Ceasefire calls are misguided 4 January, 2009
Israel’s actions against Hamas have reached a new phase with a land invasion of Gaza. The action is clearly designed to destroy Hamas’ terror infrastructure and silence the rocket attacks that are plaguing Israeli cities. The action is both morally and legally justified by article 51 of the UN Charter which explicitly allows countries to defend their territory from unlawful attack. Yet today we have calls from Gordon Brown for an immediate ceasefire – for Israel to halt its attacks on Gaza and for Hamas to end its rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
So much for the much heralded friend of Israel, the son of the manse with a moral compass! It seems his compass is pointing in the wrong direction. Gordon Brown’s calls for a ceasefire (echoed by Nicholas Sarkozy, Ban Ki Moon and a host of other politicians) draw an entirely false equivalence between the actions of a legitimate democracy acting in self defence and those of a ruthless terrorist organization. Israel is seeking to defend its citizens by directly attacking Gaza’s terrorists and their centres of operation. They are doing all they can to minimize civilian casualties which is why, after 8 days of war, only 60 civilians (out of 450 people) have died.
By contrast, Hamas fires weapons indiscriminately at Israeli population centres, aiming to kill as many non combatants as possible. Where is the morality, the legality and the logic in treating these two equally? It is an utterly perverse form of reasoning.
A ceasefire at this stage would be immoral in principle and counter productive in practice. During the last ceasefire Hamas allowed rockets to bombard Israeli cities, the same as what happened during the previous ‘ceasefires’. Were the fighting to stop tomorrow, Hamas would still possess rockets, tunnels and a variety of other military hardware and would therefore be able to inflict grave harm on Israeli civilians. This is not the recipe for peace. Rightly, Israel has rejected these silly calls so that it can concentrate on destroying its enemy’s ability to wage war.
Nonetheless things are not all bad. Karel Schwarzenegger, the Czech foreign minister, has defended Israel’s actions, describing them as ‘defensive.’ He said: ‘Let us realize one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more.’ He added: ‘Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel?’ Indeed. Amid the political gloom, at least some politicians see things clearly.
The onward march of the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (and yes, we're funding it) 7 January, 2009
Yes, there are war crimes in Gaza. But they are being committed by Islamist fanatics in a flagrant breach of the laws of war.
In case you hadn’t noticed it, there is more than one war being fought in Gaza. As well as the terror war with Israel, which Hamas is fortunately losing, there is the media/propaganda war which they appear to be winning, at least in Britain. Take yesterday’s attack on the UN building in Gaza.
The BBC reports (on the 6 O’Clock news, the 10 O’clock news and Newsnight) implied that Israel had carried out a criminal and reckless violation of the laws of war. Instantly pictures were beamed around the world showing terrible scenes: bloodied children being dragged out of the building on stretchers, screaming relatives crying over loved ones, images of the building showing the scars of war. And then you had BBC commentators describing this as a ‘massacre’ with potentially significant international repercussions. This was the Qana of 2009. A massacre and a war crime it was – but perpetrated by whom?
The Israeli narrative, namely that their soldiers were fired upon from inside the building and that they were simply returning fire, was met with a tone of incredulity. Well yes, this is what the Israelis have said – but try putting that across to the dozens killed and maimed. The same disgraceful fixation on the Hamas narrative (and intellectual incompetence in not asking proper questions) happened the day before.
According to several reports, the UNRWA building had effectively been turned into a war zone by Hamas terrorists who planted booby trap devices inside it. They fired at Israeli soldiers nearby who returned fire, setting off the booby trap bombs which then killed dozens of people. If true, this is obviously shocking, though hardly surprising. Think back to the Jenin ‘massacre’ of 2002 when UNRWA buildings doubled as munition camps and bomb factories.
The BBC was fixated on a UNRWA spokesman who insisted that the Israelis had been given their GPS co-ordinates and therefore could not understand why the building had come under attack. Of course, this is a red herring for two reasons. As Mark Regev, Ehud Olmert’s press spokesman said earlier tonight, there is such a thing as the ‘fog of war’ and when soldiers come under attack, they fire back without always having the luxury of knowing what they are firing at. What else exactly are soldiers supposed to do? War is not a suicide pact where you allow the enemy to destroy you.
More to the point, why did the workers of the supposedly neutral UN, that wonderful impartial arbiter of morality and justice, allow their building to be turned into a war zone under the control of Hamas? That the UNWRA team were complicit with terror is itself a fairly shocking betrayal of their own alleged neutrality.
