By Stuart Littlewood – London
From champion of the vulnerable to betrayer in one bound… Nick Clegg, Britain’s new deputy prime minister, is surprisingly agile.
Betrayal started with Sheffield Forgemasters, a well-respected company in Clegg’s own constituency, who were promised a government loan to enable them to compete for large contracts in the nuclear industry. This was cancelled as soon as the new government was formed with Clegg as deputy prime minister.
He had no shame fouling his own doorstep.
Before the election Clegg’s party, the Liberal Democrats, pledged to scrap university tuition fees and free graduates from crippling debt, but he has abandoned this too instead of putting up a fight. Millions are disgusted.
Now the betrayal extends to the question of justice for the Palestinians and the arrest of war criminals.
So brave then…
Nick Clegg was, until recently, regarded by many in the struggle as one of the Palestinians’ ‘white knights’.
In January 2009, at the height of Israel’s murderous blitz on Gaza, he rode to the rescue and railed against the British government.
"Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair, has made British foreign policy effectively subservient to Washington," he thundered. "Brown must stop sitting on his hands. He must condemn unambiguously Israel’s tactics…
“He must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage… The EU is by far Israel’s biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza…"
He added: "Brown must also halt Britain’s arms exports to Israel, and persuade our EU counterparts to do the same… I want an immediate suspension of all arms exports from the EU."
Eleven months later there was no improvement and he wrote in The Guardian about the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how "the legacy of Operation Cast Lead is a living nightmare….”
What, he asked, had the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? "Next to nothing…. It is a scandal…”
At last, here was a British leader who believed in justice for the cruelly oppressed.
He again pricked the EU with his lance. "At the same time as exercising leverage over Hamas, it should make clear that the web of preferential agreements which now exists between the EU and Israel… will be brought into question if there is no rapid progress."
He finished by asking: "What will be the state of Gaza’s drinking water by next December? Of the health of its children? Of the economy?"
Well, next December is almost here… And we know the answer to Clegg’s questions. Bad, very bad, and appalling.
Naturally, the stooges Clegg had unhorsed hit back and he was soon on the receiving end of Nile Gardiner’s bile in The Telegraph, 21 April 2010, headed ‘Nick Clegg’s Israel-bashing is sickening’.
"While Nick Clegg has made it a personal mission to publicly whip the Israelis for defending their own country," wrote Gardiner, "he has remained remarkably silent in the media about Iranian backing for terrorist groups, Tehran’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, and the massive levels of hatred directed at Israel from within the United Nations.”
Gardiner was also unhappy that Clegg hadn’t gone into print “warning against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or calling for an end to the persecution of Israel by Islamist states.”
Tehran of course did not threaten to wipe Israel off the map, and if Clegg had no hard evidence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions military-wise, why should he comment?
Gardiner lambasted Clegg for his “sneering condescension towards Israel”, which undermined a close British ally while encouraging Israel’s enemies. “There is an important distinction between a free, democratic society like Israel, acting in self-defence, and brutal terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah. Clegg’s drawing of moral equivalence between the two sides is both sickening and offensive."
Gardiner, a foreign affairs analyst based in Washington and a Conservative think-tank jockey, supported the war on Iraq. Clegg opposed the war so clearly the dagger had to be plunged in a few more times. The next month Gardiner attacked again.
“Clegg seems obsessed with dredging up the spectre of the Iraq War and accusing Britain’s intelligence services of complicity in torture, which only serves the interests of Britain’s enemies,” moaned Gardiner, also accusing him of demonizing Israel, “one of our only friends in the region.”
He’s so right about that last bit. With “friends” like Israel it can be lonely out there.
"Nick Clegg is the first major party leader to run for Prime Minister on an anti-British ticket,” continued Gardiner trying hard to inflict electoral damage. “He is filled with a self-loathing for his nation and its institutions…I cannot think of a candidate for Prime Minister in recent memory who has accused his own country of involvement in torture…”
Well, at least this knight wasn’t in hock for his armour and horse to the pro-Israel lobby. Or so we thought.
