Saturday, June 30, 2007
London's joy is Bethlehem's despair...
posted by: [jimiffondu] at 4:50 PM
Thanks to Cornelius Eacott for this post...
much love,


Ten long years after becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair has finally stepped down. Ten years which included the introduction of tuition fees for university students and the beginnings of the commercialization of Higher Education. Ten years which included mass privatization and the great auction of public services. Ten years which included involving Britain's armed forces in at least four wars of aggression (and who will ever know how many further actions were ordered covertly by the grinning First Lord of the Treasury). Ten years, blighted by failed Private Finance Initiatives, corruption in local councils, disastrous domestic policy and humiliating foreign policy.

Ten years, which included the ongoing "cash-for-honours" scandal, the $100 Billion BAE arms scandal (and its subsequent hush-up), his shameless media manipulation of Princess Diana's [suspicious] death, his complete and utter subservience to Rupert Murdoch, his attempt to suspend Habeas Corpus in Britain, the prohibition of free demonstration near Parliament, the continuing widening of the gap between rich and poor and the naming of Britain as one of the worst countries in child welfare. And that's before we even begin to think about Iraq.

In 1995, Tony proved his worthiness to inherit Maggie Thatcher's legacy when he changed Clause Four, the guiding statement of the Labour party constitution[1]. By reworking the text with beautiful, flowery language that meant nothing at all, Blair offered us a glimpse of the future. Just eight years later, in 2003, Tony Blair lied to the British Parliament about the existence of Saddam Hussein's "Weapons of Mass Destruction", citing a British intelligence report, which he must have known to be deficient, hastily assembled and politically skewed to serve his interests.

Lying to Parliament remains a treasonous crime in the United Kingdom. And although capital punishment was abolished in 1965 for the offence of murder, treason remained a hanging offence until 1998, interestingly, just one year after Blair's accession to power.

So now he has finally had the good grace to step down. That there was not a mass popular uprising, demanding his resignation, following the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a testament to the apathy he has inspired within the British population. Across Britain, and in foreign parts, parties were thrown to celebrate the end of the rule of this war criminal; yet, at the "Goodbye and Good Riddance" party I was attending here in Bethlehem, an air of melancholy dampened the party spirit.

Just hours earlier, our beloved helmsman had been confirmed as the new Quartet envoy to the Middle East Peace Process.

"He's screwed up his own country enough, now he's coming here to finish us off", wailed one disconsolate colleague.

Another bluntly asked, "How much arrogance does this murdering bastard have?"

Far be it for me to pre-judge the actions of another, but let us have a little foresight in this matter, given a reasonable body of experience drawn over the last decade. What can we expect from the rookie peacemaker?

We can expect smiles and friendly handshakes. We can expect smoothness without substance. We can expect endless speeches, praising moderates and condemning extremism.

We can expect complete silence over the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, those fortress cities strategically built on hilltops which continue to expand, annexing more and more Palestinian agricultural land and water resources. We can expect complete silence over the failure of the Oslo accords to provide any basis for a just resolution between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We can expect to hear about how "reasonable" the demands of the Quartet are: to recognize Israel, to renounce violence and to accept previously signed agreements.

We can expect to hear nothing about why the Hamas movement continues to reject the demands of the Quartet; indeed, we will not hear a word about the motivations of the Islamic resistance at all, save for pretty words about "not valuing freedom", or being "intent on Israel's destruction".

No mention will be made that Hamas have already tacitly, within the Prisoner's Accord Document, agreed to the recognition of the State of Israel within the June 4 1967 borders. Certainly no mention will be made that Israel has yet to define its own borders, and so cannot truly and emphatically be recognized by any other state in the world.

No mention will be made of precedents within international law which legitimize armed force used against an invading, or occupying, foreign power. Indeed, if Mr Blair demands that Israel renounces violence, I'll eat my hat.

