Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Scottish Indepedence: Media bias and UK Government Conspiracy

It's often been said that the first casualty of war is the truth. OK, the Scottish Independence referendum isn't a war as such, but it has certainly become a battle for the hearts and minds of the Scottish people and very much a propaganda war. And it's a propaganda war that has revealed the UK's cherished institution - the BBC - to be a vehicle for the UK establishment, despite the BBC Charter stating 'The BBC shall be independent in all matters concerning the content of its output, the times and manner in which this is supplied, and in the management of its affairs'.

Complimenting the Charter is an Agreement. Paragraph 44 of the Agreement details the 'Accuracy and impartiality' with respect to the fact that 'The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output'.

Paragraph 45 notes that The BBC must comply with The Fairness Code', which is regulated by Ofcom. The key principle of the Code is 'To ensure that broadcasters avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes'. 

The BBC Trust is responsible for running the BBC. All the relevant documents are available on the website.

So why am I laying out the regulatory framework of the BBC? Because there is convincing evidence that the BBC is in breach of its protocols with respect to its coverage of the Referendum. Following is a video of research that was conducted by Professor John Robertson from the media studies department of the University of West of Scotland.
Robertson subsequently gave evidence to the Education and Culture Committee in the Scottish Parliament, which was followed by a response from the BBC. I'll leave you to judge who's right - the Academic or the broadcaster. 

However all of the above took place before Auntie Beeb went too far and shot itself in the foot. Bob's yer Uncle huh (BOB = British Obfuscating Broadcasting).

The incident involved Nick Robinson, the political editor for the BBC in London, who asked Alex Salmond a question at a press conference on Thursday September 11. This is the version of the report that went out on national news broadcasts: 
And this is the full version that was broadcast live on BBC News 24:

I think its pretty clear that the edited version implied that Mr Salmond did not answer the question when clearly he did. 

After receiving complaints about this the BBC remained unrepentant.

But lets bring this into perspective. Who is Nick Robinson anyway? His biography certainly makes interesting reading and poses the question as to whether there might be a conflict of interest at the BBC? And given the fact that this isn't the first time Mr Robinson has faced questions of political bias - its a valid question.           

In 1987, after working his way up, he became Chairman of the National Young Conservatives. His affiliation with the Tories have been dismissed as historical. But during the 2010 elections he was accused of being biased in favour of the Tories. This prompted calls for his removal from the BBC.

In another controversial move the BBC reported 'inside' information on financial institutions moving south in the event of a yes vote (more on this below), which prompted Mr Salmond to send a letter of complaint to David Cameron. 

Whatever the opinion polls are saying, one thing is for sure. The corrupt British establishment isn't doing anything that would be regarded at out-of-the-ordinary. You only have to read through previous posts on this blog to get the picture. 

A country that makes a habit of interfering in foreign affairs and pushing through what can only be described as anti democracy measures both home and abroad isn't going to be adverse to disrupting the 'formal' processes of an independence referendum. And lets face it, the mainstream media has little going for it and that includes the BBC in every sense.

But it isn't just the referendum that has attracted criticism. The BBC has been found wanting on many issues. Their coverage of Israel's onslaught on Gaza was full of holes. Then there is the environment - climate denial being a favourite tactic of a predominantly right wing UK media. OK, the Beeb might not be as blatant as say the Daily Mail, but it displays the subtlety of methodical manipulation as noted by Professor Robertson.

So how does one brush off the chaff released by the mainstream media? The simple answer is to avoid it. The internet provides many independent sources of information - some better than others. As far as the referendum is concerned, Wings Over Scotland provides a predominant pro-yes source of information. But its a source that doesn't pretend nor does it intentionally mislead. Its publication of The Wee Blue Book has given the Yes campaign its 'bible'.  

Essentially everything you need to know is provided by the Book and links are provided to enable you to track sources. But I'll cover a few of the issues raised by the Book here. 

Currency
There's been a lot of coercion by the No camp around the question of a shared currency i.e. Scotland retaining the pound after independence. The Book states that 'Sterling is what’s known as a “fully-tradeable” international currency, which means that any country can use it if it wants to, without requiring the UK government’s permission'. This statement is backed up by the Adam Smith institute: 'As the American economist George Selgin has pointed out, what the Prime Minister really means is that the Bank of England would not act as a guarantor for Scottish banks or the Scottish government. Lucky Scotland: the implied promise of a bailout from the European Central Bank is exactly what allowed Eurozone banks and governments to borrow cheaply and get themselves into a debt crisis.

Scotland’s position would be closer to that of countries like Panama, Ecuador and El Salvador, which use the US Dollar without American “permission”, and, according to research by the Federal Reserve of Atlanta, consequentially have far more prudent and stable financial systems than if they were part of a formal currency union'.

