Saturday, 12 July 2014

SNP and Gaza: why Salmond is not a statesman

If you needed any justification for the argument that Alex Salmond is merely a clever populist, who is probably a couple of months away from seriously overreaching himself, you have only to look at his position on the Gaza, where the Israeli and Gazan forces are currently racking up casualties at an alarming rate.

The abduction and killing of teenagers on both sides has triggered a new phase of bombardments between Israel and Gaza. The immediate result of the current campaign is that a large number of civilian casualties - including significant numbers of children - are occurring, mostly on the Gazan side, as Israel's "protective shield" stops a large proportion of the rockets. 

It's horrible. Palestinians have a decent case for statehood, but this ain't the way to go about it. Worst of all, Hamas leaders are showing a shocking disregard for lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel should certainly be criticised for many things, not least its pig-headedly stupid attitude to settlements in the occupied areas, but at the end of the day it is a democratic power, defending its citizens which are being bombarded by a hail of rockets from Gaza. 

Which are being fired, again, from civilian areas where the apparently expendable citizens of Gaza are being used by their leaders as human shields; leaders who are, incidentally, considered terrorists across the Western world, are not democratic, who oppress women and minorities and are known not just for rockets but their deliberate targeting of civilians and, formerly, suicide bombing.

One can and should always feel solidarity with ordinary Gazans. But not with their leaders. These are not nice people.

In the midst of all this, now look at the actions of Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond. In a weaselly-worded government press release, he purports to call for a stepping-up of humanitarian aid in the form of medical help to the injured: good. 

But look closely, it's more than that: he then waffles on about asking William Hague to ask Israel to stop the blockade of Gaza, "which the Scottish Government views as collective punishment". A particularly dumb comment, because there is and only ever has been one real reason for the blockade: to provide security from attack for Israelis.

Most international governments are deliberately not this supportive of these unpleasant leaders of a state unrecognised by most governments, because (a) Hamas are terrorists and (b) a real statesman or -woman would realise the need for a more measured statement in any case from a world leader, or someone aspiring to be one.

Why, we ask, should Salmond decide on such a course of action? Because, I'm afraid, the SNP have long courted the Muslim vote in Scotland with even less circumspection than Scottish Labour, not to mention Labour in the rest of the UK. In other words, by not caring too much whether it's moderate Muslims or radical Islamists they are courting.

It is a base political calculation, which does not think about the harm such politics ultimately does, as I have written many times in the context of Labour.

My good colleague David T at Harry's Place reported in 2008 how Salmond's party shamelessly gave public funds to an organisation closely linked with a former Hamas commander, as well as making its leader, Osama Saeed, a parliamentary candidate for the 2010 election. 

Saeed also is the author of this op-ed through the good offices of our friends at the Guardian's Comment is Free, which calls for a new international Caliphate (happily, a couple of weeks ago, his wish came true with the proclamation of ISIS' Al-Bagdadi). This is not the kind of person that leaders of a grown-up political party should be having anything to do with.

So, should independence be won by Scotland in two months' time, unlikely though that may be, it would certainly need someone who would not use an international profile as an excuse - like one Ken Livingstone - to hawk one's own wacky political preferences on the world stage, embarrassing one's own country in the process.

It would need, in short, someone who is prepared to play high, rather than low, politics. It's pretty clear that that person is not Alex Salmond.

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