The gatekeeper-in-chief strikes again…

In an earlier post, I asked whether the BBC Trust would investigate the axing of Ilan Ziv’s “Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story”.

The answer, but of course, is no..

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ in April 2013

Thank you for writing to the BBC Trust about the BBC’s decision not to broadcast Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story in April 2013. I am very sorry that you feel the BBC has not given you a proper response to your complaint.

The Trust is the last stage of the complaints process and everyone who works within the Trust Unit is outside the day-to-day operations of the BBC. We review the complaints that come to us to assess whether they should be put before the BBC’s Trustees for them to reach a final decision. If you want to find out more about how the complaints system works – and in particular about how the BBC Trust fits in – this is the web link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/governance/complaints_framework/

There are two committees which decide complaints: the Editorial Standards Committee and the Complaints and Appeals Board. The Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) hears complaints about specific broadcasts, where there is a significant risk that one of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines has been breached. The Complaints and Appeals Board (CAB) hears general complaints which may relate to programme output, or may be about any other part of the BBC’s operations (for example, complaints about TV Licence collection).

I should explain that the Trust does not take every appeal that comes to it. In deciding which ones should be considered by the Trustees, we look at the merits of the complaint and only ones that stand a reasonable chance of success are passed to Trustees. The Trust acts in the interests of all licence fee payers and it would not be proportionate to spend a good deal of time and money on cases that do not stand a realistic prospect of success. The link that I have given above gives more information about this.

I have read the correspondence that has already passed between you and the BBC.

I am sorry to send a disappointing response but I do not believe your appeal should be put in front of the Trustees. I have attached a summary of your appeal as well as the reasons behind my decision with this letter. As this Annex may be drawn on when the Committee minutes are written, the writing style is formal. While I regret the impersonal feel of this, I hope you will appreciate it allows the Trust to work efficiently.

If you disagree with my decision and would like the Trustees to review it, please reply with your reasons by 30 September 2013 to the Complaints Adviser at trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk or at the above address. Please send your reasons by this deadline in one document if possible.

Correspondence that is received after this date may not be considered as part of your request for a review of the decision. If, exceptionally, you need more time please write giving your reasons as soon as possible.

If you do ask the Trustees to review this decision, I will place that letter as well as your original letter of appeal and this letter before Trustees. Your previous correspondence will also be available to them. They will look at that request in their October meeting. Their decision is likely to be finalised at the following meeting and will be given to you shortly afterwards.

If the Trustees agree that your case has no reasonable prospect of success then it will close. If the Trustees disagree with my decision, then your case will be given to an Independent Editorial Adviser to investigate and we will contact you with an updated time line.

Yours sincerely

Leanne Buckle

Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser

Annex

Decision to withdraw programme about Jerusalem

According to the General Complaints Procedure, the Trust will only consider an appeal if it raises “a matter of substance”. This will ordinarily mean that in the opinion of the Trust there is a reasonable prospect that the appeal will be upheld. In deciding whether an appeal raises a matter of substance, the Trust may consider (in fairness to the interests of all licence fee payers in general) whether it is appropriate, proportionate and cost-effective to consider the appeal.

Background

The complainant had contacted the BBC after it decided to withdraw the programme Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery from broadcast. He had sought information about the editorial reasoning for not broadcasting the programme and who had taken the decision.

“em>Ilan Ziv’s film was originally acquired earlier this year to supplement BBC Four’s season exploring the history of archaeology. Acquisitions are often prepared for transmission close to broadcast and it was only at this point that it was decided that the film did not fit the season editorially and was not shown. We would like to assure you that this was an internal decision and there was no political pressure involved in the decision to suspend this programme. We’re sorry for any disappointment caused but please be assured we are talking to the director about future plans for the film, the outcome of which will be published on the BBC’s FAQ website: http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ in due course.”

When the complainant pressed for further information, he was told:

…we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add.

