Friday 15 June 2007

Islamists seize Gaza: West to blame

What's happening in Gaza and the West Bank is appalling, not only for the Palestinians caught in the middle of the fighting, but also for any hopes of a stable, secular Palestinian state. Apportioning blame for the current mess is complicated, but some think it's simple: it's all the fault of America and the west. Although UN diplomat Alvoro de Soto did mention Hamas' 'abominable' charter, its links to Iran and its policy of suicide attacks on civilians, it was American policy that he highlighted in his recent report, and it was this that yesterday's Guardian leader chose to focus on, as did the same day's Channel 4 News.

Undoubtedly the current US administration (unlike its predecessor) has made little effort to advance Middle East peace, but is that laziness really the main cause of the current bloodshed between Fatah and Hamas? The Guardian blamed the boycott of Hamas by western nations, and Jon Snow on Channel 4 trotted out the familiar line about America and Europe ignoring the democratic will of the Palestinian people. But what were they supposed to do, faced with the election of a faction that spouts racist rhetoric and directly sponsors mass murder? I know the Nazi-Islamist analogy has been overused, but isn't this rather like saying that Britain should have had dealings with Hitler as this would have been honouring the democratic wishes of the German people?

Once again, this eagerness to blame the west, rather than the actual perpetrators of violence, is a denial of the agency of forces in the Arab and Muslim world: in this instance, the active encouragement of Islamist movements such as Hamas by countries like Iran and Syria.

Update: Saturday 16 June

Now the BBC has joined in. I've just heard the 10 a.m. news headlines on Radio 4. After a brief report on the current situation in Gaza, a British MEP (Chris Smith - who he? some kind of Middle East expert?) was given space to blame the whole thing on the EU, the 'Quartet' and Israel. No challenge, no dissenting voices, and once again absolute silence on the responsibility of the actual warring parties, or those countries that have armed and encouraged at least one of them.

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