by Robin Shepherd
It was only a question of time before discussion of Tony Blair’s recently published memoirs — A Journey– turned to the question of his support for Israel. The Big Obsession is what it is, and we should not be surprised.
It is nonetheless interesting to see how the mainstream established media is dealing with the matter.A piece in today’s Guardianby MidEast “analyst” Chris Phillips is instructive. Phillips holds all the standard views, so there is no great shock value from his description of Blair’s reasoned and principled stance in supporting Israel’s right to resist Hezbollah aggression in the 2006 war as “his other major misjudgment in the Middle East” — the first one, obviously, being his decision to join America in invading Iraq.
What is so fascinating — and so representative of the genre — is his complete and utter incredulity at Blair’s refusal to bow to liberal-left precepts, alternatives to which, he appears to believe, can only exist in the minds of people subject to some sort of demonic possession.
The following is typical:
“As the Shia militia fired rockets at Israeli cities and the IDF responded with massive bombings in Lebanon, Blair was urged by a huge swell of public opinion, the media, his cabinet and foreign policy advisers to join European leaders in calling for an immediate unconditional ceasefire.
“Yet the prime minister stubbornly defied this advice and endorsed the Bush administration’s approach of foot-dragging on a UN ceasefire, allegedly to allow Israel more time to “knock out” Hezbollah.”
In other words: How dare he! Did he not realise that the Guardian and the BBC had spoken?
But it gets worse. To the horror of Phillips, the book reveals that Blair actually had both principles and a world view that led him to support the Israeli position:
“It is this world view that is most alarming about Blair’s account. Through this lens, Blair believed: “Lebanon was embroiled in something far bigger and more portentous than a temporary fight with Israel.” Instead, he sees it as a “wider struggle between the strain of religious extremism in Islam and the rest of us”. He was thus willing to delay a ceasefire in order to win victory in this wider struggle, of which he saw Hezbollah as a key combatant, and Israel as one of “us”.
And, he goes on:
“‘A Journey’ thus presents Blair’s actions in summer 2006 as those of a committed ideologue, not simply Bush’s poodle as previously charged. Blair seems driven by a world view that, though not explicitly neoconservative, certainly has similarities. He sees the Middle East through a largely religious lens, frames its complex conflicts though a simplified struggle between radical and moderate Islam and is willing to use force and sacrifice lives to achieve its aims, irrespective of public and expert opinion.
“However, what is most alarming about this [NB: This is the second time in the article he has designated something as the "most alarming". We get the point: he's alarmed] is not necessarily the ideology behind the misjudgment in Lebanon four years ago. It is that Blair retains this misguided zeal today and somehow expects to use it to deliver the “right peace” between Israelis and Palestinians in his role as quartet envoy”.”
Well if he’s going to go against “expert opinion” (ie. people who hate Israel) it’s surely time to start throwing our shoes at him as those protestors did in Ireland a few days ago in one of the most unseemly instances of western peaceniks showing obeisance to Arab customs that you will ever see.
There’s really nothing new in Phillips’s dreary recitation of all the predictable received wisdoms. I suppose that I draw attention to it because it is precisely its very banality that illustrates the nature of what those who see things differently are up against.
For it isn’t simply that there is a disagreement here about this or that particular issue. Rather, it is that mainstream, established opinion is simply unable to believe that anyone could hold differening views and remain a sane and decent person. If you drill down a little further, you start to understand from this just how uncommitted this establishment is to the basic pre-requisites of a healthy, democratic society.
But that’s a discussion for another day.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.