Worse, the BBC routinely trots out the figure for Palestinian dead (this morning it stood at 660) but without always mentioning that the majority are Hamas terrorists. Would it be fair to say that 10,000 Afghans have died since 2001, as opposed to 10,000 Taleban? Then we hear of the 'violence' being committed by Israel and Hamas 'militants', as if there was a political and moral equivalence between each side.
But the BBC is little interested in the human shields policy. Hamas’ utterly brutal and cynical disregard for human life is blurred by the ghastly sight of dead bodies and the heart rending screams of Palestinian mothers. The BBC is literally allowing Hamas to get away with murder and with the terrorism of their own civilians. Here all standards of journalistic integrity have been thrown out of the window, all semblance of balance and respect for truth discarded. Yes, there are war crimes in Gaza. But they are being committed by Islamist fanatics in a flagrant breach of the laws of war.
Of course, the death of any innocent civilians is a tragedy which is to be lamented. No side in war has an automatic monopoly of right. But this should not blind us to the reasons why non combatants are dying in Gaza right now.
Hamas may be losing militarily but they remain convinced that they can win the media war with Israel, and the West. With the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation on their side, can anyone blame them?
Deterrence in Lebanon and Gaza 8 January, 2009
In the 12 days since the Gaza operation, Israel has experienced quiet on her northern border with Lebanon, so as to avoid the dread prospect of a two front war. It might seem then that with the launching of five rockets from Lebanon into Northern Israel today, that reality has dramatically changed. Is Israel about to find herself subject to a two pronged attack on her western and northern borders?
I think this is unlikely, though I express this doubt in tentative terms. Firstly, if the Iranian backed Hizbollah had really wanted to open a new front in this war, they could have done so at any point in the last week. Secondly, five rockets, though terrifying for the residents of Nahariya, is small fry compared to the massive barrage of rockets fired by Hamas in recent weeks. One hopes this was no more than an act of ‘gestural terror’.
The relative quiet from Lebanon in the last 12 days is strongly connected to Israeli war aims in Gaza. It can be summed up in a single word: deterrence. In 2006 Hezbullah claimed victory after a 34 day war in which their militants survived a lengthy aerial blitz. Israel’s war aims were overstated at the time and led to political fallout after the army failed to destroy Hezbullah. But the Lebanese terror group also suffered considerable losses and even their leader, Sheikh Nasrallah, was said to be taken by surprise at the ferocity of the Israeli response. The actions of July 2006 appear to have had a deterrent effect on Hizbullah and their Iranian sponsors.
Today Israel is ruling out (rightly in my view) a commitment to re-occupy Gaza. This action alone would guarantee the total and unmitigated defeat of Hamas, ensuring that rocket fire ended for good, but it would carry a heavy political and financial cost. Instead, the IDF hopes to inflict as much harm as possible on the Hamas terror infrastructure and diminish their capacity to wage war on Israel. They will not, and cannot, disarm a determined militant foe forever. They must hope therefore that the full blast of war over the past 12 days deters both Hamas (and Iran) from further rocket bombardments. The price for terror is now much higher than in was a fortnight ago.
More infamy at the UN 9 January, 2009
Is this the way the war will end? The UN (United in notoreity) Security Council has approved a text which ‘stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.’ It condemns ‘all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism,’ the need to prevent illegal arms trafficking and the provision of humanitarian assistance on the ground. Even though Israel does not have to comply as this is not a Chapter 7 Resolution (and therefore lacks legally binding force), the diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire will intensify. Nonetheless the Olmert government has rightly rejected this resolution as impractical, given that rocket fire from Gaza continues unabated.
This is the UN all over. To condemn ‘all violence and hostilities directed against civilians’ suggests a wholly unwarranted equivalence between a legitimate UN member state and an internationally proscribed terror outfit that masquerades as a government. Hamas and Israel have been placed on the same false footing, making a mockery of international justice. This is utterly wrong headed in principle and provides a murderous Islamist terror organization with false legitimacy. It could only happen at the United Nations.
In any case, while the resolution clearly mentions the need to prevent ‘arms trafficking’, one of the causes of this conflict, it says little about how this will be achieved. Is Israel to rely on UN ‘peacekeepers’ and monitors on the Egyptian border? In the past, these UN officials have simply fled at the first sign of terror, creating a vacuum that has been subsequently exploited by Israel’s enemies. Alternatively they have turned a blind eye to militants. In Lebanon, despite Resolution 1701 which called for the disarming of Hezbollah, the terror group has amassed a vast supply of rockets, including the long range Zelzal which is believed to be capable of striking Tel Aviv. The monitoring and prevention facilities to stop this are wholly inadequate. There is a big divide between the rhetoric and the reality in this resolution.
