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What chance peace?

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Nov 06, 01:16 PM

soldier.jpgWednesday's programme comes from Jerusalem. Gavin Esler presents a special edition of Newsnight as we ask: “What chance peace in the Middle East?”

It comes as President Bush is in Jordan for talks with – among others – the Prime Minister of Iraq. In Gaza an uneasy truce appears to be holding. In Lebanon the political crisis terrifies everyone with the prospect of another civil war. All round the world Christians, Muslims and Jews look to this holy city of Jerusalem for inspiration. Tonight we’ll be looking to Jerusalem for answers. Can the Israelis and Palestinians live together peacefully side by side in their own states with secure borders? Is that dream possible any more?

The Middle East is at a crossroads - is peace possible? Who has been the roadblock? Who needs to compromise and on what? What do you think?

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 02:25 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • ali kabbara wrote:

is it true that bush and blair and israel want world peace.this must be the 21st century joke
who invent terror.who invent world problems.who is killing and destroing states in the false name of democracy/who appoint toys to rule their states..history will mark that the three i mane are those similar to jankis a diff way will be be remenberd as terrorists
peace will not be chieved without justice

  • 2.
  • At 02:29 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • ali kabbara wrote:

usa and their darlings .uk and israel can stop all this problems in a week.but will the blood suckers in usa and uk.accept.may be they will live forever

  • 3.
  • At 02:33 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • L Julius wrote:

In his speech to the Palestinians Olmert called on them to drop their insistence on a 'right of return' to Israel - the main stumbling block in any negotiations so far. Will they agree to do so, and resettle their refugees in a Palestinian state, just as Israel resettled an equivalent number of Jewish refugees forced to flee from Arab countries?

  • 4.
  • At 02:52 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • R Berrow wrote:

There is little chance of peace for many reasons . Very little thought has gone into the Arab psyche. Trying to solve the problem the Western way is the fault that is running through the whole of the middle east. Their thinking is embodied in their religion. The promise of the kingdom to come is their unshakable belief. Their dream of sweet flowing rivers and fruit laden trees and shady places to pitch their tents is endemic in their belief along with goats and camels. Their very environment creates these dreams and makes their belief a necessity of their living. As for living in harmony with the Israelis a complete clash of culture . Which should be seperated by deserts or seas. Their very proximity is asking too much for an ordinary Arab or Jew to be neighbourly . No!!! one has to think Arab Or think Jew , you cannot think dual. RB mail

  • 5.
  • At 02:55 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • R Berrow wrote:

There is little chance of peace for many reasons . Very little thought has gone into the Arab psyche. Trying to solve the problem the Western way is the fault that is running through the whole of the middle east. Their thinking is embodied in their religion. The promise of the kingdom to come is their unshakable belief. Their dream of sweet flowing rivers and fruit laden trees and shady places to pitch their tents is endemic in their belief along with goats and camels. Their very environment creates these dreams and makes their belief a necessity of their living. As for living in harmony with the Israelis a complete clash of culture . Which should be seperated by deserts or seas. Their very proximity is asking too much for an ordinary Arab or Jew to be neighbourly . No!!! one has to think Arab Or think Jew , you cannot think dual. RB mail

  • 6.
  • At 02:57 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Hilda Meers wrote:

you say you give two opinions yet, as per usual, you don't give the Palestinian voice. Israel is the occupier, acting illegally, and despite UN resolutions through the years. I'm Hilda Meers, a member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace. (More info on the history and situation now, the Washington Report,is available on the website of Jews for Justice in the Middle East.)

  • 7.
  • At 02:57 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Zaid Al-Alaya'a wrote:

Peace in order to be achieved. We need equal dialogue among all parties involved. I believe that it's the States and their allies that have caused hinders and been the roadblocks by not being fair in its treatment of the Palestinian cause.

Can USA work on a project for peace for the two nations that will guarantee equality in everything I think only then peace and be reached otherwise if it continues in the same policy vetoing anything that goes against Israel there will be peace and violence will escalate.

i really just want to say that this crisis in middle east reminds me of what us native americans have to put up with over here. we had been living peacefully for about 15,000 years before the white man came and messed up we were more or less forced to live by their standards and their way of't it amazing how people can either tell you or force you how to live.seems like we all just have top be a control freak.but i hope that the responsable parties could just sit down once and for all and discuss their problems.then half the battle is won.mike

  • 9.
  • At 03:17 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • MICK FENNER. wrote:

Regretfully this is not an answer or sugestion but maybe the obvious that nobody will look at.
Religion is the problem and all of them say thieres is the one of love and peace.
Go into ORDINARY peoples houses talk to them not religious or armed people, the people who get killed are relying on the leaders and being let down time and ime again.

  • 10.
  • At 03:18 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • V McArthur wrote:

Like the stupid and irrational invasion of Iraq we made the same mistake as we did in 1948 hence the Tragedy of errors, sad, as it is what’s done is done so we move on.
We somehow (Don’t ask me How) have to get Blair and Bush to realise they made mistakes and get the Israel to withdraw to the Pre 67 borders and stop using words like: "You, the Palestinian people, are standing these days at an historic crossroads." So where is Israel? I thought they were one and the same, see how worked up we get about Immigration did we not think the Palestinians would feel the same?
V McArthur

  • 11.
  • At 03:25 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Tom Gill wrote:

As the only democracy in that part of the world, Israel, whether it likes it or not, has the greatest responsibility, not only as the mighiest military force, but as an example of what can be achieved by a people once discriminated by the most evil of forces.
The Jewish people of Israel it has to be admitted, have let down those non-Jews among us sympathetic to their culture & history. Of all the races in the world one would have thought the Jews would be the last to treat another downtrodden people with obvious disdain.
Surely the vast majority of Israelis abhore violence and war. Where is their voice? I know someday they will be heard, but by then how many innocent palestinians will be dead?
As for Iraq & the Lebanon, apart from the usual tribal hatred normally found within un-natural countries, if the the governments of the West would seriously take on board the banning of international gun-running by gangsters, and their own arms sales to 3rd world countries, then maybe, just maybe, peace would have a chance.

  • 12.
  • At 03:29 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Paula Varley wrote:

Is the doctrine of Zionism compatible with the relinquishing of land for the creation of a non Jewish state?

I have to say I doubt it. It seems to me that Zionism is predicated on the reverse position.

Are these recent moves merely a temporary raprochement, made primarily to expedite short term US interests, in placating Arab public opinion, while it withdraws with their support and co-operation, from Iraq?

Why on earth should Palestinians feel hopeful? It seems obvious that they are once again pawns in a greater game.

  • 13.
  • At 04:04 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • J Jayapuram wrote:

I know that presedent Bush and the leaders want peace, peace, we are also fighting for peace as in now in Iraq. We did a god thing sending trops in Iraq because america is trying to help make peace. But the people are not Cooperating. Cooperation is the number one step to peace, and thats my word. The roadblock is the people of Iraq, if they don't start bombings, shootign, drive by's there would be no roadblock. Also the thought of a civil war is out of the question, America is trying to prevent that from happening, thats why our troops are there trying to inforce some sence into the people who start bombings and other things that hurt the country and bring fear to the people. We have to stop dreaming and start working to stop this civil war that the people of Iraq fear. Thats the beauty of America, and thats why we are the most respected country in the world. We shouldn't even have the thought of a civil war. We are the United States of America we stand hard as a rock, threw any storm, and i don't dought thats one bit.

