Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Ahmadinejad Harms the Palestinian Cause

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st April, 2009

mahmoud-ahmadinejadThe Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, looked smugly satisfied when British and other Western delegates to the UN anti-racism conference in Geneva walked out yesterday, once he started his anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rant. While his uncompromising words — including yet another questioning of the reality of the Holocaust — may have played to a certain radical gallery, they were disastrous for the Palestinian cause. As a result of his intervention, once again Israel and Jews worldwide can portray themselves as victims, whose very existence is threatened by Iran. The Palestinian issue, which the Iranian leader was supposedly highlighting, was effectively sidelined, as so often is the case.

There are many reasons to criticse Israeli policy; I do so often myself. There was no justification for the sickening scale of the assault on Gaza earlier this year, for example. But to couch such criticism in terms that play into the hands of those who cry ‘anti-semitism’ anytime Israel is scrutinised is counter-productive. Far from helping the Palestinian cause and their just struggle for dignity, freedom and statehood, Ahmadinejad has put it back. And he has persuaded the rational world — if it wasn’t persuaded already — that he is anti-semitic himself. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was right to attack the speech as contrary to the very purpose and spirit of the conference. Maybe Ahmadenijad thinks his display of arrogance will improve his chances of being re-elected in the forthcoming presidential elections back home. But actually he has damaged the reputation of Iran, as well as doing the Palestinians a disservice.

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Europe Must Act Firmly on Gaza

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 6th January, 2009

gaza-shells-as-vases1        Israel/Palestine is awash with peace missions from Europe at the moment, all urging a ceasefire in the current conflict in Gaza.  Tony Blair, the Madrid Quartet’s (bizarrely chosen) Middle East peace envoy has not been on holiday (as Gordon Brown rather cattily said on British television over the weekend), but shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been through, urging an end to hostilities, as has a Czech-led delegation from the European Union, which included the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. And what has been the outcome off all this activity? Nothing!

Conflicts are never black-and-white, in which one side is 100% wrong and the other 100% right, so I would not claim that that is the case in Gaza now. The Islamic militants (whether encouraged by Hamas or not) who have been sending a barrage of low-grade rockets into Israel over the past few months have been inexcusably provocative. However, the Israeli response has not just been ‘disproportionate’, to employ the eupemism that is currently so much in vogue. It is wicked. It is criminal. The Arab world will not forgive Israel for this. And neither should Europe.

Europe was instrumental in the creation of the modern state of Israel, both as a result of British colonial policy (the Balfour Declaration et al) and as a result of the Nazi Holocaust in Germany and German-occupied states. So Europe cannot wash its hands of the consequences. Moreover, as the European Union is committed to championing peace, human rights and the rule of law, not only within its borders but beyond them as well, it must address the Israel/Palestine situation. The EU has a good record in helpng the Palestinian Authority, including funding projects and institutions (some of which the Israelis have subsequently blown up). And it has close working ties with Israel. But it is not flexing its muscles strongly enough with the Israeli government.

Preferential trade arrangements between the EU and Israel should be suspended immediately. European political leaders should stop using euphemisms, and condemn the barbarity of the Israeli assault on Gaza in clear, unambiguous terms. Europe should also tell the United States publicly that it is unacceptable for the Bush administration to block United Nations resolutions aimed at ending the conflict. And European political leaders should put pressure on Barack Obama to declare that his policy on the Middle East will not just be a carbon-copy of George W Bush’s.

We should continue to criticise Hamas where appropriate as well, of course (though objectively speaking now there is all-out war in Gaza, as declared by the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, the Palestinians have every right to defend themselves from the Israeli invasion in whatever way they can). A comprehensive ceasefire agreement is essential in which Hamas guarantees to stop rocket-fire on Israel and to ensure that the tunnels used for bringing arms into Gaza from Egypt are closed, while at the same time Israel lifts its land and sea blockade of Gaza totally and permanently, and the land crossing between Gaza and Egypt is opened and properly supervised.

The Israelis have indicated that they are not interested in such a ceasefire until they have pounded Hamas into the ground. Europe should lead the Western world in denouncing that attitude. The Israelis are getting away with murder (with Washington’s benediction). Every day, Palestinian children are being slaughtered, disabled and traumatised. Europe must disassociate itself from this action and show its mettle on the international stage. The time has come to turn swords into ploughshares, and shells into vases (as the illustration of flowers in Gaza shows).

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