To Palestine with Love

Gareth MorganMorgan Foundation51 Comments

In September this year Joanne and I had the opportunity to engage with UNRWA, (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) a temporary NGO set up in 1949 as to assist Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. 66 years later and the agency is still going strong with an annual budget of US$1.5bn, focussed on supporting 5 million Palestinian refugees stranded in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 1.5 million of these folk are in camps and that is where UNRWA focuses – helping relieve their living conditions, sometimes in the face of overt hostility from locals of the host nation. This is particularly the case in East Jerusalem where we spent time in Aida Camp, one of the oldest (1950), most densely populated (5,500 people in just 0.17 sq km) and most troubled camps, being as it is only 7kms from Jerusalem’s Old City.

The notorious Israeli-constructed Wall runs hard up against Aida Camp which provides the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) a great vantage point above the camp, and from which they don’t hestitate to harrass the occupants on a regular basis – from 2014 until present the camp averages 1 incident per day with the IDF. As has happened right across the West Bank since the Far Right’s Netanyahu has become dominant in Israeli politics, the escalation of violence from the IDF has been unrelenting. The liberal, centrist Israelis we talked to back in Jersualem confessed their regime was an embarrassment to Israelis who increasingly are regarded internationally as pariahs and to have lost their humanity.

The photos show the tear gas canisters sitting on the wire netting above the soccer ground in Aida, stranded up there as the locals have tried to make their only recreation area safe from indiscriminate IMF volleys of tear gas that rain down on the school we were visiting and across the neighbourhood.

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The Israeli tactics are obscene and the teachers, UNRWA workers and of course the Palestinian families themselves were all suffering from respiratory problems when we were there. In the school we listened to a tape of the most notorious abuse so far from the IDF who megaphoned the camp and told them that if they did not desist from stone throwing they would be gassed to death – children, youths and the aged. The Israelis suspended the officer concerned and promised a “review”. Nothing happened.

Also amongst our UNRWA site visits was the embattled village of Wadi Fakum which is being encircled by the expansion of Jewish Settlements on the surrounding hills. This valley village depends for its livelihood on farming the adjoining fields. But the encroaching settlers are just full-on abusers of the rights of these inhabitants. They continually harass them, let the raw sewage from their hilltop suburbs pour down the hillsides upon the Palestinians’ fields, undertake sorties to burn the farmers’ olive trees, beat the local children up, and encroach into the village with guns. Such totally despicable behaviour goes without sanction by the authorities. The aim obviously is to drive the Palestinians out and by doing so, seize the abandoned land. Given settlers can bear arms and villagers aren’t permitted, settlers are subject to civil courts while villagers are answerable in military courts, and the blind eye that Netanyahu’s thugs turn to all this – the future for Wadi Fakum is bleak.

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The wall and the settlements are the main tools the Israelis are using to attack the Palestinian settlements. It is clear the settlements are spreading west, and heading all the way out to Jericho on the banks of the Jordan river, which will in effect drive a wedge right across Palestine, divide Palestine into north and south separating families and communities.

The wall on the other hand is nowhere near the Green Line agreed in 1947 and that formed the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accords signed between Arafat and Rabin that agreed to the principle of two self-governing states. With Netanyahu coming to power first in 1996 and his party being decidedly against the two state solution and withdrawal from the Occupied Territory, Israel has been categorically ambivalent on the two state solution. Hence during Netanyahu’s current term the hostility is escalating, and it appears to be threatening the very existence of Palestinians.

So this wall comes well into the West Bank and twists and turns its way along, designed deliberately to inflict maximum hurt on the Palestinians. Communities are separated from their schools and health centres, farmers are separated from their fields (as is the case with the wall at Aida) and of course the Israelis ensure all special Muslim religious sites end up on the Israeli side of the wall. It is provocative, it is illegal according to international law, and its purpose is far from that declared by the Israelis.

The Israelis argue that the wall has been necessary to “defend” Israel. Having been to several theatres where zones are used to separate hostile sides, that claim is patently rubbish. Zones typically contain a no-man’s-land which acts as a buffer between the two sides. But with this wall the IDF get up on the top of it and harass the Palestinian locals below – there is no attempt at separation, it is an offensive not a defensive device.

It is abundantly clear that Israel does not accept the two state solution that the UN recommended back in 1947, and the agenda is to continually squeeze the Palestinians. The wall and the settlements are weapons for a land grab so that when the inevitable happens and Israel is checked, the “new” Israel will be much larger than that defined in 1947. Despite how much is written on this sort of behaviour, the rate of encroachment is accelerating. International impotence in reining Israel in, is deafening in its silence.