The Financial Times agrees and explores the issue in more detail. With George Osborn rejecting a currency union, the Times argues 'is this really the most sensible economic option for both parts of Britain post-independence or just a negotiation stance driven by politics? Look at the facts and I would argue (as I did recently in evidence to the Scottish parliament) that a successful currency union would actually be in the interest of both sides – and especially the rest of the UK'.

Clearly rejecting a Union out-of-hand would be detrimental initially to both countries. The article concludes that 'the most damaging prospect to the rest of the UK from rejecting a sterling currency union is what it will do to its own trade and business activity. Whatever the political tactics involved, it would be tantamount to economic vandalism'.

Once again I'll invite you to decide whether to side with a qualified academic or politicians of dubious repute.

In addition there has been a lot of nonsense concerning the relocation of financial institutions down south. The fact is that RBS et al will not be uprooting lock stock and smoking barrel. Here's the reality. EU legislation stipulates that banks must locate their headquarters where they do most business.   

'Its our oil'
This has been the rallying cry from the SNP in the past. The big argument now is whether North Sea Oil would be a viable proposition in an Indy Scotland. 'No it won't' is the rallying cry form the Unionists.

The key point is the fact the North Sea oil is running out. That's a fact of life. Its a finite resource. But what the No camp have failed to notice is the fact that oil reserves are dwindling Globally. Its called peak oil.  

The Book argues that oil will still provide significant revenue for some years to come. As a resource becomes scarcer the economic reality is that prices will rise. It is likely that despite reduced overall North sea production, global price hikes will continue to make North sea production viable.

Of course the best way to insulate against dwindling fossil fuels is to switch to renewables. And this is a commitment the Scottish Government has made - unlike their counterparts in the rest of the UK. 

The real problem that rising oil prices have brought is increasing developments in unconventional oil and gas production. The economic logic here is that as easy to get at production fades, more difficult extraction processes become viable. This is reflected in increased attention towards deep water drilling, tar sands and onshore oil and gas exploitation such as fracking.

By continuing on a fossil fuel trajectory, the risk of irreversible climate change becomes a reality - a fact not lost on the Scottish Government when in 2009 it introduced the most ambitious climate change legal instrument on the planet.

Its clear that an Indy Scotland would be more likely to move towards a carbon free renewable based economy in contrast to the UK Governments reckless drive towards a new dash-for-gas. 

As for the proposed oil fund from the Scottish Govt. its debatable whether a long term pot can be developed. But as this article from The Scotsman points out it is likely that a significant income can be guaranteed, but only after new investment and regulation. 

Obviously fresh investment in the North sea would run counter to the need for transitioning to renewables. But in essence its a balancing act. If extracting a few more billion barrels will ultimately lead to a fossil free future then perhaps this devil we know will have to maintain its acquaintance with us for a little while longer. It could also stop onshore unconventional's in its tracts, which would be more risky than investing in the tried and tested environment of the North sea. 

If this sounds like an uncomfortable sound bite, lets just accept the fact that oil extraction will continue in the North sea come-what-may. The point should be to disengage from the exploration of new untapped oil fields. 

So, is it too little too late? Well here's an interesting point that is highlighted in the Book and which reveals the true colours of the Westminster establishment and which might just explain the visceral panic coursing through the halls of Westminster right now. 

The Book notes that, 'The extent of Scotland’s wealth after the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s was so great that successive Labour and Conservative governments hid it from the Scottish people for three decades. When a 1975 analysis for the UK government by economist Professor Gavin McCrone was finally made public in 2005 after a Freedom Of Information Request', the issue was picked up by The Independent. The article notes that, 'It was a document that could have changed the course of Scottish history. Nineteen pages long, Written in an elegant, understated academic hand by the leading Scottish economist Gavin McCrone, presented to the Cabinet office in April 1975 and subsequently buried in a Westminster vault for thirty years. It revealed how North Sea oil could have made an independent Scotland as prosperous as Switzerland.

'The "It's Scotland's Oil" campaign began in 1972. If only they had seen the professor's research.

An independent Scotland's budget surpluses as a result of the oil boom, wrote Professor McCrone, would be so large as to be "embarrassing" '.

OK. It's 40 years ago. Not much point in crying over spilt milk. Well, actually not really. Because history could rather spectacularly be repeating itself. This is because the clair oil field off the west coast of Shetland has the potential to supersede the North sea as a major source of oil production. Given the fact that David Cameron has been making low profile visits to Shetland, it is I guess a question of putting 2 and 2 together. Little wonder then that the UK propaganda machine - with the BBC at its helm - has been firing on all cylinders lately.

