Com­ment Hezbol­lah as­so­ci­a­tion does the Pales­tini­ans no favours

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

LAST month there was a march in Lon­don to com­mem­o­rate Al Quds day, an an­nual day of sup­port for the Pales­tinian peo­ple.

Some of those who marched car­ried the flag of Hezbol­lah, a Le­banese-based or­gan­i­sa­tion which seeks not just an end to the cur­rent op­pres­sion of the Pales­tinian peo­ple by Is­rael but the de­struc­tion of Is­rael.

It is mo­ti­vated by sup­port for the Pales­tini­ans but also by a be­lief that Is­rael is part of a re­li­gious war on Is­lam. For ex­am­ple, one ar­ti­cle on its of­fi­cial web­site says that Is­rael’s long-term goal is to de­stroy the Kaaba, a build­ing at the cen­tre of Is­lam’s most sa­cred mosque in Mecca, Saudi Ara­bia.

Hezbol­lah’s mil­i­tary wing is banned as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion in the UK. How­ever, peo­ple car­ry­ing Hezbol­lah flags stayed within the law by mak­ing it clear they re­ferred to the po­lit­i­cal wing, which is not banned.

Crit­ics say that the mil­i­tary wing and the po­lit­i­cal wing are ef­fec­tively the same. Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan has come un­der pres­sure to pre­vent Hezbol­lah flags of any de­scrip­tion be­ing flown in the cap­i­tal.

He re­cently promised to write to the Home Sec­re­tary about the is­sue, say­ing: “I share the con­cerns of the Jewish com­mu­nity about sup­port shown for Hezbol­lah, which is an il­le­gal, pro­scribed and an­ti­semitic or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“An­tisemitism or hate crime of any kind has no place in our city, where we don’t just tol­er­ate di­ver­sity, we re­spect and cel­e­brate it.”

For some Bri­tish peo­ple who sup­port the Pales­tini­ans, sup­port for Hezbol­lah is jus­ti­fied by Is­rael’s be­hav­iour.

Since 1967, Is­rael has con­trolled or oc­cu­pied land, known as the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which un­der in­ter­na­tional law is sup­posed to be­long to the Pales­tinian peo­ple.

While it’s pos­si­ble to jus­tify the ini­tial oc­cu­pa­tion – the land at that time was con­trolled by Egypt and Jor­dan re­spec­tively, which were com­mit­ted to de­stroy­ing Is­rael – it cer­tainly can’t be jus­ti­fied to­day.

Both those coun­tries have made peace with Is­rael.

And the Pales­tinian peo­ple them­selves, through their gov­ern­ment the State of Pales­tine, based in the West Bank, have ac­cepted what is known as the two-state so­lu­tion.

This means ac­cept­ing Is­rael’s right to ex­ist in peace within its own bor­ders, while also of course call­ing for Is­rael to al­low the Pales­tini­ans to do the same in their own coun­try.

The bor­ders them­selves are ac­knowl­edged by the United Na­tions and more or less ev­ery in­di­vid­ual coun­try. But al­though sup­pos­edly ac­cept­ing the prin­ci­ple of a twostate so­lu­tion as far back as 1993, Is­rael hasn’t al­lowed it to hap­pen.

It re­tains ef­fec­tive con­trol of much of the West Bank, and has en­cour­aged or al­lowed Is­raeli set­tle­ments to be built there.

Al­though Is­rael forced set­tlers to leave the Gaza Strip, it main­tains a block­ade of the area (along with Egypt, which has its own bor­der with Gaza). This is said to be on se­cu­rity grounds, but it clearly pre­vents eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment or the de­vel­op­ment of an in­de­pen­dent state.

Crit­i­cism of Is­rael is jus­ti­fied, but as­so­ci­at­ing the plight of the Pales­tini­ans with Hezbol­lah doesn’t do the Pales­tinian peo­ple any favours.

Sup­port­ing the Pales­tini­ans is not the same as sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism. It’s also not the same as sup­port­ing re­li­gious ex­trem­ism.

If any­thing, pro­mot­ing the idea that sup­port­ing the Pales­tini­ans is tan­ta­mount to sup­port­ing a ter­ror­ist and fa­nat­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion like Hezbol­lah only un­der­mines at­tempts by Pales­tini­ans to win sup­port for their case.

There will be some peo­ple in the west who feel com­fort­able wav­ing Hezbol­lah flags. Many oth­ers, how­ever, will find the sight re­pul­sive.

While Hezbol­lah are based in Le­banon, the Pales­tini­ans have an or­gan­i­sa­tion of their own which rep­re­sents them. The State of Pales­tine has been rec­og­nized by 136 na­tions rep­re­sent­ing more than 80% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

The Pres­i­dent is Mah­moud Ab­bas, also chair of the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (PLO), a for­mer ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion which signed the 1993 peace agree­ment with Is­rael.

In prac­tice, it has lim­ited con­trol over the West Bank, due to Is­rael’s in­ter­fer­ence, and a com­plex re­la­tion­ship with Ha­mas, the Pales­tinian group which con­trols Gaza.

It’s not re­ally a sov­er­eign state in prac­tice, yet.

But it’s the body which rep­re­sents the Pales­tinian peo­ple in the UN and around the world. While Mr Ab­bas and the PLO may have flaws like other politi­cians, they are not ter­ror­ists or peo­ple who be­lieve in re­li­gious war.

Any­thing which un­der­mines them only hurts rather than help­ing the Pales­tinian cause.

> A masked Pales­tinian mil­tant from the Is­lamic Ji­had next to a Hezbol­lah flag

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