08 October 2009

Dear Sir

Ken Livingstone labours under the delusion that Hamas will moderate their views once they become interlocutors in the 'peace process'.

But Khaled Meshal is not Gerry Adams nor is his ideology susceptible to pragmatism or compromise. The leader of Hamas remains ideologically committed to destroying every vestige of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. He believes he has a divine mandate to ethnically cleanse the Jews, leading him to reject the so-called 'peaceful solutions' to resolve the Palestinian problem.

It is also made perfectly clear on the Hamas website that opposition to Israel springs, not from the occupation of the West Bank, but from a visceral loathing of Jews who are blamed for the French Revolution and World War. Take Article 22: 'With their money, they [the Jews] took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others.' Livingstone's refusal to grasp cause and effect shows he is merely one of Hamas' 'useful idiots'.

It is not just the content of the interview that is troubling but also its methodology. Livingstone asks Meshal one question about the movement's 'ideology and goals' and another about whether he is committed to the destruction of Israel. Meshal ducks each question with a rambling discourse that centres on Palestinian victimhood. One is left with the impression that the leader in exile is a heroic man of sweet reasonableness.

But here Livingstone shows off his terrible double standards. It is hard to imagine that this arch titan of political correctness, this mighty warrior for the victim culture, would accept such obfuscation from a white, right-wing bigot like Nick Griffin.

In an equivalent interview, Livingstone would have grilled Griffin forensically, pointing to every past statement of racism or homophobia as evidence of a deep moral lapse. By treating Meshal with kid gloves, Livingstone serves up a sickening endorsement of Islamist propaganda.

But then in Livingstone's world view, the prime threats to western civilisation are the United States and her allies (including Israel), while minorities who offer 'resistance' are its archetypal heroes. The Hamas ideology can be brushed aside because the movement is, as he sees it, on the right side of history. That is, on the same side as Chavez, Ahmadinejad and North Korea.

If it was only the hard left calling for a dialogue with Hamas, there would be little problem. Sadly it is becoming the received wisdom in Britain, Europe and even parts of Israel that such a dialogue is credible and that it may bear fruit for the wider Middle East. Clearly in today's world, there are many useful idiots.

24 September 2009

Dear Sir

In any sane court of international opinion, democracies would be rewarded for fighting terror and protecting their citizens. But in the halls of the UN, different rules apply. In their topsy turvy moral universe, Israel is the aggressor and her terrorist enemies the victims in an outright inversion of truth, justice and morality. It is no surprise then that the UN mandated Goldstone report on the Gaza war is such a grotesquely one sided document.

Right from the start its mandate was biased: ‘to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel.’ Worse, one of report’s commissioners, Professor Christine Chinkin, had co-signed a letter to The Times months before the investigation in which she argued that ‘Israel’s actions amount to aggression…contrary to international law.’ Her prejudgment amounts to a blatant violation of the rule of impartiality, a key demand of any UN investigation. It is like stepping into court, knowing in advance that the judge and jury have found you guilty. This is the Alice in Wonderland school of justice.

While the report condemns the launching of ‘indiscriminate’ attacks into southern Israel, its primary focus is to record alleged Israeli war crimes. It claims that Israel’s actions were ‘a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.’

Yet the IDF went out of its way to warn residents in advance about impending attacks through telephone calls and leaflet drops, something acknowledged in the report. The UN should have consulted Colonel Richard Kemp, who observed that there had been ‘no time in the history of warfare when an army (had) made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and the deaths of innocent people than the IDF’ in Gaza.

The ‘fact finding’ report presents contested claims, many from anti Israeli NGOs, as if they were fact. Gaza is repeatedly described as ‘occupied Palestinian territory’ despite Hamas being in full control of the area. One paragraph is devoted to criticising the Israeli ‘blockade’ of Gaza yet fails to recognise that the territory has two borders, one with neighbouring Egypt.