Trident
The final issue I will deal with is the Trident nuclear 'deterrent'. 

In 2009, Greenpeace produced the report In the Firing Line, which revealed the true cost of the Trident replacement program. This was how Greenpeace set the tone: 'This week's news has been dominated by debate about the dire economic outlook facing the nation, and the likely severity of the cutbacks we'll need to make to pay down our now massive national debt. Ministers wring their hands about it but can't escape the reality that Britain plc needs to make cuts across the board - unless, of course, it's weapons of mass destruction that are under discussion.

'New research from Greenpeace, using only the government's own figures, puts the actual cost of building and operating Trident's replacement at over £95bn, and also questions serious cost overruns in plans to build and equip two new 'supercarriers' for the Royal Navy, which are on order to help us maintain our 'global reach' '.

The report notes some shifty twists and turns from the UK Government over its intentions for maintaining Trident. Indeed in a later article from Greenpeace, it was revealed that the Government was already purchasing parts for the replacement without parliamentary approval: 'Through a Freedom of Information request we’ve learned that the MoD plans to purchase what they call 'long-lead' items, like submarine hulls, propulsion systems, and various other parts of the combat systems. The first of these purchases - buying the steel for the hulls - may be authorised by the MoD in the next weeks. In short, this is such a shopping list that there'll be little left unspent on the Trident-wielding submarines by the time decisions are made in 2016.

In response, Greenpeace have sent a briefing to all UK MPs to inform them that it seems Trident are going ahead without their approval. Soon after, MPs acted, putting down a parliamentary early day motion (EDM 1477 – Trident Submarine Proposals) to protest this premature purchase of steel and to insist on more insight before the UK government are financially tied in to the purchase - just like the debacle with the aircraft carriers.

These MoD vanity projects are the last thing this country needs when we’re losing vital public services to spending cuts'.

Unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government has left the electorate in no doubt what its intentions are over Trident. It will scrap it. Meanwhile the MOD has been whistling in wind, oblivious that an independence referendum has been pending for the last couple of years. 

So what now? Will Trident move south? Scottish CND has ruled that out. These and other issues I have covered in a post for Greenpeace. In addition it looks like even the US has lost interest in Trident.

To sum up. Trident is a complete waste of space and money. If Trident went under Scottish Independence, it is likely that the infrastructure at the naval bases would be adapted to accommodate a basic Scottish naval presence.

Final thoughts
I think it's reasonable to infer that there is certainly a UK media bias against Independence. An orgy of misinformation has been unleashed against an unsuspecting Scottish (and British) public. But with the internet and the rapid reactions on social media, this misinformation is being realised and disseminated. Whether this will unfold in the interests of democracy remains to be seen. That will be determined by the final result in a few days time.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Israel Under The Spotlight

The graphic exposure of Israel’s atrocities in the Gaza Strip has gone beyond previous incursions. Even shallow mainstream media reporting has had to concede some inconvenient truths. 

The difference this time around compared to past bombardments of Gaza is the scale of the violence coupled with a social media savvy world. Whilst the usual suspects remain indifferent in their Ivory Towers, they seem oblivious to the growing awareness that the 'truth is out there' and that the business-as-usual propaganda bubble is bursting. 

In this article I will take a holistic view of the Israeli Palestine dichotomy, with the intention of making some sense of the whole situation, whilst joining the dots on yet another page of the human condition.

There is much intrigue to resolve. Invariably fact will be stranger than fiction and some of the evidence presented here may seem inexplicable. But a new axis of evil exists that I have already hinted at in previous posts. The Israeli conflict more or less closes the loop. And it won't come as a surprise to learn that the US is the beating heart at the centre of this axis.

This article is somewhat different from the usual subject matter covered in this blog. But resources become a key factor in any conflict and inevitably environmentally related factors emerge.

Invariably history is the key to understanding the present. I'll focus here on the time-line that led to the creation of the current State of Israel and the resulting geopolitics of the region. 

The making of the State of Israel
'On May 14, 1948, on the day in which the British Mandate over a Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR' (Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (IMFA)).

This followed the passing of a resolution on 29th November 1947 at the United Nations General Assembly, calling for the establishment of a Jewish State. 

'The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

'We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East' (IMFA). So what happened? That's a question I'll try to find an answer to. The Jewish holocaust of World War 2 would certainly have acted as a catalyst for the creation of Israel. But the foundations were laid after World War 1.

The process begun with the British Mandate of Palestine, which had been created by the League of Nations following the defeat and breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The US recognition of the State of Israel explores the background in some detail. The Balfour Declaration, recognised Jewish support of the British against the Turks during World War I. In 1922 Britain was appointed to rule in Palestine.