The complainant had initially escalated is complaint to the BBC Trust on 3 June 2013. The Trust Unit considered that BBC Audience Services ought to give more information and, on 18 July, he was sent the following response:

Ilan Ziv’s film about the archaeology and history of Jerusalem and surrounding areas was acquired by the BBC for transmission during a BBC Four archaeology season. It was found during the re-versioning of the film to 60 minutes in length that it covered broader issues and for that reason, it was decided to withdraw it from this particular season. The BBC is now working with the film maker on a new version of the film and will issue a further statement once that process is complete.

Appeal

The complainant remained dissatisfied. He appealed to the Trust and stated:

…the circumstances surrounding the original axing need to be adequately explained. And of course, the more the BBC Executive procrastinates, the greater the impression they have something to hide. To re-iterate: I am seeking a full explanation of what was meant by the phrase “does not fit editorially”. This will obviously entail reference to the specific editorial criteria that the programme was considered against, and the reasons why these criteria were not considered to have been met. I think it would also be useful to know HOW these decisions were made, and by WHOM.

The Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser (the Adviser) carefully read the correspondence which had passed between the complainant and the BBC, and she acknowledged the strength of the complainant’s feelings. She noted that the Executive said that the programme had been acquired to supplement BBC Four’s season exploring the history of archaeology. She noted that the most recent response from the BBC had elaborated on its first reply and had explained that it was only when the film was being shortened prior to transmission that it emerged the film covered broader issues than had initially been understood and it was subsequently withdrawn from the series about archaeology.

The Adviser noted that the complainant had been told the film would be shown at a later point and had been given a webpage that would be updated once a new date had been confirmed. The Adviser considered Trustees would be likely to conclude that the complainant had been given a reasoned and reasonable response on this point and did not believe it had a reasonable prospect of success, therefore she did not consider it should be put before Trustees.

The Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser understood that the complainant felt frustrated that the BBC had not given further details about the decision. However, she considered there was no obligation on the BBC to do this. She noted that the Royal Charter and the accompanying Agreement between the Secretary of State and the BBC drew a distinction between the role of the BBC Trust and that of the BBC Executive Board, led by the Director-General. “The direction of the BBC’s editorial and creative output” was specifically defined in the Charter (paragraph 38, (1) (b)) as a duty that was the responsibility of the Executive Board, and one in which the Trust did not get involved unless, for example, it related to a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards which did not apply in this case. Decisions relating to what programmes to include within a themed series fell within the “editorial and creative output” of the BBC and were the responsibility of the BBC Executive. The issue of how much detail to provide about the reasons for such decisions was also a matter for the Executive.

Therefore the Adviser considered that it was not appropriate for the appeal to be put before Trustees on this point. Therefore the Adviser considered the appeal did not have a reasonable prospect of success and should not be put before Trustees.

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Will the BBC Trust investigate axing of Ilan Ziv’s “Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story”?

Dear BBC,

Further to Ilan Ziv’s rendition of the pulling of “Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story” (available at: http://ilanziv.com/2013/04/28/the-exiling-of-my-film-exile-a-myth-unearthed-in-the-bbc-2/), I wish to request the following: (a) a full, official explanation of WHY the programme “does not fit editorially”; AND (b) the identity of the person who described the programme as “propaganda”, and the circumstances under which this person came to exert influence over the airing of the programme; AND (c) under all relevant FoI statutes, copies of all relevant internal BBC communications that considered the programme’s “editorial fit”, to include minutes of any meetings that took place on the same subject. I look forward to hearing from you.

Joe Sucksmith

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your follow up comments regarding about our decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April. Your concerns were brought to the attention of senior management in BBC Vision who responded as follows:

“Ilan Ziv’s film was originally acquired earlier this year to supplement BBC Four’s season exploring the history of archaeology. Acquisitions are often prepared for transmission close to broadcast and it was only at this point that it was decided that the film did not fit the season editorially and was not shown. We would like to assure you that this was an internal decision and there was no political pressure involved in the decision to suspend this programme. We’re sorry for any disappointment caused but please be assured we are talking to the director about future plans for the film, the outcome of which will be published on the BBC’s FAQ website: http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ in due course”.

