Why the Protestors of Hong Kong Are Destroying the Prosperity of Their Country

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Martin SIEFF

September 14, 2019

The people of Hong Kong enjoy one of the highest standards of livings of any city across continental Asia. Since peacefully being reabsorbed into mainland China in 1997, they have confounded endless Western Prophets of Doom: These falsely claimed that Beijing would not maintain its solemn undertakings for peace and security in the city and territory. They maintained that Hong Kong’s historic position as one of the great business hubs of Asia and the world would rapidly be destroyed. Nothing of the sort happened.

But the prosperity of Hong Kong for generations to come is danger now – and the threat manifestly does not come from Beijing.

The mass protests for greater democracy and freedom continue. And following a grim dynamic that goes back well over two centuries to the French Revolution they can never be satisfied.

The more that the administration of Hong Kong led by Carrie Lam and the national Chinese government in Beijing seek to avoid the undue use of force and the infliction of casualties, the more violent, the demonstrations slowly and remorselessly become, the broader and more sweeping are their demands for political liberties – though these are invariably vague and ill-defined.

I predict here – simply and clearly – that no matter how many concessions allegedly for liberty are given they will never satisfy the protestors and the Western governments who at the very least are using them as political puppets and pawns. All that can possibly be achieved is to create an atmosphere of fear, insecurity and violence: That is toxic to attract both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and also regular investment from the rest of China.

Therefore Hong Kong’s economy will founder, while unemployment and economic suffering will grow. Then, those suffering from it will be encouraged to blame the very government that has sought so long and so hard to prevent disasters from happening.

I speak with a particular authority on these matters: Half a century ago as a teenage Irish boy, I watched the same kind of protests destroy forever the peace and prosperity of one of the most advanced industrial centers on the face of the planet in the city of Belfast.

The lessons I learned then would serve the people of Hong Kong well today before they bring an unimaginable disaster upon themselves.

For popular violent protests against authorities never bring peace: They only bring war – Almost always on a scale that none of the protestors dreamed of when they took to the streets.

Prosperity never follows. At best there is mass unemployment and despair as local businesses and national investment flee the territory for decades and generations. You do not build factories and hire workers for them when the factory will be burned down in one of the endless clashes that will soon follow.

The “freedom” that the protestors demand is illusory. It is fools’ gold: It is the fantasy of wealth at the end of the rainbow that is never found.

Hong Kong’s enormous economic advantage for nearly 180 years under first British and over the past two decades of enlightened Chinese autonomous rule has been that it has been a secure, predictable and safe place to do business with the Mainland and with the wider region.

But that is no longer true: The longer the protests rage and the wider and more serious they become, the more that incalculable advantage is eroded before our eyes.

When I was a young boy, my father on Sunday mornings proudly took me down to the Harland & Woolf Shipyard on Queen’s Island to see some of the biggest moving vehicles in the world – giant cargo vessels, tankers, aircraft carriers and cruise ships – being built.

My father was proud of his son, but he was proud of his city too: Belfast was still the largest ship building center on earth. The great shipyard at its peak employed 35,000 workers. Enormous rivers of humanity would flow back and forth on the bridge over the River Lagan every day as its workers streamed to and from their labors. But for most of the past 50 years, almost all of it has become an industrial wasteland peopled only by ghosts.

Peace finally returned to Northern Ireland after 30 years of civil strife, but it was too late. The great shipyard never recovered and it never revived. What had been done could not be undone.

If these riots continue, that will be the fate of Hong Kong too. Nearly two centuries of growth and prosperity will wither and die.

This is no wild prediction. It is tantamount to a mathematical inevitability: There is a remorseless tidal wave of fate to the pattern of rising political protests that escalate into a violent revolution that can only be contained by the use of military force.

The Civil War in Northern Ireland raged – sometimes horrifically, sometimes more subdued – from 1968 to the landmark Good Friday Agreement of 1998. My old, dear friend, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam was the key figure driving the negotiations. She undermined her health doing so. Then a host of political parasites from US President Bill Clinton to British Prime Minister Tony Blair were eager to hog all the praise and credit for themselves years later as Mo lay dying from a brain tumor.

