Monday, May 14, 2007

British journalist criticizes Tony Blair’s support for Israel

Mary Ann Sieghart:

Last July I wrote a couple of columns on these pages excoriating Israel for its overreaction to the kidnap by Hezbollah of two of its soldiers. I criticised Tony Blair for not condemning Israel’s disproportionate response and I predicted that his action – or rather inaction – would hasten his demise.

Inevitably, I was deluged with e-mails accusing me of anti-Semitism (as if!), anti-Israeli bias and ignorance. Patronising readers told me that I had no understanding of Israel’s position in the Middle East. My warnings that Israel’s killing of nearly 1,000 Lebanese civilians and displacement of half a million would only add to the ranks of Hezbollah sympathisers and further inflame Muslim opinion against the West were dismissed as prejudice.

So it is some consolation that the Winograd Commission – set up by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, himself – savagely criticised him this week for the failed war against Lebanon. On the decisions made in launching the war, the report says: “We determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose the primary responsibility for these failures on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff.

“The decision to respond with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorised military plan . . . The Government did not consider the whole range of options, including that of continuing the policy of ‘containment’, or combining political and diplomatic moves with military strikes below the ‘escalation level’, or military preparations without immediate military action.”

Mr Olmert “made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one. Also his decision was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel . . . All of these add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence.”

Phew! If that is the interim report, what has the commission saved up for its final statement? I cannot remember ever reading such trenchant criticism of a government in an official report.

What this ought to (but doubtless won’t) do is puncture the delusion held by many in the Jewish community that any criticism of any action by any Israeli government is either anti-Semitic or anti-Israel or both. It simply isn’t.

Like an unaccompanied new driver


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