Worse still are the hints coming from the Obama team that the President Elect may initiate secret contacts with Hamas when he takes office. This would certainly fit in with his commitment to sit down and negotiate with America’s enemies, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is Hamas’ chief financial sponsor. It would certainly represent a significant ‘change’ of approach from the Bush administration. But it would be a profoundly mistaken form of change.
Hamas does not have discrete, local grievances which can be resolved through the normal processes of dialogue and negotiation. Their ultimate aims, like those of al Qaeda, are non negotiable and beyond the pale. Their anti semitic charter sees Palestine as Islamic land that cannot be surrendered to the ‘infidel’ Jew; not even one square inch. That is why they brainwash young children to hate Jews (yes, not Israelis) and to kill as many of them as possible in line with their deranged religious cult. If Obama thinks he can soften religious extremists with these kinds of diplomatic overtures, he will make a graveyard for his administration.
Hamas and Al Qaeda, despite differences of geography and demography, are on an ideological continuum. They both confront Western democracies with their lethal brand of militant, totalitarian Islam, using the methods of attritional warfare to capture gullible sections of the Western media. Israel is in the front line of this battle and refuses to bow down to Islamist terror and intimidation. Yet she cannot do this if her Allies in the West confer undue legitimacy on Hamas through acts of reckless diplomacy. Let us hope that wiser counsels prevail.
What is really fuelling Muslim anger? 13 January, 2009
Shahid Malik MP has warned the government that British Muslims are becoming increasingly radicalised by the images from Gaza. In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, he says: ‘There is a real feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness among Britain's Muslims in the context of Gaza and the sense of grievance and injustice is both profoundly acute and obviously profoundly unhealthy.’ The Israeli attacks on Gaza are having a ‘profoundly acute and unhealthy’ effect on British Muslims and their ‘patience is running out.’
What exactly does he mean when he says that British Muslims have a ‘profoundly unhealthy’ grievance and that their patience is ‘running out?’ If he means that Muslims are upset by the images from Gaza, that is scarcely contentious. Who wouldn’t be? When we see wailing parents mourning over their blood spattered dead children, we are instinctively sympathetic and share in their grief.
But there is a huge difference between anger and more extreme attitudes. It is one thing to feel enraged at the pain of your co-religionists, and to express this in various forms of democratic protest. It is quite another to declare oneself a participant in violent jihadist warfare against one’s fellow countrymen. The proper response to Islamic radicalisation is to tackle it at source, channelling people’s anger into more constructive activities and alerting the authorities where necessary. The same goes for any minority that espouses violence against the British state.
What Mr. Malik should consider is that it is as much the broadcasting of this war, as the events themselves, which fuels Muslim rage. For while the images of death and destruction are genuinely terrible, they do not provide adequate context for what is going on. They tell us nothing about the Hamas policy of human shields, the deliberate and cynical use of Palestinian civilians as pawns in a terror war with Israel. They do not sufficiently convey the reasons for Israel’s actions, namely that they are trying to defend themselves against an implacable terror group whose rockets have bombarded Israeli cities. Indeed the BBC has simply imbibed Hamas’ own victim centred narrative, which inadvertently helps the terrorist group win its media strategy.
Malik’s argument is entirely back to front. Israel finds itself on the front line of the global battle against militant Islam, a virulent ideology whose terrorist symptoms necessitate the radicalised attitudes Malik warns about. The West is not in danger because of Israel’s battle against radical Islam. Radical Islam is largely the reason why Israel comes under attack, and the reason why she needs to defend herself with all the vigour she can muster. That is why diplomats in Britain, Europe and the State Department do Israel such a profound disservice by making a false equivalence between Hamas’ terror and Israeli counter terrorism.
But in any case, we should be disturbed by the implications of Malik’s statements. He seems to imply that because British Muslims are getting angrier about Gaza, it is incumbent on the government to apply diplomatic pressure on Israel, and to demand that it cease its actions. In other words, he wants British foreign policy to be influenced or directed by the vocal demands of a religious minority.
This would be a dangerous precedent. For even though Gordon Brown wants a ceasefire in Gaza, and even though he accepts much of the Palestinians’ victim narrative, it is not his job to capitulate to one interest group on this, or any other, issue. His job, and that of his government, is to discern where British interests lie, and to promote and protect those interests whenever possible. This is all rather lost on poor Shahid Malik.