In the 1930's as Nazi persecution against Jews expanded, many left for the Middle East. This created tension between Jews and Arabs, which led to Britain restricting Jewish Immigration into the area. 

Unhappy with British policy, the Jews turned their attention to the US for support. But the US was reluctant to take a definitive position. However, 'Britain and the United States, in a joint effort to examine the dilemma, established the "Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry." In April 1946, the committee submitted recommendations that Palestine not be dominated by either Arabs or Jews. It concluded that attempts to establish nationhood or independence would result in civil strife; that a trusteeship agreement aimed at bringing Jews and Arabs together should be established by the United Nations; that full Jewish immigration be allowed into Palestine; and that two autonomous states be established with a strong central government to control Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the Negev, the southernmost section of Palestine.

'British, Arab, and Jewish reactions to the recommendations were not favorable. Jewish terrorism in Palestine antagonized the British, and by February 1947 Arab-Jewish communications had collapsed. Britain, anxious to rid itself of the problem, set the United Nations in motion, formally requesting on April 2, 1947, that the U.N. General Assembly set up the Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This committee recommended that the British mandate over Palestine be ended and that the territory be partitioned into two states. Jewish reaction was mixed - some wanted control of all of Palestine; others realized that partition spelled hope for their dream of a homeland. The Arabs were not at all agreeable to the UNSCOP plan. In October the Arab League Council directed the governments of its member states to move troops to the Palestine border. Meanwhile, President Truman instructed the State Department to support the U.N. plan, and, reluctantly, it did so. On November 29, 1947, the partition plan was passed in the U.N. General Assembly'.

The State of Israel was barely 24 hours old when war broke out with its neighbours. Why the immediate backlash towards the new country? The answer to this question can be traced back to the geopolitical turmoil of World War 1. 

On November 2, 1917 the Balfour Deceleration was issued. This was a statement of British support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” It was made in a letter from Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary, to Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild (of Tring), a leader of British Jewry.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica gives an overview of the Declaration, whilst more depth is provided in the book The Balfour Declaration by Jonathan Schneer - reviewed here by the Wall Street Journal. The Declaration paved the way for the British mandate over Palestine 5 years later. 

Although there is some contention over the Declarations intent, it is generally understood that it was an important consequence of Jewish support - mainy via the Zionist movement - during the war. This would play a key factor in the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. But there was also a colonial dimension. A settlement in Palestine of a pro-British Jewish population might help to protect the approaches to the Suez Canal in neighbouring Egypt and thus ensure a vital communication route to British colonial possessions in India.

The Declaration, as the Wall St article notes, was 'hailed as a milestone by Zionists—and still mourned in the Arab world as the first step toward what it regards as the "catastrophe" of the founding of the state of Israel'.

The Declaration was careful to avoid prejudice towards Arab populations. But the above article captures the essence of the Declaration: 'the British would "view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

'The phrase about the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine was included because some cabinet members, such as Lord Curzon, were concerned about the wisdom of imposing a Jewish homeland on a majority-Arab region. But for most of the cabinet, including Balfour (whose commitment to Zionism was lifelong), there were few qualms about neglecting the majority population. This was, after all, an age of empire, when governments thought nothing of carving up distant lands'.

There was a problem though. The Declaration conflicted with an agreement that the British had made with the Arabs. 'The McMahon-Hussein Agreement of October 1915 was accepted by Palestinians as a promise by the British that after World War One, land previously held by the [Ottoman] Turks would be returned to the Arab nationals who lived in that land'.

This effectively created a paradox that would ultimately build up tension in the Middle East:
  • 'That the British had promised Palestine to the Arabs after the war had ended in return for their support to the Allies in the war.
  • That the British had agreed to give their support to the Jews for a homeland in Palestine as laid out in the Balfour Declaration'.
Balfour had effectively given a green light to Jewish immigration into the area.
The focal point of discontent was Jerusalem - a city with great significance for both Judaism and Islam and Christianity as well. As the influx of Jews continued, the Arabs saw this as a threat to their way of life. Could the sacred religious sites in Jerusalem accommodate both Arabs and Jews? It would appear not.

As world war 2 loomed, it became apparent that Britain’s mandate over Palestine was becoming something of an albatross around it's neck.
After world war 1, Palestine was of strategic  importance to Britain. The Suez canal was a vital trade link to the East. The Palestine Mandate gave the British their colonial seat in the Middle East.  But as the 1930's beckoned, the fragile peace between Jews and Arabs deteriorated.

Jewish immigration into the area continued apace and would increase exponentially as anti Semitism rose in Europe, particularly in Germany with the rise of Nazism. The British solution to the problem was to restrict levels of immigration, but this generated anti British sentiments amongst the Jews as well as the Arabs. Both sides felt that the British had dishonoured them. Given that the situation in Palestine was becoming intractable, the only thing left was military intervention by the British.

