Guardian Columnist Justifies Terror

As noted in a previous HonestReporting Communique, The Guardian’s columnist, Jonathan Steele has a history of downplaying Palestinian terror. When Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections, Steele called it the best news from the Middle East in a long time, and noted that Europe should not get hung up on the wrong issues, like armed resistance.

In a new article published this week, Steele offers advice to President Barack Obama ahead of his first meeting with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. While urging Obama to take a hard line with Israel on issues such as settlements, and even Israels alleged nuclear arsenal, Steele is less concerned about the threat of violence against Israel.

In fact, Steele not only justifies Palestinian violence, he also offers tacit support for foreign leaders who give it their backing:

Until Israel pulls back to the 1967 borders, give or take some land swaps, under international agreement, Palestinian resistance will continue and other states will be entitled to support it.

Of course, Steele could just as reasonably have concluded that there can be no Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border as long as resistance a Palestinian term for terrorism continues. But that would mean acknowledging that terrorism exists. Instead, Steele whitewashes Hamass record as a terrorist organization. Now that Hamas is independent, strong and popular, he writes, Israel sees it as the new target.

In other words, Israel acts against Hamas because it is popular, not because it fires rockets at Israeli civilians, smuggles weapons into the Gaza Strip, or threatens to destroy the Jewish state. He also fails to mention that Israels withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 a pullback to the 1967 border in that area resulted in more violence against Israel, undermining his implicit claim that violence would stop if only Israel would withdraw.

Even more puzzling than Steeles justification of terror is his reluctance to press Iran for violating the terms of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In a strange inversion of logic, Steele asserts that the international community should place equal pressure on countries such as Israel, who have not signed the NPT, as it does on countries that have signed the agreement and violate its terms:

If Iran, a signatory of the NPT, is rightly pressed to adhere to the requirement for transparency, it is hypocrisy not to press the non-signatories to be as honest. To argue that countries which have not signed up are exempt from the rules may be legally right, but is politically absurd.

Absurd is right. Someone who publicly agrees to abide by a set of rules has a greater responsibility to adhere to those rules. Otherwise, what is the difference between signing and not signing the agreement? Steele is welcome to call on Israel to sign the treaty. But to suggest that Israel should be subject to the terms of the agreement regardless of whether it has signed or not is ridiculous.

Does Steele’s justification of terror violate any moral imperative to end violence? Please send your considered comments to The Guardian at letters@guardian.co.uk.

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