Though always wary of its sometimes strange and belligerent diplomatic behaviour, I was in favour of, even excited by the prospect of an American invitation to the Syrians to join the Annapolis summit. Unusually, this was reflected in my taking a clear line on behalf of the Foundation in my MEPPcirculations indicating this preference. Alas, against expectations, Condoleezza Rice issued said invitation. The Syrian response was to intimate demands about the issues the conference would have to address before she would join in. Even this was indulged by some of our members, who readily accepted
that Syria would only be able to attend if the Golan was up for
Palestinians' plight eased as soon as possible should be mortified. As
Mahmoud Abbas is (a man admittedly on his last legs). Where have we come
to in the MEPP when Abbas is on the record as having sent senior envoys to Damascus to stop this 'help'?
time these mostly absolutist movements, on behalf of but with little regard for the Palestinians actually suffering, and incubated mostly in UK and a few US universities, have used the tools of globalisation to successfully scupper the moderate voice on the ground. All the evidence I have seen points towards the malicious rumours about OneVoice being seeded by PACBI and the ISM and their associates from the UK and US. They have denied the Palestinians the opportunity - an opportunity that had sold 36000 tickets in Jericho - to let their
leadership know that they want a dignified settlement now. I will not
detail the slanderous campaign and the realities. Much of the
information is on OneVoice's founder's blog (and the excellent Engage
has a telling summary regarding PACBI's lies). Suffice to say that those
seeking to empower moderates must redouble their efforts in light of this
setback. They are waiting and need more cover.
I deem it fair to say that the vast majority of our membership is against an academic boycott and further considered the NUJ's boycott decision
contemptible. At our recent Media Council Conference, we could not find
anyone in the room, never mind on the panel, who saw any use or merit in the
decision. The arguments are tired and the behaviour of the UK academics
spearheading this campaign - in particular during a visit of Israeli academics
aimed at countering their campaign - again spoke volumes about how constructive and relevant to a betterment of Palestinian life their grinding axe really is. As such I wholeheartedly welcome the British delegation seeking to identify projects for cooperation with Israeli and Palestinian universities.
But there is a broader point here. Again, I think I can claim to accurately discern a majority among our members' opinions, this time that many are very
much uneasy about Tony Blair, in particular regarding his role in the MEPP and
hence even more so his new job. I never make any secrets about my own
views, and I greatly admire Mr Blair and his, in my view accurate, necessary and lonely understanding of current geo-political realities (including his recent speech on Iran). But we do not have to agree about that in the least.
witnessing at play in geo-politics today. The speech invoked an 'arc of moderation', neccessary to counter the 'arc of extremism'. Do not confuse this with George Bush's Axis of Evil, something senior sources describe as a 'rhetorical bump in the road'. The arc of extremism exists. I need not mention regimes, countries, or movements - you all know them and will say so, some openly, some quietly.
for what they are. Only if we can sideline the formidable arc of extremism will the State of Palestine be a reality. The Syrians and absolutist Palestinian
'supporters' may offer psychologically appealing options, feeding into a well rehearsed historical narrative of pain and grievance or the religious narrative
favoured lately. But the Syrians and absolutist 'supporters' can wait. For Palestinians themselves every minute counts. And Condoleezza Rice is correct in playing up exactly that dynamic, this chance to boost the moderates, in her unrelenting efforts to put together the Annapolis summit. I dare those 'helping' the Palestinians by taking an absolutist stance - or even those making disparaging comments about the planned US summit - to tell me about a better plan, process, solution. There are none. It's bad, and nobody will get what they want. As the legendary Afif Safieh said at one of NCF's conferences in the House of Lords: 'we need a mutually unacceptable solution'. And then everybody can go swimming in the Mediterranean...