Scottish Greens vote to remove Hamas from terrorist list

The Scottish Greens, perhaps feeling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was lonely out on his limb, have echoed his support for Hamas.

The left-wing party passed a motion at its autumn conference in Glasgow on Saturday backing the removal of the Islamist militants from the list of proscribed terrorist groups.

The motion, which runs to more than 2000 words, updates existing Green policy on the Middle East conflict, which was deemed to be “fragmented and dated, having being added to incrementally over the years”. “Current policy also underplays the unequal and colonial nature of Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” members agreed.

The resolution ostensibly seeks to identify with the Palestinian cause, in keeping with the Greens’ view of international relations. They want to see Israel withdraw to “pre-1967 borders”, a colloquial term for the 1949 armistice lines, and surrender territories captured in the Six-Day War: Eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank, which was known as Judea and Samaria before it was occupied by Jordan in 1948. They also stipulate an end to West Bank settlements, which most governments, NGOs, and legal scholars deem a violation of international law, and to the practice of detaining and interrogating minors.

Much of this reflects mainstream international opinion on the conflict, including on the left and centre of Israeli politics. However other positions are more controversial.

The party will support boycott, divestment and sanction activity against Israeli businesses and a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions. They will press for Israel’s law of return to be repealed and a Palestinian right of return given effect, meaning Palestinians but not Jews will be entitled to immigrate to Israel and the territories. Scottish Greens want to see Hamas removed from the list of proscribed terrorist organisations and the non-profit Jewish National Fund (JNF) removed from the charity register. Further, the party wants all Palestinian “political prisoners” freed from Israeli jails.

Hamas is committed by its charter to the “obliteration” of the State of Israel and to “struggle against the Jews… until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised”. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, is a banned terrorist organisation in the UK and across the European Union, in Egypt, Australiaand New Zealand. Hamas in its entirety is proscribed in the United States andCanada.

(Some have cited a European Court of Justice ruling against the designation. However, the ECJ’s opinion stresses its decision is based “on basic procedural grounds” and “does not entail any substantive assessment of the question of the applicant’s description as a terrorist group”. The EU is appealing the judgment.)

The JNF, founded in 1901 to purchase land for Jewish communities in Ottoman-ruled Palestine, is best known for planting more than 250,000 trees in Israel. The Greens accuse it of “excluding non-Jews from Israeli land and denounce the organisation for claiming to be an ‘ecological agency’.” The party also rejects Green political movements in Israel: “We oppose Green Zionism, the ideology of Green parties in Israel, which is an attempt to fuse Green values with Zionism.”

The tone throughout is belligerent when it is not rabid. Zionism, the national movement for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the historic homeland of Eretz Israel, is dismissed as a “racist ideology” in its modern form and one “based on Jewish supremacy in Palestine”. Israel is accused of “colonisation and ethnic cleansing” while the West Bank security barrier “constitutes a policy of Apartheid”.

“The Scottish Green Party condemns Israel’s claim to be ‘the Jewish State’ and the giving of preferential rights to Jews over Palestinians,” the text asserts.

The historical narrative provided in the document is decidedly skewed. The founding of the modern State of Israel was achieved “by military conquest” and “the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians”, which is described using the Arabic term “nakba” (“catastrophe”). There is no reference to the 1947 UN partition accepted by Jewish communal groups and rejected by the Arab authorities or to the 856,000 Jews driven out of Arab nations at the same time. Nor is any mention made of Israeli offers of a peace agreement which have been rejected by the Palestinian leadership.

While condemning the displacement of the Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine, the motion goes on to counsel a fresh population transfer in the form of “withdrawing from and depopulating Israeli colonies in the West Bank”.

Elsewhere, the motion claims: “Resistance has taken the shape of peaceful protest, civil disobedience, non-violent resistance and on occasion armed uprising.” Since the second intifada in 2000, more than 1000 Israelis and 6000 Palestinians have been killed.

