Blair, Arab despots, and the ethical dimension of Britain’s foreign policy

It’s too easy to sneer at those photos of Blair and Gaddafi. It was far better to shake the hand of a despot than to bomb thousands of his country’s innocent inhabitants (though the credit for the rapprochement between Britain and Libya in the wake of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 probably belongs to Robin Cook). Selling him armoured cars and water cannon, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition, tear gas and other irritant ammunition, and sniper rifles, perhaps the ones now being used to pick off mourners at the funerals of peaceful protesters, that’s something else. As is supplying Bahrain despots with similar tools of oppression. Tony Blair was happy to facilitate this trade, even as he was continuing to defend the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians. And his support for his preferred despots continued until the bitter end. Mubarak, you’ll remember, was “immensely courageous and a force for good,” just days before his fall. Continue reading

An age of revolt – in an age without a left

I remember the exact moment when I realised that I was living in a different era from the politically tranquil times I grew up in. It was in a lecture theatre at University College London, a week or so after the 52,000-strong student march. An impromptu ‘what next?’ meeting had been called, and the room was absolutely packed with undergrads. Baby-faced though I am, I was probably one of the oldest people there. Continue reading

Freeze Mubarak’s assets and send him to The Hague

The energy from the celebrations in Egypt is infectious. Images of complete strangers embracing in the street like they were family, awash in chants of victory and tears of freedom. But alongside the euphoria is the knowledge that much of the long road to liberation still lies ahead. This is only the beginning.

The Guardian and others are reporting that the Mubarak family fortune amounts to over £44 billion. Bounty, pillaged by a corrupt regime from an oppressed people. The same outlets are also reporting that a lot of this money is tied up in property in the UK. The UK government should freeze all assets under its jurisdiction, pending investigation of crimes against humanity. Continue reading

Palestine and the Egyptian revolution, as seen from the Israeli bunker

We are in the middle of a geological event. An earthquake of epoch-making dimensions is changing the landscape of the Middle East. Mountains turn into valleys, islands emerge from the sea, volcanoes cover the land with lava. People are afraid of change. When it happens, they tend to deny, ignore, pretend that nothing really important is happening. Israelis are no exception. What is happening now in Egypt will change Israeli lives. Continue reading

Time to turn the screws on Israel for the sake of its own survival

Watching a succession of Western leaders, including Chancellor Merkel of German and Prime Minister Cameron of Britain speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday, I was struck by the huge importance they attached to the fast moving events in Egypt, and the wider Arab World. It was almost as though the enormity of what is unfolding – Egypt is hugely strategic and pivotal – was obliging these leaders to realise for the first time the possible knock on effects  in the region. Continue reading