Sunday, 18 January 2009

Gaza - good news for now

Was going to blog about the Israeli ceasefire last night, but thought anything I posted would have been out of date before anyone read it in the morning. Glad that Hamas have now joined in.

UK has announced an extra £20m aid, and the priority now has to be getting that through, which means urgent negotiations on re-opening the crossings and - the quid pro quo - closing the tunnels and stopping the arms smuggling. And we need a long-term settlement; not much point rebuilding Gaza if it's going to be bombed and bulldozed again.

This is what Gordon said:

"Our first priority - a humanitarian imperative - is to get food and medical treatment to those who so urgently need it. We will focus our efforts on support to the UN agencies who are doing such courageous work in the most difficult environments. We will help transport those civilians in most need of treatment to hospitals in the West Bank. We will also support children traumatised by the violence, rebuild schools and hospitals and clear unexploded bombs and shells. Israel must allow full access to humanitarian workers and to relief supplies. We must also end Gaza's economic isolation by reopening the crossings that link it to the outside world."

30 comments:

Old Holborn said...

What a coincidence! A ceasefire!

Obama is taking over the Israeli coffers on Tuesday. No more blank cheques?

Chris Gale said...

Glad that Hamas have 'joined in.'

Maybe a little about the importance of cutting off the supply of arms to that bunch of thugs? They are not a democratic group.

Chris Gale said...

"not much point rebuilding Gaza if it's going to be bombed and bulldozed again."

No mention of 8 years of rocket attacks on Israel by the Iran backed Hamas?

Perhaps you could find it in yourself to recognise that it is Hamas that needs dealing and Hamas that caused the conflict?

Kerry said...

I said "Closing the tunnels and stopping the smuggling of arms."

Chris Gale said...

I wonder what the reaction of the fascist Islamist appeasing sections of the left will be when Hamas starts firing its rockets again at Israel?

Kerry said...

Who do you mean by that? Gerald Kaufman?

Remember Remember said...

Just wondering who is going to protect the Palestinian gas fields from the Israelis who want to steal those as well as most of their land.

Kerry said...

I think that's a bit of a red herring.

thebristolblogger said...

"Who do you mean by that? Gerald Kaufman?"

Since you ask: yes I think he fits the bill.

Kerry said...

Gerald Kaufman a fascist?

Kerry said...

Sorry, that went too soon. Should have said Gerald Kaufman, a fascist appeaser?

Presumably you don't regard everyone who opposed the war in Iraq as apologists for Saddam Hussein? So why can't people be horrified by the attacks by Israel, upset by the deaths of civilians and children, dismayed by the destruction of schools, hospitals, and the lack of food and medical supplies, without being deemed to condone Hamas?

thebristolblogger said...

"Sorry, that went too soon. Should have said Gerald Kaufman, a fascist appeaser?"

Probably a bit strong (but they were your words, I generally try to avoid the terms 'Nazi', 'Fascist', 'appeaser'and anything second world warry in these things as it creates a load of baggage).

I do think Kaufmann's egomanical speech was utterly bizarre and his mild criticism of Hamas while comparing Israel to Nazis weak, useless and pathetic.

"So why can't people be horrified by the attacks by Israel, upset by the deaths of civilians and children, dismayed by the destruction of schools, hospitals, and the lack of food and medical supplies, without being deemed to condone Hamas?"

They can. But I don't think Kaufmann did this.

Kerry said...

They weren't my words, I was quoting Chris. I can't recall every word of Gerald's last speech, but I've certainly been in debates with him when he has condemned Hamas. Usually supporters of the Palestinian cause bend over backwards to acknowledge that Israel has legitimate concerns, over security, suicide bombers, rocket attacks, rhetoric from Iran. They just don't think it justifies acting illegally (the settlements, the route of the Wall), and/or killing huge numbers of civilians.

I've been to Hebron, seen the Stars of David daubed on Palestinian property and slogans saying 'Death to Arabs' - it's not just Hamas that has a monopoly on such things.

Have you - or Chris for that matter - expressed any criticism of Israel? Do you condone everything that they've done?

Cleo said...

After reading the comments from Chris Gale in a number of postings, I now feel compelled to address some things that you said. I'm saying this as someone who has always been a wholehearted supporter of the existence of the state of Israel, although not of the current actions of its present government against the Palestinians, and am in no way an apologist for Hamas.

But firstly, they are one of the few democratically elected governments in the Middle East. A Hamas led government was elected in Jan 2006 under free and fair elections to the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority. Secondly, the link with Iran is more an issue of my enemy's enemy, rather than a meeting of minds alliance - Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK ambassador to the UN when asked about this on the Today programme recently said that the 2 were not the same as Hamas is Sunni and Iran is Shia. And thirdly, while I can't imagine the psychological impact of their rocket attacks on the people living in Israel, in the 3 years after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire, but in 2005-7 alone the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. As Avi Shiaim, Oxford professor of international relations, concluded in a recent article, Israel's present notion of security is one that completely denies any security to the people living in Gaza.