The outbreak of world war 2 would ultimately decide the fate of the region. A useful time-line of events is covered by the History Learning Site.

Post War Pandora’s Box
As already discussed above, tensions increased in the region after world war 2. Britain was a spent force, with post war recovery paramount. The empire was of secondary importance. A new world order was beckoning that would revolve around the US and the newly created United Nations. Britain was getting fed up with the Palestinian albatross around its neck. Ironically - considering today's scenarios - Jews who had fought in the war along side the British now used their military training in terrorist attacks in order to further their aims in the region and against British control. 

The terrorists were Zionist extremists, prepared to go to any lengths in order to ensure the establishment of an Israeli homeland. Irgun Zvai Leumi, ( Hebrew: National Military Organization) was the name of the Group. They broke of from the Haganah - a Jewish militia group (forerunner to the IDF). They were anti British and anti Arab and after the creation of the State of Israel, Irgun’s last units disbanded and took the oath of loyalty to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Politically, it was the precursor of the Ḥerut (Freedom) Party, one of Israel’s most militant right-wing groups, which later merged with the Liberals into the Gaḥal Party.

It was this backdrop then that forced the British hand. In 1947 the British government announced it would withdraw from Mandatory Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. 

As noted above, the UN picked up the baton and through UNSCOP the State of Israel was eventually established.

Israel's new neighbours refused to recognise Israel. The Arabs had always opposed the UN plan for an Israeli state. So it was then that the 1948 Arab Israeli war broke out - the first of many hostilities to plague the region.

The World Zionist Organization 
Another thread of history needs to be examined in order to complete the picture of the new Jewish State. 

The Zionist Organization was founded in 1897. It became the World Zionist Organization (WZO) in 1960. Its key objective was the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The current aims of the WZO were enshrined in the Jerusalem Program 2004. (Such aims are periodically revised by the WZO).

Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future. The foundations of Zionism are:
  1. The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation
  2. Aliyah [immigration] to Israel from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants into Israeli Society
  3. Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world
  4. Ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people by furthering Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education, fostering spiritual and cultural values and teaching Hebrew as the national language
  5. Nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility, defending the rights of Jews as individuals and as a nation, representing the national Zionist interests of the Jewish people, and struggling against all manifestations of anti-Semitism 
  6. Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.
Although the movement wasn't formally established until 1897, the roots were already there. The Zionists had been clamouring for a homeland for some time and this culminated in a first wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine, known as the First Aliyah. This would be followed by further waves of immigration. 

The Palestinians would take the position that their troubles began during the first wave of Jewish settlement. But it is important to make a distinction here between Zionism and Judaism.

This article from a group called Neturei Karta, defines the difference between Zionism and Judaism. It points out that 'The Zionist movement created the Israeli state. The latter is a persuasion less than one hundred years old. Its essential goal was and is to change the nature of the Jewish people from that of a religious entity to a political movement. From Zionism's inception the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people stood in staunch opposition to it.

To this day Torah Jewry remains forever loyal to its faith. Zionists want the world to believe that they are the representatives of the entire Jewish people. This is false! The Jewish people never chose them as their leaders.

The Zionists have deceived many well meaning Jewish people via terror, trickery and false propaganda. They have at their disposal the use of a nearly universally subservient media. Whoever attempts to criticize them puts his livelihood and, at times, his very life in danger'.

From a religious perspective, Jews accept that their exile from - or diaspora - from the Holy Land was because of their sins and believe that the return of the Messiah will redeem them. The State of Israel is therefore rejected as a legitimate Jewish State, as is summed up in the article: 'Torah true Jewry waits patiently for the Messianic redemption. They have nothing to do with any kind of pseudo "Jewish State" and its aggressions against other peoples. They have a deep sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians who have suffered the most from Zionism's false teachings and barbaric actions. The Zionist state is not a Jewish state. The Zionists alone are the only ones responsible for their actions. Authentic Jewry has and will continue to oppose the very existence of this blasphemous state'.

Strong words to be sure. But words that were vindicated politically and legally by the Israeli Supreme court in a landmark judgement almost a year ago. Essentially the Court decreed that Israeli Nationality does not exist. 'In its 26-page ruling, the court explained that doing so would have "weighty implications" on the state of Israel and could pose a danger to Israel's founding principle: to be a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

The decision touches on a central debate in Israel, which considers itself both Jewish and democratic yet has struggled to balance both. The country has not officially recognized an Israeli nationality'. 

