expressed it, in the context of an article regarding Scarlett Johansson, Oxfam, and SodaStream:
'There is nothing remotely progressive in this campaign to boycott everything Israeli, with its double standards about various nations’ behaviour and its shrill rhetoric about everything that comes from Israel being covered in Palestinian blood. This movement is not designed to have any kind of positive impact in the Middle East but rather is about making certain Western activists feel righteous and pure through allowing them to advertise how Israeli-free their lives are. It’s illiberal, because it effectively demands the censoring of Israeli academics and performers; it’s hypocritical, because it is led by people who are only too happy to use iPhones made in undemocratic China and to vote for the Labour Party, which, er, bombed the hell out of Middle Eastern countries for the best part of 10 years; and it has unfortunate ugly echoes of earlier campaigns to boycott Jewish shops and produce. So three cheers for Ms Johansson for taking a very public stand against this right-on pressure to treat Israel as the most evil nation on Earth.'
|Hain leaves Downing Street in 1969 (Guardian photo)|
As I wrote quite some time ago:
'During the 1970s, before defecting to Labour and eventually becoming an MP and a minister under Blair and Brown as well as a member of Red Ed Miliband’s present team, the anti-Israel serpent in the still-pro-Israel British Liberal Party’s bosom was Peter Hain. A South African-born anti-apartheid activist with a penchant for publicity, he was chairman of the Young Liberals, and combined campaigning against white rule in South Africa with a parallel crusade against Israel’s very existence. Decades before the idea caught on in sections of the Israel-demonising left, Hain had made the replacement of Israel by a “Secular Democratic State of Palestine” the leitmotif of his frequent inveighing against the Jewish State.
Thus, reported the Jewish Chronicle (5 September 1975), “Calls for the destruction of Israel as a state and for British Government recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation were made by more than 1500 pro-Arab supporters who marched from Speakers’ corner to Downing Street on Sunday while the Jewish rally was in progress.” Flanked by some 500 police officers, marchers included Communists, Marxists, Young Socialists, Young Liberals, as well as hundreds of Palestinians, Surians, Iraqis and other Arabs. Hain called on “radicals on the left-wing in Britain” to fight for the Palestinian cause.
He was even mean-minded enough to oppose the migration of Soviet Refuseniks to Israel.' [Emphasis added]
|Hain's Israel-demonising past is not as well-known as it should be|
Hain's stance dismayed the Liberal Party's leadership and its old guard (we're talking of a time when to be Liberal with a large L still meant to be a classical liberal with a small l, in the tradition of the old Manchester Guardian – stalwartly pro-Zionist under editor C. P. Scott, long before it evolved into today's wretched London-based Guardian rag – and the then elder statesman of the Liberal Party Jo Grimond).
By the time the ambitious Mr Hain had morphed into a Labour Party Cabinet member, he had fallen silent on the issue, toeing the party line as he was bound to do. He was even tipped as a future British Prime Minister. (Shudder.)
This week, the heinous Mr Hain has been at it again, albeit in a more cautious manner than his no-room-for-argument enfant terrible manner of yore. To quote from an online Welsh source yesterday, evidently utilising a press release circulated by Hain:
'Peter Hain will make a major speech tonight [Thursday] in which he will warn that the long-term goal of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians may no longer be achievable and claim that a one-state solution is now “back on the agenda”.
The former Welsh Secretary and Middle East minister at the Foreign Office will not endorse calls for the creation of a binational state but will ask: “Instead of living in constant fear of the enemy within as well as without, might it be more fruitful for Israel to seek a settlement legislating for the rights of Palestinians and Arab-Israelis within a new common state to end the conflict?”
In a public lecture at Swansea University, the Neath MP will state that he has favoured a two-state solution but is “increasingly unsure about whether it’s still achievable” because “the land earmarked for a viable Palestinian state has been remorselessly occupied by Israeli settlers.”
Claiming that support is growing for a single state, he will say: “Palestinians on both sides are now questioning the two-state strategy to an even greater degree. Negotiations have so far failed, as has a reliance on the US to deliver Israeli cooperation.
“The two-state option was itself originally conceived as a compromise and one likely to be particularly painful for the Palestinian refugee community. All of which explains why in academic and activist circles the one-state option is back on the agenda.
“There are now a number of different campaigns for the creation of a single democratic, secular state for Jews and Arabs, made up of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.”
Mr Hain, who as Northern Ireland Secretary played a key role in bringing Ian Paisley’s DUP and Sinn Fein together in the Stormont executive, will argue: “[If] Israel’s relentless expansion into Palestinian territories cannot be stopped then we must face one of two possible outcomes.
"The first is that all Palestinian presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem remains in a permanent and ever-more formalized ‘Bantustan status’, islands of minimal self-governance with the continued denial of basic rights, facing ongoing pressure, perpetual insecurity and possible future physical removal.
"The second is that they are absorbed into a common Israeli-Palestinian state with the opportunity for pluralism and human rights advancement.
