Daily archives: January 8, 2009

Avi Shlaim on Gaza

The Oxford Professor of International Relations, Avi Shlaim, is for me the among most clear-sighted and independent of all commentators on Israel. I recently read his book, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and recommend it most strongly as an extraordinary piece of research combined with storytelling. I don’t agree with him on everything, but the information is indispensable.

Thanks to Michael Meadowcroft for pointing out to me Shlaim’s brilliant piece in yesterday’s Guardian supplement.

Israel’s spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel’s actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It did so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel’s objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.


It is well worth reading the whole article. In doing so, remember that Shaim is not only an academic of world standing, he is an Israeli who served loyally in the Israeli armed forces.

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In Distinguished Company

My name appears in extraordinarily distinguished company in this letter to the Guardian published today:

We speak out for the people of Gaza. What is happening there is a crime against humanity. We are asking everyone to be at Speaker’s Corner in London at 12.30pm on Saturday 10 January, and join the march to the Israeli embassy.

Tony Benn President, Stop the War Coalition

Andrew Murray Chair, STWC

Annie Lennox, Michael Nyman, Brian Eno, Alexei Sayle, Terry Jones, Dr Richard Horton, Bill Bailey, Vanessa Redgrave, Nigel Kennedy, Janet Suzman, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Samuel West, Caryl Churchill, AL Kennedy, Tariq Ali, Corin Redgrave, John Williams, Lauren Booth, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Roger Lloyd Pack, Jehane Markham, John Pilger, Susan Wooldridge, Katherine Hamnett, Kika Markham, David Gentleman, Professor Hilary Rose, Iain Banks, Miriam Margolyes, Professor Steven Rose, Mark Thomas, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Mark Steel, Andy de la Tour, Professor Paul Gilroy, Michael Rosen, Janie Dee, Kathy Panama, Mike & Kate Westbrook, Craig Murray, Ed Harcourt, Dave Randall, Ian Macdonald QC, Michael Kustow, Michael La Rose, Louise Christian, Ali Hussein, Liane Aukin, Eugene Skeef, Keith Burstein, Peter Gabriel

I will certainly be there – I needed some new shoes anyway.

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