J Jayapuram

  • 14.
  • At 04:21 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Mustafa thaseen wrote:

The peace is possible between Israel & the Palestinians as long as Israel gives up grabbing more and more palestinian land. The USA should stop the billions of dollars it gives to Israel which largely goes towards the expansion and building of settlements. The Palestinians should recognise Israel and stop deluding themselves that they can harm Israel in the long term. Israel should also stop the extra judicial killing of Palestinians which starts a cycle of violence resulting in disproprtionate misery and destruction of Palestinians lives and properties

  • 15.
  • At 04:22 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

Please don’t forget that Israel has been under constant attack from its neighbours since 1948. The occupation arose from Israel’s victory in a war waged to annihilate the Jewish state. If Israel had lost the war we would be commemorating a second Jewish Holocaust rather than demonising Jews for their treatment of Palestinians. The PLO charter denies the legitimacy of the state of Israel. The Hamas charter goes further with and explicit undertaking to destroy the state of Israel. This problem will take generations to resolve. Healing will begin when Palestinians stop teaching their children to hate. In the meantime, if Israel has the will to exist under constant attack from their neighbours, a hostile United Nations and an increasingly anti-Semitic Europe then they will have to gird their loins and be prepared to fight for their survival.

  • 16.
  • At 04:49 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • eli kalouri wrote:

Peace in the region is unlikely. We have a rogue state in Iran, distrusted by the majority of the other Arab states. More than any other country, more than Israel, more than terrorism, Iran is successfully destabilising an already unstable region.

Support for Hezbollah is bringing Lebanon into civil conflict. Even Syria are unhappy at Iran's involvement, despite their own natural disposition towards Hezbollah.

Israel still hasn't seen its three soldiers returned. There are few countries in this world, if none at all, who would sit still whilst its citizens are captured within their borders.

I agree that Israel has a moral responsibilty to act ethically, especially because it is a democracy with a track record on human rights unparalleled (but definitely not even near to perfect) in the Middle East.

And Paula Varley, your cynicism at the Israeli withdrawal of Gaza Strip only exemplifies the problems in achieving peace in the Middle East. Every small step towards peace should be welcomed, not treated with disingenious belittlement.

I applaud efforts to achieve peace. Israel has a lot to give to the middle east, not least its welfare state, freedom of expression, speech and action. Criticising the very existence of Israel serves no purpose other than to stoke fuel to the fire of hatred prevalent in the region. Its given up land in the past and has promsied to leave most of the West Bank too. In, Abu Mazen there is a leader serious on achieving peace. Hamas, despite their huge sponsorship of hatred and terrorism, are beginning to affect foreign policy in a more positive way. In Syria, there are some efforts to re-engage in the world. Jordan and Egypt are both striving forward.

And I despair at Iran, I despair at Hezbollah, I despair at the state-sponsored terrorism of Hamas and Al-Quaida, and I despair at the racism directed at both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only difference is in Israel that racism is not tolerated.

Give peace a chance. Don't belittle it.

Peace is very imminent and much possible in the Gulf area if there is mutual understandings among warring group without external interfferance.
The problem in the region is as aresult of the injustice and sentiments roles played by some european countries especially united state of america instead of them to find solution to the problem they supported isreal against other countries thereby creating enemties among brothers in the region
peace is possible where ther are fair play justice and transparency.


  • 18.
  • At 05:03 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Laszlo Gati wrote:

You can buy a map of Israel and a map of Palestine in various places.
It is a miracle! BOTH ARE IDENTICAL!
Palestine was the home for couple of thousand years of the Palestinian Arabs,
On the other hand, God "gave" Israel (the same land) to the Jews several thousand years earlier!
Can these two conflicting views be reconciled? In my opinion it is impossible.
The present opinion of a young Israeli sums up the situation:
"They kill us, and we kill them!"
Is this a good foundation for the "TWO STATES LIVING SIDE BY SIDE IN PEACE"?

  • 19.
  • At 05:04 PM on 29 Nov 2006,

I feel that, as long as Israel, the land of the Jews, is surrounded by Arab countries then there will never be peace in the Middle East. As an experiment Israel should be moved to a location off one of the coasts of America for a couple of years. Perhaps then tensions in the middle east may gradually settle down.

KATHLEEN, Edinburgh

The International community should do all it can to create peace in this region. We need a proper, sustained approach maybe via a regional conference, with all the parties represented - all the Arab states, the Israelis, the US, the EU, and the UN. A solution can and must be found for the middle east, even if it takes 1 or 2 years to agree and several years to implement. The ordinary citizen of the middle east, on both sides, deserves to live in peace and prosperity.

  • 21.
  • At 11:12 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Riccardo wrote:

'PEACE IN THE MIDDLEAST', The obstecles have been the people thenselves. Palestinians,Syrians,Iranians,and clusters of exstimits spread arround the world generating more and more personal anger into flames of hatetrade. Thus, defile any form of hope and peace. Incubated in frear, that only sprouts vilonce. The West it is easy to blame, In most cases it is completely out of contexed and veritum. " a knife with the right intentions is harmless, with malice, hate, & so on it kills." The question; how can i love my country and plant trees? the answer; love oneself and you will be loved and you will know how to give love.

  • 22.
  • At 11:13 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Peter wrote:

The ultimate in BBC balance: The studio interview has 3 Israelis and 1 Palestinian. Makes me wonder

  • 23.
  • At 11:22 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • A.Tamilarasan wrote:

I am neither a Jew nor a Muslim. As a neutral person who had been following this conflict, I feel that the state of Israel is a terrorist state supported by (a so called land of democracy) USA and its stooge Tony Blair. None of these three are interested in giving the legitimate rights of Palestinians.

After all Israel was created by U.K. after WW II evicting the local Palestinians.

Don't you think that successive Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes for killing civilians?

  • 24.
  • At 11:28 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Irene Ertutgrul wrote:

I found your prdogramme tonight pathetic. Even Gavin Essler seemed embarrassed. Ninety percent of it could have been scripted by the Israeli lobby. Newsnight could and should do much better.

  • 25.
  • At 11:31 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Iqbal wrote:

Why are we still talking about peace when we shoul;d be debating whether Israel has the right to exist. Israel was the work of the Balffour declaration, something forced upon the Palestinians. There is no room for peace aslong as the root of the problem is not discussed.

As usual the BBC discusses Palestine as if history began in 1967.

The real mistake was made in 1948. As British Foreign Secretary Bevin observed
'The majority proposal is so manifestly unjust to the Arabs that it is difficult to see how we could reconcile it with our conscience'
commenting on the UN proposal that effectively created Israel.

See more on my web site

  • 27.
  • At 11:42 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

It was a very intelligent and even-handed discussion this evening. However, the following excerpts from the Hamas charter reinforce the points made by the mayor (I forget his name) regarding truces (hudna). My understanding of a “hudna” is that it is a tactical truce used to regroup forces in preparation for future attacks, when conditions are more favourable. By the way, 'Palestine' refers to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the following excerpts.

Hamas Charter:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.”

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

“The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

  • 28.
  • At 11:43 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • tony wrote:

The problem is that in reality, Israel is not happy with the 75% of Palestinian land it has taken, as far as I and many others can can see, it is not even happy with the extra land that the wall has encompassed, leaving only 18% in Palestinian hands, divided by no-go roads and settlements into Bantustans. What Israel seems to want is all Palestinian land. The result is constant conflict and excuses from Israel to delay negotiations. Every delay means more land lost, more settlements built or extended.