The radicalisation of the population in Palestine is steadily being manufactured by the regime of Benjamin Netanyahu and its total abuse of human rights and international treaty undertakings. Already Hamas rules Gaza and support for it in the Occupied Territory is growing steadily as the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority is seen as totally useless in reining in Israeli aggression.

Yet despite the obvious – that this is all leading to a violent breakout by the Palestinians trapped in Gaza and increasingly in the West Bank, as recently as 2014 the UN Security Council once again failed to resolve to censure Israel. The US is the problem and in the past has had to use its veto to prevent such a motion (2011). While the US, at least under Obama, disagrees with Israel’s tactics, it limply argues that peace can only be resolved there in a bilateral agreement between Israel and Palestine, rather than engineered by the UN. Hence its veto (in 2014, and supported by Australia!). Given American activism in trying to force “peace” in other parts of the Middle East rather than leave it to any bilateral arrangement between locals, such an excuse is limp, even hypocritical.

Our visit at an end – or at least this part before we move on to Syrian refugee settlements in Lebanon – Joanne and I resolve to help UNRWA, that 60 year old “temporary” NGO for displaced Palestinians – by putting some resource in to help it get resources to entrapped Palestinians. Despite the agreements they’ve signed, the Israelis have become even more obstructive in their efforts to impede the work of UNRWA so every bit of help we can provide, hopefully can make a difference.

Isn’t it ironic, that from a land formed as a shelter for the victims of the worst atrocity of the modern era, have emerged descendants from that terrible time who compromise their own humanity in order to inflict as much harm as they can get away with on another people, a people who have just as much legitimacy to reside in the area as them. Civil-minded Israelis are ashamed, thank goodness.

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To Palestine with Love was last modified: October 31st, 2016 by Gareth Morgan
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Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.

  • Murray Pearce

    The state of Israel is a far greater threat to regional security than the old state of Syria. Yet the west armed radical groups to destroy Syria and turn the region into a human meat grinder. It is time that the sanctions were applied to the Israelis.

    • SueJB

      “The west armed radical groups to destroy Syria” – what’s this, the story according to Putin? I remember at the time of the Arab Spring, there was a big popular movement in Syria for freedom and democracy. Which Assad tried to suppress with artillery and aerial bombing, and such-like.

      • P B

        You “remember” what you are told by the media. Assad di not arm his police for three weeks once the demonstrations started, yet police and protestors were getting killed. Yes many people in Syria wanted to changethier government. No, it was not a popular revolt, and it is now general knowledge for anyone who reads that the West armed and trained foreign insurgents to enter Syria.

  • Philip

    Israel is the classic neighbourhood bully. They are by far the most powerful state in the Middle East, so can do as they like, and do – largely because the world’s greatest bully (the U.S.) supports them. While the iniquitous power of veto in the UN remains so will the status quo.

  • Eddie

    Gareth, Israel withdrew all Jews from Gaza in 2005, before Hamas took over and started trying to fulfil their charter. Every Israeli PM, left and right, has tried to negotiate peace. What have the Palestinians done for peace?

    • gogrrrl

      Both the UN and the international judicial system consider that Israeli control of Gaza’s land, sea and airspace continue to constitute ‘occupation’ as defined in international law. The Office of the Prosecutor of
      the International Criminal Court concluded in a November 2014 decision:

      “…Israel
      continues to be an occupying power in Gaza despite the 2005 disengagement.”
      http://opiniojuris.org/wp-content/uploads/2014-11-03-Final-Report-on-Situation-ICC-01.13.pdf

      • SueJB

        If Israel controlled Gaza, we would not be seeing volleys of rockets fired at random from Gaza into Israel. No state in the world would be expected to allow the uncontrolled importation of weapons into a hostile neighbour, except the Jewish state.

        • Philip McFedries

          This is a disingenuous argument: you can’t compare the sophisticated US funded weaponry Israel wields with guaranteed kills every time, often in large numbers, plus collateral damage = more kills, with the seldom effective Hamas rocketry. How many Palestinians were killed in 2014 and how many Israelis????

          • SueJB

            The Gazans use their rockets to attack civilians at random. The Israelis occasionally strike back, when the rocket fire becomes intolerable. They go to considerable lengths to hit only the rocket launchers and Hams soldiers and commanders. In moral terms, the Gazans are far more culpable. Not only do they attack civilians but they do their best to maximise their own civilians’ casualties by firing from heavily populated areas (note that Gaza has quite a lot of countryside as well as the cities). In 2014, the fighting in Gaza went on for about 3 weeks and Gazan casualties were around 2,000, roughly half being combatants.

          • P B

            You assert a lot without evidence. Whereas you can not get on the internet without finding evidence of the inhumane murders and detentions palestinian children and women have been subjected to by Israeli troopers. That is, if you dared look for the truth.
            Free Palestine, then Peace.

          • SueJB

            The internet is full of hate-Israel stories, pictures and videos. But a lot of them are fabricated. For example, all those pictures of dead and wounded children “in Gaza”, that turned out to be Syrian children.

          • Philip McFedries

            You give figures on one side but you have not included how many Israelis were killed by Palestinian tunnels and/or rockets in 2014? Please include the number of CHILDREN in your figures.

        • P B

          Stop occupying Palestinian land and brutalising the inhabitants – then they get to complain about fircrackers thrown over their fence.

    • RichardFortune

      I highly recommend this https://www.amazon.com/Israel-Palestine-How-End-1948/dp/1583225382 as a pretty clear study of how Israel tried to “negotiate” peace.

    • P B

      Freedom. Then peace. Does a rape victim have to d anything to oblige the rapist to get off her? No. Yes, Israel are rightfully fearful and worried about the consequences of their brutality, but if that’s the case, hand the occupation over to the UN in the interim.
      The truth is their actions show they are just trying to change the facts on the ground and annex what they believe is “greater Israel”.

  • gogrrrl

    As a New Zealander resident in Gaza I can assure you the situation here is just as bad, if not worse. The economy has been crippled by a ten-year siege – no imports thus no production and no exports, thus no jobs – and with 60% of the population under 25 years of age, the massive unemployment is crushing all hope for any future, let alone a good one. 80% of graduates are unemployed. 80%. Families are facing a third winter living in shipping containers basically floating in cesspools – if they survived the summer baking in them (and many didn’t), because Israel has prevented construction materials entering to rebuild the houses they destroyed in the 2014 slaughter, the third massacre in six years, which Israel calls “mowing the lawn.” It is not just the US power of veto that is the problem but the UN system itself – Israeli impunity must end, and the siege of Gaza must be lifted immediately, but until and unless the UN has any enforcement power for its resolutions, neither are likely.

    • Baby Doll

      That sounds a eerily familiar to the situation in New Zealand.

      • Michael Meyers

        Are you insane? In what way is this similar to New Zealand? I guess people here don’t even have shipping containers to live in.

  • My friend Francoise Kesteman died under torture in Saida in 1989. She was French, from Jewish descent. She joined an organisation as a nurse to help the palestiniens in 1981. She came back to visit us with horror stories about what the israelis were doing. She joined Arafat and attacked Saida in a small inflatable boat with 5 men in the hope that her suicide would bring the truth to the media. She wrote a book which is available online “My Love Palestine” set in the camps. Not much has changed. What has become of humanity for us (should I have spelled U.S…) to remain silent of their plight and spend millions destabilizing the middle East

  • Storm1

    Banal Murder and Toponymy

    Zionism and its progeny, the state of Israel, reached the Western Wall through military conquest, in fulfillment of national messianism. They will never again be able to forsake the Wall or abandon the occupied parts of the Land of Israel without denying their historiographic conception of Judaism . . . The secular messiah cannot retreat: he can only die.
    – Baruch Kurzwell, 1970

    It is entirely illegitimate to identify the Jewish links with the ancestral (tipuna) land (whenua) of Israel (Iharaira) . . . with the desire to gather all Jews into a modern territorial state situated on the ancient Holy (sacred) land (whenua).

    Karma قَدَر ؛ قِسْمَة ؛ نَصِيب is indeed marvellous Te whakamīharo

    PS: Gareth I cannot stand IsraHELL!

  • andrewo

    This from the guy who previously praised the North Korean regime….

    • Baby Doll

      And demanded that all poor people be rounded up and sterilized – and their children removed from them

      He regards low income people the same way he does cats.

      NEVER TRUST a man who hates cats

  • SueJB

    Gareth, I usually respect your views. But in this case I think you should do another tour of the area, conducted by a less partisan body than the UNRWA.

  • SueJB

    UNRWA is not an impartial organisation, it is ‘for’ the Palestinians and
    ‘against’ Israeli. Rockets and munitions have been found several times in
    UNRWA properties in Gaza.

    Palestinian refugees are the only refugees in the history of the UN that are considered to inherit their refugee status. About 750,000 Palestinians left Israel after the Arab-Israeli war. With children and grandchildren, there are now 4.5 million Palestinian “refugees”.

