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Losing Palestine

Recently the Israeli government cut off most of the electricity to Gaza. I don’t even want to think about the ethics involved in making that decision. Any government who had even the tiniest concern for the populace it was elected to govern would pay the electricity bill even to its worst enemy for the sake of its people. Of course Hamas is no normal government and it was elected a very long time ago. Even the pretence of being democratic has long gone. So should Israelis pay for Gazan electricity? Should Palestinians living in the West Bank pay for Gazans to have electricity? Should the EU or the UN? Or should the Israelis just turn it off?

I don’t know. I don’t even care. A couple of years ago I’d have been all over that one. Now I can’t even bring myself to write about it. That’s what two years back in the diaspora will do to you. Because over here in London there’s a whole different set of problems.

Gazan electricity was one of many issues affecting Palestinians that wasn’t discussed at the recent Palestine Expo in London. The two day event was held a stone’s throw from the houses of Parliament. Its six floors of exhibition centre space was devoted to Palestine for the whole of last weekend.

I’ve watched a lot of the talks that took place over that weekend. Many people filmed on their phones and streamed to Facebook and I’ve found a fair few of them. I haven’t seen anyone talking about the Palestine they want to see. I’ve heard a couple say Israel should become Palestine and a lot talk about boycotting Israel.

Supporters of Palestine sat in the swankiest exhibition venue London has to offer and bitch about Israel. Such an opportunity to discuss Palestine and how to make an impact on this non-country shouldn’t have been so easily squandered. And if they weren’t going to bother doing anything that would indirectly help Palestinians then why on earth didn’t they forgo this Palestine Expo and send what must have been the high six figures it cost to put the event on to Palestinian charities?

Because they don’t really care perhaps. Or more accurately because in their minds the Palestinian struggle isn’t a struggle between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East it’s between them and Zionists everywhere.

Tariq Ramadan one of the most revered Muslim academics in the world and Professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University said the following;

Natanyahu said that in just 2001…what you’ve got in the states is what we are getting in Israel. As if al Qaeda is exactly the same like Hamas and the Palestinian resistance!

And then he adds;

I think that it’s not for us to decide what are the means for the people on the ground there to use. I said it from the beginning the targeting of civilians will never be right for me the resistance is legitimate and the resistance should remain the reality there.

What kind of an audience needs to be told “the targeting of civilians will never be right for me”? And why emphasise that he’s only talking about himself? Perhaps he knows many in the audience would disagree. Perhaps he fears losing his credibility with his own supporters?

But I shouldn’t complain, it’s things like this that mean the Palestinians will always lose. Their supporters are more interested in self aggrandisement than they are in helping the people in whose name they operate. Sure they can rent out a fancy venue and charge next to nothing for entry but their arguments are always wafer thin. Writer for the Electronic Intifada Asa Winstanley talks about the power of the Israel lobby and his counterpart in his talk, professor David Miller spoke about the Israeli lobby consisting of 100-150 organisations.

I mean really? This is their level?

When wealthy Jewish businessmen give their money and their time towards Israel they’re doing so because it’s important to them. There is hardly an ambulance in Israel that wasn’t paid for by a donor from overseas. This doesn’t make the charity a lobby group nor the donor a lobbyist. It makes them Zionist. It’s pretty obvious to most people but the speakers at that Expo aren’t most people, they’re in a league all of their own.

The thing is that the stronger the people in that Expo become the stronger Israel will become. The more accepted the ideas expressed at that Expo become the more inclined Jews will be to make aliyah and take their talents to Israel. Just as they’re now doing from France as they did from Russia as they were forced to do from Arab countries, their presence will strengthen Israel. It’s happened time and again and every time it happens it energises the Zionism of Jews all over the world.

And in all of these lectures and talks about Israel, Zionists and lobby groups I’m struggling to find any coherent talk about Palestinians. there were so many mentions of Mandela and South Africa, so many mentions of the boycott and so few mentions of any actual Palestinian leaders, so few mentions of ideas for the vitalisation of Palestine, for ways in which Palestine will come into being.

I think back to the grand Zionist congresses of the early twentieth century, I think of the Jews who came together to debate and vote on what they wanted for the state of their dreams, for the state that they would one day call Israel. The laws they passed the organisations they founded and the world they changed. Doing that makes you realise just how far away from taking control of their own destiny Palestinians really are.

With supporters like these Palestinians don’t need supporters.