Thursday 2 February 2023

Price Tag Assault

Look up Bezalel Smotrich, for a start. As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, remember that by 2008, no one would own up to ever having supported it. By 2028, no one will own up to ever having denied that Israel had become, in the technical senses of the terms, an apartheid state with a Fascist Government.

That way, like the Iraq warmongers before them and sometimes in their own persons, today's cheerleaders for Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, not to say Sunak and Starmer themselves, will retain their positions in public life while those of us who had been right all along were kept out, just as we have never been forgiven for having been right about Iraq, nor will we ever be.

And since Israel is an apartheid state with a Fascist Government, then what does that make Britain? Name another state any criticism of the Government of which, even when made under parliamentary privilege, would be a disciplinary offence in both main parties in the United Kingdom. There is none. Or name another country, including the United States, that had such a relationship with Israel. There is none. So much for parliamentary sovereignty, and so much for free speech.

It never used to be like this. Until 2010, every Conservative Government had some degree of strain in its relations with Israel. Margaret Thatcher was unusually pro-Israeli, but even she condemned the bombing of Osirak in 1981, responded to the war in Lebanon in 1982 by placing Israel under an arms embargo that lasted until 1994, initially did not want to meet Menachem Begin when he visited London (that generation remembered what he was), and afterwards expressed her regret at not having stuck to her guns. 

All of her party's other Prime Ministers before David Cameron were even more lukewarm towards Israel, and for that matter, even Cameron and Theresa May had Alan Duncan as a Minister of State first at International Development and then at the Foreign Office. The same Shai Masot of the Israeli Embassy who was recorded trying to "take down" Jeremy Corbyn, was at the same time recorded trying to take down Duncan, who was a Foreign Office Minister at the time.

For most of Israel's history, MPs across the Conservative Party, from Cyril Townsend to Tony Marlow, had been strongly pro-Palestinian. Now, though, that party is no better than Labour. Yes, as bad as that. The Israeli Embassy's purge of David Watkins was 40 years ago. I remember his successor but one "joking", in the run-up to the Iraq War, that "It wasn't a Labour Government" that had drawn the Sykes-Picot Line, only for the then Deputy Leader of Durham County Council, who was normally the right-wing machine personified but who like my late father had served in Palestine, to shout back that it had indeed been a Labour Government that had ordered him to evict the Palestinians from their homes. And here we are again.

But we are heading for a hung Parliament. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.