Friday, 16 January 2009

Ahem, about Trident, I told y'all so

In today's Times three top military brass including Field Marshall Lord Bramall and two retired generals - write that Trident is - to summarise - dangerous, expensive and useless. "Our independent deterrent has become virtually irrelevant except in the context of domestic politics," they write. This is the fundamental political point, but Labour and the Tories cannot deliver sensible policy because they are trapped in their self-imposed imperative to talk tough. Outside the Palace of Westminster reality has broken through. Inside, when will it? Which party will be first to break ranks and acknowledge the facts? Lib Dem MPs, are you listening? Read, read!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Did Israeli politics engineer non-extension of Gaza ceasefire?

A well-informed colleague informed me, and I have checked with reliable sources (including the BBC), that the Israeli military on 4 November seriously breached the Gaza ceasefire when it raided Gaza and it did so again on 17 November. Israel also sealed off Gaza leaving the 1.4 million inhabitants of this densely populated enclave in a dire predicament. My informant adds that on 23 December 2008 the Israeli government received a report from its own advisers that Hamas wanted to extend the ceasefire if the blockade was partially lifted. Ignoring this, the Israeli government launched the current campaign against Gaza. It is well evidenced that Israeli air force personnel had been doing air strikes training for months. I now believe that this current military action was cynically devised for the purpose of exploiting the interregnum between the departure of Bush and the inauguration of Obama and it looks to me as though the attack was pre-ordained whatever Hamas did. I suspect it was launched for the purpose of securing the victory of ex-Mossad hardliner Tzipi Livni (a friend of Condoleeza Rice, allegedly) in the forthcoming Israeli elections.

Meanwhile the Israeli invasion is radicalising countless people into more enemies. I have trawled several Middle Eastern English-language websites including Al Jazeera and it is clear that in comparison the coverage we are getting here in the UK is pretty sanitised. There, the images are of Gaza City against a horizon of smoke and fire; ordinary people distraught at the loss of their homes and loved ones; and worst of all, images of dead, dying and horribly injured children, including a particularly horrific image of the head of a four-year-old girl who was killed. Today's headline is that the number of Palestinian dead has passed 800 and of injured well over 3,000. This military action is not just criminal and murderous, it is stupid, stupid, stupid.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

A committee that's extremely interesting

On 6th January the Federal Policy Committee flexed its muscles in reaffirming opposition to university tuition fees - indeed extending the policy to opposition to part-time and further education fees as well. I was there, and I found it refreshing after quite a long period of that committee being rather tame. It has suddenly become extremely interesting. I don't think media observers really understand how the Lib Dem policy-making process works - they think the MPs do it. Not really. The party constitution is a dull read, but it was cleverly made, and it contains the key to where policy-making power within the party lies. The body that approves policy is the Conference, and the body that supervises policy preparation is the Federal Policy Committee, and the group with the built-in majority on that committee is, or are, the members directly elected by the grassroots. So the policy process is controlled by the grassroots all the way, although the grassroots don't always realise or use their power. But sometimes they do, which is (partly) why this is a very democratic party, and nothing like the Tory party, and never will be anything like it, I am glad to say. A pity the present FPC wasn't in situ when the Trident issue last came up...

Good for you, Nick

I recall the day I told Charles Kennedy, then Lib Dem party leader, at a policy meeting in 2003 that the issue on the Iraq invasion was illegality (though that was not how it was being put at the time) and that despite the awful time Labour and Tory MPs were giving him, he should stick to his opposition. Well, he did, and he was right, and eventually most reasonable people realised he was right. And it was, indeed, an issue of illegality. Now there is a bloodbath in Gaza and the issue is illegality, and this time it is Nick Clegg who is saying what ought to be said. Good for you, Nick. You have the guts to speak out, and even if they give you a hard time now, you will remain right and they will remain gutless and wrong. What is being done in Gaza is appalling. It is collective punishment which was a practice much used by, ironically, the Nazis and was a crime then and still is now.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The issues are land and water

Years ago a fellow-student at Yale Law School said to me that the mid 20th century was not a good time to set up a racist state. This startling comment returned to my mind as I listened to the radio news of Israel's government sending in the air force to bomb Gaza. In such a densely populated place this was bound to result in hundreds of Palestinian deaths (just over 400 was the last figure I heard - and the injured probably are in their thousands). Spokesmen are wooing the sympathy of the world but this latest action has crystallised my thinking in a way they won't like.
A racial supremacist assumption underlies this offensive, that Palestinian deaths do not count for much. The spokesmen's line is that the issue is Hamas rockets. That is just skimming the surface. The issues are, and have from the beginning been, land and water - the fields and groves that Palestinian farmers had tended for centuries, from which they have been ousted by various means, and the precious freshwater resources that are not enough to supply the ambitions of both the Jewish state and the Palestinian non-state. The injustice that was inflicted on the Palestinians gave rise to Hamas and their rockets.
The bombing offensive is not going to stop the rockets. The only thing that will stop the rockets is justice. Let there be no more lies and obfuscation about the land that has been and still is being illegally annexed by fanatical settlers. Quite simply the annexation must stop and the land must be returned. And there must be equal treatment of all people in the region whatever their origins and religion. If the fanatical elements in Israel will not wear this, then the threat of Hamas rockets will go on and on.
Increasingly I suspect that the increasingly embattled Jewish state may not be viable much longer. Israel has sought to protect itself by militarism, but it keeps making more enemies. The only thing that really protects minorities is the trio of liberty, equality, democracy, not setting up a militarist state. In my view, young Israelis would be well advised to emigrate.