It’s not often that two major international issues hit the headlines but the violent confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians as well as the hijacking of a Ryanair plane by the Belarus government have dominated the news. On Israel/Palestine, the world was dismayed that once again the grisly death count ratcheted up as Hamas’s rockets were met by overwhelming and disproportionate force by Israeli bombs. As ever, the victims were innocents, many of them children. As ever, there is no excuse as grieving families buried their loved ones. As ever, it was important to see the violence end. But this time there must be a genuine peace process or we’ll be back to violence in too few years to come. Ending violence isn’t peace, at least not for Palestinians. They were promised land for a two-state solution but that land has got smaller and smaller as extremist Israeli groups move in and push Palestinian families, there for many generations, from their own homes and land. Israeli laws treat Palestinians as worse than second class and the West Bank, supposedly Palestinian, is under Israeli military occupation. Gaza is even worse and has been described as the biggest prison in the world. So yes to peace, but a peace with justice and dignity for all, Israeli and Palestinian.
Belarus is a basket case with a self-appointed President who behaves like the insane king of some long-gone time. He has locked up journalists for taking photographs, attacked demonstrators protesting against his rigged election and forced opposition politicians into exile in fear of their lives. But few would have believed that he would order his warplane to force a Ryanair jet out of the sky to land in Belarus so he could have a young blogger arrested. Tyrannical and petty rolled into one. But this was an ordinary civilian flight filled with holidaymakers, business people and family travellers whose only contact with Belarus was to overfly its territory as planes do all the time over many different countries. What would the crazy President have done if the pilot had refused to land? The answer is unthinkable. That I don’t always agree with the present British government is well known but in this case they got it right in banning Belarus planes from the UK and stopping our planes overflying Belarus. In the end though, this man, the last dictator in Europe, must be treated as the pariah he is. The people of Belarus and the whole world deserve better.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 29 May 2021.