Melanie Phillips

1 December 2008

Sucking up to Syria

Published in: Jewish Chronicle

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Along with other British Jews, I have heard the Prime Minister speak movingly in public of his attachment to Israel, forged at his father's knee in the Scottish manse where the people of the book were revered and their attachment to their ancient land cause for sympathy and support.

Yet, at this moment of intense and escalating danger for Israel, his government has nevertheless chosen to suck up to its enemies.

On his recent trip to the Middle East, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, attempted to enforce the EU boycott of goods produced by Israeli West Bank settlements, which he described as 'illegal', in order to place them under an economic siege that would hasten their disbandment.

The view that the settlements are illegal has been the Foreign Office position for years, although the reason it gives -- that they are in breach of the Geneva Convention -- is disputable and is rejected by Israel.

However, of even greater concern than this hostile act of attempted interference in the policy of another nation state was Mr Miliband's announcement that Britain was now renewing its intelligence links with Syria. This is akin to the police sharing their information with the mafia on the basis that they are both on the same side against organised crime.

As the counter-terrorism analyst Jonathan Spyer has written, Syria is trying to market itself as an ally of the west against al Qaeda. But it has repeatedly given sanctuary to al Qaeda on its side of the Iraqi border.

Syria is a major sponsor of Islamist terrorism. It supports Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad and acts as Iran's proxy in the region. Only a few months ago, Israel bombed what is widely believed to have been an illicit Syrian nuclear reactor producing plutonium for atomic weapons.

Like the outgoing Israeli government, the British believe that Syria can be peeled away from its alliance with Iran to renounce its ties with terror and make peace with Israel.

Doubtless Syria would prefer not to be in Tehran's pocket. But with Iran currently in the ascendant in the region and with America and Europe patently quailing before it, why should Syria think it in its interests to dump Iran for the west and its 'moderate' Sunni allies which Iran is outwitting at every turn?

In Damascus, Mr Miliband cited the recent establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon -- whose government has been subjected to Syrian interference -- as evidence that Syrian attitudes were being transformed. But the pro-Syrian Al-Akhbar newspaper explained that this formality merely reflected the domination of the Lebanese government by pro-Syrian elements.

Indeed, the Syrian official Assef Shawkat, himself formerly a chief suspect for the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which has been laid at Syria's door, is now in charge of the joint Syrian-Lebanese campaign against 'terrorism'.

Through the rapprochement with Syria, Mr Miliband has effectively thrown under the bus the Lebanese who are struggling to resist their Iranian and Syrian oppressors and achieve democracy.

The happy outcome for Syria is that it now has links with Britain and Europe while retaining its alliance with Iran, its support for Hizbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, its interference in Lebanon and a free pass for the Hariri murder.

And Britain has got... nothing. Except the undermining of Israel's security, the further strengthening of Iran and the weakening of the west.

The reason for this imbecility is not just the antipathy to Israel within the Foreign Office and on the left. It is also the belief currently dominant within the British establishment that talking to the enemies of civilisation such as Hamas, Hizbollah and even Iran (but not, tellingly, al Qaeda) can bring them in from the cold.

Believing in their own divinely inspired genius for dividing and ruling, these tunnel visionaries fail to understand that, sometimes, my enemy's enemy may also be my enemy -- and not, as is assumed to be axiomatic, my friend.

Like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown believes that solving the Israel-Palestine conflict would defuse global terror, including the threat of a nuclear Iran. But this is back to front.

Israel-Palestine will only be solved when the terror states backing the Palestinians are dealt with. Appeasing Syria in the belief that it will help defeat terror will strengthen the terrorism axis and put Israel in even greater danger.

This disastrous policy demonstrates once again an unpalatable fact: even those who are sympathetic to Israel promote policies which could destroy it.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography


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Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
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Contact Melanie