Sunday Telegraph 21 December 2007 "Let us hope for peace next year in David's city"
Having just read the above article that you penned for the Sunday Telegraph I wish to express concern about the distortion of information with respect to Israel that appears in this article. Time and time again, it has been observed pro-Palestinian advocates being given an open door to preach anti-Israel sentiment in the UK media but without proper balance being provided to put the Jewish/Israel view or the right to reply.
This trend apparently has now extended to HM Government Ministers, who have no right to engage in such polemics. Many of the on-line comments regarding your article which were published on the Sunday Telegraph web site, but not published by the newspaper, sum up the extent of the distortion as viewed by members of the public.
By using the story of a British government employee you deliberately sought to put over a subtle message. The mention of the Shu’fat camp – a normal town but designated as a "refugee camp" - conveys the impression that Jerusalem is off-limits. Palestinians cannot get an education, let alone jobs. Why did you not inquire where exactly UK and EU aid to UNWRA and the PA has gone in the past 60 years? Why did you not cite how the situation was in Beit Lechem before 1967 – the year of your birth? The town was then prosperous and mainly inhabited by Christians. They began fleeing when the area came under PA control at the behest of the international community including the UK.
You failed to identify the root causes of ‘the history of instability and conflict ‘ and apparently know neither the history nor what gave rise to suicide bombers. These only appeared on the scene when the International Community recognised the PLO. The PLO’s avowed aim was, and is, the destruction of Israel and the denial of any links with Judaism’s ancestral homeland.
UK taxpayers are aware that they are paying to prop up the PA and "support economic regeneration". The EU has never validated where its donations were going, nor verified if the money was ending up in the pockets of the elite. How many millionaires have been created through the siphoning off of international aid? This was not spelt out in your article.
Furthermore, you did not tell us why, following Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza, rockets began raining down on Israeli towns. Why was there was not a call for a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank when these territories were under Egyptian and Jordanian control? Why had Israel suffered terror attacks before the ‘occupation’, even before 1948? What about the massacres of the Jewish communities in the Holy Land in the late 1880’s, as well as those during the Mandate period of the 1920’s and 1930’s? Why have Palestinian refugees, most of whom left on their leaders’ orders, have been kept as political pawns by the Arab states aided and abetted by the international community, while a greater number of peaceful Jewish citizens expelled from Arab countries were resettled at no cost to either the international community or the UK?
Such articles as yours portray bias and lack of context. In extreme cases, they may even amount to incitement against the peaceful, non-threatening Jews of this country.
Let us hope for peace next year in David's cityBy Douglas Alexander
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 23/12/2007 '
Once in royal David's city/Stood a lowly cattle shed/Where a mother laid her Baby/ In a manger for His bed." It is one of the most popular of all our Christmas carols and it will be sung by millions of people in high streets and in churches all over the world this week. This classic Victorian carol has a special place in my family because it was written by my great-aunt, more than 150 years ago. But Cecil Frances Alexander's hopeful vision of the Bethlehem she called "royal David's city" bears little resemblance to the beleaguered Palestinian communities I visited in the West Bank in recent days. While she imagined the dawn of hope in the place where King David is said to have been born, today the inhabitants of Bethlehem are struggling to keep any hope alive. I talked with a British government employee, Nassim, who is raising his family in Bethlehem. His commute to work in Jerusalem should take him only 30 minutes, but negotiating the security barrier and the repeated security checks means it takes at least an hour and a half, twice a day. Like any proud parent he showed me a picture of his two daughters, Warrd and Ghazal, aged six and four. Although they live just 25 miles from the sea, neither has ever played on the beach, or even seen the sea. As a family they simply cannot get there - the security situation makes it impossible. Visiting the security barrier next to Shu'fat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, I saw how sometimes it can almost completely exclude Palestinian communities from Jerusalem and from vital services - such as schools and doctor's surgeries. At a school in the Qalandiya refugee camp, a Palestinian mother told me of her fears for her teenage son. His prospects are so limited that she now chooses not even to raise the question of what he will do when he grows up. She herself lives with the quiet fear that in the absence of educational and employment prospects he might instead succumb to the persuasion of Islamic radicals. I could see in her face the aspiration for her children that any mother has, but it was also clear that she was beginning to lose hope. No one in my generation can fail to be aware of the history of instability and conflict between Palestinian and Israeli, nor the seemingly intractable positions of both sides. Neither is there any dispute that the first duty of any government - including Israel's - must be the security of its people in an era of terrorist threats. But mine is the generation in which walls and barriers have been coming down - from the Soviet Union to South Africa and Northern Ireland. The security barrier - built to protect Israeli citizens from the terror of suicide bombing - also creates physical and economic hardships that the Palestinian people now endure. This is why the talks that began in Annapolis last month are so urgent. And while we are all acutely aware of the false dawns that accompany the history of the peace process, it was a genuinely hopeful sign when the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, led