Diary

Mr. Blair's peace mission

28 June, 2007

Tony Blair has finally been confirmed as an envoy for the Middle East quartet, having stepped down from no. 10. In an earlier post I questioned how Britain’s own neo-con could hope to advance democracy abroad while assaulting ‘democratic’ demands at home over the EU. This is not a position from which I demur. But while not wishing to retract this position, I believe there are more substantial reasons for being cautious about his appointment.

Without doubt, Mr. Blair has formidable political skills including, by all accounts, an incredibly persuasive manner. He has also developed a particularly insightful view of the Middle East conflict. More so than other statesmen, he has understood that the lethal threat from Al Qaeda cannot be appeased at any costs. He has also picked up on the expanding tentacles of terror that emanate from Iran and Syria, and which are linked with attacks as far apart as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza. Contrary to much popular opinion, this understanding actually enhances his standing with moderate Arab rulers for, as I have argued elsewhere, it is precisely these Sunni countries (Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) that are most worried about an Iranian (Shia) dominated Middle East.

Mr. Blair’s problem is that he continues to subscribe to the conventional wisdom about the Arab-Israeli conflict, which dictates that it is largely territorial and can be solved through ‘land for peace’. As he said yesterday: 'The only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is the two-state solution, which means a state of Israel that is secure and confident of its security, and a Palestinian state that is not merely viable in terms of its territory, but in terms of its institutions and governance.' In other words, the Oslo formula of the 1990s.

But this is to misunderstand the dynamics of the conflict. For when Israel has made territorial concessions (i.e. in Lebanon and Gaza), the consequence is not an advance of the ‘peace process’ but an immediate escalation of terror. This is because the rejectionist camp, among both Palestinians and their Iranian backed allies, views these concessions as evidence of a loss of Israeli (and Western) resolve and another step towards eliminating Israel. This is not to deny that the status quo should continue. Ultimately, Israel will have to disengage from the majority of the West Bank so that the Palestinians can rule themselves. But this can only happen when certain other issues have been addressed.

Blair can point to an impressive measure of success in Northern Ireland, where he brought together warring parties from opposite sides of the political spectrum. But at no point in that conflict did Sinn Fein make non negotiable religious demands. Their demands, expressed through the indiscriminate and heinous violence of the IRA, were overtly political ones, namely the unification of Ulster with the rest of Ireland. It was ultimately possible, once the violence had died down, to construct a negotiated solution between unionists and republicans, despite their obvious religious differences.

But the war against Israel, from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Ahmadinejad in Tehran, and extremists from Fatah is not ultimately political. Instead it represents a form of religious holy war, perpetrated by fanatics who wish to permanently vanquish the Jewish presence in Israel. Rather than accepting a two state settlement, they would seek to use any ‘state’ as another front in their 60 year war against the Jews. The aim is not Israel/Palestine but an Islamicized Palestine which is Judenfrei.

A generation of Arab and Muslim rejectionists has been indoctrinated in the belief that the Jews are a kind of demonic force which has usurped the natural occupants of Palestine. This is the result of a ferocious campaign of anti Semitism across the Arab world, which has been disseminated in classrooms, summer schools, newspapers and on television. The Anti Defamation League (www.adl.org) has a stunning archive of Middle East anti Semitism from the last decade which is truly eye opening. Without addressing how this Islamic media hate fest generates terror, the Quarter will get nowhere.

Yes, our former PM is a formidable communicator with great negotiating skills and the ability to charm the birds from the trees. But so was Bill Clinton and his peace efforts got nowhere. Tony Blair has given himself a truly formidable task. It is in the spirit of generosity, rather than optimism, that I wish him success.

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How can Tony Blair be a Middle East envoy after this disgusting affront to democracy?

26 June, 2007

In a final act of treachery before quitting no. 10, Tony Blair has now ruled out a referendum on the new ‘amending treaty’ (that’s the EU constitution for everyone else) which he signed last weekend. In a spectacular affront to Parliament and the British nation, Mr. Blair denied that any referendum was required, claiming that the treaty was fundamentally different to the original document and adding that it was ‘quintessentially in British interests’. For once, David Cameron rose to the challenge of being opposition leader. Mr. Blair had acted, he said, "without the permission of the British people," and went on: “This will be remembered as one of the most flagrant breaches of any of the promises you have made.”

Any hopes that Gordon Brown would restore a sense of political accountability were dashed yesterday. On the BBC’s Politics show, the Chancellor declared that this new treaty was “like every other treaty that has been negotiated - Nice, Amsterdam, Maastricht” and that “while many other people will call for a referendum, it seems to me that we have met our negotiating position.” The man who famously kept us out of the Euro has now sold us down the river on the Constitution.

But the claim that this new treaty is a different animal to the original constitution is disingenuous nonsense. The old Constitution required a full time President and Foreign Minister. The new ‘Treaty’ has a full time President and Foreign Minister (in all but name). The old Constitution called for the EU to have a single legal personality to give it treaty making powers. Guess what, the new Constitution has the same.

The Old Constitution called for the incorporation of the Charter for Fundamental Rights. So does this one, with a half hearted opt out for Britain. The old Constitution called for a slimming down of the European Commission. You guessed it, so does the new one. Just like the old Constitution, this one extends powers for Europol and the European Court of Justice. For all his talk of red lines, the Prime Minister has sacrificed nearly 50 vetoes in a variety of policy areas, including transport, energy and space policy. Still think this is a mere amending treaty? Neither do I.

Still, what else did we expect? Angela Merkel let the cat out of the bag (via a leaked document) last month when she admitted that the proposed new treaty used ‘different terminology’ without ‘changing the legal substance’ of the original constitution. It was necessary, she added, to make ‘presentational changes’ to spin away the charge that this was a recycled version of the Constitution. For good reason Bertie Ahern has commented that the treaty preserves ‘90% of the original constitution’ while José Luis Zapatero has triumphantly claimed that ‘the great part of the European Constitution is in the new treaty.’

Ignore for a minute whether or not you endorse the European superstate, the existence of which is now indisputable. After all, any entity possessing its own currency, passport, President, Foreign minister, Supreme Court, stamp and anthem, is a state in all but name. The fact is that the Prime Minister explicitly promised a referendum on this issue two years ago. The overwhelming majority of MPs also included the referendum pledge in their manifestos in May 2005. By ruling out a referendum, the Blair/Brown duumvirate has undermined the authority of Parliament and insulted the British electorate.

