Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) have come under fire for declaring that “Hamas must accept responsibility” for scores of Palestinians killed on Monday, during demonstrations to mark 70 years since the Nakba “the catastrophe”.
In a tweet, that has subsequently been deleted, LFI responded to the killing of more than 60, including 6 children and the injuring of some 2,500 Palestinians by stating: “Tragic events on the Gazan border; all civilian deaths are regrettable. Hamas must accept responsibility for these events. Their successful attempt to hijack peaceful protest as cover to attack Israeli border communities must be condemned by all who seek peace in the Middle East.”
A reporter for the Middle East Eye, Hind Khoudary, explained the situation on the ground: “All I saw in the past hour is blood, with people’s heads, necks and chests injured. The Israelis have been shooting randomly at protesters the minute they tried to break the fence. Some bodies are still trapped there too, and ambulances can’t reach them.”
Corbyn ally and author of ‘The Candidate’, Alex Nunns poured scorn on the the LFI response to yesterday’s killings, for what he sees as their ‘blaming of victims for their own deaths’, as “just the pits”.
Yet faced with a humbling display of courage, some still blame the victims for their own deaths. Or, like Labour Friends of Israel, put all responsibility for the use of lethal force against protesters on Hamas, as if it issued orders to the snipers. That’s just the pits.
— Alex Nunns (@alexnunns) May 14, 2018
British Nazareth-based journalist, Jonathan Cook, took to Facebook to tell followers to remember this LFI statement the next time the group declares there is a problem with anti-Semitism in the party under Jeremy Corbyn. Insisting that Labour’s ‘problem issue’ was elsewhere, he said that “Labour’s problem has been a history of fanatical support for Israel, even when it’s massacring unarmed Palestinians.”
if literally blaming the victims for a massacre isn’t ‘bringing the party into disrepute’, not quite sure what is https://t.co/f1A7DNKnZX
— Owen Hatherley (@owenhatherley) May 15, 2018
What may pass by those not familiar with the complexities of Israel/Palestine, is what the LFI highlight as a border between Israel and Palestinian-controlled Gaza (controlled in the loosest terms), as they mention “Tragic events on the Gazan border”.
As journalist Aeyal Gross explains in a recent piece published in the liberal Israeli paper Haaretz, in reality it’s a ‘one-sided’ border, because “Israel breaches the border whenever it wants to. But when a Gazan approaches the fence, he can find himself shot to death by the Israeli army.”
What’s also puzzling about the current discourse from defenders of Israel’s actions is the assignment of blame to Hamas for deaths and injuries carried out by Israel. It begs the question are Hamas forcing the IDF to use live rounds on protesters? How would these same individuals feel if the British army engaged in shooting unarmed civilians – as they did on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Northern Ireland in 1972?
Farcical and uninformed response to the deaths at the border. Such a statement plays into the hands of Hamas leaders and only worsens confusion on the conflict. It’s a shame that similarly unambiguous statements can’t be released condemning Russia or Iran. https://t.co/ZuHnhCpfJW
— Jasmin Beckett (@Jasmin_Beckett) May 14, 2018
Furthermore, Palestinians did not start their protestations in 1987, when Hamas was formed. They’ve been showing anger, overwhelming through peaceful protests for 70 years, since 1948, when their Nakba or “catastrophe” took place, when some 720,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from their land to make way for an Israeli state. There was no Hamas in 1948.
LFI seem to be conveying the same narrative as Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. He has defended the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) firing live ammunition at Palestinians and blamed Hamas for instigating the violence. He insisted the military action taken by the IDF was “measured” and “surgical” to ensure they protected Israeli civilians.
Labour MP Wes Streeting is not so convinced by Regev’s assertion that action taken by the Israelis was “measured and surgical,” tweeting “I’d hate to see what he thinks “unmeasured and indiscriminate” looks like.”
If, as Israel’s ambassador claims, yesterday’s action was “measured and surgical” then I’d hate to see what he thinks “unmeasured and indiscriminate” looks like.
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) May 15, 2018
LFI is chaired by Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, who was embroiled in an undercover sting by Al Jazeera who uncovered seemingly, undue influence of Israeli officials on the LFI and British foreign policy within Government. The organization also includes Labour Progress member, Rachel Reeves MP and arch-Corbyn critic, John Woodcock MP, who take up officer positions.
Woodcock has taken to social media in response to the killings, choosing not to condemn Israeli military action, but instead apportioning blame to Hamas, tweeting “Deeply troubled by this tragedy. By those who simply condemn Israel without mentioning Hamas’ role, but mostly for the Palestinian civilians who’ve died.”
Yes to this ⬇️
Deeply troubled by this tragedy. By those who simply condemn Israel without mentioning Hamas’ role, but mostly for the Palestinian civilians who’ve died https://t.co/N5WddMp21y
— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) May 14, 2018
He is a regular critic of Assad’s army in Syria when it comes to civilian casualties, but now silent on Netanyahu’s IDF committing acts of violence against innocent protesters.
The Government’s response came from Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, who did not lay blame or even mention Israel in his statement, instead preferring to express sadness at the loss of life and blaming ‘extremist elements’, as he tweeted “Extremely saddened by loss of life in Gaza today. Concerned peaceful protests are being exploited by extremist elements.”
Extremely saddened by loss of life in Gaza today. Concerned peaceful protests are being exploited by extremist elements. Urge restraint in use of live fire. Violence is destructive to peace efforts. UK remains committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
— Alistair Burt (@AlistairBurtUK) May 14, 2018
This apparent neutral response was in sharp contrast to the Labour Party. Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary, released a statement unequivocally laying blame for the Palestinian killings on the Israeli government, singling out Benjamin Netanyahu, as she tweeted “This vicious and utterly avoidable slaughter must stop, and the Netanyahu government must be held to account for their actions.”
This vicious and utterly avoidable slaughter must stop, and the Netanyahu government must be held to account for their actions. My statement on the killings in Gaza today: pic.twitter.com/9YSWhKmnAr
— Emily Thornberry (@EmilyThornberry) May 14, 2018
The Israel/Palestine conflict has been a disastrous and utterly avoidable struggle between two people on the same piece of land. The cycle of violence sees no abating, particularly in light of Donald Trump antagonistically giving the green light to the US Embassy moving to Jerusalem. But make no mistake, this should be much more than a US Embassy, this should be about the world community coming together to secure equal rights for Palestinian and Israeli citizens to stop the bloodshed.
Omar Baggili, RT Journalist
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