joy is Bethlehem’s despair – by Cornelius Eacott
Ten long years after becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair has
finally stepped down. Ten years which included the introduction of tuition fees
for university students and the beginnings of the commercialization of Higher
Education. Ten years which included mass privatization and the great auction of
public services. Ten years which included involving Britain’s armed forces in at
least four wars of aggression (and who will ever know how many further actions
were ordered covertly by the grinning First Lord of the Treasury). Ten years,
blighted by failed Private Finance Initiatives, corruption in local councils,
disastrous domestic policy and humiliating foreign policy.
which included the ongoing "cash-for-honours" scandal, the $100 Billion BAE arms
scandal (and its subsequent hush-up), his shameless media manipulation of
Princess Diana’s [suspicious] death, his complete and utter subservience to
Rupert Murdoch, his attempt to suspend Habeas Corpus in Britain, the prohibition
of free demonstration near Parliament, the continuing widening of the gap
between rich and poor and the naming of Britain as one of the worst countries in
child welfare. And that’s before we even begin to think about Iraq.
1995, Tony proved his worthiness to inherit Maggie Thatcher’s legacy when he
changed Clause Four, the guiding statement of the Labour party constitution . By
reworking the text with beautiful, flowery language that meant nothing at all,
Blair offered us a glimpse of the future. Just eight years later, in 2003, Tony
Blair lied to the British Parliament about the existence of Saddam Hussein’s
"Weapons of Mass Destruction", citing a British intelligence report, which he
must have known to be deficient, hastily assembled and politically skewed to
serve his interests.
Lying to Parliament remains a treasonous crime in
the United Kingdom. And although capital punishment was abolished in 1965 for
the offence of murder, treason remained a hanging offence until 1998,
interestingly, just one year after Blair’s accession to power.
So now he
has finally had the good grace to step down. That there was not a mass popular
uprising, demanding his resignation, following the illegal invasion of Iraq in
2003 is a testament to the apathy he has inspired within the British population.
Across Britain, and in foreign parts, parties were thrown to celebrate the end
of the rule of this war criminal; yet, at the "Goodbye and Good Riddance" party
I was attending here in Bethlehem, an air of melancholy dampened the party
Just hours earlier, our beloved helmsman had been confirmed as
the new Quartet envoy to the Middle East Peace Process.
"He’s screwed up
his own country enough, now he’s coming here to finish us off", wailed one
Another bluntly asked, "How much arrogance does
this murdering bastard have?"
Far be it for me to pre-judge the actions
of another, but let us have a little foresight in this matter, given a
reasonable body of experience drawn over the last decade. What can we expect
from the rookie peacemaker?
We can expect smiles and friendly handshakes.
We can expect smoothness without substance. We can expect endless speeches,
praising moderates and condemning extremism.
We can expect complete
silence over the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, those
fortress cities strategically built on hilltops which continue to expand,
annexing more and more Palestinian agricultural land and water resources. We can
expect complete silence over the failure of the Oslo accords to provide any
basis for a just resolution between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
can expect to hear about how "reasonable" the demands of the Quartet are: to
recognize Israel, to renounce violence and to accept previously signed
We can expect to hear nothing about why the Hamas movement
continues to reject the demands of the Quartet; indeed, we will not hear a word
about the motivations of the Islamic resistance at all, save for pretty words
about "not valuing freedom", or being "intent on Israel’s
No mention will be made that Hamas have already tacitly,
within the Prisoner’s Accord Document, agreed to the recognition of the State of
Israel within the June 4 1967 borders. Certainly no mention will be made that
Israel has yet to define its own borders, and so cannot truly and emphatically
be recognized by any other state in the world.
No mention will be made of
precedents within international law which legitimize armed force used against an
invading, or occupying, foreign power. Indeed, if Mr Blair demands that Israel
renounces violence, I’ll eat my hat.
No mention will be made that the
principal "peace agreement", the Oslo accords, signed away Palestinian rights to
land, to water, to freedom of movement (within their own territory) and to
sovereignty over borders and airspace. It is also beyond doubt that no mention
may be made of Israel’s violations of the Oslo accords: the continuing
construction of settlements within occupied territory, the theft of water from
the river Jordan and the northern aquifer, the frequent Israeli military
incursions into "Area A" districts ostensibly under total Palestinian military
and civil control alongside arbitrary harassment, arrests, assassinations and
the occasional under-reported massacre of human life.
justice, so that the refugees may return and Palestinians may, once again, have
sovereignty over their own destiny. Fatah want peace, so that trade and business
may resume, and the rich can continue getting richer at the expense of all those
in refugee camps who depend on the Israeli-imported business (and narcotics) of
Mr Blair likes the idea of peace. And Mr Blair likes the
idea of business. Yes, indeed, Mr Blair will find willing "partners for peace"
in the businessmen of the Fatah leadership.
"Free trade creates free
people" states the tired maxim. Yet it doesn’t. Free trade creates an elite of
wealthy people, who live above the enclaves of the poor. In Israel and
Palestine, the metaphor often becomes reality: Fatah will be willing to swallow
any of Mr Blair’s demands in order to stay "in power" (regardless of democratic
process), and will submit to the island enclaves of Palestinian cities, with the
ever-necessary "security" roadblocks and checkpoints isolating the inhabitants
of each town creating literally a captive market for their goods and
The wall, built by Israel and financed by the West exclusively
on Palestinian land within the 1967 "Green line" border (which, like the
settlements, annexes land and water resources, even tourist sites), will become
the new border of the new "Free Palestine". Israel will retain control of
borders and airspace, and will likely also continue to occupy the "closed
military zone" of the Jordan valley, coincidentally the most fertile
agricultural region in the area.
These violations of Palestinian
sovereignty may bring a short-term Israeli military withdrawal from areas of the
West Bank. While several settlements may be relocated under Olmert’s
"Convergence"/"Consolidation"/"Realignment" plan, sandwiched west of the wall
and east of the green line, a military presence will be required to be deployed
"to protect" those that remain deep within Palestinian territory.
the vision of the state of Palestine which is foreseen by Messrs Bush, Blair,
and Olmert, and which is to be enacted by the recently-empowered Mr Blair
himself. A state in name only, dependent on foreign aid, dependent on Israel,
dependent on the whims of the Western powers who know only too well that
historic Palestine is both a microcosm of, and a tinder-box for, the wider
"resource-heavy" Middle East.
This unsustainable vision will only lend
strength to the masses who do not stand to gain from it: the poor, the
dispossessed, the isolated. It will further polarize Palestinian society, with
the Western-friendly overlords getting richer and fatter and neglecting to care
about "the others". "The others", meanwhile, will be forced to seek help where
they can get it: from Iran, from Syria. The growing divide will make the last
bout of internecine fighting look like a spat among children in a
What is perhaps more concerning for Israel is that this
potential future civil war may well coincide with the outbreak of a third
Intifada stemming from within Israel itself, also led by groups isolated within
fractured society the Bedouin, the Druze, the Ethiopian immigrant population,
the Arab population of Israel all those currently treated as second-class
citizens by the White-European-Jewish population.
From his displays over
the last decade, even the last year, ignoring the traditional role of a diplomat
in seeking mutual reciprocity, the application of international law or even a
cessation to acts of mass violence, it is not difficult to predict on which side
of the green line Mr Blair will have his holiday home.
Without wanting to
resort to hyperbole, this appointment can only bring about war, famine, death
and pestilence. With Mr Blair, we can expect neither peace nor justice, for
without justice there can be no peace. London’s joy is Bethlehem’s
Cornelius Eacott is a British peace worker, currently
based in occupied Bethlehem. He can be contacted through: