UK would ‘recognise Palestine as state’ under Labour government, Jeremy Corbyn says
Well, he’s no Jesus, so a little floundering shouldn’t come as a surprise. Here we have a Labour leader accused of, at best, winking at antisemitism in the Labour party, then going to Jordan and calling for UK recognition of a Palestinian state. While he referred to a “two-state” solution, he stopped far short of a ringing declaration of his support for the Israeli state. Of course, in some corners of the pro-Israel lobby, any criticism of Israeli government policy toward Palestinians is smeared as antisemitism, so these are choppy waters to be stepping out on.
Now, I’m of the weary and bleary view that, in hindsight, maybe the Balfour Declaration of 1917, made when Britain was at war with Germany and the Ottoman Empire which held Palestine at the time, was not the best of ideas.
Image source: Wikipedia, letter to Lord Rothschild for communication to the Zionist Federation in the UK.
The Declaration did not envisage at that time a greater Israel encompassing the vast majority of Palestine, but of a “national home for Jewish people” within Palestine, still an unprecedented idea – unprecedented in the notion of having a state with citizenship defined by religion. Vatican city aside, no other major modern state makes a civic virtue of the primacy of its majority religion. Officially, anyway. Can you imagine a Muslim or Christian president of Israel in some near future? Neither can I.
I think an argument can be made that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was perhaps a major mistake, guaranteeing another 70 years of strife in the region. Perhaps a two-state solution should have been devised at the outset, or maybe a single multi-religious state with specific guarantees of home rule for Jews and Muslims alike might have resulted in less bloodshed since. No real way of telling. Maybe some of the victorious WWII powers were keen to see potential Jewish “problems” exported to the middle east rather than festering in Europe. On a more positive note, certainly there was a feeling that steps had to be taken to make sure the spectre of the Holocaust did not get resurrected. The latter at least was a noble ideal – never again.
I do not deny that in many ways, Israel has been a very successful state, for some, the tragedy is it hasn’t been a success story for Arabs in or near its official borders. Granted, neighbouring Arab nations chose war over diplomacy in dealing with the new state, which straddled territories they considered their own, and so they knowingly and actively contributed to the current strife. It isn’t right to blame Israel for everything. It’s a complicated history, and many books can and have been written documenting views from all sides. The point is, despite would-be noble ideals and because of the history, we are where we are, and the question is, is it possible to emerge from this abyss, or just dig it ever deeper?
solution ploy was to go full Netanyahu and recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, enraging Arabs world-wide. Well, that was an intelligent and calculated step, when one considers where Trump is coming from. He is riding a domestic wave of anti-immigrant and especially anti-Muslim prejudice. How better to feed his fascist base red meat than to poke Muslims in the eye by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state? Trump has no interest in solving the middle east conundrum, he’s just making flamboyant and provocative gestures intended to fire up his base, anger his critics, and hence stroke his ego. And Netanyahu is one of the world’s dictatorial strongmen Trump so slavishly admires.
Enter Jeremy, whom no-one would ever describe as a strongman. A former if not necessarily much reformed marxist, he genuinely wishes the world were a better place, and seeks to make it one. He is an idealist – not that there is anything wrong with idealism, I hasten to add, so long as the idealists can avoid zealotry in their process. The problem is that even when one tries to bring ideals to fruition, the world is a realpolitik place where idealists are vastly outnumbered by cynics, pragmatists and downright assorted villains and con-artists. They pose almost insurmountable barriers for idealism, and undermine it when it manages to leak around and establish the occasional inroad.
What does Jeremy think he can actually accomplish by making a Trump-like declaration of a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state (presumably for Muslims or Arabs)? Whose purpose does it serve? The Palestinians’, or Jeremy’s? Does he think it’s an essential first step in a multilateral and international recognition of a Palestinian state? Is there really a path to that particular ideal here? Or does it serve to bolster his support among Labour pro-Islamic and anti-Israeli factions? This question is asked bearing in mind that being against Israeli government policies persecuting Palestinians is not antisemitic, but that being anti-Israel might very well be, and there’s a very fine line to tread there.
I am no Cobrynista, no enthusiastic supporter of his. His Brexit policy is as short-sighted and blinkered as May’s to the extent I often think they are in cahoots over it. I support some of his proposals about renationalisation of essential industries and services. But until he takes a credible stance against antisemitism in his own party that goes beyond platitudes that antisemitism is abhorrent, which no longer mean much in a realpolitik world, I don’t trust his going out on a unilateral limb on this one, either. It’s not as though many if any Palestinian political leaders are committed to a two-state solution, either. A lot of them would happily encompass the complete overthrow of Israel as it is. It’s not at all clear where Corbyn stands on that.
Still, let’s face it. Who is going to give a toss what a post-Brexit British foreign policy says, anyway? Corbyn is just shouting into the wind.