Israel is accused of using Palestinians as human shields yet the report finds ‘no evidence to suggest that Palestinian armed groups directed civilians to areas where attacks were being launched.’ Yet interviews with Palestinians were conducted in territory controlled by Gaza and the authors admit to a ‘reluctance by the persons interviewed to discuss the activities of the armed groups.’ It is hardly surprising that Palestinians kept quiet about their use as human shields!

Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are described as ‘armed groups’, not terrorists, as if to confer on them a spurious mantle of legitimacy. But there is an absolute difference between terrorist groups indiscriminately attacking innocent civilians and a sovereign nation, and UN member, defending its citizens from attack. Yet this vital distinction is repeatedly blurred by a maze of arguments about international law.

The report doubts that Israel will investigate claims of abuses ‘in an impartial, independent, prompt and effective way.’ But this is a malicious suggestion. Israel’s Supreme Court is famed the world over for its impartial jurisprudence and its ability to hold the government to account. In 2004 it ordered Israel’s government to re-route the security barrier on the grounds that it interfered with Palestinian rights. To disregard Israel’s judiciary in such a crass manner is both misguided and immoral.

But then none of this should surprise us. The Human Rights Council, which mandated the Goldstone Report, has a despicable anti Israel obsession. In its first year it passed 9 resolutions, every one condemning Israeli policy, leading Kofi Annan to condemn its ‘disproportionate focus on violations by Israel.’ Like the UN itself, the Human Rights Council is dominated by autocracies and Islamic nations which seek to delegitimise the Jewish state.

In sum, this report is a farrago of half truths and recycled propaganda that mirrors the institutionalised bigotry of the UN. It should be disowned by all civilised nations.

31 July 2009

Dear Sir

In May this year, Ken Loach pressured organisers of the Edinburgh International Film Festival to return a 300 grant from the Israeli embassy, money which was intended to pay for the visit of Israeli film maker, Tali Shalom Ezer. After rejecting the demand at first, the organisers, in an abrupt volte face, tamely acquiesced and returned the money, promising to fund Ezer's trip themselves. The episode was objectionable on a number of grounds, not least because of Loach's ill conceived and bigoted views. Like his earlier call to boycott Israeli cultural institutions, Loach was being somewhat selective in his denunciation. There was no demand to boycott festivals sponsored by the governments of Iran, Zimbabwe or China, despite their vastly worse record on human rights. To hold a film maker responsible for the actions of her government was also self evidently absurd. Ezer, with her apolitical film, no more spoke for the IDF than did Loach for the Hollywood establishment.

But even worse was the behaviour of the festival organisers. Having initially rejected Loach's demands on the grounds that a boycott would politicise 'a wholly cultural and artistic mission', they caved in to the film maker's bullying behaviour. By returning the 300 grant to Israel, they became accomplices to his sinister political campaign. In the last few days, Loach has tried the same tactic - but this time with very different results. On 13 July, he wrote to Richard Moore, director of the Melbourne Film Festival, with a request to 'reconsider accepting Israel as a sponsor' in view of 'the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods' and 'the massacres in Gaza.'

Moore replied by pointing out that the festival had a tradition of showing films examining many points of view on Middle Eastern affairs, including ones that centred on the problems of Palestinian life. He wanted audiences to 'judge these films on their own merits' and, as a result, he would not return Israeli money. In his words, it would be tantamount to 'submitting to blackmail.' Loach has subsequently withdrawn his film (Looking for Eric) and exited the festival. Bravo to Mr Moore and the organisers of the Melbourne festival. How refreshing that they stuck to their principles and refused to kowtow to vicious intolerance and prejudice - unlike their counterparts in Edinburgh.

18 June 2009

Dear Sir

Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech which endorsed, in principle, a demilitarised Palestinian state, was a triumph of realism and moral clarity. In a telling rebuttal to President Obama, he rejected the claim that Israel's legitimacy rested primarily on a history of persecution. Instead it was the Jewish attachment to the land over more than three millennia which provided ample historical justification. Unlike Obama, he also refused to draw any false equivalence between the Israeli and Palestinian narratives. The reason for this conflict was quite simply 'the (Arab) refusal to recognise the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in their historic homeland'.