…And so weak and wobbly now
Following the general election in May Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party, became deputy prime minister in the Conservative-led coalition government.
The Conservative party, it has been revealed, is a highly influential pro-Israel hot-house in which 80 per cent of Conservative MPs including their leader, David Cameron, like to bask.
As Cameron’s new lieutenant we can only suppose that Clegg was initiated by being put under intense pressure to tug the forelock, bend the knee and take an oath of allegiance to Cameron’s paymasters.
First sign was at the Liberal Democrats’ conference in September when Clegg attended a Friends of Israel fringe meeting but cold-shouldered the Friends of Palestine.
Then, earlier this month, he favoured the Friends of Israel again by speaking at their annual dinner.
Guests included the Chief Rabbi. Clegg began by saying: "Chief Rabbi, it is hard to exaggerate the esteem in which you are held by British people of all faiths and of none."
That set the sickly tone. He reminded his audience that, in 2007, the Liberal Democrat party conference passed a motion condemning the proposed academic boycott of Israel.
The sucking-up continued with an apology for campaigning in the past so vigorously for the rights of Palestinian victims without broadcasting equally loudly and equally clearly “an awareness of the security challenges faced by Israel and of the right of Israel to defend itself against the threats that it continually faces.” He now wanted to make this clear: ”Israel’s right to thrive in peace and security is non-negotiable for Liberal Democrats. No other country so continually has its right to exist called into question as does Israel, and that is intolerable. There can be no solution to the problems of the Middle East that does not include a full and proper recognition of Israel by all the parties to the conflict.”
Those words might have been written by Israel’s chief propagandist, Mark Regev.
Then Clegg came to the bogus peace negotiations. "Whatever the UK can do… to support the Americans in furthering the peace process – whatever we can do, not only must be done, but will be done."
Right now the Americans are bribing the psychopaths with even more death-dealing toys to play with if they’ll suspend settlement building for another measly 3 months, what happens after that being left up in the air. Is this what Clegg and his coalition partners are so eager to support?
"The EU can and should use its economic clout to put pressure on both sides; to encourage Israel to restrict its settlement building program and to push all Palestinians into recognising Israel’s right to exist." Reduce Israel’s settlement building? The legal position requires nothing less than a permanent end to it. Clegg is letting Israel off the hook. And there’s no more talking of suspending the EU-Israel trading agreements.
If “recognition” of their enemy is to be wrung from the Palestinians, which borders is Clegg talking about? It stands to reason there can be no such recognition while the jackboot of brutal occupation is on the Palestinians’ throat. Unless Clegg understands that, he understands nothing.
The same goes for renouncing violence. Israelis use a thousand times more violence than Palestinians. Demanding, as the West’s cut-throats regularly do, that the resistance movement renounces violence without requiring the same from Israel, is an insult to everyone’s intelligence.
Clegg then turned to the vexed question of universal jurisdiction, under which all states that signed up to the Geneva Conventions are under a solemn obligation to seek out and prosecute or extradite those suspected of grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them justice, regardless of nationality.
Clegg announced: "It is right that people suspected of such crimes should be held accountable by the courts. But the framers of the legislation never intended local magistrates to be able to issue politically motivated arrest warrants of people visiting the UK without reasonable grounds for doing so.
"The issuing of such warrants should be a matter for one of central government’s senior law officers, not for local magistrates. This will strike the right balance between upholding Britain’s great traditions of respect for universal human rights and avoiding accusations based on poorly justified grounds against visitors to the UK."
This is nonsense. For a start, no magistrate issues a warrant without seeing compelling evidence. Furthermore, 51 Liberal Democrat MPs – the overwhelming majority of Clegg’s party – recently signed an early day motion in Parliament opposing any change in the law. Disregarding their wishes, Clegg has decided to support the Conservative plan to put matters into the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a move calculated to guarantee that any decision to hunt down and detain wanted criminals is strictly political.
As a consequence, Israel’s warmongers will be allowed to come and go as they please and continue their atrocities against Gaza’s women and children, and very soon against Iran’s and (again) Lebanon’s.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.