Qatar’s efforts to end the siege of Gaza have come for wholesome praise from the leaders of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a UK-based organisation promoting peace and justice for the Palestinian people.
Large-scale demonstrations in London and other major UK cities over the past week have given an indication of the level of anger and outrage over the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Many of the demonstrations have been co-ordinated by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). Gulf Times spoke to the vice-chair of the PSC, Kamel Hawwash, a professor at the University of Birmingham. Commenting on the stance of countries in the Middle East towards the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Hawwash described Qatar as a country that stood alone in the Gulf region in seeking a sustainable ceasefire and an end to the Israeli blockade.
“Qatar is taking a different approach to the other countries such as the UAE which generously offer financial assistance and aid. Qatar has recently come across as almost the only country in the Gulf which understands that more is required to end this situation permanently. Qatar is pushing for the ending of the siege,” he said.
Qatar’s stand, in his view, reflects the wishes of the Palestinian people.
He noted that the Palestinian people are behind the resistance, led by Hamas. “Hamas is repelling an aggression on them and the Palestinian people. The people in Palestine are supporting the resistance. I have not seen even one interview on TV from Gaza where someone says, ‘I blame Hamas or Islamic Jihad’ for what is happening to them. They all blame Israel; the people are desperate.”
The anti-Muslim Brotherhood stand of many Gulf countries has also contributed to the suffering of the Palestinian people, he observed.
The role of Egypt was discussed with Baroness Tonge, an independent Liberal Democrat and life peer in the House of Lords. Tonge, a patron of PSC, has addressed several major recent rallies in support of Palestine. During her political career in international development as a Member of Parliament, and since 2005 in the House of Lords, she has fought for the rights of the Palestinian people.
Commenting on the fact that Egypt’s role as a moderator in the Palestine-Israel conflict is untenable she said: “People are saying that Hamas should be accepting ceasefire proposals put forward by Egypt which has deposed the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s completely crazy. Western governments were pleased to support a coup against a democratically-elected government. It’s just like what happened to Hamas in Palestine. They won the election and they weren’t allowed to form a government.”
Tonge is scathing about the UK government’s stand on the conflict. “It’s pathetic. I cannot believe that our government is so totally spineless. They are all buttoned up by the Israeli lobby; there is a general election next year and they depend on the lobby for an awful lot of support.”
She is equally unimpressed with her own party – the Liberal Democrats. “In the run-up to the last election (which saw the current Conservative/LibDem coalition government taking office) the Liberal Democrat party policy was calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Trade Association Agreement until Israel withdrew from the West Bank, stopped the blockade of Gaza and allowed the Palestinians to form a state. That was our official party policy, and there hasn’t been a whisper of it since we’ve been in coalition,” she said.
She added that there is a school of thought that sees an absence of a coherent and consistent British foreign policy.
She expressed a hope that President Barack Obama might shake off the powerful Israeli lobby in Washington and take the view “that doing something about the issue is more important than who wins the next election in America”.
Tonge added that she makes a clear distinction between the Jewish people and the policies of Israel. “Many Jewish people have been champions of the left and human rights,” she pointed out.
Prof Hawwash said that the core of the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be attributed to Zionist ideology which took root in the 1890s. “Zionism is a racist ideology because it set off to take someone else’s land and throw the people out.”
Speaking of the mood at the recent demonstrations which have taken place across the UK, Hawwash said: “People are angry and we at PSC are trying to channel their anger in a positive peaceful way. We are trying to do what we can in the UK to influence our government and involve a large cross section of the community. We are united in our anger, horror and condemnation at what Israel is doing.”
PSC, which has strong links with the Trade Union movement, “is putting pressure on the Labour Party as we approach the election to have a better policy on Palestine”, he said. The organisation which is looking for long term, sustainable solutions to the crisis, is also calling for support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions strategy (BDS) that uses economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: the end of Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.