Arabist Revolt

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Fifty-two former British diplomats have penned a joint letter of protest to Prime Minister Tony Blair, in what the Financial Times editorial board is calling "possibly the most stinging rebuke ever to a British government by its foreign policy establishment." Interestingly, the primary focus is not the war in Iraq, but rather Blair's role in George Bush's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lede:

We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close cooperation with the United States. Following the press conference in Washington at which you and President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment.

London's in a screw-the-yanks tizzy; one Guardian column, by a former BBC correspondent, is headlined "We Have To Kick Against the Pricks." There's a useful Brit-press roundup and much commentary over at the generally pro-war Harry's Place.

NEXT: Wearing the Stovepipe

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  1. Bunch of stiped-pants pansy Lawrence-of-Arabia wannabes.

  2. Um — how is a letter signed by a bunch of *former* diplomats and officials a “rebuke by the foreign policy establishment”? Wouldn’t the “foreign policy establishment” be the *current* diplomats and officials?

    And who in their right minds would trust either group, anyway? Sixty years of completely bungling the Israeli-Palestinian issue doesn’t exactly speak to the foreign policy establishment’s competence.

  3. That fellow wasn’t calling us pricks as you apparently believe, you ignorant sinner.

    From: http://www.biblequestions.org/archives/BQAR075.htm

    Question: What does “kick against the pricks” mean?

    Answer: The question is probably referring to Acts 9:5 or 26:14. Saul (later called Paul) had been persecuting Christians (Acts 9: 13,14). Even though Saul had been sincere, Saul was wrong (Acts 23: 1,26:9). Saul was acting according to the law of Moses, but this system had been abrogated (2 Cor. 3). Hence, Saul had no authority for his actions.

    A large percentage of people in the first century were tillers of the soil. Oxen were used to work the soil. The prick or goad was a necessary devise. The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end. The man working the ox would position the goad in such a way as to exert influence and control over the ox. You see, if the ox refused the command indicated by the farmer, the goad would be used to jab or prick the ox. Sometimes the ox would refuse this incentive by kicking out at the prick. As result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal. The more the animal rebelled, the more the animal suffered. Hence, the statement to Saul: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Saul was rebelling against God.)

  4. Every single one of them hates J.E.W.S.

  5. ortolan88 — Awesome, thanks. I’ve got the title for my next punk-rock record.

  6. Nevermind the Pricks, Here’s Welch?

  7. Just “Kick Against the Pricks.” Has a nice ring.

  8. All in all, from my POV, giving Sharon not an ounce of pushback is the worst policy blunder of this administration. Yeah, yeah, I hear all you doves out there. We will just agree to disagree on Iraq.

    On this, all Bush had to do was agree on no right of return to areas behind the wall, but push to get the wall into an agreeable shape (i.e. the old borders). If we stand firm on the notion that a separate state must be a viable outcome of the constroction, we have at least stood up to them on something.

    At first, I thought that was the plan. Everyone wins locally by having Sharon ask too much, and we push him back to a reasonable spot. Nope. Stupidity all around.

  9. Sounds to me like a well reasoned letter. Damn those Brits and their civilized discourse on these issues.

    And who in their right minds would trust either group, anyway? Sixty years of completely bungling the Israeli-Palestinian issue doesn’t exactly speak to the foreign policy establishment’s competence.

    Completely bungling? Going nowhere perhaps? You could argue for that. In which case I would argue that going nowhere is better than going backwards.

  10. For the US, after a proud legacy of often being on the side of justice, one that included opposing Soviet communism and S. African apartheid

    …and Palestinian terror. So why would the US start rewarding it now?

    Interestingly, the Israeli hard-right is opposed to the fence because they’re afraid it will become the border of Israel. And if it becomes a border, that means the other side will be Palestinian. And yet those who claim to care about “justice” for Palestinians also oppose the fence. Apparently they care less about a Palestinian state than about beating up Israel. There is nothing about the 1967 border that’s sacred. It’s no more an established legal international boundary than any other line drawn through Israel and the disputed territories. There’s no more reason to call a withdrawal to those boundaries as “justice” than any other particular decision.

  11. The sanction of the occupation is the fruition of Sharon’s long held, racist, thieving plan.

    Winston S. Churchill III in 1973 asked Ariel Sharon, “What is to become of the Palestinians?” Sharon’s answer: “We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlement, in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years time, neither the United Nations, nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”

  12. David Nieporent,

    Both peoples are the victims of terror. The Palestinians are victims of Israeli state terror. The sanctioning of the occupation will likely prolong it and condemn both the Israeli and Palestinian people to increased violence.

    “the 1967 border (is) no more an established legal international boundary….”

    That’s incorrect, also the Israeli government has many times accepted billions from the US government with the explicit stipulation that the occupied territories are Palestinian land and must be returned as part of a final settlement.

  13. The letter of the 52 former Mid-east British diplomats wrote Tony Blair is on target. But, a good question for them is; how do they feel about the big money that goes from the US government to the thug governments of Egypt and Jordan? Does the British government give any to those regimes?

  14. Nick Cave beat you punk rockers to it. The Album is from 1986. He does a cool version of Black Betty on it.

    nick-cave.net/stuff.php?view=album

    KK

  15. On this, all Bush had to do was agree on no right of return to areas behind the wall, but push to get the wall into an agreeable shape (i.e. the old borders).

    Why is it the United States’ job to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians? They’re our self-declared enemies.

    If we stand firm on the notion that a separate state must be a viable outcome of the constroction, we have at least stood up to them on something.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass if the Palestinians end up with a viable state or not. Let them merge back into Jordan again, if Jordan will have them.

