Is Paul Uppal MP in his constituency? No. Is he beavering away in the Department of Education? Er, no? Is he, perhaps, working hard to bring the fruits of his labours to the needy citizens of the city he represents?
No, no and thrice no. He's in Israel, and he's writing articles for a Conservative website. On our time and money.
Who paid for Paul to go to Israel? Well, he's on a jolly with the Conservative Friends of Israel, so my guess is that the Israeli government flew them in for a close-up view of what they do to Johnny Arab when those benighted people get a bit fed up with their land being occupied, farms bulldozed, movement restricted and children murdered. I can't absolutely tell you who pays for it because the CFOI website is very, very coy on the matter. In fact virtually all the links on the site are broken… unless they just don't work for socialists. And Paul's not saying.
But we can assume that this is a propaganda trip organised to ensure that the Israeli government's perspective (just think South African National Party's attitude towards black Africans in, say, 1965) reach the highest levels of government.
So what does Paul have to say?
To say that this week has been eventful would be a serious understatement. Its events culminated yesterday when rocket sirens went off in Jerusalem where I was staying with a Conservative Friends of Israel delegation. It was an experience I will never forget.I admit it Paul. I pulled some strings to get Hamas to fire off some rockets when I heard you were there. It's worked out nicely for you. You're a veteran now. A big man.
And then there's this:
On Tuesday we visited the Golan Heights. The news at the time was that errant fire from the Syrian civil war had landed in Israel; the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.You'd be forgiven for think that the Golan Heights is some tourist spot threatened by those dastardly Palestinians, and not part of Syria illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. They're not giving it back: a third of Israel's water comes from the Golan.
The escalation began earlier this month following the detonation of a tunnel on the Israeli side of the border which targeted Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers. An anti-tank missile also destroyed an IDF jeep travelling on the Israeli side of the border fence, injuring four soldiers.That'll be the illegal border fence which marks the extent of Israel's illegal occupation. And I reckon the 'escalation' started in 1948 when Palestinians were thrown off their ancestral land without negotiation or compensation, to salve the consciences of the Western Powers which had done little to nothing to save Jews from the Holocaust.
In response to the extended missile barrages on its sovereign territory, Israel launched ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’ as part of a series of attacks on Hamas terrorist installations. Wednesday saw the completion of the targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed JabariAh yes. Because the Israelis are stern respecters of 'sovereign territory'. Naval and air bombardment of the most densely packed urban space in the world is a standard 'defensive' strategy. These 'extended missile barrages' have (sadly) killed three Israelis and mostly landed in desert. It's not exactly the Blitz. 'Terrorist installations' have so far included houses, schools, hospitals, transport infrastructure and traffic lights. Targeted killing = assassination (and it's not very targeted: lots of children related to Hamas officials have been killed too) and Jabari was, it's said, about to sign a ceasefire agreement with the Israeli military. But there's an election coming up.
we toured Israel’s security barrierAh yes. The illegal 'security' barrier which confiscates large swathes of Palestinian land under international law, and (coincidentally?) separates them from the scarcest commodity of all in the area: water.
Terrorist groups like Hamas do immense physical and psychological damage and conversely, Israel, with its large and technologically advanced army has been unable to put a stop to the continued assault.No they don't. Their weaponry is largely useless, as any news report will tell you. The assault is not 'continued': it occurs every few years when the hotheads can't think of anything else to do in response to being despised prisoners. As to 'terrorist': that's the epithet applied to any armed group which doesn't have the resources of the United States' newest gear. What military tactics would be acceptable to Paul? As far as I can see, launching obsolete and largely harmless missiles is just a weak version of Israel bombing Palestine from air, land and sea.
Israel’s military responses in Gaza have been targeted and precise. Hundreds of military installations have been destroyed and civilian casualties have been astoundingly low, considering Hamas is known to hide its terrorist infrastructure deep within civilian areas.Oh yeah? Not according to the international press and the BBC. It's as though Paul's taking dictation from the Israeli Ministry for Propaganda. The language is exactly the same being used in press releases and interviews. Those children killed must have been dwarf militants disguised as children. What does Paul mean by 'terrorist infrastructure' in 'civilian areas'? Gaza is an open air concentration camp filled with the numerous descendents of Palestinians herded out of their ancestral lands in 1948. There are only civilian areas. How many civilian deaths count as 'low' for Paul? How many dead children?
Already, three Israelis have been killed by a missile strike, including one pregnant woman. With hundreds of rockets being fired upon Israel each day, it cannot be long before Hamas’s kill count rises.I don't like 'whataboutery', but we should just remember some facts. 'Hundreds' of rockets are not being fired upon Israel 'each day'. They haven't got that many. 3 Israelis have died, and that's wrong. How many Palestinians? 5 women and 4 children in one house on Saturday, bombed by the Air Force. 90 Palestinians dead, half of them civilians. So if anyone's 'kill count' is rising, it's the Israelis.