Everyone knows the solution but who is strong enough to implement it. The solution is Israel returns to the 1967 borders, relinquishes all settlements and at least recognises and compensates refugees for their losses (as Jews are still being compensated for losses in WW11). All this and more will be found in numerous UN Resolutions.

Take these essential steps and peace and security will follow.

  • 29.
  • At 11:48 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Ronnie Shakespeare wrote:

IT seems so obvious democracy wants peace and freedom, the palestinians they say they want peace and they talk about freedom but what freedom is that, freedom to force there religion on to outhers its the same starting all over the place are we to give them that freedom because the Koran tells them and they are following the last prophet,and they are so right you only have to look back in history this problem has always existed it will come a time when the west will have to say will we accept Islam and to continue to have problems or reject it and get rid of the problem, ask yourself who is starting the problem and who is complaining when they are stopped, suicide bombers are murders should we allow normal murders the freedom to carry on, where are all the moderate Muslims why are they not there in force to stop this are they the ones that are really in the minority,will Iran when it has nuclear bombs not try and take every body out who will not follow mohamed knowing they will be taken out becoming one big suicide bomb

  • 30.
  • At 11:52 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Peter Reilly wrote:

If a gang violently breaks into your large house, takes over some rooms for themselves, controls the hallway and stairs to prevent you moving around; if the gang claims your house really belongs to them, protesting that there are plenty of other houses in which you could live; if the gang continues to destroy the rooms in which you dwell, would you be expected to negotiate for peace on their terms? I think not. The police would arrive and the intruders, evicted, arrested and severely punished!

No-one expected the Kuwaiti people to peacefully negotiate with Sadam Hussein after his invasion. On the contrary the ‘police’ arrived, evicted the invaders and dealt out the punishment!

But I had forgotten - different rules apply to Israel!

  • 31.
  • At 12:00 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Michael nelson wrote:

On Newsnight tonight the 29 nov ,What chance peace,by Gavin Esler i thought that the balance on stage was wrong,with one Palestinian debating with three Israelis.What chance fair and balanced.I must add though Miss Bhuttu did very well.But in future set equal standards.Mike.

  • 32.
  • At 12:04 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Rosemary Hopkins wrote:

How could the Newsnight reporter say that the Israelis are living "roughly" within their own borders, when the Separation Barrier annexes nearly half of the West Bank? The Israelis claim to be working for peace, but are not prepared to give up their settlements on Palestinian territory, or their Barrier, or their horrendous checkpoints.

Earlier this year I spent a short time in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and the only thing that gives me hope in this situation is the number of ordinary people I met, both Palestinians and Israelis, who are striving for peace.

  • 33.
  • At 12:08 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Parallelographist wrote:

Let me posit a parallel situation to the Arab-Israeli mess.
The Jews rebelled against the Romans in the mid 60s AD, culminating in the sack of Jerusalem in 70 (the "abomination of desolation") and again in 132 AD, leading to the diaspora.
In 61 AD the Iceni of northern Norfolk, under Boudicca, rebelled against the Romans, and were crushed. But supposing they had been less easy to defeat, and the Romans had become exasperated with them, as they were with the Jews, and sent them packing out of their country, in a diaspora of the Iceni?
In the 7th century AD the Arabs came into the middle and near east. In 449 AD the Angles, Saxons and Jutes began the conquest of Britain.
Now suppose that the Iceni, exiled in the first century AD from Norfolk, like the Jews held to their own ways through the ages, though living in other countries, until they got across Adolf Hitler, and were killed in millions, like the Jews, in death camps. Suppose that then the western world said, the Iceni must have a homeland, and threw out the Angles and Saxons from Norfolk, and resettled the Iceni there. And the Angles and Saxons who had been living there for 1,500 years went into nearby Suffolk, and wept, and lived in refugee camps for decades, and then in despair began to fight to be allowed back home to Norfolk.
OK, it didn't happen. But if it had, where would your sympathies be? With the returned Iceni, or the exiled Anglo-Saxons?

  • 34.
  • At 12:14 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Sam Crowley wrote:

Alot of untruths were allowed to aired, regarding the Israeli position, reinforcing the myth that Israel is the victim that has been trying for peace for years.
If Israel really wants peace, why is it aggressively pursuing settlement expansion and military confrontation with the Palestinians?
The reality has been expressed by many influential Israelis:

"We must expel Arabs and take their places."(David Ben Gurion 1937)

"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." (Israel Koenig, "The Koenig Memorandum")

There lies the root of the conflict!

  • 35.
  • At 01:57 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Roy Catton wrote:

Is peace possible?

Can a leopard change its spots?

‘Arnold J. Toynbee who, before becoming recognized as an eminent world historian had dealt directly with the Palestine Mandate in the British Foreign Office, wrote in 1968: “All through those 30 years, Britain (admitted) into Palestine, year by year, a quota of Jewish immigrants … . These immigrants could not have come in if they had not been shielded by a British chevaux-de-frise. If Palestine had remained under Ottoman Turkish rule, or if it had become an independent Arab state in 1918, Jewish immigrants would never have been admitted into Palestine in large enough numbers to enable them to overwhelm the Palestinian Arabs in this Arab people's own country. The reason why the State of Israel exists today and why today 1,500,000 Palestinian Arabs are refugees is that, for 30 years, Jewish immigration was imposed on the Palestinian Arabs by British military power until the immigrants were sufficiently numerous and sufficiently well-armed to be able to fend for themselves with tanks and planes of their own. The tragedy in Palestine is not just a local one; it is a tragedy for the world, because it is an injustice that is a menace to the world's peace.”’ (From United Nations Records, Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) 1990 The Origins and Evolution of the Palestine Problem: 1917-1988 PART I 1917-1947 “IX. THE ENDING OF THE MANDATE” The transformation of Mandated Palestine

The leopard changes into tanks and planes, which have been in constant use ever since, but not randomly or reactively, rather, deliberately, consistently and insistently, always to the same ends.

Continuity between the secret pre-1948 policies of the Zionist leadership, which had issued in the 1948 Transfer, the War of Independence and the strangulation at birth of the Palestinian state, on the one hand, and the ever-continuing policies of conquering, expansion and dispossession, on the other, was first publicised by the then Prime Mister of Israel, Menahem Begin. This was in 1982, after Israel’s Likud government had invaded Lebanon.
‘Significantly, in defending the actions of his government, then-Prime Minister Menahem Begin referred to the policies of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, in 1948. Begin claimed that the only difference between them was that Ben-Gurion had resorted to subterfuge, whereas he was carrying out his policy openly. He cited Ben-Gurion’s plan to divide Lebanon by setting up a Christian state north of the Litani River, his relentless efforts to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, and, during the 1948 war, his wholesale destruction of Arab villages and townships within the borders of Israel and the expulsion of the inhabitants from the country – all in the interests of establishing a homogeneous Jewish state.’ (Flapan, Birth of Israel, p 5, quoted in “Introduction” in Rogan E. & Shlaim A., eds., 2001, The War for Palestine CUP p 3.)

The leopard also becomes a bulldozer, in which form it has been the most-used tool in the armoury in the last few years, still executing the same policies.