Katabasis said...

I have a great deal of trouble grasping why so many British Libertarians support Israel.

It's a basket case full of delightful things that Libertarians are supposed to be fundamentally opposed to.

The Bristol Blogger said...

"Have you - or Chris for that matter - expressed any criticism of Israel?"

Is criticism of Israel de rigeur now?

There's always going to be things that happen in wars that are repugnant. In an ongoing 60 year war that's seemingly without end this is even more the case.

However, in the long term, Israel offers no threat to my security or values. Hamas does.

That's the basis on which I make my judgements not on who I consider to have behaved the worst this week.

Cleo: I didn't hear the Greenstock interview. But the claim that Hamas/Iran is not "a meeting of minds alliance" is contentious.

Greenstock is a former diplomat and his claim seems to fit in with Miliband's recent statement:

"the war on terror" gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy ... The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate."

This too is contentious. Is the establishment preparing us for an accommodation with Islamism?

Are we sure this is a good idea?

Kerry said...

BB - do you always judge things according to their impact on you? Mugabe doesn't pose a threat to your security or values does he, over there in Zimbabwe.

And anyway, it could be argued that Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands, in fuelling anger and bitterness in the Muslim world, is a major contributory factor to the terrorist threat and to the growth of radical Islam. Not saying it excuses acts of terrorism, but it fuels it. How many young Palestinians in Gaza will turn to terrorism in response to what they've witnessed in the last three weeks? And how many young Muslims in the UK will feel increasingly alienated because they feel we haven't done enough to stop it?

The Bristol Blogger said...

"BB - do you always judge things according to their impact on you?"

Yes. In exactly the same way British foreign policy has been conducted in our own self interest for hundreds of years. And has been conducted by New Labour for last 12 and will be conducted by Miliband and his successors in the future.

Are you proposing a foreign policy in somebody else's interest? Whose?

"Mugabe doesn't pose a threat to your security or values does he, over there in Zimbabwe"

This is blatant Whataboutery? of the type you've criticised recently. The subject is Israel/Palestine.

"And anyway, it could be argued that Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands, in fuelling anger and bitterness in the Muslim world, is a major contributory factor to the terrorist threat and to the growth of radical Islam."

That could be argued, yes. Although my understanding of Islamism is that it exists as an ideology with its own history in its own right seperate from the West. It's not mainly a response to US/Israel/ Western Imperialism so why treat it as such? It won't go away if Israel/Palestine goes away.

"How many young Palestinians in Gaza will turn to terrorism in response to what they've witnessed in the last three weeks? And how many young Muslims in the UK will feel increasingly alienated because they feel we haven't done enough to stop it?"

Is this a sound basis for deciding long term foreign policy objectives?

Katabasis said...

Kerry - given your position on Israel, where do you stand with regards to Iraq - vis a vis Labour's policy?

Kerry said...

I'm sure that's already on here or the main website. Search!

Cleo said...

BB - I think you're right that Greenstock is viewing the Israel/Palestinian conflict in similar terms set out by Miliband in his recent criticism of the 'war on terror'. By treating different groups with different aims and identities as a homogenous enemy, and in its assumption that the best way of responding to these groups was military, the war on terror did help these groups find common cause. (And what is happening in Palestine is undoubtedly helping fuel grievance in the Muslim world, and bring together these diverse groups - even Bush conceded this at the start of his war on terror).

The boring and much repeated reality is that the only way peace will be secured - which is also in the best interests of the UK, US and Europe - is through a negotiated peace settlement. And this can only be achieved by dealing with Hamas, which, for good or bad, is the authority to which the Palestinians have elected to represent their interests. It sounds like the new US administration will start covert meetings with Hamas to help begin this process.

The Bristol Blogger said...

I don't think that there's any debate to be had around the fact that Bush got the strategy wrong.

But was the underlying analysis wrong?

The degree to which you're dealing with "different groups with different aims and identities" is debateable. As is the argument that Islamism is a product of Western policy in the Middle East.

As for Obama, it'll be interesting to see whether Greenstock is an early outrider for his new foreign policy or whether this is a few old Foreign Office Arabists getting a bit carried away during the lull of a Presidential transition.

I'd favour talking to Hamas too. Even though I don't think it'll work.

The Bristol Blogger said...

Oops! Looks like the FO Arabists got a bit carried away.

Obama said in his speech, "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred...."

That's the Bush analysis (more-or-less). Let's wait for the strategy ...

Emerald said...

"Islamism ... as an ideology with its own history in its own right seperate from the West. It's not mainly a response to US/Israel/ Western Imperialism"

As you say, debateable. However, I'd err on the side of seeing Islamism as a syncretic ideology which has developed as a result of the massive European, American and Soviet interference in the Middle East since the demise of the Ottoman Empire, driven along by growing petrochemical addiction.

