Seumas Milne – the veteran ‘Red Queen’ of British journalism – presented yet another of his signature ‘Off with their heads!’ articles on CiF on January 26th. One cannot but get the impression that this time he means it literally and the article presents a rather disturbing view into Milne’s through-the-looking- glass world where normal parameters are turned upside down.
With uncanny resemblance to Lewis Carroll’s character, Milne’s ‘Trials by Journalism’ are inevitably conducted according to notions dictated by – and convenient to – him. ‘Sentence first….Verdict afterwards’.
The headline to his article proclaims that “Only authentic leaders can deliver a Middle East peace” but of course it is Milne and he alone who gets to define ‘authentic’ – not the people whom these leaders represent. Apparently Milne also fails to see the irony in his strapline – “This week’s leaks have exposed the dangerous folly of US and British attempts to control and divide the Palestinians”. Errm….isn’t that exactly what the Guardian and its Muslim Brotherhood-influenced partner Al Jazeera have been trying to facilitate all week?
From then on it is downhill all the way as Milne contorts fact and truth according to his whim.
“It’s a tragedy for the Palestinian people that at a time when their cause is the focus of greater global popular support than ever in their history, their own political movements to win their rights are in such debilitating disarray.”
That statement is only true if one believes – as Milne apparently does – that the Palestinian people’s ‘cause’ is continued belligerence, violence, suffering and lack of permanent status. Like too many foreign supporters of the Palestinian ‘cause’, Milne would rather condemn the Palestinians to perpetual misery than see them achieve peace and prosperity if that necessitates compromise, as it so clearly does. It is not the people themselves who are important to him, but the principle. For him, the all-important goal is that his ideology should triumph over any other, so he continues to prod and goad from the sidelines, in a manner disturbingly reminiscent of those who organize dog fights.
The next paragraph, however, is that which reveals most about the disturbing way in which Milne’s mind works.
“It’s a study in the decay of what in Yasser Arafat’s heyday was an authentic national liberation movement. Try to imagine the Vietnamese negotiators speaking in such a way at the Paris peace talks in the 70s – or the Algerian FLN in the 60s – and it’s obvious how far the West Bank Palestinian leadership has drifted from its national moorings.”
Milne doesn’t want his boyhood heroes to grow old. He is angry and reproachful when they abandon the – to him – glamorous apparel of a ‘resistance movement’ for the drab and familiar garb of the ordinary politicians with which he is familiar in his own far less exciting and exotic milieu. He wants flags and AK47s, danger and death – not budgets and legislations, meetings and reports.
His glamorization of ‘Yasser Arafat’s heyday’ (there’s that word ‘authentic’ again: now we know what Milne really means when he talks of ‘leadership’) shows the extent to which Milne is capable of deluding himself. Most of the world knows full well that Arafat’s main achievement was to both escalate and prolong the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Incapable of making the move from terrorist to statesman, Arafat’s ‘parachuted’ dictatorship meant that no system of democratic leadership from the grassroots was allowed to evolve within Palestinian society – an affliction which ails it to this day. He ruled his own people by means of force and intimidation – yet another malaise which Palestinian society has yet to shake off. He sabotaged any and every opportunity to bring an end to the conflict precisely because, like Seumas Milne, he was incapable of letting go of ‘liberation’ and the ‘armed struggle’ in favour of the tedious nitty-gritty of state building. He stole $900 million from his own people and used that money to fund the terror attacks which plunged the Palestinians even further into poverty, mourning and despair.
Arafat did nothing to truly liberate his people: he kept them in serfdom to an ideology which served the purposes only of himself and his select entourage. As we can determine from this article, Milne aspires to do exactly the same.
Like many a Western ‘pro-Palestinian’ activist, Milne is more concerned with ‘justice’ than putting an end to the conflict:
“But simply to point the finger at Palestinian leaders is to miss the point. What has been highlighted by the documents is not a picture of genuine negotiation and necessary compromise, but of a gross imbalance of power that can’t deliver peace, let alone justice. What’s more, it’s one where the western powers repeatedly intervene to tilt the scales still further against the victims of the conflict.”
Of course in Milne’s ‘Red Queen’ world it is he who gets to define justice and injustice but also, as we see above, to pronounce verdict on victimhood. It demands a pretty fossilized form of thinking and an alarming lack of empathy in order not to perceive all the inhabitants of the region as victims of the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian alike: Milne apparently is in full possession of both such ‘qualities’.
Presumably, it is that same sinister lack of empathy which enables him to dispassionately predict war as the next stage in the process he has colluded in initiating and to indict the peace negotiations as responsible for the lack of ‘authentic’ (that word again..) Palestinian leadership he so craves in order to avoid peaceful compromise.
“It is the story of 20 years of failed peace negotiations that became a charade, a way to maintain the status quo rather than deliver the promised two-state solution, and that have now evidently run into the sand. Inevitably, the vacuum they have left behind can only increase the threat of renewed war.
This is the same peace process that produced the breakdown of authentic leadership and the dysfunctional structures of the Palestinian Authority, which underlie the sorry saga disclosed in the leaked documents.”
Conveniently ignoring his hero Arafat’s literal blowing-up of the processes begun by the Oslo accords, Milne declares that:
“The PA was designed in the 1993 Oslo agreement to be a temporary administration for a five-year transition to statehood.”
In a similarly blinkered manner he is able to state that:
“Its leader’s electoral mandate ran out two years ago, and the authority has become increasingly repressive, imprisoning and torturing both civilian and military activists from its rival, Hamas, which won the last Palestinian elections.”
The rest of us, of course, know that Hamas’ mandate also expired considerable time ago and that its commitment to democracy was proven to be a scam when it proceeded to murder, maim and torture its political rivals almost as soon as it had gained power.
Strangely – but entirely predictably to anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Milne – all his subsequent protestations regarding foreign (particularly US) intervention within what he regards as a puppet Palestinian Authority ignore the no less complicated subject of foreign funding for the Hamas regime. But of course Milne has no objections to Iran funding Hamas or choosing its leaders and no issue with Hamas torture or imprisonment of Fatah sympathizers. That, presumably, is ‘authentic’. His opprobrium, as ever, is reserved solely for the West and those whom he regards as its collaborators.
Milne’s cognitive dissonance is so great that he was able to write the next paragraph, apparently with a straight face, even as his newspaper collaborates with the propaganda arm of an unelected, blood-ties based autocracy which allies itself with dictatorships both theocratic and secular (not the Western-supported ones, of course) and funds a regime in Gaza based on an ideology which rejects democracy as a ‘man-made’ instrument.
“The message from the revolutionary events in Tunisia and the spread of unrest elsewhere in the Arab world should be clear enough. Western support for dictatorial pro-western regimes across the region for fear of who their people might elect if given the chance isn’t just wrong – it’s no longer working, and risks provoking the very backlash it’s aimed to forestall.”
Milne’s unerring confidence in his own ability to identify right and wrong, his rejection of compromise and pragmatism, his remarkable ability to disregard inconvenient facts and above all his self-assured conviction that he knows what is best for others whilst displaying complete disregard for their real welfare, furnish him with all the qualities of the ‘authentic’ leaders he so obviously adores – those the rest of us call dictators.
For some considerable time Milne has not been content with merely reporting world events, he also seeks to influence and even dictate them – in precisely the same undemocratic manner as did so many of his treasured heroes.
Will the Scott Trust’s management continue to allow Milne to exploit the Guardian and drag it down after him, turning what was once a revered institution and a bastion of Left-liberal thinking into an increasingly ridiculed mouthpiece for some of the world’s most oppressive and violent regimes?