    It’s not clear why Palestinian refugees are refugees forever, whereas refugees of other conflicts do not inherit their refugee status. As usual, the Jewish state is different.

    Also worth noting that some 800,000 Jews in Muslim countries had to leave their homes fleeing persecution in the years right after 1948. Israel absorbed them, and of course they are no longer refugees.

    • Philip McFedries

      So Israel and its very few friends are impartial?????????????????????????? The UN and the rest of the civilised world are anti-semitic??????????????????????????????????????? Count me as anti-semitic then, especially those with names like Netayahu and Lieberman – see you in The Hague boys! By the way, Palestinians are Semitic too, which makes Zionist also anti-semitic Now THAT’S irony Sue! Shakespeare would be revelling in this! “Hath not a Palestinian eyes….” ; adapted from “The Merchant of Venice” .

      • SueJB

        Certainly Arabs are semitic. But the term “anti-semitic” was coined by a Jew-hater who wanted to appear scientific. It stil means simply Jew-hating. and trying to twist it the way you just did is a classic trope of … guess what…

  • Graeme Carle

    Gareth, I love your approach to so many issues and there’s no doubt the tragic Palestinians are being used as pawns but I think SueJB is making some fair points. See too http://www.emmausroad.org.nz/a-matter-of-simple-justice/

    • Philip McFedries

      A check on the emmausroad.org website reveals a very narrow evangelical / dispensational / Zionist interpretation of the Bible which is no longer given much credence even among conservative evangelicals. I also find the phrase “the tragic Palestinians” demeaning and insulting to a people who have suffered much. Their Nakba is as much a catastrophe to them as the Holocaust was to Jews. Those of us who call ourselves Christians should stop and ask the question, what would Jesus do? (See the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Ch’s 5-7.) I don’t think he would give the order to send in the F16s and now the F38s.

      • Graeme Carle

        You haven’t actually read the article yet have you, Phillip, because it eschews any Biblical perspective. You’ve spent too much time incorrectly guessing at what my viewpoint might be. I suggest you do read it so you can address the issue I raise which is only historical. I also suggest you read the article “Ridding Ourselves of Squid Ink” regarding common mistakes we all can make re ad hominem arguments.

        • Philip McFedries

          I have read the article, and the Biblical perspective is obvious. My reply is not ad hominem. I find your “common mistakes we all can make” paternalistic.

        • Philip McFedries

          Here is an example of argumentum ad hominem: “You haven’t actually read the article yet have you, Phillip.”

  • SueJB

    “Isn’t it ironic, that from a land formed as a shelter for the victims of
    the worst atrocity of the modern era, have emerged descendants from
    that terrible time who compromise their own humanity in order to inflict
    as much harm as they can get away with on another people” – the standard Jews-are-Nazis slur. Gareth, I’m ashamed of you. Israel has greatly superior military power to the Palestinians. If they actually wanted to ‘inflict as much harm as they can get away with’ on the Palestinians, you might see something similar to what is going on in Syria at present.

    Actually, Israel wants peace above all – but they will defend themselves against rockets and attack-tunnels from Gaza, and they will avoid withdrawing from the West Bank they way they did from Gaza, because they know they can’t afford rocket bombardment from next door to Jerusalem.

    • Philip McFedries

      The writing is on the wall Sue. More and more moderate people within and outside Israel are now seeing the Net/Lieb.regime in Israel for what it is – a nuclear armed neighbourhood bully who dries “Wolf” every time an “attack tunnel” is discovered, or a lo-tech missile is fired from Gaza.
      Have you no idea Sue what scorn and contempt you evoke when you justify the 2014 Gaza massacre (courtesy of hi-tech American armaments) by the existence of TUNNELS; tunnels were a medieval warfare tactic? How many Israelis have been killed by these tunnels, or by the Hamas rockets for that matter? PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION SUE. HOW MANY?

      • Philip McFedries

        How many Sue?

      • SueJB

        The Jews should just put up with rocket bombardment, and with Hamas commandos popping up in their villages to kill and kidnap. That’s good enough for them, eh?

        • Philip McFedries

          How many Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets?

          • Philip McFedries

            The reason so many more people are becoming “anti-semitic” is because of the grossly disproportionate actions of the IDF. We’re “anti-semitic” if you want to stick this label on us, in terms of hating the brutality of Netanyahu’s regime. We don’t hate Jews. Lots of Israelis also hate the actions of your extreme right wing government eg Rabbis for Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, many contributors to Haaretz and many more groups within and outside Israel.

