More articles Friday 21 August 2015 8:47pm
Tony Blair branded a warmonger by Avi Shlaim at the Book Festival
At his Book Festival event today, leading academic on the Middle-East situation, Avi Shlaim, branded Tony Blair the “worst” of all the neo-conservative politicians for his “blind support” of Israel against Palestine.
Addressing a packed audience, the emeritus professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, and author of The Iron Wall, a critical interpretation of the history of Zionism and Israel, launched a vociferous attack on Blair for his role as peace envoy of the Middle East Quartet nations – the US, UN, EU, and Russia – involved in attempting to broker a lasting settlement between Israel and Palestine. Dismissing the Quartet as an invention of pro-Israeli neo-con politicians, that “never achieved anything” and was created as “a clever tactic to waste time”, Avi said that Blair, who was appointed in 2007 after standing down as Prime Minister, was “the ideal person to implement this non-policy.”
The academic described Blair being made a peace envoy as “oxymoronic”, branding him a "warmonger”. Adding that, despite Blair being an unpopular figure among the other Middle East nations, President George W Bush appointed him in the role because he “owed him something” for his support in the Iraq War.
He added: “So Tony Blair owes his election to his neo-con American friends, and many of the neo-cons are Jewish, and all of them, Jewish or non-Jewish, are great supporters of Israel. And when I say ‘neo-cons’, I include Blair. Blair is the worst of the bunch.”
“Tony Blair was always one-sided in his blind support for Israel”, he said. “As Quartet envoy, whenever I heard him speak, to me he sounded like an Israeli official, because he always used to bang on about Israeli security. He never talked about Palestinian rights, and one Palestinian official talked about Blair as ‘stupid, stupid, stupid’, and that’s also my view of Blair.”
He said that Israelis liked the former Prime Minister, who stood down as envoy earlier this year, because they felt they could “literally get away with murder”.
The academic also attacked the Israeli policy of continuing to build Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza territories, as the reason for the collapse of the Oslo Peace Process to find a lasting accord between the two nations.
“Settlements are not about peace, they are about land-grabbing,” he said. “It’s about stealing land from the Palestinians. And you cannot engage in land grabbing and peace-making at the same time. It’s one or the other. And by its actions, Israel has shown it’s more interested in land than it is peace.” Avi said that despite successive Israeli leaders expressing a desire for political settlement, they still keep building settlements.
He characterised the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach as “being like the man who pretends to negotiate the division of a pizza but keeps eating the pizza all the time.” Netanyahu, Avi claimed, “did not believe in negotiations or compromise” in dealing with Palestinians, and as a Jewish nationalist, believes that “only Jews have any political right over the whole land of Israel, over the entire of the West Bank”.
He asserted that the Israeli leader was “not a peacemaker”, “could not conceive of a diplomatic solution to the dispute”, and was therefore a proponent of the “doctrine of permanent conflict.”