The demonization of Israel 15 January, 2009
Why was the international community silent when Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait were busy abusing Palestinian rights?'
Ephraim Karsh has an excellent article on the website of ‘The Jerusalem Centre for public affairs,’ titled: ‘What's Behind Western Condemnation of Israel's War against Hamas?’ In it, Karsh raises a simple, yet highly effective, point about the global reaction to events in Gaza: ‘With a unanimity that has become all too familiar, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce Israel's legitimate act of self-defense against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations. This chorus of disapproval is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world.’
The bloody conflicts that have taken place in the last half century include: ‘The long-running genocide in Darfur, with its estimated 400,000 dead and at least 2.5 million refugees, to war in the Congo, with over 4 million dead or driven from their homes, to Chechnya, where an estimated 150,000-200,000 have died and up to a third of the population has been displaced at the hands of the Russian military.’
These cases have all involved terrible and widespread abuses of human rights by dictatorial and autocratic regimes. He could have added the terrible atrocities in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, the starvation of millions in North Korea, China’s long standing repression of the Tibetans, Saddam’s genocide of the Kurds and numerous other examples.
Karsh correctly observes: ‘None of these tragedies saw protesters flock (simultaneously) into the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Oslo, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Washington, and Fort Lauderdale (to give a brief list), as has been the case during the Gaza crisis.’
Of course each of these cases will have seen demonstrations and protests of one kind or another. You often see the sad victims of Zimbabwean terror demanding justice on the streets of London, the pro Tibetan demonstrations (which I have occasionally joined) and a variety of isolated cases. But they have not spawned the internationally orchestrated outrage that has been seen in the last fortnight.
But the double standards don’t end there. It is deplorable enough that the progressives march against Israel, the only secular Western democracy in the Middle East, while ignoring crimes from the pariah nations. It is even worse when they protest only at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, while ignoring the (vastly worse) behaviour of Arab states. Thus as Karsh points out:
‘Between 1949 and 1967, Egypt and Jordan ruled the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively. Not only did they fail to put these populations on the road to statehood, but they showed little interest in protecting their human rights or even in improving the quality of their life…Nobody in the international community paid any more attention to this than they have more recently to the ongoing abuse of Palestinians across the Arab world from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, a country which was condemned in a June 2006 Amnesty International report for its "long-standing discrimination and abuses of fundamental economic and social rights of Palestinian refugees…While in the wake of the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Kuwaitis not only set about punishing the PLO for support of Saddam Hussein's brutal occupation by cutting off their financial support for Yasir Arafat's overblown and corrupt organization, but there was also a widespread slaughter of Palestinians living in Kuwait.’
Why was the international community silent when Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait were busy abusing Palestinian rights? Where were the vast crowds of ‘progressive’ peace campaigners sporting their Hamas and Hezbullah flags, animated by their sickening cries and self righteous indignation at these ‘war crimes?’ They were nowhere to be seen. Karsh then concludes:
‘The extraordinary international preoccupation with the Palestinians is a corollary of their interaction with Israel, the only Jewish state to exist since biblical times, a reflected glow of the millenarian obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds. Had their dispute been with an Arab, Muslim, or any other adversary, it would have attracted a fraction of the interest that it presently does.’
Now I have argued before that while people can talk quite dispassionately about other conflicts, they are frequently hysterical and frenzied in their views on Israel. In part this is because some are consumed by bigotry and prejudice, as Karsh observes. Look at some of the placards on display in the anti Israel marches, read the comments left on websites and you can’t fail to detect a malodorous whiff of world’s oldest hatred. Israel is frequently compared to Nazi Germany and Gaza to a concentration camp, analogies so intellectually absurd and morally offensive that they defy belief. The systematic, scientifically organized genocide of an entire people using a ghastly apparatus of mass murder is a world apart from the political and religious conflict unfolding in the Middle East.
Indeed the Nazi comparison only works well with Israel’s enemies, the Iranian funded Hamas and Hezbollah, who have imbibed the most virulent Jew hating conspiracy theories and who seek the subjugation and murder of Jewry worldwide.
Attempts to compare Israel and Nazi Germany are not borne of ignorance. Rather, those who make it are seeking to delegitimize Jewish victimhood, to taunt the Jews with the ‘irony’ that the oppressed have become transformed into the ‘oppressors’, thus assuaging Western guilt for the crimes of the past. How dare this insolent people, whose eternal role in history is to be the whipping boys of the world, rise up against their tormentors!