Thus before further Israeli withdrawals, which would merely give oxygen to extremists, the Palestinians had to end terror and incitement while strengthening governance and the rule of law. They also had to do two things that had thus far eluded the Palestinian Authority: recognise Israel as a Jewish state and reject the Palestinian 'right of return'. Now we all have the 'moderate' Palestinian response. Israel's Prime Minister stands accused of 'burying the peace process' and destroying 'all initiatives and expectations.' Palestinian officials are outraged that they should recognise Israel as a Jewish nation or settle refugees in their own state. There are even calls to resume the intifada. No reaction better vindicates Netanyahu's point about why this conflict persists today.

07 May 2009

Dear Sir

One has to ask the diplomats who walked out of the Geneva conference just what they were expecting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to say. Did they believe the Iranian President would offer a restrained contribution to the proceedings with his appalling track record on the Holocaust? Did they think he would pass up the chance for a bit of hatemongering when it was so deeply etched into his world view? How could they take seriously any conference organized by the leaders of Iran, Cuba and Pakistan? Never mind walking out, these diplomats should never have attended Durban II in the first place. They ought to have seen this grotesquely misnamed ‘anti racism’ conference for what it was – a human rights sham organized by some of the world’s worst tyrannies. The Western diplomats who turned up gave an unwarranted legitimacy to the whole rotten spectacle, and tarnished their own reputation in the process. Still, at least the leaders of Iran, Cuba and Pakistan were happy.

19 February 2009

Dear Sir

Last week President Obama received an Iranian answer to his Presidential overtures – though hardly the one he expected. Instead of unclenching his fists, Iran’s bellicose President delivered the diplomatic equivalent of a sucker punch. In a belligerent speech, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded far reaching and humiliating American concessions before the resumption of normal relations. America had to apologize for its ‘crimes’ against the Arab world, withdraw its forces into US borders and stop supporting ‘Zionists, outlaws and criminals.’

For good measure, he declared that Iran would never give up its quest for nuclear status. In other words, Iran would end its state of de facto war with the United States only if America colluded in the empowerment of an Islamist terror state that sought regional dominance and the destruction of Israel.

To make matters worse, the International Institute of Strategic Studies released a report estimating that Iran could soon have enough low-enriched enriched uranium to produce fissile material for one nuclear weapon. Lest we forget, were Iran to join the atomic club, it could bully neighbouring states and further destabilize the region by providing nuclear know how to its terrorist proxies, Hamas and Hezbullah. We all know which nation would be their prize target.

Of course, there is something to be said for tough minded diplomacy in intractable conflicts; hence the repeated emphasis on ‘soft power.’ But facing an implacable enemy with an insatiable appetite for nuclear weapons, Obama would do well to remember that power must sometimes be hard as well as soft.

01 February 2009

Dear Sir

There are three lessons to be learnt from Israel’s current actions in Gaza. Firstly, those who call for ‘deals’ with Hamas are deluded. Every truce (hudna) has given the Islamists breathing space to rebuild their terror infrastructure, with lethal consequences for Israeli civilians. It is always fantasy politics to negotiate with a party that seeks your obliteration.

Secondly, Arab-Israeli peace initiatives are futile without tackling Iran. The Islamic Republic is the chief sponsor and financer of the Hamas terror machine, as well as providing support for Hezbullah in Lebanon. As a result, Iran continues to destabilise the Middle East by empowering its terrorist proxies across the region. With the West paralyzed by economic crisis, the likelihood of an Iranian bomb grows daily, creating another serious obstacle to peace.

Thirdly, Israel cannot afford to withdraw unilaterally from disputed territory. In 2000, Israeli troops left Lebanon hastily, creating a vacuum that was exploited by Hezbollah. The 2006 war showed the deadly and predictable consequences. In 2005, Israel evacuated Gaza, creating another territorial vacuum that was later filled, to deadly effect, by Hamas. To offer territorial concessions without guarantees of either political reform or security is short sighted and dangerous.