No mention will be made that the principal "peace agreement", the Oslo accords, signed away Palestinian rights to land, to water, to freedom of movement (within their own territory) and to sovereignty over borders and airspace. It is also beyond doubt that no mention may be made of Israel's violations of the Oslo accords: the continuing construction of settlements within occupied territory, the theft of water from the river Jordan and the northern aquifer, the frequent Israeli military incursions into "Area A" districts – ostensibly under total Palestinian military and civil control – alongside arbitrary harassment, arrests, assassinations and the occasional under-reported massacre of human life.

Hamas want justice, so that the refugees may return and Palestinians may, once again, have sovereignty over their own destiny. Fatah want peace, so that trade and business may resume, and the rich can continue getting richer at the expense of all those in refugee camps who depend on the Israeli-imported business (and narcotics) of Fatah leaders.

Mr Blair likes the idea of peace. And Mr Blair likes the idea of business. Yes, indeed, Mr Blair will find willing "partners for peace" in the businessmen of the Fatah leadership.

"Free trade creates free people" states the tired maxim. Yet it doesn't. Free trade creates an elite of wealthy people, who live above the enclaves of the poor. In Israel and Palestine, the metaphor often becomes reality: Fatah will be willing to swallow any of Mr Blair's demands in order to stay "in power" (regardless of democratic process), and will submit to the island enclaves of Palestinian cities, with the ever-necessary "security" roadblocks and checkpoints isolating the inhabitants of each town – creating literally a captive market for their goods and services.

The wall, built by Israel and financed by the West exclusively on Palestinian land within the 1967 "Green line" border (which, like the settlements, annexes land and water resources, even tourist sites), will become the new border of the new "Free Palestine". Israel will retain control of borders and airspace, and will likely also continue to occupy the "closed military zone" of the Jordan valley, coincidentally the most fertile agricultural region in the area.

These violations of Palestinian sovereignty may bring a short-term Israeli military withdrawal from areas of the West Bank. While several settlements may be relocated under Olmert's "Convergence"/"Consolidation"/"Realignment" plan, sandwiched west of the wall and east of the green line, a military presence will be required to be deployed "to protect" those that remain deep within Palestinian territory.

This is the vision of the state of Palestine which is foreseen by Messrs Bush, Blair, and Olmert, and which is to be enacted by the recently-empowered Mr Blair himself. A state in name only, dependent on foreign aid, dependent on Israel, dependent on the whims of the Western powers – who know only too well that historic Palestine is both a microcosm of, and a tinder-box for, the wider "resource-heavy" Middle East.

This unsustainable vision will only lend strength to the masses who do not stand to gain from it: the poor, the dispossessed, the isolated. It will further polarize Palestinian society, with the Western-friendly overlords getting richer and fatter and neglecting to care about "the others". "The others", meanwhile, will be forced to seek help where they can get it: from Iran, from Syria. The growing divide will make the last bout of internecine fighting look like a spat among children in a kindergarten.

What is perhaps more concerning for Israel is that this potential future civil war may well coincide with the outbreak of a third Intifada stemming from within Israel itself, also led by groups isolated within fractured society – the Bedouin, the Druze, the Ethiopian immigrant population, the Arab population of Israel – all those currently treated as second-class citizens by the White-European-Jewish population.

From his displays over the last decade, even the last year, ignoring the traditional role of a diplomat in seeking mutual reciprocity, the application of international law or even a cessation to acts of mass violence, it is not difficult to predict on which side of the green line Mr Blair will have his holiday home.

Without wanting to resort to hyperbole, this appointment can only bring about war, famine, death and pestilence. With Mr Blair, we can expect neither peace nor justice, for without justice there can be no peace. London's joy is Bethlehem's despair.


Cornelius Eacott is a British peace worker, currently based in occupied Bethlehem. He can be contacted through:


This piece was originally published on Ma'an News at:

"Opinion" articles featured on Ma'an News reflect the views of the original author only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Ma'an Network, its funders, agencies, employees or directors.


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