Of course an important qualification. I condemn as either ignorant or prejudiced those who espouse a generalized belief in human rights but decide to hate, demonize and mock the Jewish state, alone of all the nations. Those who are prepared to criticize Israel, proportionate to her crimes and follies and using language similar in tone to comparable nations, engage in essentially civilized debate. Their criticisms should certainly be welcomed by all.
But Karsh is only partly right. Israel is not demonized by ‘progressives’ and liberals just because she is the Jewish state. Israel is also a Western state, a militarized nation and a staunch ally of the United States. In a very real sense, the Palestinian issue has become a potent symbol and rallying cry for the politically discontented: for those who believe American power and Western ideology is the original sin, for those who rail against the arms race and for those who decry vigorous expressions of national pride.
It is Israel’s associations (toxic in the eyes of her enemies) with Western values, American ideals and national pride that offend the left so much. And while the world rarely sees global campaigns against Kim Il Jong, there have been internationally organized demos against the Iraq war, globalization and American imperialism. Here political correctness demands that moral judgment depend on power relations and what more powerful nation is there than the US?
Into this mix you must add the rousing influence of Arab propaganda. For decades, propagandists have depicted Israel as a power hungry, bourgeois state oppressing a victim class; a power hungry Goliath taunting a belittled David. Yet the post 1967 occupation is far more the symptom, than the cause of this conflict. After all, Israel’s enemies wanted her destroyed even before there was an occupation to talk of, and continue to rebuff attempts at creating a Palestinian state. But this well funded Arab propaganda is effective because of the widespread ignorance of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Thus what we witness here is a lethal cocktail of prejudice, political correctness and ignorance. And by failing to see how Israel is itself a victim of terror, fighting a determined jihadist onslaught from the enemies of the West, there is political blindness too on a most alarming scale.
Obama’s appointment requires sober reflection 21 January, 2009
Governor Mario Cuomo once said that American politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. This is certainly true of Barack Obama whose campaign poetry has been inspiring since he first burst on the world stage three years ago. Undoubtedly he is an enormously articulate, intelligent and charismatic man whose gift for oratory has galvanized millions. And without doubt, there is enormous symbolic significance in his appointment as President. Within the space of a half century, a country that once practised slavery and racial segregation now has a black President.
Moving as this is, we need to keep matters in sober perspective. Obama has been feted as the great hope of mankind, a man who will transform American politics and reshape the world in his own image. He has been viewed as the saviour who can redeem America after the ‘wilderness years’ of George Bush’s Republicans. His followers naturally expect him to draw a line under the policies of his much maligned predecessor for he has, after all, promised ‘change we can believe in.’ But it is this very weight of expectation, of transformative change, that could prove to be his biggest burden.
Consider some of the problems which Obama has pledged to solve. He wants to bring America’s involvement in Iraq to a speedy and responsible conclusion while shifting the conflict against Al Qaeda to Afghanistan. He has signalled his desire to fight climate change with aggressive reductions in global CO2 emissions. He wants to stamp his authority on the Middle East’s recalcitrant leaders and resolve conflicts from Gaza to Tehran. And then there is Guantanamo Bay, that festering sore that has tainted America’s image in the world.
Yet in all these areas, Obama’s aspirations will hit the frustrating wall of reality. It will be difficult to fashion a workable Kyoto style agreement unless developing countries come on board. Yet as we speak, China and India continue to spew out carbon dioxide like there is no tomorrow. With Afghanistan, Obama will need to co-opt Europe’s powers for the fight against the Taleban, yet thus far their record has been paltry to say the least. European troops tend to stay as far away from the battlefield as possible. Whether his magnetic personality will win over Europe’s leaders is difficult to say. And with Guantanamo Bay, Obama knows that there are no easy solutions. Shutting down the camp and releasing its inmates makes for good populist politics. It also runs the risk of releasing some truly dangerous individuals, hardly the way to defeat Al Qaeda.
And then there is the Middle East imbroglio: Iraq, Iran, the Palestinians and Israel. Surely here, his followers say, Obama can make up for the failures of the Bush administration. On the Arab-Israeli question though, Obama is surely too astute to believe there will be any quick fix solutions. He will remember that the Arab-Israeli conflict took up much of Bill Clinton’s time in office. But 8 years of arduous negotiations ended in the ignominious intifada launched by Yasser Arafat.
Hilary Clinton (more continuity rather than change) is a seasoned negotiator with a record as a pro Israel hawk. She has also signalled that Iran’s nuclear programme is a menace to the region and that it needs to be curtailed in the interests of the free world. It is hard to believe that American-Iranian relations, on which a resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute may hinge, will suddenly become warmer. With Iran seeking nuclear weapons and its terrorist proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, destabilizing the region, the Obama team will have their work cut out in trying to fashion a Middle East settlement.
