By Stephen Franklin
July 31, 2010
Dear Prime Minister
Many congratulations on achieving high office. I wish you much success in the enormous task of getting Britain back into healthy growth with a substantially diminished deficit.
Many years ago I studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and this June I returned to attend a conference of governors and friends of the university. After dinner of the first evening we were addressed by the former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy. He told us busy the Mossad has been in recent keeping an eye on jihadist groups around the world and that Israel is passing on information to intelligence services around the world informing them of plots or meetings of dangerous people or other information that helps to makes the world a safer place.
Israel has made an enormous contribution to the British war effort in Afghanistan. Our tactics for dealing with suicide attacks were taught to the British Commander in Afghanistan by Israel’s foremost expert on the subject in 2003 (http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=169422). An Israeli colonel wrote in the Royal Tank Regiment Journal in March 2005 giving the British Army advice on how to deal with IEDs (http://www.combat-diaries.co.uk/diary25/diary25military.htm). One of the most effective ways of dealing with IEDs is monitoring by use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) the places where British troops would be most at risk from their use. Israel is the world leader in UAV technology and UK forces are using to great effect Israeli made (Elbit Systems) Hermes UAVs, and will soon be using Israeli technology UAV made under licence in the UK called Watchkeeper (http://www.army.mod.uk/artillery/units/32_regt_ra/default.aspx and http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2010/04/13/340561/thales-uk-could-e...). Our extremely brave bomb disposal engineers, so vital to our war effort in Afghanistan, are getting crucial training to help them do their dangerous task (http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/22407/israeli-bomb-experts-help-uk-...). Many British soldiers have died in vehicles that were not suited to the conditions in Afghanistan. The British army have now ordered an Israeli designed all-terrain vehicle called the Stinger, which is especially suitable for conditions in Afghanistan (http://defense-update.com/products/s/springer.html and http://www.army.mod.uk/equipment/engineering/13868.aspx).
Incidentally Israel is among the top 20 countries investing in the UK (http://ukinisrael.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=PressR&id=22532869). For all these reasons it saddened me to hear what you had to say about Israel when you were in Turkey.
For the last 10 years Israelis have been under attack by terrorists from Hamas and other groups. Israel never wanted to put a barrier between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (or the West Bank), but had no choice. The barriers reduced Israeli casualties from terrorism by 90%. Even so Israel would have preferred to allow traffic through the barriers as terrorism diminished. Every time that controls were relaxed, Hamas attacked the checkpoints and they were tightened again. It was just such an attack on a checkpoint that led to the kidnapping of the Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit from inside Israel. In 2005 Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip. Since then Israel has been under attack by Hamas and other groups. Although Israel has been largely successful in defending itself, these attacks have continued (http://web.archive.org/web/20080110054233/www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellit...). The people who suffered most were the children of Sderot, more than 75% of whom suffered from PTSD as a result of the constant rocket attacks (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/945489.html).
Late in 2008 a cease-fire that had lasted for several months between Israel and Hamas expired. Israel wanted to renew the cease-fire but Hamas chose not to (http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD217709). In the week before the Gaza War (the week after the cease-fire ended) 70 rockets a day were being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. No country would have tolerated that. The paradox of the Gaza War was that Israel was trying to keep the Gaza civilians out of harm’s way while killing Hamas operatives and Hamas was deliberately using its own civilians as human shields (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WssrKJ3Iqcw).
In the Gaza War there were far fewer civilian casualties than there were in the US attack on Faluja, yet the population of Gaza is much higher. The Goldstone commission investigation had a one sided mandate (the UNHRC never voted to change the original mandate) from a body most of whose members do not respect human rights and which is fixated on Israel (http://www.unwatch.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=bdKKISNqEmG&b=1313923...). The result was a totally distorted report (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/g_re...).
Hamas, by its founding charter is committed to Israel’s destruction and to the murder of Jews (http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/www.thejerusalemfund.org/carryover/docum.... They continue to declare in English that they will never accept Israel (http://www.qassam.ps/article-2413-The_false_sacredness_of_the_1967_borde...). They declared the same thing on Lebanese TV (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/95/2527.htm). They also broadcast some extreme anti-Semitic material (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/95/2527.htm and http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4478.htm ++). Throughout this time Israel ensured that the population of the Gaza Strip received the basic essentials of life. Gaza hasn’t been occupied now for five years and the Hamas government remains a belligerent entity. Even before the aid convoys came Gaza was very far from being besieged.
According to Tobias Buck of the FT, reporting from Rafah on 24th May (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4c51267a-66ca-11df-aeb1-00144feab49a.html) he said “Shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods.
Branded products such as Coca-Cola, Nescafé, Snickers and Heinz ketchup - long absent as a result of the Israeli blockade - are both cheap and widely available.
However, the tunnel operators have also flooded Gaza with Korean refrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese airconditioning units. Tunnel operators and traders alike complain of a saturated market - and falling prices.
‘Everything I demand, I can get,’ says Abu Amar al-Kahlout, who sells household goods out of a warehouse big enough to accommodate a passenger jet.”