This poses an interesting question. If Israeli nationality doesn't exist then can Israel be defined as a pseudo State? It also suggests that if the nationality doesn't exist then neither can democracy. An Israeli nationality would mean that ethnic minorities could define themselves as Israeli. And that would mean universal equality for all - including the Palestinians. It would appear that a lack of Israeli nationality is a decree for discrimination.

The State of Israel was founded essentially on Zionist principles - a context that would drive both domestic and foreign policy. Israel’s destiny would be determined by the 1948 and 1967 wars. It would also snap into focus some of the less desirable aspects of Zionism, leading Israel to becoming a pariah State.

Yet this would serve as a contradiction as Israel would come to enjoy the protection of the West,  Particularly with the adoption of a new 'Godfather' - namely the US. But first it would have to survive the 'War of Independence'.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict
The following map shows the partition boundaries agreed by UNSCOP prior to Israel's formation (Source: BBC):
This next map shows the territory occupied by Israel after the end of the 1948 war:
In an official cablegram from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to the UN Secretary-General on May 15, 1948, the Arabs stated publicly that 'The recent disturbances in Palestine further constitute a serious and direct threat to peace and security within the territories of the Arab States themselves. For these reasons, and considering that the security of Palestine is a sacred trust for them, and out of anxiousness to check the further deterioration of the prevailing conditions and to prevent the spread of disorder and lawlessness into the neighbouring Arab lands, and in order to fill the vacuum created by the termination of the Mandate and the failure to replace it by any legally constituted authority, the Arab Governments find themselves compelled to intervene for the sole purpose of restoring peace and security and establishing law and order in Palestine.' (Clause 10(e)). 

The reason for Arab intervention in Israel is further outlined in Clause 10(b): 'Peace and order have been completely upset in Palestine, and, in consequence of Jewish aggression, approximately over a quarter of a million of the Arab population have been compelled to leave their homes and emigrate to neighbouring Arab countries. The prevailing events in Palestine exposed the concealed aggressive intentions of the Zionists and their imperialistic motives, as clearly shown in their acts committed upon those peaceful Arabs and villagers of Deer Yasheen, Tiberias, and other places, as well as by their encroachment upon the building and bodies of the inviolable consular codes, manifested by their attack upon the Consulate in Jerusalem' (links added).

At the end of the war the 1949 Armistice Agreements were set and established Armistice Demarcation Lines between Israeli forces and the forces in Jordanian-held West Bank, also known as the Green Line. 

Following this, 'On 25 May 1950 the United States, Britain, and France jointly issued the Tripartite Declaration, which guaranteed the territorial status quo determined by Arab - Israeli armistice agreements and stipulated close consultation among the three powers with a view to limiting the Arab - Israeli arms race. The aim of the Western powers was to contain the Arab - Israeli conflict in order to focus the attention of the states of the Middle East on anti-Soviet defense plans' (Source: Answers). It would also ensure the free flow of oil resources to the west. The truce held until the 1967 six day war.

The consequences of increased tension in the region following the end of World War 2, was a rise of anti-Semitism in the Holy Land. As the situation deteriorated with the rise of Zionist terrorist incursions, a situation emerged that was almost a carbon copy of the Jewish diaspora. This is explored in some detail in the Global Exchange article the Palestinian diaspora

'The Palestinian refugee population is one of the largest in the world. There are now at least 6 million refugees, the oldest of whom have been waiting for more than 50 years to return home.

The forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 resulted from the birth of the state of Israel and is a core injury at the heart of the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis. Acknowledgement and a just resolution of these injuries will be at the heart of any lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis'.

The Six Day War
Although the Suez crisis in 1956 was a flash point in Arab - Israeli relations, it was the six day war in June 1967 that would define the status of modern day Israel. 

After the Suez Crisis, Egypt agreed to the stationing of a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Sinai to ensure all parties would continue to comply with the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

A dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbours over water provisions from the River Jordan, would be the spark that would eventually lead to the six day war. The timeline is documented in the article The Disaster of 1967.

'In early 1963, Israel announced its intention to divert part of the Jordan River waters to irrigate the Naqab Desert (also known as the Negev Desert). In response, Arab leaders decided at a 1964 Cairo summit to reduce the flow of water into Lake Tiberias by diverting some tributaries in Lebanon and Syria'.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed following the Cairo summit. The PLO would become important and influential actor in the region. 

Initially the PLO harassed the Israeli's through guerilla actions, with the support of Arab countries in the region . Its aim was 'the liberation of Palestine [which] will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence...' (PLO Charter, Article 22, 1968). 

PLO incursions prompted Israeli attacks in the region in order to counter the PLO resistance. This invariably led to increased tensions and clashes in the region.