Just like Bush, Obama recognizes that ‘soft power’ is useless against the real enemies that America now faces. Hence his statement in the inauguration speech that the US was 'at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.' This is the sort of statement that could easily have come from a Republican hawk.
In truth, Obama is a kind of blank slate on which people’s hopes have been etched. Millions have bought into his lyrical mantras of change, transformation and hope in the belief that he can restore American’s tarnished image in the world. Indeed he may. But when it comes to the hard choice of facing down threats from America’s enemies, Obama‘s room for manoeuvre may be somewhat limited. Reality, like governance, demands the nuances of prose.
The PBC strikes again 23 January, 2009
In a report on last night’s BBC News at 10, Jeremy Bowen produced a report investigating the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. The report showed ordinary Palestinians repairing tunnels, quite openly, after their bombing in the war. And what was his conclusion? Perhaps that these tunnels had been used to bring in Iranian financed weaponry designed to terrorize innocent Israelis?
Er, well, not exactly. In fact Sheikh Bowen said that many of these tunnels had been used to smuggle in food because the Israeli ‘blockade’ had made this necessary. This, despite the fact that vast amounts of aid were coming into Gaza from 2006 onwards. This, despite the fact that the whole point of Operation Cast Lead was to stop the building of tunnels from Egypt to Gaza which were bringing in, not food, but rockets. Where else were they coming from one asks?
Then Bowen interviewed a Hamas spokesman who observed that when the IRA was busy bombing British cities, British F16s were not engaged in attacks on Belfast. So why was Israel? This was of course an absurd comparison. The IRA planted bombs in shopping centres and other public targets, giving advance warnings to the authorities. Yes, these were evil tactics but they were not as lethal as those of today’s Islamist fanatics. They did not launch thousands of missiles at British towns, causing tens of thousands of people to hide in specially constructed air raid shelters. They did not fire ammunition from inside the houses and hospitals of the Catholic community or rig up churches with booby trap devices.
They also never called on their supporters to murder all British people round the world and certainly never called for the abolition of the UK. You can bet that if these things had happened, Britain’s response would have been very different in the 1970s and 80s. What is interesting is that Bowen failed to challenge any of this, effectively condoning this blatant piece of Hamas propaganda. He gave airtime for Hamas propaganda, with no Israeli interviewee in sight.
Now here’s an interesting fact. Since last week, Hamas has been guilty of numerous ceasefire violations and the BBC has said not a word. What else can we expect from the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation?
The BBC was right to spurn the DEC 25 January, 2009
The BBC has kicked up a row by refusing to allow the DEC to broadcast an appeal for the people of Gaza. They have received a withering rebuke from a clutch of MPs, broadcasters, media commentators and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as 11,000 complaints from the public. Not bad going for one weekend. On this occasion, I am not going to join the clamour.
There are perfectly good reasons for thinking that any charity appeal would violate the impartiality being so spuriously claimed by the BBC. As Andrew Roberts points out in a masterly analysis in the Times today (www.the-times.co.uk), the charities comprising the DEC follow a partisan political agenda when it comes to discussing this issue. He writes:
In the months prior to the decision by Hamas to end the six-month ceasefire and resume rocket attacks, these charities issued a flood of one- sided denunciations aimed at Israel. Their campaign repeated tendentious and often highly inaccurate terms such as “collective punishment” and “violation of international law”. On March 6, 2008, CARE International, Cafod, Christian Aid and Oxfam (among others) published a widely quoted report under the headline “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion”. The authors did not bother to hide their political bias against Israel, repeating standard Palestinian political rhetoric and including claims that Israeli policy “constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children” and is “illegal under international humanitarian law”.
He goes on: 'During the three-week war, Oxfam and other charities were extremely active in the ideological campaign that highlighted Palestinians as the sole victims and Israelis as the sole aggressors. Numerous Oxfam press statements included language such as: “The international community must not stand aside and allow Israeli leaders to commit massive and disproportionate violence against Gazan civilians in violation of international law.”
On many occasions, I have written of how Christian NGOs, in collusion with the Church of England, have pursued a politically correct, anti Israeli agenda in violation of their own claims to 'political neutralty.' They produce tendentious, one sided denunciations of Israel which ignore the suffering of Israelis from terror, while also ignoring the persecution of Palestinian moderates at the hands of extremists. There is no doubt that any charity appeal would carry inevitable political connotations, breaching BBC guidelines in the process.