With regards to your FOI request, I can assure you that this matter is currently being looked into for you. You will receive a response in due course. Thank you once again for taking the trouble to share your concerns with us.

Kind Regards
Richard Carey

——-

Dear BBC,

Your response is merely a re-statement of the original response to other complainants that prompted my complaint! To repeat: I would like a full, official explanation of WHY the programme “does not fit editorially”. Put another way, I would like you to explain the phrase “does not fit editorially”, with reference to the specific editorial codes infringed, and why.

Many thanks, Joe

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your follow up comments about our decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April. We recognise you continue to feel strongly about this but we have explained the reason for the decision (including why it was made very close to transmission) and we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add. Thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards
Gemma McAleer
BBC Complaints

——-

Dear Gemma,

Many thanks for your further response, received yesterday, and which reads:

“We recognise you continue to feel strongly about this but we have explained the reason for the decision (including why it was made very close to transmission) and we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add.”

No, you have NOT explained the “reason for decision”. Rather, you have issued a generic cover-all response that the programme “did not fit editorially”. The crucial question, and the one that I’ve now repeatedly asked, is WHY the programme was considered not to fit editorially. This would obviously entail reference to the specific editorial criteria that the programme was considered against, and the reasons why these criteria were not considered to have been met. It is tiresome in the extreme to have to go to these lengths to get an honest response from a publically funded organisation 😦 Please consider this email a request for this complaint to be elevated to Stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process.

Joe

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your follow up comments about our decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April. We recognise you continue to feel strongly about this but we have explained the reason for the decision (including why it was made very close to transmission) and we are not in a position to discuss the specific details at present. As we have said, we are talking to the director about future plans for the film and we will publish the outcome on our FAQ website at http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/ once these plans are decided. In the meantime we regret there is no more we can add. Thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards
Gemma McAleer

——-

Dear BBC Trust,

Please find attached recent correspondence with the BBC regards the BBC’s decision not to broadcast ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ on 25 April.

In my professional capacity as an Administrative Officer at a university, I regularly have to assess [various kinds of] student applications. Every now and again, I have no choice but to refuse a student’s application. Can you imagine the student’s consternation were I to respond with a generic “I’m afraid your application did not meet the criteria”? Would such a response inspire confidence that my assessment had been carried out objectively? Would the student not be entitled to an explanation that covered the precise reasons for refusal? I trust this gives an insight into why I remain dissatisfied, and I why I wish the Trust to now investigate further.

Please note: while the BBC clearly believes its continued discussions with the director of the programme to be a mitigating factor, I consider this a red herring. Irrespective of any future transmission, the circumstances surrounding the original axing need to be adequately explained. And of course, the more the BBC Executive procrastinates, the greater the impression they have something to hide.

To re-iterate: I am seeking a full explanation of what was meant by the phrase “does not fit editorially”. This will obviously entail reference to the specific editorial criteria that the programme was considered against, and the reasons why these criteria were not considered to have been met. I think it would also be useful to know HOW these decisions were made, and by WHOM.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Sucksmith

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Further to my email of 6 June 2013, the Trust Unit has reviewed your correspondence and agree that BBC Complaints should have provided you with a further response.

We have therefore asked BBC Complaints to respond to you again directly addressing your concerns. This response should also explain how to take your complaint further should you wish to do so.
I hope this helpful.

Yours sincerely
Christina Roski
Complaints Adviser, BBC Trust Unit

——-

Dear Mr Sucksmith

Thank you for your email sent to the BBC Trust, which was forwarded to me for reply. Your concerns were again brought to the attention of senior management in BBC Television (formerly BBC Vision) who responded as follows:

‘Ilan Ziv’s film about the archaeology and history of Jerusalem and surrounding areas was acquired by the BBC for transmission during a BBC Four archaeology season. It was found during the re-versioning of the film to 60 minutes in length that it covered broader issues and for that reason, it was decided to withdraw it from this particular season. The BBC is now working with the film maker on a new version of the film and will issue a further statement once that process is complete.’