The decades that followed the collapse of law and order in Ireland in 1968-1972 were the darkest in the island’s troubled history since the Great Famine of the 1840s. The British government’s record of secret manipulation and involvement in dark excesses and crimes during those years gives London no moral standing today to lecture China on how it handles the unrest in Hong Kong, or anywhere else.

I never expected to see the end of apparently endless war in Ireland in my own lifetime. Thanks to Mo Mowlam’s selfless labors and those of countless other British and Irish figures great and small, peace finally came. The protestors of Hong Kong too now need to take a step back, suck in a deep breath and pause to think long and hard before they charge down that same doomed and awful path.

Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip — — Rebel Voice

Belfast councillors have voted against sending a representative on a business and investment mission to Israel, reported the Belfast Telegraph.According to the report, councillors rejected a plan to send the council’s Director of Economic Development on the trip with local businesses during a meeting on Wednesday.The purported aim of the visit was to “facilitate access… via […]

via Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip — — Rebel Voice

Ireland passes BDS bill banning israel (apartheid state) settlement goods

Ireland passes BDS bill banning Israel settlement goods

Israel summons Irish Ambassador over the BDS bill

Ireland has advanced a bill which will prevent the sale of goods from Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The lower house of the Irish parliament – the Dail – yesterday voted in favour of a bill which will ban the purchase of all goods and services from Israel’s West Bank settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. The bill was previously passed through the parliament’s upper house – the Seanad – before proceeding to the lower house and receiving a 78-45 majority in favour, Al Jazeera explained.

The bill – officially known as the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill – still needs to pass several more stages before being signed into Irish law, but it is expected to progress given its broad base of support from Irish opposition parties.

Once approved, the law would see fines of up to €250,000 ($284,000) or five years in jail be handed down for those found guilty of importing or selling any goods or services originating in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem or West Bank settlements, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Though estimates put the value of settlement-made exports to Ireland at between only $580,000 and $1.1 million annually, the symbolic value of the bill and its potential to influence other European countries to follow suit has been hailed as a victory by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative party, said the bill is a “great victory for the BDS movement” and vowed that “we will seek to pass similar laws in a number of European countries in the near future”.

READ: Israel accuses EU of funding NGOs that support BDS

Irish politicians also welcomed the move, with Irish Senator Frances Black tweeting: “Ireland will always stand for international law + human rights, & we’re one step closer to making history. Onwards!” She added: “We have now united every opposition party behind this bill, because it is *not* a radical ask: we want to give effect to basic provisions of int [international] law & human rights.”

However Israel has reacted with anger at the bill, summoning the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, to be reprimanded.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said that “Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism”. It added: “Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace.”

Meanwhile Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “an expression of pure hostility on the part of its initiators,” adding: “This is a clear expression of obsessive discrimination that should be rejected with disgust.”

Ireland has been a long-time supporter of the BDS movement. In October, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ announced that it will not sanction any staff members who refuse to travel to Israel for the Eurovision Song Contest, due to be held in Tel Aviv in May. RTÉ’s decision came after the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) called for a boycott of the competition “due to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people”.

Other Irish organisations have also expressed support for BDS, with the Dublin City Council voting in April to back the movement. In March, students at one of the country’s most prestigious universities – Trinity College Dublin – voted to support BDS, meaning the Students Union will support the movement and “comply with the principles of BDS in all union shops, trade, business and other union operations”.

READ: UK band boycotts Eurovision to be held in Israel

American interference: US tries to stop Ireland banning imports from israel’s (apartheid state) settlements

US tries to stop Ireland banning imports from Israel’s settlements

Veteran US lawmaker Peter King has lobbied against an Irish attempt to ban goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Bill Clark CQ Roll Call Photos/Newscom

A prominent US politician has lobbied Irish lawmakers to reject a proposed ban on imports from Israel’s illegal settlements.

Peter King, a member of Congress for New York, is among those who have opposed a bill being debated in Dublin.

