leaves the light above one's front door on or off. Like where is the safest place to take cover when one's house is under attack by missiles. Like whether, in the event of an attack with chemical weapons, one is better off in a house or a bomb shelter.

The Middle East looks very different and a lot less black and white when one actually lives in it. I do hope that the vigil in H.B. on Saturday will not pander to the usual cliches but that people in Britain will begin to appreciate that the best way for them really to do some good is firstly to start pressurising the U.N. to implement it's own resolutions. If 1701 is to be enforced with the same vigour as 1559 then within two years at most in my opinion I shall have an extremist islamic Iran-style state that wants to wipe me off the face of the earth 40 minutes' drive from my house.

It must be obvious to all that there is far more chance of Hizballa disarming the Lebanese army than the other way round! If 1559 had been properly enforced all the recent suffering both in Israel and Lebanon could probably have been avoided.