How can Mr. Blair jet off to the Middle East hoping to spread democracy and liberal values when he doesn’t give a damn about democracy in Britain? Mr. Blair and his acolytes appear to be the unfortunate victims of a curious cognitive dissonance, yet still they refuse to see a therapist.

Tomorrow Britain will have a new Prime Minister. The Conservatives desperately need a clear focus of attack to unite their own party and pile the pressure on Gordon Brown. For my money, there is no better issue for David Cameron than demanding a referendum on the EU Constitution. He will have my unqualified support.

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Two state solution?

25 June, 2007

A week ago an Iranian inspired coup allowed Hamas to turn Gaza into a mini Islamist enclave. Since then, optimists have been crowing that the much lauded two state solution is finally back on track. The reasoning goes something like this: The Quartet nations, and the Israelis, have been unable to deal with the Palestinian unity government since January 2006 because of the presence of Hamas rejectionists. The Gaza coup has allowed Hamas to rout their Fatah rivals but also consolidated Abu Mazen’s grip on the West Bank. Abbas, unlike his Hamas rivals, is willing to talk to the Israelis, thus lifting any impediment to peace negotiations. So desperate is the West to avoid a double Hamas victory on both disputed territories that it is now shoring up Fatah for all it is worth. Aid has been stepped up and an arms shipment will no doubt follow, all part of a ‘save the moderates’ campaign.

But this strategy represents an implausible denial of reality. Compared to Hamas, Abbas is moderate in a purely artificial sense. He does not espouse the destruction of Israel in the Western media but he promises his people a ‘right of return’ as part of the ‘peace process.’ His words are far from benign in their effect. With 4 million Palestinians returning to Israel, it won’t be long before the Zionist dream judders to a grinding halt and Israel becomes just another Arab state in the Middle East. This is reinforced by Mazen’s acceptance of an equally lauded Saudi peace initiative which, because of its support for a right of return, represents another formula for the destruction of Israel. Meanwhile in the ‘moderate’ West Bank, a ferocious incitement to racial hatred continues to pour out from classrooms and pulpits.

Above all, the ‘moderate’ Abbas conspicuously failed to stamp out the Hamas menace in Gaza. Even if he wanted to destroy his rivals with all the weapons at his disposal, his forces were simply not up to the task. The Americans (and Israelis) seem to think that funding Abbas will somehow reverse the damage of the last 2 years. Yet one of the reasons for Hamas’ electoral success in 2006 was the rampant financial corruption among Fatah officials, something that Hamas exploited to devastating effect.

The denial of reality goes further. The Palestinians, by this latest act of internecine warfare, have rendered impossible any two state solution. It would be inconceivable for any Israeli government, no matter how weak, to allow an open travel route from a West Bank ‘Palestine’ to an Islamist one in Gaza. Yet this formula for contiguity was part of the package of concessions for a Palestinian state offered in 1999 by Ehud Barak.

But the most important reason to be wary of the optimists is that the option for a two state solution (ignoring Gaza) is no longer in Palestinian hands. For the simple fact is that the Middle East’s two leading rogue states, Syria and Iran, increasingly call the tune in both territories. The take over in Gaza was Iranian financed, inspired and possibly dictated, while Syria harbours Hamas exiles in Damascus. Both countries are capable of stirring up trouble on both fronts to satisfy their own domestic agendas and, in Iran’s case, a desire for regional hegemony. The world witnessed this Iranian strategy in the Lebanon war of 2006

So if a two state solution is no longer viable, at least in the short to medium term, what else is on offer? One suggestion being floated is that the Arab states who used to occupy Gaza (Egypt) and the West Bank (Jordan) take back control of the territories, restoring order and the rule of law and destroying the Islamic radicals with their usual ruthless efficiency. But this too is problematic. In 1988 Jordan formerly renounced any claim to the West Bank, worried that the intifada that was taking place was destabilizing its own majority Palestinian population. Both Jordan and Egypt have internal problems with radical Islam (in Egypt’s case, the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is a Palestinian branch) and whether their self interest is best served by retaking these ‘problem’ territories is open to dispute. A better option might be to allow Jordanian troops, buttressed by those from other moderate states, to take over the running of key Palestinian towns on the West Bank. This would not involve formal occupation but it might help to stamp out the ideological extremism and pave the way for a genuinely moderate solution.

One thing we know for sure is that a Palestinian state is not going to be (and was never going to be) the panacea for this conflict. Gaza has been a test case of the failure of Palestinian politics, and of how an opportunity for statehood has ended in internecine warfare and bloodshed. With Hamas installed in Gaza, there can be no solution to this conflict without addressing the role of Syria and Iran in the region. Much of the Arab world recognizes that Iran poses a grave strategic threat to regional stability. The real question is whether Western governments can do the same.

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Cameron’s vision for Britain: More soundbite than substance?

21 June, 2007

David Cameron’s vision for Britain, set out in a keynote speech on Monday, reflects a highly traditional Conservative agenda. Instead of the top down centralized model of politics, with Whitehall endlessly interfering in our lives, David Cameron wants to free people from the grip of the state. State control should be replaced, he argues, with ‘social responsibility’ where individuals are free to flourish and make decisions within local communities, rather than be directed by an all powerful government machine.

This is not a model for individualism but for ‘collective security with individual responsibility.’ He wants professionals, like doctors and teachers, to be trusted to make decisions without Whitehall interference. He wants people in local communities to feel empowered to make local decisions without the encumbrance of government bureaucracy. Judging by his remarks since becoming Tory leader, David Cameron seems to be arguing for a smaller state, more local accountability, greater individual choice and less bureaucracy.

This is a noble and inspiring message, the kind that Lady Thatcher would easily have warmed to. It also fits easily with the A word that is every politician’s favourite buzzword at the moment – aspiration. Every politician cares about aspiring people these days – whether they are aspiring parents, aspiring students or aspiring businessmen. These days no politician dares to proclaim a dislike of aspiration.

Yet Cameron’s critics are not persuaded. His vision may be noble, they say, but if it is not buttressed by concrete policy, he risks being judged superficial. The P word has yet to be matched up with the A word in other words. To my mind, that’s not the real problem with the Cameron revolution. Far from having no idea what Cameron’s Tories intend to do when in power, we are starting to have a pretty good idea. For one thing, the Tories are ruling out an absolute commitment to lower taxation, even arguing for higher environmental taxes to tackle climate change. They are committed to saving the NHS and to ruling out a major expansion of grammar schools. These three commitments sit rather uneasily with the notion of individual aspiration.