It works endlessly but away from the world’s gaze, and most effectively. ‘‘Israel has both effectively and officially overtaken northern Bethlehem …. The process was slow enough, ongoing for the past two years, however it all occurred with very little fuss. Those that did protest were gassed, shot at, imprisoned, or ignored. Now historic Bethlehem is entirely cut off from its twin city Jerusalem by a kilometer stretch of the Wall. Hundreds of shops, factories, cultural institutions, religious and social centers, and residential homes were either confiscated or annexed to Jerusalem and under complete Israeli control. Although Rachel’s Tomb has been a military installation for years, it looks quite different now surrounded by the Wall and higher sniper towers. The Israeli government confiscated what was once northern Bethlehem and is converting it into a militarized Jewish enclave like any settlement in the West Bank. An official Israeli spokesperson announced Friday that control of the region has been transferred from army control into the custody of border guards and police overseen by the Israeli controlled Jerusalem Municipality. This indicates that the confiscation is complete. Israelis no longer need obtain permits from their government in order to travel into the West Bank if they want to go to Rachel’s Tomb.Northern Bethlehem is no longer in the West Bank according to the Israeli announcement and the new facts on the ground. Northern Bethlehem is not even in Bethlehem. It is now in Israel where Jerusalem is, the future capital of the Palestinian state. Bethlehem’s Mayor, Dr. Victor Batarsa denounced the Israeli actions as contravening international law and any sense of justice. There is no logic in the international silence in a world that refers to itself as “free,” yet stands by and watches without a word. The Israeli government just confiscated 14 percent of the birthplace of Christ. Dr. Batarsa explained that the Bethlehem Municipality sent formal protests to foreign consuls in the region alerting them to the Israeli unilateral steps that converted the city of Bethlehem into a closed canton, confined and surrounded all sides. Fourteen percent of the historic city was confiscated for the sole benefit of the occupying Israeli state. This damages all Christians, the Mayor continued. We have all been raped, including the Vatican, the Pope, Arab states, and all the mayors and their cities worldwide that are sister cities with Bethlehem. He stressed that once again a major obstacle is thrown in the face of the so-called peace process.’ (Open Bethlehem in News / Israel formally annexes Northern Bethlehem Israel formally annexes 14% of northern Bethlehem Palestine News Network - Saturday, 2 September 2006 c.f. )

If there is a leopard come to where you have always lived and starts attacking you should you have to say – this is the leopard’s land, I am different, so it’s me that doesn’t belong here? Should you have to say – it’s because I have been violent in protecting myself from it, that’s why it’s attacking me, if only I were peaceful then it would stop harming me? Should you have to stop struggling and make some formal declare that you will be peaceful before it should stop its attacks?

‘Christians of the Holy Land, we live in a situation of conflict: the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It consists of a military occupation imposed by the Israelis on the Palestinians, and of the Palestinian resistance to this occupation in various ways, violent and non-violent. This conflict has an impact on the entire region, as well as on all Christians in the region.
The conflict is not religious
‘As Palestinians and Christians, we say three things, which are complementary. First, occupation is an injustice that must stop. Occupation must be rejected. We must share in all the sacrifices necessary to regain our freedom and bring the occupation to an end. Resistance to occupation is a duty and a right. Second, resistance can be violent or non-violent. We, as Christians, call for non-violent resistance. Third, our position is based on the following fundamentally Christian and human principles: all human beings are equal in dignity before God. They all have the same rights and the same duties. No one, for religious or political reasons, should be subjugated by the other. Everyone has the right to live in security and to choose their own type of independent government, Israelis and Palestinians alike. Therefore, in this conflict, we call for an end to the Occupation, declaring that we care for the well-being and for the security and peace of both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians.
‘In all Palestinian towns and villages, since the year 2000 and until today, daily Israeli incursions demolish Palestinian houses, take Palestinian prisoners, and kill others. At the same time, there are violent reactions by Palestinian militias.
The official Palestinian Authority is insisting on holding peace talks. The Israelis are taking their time; they prefer to go on with their reprisals in the Palestinian Territories until all manifestations of violence stop. They do not seem to be in a hurry to have peace talks or peace.
‘What is the Israeli agenda in this conflict? It is hard to know. What is declared is the need for security. But all military actions taken so far have led to more insecurity. What is the agenda of the international community? It is less clear.’ (Michel Sabbah, Patriarch. Linz, September 29, 2006, The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem c.f.

Why does the BBC’s Newsnight pose the question the way it does?

Why would there be a need for ‘talks’ before the leopard stops attacking you, occupying your home, taking your children? – Like the leopard and, too, the baby-batterer, negotiations are neither appropriate nor necessary; it should just stop.

Perhaps a better question should have been along the lines: And what about its giving you back your children it has taken, your home it has invaded, your security it has stolen and kept from you (albeit with the connivance of HMG at the time of the Mandate and the US since)?

There can't be peace until this leopard changes.

Israel won't change until we all (especially HMG & the US) shout at it in unison so loudly that it stops believing in its immunity from international law and rescinds the racism at the heart of its institutions and policies.

  • 36.
  • At 02:09 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Jack wrote:

It beggars belief what I'm reading. 'Why are we debating peace when what we really should be debating whether Israel has a right to exist' (Iqbal).

The reason we're debating peace is because that is all anyone cares about. A truly humaniatrian person wants peace, on both sides of a conflict.

Iqbal can say Israel has a right to exist. He can do something about that - blow himself up, kill a few innocent civilians. The more the merrier because Israelis don't have a right to self-autonomy and a state but all others do.

Get serious on peace. Any Israeli i've met who suggests Palestinians aren't entitled to a state is rightly branded a racist. The same should apply when the scenario is reversed, but sadly not.

  • 37.
  • At 02:53 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

This programme started with Jeremy revealing that traces of radioaactive substances were detected on 3 British Airways planes used on the London-Moscow route. This despite the savage security measures put in place earlier this year by BAA, which created massive congestion and queues at Heathrow. Clearly, a bottle of polonium could have taken out the entire flight, and caused at least, an air disaster. Maybe this is why airport security have been asking mothers to taste baby food and milk.

The revelation about the health of Chancellor Brown's son explains Mr Browns absence from the stomp recently. We wan wish Mr Brown's family the very best, and hope that this case will lead to an accelleration in efforts to find the magic bullet for cystic fibrosis.

Finally, are newsnight aware of the excellent BBC One programme on homelessness in the UK. Few could have not been moved by the plight of homeless persons, especially where children are involved. There is a need for a scheme under which the DSS will help people stay in their houses, rather than face eviction onto the streets with distressed kids. In one case a family were evicted in traumatic circumstances because three State agencies failed to communicate with each other.. Homelessness is an issue that Newsnight should take on, as the human suffering of so many is acute. Homeless people are not all street sleeping drug addicts and criminals. It seems a lot of decent people fall between the cracks of out bureaucracy.

