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As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

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Corporate Britain’s security handover: power, water, transport, then military, justice and food sectors

Gill Plimmer and Carola Hoyos report in the Financial Times that the Ministry of Defence is to appoint a private sector partner to manage its military estate – 230,000 acres of land covering conservation sites, office blocks, barracks, homes and military bases.

The revolving door

revolving door largerAndrew Manley, chief executive of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), was recruited to the MoD in 2009 after a 30-year career with oil giant Shell, becoming chief executive in 2011 as part of government plans to ‘streamline’ the MoD. If he is reinstated, following the current investigation into his financial and personal conduct, will he return to the private sector through the revolving door, as plans to hand over running of MoD bases to the private sector come to fruition?

Reward for failure?

Serco and G4S are bidding to win the £400m 10-year deal, though they have been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on electronic monitoring contracts.

capita logoAnother contender, Capita, is also under a cloud. A leaked report by research company Gartner revealed that Capita’s MoD online recruitment computer system is two years behind schedule. The government has contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.

Fears in Washington and the British army about the security implications

The Observer has seen documents, marked “restricted – commercial” which spell out the fears of the US government and the British army about the potential loss of intellectual property if top-secret information about equipment is taken out of MoD control and handed to a private company. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence Philip Dunne refused to comment on this allegation.

Taxpayers’ loss?

vernon coakerThe DIO contract is one in a series of attempts to transform the way the British armed services operates.

The MoD has spent over £12m on ‘exploring strategic options’.

Last year it tried to privatise the procurement of military equipment but there was, eventually, only one bidder.

The process to date has been “a waste of money”, according to Labour’s shadow defence secretary, Vernon Coaker (left).

But the government expects to make the sale in the financial year 2014-15

philip dunne mpMatthew Smith of Jane’s reports that, in a January statement to parliament, Philip Dunne (right) said the government expects to sell the MoD’s Defence Support Group in the financial year 2014-15. DSG has a team of 2,800 top-grade engineers, responsible for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of military air and land equipment, mobile and in-barracks equipment support, fleet management. The latest news is that Babcock, KBR, Dyncorp International, Carillion and Germany’s armoured vehicle builder Rheinmetall are thought to be interested.

And the next steps: to place food and justice in the profit prioritising sector?

In 2013 Justice Secretary Chris Grayling instructed officials to explore plans for privatisation and ensure that the Courts and Tribunal Service provides value for money.

Media appears to be backing the government drive for genetic modification of food crops; a search on ‘2014 UK genetic modification’ finds many articles favourable to the technology. But MP Zac Goldsmith writes: “It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations”.

herald logo

And Ian Bell summarises in The Herald, (Scotland): “Corporate Britain is now at least as powerful as any government. It can and does face down ministers. It can and does run rings around the “watchdogs”. And we are all paying the price for that”.