Thursday, January 09, 2003
American Views of the Palestinian Conference - 9th January 2003, 19.56

Blair's mishandling of Britain's relationship with Israel has invited a certain amount of comment in both the blogosphere and the traditional media. An example from an American blogger can be found with the Republican GreatestJeneration website and also through David Harsanyi's article, "Strained Relations: Britain turns on Israel?" at the National Review.

Both tend to view Britain's actions through the moral prism of the 'war on terror' and judge Blair's or Straw's statements in relation to their condemnation of Islamic terrorism. Harsanyi in particular subscribes to the oft-repeated notion that Euroepans are motivated by a subconscious anti-semitism.

Yet, in a testament to how cheaply civilian life in Israel is considered by many Europeans, the most-controversial aspect of this incident has not been the nihilistic carnage or even the shattered peace, but the government's subsequent ban of a Palestinian delegation from traveling to London for what promises to be futile discussions on reforming the Palestinian Authority — an organization that has encouraged or participated in the murder of 453 Israelis in 2002, 721 since September 2000.

It is striking that the need to judge a country's actions within this either-or framework prevents a proper evaluation of the internal politics that produced the idea of this 'peace conference'. Given the lack of success anticipated with the exclusion of Israel, it appears that the conference was established to release the pressure that Blair found himself under from the Parliamentary Labour Party. The conference, the embargo and the meeting with the Israeli Labor leader were all symbols of the government's contribution to the Middle East peace process without adding any positive value to the mess.

When I read the condemnation voiced in the paragraph quoted above, it does not remind me of European anti-semitism. It is another clear example of a government that could not bring itself to voice a proper condemnation of a terrorist atrocity because it could not see beyond the collapse of its latest foreign policy event and the effect that this might have in the Westminster hothouse.


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