Has everyone forgotten God the 'Almighty' . He has full knowledge of all that is happening on earth,that will happen & is to happen,that is why He is called 'The Omniscient One'.
Because He also is the Omnipotent & Omnipresent God , this means the He is not to be disregarded in any of the plans & machinations of men in their desire to negotiate peace,which is the honest desire of the entire population of the earth.This also is a good thing.Is anyone interested in history,especially the history of the ancient Jews? When they obeyed the Lord,all things went well for them but when they forgot Him & disobeyed His commands & abandoned His precepts,it was then that they paid dearly for their abandonment-always making things hard for themselves! For instance,when God through Moses led them out of bondage in Egypt,it was only an eleven day journey to the promised land but they made it into a forty year saga all because of the general desire to do things as a people not needing God-they had already so quickly forgotten what He had done for them showing His might in bringing out of Egypt.Because everything in the Old Testament looks forward to Christ,when He came they refused to accept Him as the 'only begotten Son of God'& so Jesus prophesied that their 'house' was left unto them desolate;the resultant history was that they were scattered to the four corners of the earth. Then the Almighty declared that He would 'hiss' & they would return to the middle east & become a nation again,I quote,"the desert shall blossom as a rose".This is a story that has many a detail but anyone desiring to know the full detail should purchase a Bible & read their history.
There has to come an 'end time'& leading up to then,there are many threats from their enemies that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth! Here is a very big 'BUT GOD'because the Israelites are still "GODS people" & He has said "I have set watchmen on your walls O Jerusalem who shall not hold their peace day or night" Things in the middle east may always seem to be a tinder box,&that is just where all the threats come unstuck,for there is always that huge obstruction'BUT GOD'. We as Christians are exhorted to 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem for they shall prosper that love Israel'!

  • 39.
  • At 07:39 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • virginia Constable Maxwell wrote:

I was taken aback by uneven reporting last night. Your on the spot reporter - Mark Irvine? reported on the issue of Isreali security whilst ignoring that of Palestine - I need not quote the statistics - although 6 Isrealis killed in 8 years by Quassams vs 300 or more Palestinians killed since July this year is something that might have been touched on! The issue of water/electricity - the crimes against humanity - free movement and at the heart of it, the illegal occupation of West Bank and virtual imprisonment of ~Gazan population.Thank God for Alistair Crook, the brilliant young Palestinian woman and the Egyptian spoksman, all of whom underlined the utter futility of the Israeli arguments = no one to negotiate with
One moment of virtual absurdity was the Ex. Security Chief suggesting that as Palestine had not been free under Egypt or Jordan, that somehow weakened their demand for a viable state now.

  • 40.
  • At 09:52 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • sean semple wrote:

The programme was a disgrace. Typical bbc coverage of the middle east. Heavily loaded against the Palestinians and full of ommisions, while Gavins commentary totally lacked context. Palestinian resistance to occupation (legitimate under international law)was described as terrorism while a war criminal was part of your discussion panel (the settlement mayor).I thought the bbc had hit rock bottom when Jeromy Paxton rubbed an israeli ministers feet a few monthes ago, having cravenly left his teeth at home. You know the only people who believe that the bbc provide a ball anced view of the middle east are the bbc themselves, the rest see it for what it is,a thin veneer for zionist propaganda, that does not qualify as journalism. Shame on you!

  • 41.
  • At 10:04 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Abdullah wrote:

Surely history has the answer, look at the region over the last 2000 years and it becomes clear that christians, jews and muslims (of that region) have not only lived together but fought to protect each other. The unpopular aspect of this though is that the majority of this took place under an Islamic society. Not a easily palitable suggestion these days.

The cycle of voilence will produce damanged people, who produce damaged thinking which will go on to produce damaged people, the way to break this cycle is through an holistic approach to people. One simple example is the support offered to the survivers of the 7/7 london bombings, this was not only financial but also psychological, spritual and physical. This support has gone a long way to help the majority of these people ( 7/7 suviviours) to start functioning positivley as part of the wider society.

I appoligise if I have repeated any thing mentioned above but the desire to get my two cents worth in was to strong. This I fear also refelects the political approach to the middle east. 'I can say something so I should', is not what is required. If our polititions reflect us, what does this situation say about the people of the 'west' and middle east.

Peace in the middle east is possible but hard work, as with any society the people trusted with delicate matters must be capable of dealing with them. I will offer the following advice to the people who put these people (Olmet, Arafat, Bush, Blair, Mubarak, Musharaf basically all the polititions of the world) into power around the world. IF THEY WANT POWER THEY ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR POWER.

Abdullah, U.K.

The settler mentality is astonishing.
We rightly applaud the fact that Jewish families disposessed by the Nazis are compensated and have their property returned but today, we sit back whilst Israel expands their illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in direct contravention of the so-called "road map".

I am happy for Israel to exist within its internationally recognised 1967 borders but she must acknowledge that people whose land was stolen during the violent creation of Israel must be compensated.

Such a plan exists and is supported by all Arab states and many Israeli peace groups.

Newsnight's studio audience again let us down. Could we not have have had an Isreali peace activist instead of the three to one situation in the studio?

  • 43.
  • At 11:01 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Peter Reilly wrote:

What is so sickening about the programme to those who know the truth about Israeli intentions and methods, is that the BBC once again aided and abeted the Israeli propaganda of giving misinformation.

1. The Mossad person repeatedly stated that Israel sought peace whilst Palestinians rejected it. However, the truth is in fact the opposite! Avi Shlaim, the Israeli-British historian wrote: "The files of the Israeli Foreign Ministry burst at the seams with evidence of Arab peace feelers and Arab readiness to negotiate with Israel from September 1948 on.” His book then sited the numerous examples to the present day and the rejections by the Israelis. He illustrated that Israel has never intended peace until its objective of an expanded Jewish State has been achieved.
Ben Gurion himself declared:
"After we become a strong force as the result of the creation of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine. The state will only be a stage in the realization of Zionism and its task is to prepare the ground for our expansion. The state will have to preserve order - not by preaching but with machine guns”

2. Gavin Esler put to the Israel panel that Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was a mistake, reinforcing the myth that a) there was a withdrawal and b) it failed to stop the Palestinians firing Qassam at Israel. The truth is that Israel merely moved the illegal Israeli settlers from Gaza (whilst increasing the settler population in the rest of Palestine) and continued its military, economic and social stranglehold in Gaza. The population withdrawal was not designed as the first stage of Israeli withdrawal to the Green line, but a propaganda coup to elicit public sympathy and a realization that Israel could never quash Palestinian resistance to its illegal occupation without a high cost.

3. Repeated reference was made to the Qassam missiles as reasons for Israeli agression, but the fact is that many of the Qassam attacks were, and are, retalitory.

  • 44.
  • At 11:35 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Riyad Tibi wrote:

I was disappointed by the biased nature of this Newsnight special. Firstly, why have 1 Palestinian (albeit excellent) and 3 Israelis? Is this the BBC's idea of 'balance'. Also, an Israeli civilian in Sderot and an ex-serviceman were interviews. Where were the equivalent interviews with the Palestinian resistance and civilians at the receiving end? There was a settler on the panel but the BBC made no mention of the fact that this character is living on stolen Palestinian land and that the settlements are a main, if not the major obstacle to peace as well as being illegal under international law. Also, the BBC as so often, in the intro presented the Israeli framing of the conflict i.e. one of peace-loving Israelis forced to respond when the calm is shattered by Palestinians firing rockets. Why was the opposing view not presented, i.e. that of a people responding to a brutal occupation that is destroying their lives and stealing their lands, especially as this is how the majority of the people in the region (and a majority of Britons now) perceive the conflict?

  • 45.
  • At 11:40 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Michael Thompson wrote:

this "Jerusalem special" could have been scripted by the Israeli lobby......a more biased presentation I have yet to see........