Any meaningful commitment to individual freedom must imply a corresponding commitment to furthering individual prosperity and choice. In a sane world that should mean a genuine commitment to lowering taxes so that hard working people can spend more of the money they earn and so that people can be part of the ‘enterprise culture’. It means promoting the idea of school and hospital vouchers so that people can have a choice in the provision of these services. It also means reducing the vast number of Whitehall public sector servants who do all the dictating that gets Cameron in a froth. Unfortunately, the Tories are not embacing the opportunity for really radical proposals. So desperate are they to curry favours with ‘liberal’ voters that they daren’t make the argument for a transformation of public policy.

This is a desperately mistaken strategy for without challenging the Blairite/Brownite status quo, all they will offer is a series of clever sounding but ultimately hollow soundbites. David Cameron has been anxious to deflect criticisms that he is the heir to Blair. But if he merely replicates the language used by the government, while offering something contradictory, what does he expect? It was, after all, a young aspiring Labour leader who declared in 1997: "We are not the masters now. The people are the masters." A decade on and a disillusioned electorate can see that statement for the disingenuous nonsense it is. Those same voters are waiting to see if the Tories can offer something better. If he wants a taste of power, Cameron had better not disappoint them.

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Passivity in the face of intimidation

19 June, 2007

The outpouring of rage following Salman Rushdie’s knighthood shows little sign of dying down. Only today an Iranian Foreign Ministry official, Ebrahim Rahimpour, told the British ambassador to Tehran, Geoffrey Adams, that the award of a knighthood to Rushdie was ‘a provocative act’. This followed inflammatory comments from Pakistani politicians who had demanded that Britain withdraw the knighthood. As dozens of hard line students burned effigies of the writer and screamed hysterically for his death, the Pakistani Minister for Parliamentary affairs, Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, branded Rushdie a ‘blasphemer.’ Then the Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq offered the following grotesque justification for murder: ‘If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet, then it is justified.’ After an apparent rebuke from more moderate minded politicians, he later offered a retraction, claiming: ‘If someone blows himself up he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West?’ Of course the rather more pressing question for the West is how it can include Pakistan as an ally in the war on terror when its politicians openly call for the assassination of foreign citizens.

Yet some 72 hours after this outrageous incitement to murder, one listens in vain for a meaningful response from our government. Neither of Britain’s prime ministers has offered a rebuke to Pakistan while our ineffectual foreign secretary has maintained her usual studious reticence. Instead it has been left to the British High commissioner in Pakistan to offer a half baked condemnation in officialese. Once again then, British politicians remain prostrate before the forces of religious extremism, the modern hallmark of the West’s response to Islamic intimidation. Witness the grovelling apologies during the Danish cartoon protests, the refusal to condemn the witchhunt against Nigeria’s Christians during the Miss World row, as well as the original show of reticence when Rushdie was condemned to death. Indeed little has changed since 1989 in this respect. Back in March 1989, thousands of Muslims went on marches demanding Rushdie’s death for ‘blasphemy’ while the political establishment stood by in abject silence. Little do our politicians realise that they more they appease this growing global extremism, the more they feed an insatiable beast that thrives on our weakness and passivity. If we do not defend Western values, including the right to reward a distinguished author, the fanatics will surely claim a moral victory.

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Fear and violence on the streets of Gaza: Welcome to Hamastan

18 June, 2007

Let no one underestimate the gravity of last week’s events in Gaza. In the space of just 5 days Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah forces were decisively routed by their Islamist foes with barely a fight worth speaking of. In less than a week Fatahstan was transformed into Hamastan. The reports from Gaza told a terrible tale of Hamas brutality: the shootings of captured fighters, Fatah officials thrown from rooftops, families brutalized, buildings burned and prisoners tortured. Naturally, if any of these barbarities had been committed by Israelis, the UN would have been in emergency session from day one. As it was, the world could only look on in horror as the events unfolded.

The signs of an Islamist takeover are evident already. There are reports that internet cafes, ‘decadent’ symbols of Western culture, have been smashed while restaurants selling alcohol have come in for the same treatment. How long before women are forcibly veiled and denied the right to an education or religious shrines desecrated in the name of an extremist ideology? No Islamist, once empowered, spurns the opportunity to establish cultural hegemony.

Once the anarchy had died down, the excuses began. Alvaro de Soto, the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East, wrote a lengthy report in which he described the international boycott of the Palestinians as ‘at best extremely short-sighted’. He also condemned Israel’s "essentially rejectionist" stance towards the Palestinians. For the Observer (17th June), it was the ‘months of financial embargo of the Hamas-led government by the US and Europe’ and the ‘slow, crushing squeeze on Palestinian society’ that produced ‘virtual civil war in Gaza’ and the ‘polarization of Palestinian society…’ And then there is this peach from Robert Fisk: ‘Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognize Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.’

In today's Guardian, Karma Nabulsi of Oxford University wrote: 'The many complex steps that led us here today were largely the outcome of the deliberate policies of a belligerent occupying power backed by the US.' 'Belligerent occupying power?' Perhaps the poor Oxford academic missed the news in 2005 when Israel ceased to occupy Gaza and it was left to the Palestinians.

For the UN's Jan Egeland, the Hamas rout was as much about ‘failed Palestinian policies’ as ‘failed Israeli policies’ and ‘failed international policies.’ How typical that the BBC, the left-centre press and the UN collectively blames Israel and its allies for Palestine’s latest self inflicted wound! It didn't take long for the apologists for terrorism to pump out the usual deception, distortion and half truths. But then Hamas, like other Islamists, have always thrived on the naivety and spineless of their 'useful idiots'.

All these views are distorted because they swallow the lies that Hamas has told the world. Gaza has received more aid in 2006 compared to the previous year, yet Hamas has siphoned this money into expanding their terrorist infrastructure and equipping themselves with outfits, guns and ammunition. Arafat did the same in the 1990’s when the EU’s billions poured into the PA.