Yet what is risible here is Mark Thompson's claim that by broadcasting the appeal, the BBC would be compromising their impartiality on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Compromising their impartiality?!!! How incredible that the BBC could see itself as impartial! Since when has the BBC been anything other than a politically partial, media wing of the Palestinian movement. For decades, it has imbibed an Arabist victim mentality that sees Israel as the main cause of strife in the Middle East, and the oppressor of innocent Palestine. This has rightly earned it a torrent of complaints about its lack of impartiality, no doubt infuriating some of its executives.
The BBC has rightly rejected this charity appeal, which is encouraging. But it has also claimed a false mantle of objectivity, which is not.
Iran rejects Obama's overtures 29 January, 2009
So Barack Obama now has Iran’s answer to his Presidential overtures – but not the one he expected. Instead of unclenching their fists, Tehran’s leadership have delivered the diplomatic equivalent of a sucker punch. In a belligerent speech yesterday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded far reaching and humiliating American concessions before normal relations could resume. And what did he have in mind?
"If you talk about change, you must put an end to the US military presence in the world, withdraw your troops and take them back inside your borders. Meet people, talk to them with respect and put an end to the expansionist policies. If you talk about change it must put an end to the US military presence in the world, withdraw your troops and take them back inside your borders.’ He added for good measure that Obama had to ‘stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals.’ For good measure, Ahmadinejad declared that Iran would never give up its quest for nuclear status.
So all Saint Barack has to do then is end America’s military presence around the world, cut ties with its key allies, abandon Israel and allow Iran to become the world’s first nuclear terror state, and all will be well. In other words, Iran will end its state of de facto war with the United States only if America colludes in the empowerment of an Islamist terror state that seeks regional hegemony. If these are to be the fruits of soft power, heaven help us.
His speech coincides with a worrying report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies (www.iiss.org). According to Mark Fitzpatrick, the senior fellow for non-proliferation at the IISS: "This year, it's very likely that Iran will have produced enough low-enriched uranium which, if further enriched, could constitute enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, if that is the route Iran so desires."
Despite the economic downturn and the drastic dip in the oil price, which has hit Ahmadinejad’s popularity as much as it has weakened Iran, there is no signal that the regime intends to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Iran remains in defiance of UN resolutions by enriching uranium at its Natanz plant, a process that could lead to the creation of its first nuclear weapons. Were it to join the atomic club, it could bully neighbouring states and further destabilize the region by providing nuclear know how to terrorist proxies. Nothing it seems is going to halt the Iranian juggernaut.
But for those of us who failed to detect the halo around Obama, none of this is surprising. The much heralded change we were all promised has not shifted the belligerent rhetoric of America’s enemies. Certainly Bush lacked the articulate and sophisticated touch of his successor. He was badly advised. He lacked nuance and understanding and this often played badly with the Arab world. But he did not underestimate America’s true enemies and the scale of their intent to disrupt Western interests. Obama must now do the same.
Carol Thatcher is the victim of political correctness 5 February, 2009
At first glance you might think that Carol Thatcher had been dealt her just rewards. Using the term ‘golliwog’ to describe a black tennis player seems so utterly offensive and inappropriate as to put her beyond the pale. It is the last thing we expect to hear from a representative of an organization committed to diversity, equality and tolerance.
Many people will view her dismissal as a victory for anti racism, with just a touch of Schadenfreude that she is a fallen member of the Thatcher clan. But you should always think twice when the bien pensant brigade has a settled opinion on anything. Carol Thatcher may be no martyr but she is undoubtedly a victim of political correctness and the zealous brigades who enforce it.
Of course she should not have made that comparison. Of course, whoever heard her remark had the right to be offended and to upbraid her immediately – though apparently no such complaint was made at the time. But an insensitive remark made in private is precisely that – private. It should have been dealt with and commented on by those present, not brought to the attention of the BBC. This is the behaviour we associate with 1984 and George Orwell. It is how authoritarian states behave when they possess a ubiquitous apparatus of espionage and an army of informers. But instead of Big Brother’s cameras reporting on private conversations, ordinary people have become unpaid snoopers, intent on enforcing the straightjacket of political correctness with a Puritanical zeal.
The fact that Thatcher spoke privately makes it all the harder for us to judge what she said. Did her tone imply racial malice or was it merely a throwaway remark – insensitive, thoughtless but with little harm intended? We can never be sure. And after all, how many of us say things in private that could easily be misconstrued in the public gaze? Of course, there are certain derogatory racial insults which leave little room for sympathy, and which make us certain the speaker is racially prejudiced.
