Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Straw Man

Yesterday I turned on CNN International and promptly saw British Foreign Minister Jack Straw once again equivocating the Iranian nuclear threat with the "threat" posed by Israel's nuclear weapons and saying that once Iran is dealt with Israel will have to be dealt with. I don't know if this was merely a rebroadcast of his statement last Thursday or something new since I didn't catch the story from the beginning. Last week he added: "If you want to see a nuclear-free Middle East, you've got to remove that threat from Iran, including the rhetorical threat to wipe Israel off the face of the map. Once you've done that, then we can get on to work in respect of Israel.The Israeli government, for it's part, decided not to react to Mr. Straw's comments. It was felt that it would be a bad idea to change to focus of attention from Iran to Israel. It was also noted that Prime Minister Sharon had supported the idea of a nuclear-free Middle East, but only in a future where Israel had peace agreements in place with all the countries in the region.

Is anyone else outraged by this equivocation? Modern Israel has only fought defensive wars and has never threatened its neighbors. Israel, if left alone, is a threat to nobody. Iran, on the other hand, has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Doesn't anyone see the two as just a wee bit different? I can only find one possible reasons for such a statement: to placate (appease?) Muslims at home and abroad.

Do comments like this help Britain's standing in the Arab and Muslim world? Of course not. Iranian, Palestinian, and other Muslim clerics constantly have sermons claiming Islam will eventually rule Britain and America. On Friday evening, just over a day after Mr. Straw's comments, Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called the United States, Britain, and Israel the "triad of evil". Today in Gaza the the British consulate was burned and the British cultural center was vandalized. This came after British jailers left a prison in Jericho fearing for their lives. The IDF then came in to capture the killers of the late Minister of Tourism, Rehevam Ze'evi. Palestinians claimed that Britain was part of an Israeli conspiracy, as if this was justification for the destruction and the kidnapping of British subjects in the West Bank.

Nothing Foreign Minister Straw will say or can say will ever change the fact that in many corners of the Muslim world the British, like their American counterparts, can do no right. Britain simply cannot be forgiven by the radicals and fundamentalists in the Muslim world for it's role in Iraq, for failing to be sufficiently anti-Zionist, and for simply being other than Islamic. No amount of equivocation or appeasement will ever change that.

Someday the governments in both the U.K. and the U.S. will have to figure out who their friends are and who their enemies are. They clearly haven't done it yet.

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2 comments:

Yael K said...

Actually, we've fought 5 wars three of which were purely defensive (we were attacked) one of which was offensive but we were about to be attacked, and one of which we initiated (Lebanon) and it was originally supposed to be a quick in and out 48 hour action but turned into 18 years. Slight miscalculation :)

Caitlyn said...

Yael, I disagree with you about Lebanon being a conflict initiated by Israel. It followed a long series of attacks by the PLO from southern Lebanon on towns in northern Israel. A kindergarten was destroyed at one point as I remember, with innocent children killed. Israel reacted in defense of towns in Israel proper.

Whether then Defense Minister Sharon should have ever crossed the Awali River against the wishes of Prime Minister Begin is certainly a matter open to discussion. Whether chasing Yasser Arafat and the PLO all the way to Beirut was wise is certainly open for debate. Whether the 18 years of occupation did good or harm is something I am still not sure about. To claim, however, that Israel's response was not provoked by Palestinian attacks is, IMHO, quite incorrect.

So... I stand by my statement of only defensive wars.

BTW, talk to some expatriate Lebanese Christians now living in the States about how they feel about the events of 1982-83 and the subsequent occupation. They hate that Palestinians and Syrians with a passion and are more supportive of Israel than most Jews I know... and they are Arabs.