The stark reality is that Israel now finds itself surrounded on 3 sides by radical Islamists, all of whom are dedicated to wiping it from the map. Instead of the more moderate Fatah in Gaza (moderate only in the sense that Oswald Mosley was moderate compared to Hitler) Israel must contend with an organization which refuses to countenance any dialogue with the Jewish state. To the North, Hezbollah remains a long term potent threat, wounded but not cowed by last year’s summer war. Rumours are buzzing in Israel about a summer war with Syria along the lines of last year’s attritional campaign in Lebanon. To the east lies the menace of Ahmadinejad with his insatiable nuclear ambitions. The last week has only strengthened Tehran’s diplomatic muscles for Iran, together with Syria, is a major financial backer of Hamas and some reports even suggest that the Hamas coup was ordered directly by Tehran.

The tentacles of the Iranian revolution have now spread from Afghanistan to Iraq, and from the Levant to Gaza with devastating, maybe irreversible consequences. And each of these mini theatres of war serves to distract attention from Iran’s plans for a genocide bomb, as well as deterring a military strike on its nuclear plants. Are the West's leaders taking note?

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Deception at Europe's top table

14 June, 2007

Remember the European Constitution that the French and Dutch voters so spectacularly booted out in 2005? Well now it is back, courtesy of yet another piece of mendacity from our European taskmasters. Those people who thought that the rejection of the constitution would lead to the collapse of the European project have had their hopes dashed. The Euro elite is rarely in the habit of passing a self denying ordinance and returning powers to national states in the face of the popular will.

Back in 2005, the French and Dutch 'no' votes caused a major convulsion in Continental politics and locked Europe into a long term political crisis. Ever since, the EU’s leaders have been desperate to produce a coherent strategy for reviving the Constitution without risking defeat at the ballot box. Now German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes she has a foolproof plan for resurrecting this political beast, except for one slight problem. It involves a piece of chicanery so transparent that not even Blackadder’s Baldrick would miss it. In her secret formula the word 'Constitution’ has been changed to ‘treaty’ while the essential substance of the constitution has remained unaltered. With one or two clauses conveniently removed (already implemented) the new ‘document’ is now a ‘simplified’ treaty that apparently requires no democratic mandate.

Merkel’s game plan was revealed in a letter to other heads of government when she admitted that this new document used ‘different terminology’ without ‘changing the legal substance’ of the original constitution. As if she needed to spell out why, she added that this piece of duplicitous spin was essential to make ‘the necessary presentational changes’. She might as well have added: If the electorate doesn’t like the Constitution, and you can’t change the electorate, all you only need to change a few words and then it is no longer a Constitution. One suspects that the good Chancellor has been reading a little too much Alice in Wonderland recently for this is where her proposal belongs.

Tony Blair looks set to crown his career by signing up to the new look constitution and locking in future British Parliaments in perpetuity. There will be no consultation, no debate, no engagement with the voters; just another political diktat handed down to people by an arrogant European elite. And it is more urgent than ever that the peoples of Europe get their say. For this new constitution is no mere ‘tidying up exercise’ as Labour’s more enthusiastic Europhiles like to assure us. Instead it will introduce some fundamental changes in the relations between member states and the EU itself. It will create a new EU President and foreign minister (though by another name) and extend qualified majority voting in areas that were previously subject to national vetoes. Thus Britain could end up losing her self governance in areas like criminal justice while being forced to sign up to the Charter of fundamental rights. Ms. Merkel also wants the EU to be given a ‘legal personality’ to allow it to sign up to international organizations.

That all this could be happening without sufficient Parliamentary scrutiny is a scandal in itself. But it is just as unedifying that a Prime Minister, desperate to establish his legacy, is about to sign away vital national powers without a democratic mandate while also publicly reneging on a promised referendum. For those who never believed in the Union’s beneficent nature, this is just further evidence of its profound democratic deficit. The EU’s operations are often inscrutable to the public while its executive remains seemingly answerable only to itself. In short, the less the people have a say in the EU’s affairs, regulations and directives, the better for those who run it. This has naturally undermined the notion of political accountability on which all sound democracy depends. As the former Conservative backbencher, Lord Pearson, recently pointed out, the effect of so much EU imposed legislation has been to create ‘a growing divorce between the people of this country and the discredited hen-coop of Westminster.’

The Conservatives have rightly gained some political capital by calling for a referendum on the issue. But in a sense, the real referendum we need is on our continuing membership of the European Union. If the full facts are presented honestly and openly, the British people can at least make an honest assessment of the costs and benefits of European membership. Under these circumstances, who can bet against a majority voting us out of the EU and re-establishing our independence as a nation?

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Al Yamamah: A victory for ‘realpolitik’

13 June, 2007

On Monday night a Panorama documentary cast disturbing questions about the Al Yamamah arms affair. After many months of scrupulous investigation, Panorama’s team of investigative reporters provided convincing evidence that Saudi Prince Bandar had received a vast sum of money in kickbacks from BAE (formerly British Aerospace) as part of the largest arms deal in history. These payments were made with the explicit approval of the Ministry of Defence. The money had been deposited on a regular quarterly basis into two Saudi embassy accounts in Washington, though the investigation revealed that these accounts served as a personal piggy bank for the Prince.

The proof that elicit payments were made came from secret British documents, recently released, which showed that the price for Tornado aircraft (part of the contract) had been deliberately inflated so that the excess part of the cost could be siphoned off to pay the Prince. The total ‘kickback’ amounted to over 1 billion pounds and it was written into the Al Yamamah contract itself under the heading ‘support services.’ The deal worked cleverly. According to the investigators, every three months Bandar’s office would send a letter to the MoD reminding them that a payment was due and the MoD would, in turn, notify British Aerospace who would then wire money into the Saudi accounts. These accounts could then be dipped into by the Prince at a time of his choosing. It was these payments that the SFO was investigating until their inquiry was abruptly halted last December.

There are two ways to look at this rather sordid affair. Wearing a purist hat one could state the obvious: Bandar bribed the British government to drop an investigation which would have implicated him as well as a horde of senior figures. In the blink of an eye the government’s commitment to stamping out corruption has been revealed as a sham and the rule of law brutally undermined in the process. Pardon the pun, but the Saudis had us over a barrel.

