Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

03/05/2016, 07:03:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

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Both left and right seek a moral purity that is illusive and destructive

25/04/2016, 10:17:07 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Football, and the Premier League’s integrity, needs Leicester to win the title,” writes Louise Taylor in the Guardian. If, therefore, you want anyone other than Leicester to win the league, you want a football sans integrity. Spurs fans must be morally debased to want their club to win the league.

Similarly, in a wonderfully detailed critique of Bernie Sanders, Robin Alperstein notes that his rhetoric seeks to convince that, “anyone who supports her (Hillary Clinton) is part of the problem. And then it becomes an act of immorality to vote for her, and a symbol of one’s own moral purity, indeed a rejection of corruption itself, to vote for Sanders”.

As Spurs fans, according to Taylor, cannot in good conscience want their club to win the league, it takes a special depravity, Sanders implies, to vote Clinton. This is tiresome and corrosive.

It has been argued that the indiscretions of Jamie Vardy make Leicester City less virtuous than other Premier League Clubs. I wouldn’t go that far. All clubs, like all collections of human beings, contain good and bad eggs. And the good eggs aren’t always good. Nor are the bad eggs always bad.

The Taylor contention, of course, is the opposite: that Leicester are more virtuous. Given the association between Vardy and racism, it is tempting to see this as the Guardian looking past this scourge. You’d think a left-wing paper would be vigilant to racism. But the paper’s readers’ editor acknowledged in 2011 that they needed to be “more vigilant” to language that might be construed as anti-Semitic.

The lines between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-Semitism feel ever more sharply contested. The Palestinian plight is undeniable. Sympathy for them, however, can lead to attacks on Israel that go beyond the legitimate and into the anti-Semitic. As support for Sanders can be built on an unjustified equivalence between Clinton and immorality. Or desire for Leicester to win the Premier League can rest atop dubious claims about their unsurpassed integrity.

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This kind of racism has not happened in any major party since the 1980s. Discuss.

13/04/2016, 09:52:53 PM

by Rob Marchant

Let us ask ourselves a simple question. When is the last time a major political party was seriously accused of endemic racism?

That is, racism with a link to a segment of the party’s politics; not of a couple of isolated individuals, but of a group of activists in the rank and file, including numerous elected representatives who clearly showed (written) evidence of racist attitudes?

And accused not by a hostile newspaper, or an opposing party, but by a moderate and respected political organisation representing that minority?

Or such that that same minority’s house newspaper would have actually introduced a logo linking all the stories on Labour and racism against that community, there having been so many recently?

All these are things which have come to light in the last few weeks. About Jews.

In Labour, the party of the anti-racists.

It’s difficult to think of when racism was last acceptable in politics but we probably have to go back to the 1980s, at least. In the 1980s, Labour was determinedly anti-racist. The Conservative party, as blogger Adam Bienkov points out, still had close links to the rather unpleasant Monday Club, but was nevertheless largely retreating from the bad old days of Enoch Powell and, as the entrenched party of government throughout the decade, could neither really afford to alienate big sections of the population.

By the late 1990s, though, the Tories were largely free from overt racism (although a significant portion of its membership continued to be homophobic, as evidenced by the persistence of its Section 28 anti-gay legislation). But it was not acceptable to be racist in either party, if it ever had been, and Labour naturally continued to fully endorse a multi-cultural Britain.

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The legacy of Gaza will be a one state solution, with all that entails

05/08/2014, 05:36:17 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The carnage has ceased for the moment in Gaza. The guns are silent. We’ve been here before: the anguish on both sides, the depths of bitterness and the certainty that at some point in the next few years, we’ll be here again.

However, while it has been a visceral and traumatic few weeks, in terms of the underlying politics, Gaza has not fundamentally changed the situation in Israel and the occupied territories. Rather, it has accelerated existing trends and entrenched current positions.

The Israeli public, which has consistently voted for governing coalitions that cannot deliver a two state solution, will be even less likely to countenance the compromises needed. The pain of tens of thousands of settlers being forcibly removed by the Israeli army, in the West Bank, is now inconceivable. No coalition could deliver it, even if somehow enough politicians could be persuaded, because the public do not want it.

The Palestinians will be equally hostile to compromise. The concessions needed to rebuild any confidence within Israel that the first acts of new Palestinian state would not involve more tunnels, rockets and terror, will not be forthcoming from any Palestinian government that wants to hold onto any legitimacy in the eyes of its people.

