Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

UK Peer Jenny Tonge speaks out for justice in Palestine

UPDATED: many thanks to Jenny Tonge for kindly responding to a query about full Hansard transcript availability which has allowed me to feature more of her address. Parliamentary debate transcripts at both the House of Commons and House of Lords can be found on the Hansard link here by date and member name.

Liberal-Democrat peer Jenny Tonge spoke out for justice in Palestine in a House of Lords speech last month, predictably earning the ire of Israel-apologists (see J-Post)

Here’s an excerpt of her speech:

The Palestinians have been brought to their knees. A cultured and well educated society with high skill levels has been reduced to a third-world country. The statistics are there for all to see. If noble Lords do not believe me or any of the other speakers, the Select Committee for International Development in the other place produced a good report this year. I hope that noble Lords will read it. It tells of injustice—injustice to Palestinians.

The new Government talks of rebuilding the economy in Palestine and of getting the Palestinians back to work, which is very welcome. But how will they do that with road blocks, checkpoints and Bantustans divided by settler-only roads? How can an economy work in this situation?

Even education is being destroyed as children are terrorised by raids on their schools. Exams in Nablus, for example, were disrupted only last week by the IDF. An unskilled and illiterate generation will emerge, capable of very little except low-wage labour. The economy cannot be rebuilt unless Israel changes its policies.

Therefore, the problem remains—how do we persuade Israel to change? We want Israel to be a secure and prosperous state—and I say that sincerely. How can anyone in Israel believe that the present situation will give them what they want, long-term security. I am not anti-Semitic, but I am appalled by the racist, apartheid state of Israel. I use the word “apartheid” in its literal sense—it means separation—because that is what is going on.

Policies of the western countries towards Israel must change. Israel must be made to understand. We must consider trade sanctions and boycotts, if necessary, to make that country obey international law. The present situation is a disaster for Palestinians. It is a disaster for Israel. It is a disaster for the whole world. It has to change.

Thank you, Jenny Tonge. Hope you are holding up well with the usual character smears and pathetic denigration this kind of speaking truth to power elicits from the Likudnik ideologues. Of course, unlike them, Dr Tonge has actually been to Gaza and seen conditions for herself. Dr Tonge, who cites her proudest achievement in parliament since 2001 as “highlighting the plight of the Palestinians under occupation by Israel”, is a treasure.

German peace movement spurns settlement products

In other positive developments, Ha’aretz reports that Germans have protested the sale of food from West Bank settlements.

The opening of “Israel Week” at the Galeria Kaufhof department store in Berlin saw a demonstration against Israeli food products originating in the territories on Saturday, with protesters holding signs reading “No to settlement products” and “Stop the Israel-EU Association Agreement.” Groups participating included The Jewish Voice, a Jewish-German organization opposed to the occupation, and Solidarity with Palestine.

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3 comments on “UK Peer Jenny Tonge speaks out for justice in Palestine

  1. finebeer
    21 August, 2007

    A woman of integrity and character, speaking truth in the Lords chamber.

  2. ressentiment
    21 August, 2007

    Thank you, Jenny. Thank you for your voice and for your precise statement of the problem.

    The first step in problem solving is to define the problem precisely, which you have accomplished succinctly and conspicuously and magnificently. Some might quibble with the solutions you proposed, but I can’t imagine how anyone could get any closer to the root cause itself. All the other problems and symptoms we see are contingent upon justice being done in Palestine. For the problem solving process, there are no other issues than the root cause, because as soon as the root cause is addressed all other problems being contingent upon that one root cause, which is injustice, will find their own just solutions.

    The whole world is at war over the proposition that Israel may do as it pleases, anywhere it pleases, any time it pleases, in perpetuity, in contravention of international law, in daily affront to common decency, to kill and oppress and murder and maim, keeping its own sake above all others.

    I love your call to attention to the tragic forms of Shakespeare where hubris and its consequences are on display for all to plainly see who will see. Let me add a call to remember another great British writer, notably also a great woman, whose expositions on the subject of hubris should be visited by each and every generation as long as we all shall live.

    Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein addresses the belief that humans can do anything that God can do, to stand as if outside of nature and command life itself as if we did not depend upon it ourselves, as if we ourselves were immortals. This is also a kind hubris. The belief that great powers can move around human concerns as easily as players move around chess pieces on a game board. This is the hubris of empire. And from our wealth of knowledge in the Shakespearean Parthenon we should be able to learn these lessons without repeating the same mistakes in future after future.

    The British Empire created this monster in the Middle East by drawing completely arbitrary lines and granting rights to colonize to a minority oppressed by Europeans, not by Arabs. Jews have always lived in peace in Arab countries until the creation of Israel by the Europeans. How absurd it is that Israel wants to portray itself as the victim when in truth it is an interloper, an invader, a Hun, a foreign power which seeks to rule by might in contravention of every civilized right.

    There is no reason that Israel the invader should learn its lessons any differently than the British in India or the French in Algeria. Foreign lands from England are foreign lands period. European powers have no rights there which are not granted by the people who live there, and certainly the would-be colony of Europe, the United States, has no more right to dictate to the Middle East than Britain does. And certainly the little colony of both of them, Israel has no right there either except what it can usurp by the rule of tooth and claw.

    Those generous Arab nations who gave away their own land and resources to make room for those people who were displaced by the invasion of Palestine are rewarded by the slow transfer of their Arab brothers out of the Mandate for Palestine promised to the United Nations by the same British, the promise made by the British was never delivered by the British.

    It seems to me that fair is fair. And if the British are going to sew the left arm on the Frankenstein monster, then it is wrong to deny the other arm under the same consistent principle.

    Palestine was promised statehood at the exact same moment, on the exact same documents, in which Israel was created out of thin air. Shame on the famous British administrators who overlooked this simple detail of equal justice for the injured party. When has Britain ever compensated Palestine for its seized property or the resulting death and injury inflicted by the Jews and the British.

    Now the United States, unable to learn the lessons taught by Mahatma Gandhi in India, wants to pick up the White Man’s Burden as if it were the first to receive the problem from God and America wants to see the problem through and carry it confidently to the same dim conclusions.

    It is simple. Europe has no authority in the Middle East except where might is right, and neither does the United States. And by succession of the right of usurpation, neither does Israel.

    As an American citizen I’m proud to remember the heritage that threw off the exertions of empire. And if Americans stand for independence from foreign powers, then, we ought to stand with these Palestinians who on the exact same principle.

    The days of empire are over. No nation has the right to take the land of any other nation. No nation may colonize another nation and use force to replace the indigenous people with its own citizens. This is the law.

    The United States defended this principle when Serbia perpetrated genocide on Muslims in the Balkans. So I see no reason why we should make an exception for Israel, who is clearly seeking to displace indigenous people with its own citizens, and then to enforce that artificial condition with racist laws that are tantamount to apartheid.

    Israel uses American tax dollars to pay Jewish settlers to build settlements for Jews in Palestinian territory. That is a well documented fact beyond disputation. No one can define the problem any more precisely than that.

    The only work that remains to be done is to remedy what is wrong by making it right. We of the west need to recognize the rights of the Palestinians as the people who were displaced by a foreign power. We need to compensate them for the aggression they have suffered at the hands of the western powers and the Jewish invaders. That is all work that we of the west must do unilaterally because that is the damages we inflicted unilaterally. Nothing depends upon Palestinians. Everything depends upon us in the west to do the right thing.

    Then it is up to the people who live there to decide whether they will be better together or separately. No nation in the world has legal standing to dictate whether there should be one state or two states. That has to be decided by a referendum of the people who live there.

    Thank you for your voice, Jenny. Thank you for your courage to speak out at great cost to your career and your reputation, which has been savaged quite thoroughly by the Jewish invaders of Palestine. May you inspire millions upon millions to join you and to join us in the fight for justice in Palestine.

    I propose the traditional democratic solution – the one designed for every other nation on planet Earth that calls itself a democracy. One country. One Person. One vote. Equal protection under the law without regard to race or gender or national identity, with protection for minority rights enforced by the law of the land.

    If that kind of government is good enough for Europe and the Americas, why is not good enough for Palestine?

  3. Ann El Khoury
    26 August, 2007

    That must be one of the clearest statements I’ve read, this comment is worth framing in gold. I hope Jenny Tonge appreciates it as much as I did. Thanks so much for taking the time to compose it.

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