But if one assesses the national interest at stake, ignoring the crucial importance of stamping out corruption, a different picture emerges. According to well placed sources, the Prince had been making overtures to the French about completing the Al Yamamah deal, threatening thousands of British jobs in the process. Depending on whom you believe, the number of jobs that would have been affected varied from 5,000 to 50,000. Regardless of whether the French could have won this part of the contact, no government could lightly dismiss such a massive loss of business. More worryingly, it is alleged that Bandar threatened to pull the plug on vital intelligence sharing in the war on terror. Here the balancing act between legality and pragmatism assumed even greater importance. In recent years, the Saudis have been alerted not just to the threat from Sunni Islamists (Al Qaeda) but to the grave strategic threat emanating from Iran. In the first case, the Saudi royals have woken up to the fact that they are prime targets for attack, hence the recent crackdowns on militants. In the second case, the Saudi regime has recognized that the Islamic Republic threatens the dominance of the Muslim world and that its hegemonic aspirations must be resisted, if need be by force. This is a position lost on many in the West.

Many argue that a regime which is undemocratic and authoritarian, which abuses the human rights of its citizens, and whose educational establishment spews out a vile hatred for the West, should be cut off completely from the West. The complaints about ‘Hatred’s Kingdom’ are valid but people must consider the alternatives. If they desire the overthrow of the House of Saud, would they prefer an Islamist regime in the Desert Kingdom, loyal to Bin Laden, threatening the stability of the oil rich Gulf in the process? Such a change at the heart of the Islamic world would scarcely be conducive to Western interests and would arguably represent a bigger political earthquake than the Iranian revolution. The argument for pressurizing the Saudis on home grown terrorism is there, the argument for isolationism is not.

If you think this is a callous reversion to realpolitik, you are right. But then realpolitik has, in part, characterized President Bush’s foreign policy since 9/11. For all his talk of spreading democracy, freedom and liberal values across the Middle East, Bush has depended on two distinctly undemocratic regimes, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, to prop up his war on terror. (Did I add Putin’s Russia?) Hence Niall Ferguson’s recent quip that America is threatened by Islamic radicalism from ‘the axis of allies’ as much as ‘the axis of evil.’ In at least one respect then, the war on terror has shown one disturbing similarity with the Cold War. For in battling the forces of evil around the globe, we have learnt to live with the allies we need, not the allies we want.

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A hate fest dressed up as a political rally

10 June, 2007

Yesterday thousands of people marched through the Strand towards Trafalgar Square to condemn Israel, Zionism and the occupation (see previous post). I was proud to have been part of a very small, but very significant, counter demonstration ('Dayenu') which was designed to support Israel, while also promoting the idea of peace without terror - 'a secure peace'. Had it not been for the march being on a Saturday, a much larger number of people would have attended.

According to the event's organizer, 'We wanted to tell the “Enough!” marchers the truth – how Israel gave back Gaza, only to be rewarded with Kassam rockets raining down on Sderot.' The counter demonstration was cross denominational, attracting members of a local church with strongly pro Israeli and pro Zionist leanings, as well as people from a variety of other backgrounds. A Holocaust survivor movingly joined us for the occasion. As if to underline the malevolent motives of some of the marchers, we were all treated to a Nazi salute from one protestor, who was then promptly grabbed by the surrounding police. Afterwards I ventured to Trafalgar Square, expecting to hear a series of prolonged and unfounded diatribes against the Jewish state. I was not to be disappointed.

The first speaker, Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian unity government, outlined many of the problems faced by ordinary Palestinians. They had unequal access to water, travel problems due to roadblocks and checkpoints as well as the grievance of settlements. Clearly these are pressing issues which require settlement in a future peace process, though they were presented to the crowd shorn of any military or political context. Next he demanded a boycott of Israel and the release of ‘political’ prisoners by the Israeli government. He was loudly cheered for accusing Israel of fascism and for proclaiming Israeli ‘apartheid’ to be worse than that of South Africa. Palestine, he said, was perhaps the number one moral issue of the century. He was followed by Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister, whose pre prepared video message was broadcast to people in Trafalgar Square. After deceiving his audience into believing that he merely wanted to end the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, Haniyeh called for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory. Those who are adept in Middle East politics know that this is code for the end of Israel as a Jewish state which is certainly consistent with the anti semitism in the Hamas charter.

Next it was the turn of Lord Phillips of the Liberal Democrats. To be fair, his tone at the outset was moderate, acknowledging that Israel had a right to exist in secure and recognized borders next to a viable Palestinian state. He also paid tribute to the Jews and Israelis who were working for peace and who were opposing the occupation. But illusions of moderation were quickly shattered when he condemned Israel’s rampant ‘colonization’ and ‘state terrorism.’ Bruce Kent, veteran of CND campaigns, was no better. It was important, he argued, to strive for a settlement in the Middle East and all those working for peace in the Holy Land were to be applauded. No cause for dissent there. But then he spoilt it all by adding that ‘the people he did not have time for’ were the ‘Zionists’ who dared (shock horror) to believe that there should be a national state for the Jews in the Middle East. His rather sickening display of affection for the ‘nuclear traitor’ Mordachai Vanunu rounded off an unhealthy display of moral blindness. But it got worse. A spokesman for UNISON decried the apparent double standards in targeting Iraq for WMD while doing nothing about Israel’s nuclear programme. For good measure he called for the pulling down of Israel’s ‘apartheid wall,’ as if the barrier that has prevented hundreds of suicide bombings was a political equivalent to the Berlin wall.

But nothing could quite prepare me for Azzam Tamimi’s hysterical rant. Screaming into the microphone in a frenzy of emotion, he decried Israel as a ‘racist entity’ which had attracted a colony of European Jews to displace native Palestinians, including his parents. Why, he asked, should Palestinians accept such a racist entity when its Jewish inhabitants regarded Palestinians as ‘subhumans’ and themselves as ‘superhumans’. As a variation on the notion that Jews are the ‘new Nazis’ this could not be beaten. Palestine, he assured his audience, would be liberated ‘from the river to the sea’ and from ‘north to south’ until the refugees returned. Anxious to deflect criticisms of anti semitism, he assured his audience that his ‘dearest friends’ were the Neturei Karta, the small ultra orthodox sect which asserts that Zionism is as unbiblical as sodomy. This is of course the very same sect that embraced President Ahmadinejad at a Holocaust denial conference in Iran last year. In a nutshell, Tamimi was happy to associate with Jews as long as their warped ideology allowed for the genocide of Israel’s Jews. Enough said.