Consider again "The Power of Nightmares" by the brilliant Adam Curtis:

"“It shows Egyptian civil servant Sayyid Qutb, depicted as the founder of modern Islamist thought, visiting the U.S. [in the late 1940s] to learn about the education system, but becoming disgusted with what he saw as a corruption of morals and virtues in western society through individualism. When he returns to Egypt, he is disturbed by westernisation under Gamal Abdel Nasser and becomes convinced that in order to save society it must be completely restructured along the lines of Islamic law while still using western technology. He also becomes convinced that this can only be accomplished through the use of an elite "vanguard" to lead a revolution against the established order. Qutb becomes a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and, after being tortured in one of Nasser's jails, comes to believe that western-influenced leaders can justly be killed for the sake of removing their corruption.”

Add the substantial Marxist/Soviet influence in the Middle East, and you have the Islamist reaction, imo.

As for Miliband! You'd have to laugh if it weren't so deadly serious ... o sod it, you just have to laugh ...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1126579/MELANIE-PHILLIPS-Arrogant-ignorant-depth-Banana-Boy-Miliband-worst-Foreign-Secretary-ever.html

Kerry said...

You can always rely on Melanie for impartial and insightful analysis. (Irony alert for those of who you don't ever quite get it).

thebristolblogger said...

Curtis is an odd choice for a discussion on the dangers of Islamism. He might be a stylistically interesting film maker but his politics are nonsense - which is probably why he's so popular at the BBC. His views are like something you might read on the internet on one of those obscure sites written in a yellow font on a blue background using rubbish HTML.

Doesn't he conclude that Islamism was basically invented by Neo-Cons to scare us all so they could proceed with their secret plan to take over the world?

You'll find a much more elegant discussion of Qutb in Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism.

Emerald said...

Thanks for that, I shall certainly take a look.

I know nothing of Curtis' politics other than what can be known from "The Mayfair Set" and "The Century of the Self" which are where I get the impression of his insight.

So are you saying that you don't see Islamism as being influenced by, or in any way, a complex reaction to the threat of Western modernity?

Have to agree though, Curtis does seem a bit too conspiracist over the so-clled "neo-cons".

Emerald said...

“To read is to glide forward toward death; and gliding toward death means you have understood what you are reading.” p9.

This article is fascinating BB. I found myself being drawn in and really empathising with what Qutb had to say. His analysis of the Western condition seems dead on:

“the European mind split finally asunder …Europe's scientific and technical achievements allowed the Europeans to dominate the world. And the Europeans inflicted their ''hideous schizophrenia'' on peoples and cultures in every corner of the globe. That was the origin of modern misery -- the anxiety in contemporary society, the sense of drift, the purposelessness, the craving for false pleasures. The crisis of modern life was felt by every thinking person in the Christian West. But then again, Europe's leadership of mankind inflicted that crisis on every thinking person in the Muslim world as well.” p5.

Qutb compares the schizophrenia of Western thought with the wholeness of Muslim theology (El Wahid!) and I can totally understand what he’s saying … omg … I must be becoming radicalised … help … Kerry, does “Prevent” have a 24 hr distress helpline like the Samaritans …?

The ads for “Acceder - Hebrew Free Loans” did rather put me off though.

You mention authorial politics. Well, I see that Berman is described in Wikipedia as a Liberal Hawk, which I’ve no truck with. Social constructionism is all very well, but bearing that in mind, if something makes sense to me then it makes sense, as this does.

Plenty of interesting reviews too: from Amazon “The most original aspect of his analysis is to categorize Islamism as a totalitarian reaction against Western liberalism in a class with Nazism and communism.”

“Berman contends that “pan-Arabism and the philosophical roots of Europe’s right wing nationalisms were the same.” Islamic extremism (unlike other religious extremisms?) preaches utter obedience to an unrealizable ideal, and so generates totalitarianism.” Jacobsen, Logos Journal. Glad to see confirmation of views on Ba’athism/Pan-Arabism.

“But the book may not get the attention it deserves, because it isn't a very scholarly work. It manages to discuss totalitarianism without referencing Hannah Arendt even once, and it doesn't have so much as a minimal Index. What it has, instead, is a coherent thesis.” Demosophia. I particularly liked this comment “Under the stole suite of a liberal, he is basically a dangerous example of a relatively well-disguised arch-reactionary.”

I don’t see that anything that Berman writes contradicts my quote from Wikipedia’s “The Power of Nightmares” entry, and my contention that Islamism is a syncretic ideology formed by complex social and psychological processes in the Orient as a result of the confrontation with the Occident and the West’s continual meddling. Qutb certainly understood Western mindsets all too well, as do the vast majority of “radicalised” Muslims. That is precisely why they seek to destroy the Jahiliyya.

Kerry said...

"To read is to glide forward toward death"... is that a reflection on the comments on this blog?

The Bristol Blogger said...

No, that'd be to read is to glide around in circles.