    The Palestinians have not done one single solitary thing to deserve either their own state or our support in obtaining one. The Kurds, the Australian Aborigines, the North, Central, and South American native Americans — all of these groups have a greater moral, legal, and historical claim to their own countries, and none of them have one. In spite of this they have not, as the Palestinians have, engaged in the deliberate and systematic murder of innocents — in spite of the fact that European treatment of the New World’s “original inhabitants” was orders of magnitude worse than the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

    So fuck the Palestinians. Either they’ll be ruled by somebody else or they’ll live like pigs in shit in a non-viable state of their own. Either outcome works just fine for me. They deserve nothing better.

  16. Rick, a capitulation is an action that gives up something one wishes not to give up. Do you actually believe that Bush is sorry to see Palestinians’ claims over their land disappear?

  17. The sanctioning of the occupation will likely prolong it and condemn both the Israeli and Palestinian people to increased violence.

    No; rewarding terrorism increases violence. That’s the dynamic we’ve seen over the last dozen years. Every time Israel makes a concession, the violence escalates. Conclusion: taking the firm position that the PLO gets nothing until the violence stops is the best chance of reducing violence.

    That’s incorrect, also the Israeli government has many times accepted billions from the US government with the explicit stipulation that the occupied territories are Palestinian land and must be returned as part of a final settlement.

    No, it’s not incorrect. The only “legal” — I use the term loosely, because international law is at best a metaphor — border was the partition plan. The “pre-1967 borders,” aka the Green Line, are merely based on a truce.

    Certainly 242, which is the basis for most international diplomatic efforts over the last 40 years, doesn’t say that the pre-1967 boundaries are sacred.

  18. The complaint of the 52 former British diplomats against Tony Blair is right on target.

    For the US, after a proud legacy of often being on the side of justice, one that included opposing Soviet communism and S. African apartheid, the US government, with Bush’s yielding to Sharon’s every wish and sanctioning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, has completely abandoned the pursuit of justice in its Israeli-Palestinian policy and given the ok to the maintenance of a theft which has only accelerated with the wall.

    This is a reversal of a long standing precept of US foreign policy which said that any final peace for Israel/ Palestine would have to include either the total, or nearly total end to the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian land.

    Besides being unjust, Bush’s tragic capitulation to Sharon will likely condemn the Israel and Palestinian people to increased violence. It also may well function as a recruiting incentive for those who are considering violence against coalition forces in Iraq. It makes the US government claim that its interest in Iraq is a free and just society, appear less valid, to say the least.

    Things used to be different. After the 1956 war the Brits, the French and Israel conspired to have Israel keep a large part of the Gaza Strip and Sinai for its natural resource booty (especially natural gas). But, after Israel’s joint military undertaking with Britain and France was over, Eisenhower warned Israel of severe consequences were she not to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Sinai. All financial contributions to Israeli institutions would lose their tax-exempt status. Also, he told the Brits and France that he would call out their participation in this land grab and their plans to benefit from it, to the whole world. The withdrawal was the result.

    This episode earned us great respect every where in the Mideast, even in Israel. It engendered pro-US sentiments the Arab world. America was seen to stand for fair play.

    Blair could make the very doubtful claim that he bought the WMD scare but there is no rational pretext at all for his backing of Bush’s cave in to Sharon on the occupation. This barrage from the diplomats is yet another problem for Blair since he has probably made enemies of some powerful EU backers after promising a referendum in Britain on the new EU constitution.

  19. joe,

    Bush’s unprincipled sanctioning of the occupation doesn’t make the Palestinians claims disappear, but to answer your question, I don’t know if he has any qualms of guilt about it, I sort of doubt that he does. I believe Bush did it for political advantage. Anyway, even before this shame, he seemed to be in Sharon’s hip pocket.

    I used the word capitulation as in; “succumbing to pressure”, but since Bush no doubt assumes that he got something in return, my use of the word does indeed imply what I don’t believe, that he has ethical qualms in this matter. Actually, he really should, visa vie the troops in Iraq, as it makes the current pretext for the mission there quite hypocritical.

    The definition of “capitulation” you gave is exact. I should have chosen a better word.

  20. David Nieporent:

    “rewarding terrorism increases violence”

    Remember, we must include Israeli state terrorism as well. And yes, the US government has been rewarding Sharon’s terrorizing of the Palestinians and it has led to more violence from both the Israeli government and the Palestinians.
    Also note, terrorism is acts against innocent civilians. Theft of the property and the unjust imprisonment of innocent Palestinian civilians is terror, just as their murder and the murder of innocent Israeli civilians is.

    ” Every time Israel makes a concession, the (Palestinian) violence escalates”

    There is certainly a record of violent response from the Palestinians following Israeli government provocation, but here you’re positing an unknown correlation that I think you made to fit an agenda and not the facts. I don’t think you can back it up.

    “The only “legal” — I use the term loosely, because international law is at best a metaphor — border was the partition plan.’

    If the occupied Palestinian land didn’t have legal status then Israel wouldn’t either. That the occupied territories are legally Palestinian goes back to the founding documents of Israel. The British Mandate made them “Mandatory Palestine”. If they have no legal status, then the myriad documents which Israel has signed with our country which recognizes them as Palestinian lands would be fraudulent.

    “…doesn’t say that the pre-1967 boundaries are sacred.”

    First of all, not all of the pre-1967 boundaries involve the occupied territories. Also, you say “sacred” because that is much more nebulous, and thus, much more defensible than you’re claim that they are not legal.

    Now, certain Jewish fundamentalist nut balls that have made political league with Sharon do claim “sacred” rights to the occupied Palestinian land.

  21. David, calling the fragments outside the fence a “state” is like calling a glass of urine a “beverage.”

  22. Dan:

    THREE excellent points!

    I have long wondered why we have not used all of the money we send to Jordan to pressure Jordan into annexing Palestine.

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