Please accept this as a response at Stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process. If you remain unhappy you may ask the BBC Trust to consider an appeal within 20 working days. You can write to the BBC Trust at 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ, and you should quote case number CAS-2218615-RZF0C3.

Full details of the complaints and appeals processes are on the BBC Trust website: (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/contact/complaints_appeals/appeal_trust.shtml

Yours sincerely
Sarah Greatrex
Senior Complaints Advisor
BBC Audience Services

——-

Dear BBC Trust,

I have just received the [above] response from BBC Complaints.
This seems to be a perfunctory re-formulation of what has gone before (only with “did not fit editorially” replaced by “covered broader issues”), and most certainly does not evidence any effort to “directly address my concerns”.

I would be grateful, therefore, if the Trust could now investigate further.

Best wishes,

Joe

Israeli war crimes – all so “intriguing” to the BBC…

A brief exchange with the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus…

——–

Hi Jonathan,

In this article you describe Israel’s bombing of Damascus as “intriguing”.

Had Syria just bombed Tel Aviv, do you think you would have been similarly “intrigued”?

Can you explain the sense in which “intrigue” is applicable to prima facie violations of international law that maim and kill human beings?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Joe Sucksmith

——–

Thank you for writing but it seems to me if there are a number of potential targets That might have been hit – including potentially some closely associated with the Syrian regime’s command and control – then it is indeed intriguing.
What’s your problem here ? Take that as a rhetorical question.
Many thanks again
JM

Sent from my iPhone

——–

But is it really “intriguing” or just plain “criminal”? Which adjective do you think the victims would use? Does your article genuinely inform the reader or merely distract from what appears to be a flagrant act of Israeli aggression?

These are not rhetorical questions.

——–

I cannot see what you are complaining about in the piece. I suggest that if you do not like Israel’s actions you write to their Embassy and complain.
I don’t think we are going to make any headway here so let’s call it a day.
JM

Sent from my iPhone

Martin Horwood on Israel/Palestine: a case of sidestep-o-rama

How terribly naive of me to expect straight answers from my MP!  😉  Exchange reads bottom up…

 

Hi Martin,

Many thanks.  For info, I’ve posted your response at This is Glos and Media Lens, and will shortly post it at my blog.

I’m sorry you feel aggrieved at the term “slippery”, which was used first by another contributor at Media Lens.  If, however, you cast an honest eye over our exchange, you’ll see that you didn’t give straight answers until your closing email; thus “slippery” seems perfectly reasonable, in my view.

By way of closing, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from an open letter published back in 2008/9, that could just as easily have been published in November 2012, and that demonstrates where an increasing number of people are on this issue… ahead of the politicians, as ever!  😉

The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel’s ongoing appropriation of their land and resources. Israel’s war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons. There is nothing symmetrical about this war in terms of principles, tactics or consequences. Israel is responsible for launching and intensifying it, and for ending the most recent lull in hostilities.  Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides… against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/16/gaza-israel-petitions

Happy Christmas.

Joe

———

Dear Joe

I have a feeling I’m being foolish in keeping on trying to answer your questions since you seem determined to put the worst possible interpretation on all my replies and you’ve now accused me of being ‘slippery’ on the Media Lens website when I’ve actually tried – at length – to answer all your questions honestly and fairly. Anyway, here goes – one last time:

1.      Yes, Israel is still legally the occupying power even though they withdrew from active occupation of Gaza in 2005.  How much clearer can I be?

2.      No, it depends on the crime.  Intentionally or recklessly killing civilians is morally wrong whoever does it and whatever their legal status.

3.      No-one has asked me to sign EDM 788 before, as far as I know.  I’m happy to sign it.

You seem to think that I am somehow trying to conceal a partisan position in favour of Israel.  This despite the fact that I have only recently called for the recognition of Palestinian statehood, actively lobbied ministers for a British ‘yes’ vote at the UN, condemned Israel’s over-reaction to that vote as well as their illegal settlement-building generally and called for a re-examination of the economic relationship between Israel and the European Union.  I support a free, independent and democratic state of Palestine alongside Israel with borders based on the 1967 lines (with mutually agreed land swaps) and with East Jerusalem as its capital, and with a fair settlement for Palestinian refugees.  But, no, I am not prepared to ascribe all the blame in this conflict to one side or to provide any kind of moral excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attempted and actual murder of Israeli civilians.

