British politics in turmoil over Gaza
Posted on Aug 11 2014 | IANS
By Anasudhin Azeez: British Prime Minister David Cameron is heading for a rout in the general elections scheduled in May 2015 over the rumblings in the coalition, problems in the party and the mood of the British electorate.
Cameron, holidaying in Portugal, is facing unprecedented opposition over the government's stance on Gaza. Coalition partner and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is seeking the cancellation of arms sales to Israel. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative Party chairperson and the most influential Muslim politician, has resigned over Gaza. Andrew Mitchell, a Cameron confidante and a former international development secretary, warns that the misery in Gaza will "poison goodwill in the Middle East for generations".
About 150,000 people assembled in London Saturday to protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. The mood of the British electorate is also against the government over Gaza. When the government offered an aid of three million pounds to Gaza, the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), a coalition of 13 charities, raised 4.5 million pounds on a single day. The charity campaign is still going on with enormous response from the public.
Baroness Warsi is asking the Cameron government to recognise Palestine as a state and impose an arms embargo on Israel. "Our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible," she said. "It is not in Britain's national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically."
Baroness Warsi, daughter of Pakistani immigrants settled in Yorkshire, said Cameron and his advisors were ignoring "electoral reality" by relying on White voters. "I will be out there, vocally fighting for an outright Conservative majority," she said. "But the electoral reality is that we will not win outright Conservative majorities until we start attracting more of the ethnic vote."
Mitchell echoed her views: "Israel has a right to defend itself from these indiscriminate rocket attacks, but equally they are governed by international law in how they respond. There is no doubt that an enormous number of innocent people have been caught up in this action."
He said questions needed to be answered about the scale of the Israeli operations in Gaza. "There are very strict rules governing the conduct of international warfare, and the UN and the schools, which are places of sanctuary in Gaza, clearly should not be attacked."
Most senior politicians are supporting Baroness Warsi's "two nation theory" as a permanent solution to the Middle East crisis. The creation of a new state will ensure peace and protection for Israelis and it will provide dignity and security to Palestinians. With the concrete walls and the siege, Israel is behaving like apartheid era South Africa.
Israel is one of the biggest customers for British arms of so-called "dual-use" equipment capable of both civilian and military deployment in a trade worth more than seven billion pounds last year. The arms export licences worth 42 million pounds have been granted to 130 British defence manufacturers since 2010 to sell military equipment to Israel. These range from weapons control and targeting systems to ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.
It has been revealed that dozens of highly specialised British defence companies have secured deals with Israeli partners and Israeli military, ranging from bulletproof garments to naval gun parts and small arms ammunition. The sales are entirely lawful and form part of Britain's 12 billion pounds annual arms export trade. The British-built Hermes drone has been widely used in Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli military action in Gaza, to monitor Palestinians and guided missile strikes.
Past sales of British weaponry have included head-up displays for F-16 jets and parts for Apache attack helicopters made by at least half a dozen British companies or subsidiaries. Both weapons have been used in Gaza.
The anti-war campaigners believe that Baroness Warsi's principled stand on Gaza will be marked as the first step to rectify Britain's historic mistake for supporting the Zionists during World War I. The Balfour Declaration, dated Nov 2, 1917, paved the seed for a Jewish nation in the middle of Arabs. The wounds created by British politicians are the root cause of today's problems.
The Black and Minority Ethnic population constitute about 10 percent of the British electorate. The last election in 2010 delivered a hung parliament with Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats cobbling a majority to form a ruling coalition. The Labour Party, under Ed Miliband, is leading in the opinion polls. The Labour Party is open in criticising Israel for the civilian killings in Gaza.
"The prime minister is wrong not to have opposed Israel's incursion into Gaza," Miliband said. "And his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel's military action will be inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally."
Ethnic votes, especially from the Asian community, are crucial in some of the marginal seats. Britain is also home to 2.5 million Muslims, most of them from Pakistan and India.
The weather in Britain is changing to autumn. The 'fall' will witness the shedding of leaves and trees acquire new hues with the changing colours of leaves. Britain's political spectrum is also changing. But one thing is clear. The British-Asian voters will decide the person who will hold the key to No 10 Downing Street.
(Anasudhin Azeez is the Managing Director/Executive Editor of Asian Lite. He can be reached on [email protected] The views expressed are personal.)