The policy statement makes some nods to the Israeli side of the conflict, describing Israel as “a safe home for many Jews who survived the Nazi holocaust and for others escaping anti-Semitism” and conceding that Jews living in the Diaspora were “often persecuted”. Nevertheless, there is no recognition of historic Jewish sovereignty, legal rights, or religious attachment to the land.

While a party spokesman made a reference to a two-state solution in a statement issued after the vote, the language of the policy is unclear on the continued existence of the State of Israel. It reads: “Israel’s claim to be a Jewish and democratic state, the home of all Jews in which non-Jews have inferior rights constitutes apartheid and is unacceptable. It is not supported by the Scottish Green Party.” The five-page document also refers to “all peoples living in historic Palestine, whether their current status is Israeli or Palestinian” and “the lands currently designated as Israel and the occupied territories”, which appears to envision a post-Zionist resolution to the conflict.

An amendment, which removed a specific reference to “Jewish citizens of other countries” having no “legitimate stake in the future of Palestine”, was carried. However, members rejected a slightly more moderate pro-Palestinian version of the motion, which declined to “privilege ownership of the historic lands of Palestine to any ethnic or religious group”. That amendment still appeared to countenance a binational solution with a reference to creating “an equitable, free and sustainable society for all of the peoples of the historic area of Palestine”.

There were no motions on the humanitarian crisis in Syria or Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. Opponents of the motion asked whether other conflicts would receive the same treatment during the floor debate.

Ross Greer, Europe and external affairs spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: “While our immediate focus as a party is the Scottish Parliament election in May and the forthcoming EU referendum we are of course an internationalist party and our members seek to promote conflict resolution over aggression at every opportunity.

“With this policy the boycott is aimed at putting pressure on the Israeli government to end its oppressive policies. It applies to all businesses based in Israel or its illegal settlements.

“As an internationalist party we have discussed potential resolutions to a number of conflicts. For example we have recently passed a motion calling for the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) to be de-listed as a terrorist organisation by the UK & EU as a step towards a peaceful resolution with Turkey and have a long-standing position defending the right of Tibet to self-determination, free from Chinese interference. These are of course very different situations to Palestine & Israel and as such the detail of our policy is different but in all situations the aim is for peaceful, democratic resolutions.

“The policy as passed asserts our support for non-violent Palestinian resistance. We have no hesitation in condemning the violent aggression of the Israeli state, Hamas or any other actor in this conflict but feel that a peaceful settlement and a two-state solution is more likely to be achieved through this mechanism.”

The policy, which is unapologetically contemptuous of Israel, its right to peaceful coexistence, and its security concerns, captures the extremism and naïveté of the Greens on international affairs. To expect Hamas to “contribute to the end of the occupation of Palestine by non-military means” when it fired 4800 rockets and 1700 mortars at Israel during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge alone is an insult to intelligence and an offence to logic.

It recalls Martin Amis’s quip to Western leftists who marched carrying “We are all Hezbollah” placards during the 2006 Lebanon War: “Make the most of being Hezbollah while you can. As its leader Hasan Nasrallah famously advised the West: ‘We don’t want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you’.”

Moreover, to pursue the delisting of Hamas while campaigning for one of the world’s oldest Jewish charities to be deregistered is a horrendous juxtaposition. Consider too that the motion was debated at the Greens’ conference on Saturday — the Jewish Sabbath, which would have prevented observant Jews from taking part in the vote. It is a piece of bigotry dressed up as appeasement masquerading as humanitarianism.

There is a space for a coruscating left-wing critique of current Israeli government policy and the injustices and indignities of the wall and the checkpoints. The socialist Meretz party in Israel, which rallies the peace camp with the cry “Dai La’Kibush” (“End the Occupation”), is a model for such a challenge. Legitimising Hamas while delegitimising Israel does nothing to advance the cause of peace. In fact, it is more likely to have the opposite effect, giving the Israeli hard-right another example of Western cold-heartedness towards Israel’s plight.

The Greens chose against a constructive approach and have left themselves, the cuddly party of Scottish politics, hugging the fringes.

Originally published on STV News.

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