Last week Andrew Marr interviewed Miriam Margolyes on his Sunday morning BBC One (HD) news program. If you recall he allowed her to go almost unchallenged when she gave a completely misleading and context-less impression of life on the West Bank for Palestinians. I wrote about it here.
Marr was at it again this morning when he interviewed British Foreign Secretary, William Hague who has just returned from an awkward visit to Israel and the West Bank, or, as Marr calls it, ‘the Middle East’.
Hague has form when it comes to Israel. During Operation Cast Lead, when Israel invaded Gaza in 2008-2009, he called their actions ‘disproportionate’. He also attacked Israel over the Mavi Marmara incident earlier this year when Israeli commandos intercepted a flotilla which was trying to run the maritime blockade of Gaza. He called for an international enquiry into the resultant deaths of 9 members of the flotilla with a strong implication that he blamed Israel for these deaths.
His attitude to Gaza is that Israel’s policy is ‘unwise’ but at least he claims to have faith in Israeli democracy (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/parliament/2010/06/hague-attacks-israels-unwise-blockade-of-gaza.html)
The main thrust, therefore, of his ‘Middle East’ policy appears to be that Israel is the problem, and especially the current government; Israel has to change; Israel has to relent; Israel must make concessions. The Palestinians need do nothing, it appears.
I don’t believe Hague is ‘anti-Israel’, but he has adopted a familiar stance, along with the other main party leaders in the UK, which he believes, I’m sure, represents ‘evenhandedness’, and allows the UK to be an ‘honest broker’. This approach is simple: the Israelis must make all the concessions whilst the Palestinians sit on their hands and accuse the Israelis of not being serious about peace.
In today’s interview it was clear that his grasp of the facts in the ‘Middle East’ are either ill-informed or actually prejudiced. And his prejudice is against the Palestinians.
He does not seem to want to give the Palestinians any responsibility for the conflict. I don’t think I have ever heard him criticise the Palestinian Authority. It’s only Israel that can get the process moving forward and avoid missing this great opportunity for peace.
In other words, his one-sidedness could be seen as a his having a low opinion of the Palestinians and only Israel can solve the impasse. So Israel is made to take the blame for his lack of faith in the Palestinians ability to make concessions or compromises. This is my generous interpretation of his approach. I would hate to think that he really does believe it’s all Israel’s fault.
This is what he had to say this morning:
“..direct talks began this September between the Israelis and the Palestinians and then they stopped on this issue over settlements on the West Bank”
He then states that the US, the EU and the UK are all asking the Israelis nicely to resume the freeze on settlements so that the Palestinians can come back into the talks.
He is not challenged with the question why the Palestinians waited until the 9th month of a 10 month freeze and had to be dragged screaming into the process announcing in advance that it would fail. And now they want another freeze on the off chance that this will bring them back to the table. The Palestinians desire for peace is never questioned.
Again, Israel has to make another concession to extend the ‘freeze’ which has never once in all the history of negotiations ever before been an impediment to talks. It was only when President Obama presented the Palestinians with the gift of an excuse by forcing Israel into this latest concession that suddenly ‘it’ became the great stumbling-block. No-one berates the Palestinians for making excuses to avoid talks.
No-one wonders why the Palestinians will do anything to avoid a peace settlement and no-one asks them why they are afraid of peace. Certainly Hague doesn’t appear to have asked them and Marr didn’t raise the question either.
“The window is closing on a two-state solution in the Middle East”, Hague says. There he goes with “Middle East” again. Never mind. The implication is that it is Israel alone that will be responsible.
Marr asks Hague whether he got any hint of movement when talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu or the other ministers.
The answer is, I hope accidentally, crass:
“Well, these people are tough negotiators..” “These people”! Does he mean Jews? Maybe he experienced this tough negotiating last time he bought a suit from some Jewish tailor in the West End. Am I being too sensitive? Probably.
The Palestinians are not tough negotiators, of course. It’s very simple for them. Just say ‘no’ to everything, then wait for the world to pressure Israel into another concession and carry on this way until Israel agrees to its own demise.
Would you not be a ‘tough negotiator’, Mr Hague, if the future of your country were at stake? What does he expect?
“It’s only the United States that can deliver Israel to a negotiated agreement”. So there you have it. Only Israel is responsible. No-one needs to deliver the Palestinians. They are just waiting for those terrible Israelis to come to the table. No pressure on them, only on Israel.
The conversation drifts towards Tony Blair’s current role and his great negotiating skills. Yet again, Hague states that Blair is trying hard to get the Israelis to ‘move’ on certain issues. He cites the easing of the Gaza embargo and Tony’s magic touch in making the Israelis do a bit earlier what they had already intended. No mention of how Tony is doing with the Palestinians. I wonder why. No mention of Hamas.
We end on a positive note, I think, with Hague promising to change the legislation on Universal Jurisdiction which has been used to threaten arrest for war crimes against Israeli politicians and military visiting the UK.
Hague stresses that it doesn’t just apply to Israelis of course and recalls how someone once tried to get Henry Kissinger arrested. Oh dear. Perish the thought that only Israelis were being threatened with arrest on spurious charges. Look, even dear old Henry risks incarceration at HM’s pleasure. Isn’t he Jewish? Am I being paranoid, but isn’t there a thread here somewhere?
Mr Hague doesn’t want to appear to be pushed around by these arrogant, pushy Israelis. He confirms that the law will be changed in the British government’s own good time and those clever Israeli’s won’t be able to negotiate their way into dictating to the Brits. So there!
This is the second week that Israel has not been given a right of reply by Marr. Isn’t it about time that he actually asked an Israeli onto the program? Of course, they’d have to appear via satellite as none of them can venture into Britain without the fear of spending a few months in the Scrubs.
(Viewers in the UK can see the interview here: