Saturday, May 14, 2016

Corbyn Vs Cameron : What’s Worse? Promoting peace talks to save lives? Or knowingly arming people who are killing civilians including children?

Prime Minister David Cameron is making a habit every few months of accusing Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn of being a “terrorist sympathiser”  for having (unwisely in my view) referred to some Hamas and Hezbollah representatives as “our friends in Hamas and Hezbollah”  (1) – (2).

This is pretty rich stuff, especially considering what David Cameron himself has done in continuing to actually arm people who are killing civilians.

Even Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad, has been calling for the Israeli government to accept Hamas’ offers of talks on a long-term peace deal for some 8 years now (3) – (4).

So suggesting talks with Hamas is not an endorsement of everything Hamas has done, nor beyond the pale.

Corbyn is similarly trying to bring about peace between the entire elected Israeli and Palestinian governments – which includes Hamas, who won the last Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. You don’t do that by disowning your contacts (5).

David Cameron meanwhile is approving arms sales to governments and militaries involved in killing civilians, including children, in war crimes, on a large scale. These include the governments of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain among others.

While Hamas’ armed wing have certainly been involved in terrorist attacks targeting civilians in some cases and making no attempt to avoid killing them in others, Israel’s military have done the same over and over again to Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, and, since they are much better armed, killed far more.

Cameron has been not only approving arms sales to the dictatorships of Egypt, Saudi and Bahrain but actively promoting them .

At the height of the Arab Spring protests when Mubarak’s forces, the Saudis’ and those of the Bahrain monarchy were jailing, torturing and killing democracy protesters, Cameron brought a delegation of arms salesmen with him on his tour of this countries  (6).

The Saudis have been bombing schools and hospitals in the civil war in Yemen, in attacks described as war crimes by Amnesty International (7).

Months after Amnesty’s report on this, Cameron was still describing the latest arms deal he had negotiated with the Saudi monarchy as “brilliant” (8).

This is the man with the gall to criticise Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to torpedo the chances of peace between Israelis and Palestinians by disowning Hamas.

David Cameron, a man happy to not only call war criminals and murdering dictators his friends, but not only approve, but actively promote and negotiate arms deals with them.

Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile only tries to get Hamas and Hezbollah involved in peace talks to end the killing.

(1) = 07 Oct 2015 ‘Cameron on Corbyn: were the PM's attacks on Labour's leader justified?’,

(2) = Independent 04 May 2016 ‘David Cameron attacks Jeremy Corbyn over Hamas and Hezbollah 'friends' comments’,

(3) = Independent 10 Jun 2015 ‘It's time for Israel to talk to Hamas, says former Mossad head’,

(4) = Mother Jones 19 Feb 2008 ‘Israel's Mossad, Out of the Shadows’,

(5) = BBC News 26 Jan 2006 ‘Hamas sweeps to election victory’,

(6) = 21 Feb 2011 ‘David Cameron's Cairo visit overshadowed by defence tour’,

(7) = Independent 12 Dec 2015 ‘Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen's schools, Amnesty International claims’,

(8) = 25 Feb 2016 ‘David Cameron boasts of 'brilliant' UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia’,

No, Turkey is not a safe country for refugees

So sending refugees back there to
“discourage others from making the dangerous journey”
is hypocrisy

Many politicians have been claiming that they are refusing refugees asylum and sending them back to Turkey in order to “discourage others from making the dangerous journey” to the EU. There are a few problems with that story.

First Turkey is not a safe country for refugees in any sense. Turkey has been deporting Syrian refugees back to Syria since January , including many children (1) – (2).

On top of that Turkish border guards have actually begun shooting Syrian refugees as they try to cross the border  (3).

And since the middle of last year there has also been civil war in Turkey itself, between the Turkish government and military and Kurdish separatist groups. There was a peace process between the two and negotiations were close to a breakthrough. Then left-wing Kurdish pro-peace HDP party won enough seats in an election to take away President Erdogan’s AKP party’s majority in parliament (4) – (5).

At the same time in Syria,  Syrian Kurdish groups with the support of the PKK (a Turkish Kurdish separatist group) took territory in Syria, on the border with Turkey. This raised Turkish fears of a Kurdish state (6).

Erdogan responded by restarting the war with the PKK and other Kurdish separatists in Turkey. Kurdish civilians in Turkey are among the casualties of Turkish military sniper fire and there is some evidence of war crimes against Kurdish civilians (7) – (8).

