Friday, June 1, 2012

Kennedy Graham - Parliamentary Friend of Israel

Kennedy Graham returned from Israel the other week, where he was visiting as part of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel.  I think it's great that the Greens are recognising the State of Israel and consider themselves friends.  Kennedy wrote a detailed Blog Post on the trip, which I will look at here.

I’ve just returned from the Middle East as part of delegation of National, Labour and Green MPs. We visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan.  The aim was to gain knowledge, exchange views, and develop friendship links with fellow parliamentarians in the region.  An Israeli-NZ group already exists. I and the chairman of the Jordanian foreign affairs committee are moving to form a Jordan-NZ group.
Nice of Kennedy to forget to mention that the group he travelled with is the "Parliamentary Friends of Israel".  Instead he just states the group "exists".  I would have thought he could mention that he has chosen to be a member!

Israel: Day 1, we travelled through West Bank (Area C, under full Israeli civilian and military control), passing the settlements, visiting kibbutzim, and then into the occupied Golan Heights. Day 2 involved discussions in Jerusalem with members of the Knesset (including the Speaker who was acting President), foreign affairs committee members, and foreign ministry strategic analysts.  On day 3 we visited the institute that ‘incubates’ corporate start-ups and some agricultural institutes whose researchers aspire to ‘cheat Nature’ through genetic modification.
Kennedy glosses over his meetings with Israelis VERY quickly.  I'm sure there were some interesting insights here.  Instead he condenses each day into a single sentence, without mentioning any details.

There are many environmental and Green initiatives in Israel.  Didn't he visit one??  No mention here.

Palestine (day 4): We proceed to Ramallah through the Qalandia border crossing, inspecting the Wall, meeting the district mayor (who had spent 21 years in an Israeli prison), and holding discussions with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, presidential adviser for foreign affairs, and members of the foreign affairs committee.  In particular we heard about the prisoner hunger-strikefrom Khalida Jarrar, MP, who had done time herself in the past.
Jordan (days 5 & 6): Visit to the Ramtha refugee camp on the Syrian border (see previous blog), and discussions with former and current cabinet ministers (parliamentary affairs, education, health), with the foreign affairs committee chairman, and with Prince Hassan bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein.
We also had useful discussions with the ‘internationals’ – the Quartet and the UN’s OCHA. Cultural visits included Gethsemane, the Western Wall, Yad Vashem, Galilee, Jaffa, Jerash and Umm Qais.
Aha!  More details now that he visits the West Bank and Jordan.  Excellent.  Kennedy mentions that these people spent time in Israeli jails, but neglects to mention what for.  I will try and find out.  Is Kennedy suggesting these people were innocent Poltical prisoners?  I expect that 21 years is for some serious terrorism charges.

What is one to conclude about the Middle East in mid-2012?  I lived three years in the region.  I arrived in 1999 when the situation was (relatively) stable and optimism was high. Then came the Jenin IDF incursion, the 2nd intifada and 9/11.  When I left in late ’02, things were grim and tense.  I cannot say they have improved since.
Kennedy neglects to mention the failed Camp David peace accord.  You can hardly compare Jenin to the mass suicide bombings of the second Intifada.

The over-riding issue is the occupation.  Palestine is the only territory recognised by the UN as occupied in the world.  So first and foremost, it is about land.  As the Palestinians read it, the original Palestine from the Red Sea to Lebanon has been progressively reduced – from 80% in the Peel Commission (1937), 44% in the UN Partition Plan (1947), 22% in the current occupation (1967) to 12% by the Israeli ‘Swiss cheese’ policy of the settlements and the Wall (2008).
Kennedy has fallen for the propaganda regarding land here.  Since when did the Arabs ever accept one centimeter of land for Israel?  There is no "Swiss Cheese" policy that he refers, and all land mentioned has been offered in peace deals - continually rejected.

