I’m glad to see that the Arab Spring — especially the brutal head-bashing in Syria and Libya — is causing columnists to rethink their views. Yesterday, it was Israel’s Sever Plocker, which carries its own implications for Big Media.
Today, it’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Yvonne Ridley offering their own mea culpas.
First with Alibhai-Brown. Yes, The Independent’s columnist qualifies her criticisms of the Left — she’s not throwing her Palestinian bona fides out the window. But credit is due. Stop Blaming Israel For Everything, she states:
For many years now, British and American Zionists have complained that progressives pick on Israel, expect higher standards from that government and most iniquitously, that any criticism of their land is in effect a lightly disguised and now approved expression of anti-Semitism . . . But what if some of their complaints are valid and justifiable? Do I dare think that, and then say it? And if I do, is that a betrayal of a righteous cause?
These thoughts have been spooling round and round in my head this last month. As Gaddafi systematically massacres his people and the country descends into civil war, as armies slaughter civilians in Yemen and Bahrain, now Syria, I ask why good people have focused only on Palestine/Israel for more than half a century and not attended to the brutality and oppression endemic in the Islamic states. Is it OK for dictators to do what they wish within their own borders to crush democratic demands? I think not, and strongly. No flotillas for their victims? One fact that is kept tightly sealed and buried is this: More Muslims are killed by their brethren in religious and power struggles than are killed by foreign powers and that, as far as I can ascertain is true even after the war on Iraq. It could be that some of the relentless focus on Israel does indeed rise out of a deep stream of anti-Semitism. It is also a useful displacement activity . . .
It is no longer morally justifiable for activists to target only Israel and either ignore or find excuses for corrupt, murderous Arab despots. That kind of selectivity discredits pro-Palestinian campaigners and dishonours the principles of equality and human rights. It has enabled hideous Arab ruling clans to carry on disgracefully for too long.
Of course making grand statements from platforms in central London is one thing but going to see for myself what was happening in Libya was something else. My few days there proved to be extremely humbling and illuminating; a strong reality check, indeed.
So let me be absolutely clear: I was wrong to oppose military intervention. No ifs, buts or maybes; I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The people of Libya would have been crushed brutally and without mercy, if the West had not responded to their cries for help.
If Ridley’s brave enough to say this, is it a stretch to wonder if she’ll rethink her outlook on Israel and her involvement with the flotilla movement too?
And more importantly, who else might step forward with reality checks of their own? Dare I ask?