  • 46.
  • At 11:49 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • C Cameron wrote:

As it has been said and must be repeated until the aggressors hear properly, Palestine was wiped off the Map in 1948, by Zionist terrotist gangs who drove out most of the indigenous Palestinians and replaced them by Zionist Jews who wanted to create an ethno-centric, theocratic state: They must not be allowed to succeed and those of us with a conscience must continue to campaign for the repatriation of the refugees and the reconstruction of the multicultural country which existed before the fabrication of Israel on the corpses of Palestinians.
It is a shame that Gavin Esler should have given the last word to an obnoxious West Bank settler who intends to send the Palestinians over the border, as was planned by Theodor Herzl, the architect of Zionism.

  • 47.
  • At 12:45 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Andy Gil wrote:

The Palestinians have dismally failed to show any desire for peaceful co-existence with Israel. Their aim, as Hamas have made quite clear, is the destruction of Israel. Then they have the nerve to complain that Israel doesn't want to negotiate with them.

Until the Palestinians demonstrate they are ready to live side-by-side with Israel, they do not deserve a state of their own. To give them one would simply encourage the Arab states to pursue yet another war of annihilation against Israel.

  • 48.
  • At 01:01 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Denis MacEoin wrote:

C. Cameron writes: 'As it has been said and must be repeated until the aggressors hear properly, Palestine was wiped off the Map in 1948, by Zionist terrotist gangs who drove out most of the indigenous Palestinians and replaced them by Zionist Jews who wanted to create an ethno-centric, theocratic state.'

Clearly, history is not C. Cameron's strong point. What existed before 1948 was not an independent state of Palestine, but a British mandate of that name. The mandate was artificially created out of a section of the former Ottoman province of Syria. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan were also cut out of former Ottoman territory. Before the Ottomans, these regions were part of various Muslim dynasties, before that Byzantine territories, before that Roman, and before that a Jewish state. The only independent state before 1948, then, was that Jewish state of Israel.

Furthermore, the Palestinians were not driven out of their homes by Zionist terror gangs. In 1948, a majority vote of the UN established Israel as the home state for one of the few peoples without a homeland, the Jews. The Holocaust had just shown how necessary such a homeland was. At that point, the Arabs were offered their own state side by side with Israel. They turned it down. Then five Arab countries sent armies against Israel. And in many many cases, the commanders of those armies instructed the Palestinians to leave, in order to let them get on with their declared purpose of slaughtering the Jews. Today, Hamas, Hizbullah and others still have a declared objective of committing genocide across Israel. And if Mr/Ms Cameron thinks Israel is a theocratic state, it's quite obvious he/she knows absolutely nothing about the subject: Israel is a secular democracy. It is Hamas and Hizbullah who openly state their wish to create a theocracy.

Peace will only come to the Middle East when both players and observers learn how to think.

  • 49.
  • At 01:19 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Chandraguptha wrote:

At cross roads you say as in Sri Lanka there's always a jam when there's a policeman at the cross roads Remove the Bush police man and the & the Middle east Jam would clear

  • 50.
  • At 05:32 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Peter Reilly wrote:

Perhaps history is not Denis MacEoin’s strong point either. He says the Palestinians were not driven out of their homes by Zionist terror gangs. He should read the accounts of Illan Pappe, Professor of history at Haifa University, whose research revealed the ‘Dalet Plan’. I quote his words:

“Plan D was put into full operation in April and May. The objective of the plan was to cleanse the future Jewish state of as many Palestinians as possible. The main military force was the Hagana, which had several brigades. Each brigade received a list of villages it was to occupy. Most of the villages were destined to be destroyed, and only in very exceptional cases were the soldiers ordered to leave them intact.
In addition, some of the brigades were to engage in the take-over of the mixed Arab-Jewish towns of Palestine and their environs. This meant occupation and expulsion of the Palestinian population. This was the fate of Jaffa, Haifa, Safad and Tiberias.”

Professor Pappe went on to describe the massacre at Dir Yassin, as “ a well published bloodbath” and the further massacres in other Palestinian towns, which “were part of a master plan”.

The fact that Palestine was not an independent State before 1948 is totally irrelevant. It does not give another new state which had not existed for about 2000 years the right to steal Palestinian land, massacre or drive out its people, and take over the land as its own.

  • 51.
  • At 05:38 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • C Cameron wrote:

Denis MacEoin is right, "Mandate Palestine" was the result of the tearing apart of the Middle East by the two colonial powers France and Britain to suit their own aims, and its exploitation by the wily Chaim Weizman who extracted the "Balfour Declaration" from the British government. The only Jewish member of the cabinet, Sir Edwin Montague opposed the Declaration. "Divide and rule" has always been the ideal of the colonizers.
D. MacEoin chooses suitable parts of history such as the "Jewish State" of David and Solomon (around 3,000 years ago) who according to archeologists, were at best pagan tribal chieftains (Ha'aretz, 29-10-1999).
Of course Palestine was not "a state", but part of a prosperous region, where, as Jews at the Zionist congress of 1898 learnt, there were 650,000 "Arabs" living on the most fertile parts of "our" land (Gilbert, 1998).
In 1917, the notorious Lord Balfour declared that "Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is...of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs (90% of the population) who now inhabit that ancient land".
Palestinians simply "did not exist" and therefore could be ignored.
Let us note too that Zionist theories precede Nazism and the Holocaust of Jews (and of "undesirable Goyim").
Zionist leaders claimed for decades that in 1948 the Palestinian refugees fled their country voluntarily, but eventually, such Zionist historians as Benny Morris, who in the 70's and early 80's analysed "Israeli" archives, concluded that the vast majority of Palestinian refugees were actually terrorized into leaving and that "forcing the Arabs to leave" was an established Zionist policy.
Indeed, UNGAR 181 (1947) "offered" the indigenous Palestinians 45% of their own land, which naturally they refused, so the Zionist immigrants declared themselves "Israelis" and were surprised to see the "Arabs" come to help their friends and neighbours in May 1948.
Followed UNGAR 194, preceded by the Declaration of Human Rights-Article 13 (December 1948), which accepted "Israel" into the UN, provided it allowed the Return of the Refugees: They are still waiting, along with all those expelled in 1967.
"Israel" calls itself a secular democracy, where an "Israeli" couple can only be "legally" married by a rabbi, and where the Muslim woman who immigrated to "Israel" with her Jewish husband and was killed by a rocket from Gaza, was refused burial in a Jewish cemetery. Israel is therefore an excellent example for Hamas and Hezbollah.
One thing is certain: The Hamas party was democratically elected by those who are simply fighting the endless occupation of their country.
Peace will only come when they get Justice.

  • 52.
  • At 09:59 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Whatever you say about the biased nature of this presentation and debate, it did draw out some ridiculous assertions from the Camp of David. I think it represents well the balance in the region:

Preposterously arrogant views from the guy from mossad, views which are killing people. You would call it patronising but unfortunately it plays out as negating lives on both sides.

You practically needed a flak jacket to listen to that Mayor speaking. All this David vs Goliath nonsense the hordes of Arabs waiting to destroy Israel.
He needs to Understand that David has been doing a bit of body building lately and replaced his sling shot with high tech defence systems and Nuclear capabilities, and instead of taking on Goliath Mano a Mano he's decided to vent his frustrations by bullying his underarmed neighbours.

Even a sympathetic minister (at least on the surface), who wants to negotiate and talk, but only with the right people.