Some 2.5 million Palestinians thus cram into West Bank-Gaza, one fiftieth the size of New Zealand.  The population density of Gaza is 4,000 per sq. km.  The global average is 45.  New Zealand is 15. So it is not only about land, but population, resources and carrying capacity as well
I'm not sure Kennedy's point here.  It appears he is suggesting that Palestinians should be relocated to Israel to reduce population density.  Jordan has a much lower population density.  Why not mention that?   No mention of Palestinian birth rates?  As a Green, shouldn't he be worried about the effect that high birth rates has on the planet?

The Palestinians see the land issue as a progressive loss over the past century.  The Israelis see it as a return of their lost land after two millennia.  Neither is wrong.  History can throw curve-balls.   So they have to share.  The question is on what terms, and who gets to decide.
It's a pity that Kennedy chooses to throw curve balls here.  Zionism is about the Self determination of the Jewish people.  Israel is the center of Jewish recognition.  It is not about "return to land after two millenia".  Whilst I appreciate his recognition of Judaism, it is as if Kennedy is trying to water down the signifiicance of Israel to the Jewish people, the fact there has always been a Jewish presence, and that many of them purchased land in Palestine before Israel was formed.

 Other parts of the territory issue are the status of East Jerusalem, repatriation of the ’48 and ’67 refugees back to Israel, the on-going Israeli settlement policy in West Bank, and the Wall.  And water-sharing.
If these are issues, then it is hard to know where Kennedy stands on these.  Is he for or against repatriation of refugees.  What refugees were created in '67?  I can understand Kennedy keeping some cards to his chest as he does not want to disenfranchise himself completely from the rabid left voters.

Adumbrating these small challenges is the issue of recognition.  Israel insists on the name ‘Jewish State of Israel’.  Few agree.  
I am not sure what Kennedy is referring to here.  Is he saying that Israel should not be a Jewish state?  Does he also think that Jordan should not be an Islamic state? Who is the "few".

 Palestine wants recognition now as independent state. Many have extended that.  A few, inside Israel, dream still of a one-state solution.  Few believe that is wise or practicable. 
Correct.  Most want a two-state solution, but few believe a partner exists.  No mention the fact that few Palestinians want a two-state solution - at least a solution next to Israel (at least Kennedy makes this point later on).
The international community maintains the two-state solution.  A number believe this is becoming less feasible with the passage of time and circumstance.  But there is no alternative.  Meanwhile each side pursues competitive population expansion – Israel though immigration, Palestine through reproduction.  At halftime, numbers are roughly even.
 A bit of a weird comparison.  But I get what he is saying.

In a deep-rooted conflict, a political settlement is feasible only when several independent factors are positively aligned.  At present, this is not the case.
-    Globally, things are about to go on hold until the US election in November.
-    Regionally, things are dynamic to the point of chaos. The Arab Spring remains volatile.  The imminent Egyptian presidential election will set the politics for the surrounding terrain.   And the Israelis perceive Iran to be an existential threat, oblivious to the existential dread that occupation has generated within the Palestinian psyche closer to home.
-    Nationally, the reshaped Israeli government, involving Netanyahu teaming up with centrist Kadima, strengthens the PM and offers new opportunity.  But for what end – conflict or peace?  In Palestine, elections are overdue, with both Hamas and Fatah losing electoral ground and reluctant to proceed.
Positive alignment in the Middle East is a crapshoot.
A crapshoot indeed.

Beneath it all is the psychological dysfunction of a zero-sum relationship between the sons of Abraham.  Israel continues to linger in post-Shoah grief, retaining a victim mentality, aggrieved at what it perceives to be a biased and unsympathetic international community. 
A very weird statement here.  Without evidence, he is suggesting a "Victim Mentality".  Since when did Arab threats to 'push Israel into the sea', to 'wipe from the face of the earth' ever be an issue with Shoah victimhood.  Kennedy - wake up to the antisemitism in the world today.  Go for a  walk in Egypt and buy copies of Mein Kampf or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on any street corner.
Palestine rages and whimpers in turns, seemingly powerless to affect events.  And the region explodes around them both, with a distracted world focusing elsewhere.
 This is closer to the truth.

