Later today Hillary Benn MP, International Development Secretary, will host a debate at the House of Commons on: ‘The Middle East: How to make peace possible’, sponsored by the Fabians and FPC.
Given the carnage in Gaza and West Bank now, it looks easier to draw blood from stone than see peace in the ME. Earlier this month I mentioned the publication of Professor Tony Klug’s paper which has prompted this debate.
The 30 or so pages in the paper are definitely worth reading. Prof Klug does something interesting; he has written it from a future period looking back at how peace broke out in the ME. He constructs a series of events that lead to peace based not on what he thinks should happen, but going by statements already made by various politicians. His point in essence is that everyone wants peace, it’s just a matter of getting the ball rolling. The question is who has the balls to start. It’s very convincing and almost electrifying. You can almost believe it could happen.
Which brings me to the current state of affairs, on which I have a few points to make.
It is rather ironic that the organisation Israel tried its best to destroy in the past (Fatah) by creating a new one (Hamas) has now become its best friend while the latter has become its worst nightmare. Within the context of a trying to achieve peace for a two-state solution, Israel’s policy toward the Palestinian Authority has been a monumental failure. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
First it kept trying to destroy Fatah, until Hamas became a serious political power and won the elections. It had the chance then to bring Hamas into the peace process (yes, I know about its charter, but we’re talking about the Middle East here, actions mean much more than words. Read the paper above) and bring about some semblance of political negotiation but it set about to destroy Hamas by funding Fatah.
Anyone with half a brain can see that this would further reduce Fatah’s credibility with Palestinians and push Hamas further into the arms of Iran and Syria. And now we’re fucked. Israel is now hoping that approving the new Fatah government will somehow resolve the crisis.
Israel screwed up when it launched a full-blown attack on Lebanon and now it is further screwing up by fuelling the crisis (by funding Fatah instead of bringing both to the table). Johann Hari today explains exactly why Israel must negotiate with Hamas. The man speaks sense (as does Shiraz Socialist).
The Academic boycott on the other hand I think is a bad idea. And like David Osler, I too have been debating hard in my head over this decision. The standard retort, that there are far more repressive regimes out there, is certainly true. I’d like to see supporters of the boycott extend that to Chinese products or the Pakistani cricket team (over hudood laws) for me to take them seriously.
But surely the fact that supporters of Israel such as Alan Dershowitz have to even point fingers at Nigeria, China, Zimbabwe etc and say ‘well, they’re worse‘ is a problem, no?
Who really wants to be even near that company? And, for some reason, Dershowitz seems to be defending freedom within Israel rather than the Palestinian Territories.
I have no doubt that there are plenty of liberals in the UK who are uncomfortably asking themselves: “Sure, Israel is surrounded by anti-semites who want its extermination but frankly those idiots are dreaming. Their firepower is pitiful. But shouldn’t Israel, given its beginnings, be holding itself to higher standards than being roughly in the same league as China?”
Would Dershowitz et al really be happy if the SWP clowns also boycotted that bunch?
All the boycott has done, as any attack such as the ‘War on Terror’ does, is to play into the hands of the extremists on either side. The Israeli right will feel vindicated.
So, what now? I have no idea. We have transitional British, US, Israeli and Palestinian governments. Everything is up in the air. I do know that if things get worse, the more impetus there will be to peace. Tony Blair was useless in the ME. I hope Gordon Brown can push further along with the rest of the EU and, erm, China and Russia.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East