It is painful that we have to keep going over the facts. Every time Israel launches an attack on the people of Gaza I hear the same spin being repeated – “Israel has a right to defend itself”, “the Israeli army never targets civilians”, “you must hate Jews if you care about Palestinians”.

No, no and NO to all of the above! But I’ll let the far-more-eloquent Robert Fisk spell out the facts this time. The following extract is from an article published  by Fisk in The UK Independent on July 9th.

Father Dave

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

It’s about land. The Israelis of Sederot are coming under rocket fire from the Palestinians of Gaza and now the Palestinians are getting their comeuppance. Sure. But wait, how come all those Palestinians – all 1.5 million – are crammed into Gaza in the first place? Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created.

And – a drawing in of breath is now perhaps required – the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an “unjust and unjustified action”. Too bad. The  Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back.

And today, well over 6,000 descendants of the Palestinians from Huj – now Sederot – live in the squalor of Gaza, among the “terrorists” Israel is claiming to destroy and who are shooting at what was Huj. Interesting story.

And same again for Israel’s right to self-defence. We heard it again today. What if the people of London were being rocketed like the people of Israel? Wouldn’t they strike back? Well yes, but we Brits don’t have more than a million former inhabitants of the UK cooped up in refugee camps over a few square miles around Hastings.

The last time this specious argument was used was in 2008, when Israel invaded Gaza and killed at least 1,100 Palestinians (exchange rate: 1,100 to 13). What if Dublin was under rocket attack, the Israeli ambassador asked then? But the UK town of Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland was under rocket attack from the Irish Republic in the 1970s – yet the RAF didn’t bomb Dublin in retaliation, killing Irish women and children. In Canada in 2008, Israel’s supporters were making the same fraudulent point. What if the people of Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal were being rocket-attacked from the suburbs of their own cities? How would they feel? But the Canadians haven’t pushed the original inhabitants of Canadian territory into refugee camps.

And now let’s cross to the West Bank. First of all, Benjamin Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas because he didn’t also represent Hamas. Then when Abbas formed a unity government, Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Abbas because he had unified himself with the “terrorist” Hamas. Now he says he can only talk to him if he breaks with Hamas – even though he won’t then represent Hamas.

Meanwhile, that great leftist Israeli philosopher Uri Avnery – 90 years old and still, thankfully, going strong – has picked up on his country’s latest obsession: the danger that Isis will storm west from its Iraqi/Syrian “caliphate” and arrive on the east bank of the Jordan river.

“And Netanyahu said,” according to Avnery, “if they are not stopped by the permanent Israeli garrison there (on the Jordan river), they will appear at the gates of Tel Aviv.” The truth, of course, is that the Israeli air force would have crushed Isis the moment it dared to cross the Jordanian border from Iraq or Syria.

The importance of this, however, is that if Israel keeps its army on the Jordan (to protect Israel from Isis), a future “Palestine” state will have no borders and will be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory.

“Much like the South African Bantustans,” says Avnery. In other words, no “viable” state of Palestine will ever exist. After all, aren’t Isis just the same as Hamas? Of course not.

But that’s not what we heard from Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman. No, what he told Al Jazeera was that Hamas was “an extremist terrorist organisation not very different from Isis in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Boko Haram…” Tosh. Hezbollah is a Shia militia now fighting to the death inside Syria against the Sunni Muslims of Isis. And Boko Haram – thousands of kilometres from Israel – is not a threat to Tel Aviv.

But you get the point. The Palestinians of Gaza – and please forget, forever, the 6,000 Palestinians whose families come from the land of Sederot – are allied to the tens of thousands of Islamists threatening Maliki of Baghdad, Assad of Damascus or President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Even more to the point, if Isis is heading towards the edge of the West Bank, why is the Israeli government still building colonies there – illegally, and on Arab land – for Israeli civilians?

This is not just about the foul murder of three Israelis in the occupied West Bank or the foul murder of a Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem. Nor about the arrest of many Hamas militants and politicians in the West Bank.  Nor about rockets. As usual, it’s about land.


It’s disappointing that Pope Francis has had to put on record that his visit to Palestine and Israel next week (in that order) is for religious purposes only – disappointing but totally understandable.

In point of fact religion and politics can never be easily separated. Politics is about people, and so you can no more separate religion and politics than you can religion and people, and there is no doubt that Francis’ visit has the potential to have an enormous impact on the political situation across the Levant.

Even so, Francis is not being dishonest. As he spells out, his primary goal is meet with his ‘brother’, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. What could be more religious than healing a one thousand year old schism in the church. Of course, renewed fellowship between the Catholic and Orthodox wings of the church will have ramifications that touch every level of society but that doesn’t make the meeting any less religious!

The same can be said of the priority Francis has given to Palestine over Israel in his itinerary (see here). Is the fact that he is going straight to Bethlehem from Jordan and not going via Jerusalem (let alone Tel Aviv) a de facto recognition of the State of Palestine on the part of the Vatican?

Certainly many will see it that way, and many Palestinians will gain new strength and hope from such recognition, but it is hard to accept that Francis is doing anything more than his religious duty in dispensing comfort and hope. 🙂

Father Dave


“This upcoming Saturday, I will travel to the Holy Land, the land of Jesus. It will be a strictly religious visit. 
“First, I will meet with my brother Bartholomew I, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Paul VI and Athenagoras I. Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and that is very beautiful.
“The second reason is to pray for peace in this land that has suffered greatly. I ask you for your prayers for this trip.”