Gaza has finally killed the two state solution. There can and will only be one state, which raises an existential question for Israel. One for which military superiority alone cannot provide a ready answer: what will be this state’s nature?

Currently in Israel and the occupied territories, there are roughly 12.5m people, just over half are Jewish Israelis, just under half either Arab Israelis or Palestinian.

At the moment, while the vague hope for a two state deal nominally flickers on, the Palestinian population of the occupied territories are not considered part of Israel.

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Labour is tying itself in knots over Gaza

31/07/2014, 08:05:41 AM

by Rob Marchant

Britain, it is perennially noted, is an island nation and often behaves accordingly.

It is a feature of modern British politics that, unlike some other countries whose very existence depends on their relations with larger, closer neighbours with whom they share a land border, foreign policy counts for little in the calculations of Westminster life. Elections are certainly not won or lost on it, mainly because polling shows that it features so low on the list of voters’ priorities.

So, a strange phenomenon occurs: since a governing party is chosen to govern based on everything but their foreign policy, one can find that, as the new tenants arrive at No. 10 and the FCO, what results in practice is a bit of a lucky dip. One can equally find the shrill nationalism of a Thatcher; the shameful isolationism of a Major; the strident interventionism of a Blair; or the “I want to, but I can’t” of a Cameron.

It’s a shame, because the world is clearly undergoing one of its most dangerously unstable periods since the cold war. Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and now Gaza underline how the West is facing two serious threats simultaneously: the rearrangement of geo-political powers into a multi-polar world, its most notable feature the re-emergence of Russia as a foe rather than a friend; and the seemingly ineradicable virus of jihadism.

Nowhere is that lucky dip truer than in today’s Labour party. If Cameron’s foreign policy has been paralysed by cuts to military resources and political support, Miliband’s has seemingly been by its lack of ambition and often, well, coherence. Dan Hodges, formerly of this parish, quoted a Miliband observer last week: “he’s got next to no interest in foreign policy”. While this is just one opinion, it is one that resonates.

Certainly, last year’s Syria vote is something best forgotten for Labour. But as an example of how disjointed is the policy of a party which could conceivably, in just over eight months, have a seat at the top table in world politics, we need look no further than its recent moves over Gaza.

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Labour needs new ways of thinking about the Middle East

10/07/2014, 12:35:37 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is argued that the Palestinians have two options: to support Hamas, terror and destruction, or support Abbas, negotiations and statehood. Which may mean Israel also has two options: work with the Palestinians if they back Abbas and frustrate them if they don’t.

It might, however, be thought that they both have third options, which are variants on these options. In the Israeli case, this would be the “do nothing” option, perpetuating a status quo that doesn’t deliver peace but, notwithstanding the recent murders of teenagers and continued rockets from Gaza, largely secures security in an unstable region. For the Palestinians, this third option would be violence beyond the control of Hamas, driven by even more extreme ideology.

Some contend that Hamas is as extreme as they come and that suggestions to the contrary only obscure the responsibilities held by the Palestinian Authority for the maintenance of order. Yet closer scrutiny of Gaza, supposedly under the control of Hamas, reveals possibilities further beyond the pale than them.

As much as the extent to which the Palestinians have options beyond Hamas can be debated, the viability of the status quo as an Israeli option is perilous. The democratic and Jewish character of the state depends upon a two-state solution. Recent discontents increase the plausibility of a third intifada, which would shatter the security that Israelis may have grown complacent in presuming attaches to the status quo. This intifada would be more likely if the Palestinians were to back more extreme options than Hamas, underlining the combustible incapability of the Israeli and Palestinian third options.

Abbas is the crucial pivot for both sides around which a brighter future could form. If the Palestinians could back him in making the painful compromises necessary for negotiations to advance, Israelis support reciprocate in backing their government in making the painful compromises that they too will need to make for negotiations to succeed. Yet, appallingly, it’s hard to disagree with Prospect Editor Bronwen Maddox when she concludes that recent tragedies make this less likely than it already was.

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Israel is like all nations and different from all nations

11/11/2013, 01:56:52 PM

by Jonathan Todd

1 December marks 40 years since the death of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s George Washington. Yitzhak Rabin, its’ would-be Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated 18 years ago last Monday. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, during which Rabin was Chief of Staff to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), Ben-Gurion, by then no longer prime minister, favoured returning all the captured territories apart from East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Mount Hebron as part of a peace agreement.

Peter Beinart last year published The Crisis of Zionism that calls for a revivified Zionism and recalls Ben-Gurion explaining: “Two basic aspirations underlie all our work in this country: to be like all nations, and to be different from all nations.”