He was not making life seem easier for the people of Gaza than it really was. The Palestinian media showed how full the shops were (http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout...). Those with enough money to spend could really live in luxury in Gaza (http://www.rootsclub.ps/). Despite having a Mediterranean beach a new Olympic sized swimming pool was opened there (http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=285242). The shortage of cement can not have been that severe. London, with no natural safe swimming facilities, opened its first Olympic sized swimming pool for almost fifty years earlier this year (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8582813.stm). There was also a new shpping centre opened in Gaza (http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout...). As an Egyptian columnist wrote 'What Siege Are They Talking About?'; 'The Egyptian People.... [Should] Pray to Allah to Smite Them With [Such a] Siege' (http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4427.htm).
Israel doesn’t allow free passage of Palestinians from Gaza because it fears suicide bombings. The Egyptians have no such reason to block their passage, and it is beyond me as to why until recently Egypt was blocking their movement into Egypt and why Israel was getting the blame for Gazans being “imprisoned”. No that Egypt is allowing such movement most of the people of Gaza are still imprisoned because of the feud between Hamas and Fatah (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/amira-hass-passports-are-t...). That is least of their problems. The feud has resulted in absolute barbarity committed by Hamas on some Fatah supporters (http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/Reports/English/pdf_spec/Increase_rep.pdf and http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/Reports/English/pdf_spec/Gaza%20Conflict%2...). The Hamas government has absolute distain for the safety of their own people (http://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/23763.htm). It also seems resolutely determined to spoil the fun of the children of Gaza (http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=723) however much UNRWA do to help them (http://www.islamtribune.com/2010/04/29/un-to-distribute-200000-laptops-t...).
The blockade on Gaza is simply an attempt to prevent weapons getting into Gaza that could be used to attack Israel. If ships could sail into Gaza without hindrance they could, and would, ship in heavy duty rockets that could smash into Tel-Aviv. Of course Israel cannot allow that.
Israel’s mistake with the convoy was in thinking that it consisted of genuine peace activists and behaving accordingly (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LF02Ak03.html). When the Israeli boarders was confronted by hardened jihadists determined on violent confrontation (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/Hebrew/heb_n/video/ipc...) they were caught by surprise and only when some of their troops were severely injured and others were in danger of being killed did they open fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwoqGJJltPU). The Mavi Marmara was not carrying aid (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2010/Equipment_aid_Gaza...) and none of those killed were human rights activists (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc...). Since the flotilla Israel has allowed into the Gaza Strip everything other than weaponry or material that is likely to be significantly useful to Hamas in combat with Israel (http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/10/07/1401.htm). That was likely to have happened earlier if the ceasefire had held firmly, but there is until now an average of a little more than one attack per day on Israel by Palestinian militants (http://www.shabak.gov.il/ENGLISH/ENTERRORDATA/REPORTS/Pages/june10report...).
Given the ferocity of the attack on the Israelis defending their country, a reaction by some Israelis to making life easier for the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip is understandable (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=179925).
When a natural disaster strikes anywhere in the world, where the local facilities are insufficient to cope Israel frequently provides the most immediately vital aid. This was not just true in Haiti, it was also true when Turkey was hit by a major earthquake in August 1999 (http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/10/01/1301.htm). More recently Israel provided the urgently needed burns team when a horrendous fire had tragic consequences in the DR Congo (http://israel21c.org/201007188157/social-action/israeli-aid-team-first-t...). The link I am using for the report of Israel help in the DR Congo is that from the site of Israel 21c. On their web site can also be seen a vast number of stories of the tremendous force for good that Israel is providing for this world, in discovering new treatments and cures for diseases or better operating techniques or in the field of technology developing multi-core processors for computers and much much more.
Israel is doing so much for the whole world and especially for the democratic world and is held to account to a standard much higher than any other country could possibly live up to in peace time. Israel has throughout its sixty two years been under attack. No country, not even Israel can live up to the impossibly high standards asked of it by the media in such circumstances.
Five years ago in a poll by Populus for The Times, more British Muslims agreed than disagreed with the statement that “the Jewish community in Britain are legitimate targets as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East” (http://www.populus.co.uk/the-times-muslim-poll-191205.html). Since then I believe that the question has not been repeated in an opinion poll but the number of anti-Semitic incidents has increased. In all religious or community meetings of British Jews there are much needed measures taken by the police and the Community Security Trust to ensure our protection. This was very well reported in a documentary shown on Channel 4 three years ago called “The War on Britain’s Jews” (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2874558672317684650#).
As members of parliament noted four years ago, when Israel is attacked in the media by journalists or by leading politicians it has serious repercussions upon the British Jewish community (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/sep/03/religion.immigrationpolicy). This was just one of the reasons that I was so disappointed by your remarks in Ankara a few days ago.
I wish you well with your new responsibility and hope that you will help to make this country and, so far as is possible the world, a better place to live in.
NB In the letter sent to 10 Downing Street the links were footnotes