their respective peoples to the negotiating table, watched by representatives from the whole world. And after attending the Paris Conference alongside Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy and Condoleezza Rice, I believe this Advent season there is a case for cautious optimism. In Paris, on behalf of the UK, I was able to pledge up to £243 million to the Palestinian Authority over three years. The funds are linked to the peace process and will support economic regeneration if significant political progress is made. At that conference, last week, the international community came together to reward the bravery of Abbas and Olmert with substantial promises of support. These financial pledges are only the start and for confidence to be maintained, the Palestinian Authority will have to make the hard yards, especially in the area of security. In the coming year Israel, too, as President Bush underlined, has to demonstrate its commitment by freezing settlement expansion and removing outposts. As Israeli foreign minister Livni has recognised, the security of the people of Israel and the welfare of the Palestinian people are linked. Of course, many are sceptical about these latest steps towards a final peace. And no one can ignore the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. But I believe that as this year draws to a close, we may be on the brink of a new opportunity for peace. Like many Victorian hymn writers, Cecil Frances Alexander had what looks to us to be a highly idealised, even sentimental, notion of childhood, with her hope that "Christian children all must be/ Mild, obedient, good as He". But I believe she would have agreed with me that what today's children of Bethlehem, like Warrd and Ghazal, are looking for this Christmas is a chance to grow up in a place of peace and security, a place where they and their families can live rewarding lives in friendship with their neighbours. It's a big hope that 2008 might be the year when we work towards this final peace deal. But Christmas is a time of hope and that hope is needed today in royal David's city. • Douglas Alexander is Secretary of State for International Development
Wishful thinking, Mr. Alexander. Politicians never learn - that is why the palestinians can try out their pretences at peace-making with each new crop of western leaders. Abbas can fool you with 'peace talk' all he likes - with his hand wide open to collect as much as he can financially - but he does not fool the Israelis. His TV channel has resumed the glorification of suicide bombing, just as arafat did in order to provoke the intifada in 2000. All the proof of his malevolence is here: link You, Mr. Alexander, together with the other western leaders, have made terrorism a very lucrative palestinian career. They have no incentive to stop while you continue to hand them the hard-earned income of your taxpayers.
Posted by Lily on December 23, 2007 5:05 PM
Douglas. I greatly admire your great aunt, we still sing many of her hymns in my church. You would do well to study the Scriptures yourself regarding the hope for peace in the Middle East, the appearance of the Antichrist, etc. Regards, ChrisPosted by Chris Perver on December 23, 2007 4:12 PMReport this comment A good try by Douglas Alexander who is fortunate indeed to be related to a writer of beautiful hymns. I wish we could see the difference between aid which creates dependency and builds nothing, even when it isn't being siphoned off as one tends to feel has always happened in the case of the Palestinians - and contributions which effect permanent change. I don't believe that their real enemy is Israel at all, no matter the hatred taken in at the Mother's breast and the lack of anything to do other than perhaps become a militant. Sometimes it is your supposed friends who hold you back, not those you have always been told are your enemies. An agenda amongst states in the region to remove Israel will never go anywhere - but it drives the way the Palestinians are kept in deprivation to form a 'cause' - a rallying point for terror and hatred. Organised and in synergy - for Israel surely has the businesses and the entrepreneurs - and the Palestinians the plentiful labour - there is much that could be done to give everyone a better life in peaceful coexistence. Posted by simon coulter on December 23, 2007 1:55 PM Report this comment The chances of Christian children gowning up in Bethlehem are getting more and more remote as the world turns the other way to Islamic oppression of Palestinian Christians, preferring to scape goat the Israelis instead. Posted by Man in a Shed on December 23, 2007 11:48 AMReport this comment Whilst the Secretary of State's sincerity is beyond doubt, as someone of his generation for whom the difficulties of the Middle East have been a lifelong buzz in the background, I would rather hope that one of his intentions for 2008 would be to devote his intelligence and vigour to trying to keep his own country together, as opposed to sorting out other peoples'.
Posted by Martin on December 23, 2007 7:36 AM
Douglas, Are you helping the Palestinians run an election?
Posted by Brian D Finch on December 23, 2007 1:00 AM
So what exactly is Mr Alexander saying here? To summarise:
1 - Isn't it a shame that the Israelis have found it necessary to build a wall and that this impedes travel? Yes it is, and the blame lies squarely on Arafat, and his successors. If they make some agreements and stick to them, the wall can come down.
2 - Let's hope Annapolis gets the "peace process" back on track. Get real, Annapolis is just going through the motions. The destruction of Israel is more important to the Arabs than a million lives of their own brothers, so why waste your pity on people for whom their own kin care little?
3 - Isn't is good of me to give money to the PA? Is it, particularly as it is not your money, Douglas, it is ours? So they can spend their scant resources on arms, instead of food, because some daft Brit will will feed them? How does that help, Douglas? Would you have given George Best a few quid for a bottle of Whiskey? I suppose it behoves a government minister to make optimistic noises, even if they be facile platitudes, but what the Palestinians really need is tough love, not an unconditional meal ticket from the West, and Semtex from the Arabs - both are mere fuel to the flames.
Posted by Richard Dell on December 23, 2007 12:55 AM