Like all nations in providing a state for its people, a Jewish majority and homeland. Unlike all nations, as Beinart observes, in stressing: “Truly realizing the Zionist dream … required modelling various liberal or socialist principles for the world.” These principles led the Israeli constitution to commit to “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.

In contrast to Ben-Gurion’s vision, Israel is like and unlike all nations in ways that drive Beinart’s crisis. Like all nations in failing to fully make real these liberal/socialist principles. Unlike all nations in being the occupying force that Ben-Gurion cautioned against.

The Palestinian conflict is entangled with Egyptian instability, Syrian disintegration and Iranian nuclear capability. Iran desperately props up Assad in Syria, partly to maintain supplies to Hezbollah, which now directs 100,000 rockets toward Israel from the north. Iranian supplied weapons may again hit Israel from the south via Hamas in Gaza, if this Sunni body can be reconciled to Shia Iran after seeking an alliance with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt prior to them being swept from power.

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Making the progressive case for Israel

16/05/2011, 08:13:38 AM

By John Woodcock

It is not every day that one of the best speeches you have ever read drops into your lap and you are asked to deliver it in front of a packed, appreciative audience.

If I had known that Making the progressive case for Israel was going to be the last thing that its brilliant author would ever write, I would have been barely able to get the words out.

So many moving tributes have already been made to David Cairns by people who knew that kind, effervescent and compellingly passionate man far better than me.

But David’s absence from the excellent and important We Believe in Israel conference in London yesterday, where again I had the sad honour of deputising for him, highlighted that a lasting and fitting tribute would be for us to advance the campaign he crafted as the chair of Labour friends of Israel.

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As we celebrate new Middle Eastern democracy, let’s not forget the old one

14/02/2011, 12:00:33 PM

by Michael Dugher

When interviewed this morning on the Today programme, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said he “very much applauded the Egyptian people” but he warned that the “uncertainty” in Egypt created vulnerabilities for Israel and the wider region. Yesterday, on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, quartet envoy, Tony Blair, described the events as a “pivotal moment” and urged the West to engage with supporters of democracy and help countries evolve and move in the right direction. Significantly, he said that progress could unblock the Middle East peace process and be of “huge benefit”.

This cautious, yet hopeful, outlook comes after William Hague’s tour of the region last week. I was in Israel at the time and Hague’s ill-judged intervention, where he seemed unwilling to back the Egyptian pro-democracy protesters, while at the same time calling Israel (the only democracy in the region) “belligerent”, was viewed with a mixture of despair and resignation. Hague’s inept and insensitive comments reinforced the perception, wrongly in my view, that the UK and Europe have slid into a position of hostility towards Israel and therefore are unable to play their part as honest brokers in the peace process.  Regrettably, Hague’s intervention can only serve to diminish the UK’s influence in the region. (more…)

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The Palestinians will not find peace through bloodshed

07/02/2011, 02:00:43 PM

by Dan McCurry

Malcolm X once told black Americans, “You didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on you”.

Millions of people from the developing world have risked their lives to get to the West, while the Palestinians had the western world come to them, in the form of Israel. But where this should have been an opportunity, it was more like a great big rock landing on them. They were simply unable to cope.

The photo shows me, in 1986, with one foot in Israel and one foot in Egypt. My anxiety is due to the barbed wire getting caught on my T-shirt. Back then there was no border on the West Bank, never mind a wall. Palestinians were free to come and go across Israel. They worked, they travelled, they engaged in politics. There was violence, but there was also optimism. Then came the suicide bombers.

The word “solution” in the phrase “two-state solution” is misleading. It suggests that the problems will end if property and land rights are settled. It does not promise to create jobs or prosperity for the Palestinians, but it does promise to end any further justification for Palestinian violence.

It was a top-down policy, insisted on by the international community. It created trepidation in the West Bank, with graffiti appearing on walls calling for a one-state solution. The Palestinians want jobs, but the solution seems to promise a permanent partition, with a permanent separation wall. Washington’s policy was never born from reading the writing on the wall.

Wherever I went in Israel, in the 80s, the building sites were full of Arabs. I asked an Israeli if this was somehow racist. He told me that Israelis wanted to get into construction, but the Palestinians wouldn’t let them in. Today, construction workers are imported from Asia. Technology companies adopt restrictive employment policies for “security reasons”. The Israeli economy is being denied to the “ungrateful” Palestinians. (more…)

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