Although the bill – aimed at forbidding goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank – seeks to uphold international law, King has depicted it as subversive.

King has tried to convince Fianna Fáil, one of Ireland’s largest parties, to withdraw its support for the proposed ban.

“It is critical that countries and leaders interested in facilitating a lasting peace amongst Israelis and Palestinians not serve to empower the most radical, who have no interest in seeking peace,” King stated in an email message addressed to Fianna Fáil’s team in the Oireachtas, Ireland’s national parliament.

He argued that the proposed ban on settlement goods “does just that by undercutting Palestinians truly interested in peace and empowering Hamas terrorists and recalcitrant Palestinians who refuse even to approach negotiations.”

King’s appeal was made in July and has not been previously reported.

Despite his strong connections with Ireland’s politicians, King could not persuade Fianna Fáil to change its stance. The party’s lawmakers have twice voted in favor of the Occupied Territories Bill, as the proposed ban on settlement goods is known.

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, confirmed that King had been in contact with the party. Collins added that staff from the US embassy in Dublin had visited him “a couple of times,” urging him to oppose the bill.

“Huge issue”

During a trip to the West Bank in the summer, Collins was taken aback by the scale of Israel’s settlement activities.

“I struggle to see how a two-state solution can ever be achieved because of the whole proliferation of the settlements,” Collins told The Electronic Intifada. “The whole West Bank now is so fragmented that I struggle to see how that pipe dream can occur.”

The position taken by Fianna Fáil has proven vital towards having the bill approved by the Seanad, the upper house in the Oireachtas. Nominally in opposition, Fianna Fáil is enabling the work of a minority government led by its rival Fine Gael through a “confidence and supply” arrangement.

Whereas Fine Gael has tried to torpedo the Occupied Territories Bill, Fianna Fáil has backed it.

Fianna Fáil has previously proven accommodating to the US elite. While in government, it allowed the US to refuel military planes in Shannon Airport at the time of the 2003 war against Iraq.

But on the issue of Israel’s settlement goods, Fianna Fáil has listened to public opinion.

Collins acknowledged that he was unaware of the depth of Irish empathy for the Palestinians until he became his party’s foreign affairs spokesperson earlier this year.

“I was very surprised at the time,” he said. “But I understand now that Palestine is a huge issue for people in Ireland.”

Reactionary

The arguments made by Peter King smack of double standards. His use of the term “terrorists” to describe Palestinian resistance fighters is at odds with how he has previously defended Irish republicans involved in an armed struggle.

Although he suggests that Hamas should be isolated, King encouraged dialogue with Irish republicans at a time when the British government was refusing to deal with them. He has taken credit for persuading Bill Clinton, then US president, to issue a visa for Gerry Adams, then leader of the political party Sinn Féin, in 1994.

Adams’ visit to New York is widely recognized as having helped to advance the Irish peace process.

Equally, King is wrong to assert that a ban on settlement goods would undercut Palestinians “truly interested in peace.” His argument overlooks how Israel’s apartheid system – including its relentless colonization of the West Bank – is the primary obstacle to peace and justice.

The ban being considered in Ireland aims to make Israel pay a price for its settlement activities. Under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, building settlements in a territory acquired by force is a war crime.

In the recent past, King has proven to be an especially reactionary member of Congress. He has, for example, supported President Donald Trump’s attempts to prevent residents of seven largely Muslim countries from entering the US.

King did not respond to a request for comment.

Inspired by a strike

Advocates of the ban on settlement goods have drawn inspiration from a strike by staff of the Irish retailer Dunnes Stores in the 1980s. By refusing to handle South African goods, the Dublin strikers made a significant contribution to an international campaign that would ultimately result in sanctions being imposed on Pretoria’s apartheid government.

“We are being watched from all over the world,” said Frances Black, the Irish senator who formally proposed the Occupied Territories Bill. “If this legislation gets through here in Ireland, I have no doubt that other countries will follow suit – just like what happened with the Dunnes Stores workers in Dublin.”

Black, also a well-known singer, has been touring Ireland over the past few months to promote a ban on Israeli settlement goods.