Israelis are stoic about the circumstances under which they live, but only at a painful stretch of the imagination can Brits understand what this is like. The last time we faced such a threat was over half a century ago.Actually, Paul, it's not so hard to understand. If you just pop over to Northern Ireland, you'll find 750,000 Irish people who lived under armed occupation by a colonial power which planted settlers on their land, then used the full force of the British Army to ensure that their descendants enjoyed total military, civil and cultural domination, resulting in a vicious resistance movement and at times, civil war. But then, you'd be supporting the Orange, wouldn't you? And anyway, what of the 'stoic' Palestinians: herded into the prison camp for over 50 years. More and more land taken from them. Economically isolated. Starved of food, water, construction material and all the necessities of a civilised life. Bombarded from all sides. I reckon that's pretty stoic.
For Palestinians, the status quo ante is unacceptable. The emergence of a viable and sovereign state of Palestine that exists peacefully beside the Jewish state of Israel must be the goal. My time spent speaking to Israelis and Palestinians this week has illustrated to me just how difficult this will be to achieve.This is just so many words. What is 'viable'? What about the Palestinian right to the territories illegally occupied? How do we arrive at a 'Jewish state' of Israel without expelling the Israeli Arabs who live there? How do democracy and an ethnically-pure state co-exist?
How many Palestinians has Paul spoken to? Who are they? I'm sad to say that I no longer take anything Paul says at face value. He has a track record of fibbing for convenience. If he can prove it, I'll take this back happily.
Israel’s land for peace policy has been historically successful.At the risk of becoming boring: it's not 'land for peace' if you're grudgingly handing over tiny parcels of land that doesn't belong to you while using the full military and political weight supplied by America and the West to keep all the rest.
My contributions to this debate will now be based on real experiences with Israelis and Palestinians. Visiting the region has enabled me to broaden my comprehension and understand one of the most complicated and protracted conflicts the world has ever seen. The Conservative Friends of Israel are to be credited with such an excellent, informative and balanced visit.Again: which Palestinians?
One trip, as part of an openly partisan group has 'broadened' his comprehension?
'Balanced'? Really? Funded by the Israeli government or its allies? Surely even Paul isn't this deluded. He's just happy to be a puppet.
What's most depressing about this article is Paul's failure to consider the history of Israel/Palestine. He's simply repeated the talking points handed out by the Israeli government and refused to contemplate the actual complexities of the situation. He's a shill, nothing more.
In the interests of disclosure, I should state my position here. I don't begrudge Paul's decision to take sides on this conflict. I've done the same thing. But I do begrudge his deliberate, cynical and dishonest refusal to do anything more than propagate Israeli government propaganda.
I have Jewish antecedents, though I am not Jewish. I am a socialist. I reject the narratives put forward on both sides which root statehood in ethnicity and religious identity. The fundamentalists on both sides would get on very well: they hate democracy, women and dissidence. They're racists and bigots. I can empathise with the Allies' decisions at the end of WW2. Guilty about allowing European Jews to be massacred in their millions, they decided that the survivors should be shipped to Palestine (from which their ancestors had departed over the course of 2000 years) rather than make Europe face what it had done by refounding the historic Jewish populations across that continent. The Palestinians - who had lived in relative peace with the small Jewish population of the area for centuries - were of no account. Killed and displaced without mercy, herded into camps and narrow strips of unproductive land, they naturally fought back. Many of them failed to comprehend the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and vicious anti-semitism (previously the preserve of Christians: Jews were protected for centuries by Muslim cultures such as the Ottoman Empire) arose.
I condemn the assault on Israeli citizens in the legally-determined territory of Israel. But don't let Uppal and his propagandists fool you. The Palestinians are friendless prisoners barely existing in a cramped, unproductive strip of land. Their tactics are often barbaric and useless. But they are not solely motivated by religious or ethnic hatred: these things are the poisonous result of an injustice which has never and will never be addressed by Israel or the international community. They're the collateral damage of colonialism and European determination to shuffle a problem off onto somewhere else.
What would I do? I'd found a single state in the area in which religious and ethnic identity is irrelevant. The Palestinians thrown off their lands in the various wars would be housed and compensated, perhaps not in the same places. Hamas and Co need to abandon the poisonous anti-semitism they've adopted too. They could learn to respect each other under a political system which treated everyone equally.
As to Paul Uppal: this piece exposes him yet again as a dishonest and third-rate thinker. Yet another reason to vote him out in 2015.
Meanwhile, I'm writing to ask him some questions. I'll let you know when/if there's a response.