Finally there were two veterans of pro Palestine campaigns who needed no introduction, George Galloway and Jenny Tonge. The former Liberal Democrat front bencher said she was sick of being accused of anti semitism when all she wanted to do was criticize Israel. Perhaps the crowd forgot that her ‘criticisms’ of Israel included the following statement: ‘The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party.’ The theme of Israel as an apartheid state was taken up by the Respect leader who added his voice to the many calls (all loudly cheered) for punitive sanctions and boycotts against Israel. He demanded the release of Marwan Barghouti and other political prisoners in Israeli jails who were not, he assured us, terrorists. For there could be no equation between the violence of the ‘aggressor’ and the violence of the ‘resister.’ The right of all Palestinians, he declared, was to live in a ‘free land’ between the Jordan and Mediterranean, code for anti Zionism and the end of the Jewish state.

Thus a rally which started with calls to end the occupation ended with a morally compromised demagogue screaming for the eradication of Israel. Who needs Ahmadinejad when you have Galloway and Tamimi? Not even the most moderate speaker mentioned Israel’s attempts to disengage from the territories after 1967, most notably in 2000-1, no mention that over 90% of the land occupied since 1967 was returned to Egypt and Jordan in peace treaties, no mention of the incessant rage directed daily at the Jews in Palestinian classrooms and media stations, no mention of the terrorist campaign that increased ‘after’ Israel pulled back from most of the population centres in the West Bank in the 1990s, no mention of the campaign for genocide that has characterized Iran’s relations with Israel since 1979 - and it could go on. These inconvenient ‘facts’ were off the radar. It was hard for me to miss the moral blindness, (wilful) ignorance and double standards from many participants - a shocking but not surprising state of affairs given the current climate of hostility to Israel.

FOOTNOTE: I missed the speech given by the Bishop of Jerusalem and understand also that there were a couple of short closing speeches given after George Galloway's departure. I was unable to record their observations.top

Enough! - of lies and misinformation about the Jewish state

09 June, 2007

In Trafalgar Square today thousands of people will gather to mark ‘40 years of the Israeli occupation’. A rally and demonstration organized by the Enough! coalition will bring together an assortment of left wing politicians and environmentalists with a long track record of hostility to the Jewish state, among them Bruce Kent, Azzam Tamimi, a supporter of Hamas, Daud Abdullah, leader of the Muslim Council of Britain and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway. As their one sided arguments will no doubt receive much exposure in the media it is worth exposing some of the more obvious myths about the Six Day War.

Firstly, Israel’s enemies often claim that the country was the prime aggressor in the war of 1967. The prime evidence they cite is that Israel attacked Egypt first on 5th June 1967 before ‘occupying’ territory that had been held by its Arab neighbours. But the reality could not be more difficult. While Israel did attack Egypt on 5th June in a pre emptive strike on its air force, it had already been subjected to an act of war by the Egyptian leader, Nasser. Nearly a fortnight earlier, Nasser had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, a clear violation of a UN agreement from 1957 which said that nations had the right to use this maritime waterway. President Nasser understood all too well that this was a casus belli which would mean ‘war with Israel.’ In addition Egyptian forces moved into the Sinai on 15th May and expelled the UN Emergency force which had been in place there for over a decade. Then over the next 3 weeks, as forces from Egypt, Syria and Jordan massed on Israel’s borders, Arab rhetoric threatened the extinction of the Jewish state. Nasser called for ‘the eradication of Israel’ while Syria’s defence minister talked of exploding ‘the Zionist presence.’ Faced with the threat of annihilation from surrounding armies and the closure of the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s behaviour on 5th June 1967 was a response to aggression and not an act of aggression itself.

Secondly Israel’s enemies claim that the seizure of territories (the Golan Heights, the Sinai Desert, the West Bank and Gaza) was part of a long term colonialist land grab based on an expansionist Zionist ideology. This myth is easily exploded. Firstly almost as soon as the war of 1967 had finished, Israeli leaders wanted to negotiate a territorial settlement with Arab leaders in return for normalized peaceful relations. But later that year in Khartoum, Arab leaders adopted a formula of ‘no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.’ Then in the 1978 Camp David Accords Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt which constituted 90% of the ‘occupied territories’. In 1994 a peace deal with Jordan resulted in a return of disputed territory and in 2000-1, the Israelis offered back over 95% of the remaining territories (the West Bank and Gaza) including a deal on East Jerusalem and settlements. The offer was rejected by Yasser Arafat without any counter proposals being made by the Palestinian leader. As late as 2 years ago, Israel returned Gaza to Palestinian control. To anyone with an unbiased eye, these examples offer clear proof that Israel did not seize territory with the intention of retaining it for eternity. It is true that some Israeli parties did advocate the notion of a ‘Greater Israel’ and the settlement policy has reflected this aim. It would also be foolish to pretend that there have not been abuses of human rights in the territories for which the IDF and Israeli governments, must take some responsibility. (The treatment of Palestinians under the Syrian and Jordanian governments has been far worse). However, there has long been a consensus in Israeli society that the remaining territories are bargaining chips which can be returned to Arab control on condition that the Arabs accept Israel’s right to exist.

A third myth is that Israel’s continuing retention of the West Bank is illegal under international law. Opponents of Israel cite Israel’s apparent refusal to abide by UN Resolution 242 which (they claim) calls on Israel to return all territory seized in 1967. But UN Resolution 242 does not call for such a unilateral gesture nor does it uniquely condemn Israel’s behaviour in the 6 Day War. The Resolution calls for the ‘establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ which requires 2 principles. The first is the ‘withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict’ but the second (often overlooked) principle is that it is necessary to acknowledge ‘the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.’ In other words, the return of territory is conditional on the Arab states (and the Palestinian government) ending their state of war with Israel.

A fourth myth is that Resolution 242 calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories. But again if one looks at the wording carefully there is only a call for the return of ‘territories conquered.’ This was deliberate for as British foreign secretary Lord Caradon later put it: "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4th, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial." How could it be otherwise? If a country is attacked in war and defeats its enemies by capturing some of their territory, it is only right that there should be no return to the territorial status quo ante. Otherwise, what would be the disincentive for further aggression?

The most compelling of today’s myths is that all Israel has to do to end the Arab-Israeli conflict is to end its occupation of ‘Palestinian’ land. It is worth pointing out that the West Bank is historically Jordanian, not Palestinian, for it was ‘occupied’ by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. However, the return of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005 has been met with an upsurge of violence by Palestinian terrorists who have fired rockets into Israeli population centres. This scarcely augurs well for the return of further territory in the West Bank, a territory which could be governed by the anti semitic Hamas. Even the more moderate Palestinian forces dream of a Palestinian ‘right of return’ to Israel which would effectively end the Jewish state in demographic terms.