3 on 1 in the studio, some voices of support for the victim on television screens, and your man from the BBC adding a veneer of respectability to some deep seated madness. It's about right.

  • 53.
  • At 03:26 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Liam Coughlan wrote: "The revelation about the health of Chancellor Brown's son explains Mr Browns absence from the stomp recently. We wan wish Mr Brown's family the very best, and hope that this case will lead to an accelleration in efforts to find the magic bullet for cystic fibrosis."

The outstanding discussion between JP and a father of another cystic fibrosis-affected child made clear there is increasing hope, but the "magic bullet" is a few years away.

Unfortunately - and with all sympathy nonetheless - we have yet another example of a man leaving fatherhood too late, and it being visited on the child. It is so strange that scientists have only very recently done the maths and realised that genetic mutations increase rapidly in the sperm of men over 30. By the 50s, the age of the Chancellor, they have risen dramatically. We need much more work on such mutations, screening of sperm, help for those affected by such mutations. Cystic Fibrosis is apparent very soon, but other conditions are less obvious.

Genetic investigation in the UK - aside from the police DNA database - is way behind the information available on the effects. Leaving many unable to get diagnosis and in a state of anxiety on whether they have a genetic fault that will cause other conditions.

"Finally, are newsnight aware of the excellent BBC One programme on homelessness in the UK. Few could have not been moved by the plight of homeless persons, especially where children are involved. There is a need for a scheme under which the DSS will help people stay in their houses, rather than face eviction onto the streets with distressed kids."

I see there is a bill to give bailiffs a right to force their way into homes for repossession, which will cause yet more trauma. There must be many circumstances where the state ends up paying huge sums, in social workers, foster care, rehousing, medical care, and probably mental hospital or prison stays too, due to debts that are small in comparison to such costs, and often not willfully incurred. Should there not be, say, some form of interest-free loans, as are student loans, for rapid, humane, and socially efficient intervention in such cases?

  • 54.
  • At 03:45 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Newsnight's Israeli excursion was very strange. Were we supposed to believe the debate was live when it distractingly took place as the sun set, east of a London in the depths of night?

As others have said, three not-listening Israelis were not really balanced by adding eloquent men on distant video links to the superb Palestinian advisor, Diana Bhutto (why have we not seen her previously; is she related to the former Pakistan premier?). But Mark Urban's film report was just as lacking - for all the eye-catching footage - with so many questions unasked, too many appalling answers unchallenged, too little explained.

For example, were we to understand from the wedding footage that Arab citizens of Israel are unable to marry locally unless it is by a Rabbi, but instead must travel abroad to marry and get civil recognition upon return, as the Israeli courts have just agreed that same-sex couples may do? Only the Jewish side of that seemed explored, the secular Jewish couple forced to have an orthodox religious wedding, but apparently having a jolly time of it. How can anyone maintain that can possibly characterise a secular state with equal citizenship?

The Israel problem has disrupted world politics for far too long, but Newsnight unfortunately did little to move things along. As others have said, the Israeli line that they never have anyone to negotiate with is just so obviously false. Additional evidence of that - as provided by the debate - is that the poor quality of Israel's current leading lights, compared both with those of the past, and with the available Palestininans and arabs, is so marked. US pressure is needed, but is unlikely.

  • 55.
  • At 04:41 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

C Cameron wrote: "D. MacEoin chooses suitable parts of history such as the "Jewish State" of David and Solomon (around 3,000 years ago) who according to archeologists, were at best pagan tribal chieftains (Ha'aretz, 29-10-1999)."

A recent Israeli archaeological documentary was only able to find one single contemporary inscription (in stone) to verify the existence of any such kingdom, and concluded that the area ruled had been grossly exaggerated in the manuscripts for propaganda purposes. Clearly the same use is made of them today. How does someone living in an area 2,000-2,500 years ago justify the residents of 60 years ago being turfed out, forcibly? Obviously it isn't an ethos that has anywhere near the same weight anywhere else, despite many people not having "homelands". One is forced to conclude that this was religious action, christians familiar with biblical texts and rightly guilty over the Nazi holocaust backing Jewish believers in the literal word of "Holy" writings, at exactly the same time as the world was writing human rights documents forbidding religious persecution. Utterly unjust to the Palestinians, and a running sore ever since.

  • 56.
  • At 03:09 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Molly wrote:

There can never be a solution to the Middle East when neither party will accept loss of face.The problem is inflamed by the use of grandiose and emotionally manipulative words such as "tradition" and "inheritance".The current stalemate is like watching a big bus driven at breakneck speed by two squabbling children.

  • 57.
  • At 07:43 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Dr Claude Lombart wrote:

So much bloodshed. So much talk. Everyone wants peace: Jews, Arabs, English, Americans...the whole world wants peace in the Middle East and between Jews (Israelis) and Gentiles (Palestinians) and yet they are still hell-bent on war. What a tragedy! Will there ever be peace in te region? The answer is NO...unless! The only way for genuine peace anywhere in the world, is to turn to the author, creator, and provider of everlasting peace. He was a Jew and the Arabs revere Him as a great prophet. His name: Jesus (Saviour), or Emmanuel (God with us). His formula for peace is found in the 27 books of the New Testament. If Israelis and Paletinians alike would sit down for half a day and in the spirit of humility, compassion, mutual forgiveness and prayer read that ancient text and adopt it as their road-map they will find the secret to peace in their hearts and in their lands, and they can model real peace to the rest of the world.

  • 58.
  • At 12:45 PM on 02 Dec 2006,
  • john hoyles wrote:

This was one of the best newsnight reports I've ever seen. Certainly Gavin Esler was doing stuff far and away superior to anything by him seen before!
Maybe this was because the choice of guests for the debate was so brilliant, but also because it was so wonderfully managed by Gavin, with the extra voices from Beirut and Cairo on separate screens.
It was amazing to see Diana Bhuttu (best arguments for Palestine I've ever heard) sat next to the settler mayor Shaul Goldstein. What a revelation. They were both human beings with a glass of water at their feet! And Goldstein did not mince his words. He was dur et pur.
Alistair Crooke was fabulously articulate and insightful. Why don't we see more of him?
All these people were so human, concise and expressive that one felt that the actual politics, war, death and destruction, history and intolerance was somewhere else.
Congratulations. This was political journalism of the highest quality.

  • 59.
  • At 09:47 PM on 03 Dec 2006,
  • Naomi wrote:

I was very disappointed by Gavin Esler's programme which came over as totally accepting the Israeli perspective and treating the dispossessed Palestinians as if they were equal parties. In fact, as clearly indicated in an excellent "From our own correspondent" piece on Radio 4 on Saturday morning, Palestinians under Israeli occupation are effectively imprisoned by a major military power supported financially and politically by the U.S. and, shamefully, by our own government. The correspondent reported from Beit Hanoun where dignified, ordinary Palestinians suffer death and destruction from Israeli tanks and guns. As a Jew campaigning for peace with justice in the Middle East, I feel deep shame and anger when I hear the true picture airbrushed away, as happened in Esler's Newsnight programme. The British public deserves a chance to consider the complexities of a decades-long conflict which has at its heart the denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people. Israel has to be obliged to withdraw to pre-1967 borders and the integrity of an independent Palestine must be guaranteed by the international community. No more mealy mouthed pronouncements giving the oppressor all the time it needs to kidnap or assassinate Palestinian leaders, destroy the people's infrastructure, imprison them behind a monstrous wall and confine them to shrinking enclaves no better than the reservations forced upon native Americans. Can we have more of the BBC at its best, as in the Radio 4 report from Beit Hanoun?

