(Based on an intervention at the discussion on the Resolution on the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, proposed by the British Liberal Democrats and passed overwhelmingly in a reconciled version by the  Executive Committee of Liberal International)

The Gaza Strip

I am always touched when I hear Europeans respond to criticism of Israel. Even when, as today, they know Israel has done something naughty, they bend over backwards to make it clear that their criticism of any action is not a criticism of Israel itself.

This is perfectly understandable, given the appalling treatment by many European countries of Jews, not only during the Second World War, but over hundreds of years previously. It is necessary to remember all that, and we should not discourage the sense of guilt European nations feel and their determination to keep alive their memory of the horrors they once perpetrated.

However, what is immensely sad is that, in remembering this, they seem determined to forget other horrors they perpetrated against other peoples. They appear to have wiped out of their collective memory the fact that much of the suffering the Middle East is going through now arose from the arbitrary divisions made after the First World by some European countries determined to uphold their own selfish interests.

The Germans certainly cannot be held responsible for this, but the divisions designed to maximize external control, the imposition of particular partners in domination, the transformation of a debt of gratitude for financial support into a grant of land to distant dwellers by an ambiguous declaration made by one individual – all these were also acts of victimization that should not be forgotten, and for which recompense should also be made. Unfortunately this moral obligation is often forgotten in the overwhelming sense of guilt felt by Europeans about their treatment of fellow Europeans in the bad old days.

The recompense they made then, at the expense of people in another country whom they saw as even more alien, cannot now be reversed. But there is surely an obligation to make sure that that recompense does not lead to more and more oppression of those who were unjustly dispossessed in the first place. It is surely necessary therefore to be firm about repudiating actions that seem based on excessive reliance on violence, on contempt for basic humanitarian needs, on rejection of compromise and any effort to understand the sympathy and indignation that much of the rest of the world feels.

The Gaza Flotilla Raid

Other speakers have, extremely politely, addressed the specious arguments advanced in opposition to this resolution. The proposers have done their best to compromise, and their willingness to negotiate further is admirable, but they must not allow themselves to lose the substance of their resolution in an effort to keep those who were victimized sixty and more years ago happy. These former victims should, instead of seeming committed to victimization of others, be prepared to compromise, and to make recompense for their own errors. Criminal behaviour based on false notions of racial superiority created immense suffering in the past, but that suffering should not blind us to suffering that people are undergoing now. I hope my European colleagues remember, not only the Holocaust they caused in the past, but also the dispossession and the deprivation unleashed by their efforts to make up for past crimes.

Advertisements