'Miles Out'

Donna Miles gets it wrong and not for the first time.

There is an emerging and worrying trend in the ‘Dominion Post’ which is to give certain Opinion writers carte blanche, as if they are some kind of unimpeachable super class. Even though editorials, opinion pieces, reprints from other newspapers and Letters to the Editor, appear in a section labelled ‘Opinion’, just try getting contrary facts printed. There is of course, the added calumny that letters are restricted to 200 words, yet the favoured ones have nigh on 500, or more to get their points across.

One of the favoured ones is Donna Miles, or sometimes ‘Miles-Mojab’.

Cursed Middle East

On 16 May, a lengthy piece by Miles-Mojab was headlined ‘The imperial curse that still haunts the Middle East’. (Link below). Notwithstanding the banner, Miles-Mojab begins with a description of the death in a Palestinian/Israeli firefight of ‘Al Jazeera’ journalist Abu Akleh. Instead, of using her platform to help sort out what happened, Miles has simply blamed ‘imperial interests’.

As most know, the bone of contention over the killing, is: Who did it? Was it an Israeli, or Palestinian bullet that ended Akleh’s life? It would have been the supreme ‘gotcha’ moment for the Palestinians to produce a post-mortem report and the fatal Israeli bullet, but in one of those impenetrable Middle East moments, a bullet was produced which could have come from either side.

I wonder if Al Jazeera will stay on the case as stated below:

“Al Jazeera will follow every path to achieve justice for Shireen (Abu Akleh) and ensure those responsible for her killing are brought to justice and held accountable in all international justice and legal platforms and courts”.

Subsequently the bullet was recovered, but was too badly damaged to be reliable evidence and the bullet-type is used by both sides. Anyway, after her throat-clearing on Ms Abu Akleh, Miles-Hojab gets on to her theme of imperial culpability – naturally of the Western powers. At the outset let’s remember that WW1 in the Middle East was fought against the Ottoman Turks whose far-flung territories were as imperial as any arrangement dreamt up to replace it. In terms of the two nations carved out of the British Mandate – Arab Jordan and Jewish Israel, only Jordan opted for an imperial system under its original title ‘The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’. Israel began as, and remains a parliamentary democracy with an MMP system. MMP, has as its central focus the enabling of minorities to gain parliamentary seats, which would not be possible solely with geographical electorates.

A tragic footnote to the formation of Jordan and Israel out of the Palestine Mandate territory, is that Jordan emerged around 1924, yet Israel had to wait until 1949 – surely the most inhumane quarter-century wait in history.

Imperialism lies in the eye of the beholder

An interesting insight into the concept of ‘Imperialism’ is given by Professor Bernard Lewis, in his book: ‘The Crisis of Islam’. According to Lewis, Muslims only use ‘Imperialism’ to describe Western incursions into Muslim lands. Incursions the other way i.e. Muslims invading the West, are regarded as simply the natural order of things.

Miles-Mojab, like most other Middle East-origin commentators, write from some kind of dreamlike state akin to: ‘My grandmother told me this and it must be true’.

It is also worth noting that the Sunni Muslim Caliphate that operated over the whole Ottoman Empire, was brought to an end in 1925 by the Muslim Turkish moderniser Kemal Ataturk – not the Western governments.

The Mysterious Sykes

Another mystifying comment by Ms Miles, is to the effect that the negotiations undertaken by Sir Mark Sykes in the post WW1 period were ‘secretive’. Sykes besides being an MP, operated as roving diplomat for his government. His activities were widely reported at the time and such was Sykes’ devotion to the task at hand, that he declined to return to the UK to contest an upcoming general election. Lady Sykes campaigned on her husband’s behalf and he retained the seat. This, in my view, was public affirmation that the work he was doing in the Middle East was known and regarded as important. Sykes was instrumental in establishing the Arab Bureau in Cairo. Sykes and was not notably pro-Jewish interests, but as a contemporary of Balfour, adopted a similar ‘practical solutions’ approach to Palestine issues.

A Double Nakba

Another ‘Middle East dream’ item mentioned by Ms Miles is ‘Nakba’. This Arabic word means ‘catastrophe’, but Miles uses it to mean solely Arabs displaced by the attacks on Israel in the so-called 1948 ‘Independence War’. It seems to me a bit rich to blame Israel for the collateral damage done by Arabs to Arabs by their attacks on Israel. I must mention, (although Miles declines t), the equal number of Jews displaced from Arab lands in the same war. Today, Israel is home to around 1.5 million Arabs who take their place in commerce, academia, the professions, the military, politics and the judiciary. All of the Arab countries that are so quick to criticise (and if possible attack Israel) would be hard put to muster 5000 Jewish residents between them.