She has been critical of the uncooperative response from Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister and a leading figure in the Fine Gael party.

Coveney’s claims that – as a European Union member – Ireland may not unilaterally ban Israel’s settlement goods have been disputed by a number of lawyers. The lawyers insist that individual countries are entitled to restrict trade for reasons of public policy.

“I think the Irish government is probably fearful of Ireland leading on this,” said Black. “They are fearful of what the European Union and the United States might say. They said the same thing with the Dunnes Stores workers – that we couldn’t lead on this – but I’m saying that we can lead on this and that the people of Ireland want this.”

Ciaran Tierney is a journalist based in Galway, Ireland. Website: ciarantierney.com.

 

Protesters confront Israel envoy at Queen’s University in Belfast

Rebel Voice

Students have long been to the fore of movements for social change across our world, and Ireland is no different. As an ambassador for the rogue state of Israel recently visited Queen’s University in Belfast, in the Irish Occupied Six Counties, he was met with strong protest by both students and their supporters. The Israeli politico and his Unionist acolytes were left in no doubt that the students in this part of Ireland will not stand quietly by when representatives from a state guilty of multiple crimes against humanity waltz brazenly into Belfast. Maith sibh to all those who demonstrated.

There were reports of “angry scenes” at Queen’s University in Belfast yesterday, as protesters “confronted” the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. According to the Belfast Telegraph, some 70 pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the university, as the Israeli envoy gave a guest lecture to postgraduate students. Earlier in…

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ملاحظات حول «الترتيبات النهائية» أو «صفقة القرن»

سبتمبر 27, 2018

زياد حافظ

خلال اجتماعات الأمانة العامة الجديدة المنتخبة للمؤتمر القومي العربي واجتماعات لجنة المتابعة للحوار القومي الإسلامي تمّت مناقشة ما يُسمّى بـ «صفقة القرن». أشار بعض المشاركين إلى أن ذلك المصطلح غير دقيق لسببين: فالسبب الأول هو أن المصطلح يفترض وجود على الأقل طرفين أحدهما يمثل الشعب الفلسطيني، وبما أن الشعب الفلسطيني ومن يمثله غير موجودَين للموافقة على ما يحصل أو يُعرض فلا يجوز التكلّم عن صفقة. أما السبب الثاني، فهو أن ذلك المصطلح ترجمة غير دقيقة لما أطلقته الإدارة الأميركية كـ «ترتيبات نهائية» لحل الملف الفلسطيني. وبالتالي من الصعب التكلّم عن صفقة تفرض موافقة «أطراف». ولكن بعيدا عن الجدل المصطلحي فلا بد من إبداء ملاحظات حول تلك «الترتيبات» سواء كانت «صفقة» أو «مخططات» أو أي شيء آخر.

الملاحظة الأولى هي أنه لا يجب أن نقلّل من خطورة ما نشهده من أفعال تقوم بها كل من الإدارة الأميركية والكيان الصهيوني وفقاً لمسار واضح الهدف وهو إقفال الملف الفلسطيني عبر تصفية القضية الفلسطينية برمّتها وجعلها فقط قضية اقتصادية اجتماعية لمجموعات أي الفلسطينيين من دون أي حقوق سياسية كوحدة تراب فلسطين، والاستقلال الوطني، وحق العودة، والتعويض عن القتل، والتهجير، والتدمير، وطمس الهوية، والمسّ بالكرامة. ويعدّد المراقبون هذه الخطوات بدءاً من قرار نقل السفارة الأميركية من تل أبيب إلى القدس وهو قرار تمّ التصويت عليه بشبه إجماع في الكونغرس الأميركي خلال ولاية الرئيس كلنتون، أي منذ حوالي 25 سنة ، مروراً بقرار تصويت الكنيست الصهيوني على قرار القومية اليهودية، وإيقاف الولايات المتحدة تمويل منظّمة الاونروا، واقفال سفارة فلسطين في الولايات المتحدة وطرد الدبلوماسيين وعائلاتهم من دون سبب، وتجميد المساعدات لفلسطين. كما أن بعض الدول العربية التابعة للولايات المتحدة اتخذت قرارات بعدم تجديد الإقامات للفلسطينيين الحاملين لجوازات سفر فلسطينية غير جوازات سفر صادرة عن الدول التي يقيمون بها كخطوة عملية قسرية للتوطين في بلاد الشتات. هذه الإجراءات شكّلت بداية «الترتيبات النهائية» على أن تليها «ترتيبات» أخرى تحرم الفلسطينيين من أي وطن وحقوق سياسية وجعلهم فقط «مقيمين» في فلسطين مع حق الكيان الصهيوني بطردهم متى شاء.