The crunch move came on May 19, 1967. In a move reminiscent of the Suez crisis, Egypt under President Nasser ejected the UNEF observers, mobilised troops in the region and implemented a blockade of Israeli shipping. 'President Nasser announced... that the United Arab Republic has decided to close the Gulf of Aqaba - Israel's southern outlet to the sea - to all ships flying Israel flags or carrying strategic materials'.

He stated that "We are now face to face with Israel and if they want to try their luck without Britain and France, we await them," he said. "The Israel flag will not pass through Aqaba Gulf and our sovereignty over the Gulf entrance is not negotiable. If Israel wants to threaten us with war they are welcome."

The stage was set - but not for the Arab nations. On June 5, Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) destroyed most of the Egyptian Air Force in the process, then turned east to destroy the Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi air forces. This strike was the crucial element in Israel's victory in the Six-Day War. At the war's end, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Shebaa farms, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day. 

From a military perspective, the pre-emptive Israeli strike was a tactical masterplan. It effectively routed the Arab challenge. By June 10, Israel had completed its final offensive in the Golan Heights, and a ceasefire was signed the day after. Overall, Israel's territory grew by a factor of three, including about one million Arabs placed under Israel's direct control in the newly captured territories. The map below (BBC) shows the state of affairs after 1967. 
The political importance of the 1967 War was immense; Israel demonstrated that it was able and willing to initiate strategic strikes that could change the regional balance. Egypt and Syria learned tactical lessons and would launch an attack in 1973 in an attempt to reclaim their lost territory. 

The so-called Yom Kippur war on 6 October 1973, took Israel by surprise. But despite this initial setback, Israel held off the Arab forces. 

This conflict was significant with respect to the fact that it indirectly involved the two superpowers, with the US backing Israel and the Soviets behind the Arab states. The geopolitics of the region was taking shape. 

Eventually a ceasefire was brokered and UN peacekeepers were reinstalled in the area. This eventually led to the Camp David Accords and the signing of a peace treaty in March 1979. Under its terms, the Sinai Peninsula returned to Egyptian hands, and the Gaza Strip remained under Israeli control, to be included in a future Palestinian state. The agreement also provided for the free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal and recognition of the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as international waterways. 

However Camp David entailed consequences that still reverberate today. In retrospect, the Framework for Peace in the Middle East could have gone further. The Framework was rejected by the UN General Assembly on the grounds that it did not comply with the Palestinian right of return, of self-determination and to national independence and sovereignty. A second framework was developed to address peace between Israel and Egypt. 

Since 1979, US aid to Israel has increased markedly, particularly military aid. Ominously there was a significant increase during the Bush administration. This account by the PLO sums up the concerns left by Camp David. There was also the small question of a Nobel Peace prize...   

Intifada
In December 1987, the First Intifada (Arabic intifāḍa, literally, the act of shaking off) began. The First Intifada was a mass Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the Palestinian territories. 

Tensions had been building up for some time. But the spark came when an IDF truck struck a civilian car, killing four Palestinians. Rumours that the crash was deliberate quickly spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In response to general strikes, boycotts of Israeli civil administration institutions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, civil disobedience in the face of army orders, and an economic boycott consisting of refusal to work in Israeli settlements on Israeli products, refusal to pay taxes, refusal to drive Palestinian cars with Israeli licenses, graffiti, barricading, and widespread throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails at the IDF and its infrastructure within the Palestinian territories. Israel, deploying some 80,000 soldiers and initially firing live rounds, killed a large number of Palestinians. 

The confrontations continued for 6 years resulting in the deaths of over 1200 Palestinians, resulting in Israel imposing more control over the occupied territories. But the intifada ended Israel's innocence. The uprising had brought into focus a reality that was perhaps less evident in the past. Pictures beamed around the Globe of Palestinian youths throwing stones a Israeli solders and then being shot with live ammunition as part of Israel's 'break the bones' policy.

The Lebanon war in 1982 had given the world a glimpse of the 'real' Israel. But by the time the intifada had ended, Israel's gradual descent to pariah state had begun. As Electric Intifada noted, 'If nothing else, the people’s non-violent mass civil disobedience strategy had attracted media coverage and journalist Thomas Friedman commented that “the presence of the foreign media really forced Israelis to look at the true brutality of their occupation.” That is, until Israel found other more sinister ways to turn around public opinion'.

During this period, Israel was strongly condemned by the UN. Israel had broken every rule in the book. It's nonchalant disregard for International law and Convention would become a routine habit. Only one country was prepared to defend Israel all the way in the face of such overwhelming evidence against it - the US.              

In 1993, following the mutual recognition of Israel by the PLO and Israel's recognition of the PLO as legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, the Oslo Peace Accords were signed by both parties. The aim of the Accords was greater autonomy for Palestinians within the occupied territories over a period of 5 years. 

