Open mouths but closed eyes

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 4, 2012

OK. I agree that the semi-hysterical revelries commissioned by Hamas once its cease-fire with Israel had been announced reflect a kind of madness. Much of the Hamas infrastructure is in ruins. A number of key Hamas operatives have succumbed to their wounds. Neither Iran nor Hizbollah came to Hamas's aid. Nor did its Egyptian godfathers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In brokering the ceasefire, Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi - a son of the Brotherhood - demonstrated just how quickly he can abandon Hamas when it suits him.

And now Morsi has assumed powers more absolute than even his predecessor Hosni Mubarak enjoyed. So much for the "democracy" of the Arab Spring.

In the war for hearts and minds, it seems to me that Israel can indeed congratulate itself. Among western governments, a consensus seems to have emerged that Israel had a right to defend its borders against intolerable missile attacks from Gaza.

While anti-Israel demonstrators "occupied" the roof of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, no less than 60 per cent of respondents to a poll carried out by Scotland on Sunday declared that Israel was justified "in attacking Hamas in retaliation for missile strikes".

There is no such thing as a Hamas peace party

But it was not all roses. On November 16, on Radio 4's Any Questions, Shirley Williams (a Lib-Dem peer) and David Willetts (a Conservative minister) both defended Israel - but then referred (in the case of Williams) to the worse-than-slum conditions in which Gazans apparently live and (in the case of Willetts) to Israel's wider culpability for Palestinian-Arab frustrations that resulted in the missile attacks he was so eager to condemn.

During the days that followed, I paid special attention to an assortment of British political grandees who took the opportunity to reiterate their support for a "two-state" solution with Jerusalem being the "shared" capital of both states. Sentiments such as these are doubly dangerous. In the first place, their articulation betrays a dangerously simplistic view of the wider conflict. The authentic voice of Palestinian Arab society is not that of the Fatah party that rules illegally in Ramallah but that of Hamas, which rules illicitly in Gaza. The ambition of Hamas is not to negotiate with Israel but to destroy it.

There is no such thing as a Hamas peace party and, as far as I know, there are no equivalents in Hamas of Messrs Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the former leaders of Sinn Fein/IRA who put their own career prospects before the stated objectives of the party they led. And, since the example of Northern Ireland is once more being trotted out, I had better repeat what I've said here before: that insofar as peace (of a kind) has been achieved in that province, it has come about only because Sinn Fein/IRA was defeated militarily and had to agree to its own disarmament.

The politicians and chatterers about whom I am speaking are well aware of that fact. But while, on the one hand, they are afraid to say so, on the other, they are reluctant to permit Israel the military victory that just might lead to the emergence of a genuine peace party in the Palestinian Arab universe - one that would recognise Israel as a Jewish state and accept the legitimacy of its re-establishment.

The alternative that these politicians and chatterers offer is one in which Israel must accept without significant reaction a low level of continuous missile assaults from Gaza as the price that must be paid for Arab "frustrations" (as one Whitehall mandarin put it to me). This is pure humbug.

Insofar as slum conditions do exist in Gaza these are entirely the fault of those inside Gaza. In as much as a Palestinian Arab state has not yet been established, this is entirely the fault of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds. Anyone who calls for a "binational" Arab-Jewish state is in effect calling for the destruction of its Jewish inhabitants at the hands of its Arabs.

And anyone who believes that two states, one Arab/Muslim the other Israeli/Jewish, could "share" Jerusalem as the capital city of both is at best crazy or at worst malevolant.

Last updated: 10:45am, December 4 2012