I think we have examined and re-examined every aspect of this debate several times now so I hope you don’t mind if I draw it to a close.  I think you should by now be pretty clear what my position is and, although I have my doubts that you will give me any credit at all for this, I hope you will recognise that I am trying to work for a solution that is both just and peaceful for all concerned.

Happy Christmas

Martin

———

Hi Martin,

Many thanks for the prompt response.

Some brief rejoinders that, as usual, will be made available to others via Facebook and This is Glos.

“Yes, Israel is legally the occupying power, has actively occupied in Gaza and still is actively occupying large parts of the West Bank.  I tend not to use the phrase ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ in debates and elsewhere precisely because I think the simpler term ‘Palestine’ recognises more straightforwardly what should be that country’s equivalent status to ‘Israel’ and is in line with international agencies’ judgement that the Palestinian Authority has now achieved a great deal of the international benchmarks for statehood.  In the specific case of Gaza, Israel is not in active occupation at the moment having passed on administrative authority in 1994 in line with the Oslo Accords and withdrawn altogether in 2005, albeit within all the economic and military constraints that we both know all too well.  Gaza and Palestine will not of course gain true independence until there is a peace settlement.” (Martin Horwood)

This paragraph would seem to be an answer, of sorts, to questions (1) and (2).  However, from your use of “active occupation” to differentiate between Gaza and the West Bank, it is unclear as to whether or not you actually concur with the British Government (and the United Nations) that Israel remains an “occupying power” in respect of GazaCould you confirm, please?  A simple yes or no will suffice.

Regards your use of “Palestine” rather than “occupied Palestinian territories”, the problem with this is that it potentially obscures the historical reality, namely that Palestine is NOT equivalent to Israel; that Israel occupies Palestine, and – incredibly – has done so since 1967.  This context is crucial both to understanding the dynamics of events in the region AND to securing a just “peace settlement” (as opposed to merely a “peace settlement”).

“But just to be absolutely clear in answer to your crucial third question, I don’t think that attempting to deliberately murder Israeli civilians are morally justified in any way.  Such attacks are also profoundly undermining of any attempt at a peace process and of the Abbas government’s attempts to pursue a peaceful diplomatic approach.” (Martin Horwood)

This is an obvious strawman.   The “crucial third question” neither states nor implies that firing rockets at civilians is “morally justified”.   Rather, it seeks acknowledgement of something that ought to be uncontroversial:  that the crimes of the occupier warrant greater attention than the crimes of the occupied.  Do you agree with this?

“As far as I know we don’t sell weapons to Israel although the policy is to consider each export licence on its individual merits and I have to say I would be happier with a clearer policy that ruled out components that could be used in disproportionate Israeli military responses of the kind we have seen in Gaza recently.  Some UK export licences have been granted for potentially defence-related items such as aeronautics software and imaging cameras but a licence for combat aircraft components to be exported to Israel was refused only this summer.” (Martin Horwood)

Well, my question wasn’t really specific to the UK (the US, our “special relation”, is of course the principal culprit), but of course, it is nonsense to suggest that the UK doesn’t sell weapons to Israel.  Sure, some export licences have been refused in recent years, but weapons and, more relevantly, components for use in military equipment (e.g. Head-up displays in attack aircraft) have consistently been sold to Israel since the Oslo Accords.  Thus, the issue isn’t so much that the UK government is giving insufficient support to those resisting occupation, but rather that the UK government (of which you are part!) is ACTIVELY FACILITATING the crimes of the occupier. Early Day Motion 788 seems highly relevant at this juncture – is there any reason you haven’t signed?

