Friday, December 22, 2006

Letter to Tony Blair

Here's a copy of an open letter I wrote to Tony Blair during the Lebanon conflict this summer, and which was later published in the Jerusalem Post. It calls for Mr Blair to continue his support for Israel, and sets out the reasons why I thought then (and think now) that such a stand was appropriate and moral. Sadly, the international community betrayed Israel and, through that, itself in letting a terrorist organization target rockets on innocent civilians then walk away from that, not just to survive, but to regroup, arm itself with even larger numbers of weapons, and become strong enough to threaten to overthrow the democratically elected government of Lebanon. I thought at the time, and I still think, that the international news media were malicious in their representation of the war, given the myths that were created and the relative absence of good reporting from the Israeli side. Something strange happened then, something almost unprecedented in the history of warfare: a terrorist organization armed and financed by a meddling foreign power and abetted by another, in breach of UN resolutions, and acting out of a total commitment to the destruction of a UN member state won the sympathy of the world's media and a majority of democratic states. Meanwhile, a small country that has lived from its inception under the threat of annihilation by its neighbours, retaliating against attacks on its civilian population, and acting in fulfillment of a UN resolution (that it vacate Lebanon, something it had done 6 years previously) became the object of opprobrium from all sides. How did Hizbullah pull off that remarkable piece of sleight-of-hand? By placing its fighters and terrorists bang in the middle of civilian population centres or within yards of UN posts. What a clever move that turned out to be: if the Israelis killed civilians when firing on bunkers or rocket launching pads, Hizbullah won a PR victory. If the Israelis held back from taking out a launch pad for fear of harming civilians, Hizbullah could stay in place in order to fire more rockets on — guess whom — Israeli civilians. By some perverse calculus, the international community thought the Israelis were the bad guys and Hizbullah must be terrific defenders of civilized values. Most of my fellow liberals thought the same thing. To them, as always, Israeli lives (be they Jewish or Arab) don't matter. Two terrorist organizations (Hamas and Hizbullah) and two ugly dictatorships (Syria and Iran) are the good guys now. At least the Mosleys and all those other supporters of Hitler used to have the basic honesty to define themselves as fascists, and thought it a good thing to march for the; today's fellow travellers tell us they are left-wing and liberal activists for peace and justice, and don't have any honesty at all when it comes to their essential racism (Palestinian lives are worth more than Jewish lives), their hatred of peace (keeping a terrorist group in business is better than forcing them to the negotiating table), and their insouciance in matters of justice (a country that obeys a UN resolution is to be condemned, an organization that breaches one is applauded).

For what it's worth, here's my letter to the man who is now in the Middle East on a mission to sort it all out.

4 August 2006

The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Mr Blair,

I’m writing to encourage you to continue to do your utmost to see a just and realistic end to the fighting in Lebanon, and to support you in your determination to ensure that Hizbullah, an organization with a long history of terrorist activity against Israeli and Western targets, be not allowed to emerge from this conflict still intact and capable of regrouping, re-arming, and, in the end, growing strong enough to accomplish its long-stated goal of destroying the state of Israel.

Let me say, very briefly, that I take a particular interest in this conflict. I used to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University, but my specialization has always been in Iranian affairs, specifically aspects of Shi’ite Islam. I am also a regional coordinator for the Israel Peace Forum, and much involved in presenting an accurate and nuanced picture of the Middle East conflict as a whole.

I believe that your analysis of a wide arc of terror is entirely accurate, and that failure to act now against the spreading evil of radical Islam may expose this country, its allies, and many other nations round the globe to increasingly severe acts of terror that will shift, given time, to more conflict of the kind now seen in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

I know that international pressure for a ceasefire in Lebanon is intense, and I realize that time must be running out for you and those few nations who have seen the real danger Israel now faces. Please stand firm. To leave Hizbullah largely intact would be to guarantee greater and bloodier fighting in the years ahead. The danger, as I am sure you are aware, is not only to Israel, but for the people of Lebanon, who may find themselves at Hizbullah’s mercy. Not only that, but a perceived victory for Hizbullah would permit both Syria and Iran to extend their baneful influence further through the region. If Hizbullah is seen to be capable of fighting with reasonable success against one of the world’s best armies, how may that not be interpreted elsewhere in the Islamic world? It would certainly be a boost for recruitment to radical jihadist ideology, to active jihadist groups, and to international organizations like al-Qaeda.

Here in Britain, support for terrorism among large sections of the Muslim population is an alarming trend that must surely be cut off before it grows to unmanageable proportions. I believe you are right to call for the glorification of terrorism to become an offence, but I also believe you have been taking advice from sections within the Muslim community that are committed to an anti-Western, anti-British, and anti-Semitic view of the world. If Hizbullah should proclaim even a partial victory, I would expect to see more young Muslims here flock to the banner of jihad, whether to fight abroad or here in the UK.

In the Middle East, force alone will not solve a deeply embedded problem. But one thing I am certain of and that is so long as its neighbours do not recognize Israel and her right to exist, there will never be peace. With a terrorist organization in control of Gaza and dominant in the West Bank, with a terrorist army on its borders, and with an apocalyptic Iranian president determined to wipe her from the map, Israel is faced with the greatest threat ever suffered by any nation since these islands faced the armies of the Third Reich.

In the 19th century, a sectarian group of Shi’ite Muslims in Iran, believing the advent of their Messiah, the Twelfth Imam, to be imminent, purchased and made arms and prepared for the final jihad. They made ready to fight in order to bring the Imam to earth. Today, there are reliable reports that President Ahmadinezhad holds an identical belief, that he anticipates the return of the Imam in a short space of time, and that he may be preparing to force his hand by initiating the holy war necessary to his advent.

Given that context and the knowledge that the destruction of Israel would win its author acclamations from every quarter of the globe, I fear for Israel. I have seen documents that suggest al-Qaeda already possesses nuclear materials. I know, as you do, that Iran is bent on the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Even a small number of such weapons in the hands of Hizbullah could wreak untold calamity on the people of Israel and open up chaos in international affairs. Unlike Mr Ahmadinezhad, I do not wish to sound apocalyptic. But I do believe that the elimination of Israel is planned, plotted, and even scheduled with great care and seriousness in more than one country. And I am convinced that, if Israel disappears, the consequences for all of us will be fearful.

You are a resolute politician, and I think you see this threat more clearly than most. If there was ever a time to act, I think this is it. If an international force does enter Lebanon, can you ensure, in tandem with the United States, that it will have teeth, that it be empowered to implement UN Resolution 1559, that it be capable of disarming Hizbullah with or without the cooperation of the Lebanese government, that Israel, which has never been the aggressor in the wars it has fought, be enabled to contribute to the downfall of this fascist-like group, and that both Israel and Lebanon finally enjoy secure borders across which they can work together to mend the breaches that have opened up between them?

Backed by an ideology of martyrdom through suicide or fighting — an ideology with deep Shi’ite roots, now disseminated from Tehran — radical jihadist Muslims have come to seem invincible. Whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Lebanon, they are starting to believe they can triumph over the forces of democracy, reason, and justice. They are starting to think they can destroy Israel, win back Spain, and impose shari’a law in Europe.

Just as our parents and grandparents fought the dark ideology of Nazism in the 1930s and 40s, so I believe this generation has the heaviest of responsibilities face to face with this growing threat to all civilized values. Not just the West, but the peoples of the Islamic world too may see their way of life changed for ever should the totalitarian spectre impose itself and its deadening hatred of life on all we and they hold dear.

I don’t like to speak in terms of historic moments or symbolic conflicts, but I’m afraid that, as this struggle intensifies, I am bound to do so. Civilization itself is at stake. The values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and the open society are as much or more at risk today than in the decades when we confronted, first German fascism and then Russian communism. It may or it may not be your destiny jointly to lead the free world in this clash of civilizations. But I ask you to hold firm now and in the future, not just here in Britain, but in the Middle East, where a sort of Armageddon is being fought on the television screens of the world.

Excuse my prolixity and my overwrought language. I intended something simpler. I wanted to say in a few words what I have now written in four pages. By all means ignore most of this, if, indeed, it ever crosses your desk. But promise me one thing: that if it is your destiny to stand up for Israel in the time of its greatest peril, you will not prove fainthearted.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin

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