Now the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, does offer a viable solution (in principle) to this conflict and would be welcomed by the vast majority of Israelis. But it would be foolish to pretend that this can happen while Palestinian children are indoctrinated to hate Jews and are taught the art of suicide bombing. Territorial concessions will not bring peace if the territory vacated by Israel becomes a launching pad for devastating terrorist attacks. Once the Palestinians, and their Arab rejectionist friends, accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, Israeli concessions are bound to follow. To paraphrase Golda Meir, they must learn to love their children more than they hate the Jews.

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The boycott of common sense continues

5 June, 2007

Last week members of the Universities and College Union voted to move towards a boycott of Israeli academics and academic institutions. The organizers called for the text of a boycott demand by Palestinian academics to be distributed around university campuses in Britain. They were told to organize campus tours for Palestinian academics who could then highlight the moral case for severing links with Israeli academics. It followed the decision of the National Union of Journalists (see previous article) to boycott Israeli goods while a similar motion was also proposed by the AUT in 2005.

Without doubt, it represents gestural ‘gutter’ politics at its very worst. A boycott of Israeli academics will do nothing to alter Israeli policy, help the Palestinians (especially those studying in Israeli universities) or end the occupation. Once again, the same criticisms have to be leveled at those who single out Israel for condemnation. Many academics in Israel are among their country’s most vocal critics, as one would surely expect from any country’s intelligentsia. The boycotters have thus targeted the one group with which, in theory at least, they ought to have some ideological affinity. For all their condemnation of the occupation, the boycotters fail to mention the existential threat to Israelis from Palestinian terror, the very factor that makes a continuing occupation sadly necessary. Thus the boycotters’ analysis is woefully unbalanced, one sided and hysterical. The apparent concern for human rights is also never universalized. As Joan Smith pointed out in the Independent the other day, there are a host of unsavoury regimes across the world in which academic freedom, especially for minorities, is but a pipe dream. Yet calls for a ban on Sudanese, Burmese, Chinese and Cuban academics are conspicuous by their absence. If the argument is made that boycotts must apply to democracies alone, then the behaviour of the United States in Iraq (Abu Ghraib) or Russia in Chechnya surely merits a level of opprobrium too. Again, one listens in vain for a ban on American or Russian academics working in Britain.

Of course one ought to be concerned for the rights of Palestinian civilians living in the West Bank. Many have been subject to a host of unfortunate restrictions and impediments and abuses of human rights are well documented. But if one fails to take into account the military rationale for roadblocks, checkpoints, house demolitions and the security barrier, one will lack an understanding of the dynamics of this conflict. While rejectionist groups in the territories seek to maximize Israeli deaths through suicidal terror, life will invariably become harder for all Palestinians. It is best to aspire to what the majority of Israelis and, according to some opinion polls, a majority of Palestinians want, namely a two state solution. However the omens in the short term are not good. Israel’s pullback from Gaza in 2005 was designed to precipitate moves for a further territorial compromise but the Palestinian response was to launch a vast number of deadly rockets into Southern Israeli towns. The argument that ending the occupation ‘now’ will bring instant peace is wearing thin.

So what drives these senseless but damaging boycott campaigns against an increasingly beleaguered Jewish state? Without doubt, this motion is part of a trend towards vilifying and delegitimizing Israel as the country struggles to defend itself from mortal attack. The vilest of attacks were launched on Israel during the Lebanon war (one poster I saw in Salisbury called on Israel to end the ‘Lebanese Holocaust’), as well as during its operations in 2002 in and around Jenin. It is not uncommon for Israel to be compared to Nazi Germany, indeed pro Israeli delegates at the UCU said they were referred to as Nazis by the boycott supporters. This represents a deliberate use of emotive terminology which is calculated to delegitimize the Jewish state. When such vicious and intemperate language is used, it is hard to miss the malodorous whiff of anti semitism that is masquerading as political discourse. Israel is clearly being subjected to a higher standard of criticism than other nations, proportionate to its human rights record, and one therefore suspects the worst ulterior motives. Many of those urging a boycott do so because they are explicitly opposed to Zionism and wish to vilify the Jewish state, a stance which is invariably anti semitic.

But the motives for this senseless gestural politics are not just racist. For a number of decades now, it has become almost a commonplace that the problems of the world rest on the shoulders of a powerful Western bourgeois elite, led by the United States. The world’s prime superpower, the engine of capitalism, is viewed as the arch enemy of weaker nations, especially in the Third World and this gives Third World ‘resistance’ movements the stamp of instant moral authority. In the eyes of the left, Israel is the US’s chief ally in the Middle East and thus it is easy to transfer the same reasoning to the conflict with the Palestinians. The Palestinians have been lionized as powerless resistance fighters battling the Israeli colonial usurper and military behemoth. In an inversion of the truth, the most frequent depiction is that of an Arab David battling a Jewish Goliath, reflecting the struggles of innocent, powerless (but romanticised) rebels against the corrupt, Western power elite. In addition, since the 1960s the Arab nations have played on Western colonial guilt by waging a destructive and largely successful propaganda campaign against Israel, persuading others to accept their wholly distorted, victim centred analysis of the conflict. Taken together, these factors have produced a potent mixture of moral blindness and profound ignorance, an ignorance which is so often wilful and agenda driven. It is this moral blindness that has led so many on the left to ally themselves with Muslim extremists and radicals.

There is a ray of light in these otherwise melancholy developments. Many of Israel’s critics on the left, while sharing the boycotters’ disdain for the Jewish state, believe the boycott to be pointless and immoral. When a paper like 'The Independent' lambasts the boycott as a ‘deplorable idea’ there is perhaps cause for just a little celebration. Nonetheless as long as this dreadful and misguided campaign of vilification continues, the harder it will be to achieve a just solution in the Middle East.

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What if Israelis had kidnapped Alan Johnston?

