Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jonathan Steele: fair and balanced

Jonathan Steele, 6 July 2006:

“Thank goodness for the Swiss. Alone in Europe, their government has dared to condemn what the Israelis are doing to Gaza. It is collective punishment, they say. It violates the principle of proportionality. Israel has not taken the precautions required by international law to protect civilians. …
“Its statement stands in contrast to the European Union's shamefully muted voice. … The EU's response? Vague expressions of ‘concern’ and calls for ‘restraint’.”

So, we’ve established a principle. Disproportionate reactions that involve collective punishment of civilians and breaches of international law are wrong and should be condemned utterly. Good stuff.

19 September 2006:

“It is true that the [Sudansese] government, as often happens in asymmetrical war, overreacted in its use of force when rebels attacked. The so-called janjaweed militias that Khartoum organised and armed did not distinguish between civilians and guerrilla fighters. They burned huts, raped women and put tens of thousands of civilians to flight, forcing them across the border into Chad or into camps inside Darfur. But the rebels also committed atrocities, a fact that was rarely reported since it upset the black-and-white moral image that many editors preferred.”

But look, these things happen. And you have to take into account the government’s side of the story, and how very nasty the rebel groups are – they need to be condemned utterly, you know.

6 July:

“ the moment has surely come for Europe to break from its useless policy of backing the US and Israel. The Olmert government… seeks only domination, not negotiation. Whether the ultimate agenda is to starve all Palestinians into fleeing to Egypt, Jordan and even further afield, or merely to keep Gaza as a prison of the unemployed and the West Bank as a bunch of Bantustans, Israeli policy mocks every UN resolution on the conflict.
“The EU should admit that the Palestinians have no partner for peace.”

Another excellent principle: you’ll get nowhere treating a dishonest, power-hungry government as a partner for peace, especially if they’re using starvation as a weapon against a whole ethnic group and mocking UN resolutions.

19 September:

“Some of the displaced say Khartoum should have to pay families compensation. Others say the peace deal has no enforcement measures and fails to protect people who want to go back to rebuild their villages. But the answer is to conduct more talks, not resume the war.

“Fear of arrest is said to be one reason why Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has blocked UN troops. Even if a UN force were still 90% African, he might think it could include a western-piloted snatch squad tasked to capture him or his Darfurian lieutenants.”

But come on now, reasonable people can surely thrash these things out with another round of negotiations, can’t they? And it’s quite unrealistic to expect everyone to jump through all these ‘international law’ hoops just because a few UN resolutions say they should.

6 July:

“Israel must renounce violence”

A third fine principle from our man of Steele.

19 September:

“Khartoum feels betrayed by the US. After making a peace deal in the south… it expected US sanctions would be lifted.”

Those Americans, eh? Completely untrustworthy. You go to all the trouble of stopping brutalising the south of your country just because they ask you to, and then they turn round and start moaning on about how you’re now doing the same thing in the west. Bloody neocons.

28 April 2006:

“Beware the hypocrisy of international allegiances

“Human rights organisations and private citizens are right to press their own and other governments to adopt higher standards of democratic behaviour, but they need to be rigorous, even-handed and aware of history.”

Well… sometimes.

[See also Norm Geras on Steele’s campaign of apologetics.]

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