Best,

Joe 

———

Yes, Israel is legally the occupying power, has actively occupied in Gaza and still is actively occupying large parts of the West Bank.  I tend not to use the phrase ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ in debates and elsewhere precisely because I think the simpler term ‘Palestine’ recognises more straightforwardly what should be that country’s equivalent status to ‘Israel’ and is in line with international agencies’ judgement that the Palestinian Authority has now achieved a great deal of the international benchmarks for statehood.  In the specific case of Gaza, Israel is not in active occupation at the moment having passed on administrative authority in 1994 in line with the Oslo Accords and withdrawn altogether in 2005, albeit within all the economic and military constraints that we both know all too well.  Gaza and Palestine will not of course gain true independence until there is a peace settlement.

But just to be absolutely clear in answer to your crucial third question, I don’t think that attempting to deliberately murder Israeli civilians are morally justified in any way.  Such attacks are also profoundly undermining of any attempt at a peace process and of the Abbas government’s attempts to pursue a peaceful diplomatic approach.

As far as I know we don’t sell weapons to Israel although the policy is to consider each export licence on its individual merits and I have to say I would be happier with a clearer policy that ruled out components that could be used in disproportionate Israeli military responses of the kind we have seen in Gaza recently.  Some UK export licences have been granted for potentially defence-related items such as aeronautics software and imaging cameras but a licence for combat aircraft components to be exported to Israel was refused only this summer.

Best regards

Martin Horwood MP

———

Dear Martin,

Many thanks for your email.

You say:

“Are the root causes Israel’s continuing failure to halt illegal settlements, their blockade of Gaza or their failure to reward those Palestinians attempting to pursue diplomacy not violence? None of these are helping so possibly the answer is yes…”

Which sounds reasonable… but, again, isn’t quite what I asked, is it?  This sentence, in the context of your other published responses on this matter (I’ve just conducted a brief google search!), seems to indicate a reluctance on your part to characterise the situation in Gaza (and indeed the West Bank) as one of “occupation”.

This in mind, I’d like to request answers to a few simple questions please (yes/no answers will suffice):

(1)  Do you agree with your own government’s assessment that “although there is no permanent physical Israeli presence in Gaza, given the significant control that Israel has over Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters, the UK judges that Israel retains obligations under the fourth Geneva Convention as an occupying power“?

(2)  Assuming you have answered “yes” to (1), do you agree that application of a framework in which Israel is the “occupying power” and the West Bank and Gaza are “occupied Palestinian territories” is in accord with the generally accepted facts of the matter?

(3)  Assuming you have answered “yes” to (2), do you agree that, morally speaking, the manner in which the “occupied” resist occupation is secondary to the “occupying power’s” obligation to end its occupation?

(4) Do you agree that selling weapons to the “occupying power” directly facilitates its military activities against those it occupies, and is thus completely at odds with (3)?
I do hope you’ll  respond to these questions, which shouldn’t take more than a few moments.

Please note that, as previously, I’ll be posting our continuing exchange at This is Gloucestershire, on Facebook, and also at my blog.

Best wishes.

———

Dear Joe,

I do understand what you are saying but the immediate cause of this specific conflict is undoubtedly the rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians.  Are the root causes Israel’s continuing failure to halt illegal settlements, their blockade of Gaza or their failure to reward those Palestinians attempting to pursue diplomacy not violence?  None of these are helping so possibly the answer is yes – but I don’t think any of these things justify firing rockets at civilians, any more than I think firing rockets at civilians justifies a disproportionately violent response from Israel which has cost many more Palestinian lives.  Seeking to definitively ascribe blame to one side or the other is a hopeless game.  The key thing it seems to me is to encourage those on both sides who are pursuing the path of diplomacy and negotiation, for instance with a UK government ‘yes’ vote to Palestinian recognition in the UN General Assembly if we can persuade the government to cast it this week.

Best regards

Martin Horwood MP

———

Dear Martin,

Your press release does not answer the question.  To re-phrase:

Do you accept that the root cause of the recent violence is not rockets fired from Gaza, but rather Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territory (to include the illegal siege of Gaza)?