  • 60.
  • At 01:41 PM on 04 Dec 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

Palestinian's should make Diana Butta their spokesperson.

Articulate, non-emotional, smart and believable. She swayed me and stood her ground against three to one ratio - which was unfair, BBC.

I like how she stood up to the fromer Mossad Chief who tried to create the perception that the Palestinian were free under Israel. Diana rebuked him by repeating, that they are not free and want their freedom.

Israel claims to be a Democracy but in reality it is a Theocracy and bent on Zionism and Apartheid. This really is too bad because it discredits the proud heritage of the Jewish people and their contributions to the world.

Way to go Diana Butta.

  • 61.
  • At 12:02 AM on 05 Dec 2006,
  • Karenia Rodriguez wrote:

Religion is what I believe is the main reason for all the conflicts in the Middle East. Sunnis against Shias, muslims against jews. What should be a reason for peace (God) is more the focal point of dissagreement and war. Their huge eager for whose religion is the "TRUE RELIGION" have driven them to a point that the situation gets worst and worst day after day. It hurts to say that is very difficult to put an end to the conflicts in the Middle East and it is because there is simply too much hate in the hearts of these people and no matter how hard other civilized countries like United States try to help, it will be just impossible.

  • 62.
  • At 12:39 PM on 05 Dec 2006,
  • Roy Catton wrote:

Perhaps Newsnight should have included a former President of the United States of America among its interviewees, for balance. There is one who seems particularly truthful, honest and in a good position to know what he is speaking about, so would have been able to inform us both about the difficulties in the way of and the conditions needed for peace, as well as the reasons why many people are so ill-informed about this situation.

In his recent book President Carter carefully lays out how he sees the basic problem:
‘There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:
1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and
2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories.’

‘Two other interrelated factors have contributed to the perpetuation of violence and regional upheaval: the condoning of illegal Israeli actions from a submissive White House and U.S. Congress during recent years, and the deference with which other international leaders permit this unofficial U.S. policy in the Middle East to prevail. There are constant and vehement political and media debates in Israel concerning its policies in the West Bank, but because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate in our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.’

And of the future President Carter says:
‘The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens—and honor its own previous commitments— by accepting its legal borders.’
(from Chapter 12 of Palestine - Peace not Aparthied by Jimmy Carter quoted in ‘Conflict in the Middle East’ 27.11.06 in Geneva Initiative c.f. )

In an interview last week, challenged about his use of the word ‘apartheid’ in his book, President Carter said:
‘I was not referring to racism, but simply to the desire to acquire Arab land inside Palestinian territory. And there is a total establishment imposed by Israeli powers of a separation of the two peoples from one another. I would say that in many ways the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupying forces is as onerous – and in some cases more onerous – as the treatment of black people in South Africa by the apartheid government. All Palestinians have to carry passes. When I was there monitoring elections in 2005, there were 719 roadblocks closed by concrete barriers, earth mounds or by official Israeli checkpoints. The Palestinians can't move from one place to another. They can't grow produce, for instance, to sell to their own people if it competes with Israeli fruit, vegetables and flowers. Gaza, which was supposed to have been abandoned, is absolutely imprisoned in a wall that the Israelis have built all around it. There are only two possible openings in that wall. One opens into the Sinai, and is open to only a few chosen people. And the other is open into Israel, and it has been closed almost all the time since the Israeli so-called withdrawal from Gaza. So the Palestinians are horribly abused and persecuted and deprived by the Israeli policies in the West Bank.’
(Interviewed by Marty Rosen, Courier – Journal, quoted in 'Carter shares insight on peace in Mideast' 26.11.06, in Geneva Initiative c.f. )

  • 63.
  • At 01:55 PM on 07 Dec 2006,
  • Ruth Tenne wrote:

Dear Newsnight team ,

As an Israeli peace activist who is fully aware of the plight of the Palestinian since the creation of the State of Israel (1948) I wish to complain strongly about the blatant bias of the Newsnight's programme broadcasted on the 29 November . The programme was titled "what chance peace" ? . Ironically, however, if the BBC intends to broadcast similar such programmes in the future, peace would not stand a chance. It seems that the programme presenter - Gavin Esler - was no more than an emissary echoing pro-Israeli policies and enforcing the inherent bias which the British Government manifests against the Palestinians. (where was Jeremy Bowen the BBC Chief Political Correspondent fro the Middle East?)
First, the introduction to the programme was screened from the Israeli side of the wall (where was the wall on this programme?) ignoring the current situation in Palestine and the long the history of occupation and colonization by Israel. No mention was made of the fact that the 29 November (the date the programme was screened) is the day in which the partition of Palestine was voted and agreed by the UN assembly - resulting in the creation of the Israeli state which is keeping the Palestinians imprisoned on their own homeland under a harsh military occupation .
Secondly, for some reasons (or perhaps obvious ones ) the panel in the studio included three israelis - one of them a bigoted and racist settler - facing a lone American - Palestinian who was an ex -adviser of Yasser Arafat. Instead of bringing in present Palestinian leaders and politicians, such as, Hanna Ashrawi, Mahmoud Abbas, Seab Ereket (the Chief palestinian negotiator ), the programme organisers chose to interview by satellite two political experts (one Egyptian and one British ) who are not presently involved in the political processes taking place in the region. No wonder the American- Palestinian panelist felt isolated and bewildered - being forced to face the usual barrage of her Israeli opponents (a barrage which does not confine itself to the inside of a TV studio but takes place everyday all over Gaza and the West Bank). In order to open the way to a real debate the BBC should have chosen to interview some committed Israeli peace activists ,such as ,Uri Avinery , Dr Jeff Halper, Amira hass , and Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights. Instead the programme producers chose to repeat a well -trodden and banal formula which does not debate the background of the conflict , its present underpass ,and the given options for peace .
I hope that in the future Newsnight will offer its viewers a chance to understand better the complexities of the situation and the driving forces behind the decades-long conflict which deprives the Palestinian of their inalienable right to statehood and makes them subjected to a constant abuse of human rights by the the State of Israel that keeps violating with impunity UN resolutions , the fourth Geneva convention, the UN charter and the ruling of the International Court of justice . The BBC should indeed be true to its own Charter and feel obliged to offer its viewers unbiased and balanced programmes which would not full into the trap of regurgitating the policies of the present-day Government .

Yours sincerely,

Ruth Tenne (member of jews for justice for Palestinians

  • 64.
  • At 02:18 PM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Zeine wrote:

first of all, any religion-inspired state is a disaster and will never be at peace in the strictest sense of the word. the reason is that state and religion are dealing with two completely different realms of existence; the former is concerned with physical and worldly existence while the latter with non-physical sphere. This is the beginning of the conflict of ideology both in pracitce and theory.

secondly, many people do not have the slightest idea of peace. they do not know what peace is really all about. how can they work for peace? what are we talking about here? All they know is suicide, war, killing, murder, kidnapping and so on. The people themselves do not have peace in their hearts and they have never experienced peace in their life-time, how can we expect these people to work for peace? we are demanding and asking for the right thing but to the wrong people and place.

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