The Accords eventually broke down. A combination of 'business as usual' by Israel and continued resistance by Palestinians ultimately led to the second intifada in 2000. This insightful article from Executive Intelligence Review details how Israel in cahoots with the US, systematically dismantled the entire peace process. 'The Oslo peace accord of September 1993 failed, because powerful Israeli interests and their U.S.-based allies caused it to fail. In an interview that September, U.S. Presidential pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche forecast prophetically, that, unless immediate progress were made on the economic aspects of the peace agreements, "enemies of progress and enemies of the human race, such as Henry Kissinger and his friends, will be successful, through people like Ariel Sharon's buddies, in intervening to drown this agreement in chaos and blood."

That is, in short, what happened. By handing control over economic development programs appended to the Oslo treaty to the World Bank, Kissinger's friends ensured that no large-scale infrastructure would be built. Instead of enjoying a peace dividend in terms of better living conditions, the Palestinians would experience a deterioration of their already disastrous conditions. This would generate demoralization, and rage - the primary ingredients for radicalization - particularly among youth, rendering them vulnerable to recruitment into extremist organizations, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are opposed to peace'.

The following paragraph effectively sums up in a nutshell the true nature of the 'peace' process in the region and the true intentions of the protagonists: 'The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995, by right-wing Israeli extremist networks, was the political inflection point, intersecting the economic crisis. Rabin's Foreign Minister, a terrified Shimon Peres then threw the 1996 elections to Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu, who reversed whatever implementation of Oslo there had been, and embarked on a confrontation course, by expanding illegal Israeli settlements and launching provocations. His successor, Barak, continued to dismantle Oslo, which culminated in the "offer" at Camp David, that Israel should maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem, including the sites sacred to Islam - an offer that no Arab leader, no Muslim, could accept. Following the fruitless Camp David talks, the religious passions associated with Jerusalem were consciously ignited by Sharon on Sept. 28, 2000, who demonstratively took a stroll, escorted by 1,000 Israeli police, by the holiest Islamic shrine in Jerusalem, the al-Haram al-Sharif. That act, which showed just how sensitive the Jerusalem issue is (and should have clarified why Arafat could not have accepted the Camp David offer), triggered the Intifada. This act by Sharon, is omitted from any U.S. or Israeli chronologies. Sharon's provocation was also the opening salvo to his election campaign. Once elected prime minister, by an electorate panicked by the violence that his provocation had produced, Sharon proceeded post-haste to finish off what little remained of the peace process'.

The summit at Camp David was an attempt to salvage the Oslo Accords. But the process failed - as noted above - and the second Intifada broke out.

The consequences of the failed Accords would shape the geopolitical landscape of the region into the entity we see today.

The Second Intifada
Following the controversial visit by Sharon to the Islamic shrine, violence erupted. The Israeli response was similar to the First Intifada, with live ammunition being used in some of the confrontations that ensued. A report by Amnesty International Broken Lives - A Year of Intifada summed up the Israeli approach: 'Israeli forces have killed Palestinians unlawfully by shooting them during demonstrations and at checkpoints although lives were not in danger. They have shelled residential areas and committed extrajudicial executions. Palestinian armed groups and individuals have deliberately killed Israeli civilians by placing bombs in crowded places and in drive-by shootings. 

'All Palestinians in the Occupied Territories - more than three million people - have been collectively punished. Almost every Palestinian town and village has been cut off by Israeli army checkpoints or physical barriers. Curfews on Palestinian areas have trapped residents in their homes for days, weeks or
even months. In the name of security, hundreds of Palestinian homes have been demolished'.

Clearly atrocities were also committed by Palestinian extremists, but the above account makes for familiar reading. Its an account that would be repeated up until the present day.

The conflict culminated in 'Operation Defensive Shield,' the largest military operation conducted by Israel since the Six-Day War. The offensive would set a precedent for subsequent attacks against the palestinians - namely a disproportionate and extreme level of response by the IDF. A particular offensive on the Jennin refuge camp characterises the Israeli response. This article in Haaretz sums up the conflict. 

Since the second intifada there have be further attacks by Israel, each condemned by the international community and reported widely by media outlets. One of the key outcomes that emerged out of the second intifada was the emergence of Hamas. Ultimately this would lead to confrontation with other factions.

As the current offensive against Gaza rages (2014), there are other key events and conditions that contribute to the continued instability in the region. Indeed it could be argued that there is a deliberate intention by certain actors to maintain instability. But before I discuss these, there are other historical precedents that need to be put in place first. 

The rest of this article will follow in a subsequent post.