        • Philip McFedries

          How many Israelis have been killed or kidnapped by Hamas commandos popping up in their villages?

    • Philip McFedries

      “Israel wants peace above all”…. God Almighty!! Israel wants IMPUNITY – largely granted in reality – for all and any tactics which will ensure its land grabbing and ethnic cleansing go unchallenged! (Note: I write as a Western Christian who for 55 odd years supported Israel 110%, but who woke up to reality on meeting a Palestinian from Gaza in 2014 and seeing her anguish as she feared for the lives of her family and friends back home.)

    • Philip McFedries
    • Philip McFedries
    • Philip McFedries

      You say: “Israel has greatly superior military power to the Palestinians. If they actually wanted to ‘inflict as much harm as they can get away with’ on the Palestinians, you might see something similar to what is going on in Syria at present.” Can you not hear yourself? This is appalling. This is what bullies always say: “And I can hurt you even more if you run and tell.”

  • Matador

    Cue the demented excuses, usually supported by historical half-truths, for this ongoing crime. I cannot stand those who blather on about the rights and wrongs of this situation when it is obvious millions of people are being denied access to justice to an extent that could drive anyone to madness.

    • Janfrie

      Support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign is growing world wide to isolate Israel until it complies with international law and 4th Geneva Convention. This was done when South Africa practised apartheid and succeeded in dismantling the racist regime. Bishop Desmond Tutu has described the Palestinian situation as ‘worse than apartheid’ see https://bdsmovement.net/

      Protest Auckland Nov 11th Israel: The Start-Up Nation Summit”, connecting “innovators and investors in Israel and New Zealand”. This seems to spearheaded by Simon Moutter (Spark CEO), who was part of the recent ‘innovation mission’ to Israel. Where: Russell McVeagh, 48 Shortland St,
      Auckland CBD. 8am-9am

      • Philip McFedries

        Is anything planned for Christchurch?

  • Madam Bookye

    In 1967 Israel returned back Gaza from Egypt and Samaria/Judea from Jordan, not from “palestinian” people. Both of these areas were part of Palestine assigned for establishment of jewish national home by Leaque of Nations back in 1922 on the basis of legally binding agreements and it never been mentioned anywhere that any part of this land had to be ceded to arabs in the future. It’s a shame that after almost 60 years arab countries failed to accomodate their own brethren and deliberately keep them in UNRWA camps as refugees to manipulate world opinion for condemnation of Israel. Israel absorbed almost 1 million jews kicked out of muslim countries where they had been living for 2000 years with no belongings, compensation for property and businesses left behind which is estimated as 300 billion dollars in compensation today. I have an impression that Gareth knows very little when it comes to history and legal issues of the conflict and this article is another piece of palestinian propaganda accepted as a true narrative by current UN which acts in breach of its own Charter and all the legally binding agreements signed. There has never been any independent palestinian arab state and their claims that Israel occupies their land is nothing more than a fraud

    • Philip McFedries

      Theodor Herzl was the founder of the modern state of Israel.
      ‘In Altneuland, Herzl outlined his vision for a new Jewish state in the Land of Israel. He summed up his vision of an open society:

      “It is founded on the ideas which are a common product of all civilized nations. … It would be immoral if we would exclude anyone, whatever his origin, his descent, or his religion, from participating in our achievements. For we stand on the shoulders of other civilized peoples. … What we own we owe to the preparatory work of other peoples. Therefore, we have to repay our debt. There is only one way to do it, the highest tolerance. Our motto must therefore be, now and ever: ‘Man, you are my brother.'” ‘
      Wikipedia

  • John Krill

    Everyone knows Palestinians want
    Nothing more than to finish
    ” the Final solution” and will
    accept no less.
    It is the 21st century on one side of the wall and 7th century on the other.
    The conflict will not end
    until ones time has ended…

  • Philip McFedries

    “Man, you are my brother.”

    Theodor Herzl was the founder of the modern state of Israel.
    ‘In Altneuland, Herzl outlined his vision for a new Jewish state in the Land of Israel. He summed up his vision of an open society:
    “It is founded on the ideas which are a common product of all civilized nations. … It would be immoral if we would exclude anyone, whatever his origin, his descent, or his religion, from participating in our achievements. For we stand on the shoulders of other civilized peoples. … What we own we owe to the preparatory work of other peoples. Therefore, we have to repay our debt. There is only one way to do it, the highest tolerance. Our motto must therefore be, now and ever: ‘Man, you are my brother.'” ‘
    Wikipedia