الملاحظة الثانية هي أن هذه الإجراءات تدلّ على إصابة الإدارة الأميركية وقيادة الكيان الصهيوني وبعض دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي بمرض التوحّد السياسي، حيث يضربون على نغم واحد غير مكترثين بالنتائج وردود الفعل على قراراتهم، وكأن ليس هناك من شعب فلسطيني، ولا قوى عربية من دول وفصائل تقاوم ما يُخطّط. وكأن المسألة «كن فيكون»! فجولة المبعوثين الأميركيين كوشنر وغرينبلات لم تسفر عن أي نجاح في محادثاتهما مع مسؤولين عرب يستطيعون التأثير على القرار الفلسطيني. ما تمّ عرضه كان خالياً من أي مضمون سياسي وكأن المسألة فقط مسألة تسوية أوضاع عقارية أو نهاية خدمة موظفين. فالعقلية السائدة عند الإدارة الأميركية وخاصة عند الرئيس الأميركي هي ذهنية الصفقات العقارية دون الاكتراث للبعد السياسي الذي يحيط بالملفّ الفلسطيني. وبالتالي، لن تلقى هذه المحاولات أي نجاح حتى على الصعيد الرسمي العربي رغم دفع بعض دول الخليج لتلك المبادرة التي يعتبر البعض أنهم وراءها. فصهر الرئيس كوشنر المولج بالملف لا خبرة سياسية له ولا معرفة إلاّ ما تلقّاه من صديق عائلته رئيس وزراء الكيان بنيامين نتنياهو. أما شريكه جاسون غرينبلات فهو «أكثر اتزاناً» وإن كانت معرفته بالملف محدودة. فأفكار تلك «الترتيبات» النهائية تحاكي عقلية السمسار غير البعيدة عن كل من بعض المسؤولين الخليجيين ورموز الإدارة الأميركية المولجين بالملف. وما يمكن أن يعزّز ذلك الاستنتاج هو تاريخ الفشل المتراكم لصهر الرئيس في الصفقات العقارية التي ورثها عن والده. فليس معروفاً عنه أي قدرة بعقد صفقات ناجحة كما تشير وسائل الإعلام الأميركية التي تتابع أخبار الرئيس الأميركي وأفراد عائلته.

الملاحظة الثالثة تتعلّق بجدوى «الترتيبات» التي اتُخذت. فقرار الرئيس الأميركي بنقل السفارة لم يحظَ بأي تأييد دولي. فالتصويت في الأمم المتحدة، سواء في مجلس الأمن أو في الجمعية العمومية، كشف مدى عزلة الولايات المتحدة رغم صلافة تهديدات سفيرة الولايات المتحدة للدول التي «خالفت» القرار الأميركي. أما قرار الكيان باعتبار فلسطين وطناً لليهود فقط، فهو قرار ينسف سردية الكيان وكل مَن تضامن معه ودعمه طيلة سبعين سنة بأن الكيان هو «الواحة الوحيدة للديمقراطية في صحراء الاستبداد». فهذا القانون يكرّس علناً عنصرية الكيان ويجعله الكيان الوحيد العنصري رسمياً في العالم. والقانون يشكّل إحراجاً للأمم المتحدة التي تقبل في عضويتها دولة تجاهر بعنصريتها. أما «الترتيب» الثالث بإيقاف الإدارة الأميركية تمويلها منظمة الاونروا فهو ترتيب لم يلاق أي تأييد دولي. فحتّى الدول التابعة للولايات المتحدة من بين الدول العربية دعت إلى سدّ الثغرة التي شكّلها انسحاب الولايات المتحدة من التمويل. و»الترتيب» الرابع المتمثّل بإقفال سفارة فلسطين وطرد الدبلوماسيين الفلسطينيين من الولايات المتحدة من دون أي سبب غير رفض انصياع السلطة الفلسطينية لإملاءات الإدارة، فهو دليل على صلافة الإدارة وعدم احترامها أياً من المواثيق الدولية والشرعية الدولية ما يزيد في عزلتها. فما إذن قيمة تلك «الترتيبات» الأحادية التي لا تحظى بأي تأييد دولي ولا حتى القانون الدولي والشرعية الدولية؟ كما ما قيمة تلك الترتيبات التي تتجاهل عمداً الحقوق الأساسية للشعب الفلسطيني؟

