Condemned to a Hobson’s Choice
In Britain we’ve a messianic right-wing Neo-con appendage, dolled up in left-of-center garb in Number 10, set to be challenged by the even more right-wing leader of the Conservative Party, who disingenuously puts himself forward as a child of immigrants; a man who naturally empathizes with the hardships of the poor and downtrodden. Both Tony Blair and Michael Howard enjoyed comparatively privileged upbringings were gung ho concerning the invasion of Iraq; both are hesitant as to a fully-fledged commitment to Europe while Howard is even cozier with the Republicans than Blair, if that’s at all possible. So much for the choices, which should surely be enshrined in any true democracy!
When one takes into account that Howard is Jewish in the context of results of a recent poll which found that 45 per cent of the British public would not vote for a Jewish Prime Minister, then the choice for Britons is further diminished.
Across the Atlantic, with John Kerry looking as though he’ll be the Democratic contender for the White House, the American people are similarly placed. Both the incumbent president and Kerry were born with a silver spoon, were members of the elitist Skull and Bones society while at Yale, and backed the war with Iraq. Both Bush and Kerry are long-time Washington insiders and have benefited heavily from corporate funding as well as being financed by special interest groups.
However, in a hypocritical attempt to pull the wool over our eyes Howard slams Blair for misreading or embellishing ‘intelligence’ concerning Iraq’s non-existent WMD, while Kerry insists he did not give the President a blank check to invade Iraq as Bush promised Congress the country would only go to war as a last resort.
Short of an anarchical response, or a ban on the ballot box, there is little the voter can do to change the status quo. Any choice we think we have is an illusion, carefully crafted by devotees of Goebbels-like propaganda.
Britons should take note of Howard’s response to Clare Short’s bugging accusations. He didn’t say he was appalled that the British government would stoop to listening-in on the conversations of Kofi Annan, not a suspected terrorist or criminal, but a man who is supposed to represent the interests of all UN member countries. Instead, he told Blair to get a grip on his party. In other words, ensure that no other former minister is tempted to wave the dirty laundry for all to see.
Likewise, when Kerry was recently asked whether he would set a date for the pull out of U.S. troops from Iraq–since he has been banging on about its illegality in the absence of WMD–he fudged his answer. Indeed he has previously said he would like another 40,000 available for rotation purposes but hasn’t elucidated where these should come from. There is speculation he might re-introduce the draft.
Kerry was further ambiguous when it came to the issue of gay marriages and on the subject of the death penalty.
When it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, there is hardly a chink of light between all four. Blair urges a two-state solution and does nothing about it; Bush mentions it in passing between vilifying Arafat and calling the Palestinian militants "terrorists"; while Kerry has written an emotive article about a visit he made to Masada, ending it with Am Yisrael Chai–the People of Israel live.
As for Michael Howard he dare not put his head above the parapet over Israel. As Melanie Philips wrote in Ha’aretz: "So what would happen if Howard were to speak up loudly and firmly in support of Israel’s measures for self defense and against the new anti-Semitism? He would be taking a big risk of being fingered for double loyalty. For what troubles the British even more than the individual Jew is the collective Jew. Jews who publicly identify with each other are considered suspect. The British public will overlook a politician’s Jewish heritage as long as it is kept to the level of something consenting adults do in private, and as long he doesn’t identify with Jewish people-hood".
This probably accounts for Howard’s silence on the issue of Palestine and its absence from his own page on the Conservative Party website.
His predecessor Iain Duncan-Smith, however, made no bones about his party’s policies. In a speech he made before The Conservative Friends of Israel in September 2002 he said: "Pessimism is a luxury that no Jew can allow himself. In a similar vein Winston Churchill once said, ‘it is better to be frightened now than killed thereafter’. Both are telling us the same thing. Appeasement is not an option. Every democracy has the right to defend itself against such attack. Israel is no exception. Israel is part of the front line for democracy against terrorism. It must not stand alone, and Mr. Chairman, we will not let it stand alone."
