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Open Letter to Lord Phillips of Sudbury

February 1, 2010


Dear Lord Phillips,


Your article in The Independent today following your visit to Gaza cannot pass without comment -- especially given your public profile. What gives away your lack of impartiality is your comment that non-Jewish critics of Israel are silent for fear of being labelled ‘antisemitic'. Whenever I hear such a comment, I ask the person who makes it to give me an example of when a critic of Israel has been incorrectly labelled as ‘antisemitic' (using the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism as the metric). They never can (give an example). Those who use this allegation are attempting to suppress the right of Jews who are on the receiving end of racism to speak out. That is itself antisemitic.


You say that not one dollar of the $4.5 billion has been spent. Quite apart from the fact that not all donor pledges have been fulfilled, you neglect to mention how much is going into Gaza. In December alone 2179 truckloads (48,237 tons) of humanitarian aid were transferred to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal and the Karni conveyor belt and 750 tons of aggregate were transferred for maintenance of the North Gaza Wastewater Treatment plant.


You speak of ‘relentless colonisation' of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. As regards East Jerusalem you need to be reminded that in the 1947 Partition Plan, Jerusalem was to be an international city but was taken by Jordan when the Arab armies invaded the proposed Jewish area (the Jews agreed the Partition Plan but the Arabs did not). Prior to that parts of East Jerusalem had been owned by Jews. Turning to the West Bank, many agreements signed by Israel (the ‘Road Map' and UN Resolution 242) provide for the return of the West Bank, but that has to be in exchange for peace. In 1967 Egypt and Syria intended to destroy Israel but she survived. Those who make war should not believe that there are no consequences on the ground - surely. Of course you neglect to mention (no surprise there) that Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and that the present government has agreed to a ten month freeze on building in the West Bank.


Your assertion that Israel is in "cavalier breach of International Law, the UN Charter, its Conventions and Resolutions" is simply wrong. Surprisingly - especially for a lawyer - you do not state precisely what law it is that Israel has breached. Neither do you say what is the purpose of the checkpoints. It is to ensure there are no more suicide bombers of the kind that have killed hundreds of Israelis in recent years. Remember March 2002 when 22 were killed and 140 wounded at the Park Hotel in Netanya while celebrating Passover? And you refer to Israel as the "cradle of lawyers". Presumably you are referring to the laws in the Bible. To the best of my knowledge judges are mentioned in the Bible - but lawyers? And what is the relevance of this to your argument? It looks pretty gratuitous to me.


You say ‘Israel does what it wants'. I assure you that 17 year old Israelis do not want to go to the Army for three years, with all the risks that entails. And your Party Leader Nick Clegg accepts that Israel has the right to defend its citizens. As for ‘rebuffing Obama' - in what way is the ten month freeze a ‘rebuff'? And "criminally disproportionate" retribution? I'm surprised that a lawyer does not know that under the laws of war, ‘proportionality' does not mean ‘like for like'. In World War Two, far more Germans were killed than British. It means using means which are not out of proportion to the aims. Colonel Richard Kemp CBE (former commander of the UK forces in Afghanistan) said at the UN "Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."


Your excess of pejorative language also gives away your anti-Israel agenda. Thus we learn that Israel practises "Machiavellian diplomacy" (not "Machiavellian" enough to stop the UN endorsing the Goldstone Report, though), "divide and rule" (divide and rule whom?) and "obfuscation and procrastination". Tell me Lord Phillips, at Taba in 2001 Yassir Arafat was offered all of Gaza and 97% of the West Bank. Moreover the West Bank area offered was contiguous, not "cantons". He turned it down. Was that "obfuscation and procrastination" on the part of Israel?


Then we learn that Israel ‘defies the UN'. Another unsubstantiated statement and there is a good reason for that - it's not true. And you say that the UN was Israel's ‘only begetter'. How very disingenuous - the fact was that 33 countries voted for the creation of the State of Israel (UN Resolution 181, 1947). What other country has such legitimacy?


Yours sincerely
Jonathan Hoffman

Letter published on: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/andrew-phillips-no-relief-for-the-palestinians-while-israel-enjoys-impunity-1885188.html
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