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Monday, 26 September 2011

I am about to swear in church

David Steel writes in his memoirs of a time when Russell Johnston MP publicly rebuked the revered Liberal leader Jo Grimond at a Scottish Liberal Assembly, calling this "the Liberal equivalent of swearing in church". I am about to swear in church. Or possibly swear in synagogue. Or swear wherever agnostics meet to perhaps-not-worship. Would that be in a gazebo? Or perhaps at the Mock Bridge at Kenwood? Or on the other side of the pond that the frog never finishes crossing if, with each move, he covers half of the distance remaining before he reaches the other side? Anyway, I'm going to swear in church because I'm going to say that Tony Blair was brilliant on The World At One on Friday. He offered a penetrating analysis of the Palestinians' unilateral declaration of independence at the UN. I really recommend that you have a listen and draw your own conclusions (about eleven minutes and thirty seconds in). 

When Mr Blair was appointed as the Quartet Representative, many people said that he was a terrible choice as he is hated across the Middle East because of the Iraq War. Anyone who said that was blending ignorance with wishful thinking and sour grapes. Tony Blair is enormously respected across the Middle East, because he knows everybody, is known to be extremely well-connected in Washington and across Europe and is seen as having been a strong leader when he was Prime Minister. I wonder, incidentally, what the leaders of the Arab Spring's opposition movements actually think about the war that removed Saddam Hussein as the leader of Iraq? As they now seek to remove similar tyrants and create a democracy like Iraq's, what is their view of the war? I don't know. I'd be interested to find out. 

Anyway, have a look here and see the incredible things that are being done by the Office of the Quartet Representative to prepare the Palestinians for statehood. When you couple that with what the UK and others are doing in terms of international aid for the Palestinians, you certainly can't claim that the Palestinians' problems are being ignored by the world, which is one of the odder claims that one sometimes hears being made.

Also, if you're seriously interested in what's happening at the UN, then read President Abbas's speech there and read the one that Prime Minister Netanyahu gave - read them both and make your own mind up about what you think about what they both had to say.

Oh, and a PS for those of you who like to talk about 'apartheid' in the Middle East. Might there finally be some progress towards ending the apartheid that scars the region? I'm talking, of course, about gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. I'm certainly not talking about Israel. A glance at the region's headlines today shows that the top story is "Syrian defectors forming dissident army". Second from the top is "Saleh calls for Yemen elections"; in third place we have "Egypt's labor movement blooms in Arab Spring". A reminder, if it was needed, that there is a great deal more to the Middle East than the affairs of Israel/Palestine - not that you'd always know it from some of the media coverage here in the UK.


  1. Perhaps you should watch last night's Dispatches. The fact is that Blair is unaccountable to any of the four powers who are sponsoring him, and has serious conflicts of interest and transparency issues. He does not consider his role in the Middle East important enough to abandon his rather lucrative consulting positions.

    Blair is a scheister. He fooled his party, he fooled the British people, and now he is fooling the whole international community.

  2. Thanks, James, I have recorded last night's Dispatches and do intend to watch it. Here is an interesting piece about it:

    I don't think he's a shyster. I think that (like Margaret Thatcher) he has been profoundly honest with his party and the country about what he has tried to achieve - it was never a secret, what he wanted to do. The things he wanted to do might have been mistaken, but he was always quite open about what those things were (as was Thatcher).