Monday, 2 March 2009

Arming Israel, rebuilding Gaza

Tony Blair has just made his first visit to Gaza as the Quartet's peace envoy. Apparently, Mr Blair wanted to see for himself the extent of the devastation and speak with those affected.

He said afterwards:
"I will relay their account of events, their assessment of what is needed for reconstruction, their goals for rebuilding a vibrant private sector and civil society, to this week's conference in Sharm El Sheikh."
One is deeply touched by this display of concern and determination to rebuild the Gazan infrastructure torn apart by Israel's state-of-the-art weaponry. It must also be particularly pleasing for Mr Blair to know that British companies played such a helpful role by supplying the cockpit components for the F16 fighter jets that helped level Gaza to the ground.

I suppose it's all part of the prevailing business logic. Weapons to Israel helps keep British and US arms companies like BAE and Raytheon afloat - particularly if the stockpiles of bombs and parts get quickly built up again after those Israeli massacres. Then, when all the schools, hospitals and neighbourhoods are safely reduced to dust from the targeted bombing, the "rebuilding [of] a vibrant private sector" can begin - with, presumably, generous reconstruction contracts for Western companies.

It calls to mind NATO's helpful destruction of Belgrade in 1991, where the kindly removal of bridges, nurseries, a TV station and other civilian infrastructure was followed by all that touching private sector/IMF-led conditional aid.

As with this earlier ethical intervention, the Palestinians must, indeed, be in thrall to Mr Blair - knowing also that his business-drive visit to Gaza is helping to stave off economic gloom in the West. Just where would we be without high-tech warfare, human carnage and the knock-on benefits it brings to the global economy? If only the families of the 1300-plus dead Gazans could come to see their admirable part in helping to boost corporate profits.

Likewise, where's the gratitude over Development Secretary Douglas Alexander's £30 million pledge to Gaza? UK taxpayers and Palestinians alike may be reassured that this staggering generosity won't put too big a hole in Britain's annual £36 billion defence spend.

In similar ungrateful mood, Al-Haq, a leading human rights group, launched a lawsuit last week against the UK government, claiming that it was complicit in war crimes by failing to suspend British arms used in the murder of Gazan civilians. The action raised in the High Court in London claims that Foreign Secretary David Miliband and others have acted "in flagrant and continuing breach of international law".

In response, the Foreign Office offered this assuring statement:
"The government monitors the situation in Israel with care in considering applications for arms export licences."
Well, it's good to see that matter cleared up. I hope Al-Haq and all those other human rights/aid groups realise their mistake in thinking the UK would stoop to such unethical trading policies. That's the same kind of cynical misconception that points to the EU's preferential trading agreement with Israel while it supports the blockade of Gaza.

Other welcome assurances on the well-being of suffering Gazans will be made this week by our concerned leaders at the aid summit in Sharm El Sheikh. Thankfully, it comes with the primary reassurance that those wicked Hamas people are to have no part in the proceedings.

Well, how could ethical-arms-trading, economy-priming, private-sector-promoting states like Britain and the US possibly deal with virulent tunnel-smuggling, privation-resisting militants like Hamas? Mr Blair and his munificent friends might be willing to come dispense a little business charity on those pitiful Gazans, but we can't have them actually speaking to their democratically-elected politicians.

But that may also be changing. And much credit to Mr Blair for suggesting the possible need for dialogue with Hamas. Yes, he asserts, they can be brought to the table, provided they abide by our own codes of good conduct. Perhaps it's part of some belated recognition by Mr Blair that seasoned mass terrorists like himself can, after all, face these small-scale rocket-launching upstarts. Perhaps he secretly admires their ability to resist, just as he has resisted any thought of his own criminality.

Its kind of strange that Jeremy Bowen didn't ask about such things when he interviewed him in Gaza - all those million-plus dead Iraqis, and Mr Blair's suitability to act as a peace envoy. It must have slipped his mind.

Sometimes I have this worrying feeling that I'm not living in the 'real' world.


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