“Is that solution now the only one capable of stopping the cycle of violence and preserving Israel’s potential to become a force for unity and peace, instead of a beleaguered source of division and a target for attack?
"And if the window for the two-state solution is indeed closing, then should the EU, the US and the UK make it plain to Israel that a one-state alternative may be the only one available to ensure its security?”
He will ask what type of state would be “politically feasible and deliverable,” stating: “Could a federal or con-federal state provide a way forward, with common security, a unified economy, common civil rights and guarantees of religious freedom for Jews and Muslims, but considerable political autonomy for the territories within it of ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’? How then might Israeli and Palestinian security forces be integrated?
“These are fundamental, difficult and complex questions – but, if successfully answered, could a common state solution more easily resolve the deadlock than the two-state solution I and many others have long-favoured?
“I remain uncertain. But I ask because I do not see how either the Israelis or the Palestinians can secure their legitimate objectives by perpetuating for still more decades their unsustainable and unstable predicament, with a two-state solution slipping away while violence and terrorism lurks constantly.”....'Given the fact that he has advocacy of a single state lurking in his past, Hain's approach to this question this time smacks of testing the waters, or to state it more accurately, testing the reaction of Labour Party members. The question, though, is why? Since he's about to turn 63, it is presumably not through ambition to ride to the party's leadership on the coat tails of anti-Zionism that's impelled Hain to make such a speech. Or is it? (He made an unsuccessful bid for the leadership a few years ago.) Are the speech's connotations more sinister than would seem at first glance? Has Hain changed his spots? Time alone will tell.
The Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, writing yesterday on the Jewish Chronicle website, is evidently unaware that Hain has form on the issue, that he used when young to make strident, hurtful, unambiguous calls for the dismantling of Israel and its replacement by a "secular democratic state".
Freedland is in my opinion a tad too jejune when he observes:
'If you want to know what a politician really thinks, wait till he or she leaves office. It’s when politicians no longer have to court votes, or worry about party discipline, that they finally speak their true mind.
Plenty will say that explains this week’s intervention by the former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain. On Thursday, he was due to give a public lecture at Swansea University, departing from the position he has held for the past two decades and which represents the consensus of the international community: that the best answer to the conflict between
Israelis and Palestinians in two states, living side by side.
Now, Hain wonders if the moment for a two-state solution has passed and if it is time instead to look at a different scenario: what he calls a “common state” shared by the two peoples – in other words, a one-state solution.
“Ah,” many JC readers will say. “So, when Hain was in government, he was just paying lip service to Israel’s right to exist as a secure, independent state. All along, he actually believed in the old pro-Palestinian demand for a single state, in which the Zionist dream of Jewish self-determination would be swallowed up and forgotten. He’s no friend of ours after all.”
Such a view will be temptingly simple but unfair. Hain is clear in setting out his own credentials as a former Middle East minister under Tony Blair, one who worked closely with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He also underlines his understanding of what Israel is up against: the “unremitting hostility” of its neighbours, the state of “siege” the country has had to endure since its birth. He is explicit, too, that his past support for two states was sincere, that he believed it to be “the best plan for peace and the fairest outcome.”
But, now, reluctantly, Hain has concluded that time has all but run out for the two-state solution. He offers the familiar reasons: the serial failure of past negotiations; the Hamas-Fatah split; and, above all, the fact that “the land earmarked for a viable Palestinian state has been remorselessly occupied by Israeli settlers.” As others have put it, it’s hard for two people to agree to split a pizza when one is gobbling up slice after slice as they talk.
Doubtless many will dispute Hain’s conclusions, finding him premature in pronouncing two states near-dead. But whether he’s too pessimistic is not really the point. He is a mainstream political figure — with experience, in Belfast, of a bitter conflict also once deemed intractable — beginning to look seriously at an idea previously deemed beyond the pale. [My emphasis]
In that sense, his words are a warning...'Whether Hain is up to his old "secular democratic state" trick for some agenda of his own, and indeed how far he will take it, remains, for the moment, immaterial. For the present Labour Party leadership has disowned his views.
Reports The Guardian:
'The Labour leadership has slapped down the former cabinet minister Peter Hain after he raised the possibility of a one-state solution in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians....
Labour criticised Hain, who served as Middle East minister between 1999 and 2001, after the New Statesman published extracts from a prepared speech in which he raises the possibility of a "common Israeli-Palestinian state"....
Critics will argue that creating a one-state solution would mark the end of the state of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state. The declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, signed by the founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said: "We … hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the state of Israel."
Labour said: "Peter Hain does not speak for Labour on foreign affairs and his views on the Middle East peace process do not represent Labour party policy. Labour is fully committed to a two-state solution with a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, and we support the ongoing work of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, to help restart negotiations towards achieving this goal."....'(For the speech and Labour's reaction to it see also here)
It will be interesting to see how Hain will handle the issue, and what impact he will have on his party, when he's no longer MP for Neath but, as he presumably will be, a Labour life peer in the House of Lords.