الملاحظة الرابعة هي أن خلال كل تلك «الترتيبات»، فعدد من الدول الأوروبية تفكّر جدّياً بالاعتراف بفلسطين كدولة وإن كانت تحت الاحتلال. فكل من ايرلندا واسبانيا على وشك إعلان ذلك. من جهة أخرى، الدولة الوحيدة التي تراجعت عن قرارها بنقل سفارتها من تل أبيب إلى القدس هي دولة براغواي بعد الانتخابات التي جرت فيها، والتي أتت بحكومة تناهض سياسة الولايات المتحدة. فحتّى «الحديقة الخلفية» للولايات المتحدة تنتفض ضد قرارات الإدارة.

الملاحظة الخامسة هي مسألة «تمويل» ما سينتج عن تلك «الترتيبات». فتوطين الفلسطينيين حيث يقيمون أو خلق أوطان بديلة أو إيجاد مناطق اقتصادية يتمّ من خلالها توظيف الشباب الفلسطيني تحتاج إلى تمويل. فالولايات المتحدة تقول صراحة أنها لن تموّل وتحثّ دول الخليج للقيام بتلك المهمة. وإذا فرضنا تلك الدول راضية عن تلك «الترتيبات»، وهذا ما نشكّ به، فإن إمكانية التمويل محدودة جدّاً بسبب تحوّلات سياسية واقتصادية جعلت من تلك الدول تفكّر بشكل جدّي مقاربة أوضاعها الداخلية لمنع الانفجار الاجتماعي الذي يهدّدها. فلا حكومة الرياض ولا حكومة أبو ظبي المستنزفتان بسبب الحرب العبثية على اليمن والإنفاق غير المسبوق على إشعال حروب وقلاقل في عدد من دول المشرق العربي تجعلها مؤهّلة لحمل العبء الذي تفرضه «الترتيبات النهائية».

ملاحظة أخيرة في «الترتيبات النهائية». فهذا المصطلح يذكّرنا بـ «الحل النهائي» للمسألة اليهودية في ألمانيا النازية التي اعتمدت سياسة الإبادة الجماعية للجاليات اليهودية في ألمانيا والدول التي احتلّتها خلال الحرب العالمية الثانية. فهل الإدارة الأميركية تفكّر بـ «حلّ نهائي» للفلسطينيين على الطريقة النازية؟

كل تلك «الترتيبات» تسير في عكس مسار الأمور، وخاصة في ما يتعلّق بموازين القوّة التي لم تعد لصالح الولايات المتحدة والكيان الصهيوني. فهذه الموازين كاسرة للهيمنة الصهيونية الأميركية ومعهما بعض الدول العربية. فكيف يمكن لتلك الترتيبات أن تلاقي أي نجاح؟ الردّ بالنسبة لنا يكمن في الاستمرار في مقاومة الاحتلال الصهيوني لكل فلسطين ودعم مسيرات العودة التي ينظّمها الشعب الفلسطيني المبدع في ابتكار وسائل المقاومة، ودعم محور المقاومة الذي يقف سدّاً منيعاً ضد كل المحاولات المشبوهة.

الأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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The Judgment of Jeremy Corbyn

The Judgment of Jeremy Corbyn

MARTIN SIEFF | 13.08.2018 | WORLD / EUROPE

The Judgment of Jeremy Corbyn

For a man who is assailed and accused of lacking judgment even more than US President Donald Trump, it’s amazing how often British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has already been proven courageously and presciently right.

In 1990, Corbyn opposed the most powerful and successful peace time prime minster of the 20th century, Margaret Thatcher when she tried to impose a so-called poll tax on the population of the UK. His judgment was vindicated: Thatcher’s own party rose up and threw her out of office.

At the beginning of the 21st century Corbyn was pilloried throughout the UK media for his outspoken opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support for the US invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Blair was prime minister for a full decade and won three landslide general elections, yet today he is discredited and politically virtually a recluse. Corbyn‘s opposition to both wars looks wise, as well as principled and courageous.

Corbyn’s support for the revolutionary Irish Republican movement was so strong that the UK security service MI5 monitored him for two decades listing him as a potential “subversive” who might undermine parliamentary democracy. On the contrary, in the late 1990s, Prime Minister Blair engaged the Irish Republican Army and its political wing Sinn Fein in a peace process that has led to a lasting peace in Ireland. Corbyn, who supported strongly the 1998 Good Friday Agreement proved once again to be ahead of his time.

Corbyn has never been afraid of taking ferociously unpopular positions. In 2015, after shocking Islamic State terror attacks in Paris he advocated the urgent need for a political settlement to end the Syrian Civil War. His advice was ignored by every major Western government. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more turned into destitute refugees flooding into the European Union since then.

Corbyn was also ahead of his time in seeking to engage Iran constructively. He hosted a call-in show on an Iranian TV channel for three years from 2009 to 2012 even though he knew that at the time such activities would seem to rule him out from ever being a serious contender to lead the Labour Party. But in 2015, the Conservative government of the UK, along with those of the United States, France and Germany joined in signing a far reaching nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Corbyn’s economic positions have long been despised by the Western liberal intellectual elites who have been spared the price of having their livelihoods destroyed by such policies. He strongly advocates using the power of government to encourage the rebuilding of major national industries and manufacturing power. These views are hardly radical, Robert Skidelsky, one of the most influential UK economists of the past generation has given significant support to Corbyn’s proposal of a National Investment Bank. These policies are neither Marxist nor revolutionary. But they can certainly be described as Social Democratic and humane.

Corbyn is no unprincipled careerist either. In voting his convictions and his conscience, he puts 99 percent of the UK parliamentarians of his generation to shame. Between 1997 and 2010, during the Labour governments of Blair and Gordon Brown, Corbyn voted most often against the official party line than any other member of parliament (MP) – a total of 428 times and an astonishing figure. In 2005 he was labeled the second most rebellious Labour MP of all time when his party ran the country.

One of the few areas Corbyn was clearly ambiguous on was the question of whether the UK should remain in the 28-nation European Union or leave it, and even here his ambivalence appeared honestly come by and reflected the genuine divisions in his country. Corbyn recognized the enormous differences between both extremes that have been tearing the British public apart on the EU issue.

Ironically, only Donald Trump in the United States – a figure for whom Corbyn certainly has no personal or policy sympathy whatsoever – is comparable to the degree to which he has defied the Conventional Wisdoms of the political media establishment yet done impressively well in fighting elections that were supposed to be impossible.

In fact, the record and pattern of Corbyn’s career has been very clear: His real “crime”- which he has repeated consistently – is to be years, often decades, ahead of Conventional Wisdom.

In routine, tranquil times, people like Corbyn are usually seen as troublemakers or even as dangerous lunatics. But at times of crisis when the wisdom of mediocrities is exposed as worthless, such figures prove vital to national survival.

When told that General James Wolfe, the UK’s one brilliant general of the mid-18th century, was believed to be insane, King George II replied “Mad is he? Then I wish he’d bite some of my other generals!”

The UK political establishment has sneered at Jeremy Corbyn’s bark. Perhaps it is time they need to experience his bite.

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