Please note I will be posting our continuing exchange at This is Gloucestershire, and also on Facebook.

Many thanks,

Joe

———

I will be meeting with FCO officials and if possible ministers this week in relation to the situation in Gaza.  It is critical that we urge Hamas to cease rocket attacks on Israeli civilians but also that Israel pulls back from escalating the situation in a way that will doubtless cause more civilian casualties amongst the population in Gaza, further inflame opinion in other middle eastern countries and across the world and further damage any prospect of the peace process resuming.  The Fatah administration in the West Bank and moderates within Israeli civil and political society need to be encouraged in their efforts to find diplomatic and political paths out of this tragic situation.

———

Dear Martin,

The state of Israel continues to justify its military action against Gaza on grounds of “self defence”. Ipso facto, since Gaza remains OCCUPIED under international law (an interpretation shared by the British government), it is proclaiming the right of an occupier to crush the resistance of the occupied.  Applied universally, this leads to conclusions any reasonable observer would reject (think Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait or Nazi Germany’s occupation of, say, France, and so on).  How then to explain why this “right” is accepted by so many (including, it would seem, William Hague) in the case of Israel?

I would be grateful if you could post your views at This is Gloucestershire, where they will be available to all.

Best wishes,

Joe

Occupation – the unspeakable context

In lieu of a further response to my email (which, going on past experience, is unlikely to arrive swiftly, if at all), some brief thoughts on Martin Horwood’s initial reply, which read:

“I will be meeting with FCO officials and if possible ministers this week in relation to the situation in Gaza.  It is critical that we urge Hamas to cease rocket attacks on Israeli civilians but also that Israel pulls back from escalating the situation in a way that will doubtless cause more civilian casualties amongst the population in Gaza, further inflame opinion in other middle eastern countries and across the world and further damage any prospect of the peace process resuming.  The Fatah administration in the West Bank and moderates within Israeli civil and political society need to be encouraged in their efforts to find diplomatic and political paths out of this tragic situation.”

There are a number of things to note:

1.  This is a press release, not an answer to a constituent’s email.

2.  It is clear from the phraseology that, in Martin’s mind, this “tragic situation” began with rocket attacks from Gaza, which – inevitably – need to “cease” if Israeli “escalation” is to be prevented.  In addition, note the phrase “will doubtless cause more civilian casualties”, which of course assumes Israeli casualties logically preceded Palestinian casualties.  In fact, as a little research makes clear, this chronology is not in accord with the available evidence, which suggests that, as standard,  it was Israel that shattered the truce, not Hamas.

3.  Calls for Fatah to chart a path out of this “tragic situation” demonstrate a shocking naivety regards the political trajectory in Palestine.  Hamas was democratically elected, against a backdrop of Fatah corruption and collaboration with Israel.

4.  This is not a “tragic situation”, devoid of agency and context.  It is an occupier (Israel) smashing the occupied (Gaza), against a backdrop of systematic ethnic cleansing dating back to the 1940s.  An occupying power does not have the “right to defend itself” against those it occupies.  Rather, it has a RESPONSIBILITY to end its occupation, in accord with international legal norms.  This is the seemingly unspeakable context of Israel’s murderous assault on the people of Gaza; context that the mainstream media systematically denies its viewers, preferring in its place a spurious narrative of equivalence, of “tit for tat”, of “intractable conflict”, that of course plays straight into the hands of the occupier.

Israel’s “right to defend itself” – an email to MP Martin Horwood

Dear Martin,
 
The state of Israel continues to justify its military action against Gaza on grounds of “self defence”. Ipso facto, since Gaza remains OCCUPIED under international law (an interpretation shared by the British government), it is proclaiming the right of an occupier to crush the resistance of the occupied.  Applied universally, this leads to conclusions any reasonable observer would reject (think Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait or Nazi Germany’s occupation of, say, France, and so on).  How then to explain why this “right” is accepted by so many (including, it would seem, William Hague) in the case of Israel?
 