What will strike many people as odd, even insulting, is the sense of selective outrage. It is apparently OK when the loud mouthed and overpaid Jonathan Ross parades his inane vulgarity on air, but an unforgivable outrage when a reporter uses the word ‘golliwog’ in private. Despite supporting the BBC’s axing of Thatcher, Tory MP Philip Davies summed up matters neatly yesterday: ‘Are the BBC saying that Carol's comments are more offensive than when Jonathan Ross called up a 78-year-old and shouted lewd messages detailing sexual acts with his granddaughter? Indeed they are and the decision reeks of double standards.
What we are witnessing here is another example of the way in which anti racism, in itself a noble quest, has been transformed into a thoroughly illiberal form of thought control. Patrick Mercer MP condemned the victim mentality of Black soldiers and was promptly fired by David Cameron. James Watson made controversial statements about African intelligence and was treated as a pariah. For years, the critics of multiculturalism, asylum and immigration have been subjected to a McCarthyite witch-hunt, classified as racists for their 'unacceptable' views. And even today, opponents of radical Islam are still called ‘Islamophobes.’
These pejorative labels have a toxic effect, helping to stifle public debate on sensitive issues. And while there certainly are xenophobes who seek political cover to vent their prejudices, this is not true of the majority who simply want to defend their nation state and its values.
In recent years, however, there has been a furious backlash from members of the public who are sick and tried of the hectoring tone of officialdom. They no longer want to be censored by the burgeoning army of diversity officers and council officials, all of whom get paid to convert us to their own dubious agenda. It is hardly surprising that of the hundreds of complaints over the Thatcher affair – many are from people supporting the axed reporter.
Thus by responding in such a heavy handed manner, BBC executives have once again shown their contempt for viewers, just as they did over the Jonathan Ross affair. Worse, in their illiberal rage over this trivial incident, they have shown little concern for common sense and justice.
Banking rot and a government too weak to stop it 9 February, 2009
Last week we learnt that the Royal Bank of Scotland intended to pay about £1 billion of bonuses to its staff. They are not alone, with Barclays and Lloyds reportedly planning similar payouts in the coming months. And how does our government respond? Alistair Darling has taken the extraordinarily ‘tough’ decision to order an urgent review into Britain’s dodgy banking practices. So while responsible governments in the United States, France and Switzerland have taken action to curb the bonus culture in their own stricken institutions, our Chancellor merely orders a review, one that will report back in the autumn and have little impact on the imminent bonus scandal.
Now most people have little problem with incentives for success. But just what success have these investment bankers achieved? Can it count as success to bring banks to their knees by years of reckless lending? Are you successful when your profligate behaviour wrecks blue chip companies to such an extent that they need state aid to ensure their survival?
RBS is a case in point. It recently posted losses of £28 billion, the single largest corporate loss in British history. Its shares, which were once valued at £13, are now virtually worthless. Their executives claim that without hefty bonuses, they will lose the services of ‘good’ workers who are needed to repair the damage of recent years.
This is bogus, self serving claptrap. Those bankers who now salivate at the prospect of six figure payouts would be holding their P45 now had the government not stepped in with its rescue package last October. Unlike their co-workers in the City, they should count themselves lucky just to have a job at all. These bonuses represent the ultimate reward for business failure and are a slap in the face for the rest of us. In the long term, they will only fuel the reckless behaviour that helped get the banks into this mess in the first place.
So what are our far sighted duo at no. 10 and 11 doing about all this? The Chancellor declared yesterday: 'What is wrong is that whereas in the past a bonus was something special you got as a reward for hard work or putting in an extra effort, over the years a lot of bankers have come to expect very large bonuses, as a right. That just cannot go on.' This is true. But if so, it begs the question why he and his boss next door have done nothing to alter it.
The government (through us) is the majority shareholder in RBS and is therefore in a strong position to influence bonus payouts. And while some will argue that it would be too heavy handed to regulate bonuses or wages, can it really be more heavy handed than actually nationalizing a bank?
There is certainly no good political reason for refusing to tackle this rapacious behaviour. Ordinary voters are hardly going to punish Labour for clamping down on the very corporate greed that necessitated the bail out in the first place. It makes the government's timorous under reaction all the more bizarre.
After the 7th July bombings, Tony Blair declared that the rules of the game had changed. The same rule now applies to the banks and the sooner they realised this, the better.