3 June, 2007

In an enormously perceptive article in this week’s Saturday Telegraph, columnist Charles Moore exposes the bias, hypocrisy and double standards that inflict the British Broadcasting Corporation. In his article Moore considers the kind of reaction that would have been generated if a BBC reporter had been kidnapped, not by militant Palestinians, but by a fanatical group of Israelis. He starts by making a statement of the obvious - there are ‘no Israeli organizations - governmental or freelance - that would contemplate such a thing.’ He goes on:

…just suppose that some fanatical Jews had grabbed Mr. Johnston and forced him to spout their message, abusing his own country as he did so. What would the world have said? There would have been none of the caution which has characterized the response of the BBC and of the Government since Mr. Johnston was abducted on March 12. The Israeli government would immediately have been condemned for its readiness to harbour terrorists or its failure to track them down. Loud would have been the denunciations of the extremist doctrines of Zionism which had given rise to this vile act. The world isolation of Israel, if it failed to get Mr. Johnston freed, would have been complete. If Mr. Johnston had been forced to broadcast saying, for example, that Israel was entitled to all the territories held since the Six-Day War, and calling on the release of all Israeli soldiers held by Arab powers in return for his own release, his words would have been scorned. The cause of Israel in the world would have been irreparably damaged by thus torturing him on television. No one would have been shy of saying so. But of course in real life it is Arabs holding Mr. Johnston, and so everyone treads on tip-toe. Bridget Kendall of the BBC opined that Mr. Johnston had been "asked" to say what he said in his video. Asked! If it were merely an "ask", why did he not say no?

Moore hits the nail on the head here, several times over, but he goes on to offer a hard hitting analysis which is incisive, as well as courageous.

‘…although it is under horrible duress, what he says is not all that different from what the BBC says every day through the mouths of reporters who are not kidnapped and threatened, but are merely collecting their wages... It is that everything that is wrong in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world is the result of aggression or "heavy-handedness" (have you noticed how all actions by American or Israeli troops are "heavy-handed", just as surely as all racism is "unacceptable"?) by America or Israel or Britain. Alan Johnston, under terrorist orders, spoke of the "absolute despair" of the Palestinians and attributed it to 40 years of Israeli occupation, "supported by the West". That is how it is presented, night after night, by the BBC. The other side is almost unexamined. There is little to explain the internecine strife in the Arab world, particularly in Gaza, or the cynical motivations of Arab leaders for whom Palestinian miseries are politically convenient. You get precious little investigation of the networks and mentalities of Islamist extremism - the methods and money of Hamas or Hizbollah and comparable groups - which produce acts of pure evil like that in which Mr. Johnston is involuntarily complicit. The spotlight is not shone on how the "militants" (the BBC does not even permit the word "terrorist" in the Middle East context) and the warlords maintain their corruption and rule of fear, persecuting, among others, the Palestinians. Instead it shines pitilessly on Blair and Bush and on Israel.

Indeed he is right. The BBC’s default position on the Middle East is that the causes of most of its woes, including the surge in Islamic extremism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the Palestinian terrorities, must somehow be explained as a response to specific ‘grievances.’ These grievances stem from the ‘excesses’ of the triumvirate of Western powers, America, Britain and Israel in their dealings with largely powerless Muslim minorities. Palestinian terror, in particular, must always be viewed through the lens of their own victim mentality. Thus Palestinian terror attacks are not viewed through the lens of religious fanaticism but are responses to Israeli measures, which are then seen as morally equivalent. Indeed Palestinian violence is always part of a ‘cycle of violence’ while Israeli counter terror tactics are either ‘disproportionate’, excessive or (yes) ‘heavy handed.’ Contrast the BBC’s response to the Lebanese crackdown on Islamic militants and you get the point. Far from being neutral and independent, the BBC actively nurtures the grievance culture of the militants, giving them the air time they so desperately seek. Moore is quite right to expose the undue emphasis that the BBC places on ‘the occupation’ or ‘settlements’ and far less on the anarchy and chaos in Gaza, the breakdown of the rule of law, the pitiless treatment of minorities in the Palestinian territories and the indoctrination that produces suicide bombers.

As Moore points out, the timing of this video is significant for it comes shortly before Israel commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 6 Day War (a post to follow shortly). It therefore allows the BBC to focus once again on the ills of the occupation rather than the war’s historical context or the many efforts made to return territory, including the Gaza pull out in 2005.’

In the remainder of his article he brilliantly attacks the moral conceit of those who recently voted for a boycott of Israeli academics:

’The main universities of Israel are, in fact, everything that we in the West would recognize as proper universities. They have intellectual freedom. They do not require an ethnic or religious qualification for entry. They are not controlled by the government. They have world-class standards of research, often producing discoveries which benefit all humanity. In all this, they are virtually unique in the Middle East. The silly dons are not alone. The National Union of Journalists, of which I am proud never to have been a member, has recently passed a comparable motion, brilliantly singling out the only country in the region with a free press for pariah treatment. Unison, which is a big, serious union, is being pressed to support a boycott of Israeli goods, products of the only country in the region with a free trade union movement.’

He goes on: ‘…it is mad or, perhaps one should rather say, bad to try to raid Western culture's reserves of moral indignation and expend them on a country that is part of that culture in favour of surrounding countries that aren't. How can we have got ourselves into a situation in which we half-excuse turbaned torturers for kidnapping our fellow-citizens while trying to exclude Jewish biochemists from lecturing to our students?’

Precisely because since the 1960s a Western elite has joined in a frenzied cult that denigrates Western values and the West’s cultural inheritance in the name of post imperial guilt, multiculturalism and political correctness. As part of this cult they have bought into the view that America, symbol of world capitalism and military power, is the fount of the world’s ills and that Israel, as one of its chief military allies, deserves a taste of the same opprobrium. The Arab world has whet the appetite of this elite by persuading it to adopt its own historically false, victim centred view of the conflict in which Arabs are victims and Jews (and Westerners) no more than colonial usurpers. Taken together, this constitutes a potent cocktail of falsehoods. He concludes:

'Nobody yet knows the precise motivations of Mr Johnston's captors, but it is surely not a coincidence that they held him in silence until the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War approached, and only then made him speak. They wanted him to give the world their historical explanation - Israeli oppression - for their cause. Yet that war took place because President Nasser of Egypt led his country and his allies declaring "our basic aim will be to destroy Israel". He failed, abjectly, and Egypt and Jordan later gave up the aspiration. But many others maintain it to this day, now with a pseudo-religious gloss added. We keep giving sympathetic air-time to their death cult. In a way, Mr Johnston is paying the price: his captors are high on the oxygen of his corporation's publicity.'

It may sound harsh, even terrible, to have to admit this conclusion but what Moore says is true nonetheless. What a truly courageous article!

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