I would be grateful if you could post your views at This is Gloucestershire, where they will be available to all.
 
Best wishes,
 
Joe
 
————

Thank you for your email to Martin Horwood MP.  I have spoken to Martin this morning about the terrible situation in Gaza and attach a statement from him below.  If you would like to come and discuss this with him in person then please do let me know.

David Fidgeon

Assistant to Martin Horwood MP

01242 224889

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Statement from Martin Horwood MP

I will be meeting with FCO officials and if possible ministers this week in relation to the situation in Gaza.  It is critical that we urge Hamas to cease rocket attacks on Israeli civilians but also that Israel pulls back from escalating the situation in a way that will doubtless cause more civilian casualties amongst the population in Gaza, further inflame opinion in other middle eastern countries and across the world and further damage any prospect of the peace process resuming.  The Fatah administration in the West Bank and moderates within Israeli civil and political society need to be encouraged in their efforts to find diplomatic and political paths out of this tragic situation.

———–

Dear Martin,
 
Your press release does not answer the question.  To re-phrase:
 
Do you accept that the root cause of the recent violence is not rockets fired from Gaza, but rather Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territory (to include the illegal siege of Gaza)?
  
Many thanks,
 
Joe

Israel’s “right to defend itself” – an exchange with Sarah Honig

Hi Sarah,
  
Hope you are well.  I wondered if you could help me with something…On the radio yesterday, I heard an Israeli official describe the current military action against Gaza as an act of “self defence”.
 
This seemed slightly confusing to me, since – as far as I understand matters – Gaza is still considered, by the UN (and, it would seem, the British government), to be occupied.  Thus, by corollary, the official appeared to be asserting the “right” of an occupying power to “defend itself” against those it occupies.
 
This seems a strange “right”, wouldn’t you agree?  Not least because, if applied universally, it leads to obviously silly conclusions, e.g.  that Iraq had the “right” to crush resistance to its occupation of Kuwait, or that Nazi Germany had the “right” to crush resistance to its occupation of, say, France.
 
I’d be grateful for your comments.
 
Many thanks,
 
————–
 
The claim that Gaza is occupied is an obscene falsehood!!!
 
————–
 
Seems an entirely reasonably interpretation to me, based on the degree of control Israel exercises over Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters.  Hell, even the (pro-Israeli) UK government agrees.
 
Thus, on the face of it, Israel has about as much right to “defend itself” against Gaza as Iraq had to “defend itself” against Kuwait, or Nazi Germany had to “defend itself” against France.
 
Or am I being unfair?
 
————–
 
Yes, you are being unfair!
 
————–
 
Why?  Have you spotted a logical flaw?
 
[no further response from Sarah]
 
 
 
Note:  Sarah Honig is an Israeli journalist at the Jerusalem Post.  I had some brief correspondence with her back in 2009 regards Israel’s “apartheid wall”, which went like this…
 
Hi Sarah,
 
If Israel’s security fence was “erected to hamper suicide-bombers” (as you claim here: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1254861902749&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull), why was it not built on the Green Line? 
 
Thanks,
Joe
————
 
Topography, dear Joe, topography!
 
————
 
So it’s “topography” that explains why the wall encloses most of the major settlement blocs, the aquifers and the fertile land of the West Bank, right?
 
Joe
 
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Get a life, Joe – The wall mostly adheres to the Green Line, except where topography mades it impossibe. The settlers are OUTSIDE the wall!
 
Getting your facts staright might be a wee bit of a help, you know.
 
————-
 
Thanks, Sarah.  In fact, as you well know, only about 20 percent of the wall is on the Green Line – the rest cuts into the West Bank in order to annex major settlements and resources to Israel.  The maps don’t lie.  And as for the settlers, here’s an excerpt from the ICJ’s ruling on the wall:
 
“The Court notes that the route of the wall as fixed by the Israeli Government includes within the “Closed Area” (i.e. the part of the West Bank lying between the Green Line and the wall) some 80 per cent of the settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and has been traced in such away as to include within that area the great majority of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem).”
 
Case closed?