This means Turkish Kurds aren’t even safe, let alone Syrian Kurdish refugees.

What’s more there has been no food for many of the Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon since the middle of last year, when the UN was forced to cut off food aid to many of them due to lack of funds. Wealthier governments simply haven’t donated enough money to buy that food (9).

Nor is Turkey even a proper democracy for people born there – journalists and even opposition MPs who criticise the government are often jailed.  Insulting the President is a criminal offence with a sentence of 4 years or more in jail. So refugees can forget about having any rights at all (10) – (11).

Libya is even more dangerous, with the many sided civil war still going on.

Why aren’t The Muslim / Arab countries Taking Their Share?
They are – EU countries aren’t

The Gulf states including Saudi, despite some mistaken media reports, have been taking in some Syrian refugees, but given Saudi is a hardline Sunni Muslim dictatorship with religious police, no Christian, Shia Muslim, secular, or moderate Sunni Muslim Syrian refugee is likely to want to go there. (see the blog post on this link – scrolling down to bolded sub-heading ‘Are the wealthiest Arab states refusing to take in any Syrian refugees?’)

The reality is that Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have each taken far more refugees per capita and relative to their size and wealth than any EU country. (also see comparison of the UK and Jordan on the post on this link under bolded  sub-heading ‘Is the UK taking more than its share of refugees'). (12)

The EU and the UK should take more. And as long as both are sending refugees, including children, back to Turkey, pretending it’s a “safe country”, it is impossible to be proud to be either British or European.

True, David Cameron did do a partial u-turn on his government’s refusal to allow any unaccompanied child refugees from Calais to be granted asylum in the UK. But this only allows children who arrived before 20th March to apply for refugee status – and there is no guarantee of any who reach their 18th birthday soon being allowed to stay after that (13).

Why are they coming here illegally?
Because They’re Given No Other Option

As for the outrage over migrants and refugees “coming here illegally” what choice are they given? The vast majority of them have none. Other than the pitiful number of 4,000 a year being selected by the UK from refugee camps in Turkey, out of millions of Syrian refugees, to one of the richest and largest countries in the EU, they have to the EU or UK illegally to make an asylum claim (14) – (15).

The obvious alternative would be for governments like the UK’s to tell their embassies in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon (and also countries bordering Libya, like Tunisia) to accept applications for asylum from people in those countries. Those whose claims were judged genuine would be granted refugee status and helped to travel safely to the UK, meaning they wouldn’t have to make dangerous journeys, pay people smugglers who are often violent criminals, or do anything illegal.


(1) = BBC News 15 Jan 2016 ‘Turkey 'acting illegally' over Syria refugees deportations’,

(2) = Amnesty International 01 Apr 2016 ‘Turkey: Illegal mass returns of Syrian refugees expose fatal flaws in EU-Turkey deal’,

(3) = Independent 31 Mar 2016 ‘Turkey 'shooting dead' Syrian refugees as they flee civil war’,

(4) = Newsweek 04 Aug 2015 ‘Turkey's Erdoğan calls on other parties to be 'realistic' after his party loses its majority’,

(5) = Independent 08 Jun 2015 ‘Turkey's Erdoğan calls on other parties to be 'realistic' after his party loses its majority’,

(6) = Telegraph 25 Jul 2015 ‘For Erdogan, Turkish assault is about containing the Kurds as much as fighting Isil’,

(7) = Guardian 08 Sep 2015 ‘Kurdish civilians hit by snipers as Turkey cracks down on militants’,

(8) = Independent 22 Jan 2016 ‘Video shows Kurds waving white flag 'shot by Turkish soldiers'’,

(9) = Guardian 06 Sep 2015 ‘UN agencies 'broke and failing' in face of ever-growing refugee crisis’,

(10) = New Yorker ‘Turkey’s jailed journalists’,

(11) = BBC News 16 Apr 2015 ‘The problem with insulting Turkey's President Erdogan’,

(12) = Amnesty International 03 Feb 2016 ‘Syria's refugee crisis in numbers’,

(13) = 07 May 2016 ‘Should David Cameron’s U-turn on unaccompanied child refugees be celebrated?’,

(14) = BBC News 07 Sep 2015 ‘UK to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020’,

(15) = See (10) above