There is nothing wrong with support of Israel but it is the extreme bias of successive British and American governments, which has imperiled world peace and added spice to burgeoning anti-Western feeling throughout the Muslim world. It is the glaring double standards on the part of the U.S. and Britain, which is fuelling this hatred as well as the penchant of Western media to report on Israeli victims of the conflict while all but ignoring the almost 3,000 Palestinian dead and tens of thousands maimed and injured.
Americans especially are deeply concerned about further terrorist attacks and about the endless wars bound up with an open ‘war on terror’ but until Arabs and Muslims stop seeing footage of babies with bullet holes in their chests, old people wandering helplessly through the rubble of their demolished homes and the lifeless corpses of tiny children whose only ‘crime’ was to throw pebbles at tanks, there will no end to what American and British leaders call ‘terror’.
Britons, who have not been terrorist targets have been duped by their government to believe they, too, are under threat. Britain has its own mini-Guantanano, known as Belmarsh prison, with 14 of its own foreign disappeared; new laws similar to the U.S. Patriot Act have been introduced by its authoritarian Home Secretary and its people are constantly besieged by terror alerts preceding tanks around its airports, repeated cancellations of British Airways flights and lurid Foreign Office travel advisories. All designed so that the British will stay on board the interminable ‘war on terror’.
If the U.S. and its buddy Britain were blessed with leaders who truly wanted to end the Mid-East bloodshed in a fair and committed manner–perhaps carrying on from the Taba talks where they were rudely cut short when Bush and Sharon took over from Clinton and Barak–they would begin to earn respect not only from the region but also from much of the Subcontinent and South East Asia.
At present there is no leader or leadership challenger putting forward this option. There is nobody promising to put an end to the conflict by urging Israel to dismantle its apartheid wall and stop its related land theft, nobody asking the Jewish state to abide by a host of cast-aside U.N. resolutions and while they all pat Libya on the back for coming clean on its WMD, not one of them even mentions Israel’s nuclear, chemical and biological stock pile. It’s as though they don’t exist.
It’s clear that whoever retains office or gains office in America and Britain we are in for more of the same: more overseas aggression, more distrust and worsening economies. While these virtual two-party systems prevail and while the nominally leftist parties veer ever towards the right, ours is a world destined to benefit mega corporations, energy companies, weapons manufacturers and those individuals whose wealth is tied up with them. The rest of us are like drones scurrying around to do the bidding of the King ‘B’s, but unlike drones we have to believe that we can make a difference, our vote can count for something. Exactly like drones, however, as individuals we are dispensable just as were the 500 plus Americans and Britons hurled into Iraq as cannon fodder on the alter of the hegemonic ambition and big business interests of the few.
What can we do about it? The first step is for each of us to search our own conscience and to realize that the prevailing situation in the West Bank and Gaza represents a cancer on our mutually dependent world. If this cancer isn’t put to rights, its malignancy can only spread and contaminate. Let’s forget the region’s bloody history and the rights and wrongs of either side and, instead, let’s agree that no people should have to live under the horrors of occupation. Armed with this conclusion, en masse, we can encourage leaders who want to put right the wrongs of our forefathers and peers to stand up and be counted.
America as the sole superpower should use its mighty influence for good instead of invariably putting its selfish interests before everyone else on the planet. Most Israelis want peace and a two-state solution, as do the Palestinians. Israelis and Palestinians want flourishing economies as well as safety and security. It is America’s so called ‘special relationship’ with Israel, supported by Britain, which is preventing this from happening. Courageous American and British leaders with noble aims could facilitate this outcome using the ‘withdrawal of the aid and arms’ weapon and inserting a temporary peacekeeping force between the Israelis and the Palestinians until they solve their problems. This is a solution the Palestinians have long been requesting to no avail.
Until such paragons emerge, if they ever do, we are doomed to put up with this lot and the unfortunate consequences of their covert plans, self-aggrandizement, hubris, propaganda and downright lies. With elections coming up some of us may believe we are at an important crossroads when, in fact, we are all being dragged along a dank and dingy one way street with no end in sight.
LINDA S. HEARD is a specialist writer on Mid-East affairs and welcomes feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org