Personal Statement of a Political Nature

 

 

This is a personal statement I feel compelled to make. It is not connected to my musical life, and it should only be read by someone interested in a personal point of view and willing to assume it is made with integrity and careful consideration. I have no wish to foist my opinion on others, so unless you as a reader are approaching out of your own interest, please do not proceed.

Many thanks!




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The perpetual stalemate of the Israel/Palestine conflict has accompanied my whole life. It is a conflict I have felt strongly about, first favouring one side, then the other. I have been taught to feel it as a matter profoundly relevant to us in Europe, partly due to the stated motivation behind European influence in the creation of the modern states of the region, and partly due to the fact that so many of the actors and early citizens of Israel were Europeans. We are also encouraged to view Israel as an outpost of Europe through its inclusion in European events, football tournaments, cultural events such as the Eurovision Song Contest etc. Although the very real mortal dangers and perils facing the citizens of the region do not apply to us, it is nevertheless a situation with which many Europeans still now identify. This is particularly true as the nature of European and US involvement in the conflict does also have direct implications for European citizens, both in terms of security and political credibility.

Over the years of my adult life my own thoughts and sympathies have moved, perhaps just reflecting changing awareness of the situation, perhaps also reflecting the changing in myself of certain more general views. In any case, anyone vaguely aware of the historical context of Israel and Palestine will form their own opinion of the merits and problems of the various sides in the conflict, and my own present attitude notwithstanding I believe it is very possible to argue for an opposed view in an eminently rational manner. Nevertheless, there are certain times in life when even a politically inactive person might feel the need to express a considered opinion, not with the hope of changing anything, but merely with the desire to state clearly when they think something profoundly wrong is happening. We see the world around us, complain, accuse, judge things and people in matters of which we know little and which are only marginally relevant to us, but we carry on as normal, we eat our daily bread and acquiesce. Many of these matters are trivial and transient, but some are profound, even much more profound than they seem at the time. In such cases it can be difficult to know how to express oneself. There is little or nothing one can do that will change anything. Political activism is usually obliged to obliterate nuances of view or expression in order to generate power, and can thus be unattractive to someone concerned for such nuances. Government has wide strategic interests and concerns that make any nuance invisible, unless it suddenly becomes a public fever. I have no solution to this problem, but I still wish to make my own position clear, not least because I feel that if only a sufficient number of people made their feelings clear in this it might make a difference. This may be hopelessly mistaken. Nevertheless.

The recent pronunciation by President Trump that he intends to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel has undoubtedly pleased some people, but has also clearly appalled many others. I belong to the latter group. It cannot be in the interest of any civilized nation to trample the dignity and rights of a whole nation. The people of Palestine, whether Muslim or Christian or otherwise, deserve better than to continue to be cast as the beggars of the region, denied dignity in their daily lives, principally by the Israeli occupation, but also by the weakness and duplicity of their leaders and the surrounding governments. Many governments around the world mistreat their citizens, many mistreat those of other countries, but in few cases do they insist so tenaciously in claiming higher ideals and aims in the face of abject self-interest and disregard for humanity than the governments of Europe and their leaders in this, the USA. It is my view that the principal obstacle to peace in the region today is the occupation of the areas conquered since 1967. Everything else is a direct consequence of that occupation, including the issue of settlements, violent uprisings and terrorism. To insist otherwise is to my mind offensive to rational and objective debate. Clearly Israel has territorial ambitions beyond the borders of 1967, and equally clearly those are not justified by any stretch of international law and common sense. To pretend that Israelís territorial advances are necessitated by self-defence, or that they are temporary and will be reversed, is absurd. As long as our governments fail to not only openly condemn these advances but also address them in the same manner as they would any other territorial advances, such as that of Russia in the Crimea, they forfeit any moral or rational credibility. Most countries that occupy territory that does not belong to them have strong reasons for doing so, and can appeal to historical or social factors for their justification. This does not make such occupation less illegal, and should not affect how we approach it.

The issue of Jerusalem is difficult, but unless there is recognition on all sides of the significance of the city to all sides it will never be resolved. For this reason President Trumpís speech seems to me so damaging. To say that he is merely acknowledging reality, and that Israel as a sovereign nation has the right to determine its own capital is disingenuous, as half of that city was occupied militarily and is currently being systematically cleansed of its original inhabitants. It is a reality that has been forced onto the city with the help of the USA. Which Jerusalem is the capital? The western section? Or the whole city, including the holy sites of the Old Town, taken by the Israeli army in 1967? How can the capital city of a country be recognized if by international recognition it is not even part of that country? Never mind the insistence that all parties must recognize the right to exist of Israel, where is the same recognition of Palestine? Where is the recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine with the right to determine its own capital, even the right to travel to its own capital?

The issue that prompts my need to express all this is not principally the action of Israel. Israel is a sovereign country that has its own interests and promotes them in the way its government decides is best. It is a government that is democratically elected, and responsibility for its actions therefore to some degree must be spread across its institutions and electorate. No country in the world, least of all any European country, can claim not to act illegally on occasions or to occupy any moral high ground. No country in the world is better than any other, and those who proclaim moral superiority are usually the most suspect. I clearly believe the Israeli governments of many decades to be guilty of terrible mistakes and an underlying project to make the eventual establishment of a sovereign, dignified Palestine impossible. But that is not why I am writing these lines. Many countries and governments in the world act terribly and commit terrible crimes. This is always a cause for regret, even anger. But it is hardly unusual. I am prompted by the hypocrisy of my own government, and its complicity in enabling and prolonging a situation I believe to be morally, politically and diplomatically catastrophic. The actions of my government are a direct function of my political voice, and it is this which prompts me to make this statement, as irrelevant as it is. It is a matter of voicing oneís disagreement with a long-standing policy that shows no sign of abating, rather of the opposite. I hope that anyone reading this who has opposing views can understand and accept the necessity and legitimacy of voicing oneís concerns in a rational form, and that at the heart of things must lie an acceptance of the fundamental values which are common to us all and necessary for the functioning of our world.

 

 

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P.S. After further thought, I feel it necessary to add a clarification to my statement. It has been pointed out to me that the problems of the region certainly did not start in 1967, and that the potential for most of the current problems dates back much further in the past. I am of course aware of this and considered it. It is however my belief that the potential of the past can be overcome, as the maintenance of a long term conflict is exhausting in every sense. However, the developments in Palestine since 1967, particularly those of the last 25 years or so, have made it increasingly difficult to imagine how a resolution could be found: the gradual territorial disintegration of Palestine can not be reversed without enormous determination and cost, and any other solution that has been suggested seems either unrealistic or grossly unreasonable toward the Palestinians. For this reason I see the occupations of 1967 as the principal obstacle to peace, even if they themselves were far from the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy.



 

   


 

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