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Monday, July 24, 2006 

Blair, Israel, Lebanon and political bankruptcy.

A man cradles a Lebanese child injured in an Israeli airstrike on a car.
12 days after the crisis engulfing Lebanon and Israel began, the Dear Leader has finally decided that it's time to get tough on both sides. Spurred into action by both Kim Howell's howl on Saturday, and Condoleeza Rice's arrival in Beirut today, he called the destruction of a large part of Lebanon a "catastrophe", going on to say, "I don't want the killing to go on. I want the killing to stop. Now. It's got to stop on both sides and it's not going to stop on both sides without a plan to make it stop."

How very different from just 3 days ago, when his spokesman said that a call for a ceasefire would only "make people feel good for a few hours". It's also a marked change from just 24 hours ago, when Kim Howells was notably less critical of Israel than he had been on Saturday, when he accused the Israelis of going after the entire Lebanese nation. It appears that the odious Margaret Beckett, who felt it wasn't helpful to be critical of Israel in almost any way, had phoned him and informed him that Downing Street was not best pleased.

Even now though, Blair has still not been directly critical of Israel in any way, shape or form. At the same time, the evidence that the IDF is targeting almost anything that moves is mounting. Those who were heeding Israel's warning to flee have been cut apart by air strikes. Red Cross ambulances have been fired at (Click on the Red Cross medics attacked in Lebanon link in the box on the right.) The United Nations presence was hit last week. The Lebanese army, which has had nothing whatsoever to do with Hizbullah, has been struck. All of this is being excused, firstly by the Israelis who maintain that motorbikes, minibuses and trucks can be used to transport the dreaded katayusha rockets, hence they are legitimate targets, whether they're doing so or not. Then there is the apologia of the likes of Alan Dershowitz, who seems to think that some civilians are more guilty than others. Others still, such as some reputed members of the Lebanese forces, appear to think that Hizbullah is moving around their rocket launchers so that the Israelis strike factories or civilian areas. It's strange that no media seem to be reporting this.

As is usual, Harry's Place, the supposed home of the internationalist, interventionist, "sensible" left, is ranting about "stoppers". They refer to the Stop the War march on Saturday in London as being pro-fascist, as many declared their solidarity with Hizbullah. Obsolete wasn't in attendance as it had to work, but otherwise would have been there, and it has to be admitted that declaring support for Hizbullah makes me very uncomfortable and uncertain indeed. While claims that Hizbullah is both fascist and terrorist are neither here nor there at the moment, why would any self-respecting left winger support an armed militia that is murdering innocent civilians, "resistance" or not? What Israel is doing amounts to state terrorism. What Hizbullah is doing amounts, as Juan Cole puts it, to war crimes. Supporting Hizbullah because they might make the Israelis think twice before they do such a thing again is not only harebrained, but smacks of the infantile gesture politics (not that there's anything wrong with them on occasion) of yesteryear which we have to leave behind to be taken seriously. That does not mean abandoning our values, our morals or our outrage. What it does mean is not supporting one bunch of killers over another. The principle of my enemy's enemy is my friend is a sign of political bankruptcy.

In the same way, we should be stepping up pressure on Tony Blair to actually put into action what he says. He needs to criticise Israel, forcefully and fully for the amount of innocent civilians they have killed purely as revenge. He rightfully recognises that what is at the epicentre of this whole debacle is the Israel-Palestine conflict. The two-state solution cannot come soon enough. Hence he needs to demand that Israel negotiate with Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas immediately. The disengagement plan Ehud Olmert was elected on is dead, destroyed by his own recklessness in the original attack on Gaza following the abduction of Corporal Shalit. It would never have worked anyway. Blair has made the right first steps in recognising that there needs to be a ceasefire. Next he has to realise that Britain has been left weakened internationally by its unprincipled and unquestioning lust for American power. Pulling back is still possible, even at this late stage.

Blair and the whole Foreign Office also have to understand that our silence over the last 12 days has helped Israel get away, literally, with murder. They have just as much blood on their hands as the IDF, Olmert, Peretz and Nasrallah. An early call could have saved lives. If Blair had an ounce of humanity left in him, he'd lose some sleep. Instead, he'll probably be as dead to the world tonight as those further down this page. The only difference being he'll wake up in the morning.

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About frickin time Tone! BTW i feel bad now for having a bit of a go about the de menezes pic, I saw it in a womans weekly mag 2day. Pippa

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