Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Tel Aviv’

Kerry’s Mission Impossible?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 7th January, 2014

Kerry and AbbasOne thing one cannot fault John Kerry on: his eternal optimism. Just about everyone who has anything to do with the Middle East — including Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, if truth be told — agrees that the chances of a Middle East “peace” being negotiated by the arbitrarily-set deadline of May is an illusion. Indeed, the very word “peace” is singularly inappropriate. What this festering sore of a conflict is all about is land and justice. The Israelis are increasingly occupying more and more of the former, in defiance of international law, while the Palestinians have been crying in vain for justice for 65 years. So John Kerry can shuttle, Kissinger-style, as much as he likes between Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Amman and Riyadh, but nothing concrete is going to be achieved until the settlements are dismantled or evacuated (as happened in Gaza, albeit on a far smaller scale), the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem ceases, and militant groups in Gaza stop firing rockets at Israeli towns. I said as much in an hour-long TV special on the Iraqi English-language al-Etejah channel this evening. As Ariel Sharon lies in his terminal, vegetative state, some wonder whether he could have delivered a settlement of the Palestinian issue, just as it looked as if a solution might be engineered by Yitzhak Rabin, another hard man who might have been able to stare down the lunatic extremist small parties that plague Israeli government coalitions; Rabin certainly had the will, but he, of course, was assassinated, by a Jewish extremist. I do not for one moment think Bibi Netanyahu has it in him to deliver a solution. Or indeed really wants one. He is like the playground bully with all the serious power in his hands, and a great big brother (the United States) to call on whenever necessary. No, there probably can never be a solution until there is an American President who has the guts to stand up to the Israeli lobby, and the strength to persuade militant Palestinian groups, including Hamas, to lay down their arms (as the IRA did in Northern Ireland). I had hoped that Barack Obama, especially in his second term, might have the courage to do that. If he had, he would have deserved winning the Nobl Peace Prize. But alas that was given to him before he even tried; the incentive was thus gone, and maybe the motivation with it.

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Who Will Pay to Rebuild Gaza?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 20th January, 2009

gaza-homes  The United Nations has estimated that it will cost billions of dollars to repair the damage done to Gaza’s infrastructure as a consequence of the three-week Israeli onslaught. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, is currently visiting the north of the battered Strip to get a personal idea of the challenges of reconstruction. Meanwhile, John Holmes, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, says hundreds of millions of dollars are needed immediately to help the 1.4 million Gazans living in dire conditions. Mr Holmes said that some neighbourhoods have been almost totally destroyed, and many homes have been reduced to rubble. Unexploded ordinance is a big problem, raw sewage is flowing in the streets and people’s food, water and medical needs are immense. A number of UN facilities, not least schools, were also trashed in the Israeli assault.

The big question now is: who should pay to put things right? The Palestinans don’t have the necessary resources. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has promised $1 billion, which is a significant start. And some emergency funds should be available from within the UN budget. The EU will doubtless rally round too, though Europeans would be right to feel aggrieved that facilities their tax money pays for — including in the occupied West Bank — sometimes get pulverised by the Israelis with impunity.

But the big question that few Western politicians have so far dared to ask is: shouldn’t Israel be obliged to pay war reperations? Especially if cases of war crimes are launched against the Israeli Defence Force and the government in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, perhaps it would be appropriate for the incoming Obama administration in Washington to divert some of the money the US annually gives in aid to Israel to helping rebuild Gaza instead. That would certainly be a more positive contribution to promoting Middle East peace.

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Tony Blair Is a Disaster as Middle East Envoy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 9th January, 2009

tony-blair    When Tony Blair was appointed the Madrid Quartet’s Middle East Envoy 18 months ago, there was a certain amount of incredulity in the Muslim world. Here was the man who had swallowed the mendacious US line on Iraq and taken British troops into a war that was opposed by huge swaths of the British public. I, too, was critical of the decision, but once he was in post (operating out of a comfortable suite in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem), I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and see what, if anything, he could come up wth.

Well, tonight, in an extensive interview with Gavin Esler on BBC2’s ‘Newsnight’, Blair confirmed my worst suspicions. Commenting on the current Gazan situation, the former Prime Minister made not one word of criticism, let alone condemnation, of  the bloody Israeli assault on Gaza. He parroted the line out of Tel Aviv that all the blame should be placed on Hamas’s shoulders, and argued that only Hamas can extricate the people of Gaza from the current situation, essentially by capitulating. Despite being one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace agreement, in which negotiation with the IRA/Sinn Fein was a key element, he rejected even the idea that Western countries should talk to Hamas.

I have no truck for the rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and other radical Islamic groups based in Gaza. I have consistently denounced them and continue to do so. However, to peddle the Israeli myth that the root of the current crisis is the Hama rockets, as Tony Blair is doing, is an obscene distortion of reality. What about the Israeli blockade, which has been turning the Gaza Strip into what the Vatican has now referred to as a giant concentration camp? And what about the 40 years of illegal occupation of the West Bank and its ongoing settlement by Israelis, in total violation of international law?

The extremely effective Israeli PR machine is yet again trying to portray Israelis as the victims. But this just will not wash. Listen to the UN officials, one after another, being driven in their anguish to state openly that Israeli actions in Gaza — including the bombing of schools and the slaughter of civilians — may now prove to be war crimes.

Tony Blair must know this. He is not stupid or ill-informed. But he is the wrong man for the job as Middle East peace envoy. One of the first things Barack Obama should do when he takes office as US President in a fortnight’s time is to move to get him replaced.

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An Unholy End to 2008

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 31st December, 2008

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain have cancelled all New Year celebrations out of solidarity with the Palestinians currently under Israeli onslaught. Certainly, the carnage in Gaza makes the Holy Land a troubled place this year’s end — as indeed it is also for those Israelis living in fear of rocket fire from Gaza. It is essential that hostilities end on both sides, and it is a scandal that the United States essentially gave Tel Aviv the green light to go in with all guns blazing, as if Palestinian civilian casualties are of no consequence.

King Abdullah of Jordan and Queen Rania (herself of Palestinian origin) have symbolically donated blood to help victims of the bombardment. But the outside world needs to do much more, and fast. Everyone’s New Year Resolution (including that of the Israeli governmnt, Hamas and irregular forces in Gaza) should be ‘Peace in the Holy Land, Now!’

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