What can New Zealand do to help?  Not a lot, but something. 
I'm glad that Kennedy is realistic here.  He has been wasting the Greens questions in parliament on Syria - as if New Zealand could do anything to affect it.

We should:
1.    Urge a peaceful campaign of non-violence from Palestine, including Hamas. Nothing will be more potent in eliminating the underlying Israeli rationale for harsh security measures. Nothing will attract greater world support.
HOORAY!!!!   The Greens are urging non-violence.  It's a pity he tries to blame security on anything OTHER than Palestinian violence towards innoncents.  And it is great that he is recognising that there is terrorism.  Many others, including his predecessor (Keith Locke) either dismissed it or wrote it off.
2.    Offer some further modest support, beyond our UN observers and peacekeepers, direct to Palestine and Jordan, and even to Israel, perhaps in support of conflict resolution and inter-community engagement (rugby?).  Budget cuts are in vogue, but values and priorities are eternal.
There is lots of bi-lateral and trade initiatives already.  Does Kennedy not know this?  Hellooooooo!
The NZ sevens used to play in the Jerusalem tournament (before the advent of the World 7s)
3.    Urge a clear policy of Palestinian recognition, by both Fatah and Hamas, of Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.  Time for Palestinians to face the reality.
Again .. HOORAY!!!!  It is vital.  What a pity that many in the Greens actually think this has happened already, whilst the Hamas charter clearly calls for death to all Jews and the destruction of Israel.  I commend Kennedy forthwith for making this statement.   However, let's be realistic.  This isn't going to happen anytime soon.
4.    Recognise Palestine as an independent state with potential membership of the United Nations, as 132 countries have already done. 
No problem!  Israel has offered this four times in the last 12 years.  Every peace agreement is scuttled by the Palestinians.  

As NZG policy is to indicate recognition through action rather than formal declaration, this can be done by upgrading the accreditation of Palestinian delegation in Canberra as full embassy status. We should do this irrespective of the policies of Australia, UK or US; a global affairs policy requires us to act as a responsible, and independent-minded, global citizen.
What, New Zealand should recognise Palestine before they renounce violence or recognise Israel.  I don't think so.  This just invalidates points 1 and 3 that he makes above.
5.    Advance the circuit-breaker – a final settlement will not be reached through political negotiation, whether that is bilaterally pursued in asymmetrical fashion, regionally-orchestrated from multiple and conflicting interests, or imposed from on high by global power.  Urge both sides to formally agree, in advance, to accept the outcome of a final settlement through judicial means, with the International Court of Justice reaching an advisory opinion on all relevant issues, backed by Security Council binding authority.
 Go to international courts.  What?  Like the international court of abitration for countries.  OK, so this is one of the more wacky ideas. I can't see this working.

The fifth point – a switch by both sides from the political to the judicial route – would be the ultimate challenge to national leadership, especially for Israel.  But Netanyahu is in a strong political position at present.  He is capable of the vision and he currently has the power.  The people of both sides want peace.  And 21st century politics requires the rule of law, not political machination and raw power.
Ah, now I see.  It's just another means to put pressure on Israel.  Yep, good luck with that one.

On the whole the Greens are walking a fine line here.  They know that to win majority votes (they are aiming for 25% at the next election), they need more mainstream policies.  Their previous support for Terrorism was a big stumbling block.  I commend Kennedy wholeheartedly for recognising Israel (becoming a "friend"), and calling for an end to violence.  It's a pity that he backdoors these statements by suggesting we should recognise Palestine without them first renouncing violence or recognising Israel.

Unfortunately, the Greens traditional supporter base includes many who are opposed to a secular Jewish state, and are willing to throw out all their values to support terrorists.  Kennedy knows this, and he has to walk a fine line to keep both the new and traditional voters in check.  Otherwise, more will desert to the anti-semite John Minto in the Mana party


1 comment:

  1. A thorough fisking of Kennedy Graham, thanks Tim. I read his piece, and just winced at the "off" comments that you highlight. A left-wing politician writing something on Israel that is not totally vile - it's like a dog walking on its hind legs: one marvels not that it is done well, but that is is done at all (thx Dr Johnson).