Socialist Worker

Blair backs plan to rip up Middle East

Issue No. 2012

Some 2,000 protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Friday of last week to demonstrate their anger at Tony Blair’s refusal to call on Israel to stop its onslaught against Lebanon and Gaza (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Some 2,000 protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Friday of last week to demonstrate their anger at Tony Blair’s refusal to call on Israel to stop its onslaught against Lebanon and Gaza (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The anger against Tony Blair is increasing in response to his support for Israel’s assault on Lebanon. Even Blair’s former foreign secretary, the leader of the Commons Jack Straw, has broken ranks and criticised Israel’s attack on Lebanon as “disproportionate”.

But Blair responded by spending the end of last week and the beginning of this in the US, loving up to the most right wing forces in the country - such as president George Bush.

Blair stopped off at a conference for top executives of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp and gave a speech defending the US and Britain’s attitude to Israel.

“The deeper roots of the troubles in the Middle East reach right down into a more basic struggle - between those who want to embrace and those who resist the modern world,” he said.

Bush also openly admits that his support of Israel’s assault is linked to the rest of the “war on terror” and a wider project to install pro-US, pro-Israel regimes across the Middle East.

In order to pursue this imperial dream, Blair and Bush are willing to stand back and watch as Israel rains down bombs on Lebanon and Gaza to terrorise and kill the country’s population.

John Rees, a co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition and author of a new book on imperialism, spoke to Socialist Worker about how Israel’s attacks fit into a wider project.

“What is happening in the Middle East now is not just a question of Israel-Palestine,” he said. “Of course, as long as there is an Israeli state existing on Palestinian land there will always be a struggle in that region.

“But Israel isn’t supported by the major powers simply because of its battle with the Palestinians.

“Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid. It is the only state that can use non-military aid for military purposes. Egypt is the second highest recipient of US aid.

“Israel is paid to police the Arab states. Egypt and other regimes such as Jordan are paid not to fight Israel. But this balance has been thrown out of kilter by the aftermath of the Iraq war.

“The Israeli state has been allowed to attack Hizbollah and the Lebanese government - even if it destroys the gains the US made in last year’s ‘Cedar revolution’ - because this is about putting right the mess created by the Iraq war.

“That war, in turn, was about putting right the mess created by the US’s response to the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

“Blair and the British establishment are attached to this programme. Britain has followed US policy since the decline of the British empire.

“We have to break this logic. It can only be broken by a combination of resistance in the Middle East and the anti-war movement.

“In Britain if we destroy the premiership of Tony Blair we will make it much more difficult for his successor to continue the same policies. There is enormous resistance across the Middle East to these policies.

“The pressure that Tony Blair is under can be seen when a dog as loyal as Jack Straw feels the need to bark about Israel.

“Blair is in a very precarious position. His current trip around the US represents the Blair-Bush relationship taken to a degree of uncertainty by the mess they’re in.

“Blair’s increasingly irrational identification with the most right wing forces and their supporters in the Republican Party is due to the siege mentality created by isolation. It is a manifestation of desperation.

“There is a special responsibility for the movement in Britain. It has to draw itself up to its full stature and deliver the biggest possible blow to New Labour and Blair in Manchester on 23 September.”

Imperialism and Resistance by John Rees is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop for £11.99. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to

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Sat 5 Aug 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2012
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