Middle East

Julie Burchill

The cultural appropriation of the keffiyeh

I’ve never been sorry that I left education at 17, armed with nothing but my raw talent and splendid rack. The conformity and unworldliness which you need to have if you want to basically stay at school till you’re 21 are things I despise students for – and haven’t these character traits had a lovely outing during the current ugly outbreak of campus Jew-hatred? Jews have never been popular at universities; the phrase ‘too clever for their own good’ might have been invented for them, with a world population of 0.2 per cent taking a whopping 22 per cent of Nobel prizes. The mediocre spawn of the ruling class once

The Arab world still wants peace with Israel

As Israeli forces continue to pound Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s atrocity, and TV images of dying civilian Palestinians flood the airwaves, some are worried that regional peace with Israel is dead. Such talk makes militants, from Tehran to Gaza, proud. They hope war will bring an end to Israel’s ‘normalisation’ and detente with Saudi Arabia, and halt the ground-breaking Abraham Accords. The reality, however, is more complex. It’s too soon to write off Arab-Israeli peace efforts – even amid the carnage of Gaza. Before 7 October, the buds of peace were quietly sprouting, because it was in the interests of both sides, Arab and Israeli, for this to happen.

The smell of flesh is everywhere: A dispatch from Gaza

When the bombs fell, I was at home. My family has been staying at the Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, since 12 October. On Tuesday, Israel targeted the camp. The explosions were about 70 metres away from my house. One bomb landed; there was a two-second pause; and then more bombs hit. I couldn’t move my eyes from looking at the ceiling because I was expecting a missile to fall on us. I ran into the street and saw the most horrible massacre and destruction my eyes have ever seen. I tried to help but the shock crippled me. Since Jabalia was first bombed, there has been a strange

How does releasing mice in McDonald’s help Palestinians?

It is hard to know what to make of the sheer mindless stupidity of some people who claim to support the cause of Palestinians in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Boxes of live rodents have now been released at a number of McDonald’s restaurants, apparently as part of pro-Palestinian protests. One incident took place on Monday in Birmingham. Video footage widely shared on social media shows a man wearing a Palestinian flag on his head, carrying a box filled with mice from the boot of his car and into the McDonald’s branch in the Star City leisure complex. He tips the mice — painted the colours of the Palestinian flag — on

What Palestinian ‘solidarity’ marchers in the West don’t understand about Hamas

The atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October have been revealed in their terrible savagery. There are accounts of dead babies, their bodies riddled with bullets, entire families burnt alive in their homes, women and girls raped and killed. Bodies tortured and mutilated beyond recognition. Israelis thought that the world would finally recognise Hamas for what it truly is; an Islamist terror organisation seeking to destroy Israel. It did not.  Since the war started, there has been an explosion of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred. Although Western leaders and large proportions of the public were shocked by Hamas’s atrocities and expressed support for Israel, the streets of London, Paris, Toronto and

Stephen Daisley

How Britain failed Israel

That the United Kingdom’s central institutions are rotten, crumbling, captured and perhaps beyond recovery is not news, but the Gaza intifada has crystallised the scale of institutional debasement. The brutalisation and murder of 1,400 Jews by Palestinian terrorists, and the open celebration of those actions by Jew-haters in this country, ought to have been met swiftly and resolutely. We do not do that sort of thing here. Instead, this demonic behaviour has granted us the most intimate and bracing glimpse at the decay inside the British state since the aftermath of 9/11. At a time when statesmanship is called for, we are forced to choose between Rishi Sunak, a waste

Katy Balls

Keir Starmer is losing grip on his Israel problem

Keir Starmer is losing grip on his party’s position on Israel. So far, over 25 Labour councillors have quit over Starmer’s comments on the conflict following the attack by Hamas on 7 October. The Labour leader angered his party when he suggested in an interview with LBC that Israel ‘has the right’ to withhold power and water from Gaza. Starmer has since tried to clarify his comments by meeting with Muslim Labour MPs and calling for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in Gaza to get aid in. However, many in his party want him to go further and call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Nearly a quarter of Labour MPs have publicly

Is the UN’s leader trying to alienate Israel?

The Secretary General of the United Nations is conventionally thought of as the world’s most high-profile diplomat, charged with the responsibility of bringing calm and astute leadership to bear at times of war and international crisis. This is a core purpose and mission that appears to have escaped the attention of Antonio Guterres, the UN’s current chief. Addressing a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday, Guterres said the situation in the Middle East was growing more dire by the hour and urged all parties to respect and protect civilians. Fair enough and exactly the kind of thing that UN leaders are expected to say. It

How Netanyahu’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy backfired

Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the Hamas terror attack has been slow and incompetent. Many of the efforts to house, clothe, feed and transport those in need have been carried out by ordinary Israelis, rather than the government. Leading many of these initiatives are the same loosely organised groups that until 7 October were heading up the protest movement fighting Netanyahu’s plan to ‘reform’ the state’s judicial system. The hundreds of thousands of Israelis who turned out every Saturday night from January were demonstrating against what they believed was a mortal threat to their country’s democracy. Now, they are rallying against a new threat to Israel. To the soldiers among them,

Netanyahu is looking weak

If the Israeli public had expected Benjamin Netanyahu to take responsibility for failing to foresee Hamas’s attack on 7 October, for years of neglecting the safety and security of the towns near the border with Gaza and for allowing Hamas to build a substantial armed force – they would’ve been disappointed by his speech on Wednesday night. Netanyahu, in a typical manner, did not accept responsibility. Unlike the IDF’s Chief of the General Staff, Herzi Halvi, and the head of Israel’s general security service Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, both of whom have publicly admitted to failures for predict the attack, Netanyahu declared that an investigation into the events will take

Hamas has made the same fatal mistake as the IRA

As Israel releases body cam footage showing the stark reality of Hamas terrorists’ brutal attacks on civilians during their assault on 7 October – and as its forces begin launching limited raids into Gaza to prepare the ground for a full-scale offensive by land, sea and air – the severity of Hamas’s situation is finally dawning on its militants. The mood amongst its members in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath Gaza is likely to have darkened dramatically. Despite Hamas’s delusional boasting of bravely fighting to the death and ‘saving Palestine’, the penny is beginning to drop that these are the final days, both for the terrorists, and for Hamas as an

Can the BBC World Service really go on like this?

The BBC has launched what it is calling an ‘urgent investigation’ into six journalists and a freelancer working for its Arabic-language service over accusations they had shown anti-Israel bias in their coverage and expressed support on social media for Hamas. They were said to have called the attacks that killed more than 1,400 Israelis ‘a morning of hope’ and liked posts that included approvingly captioned video footage of dead and captured Israelis.  I worked for the BBC World Service as a writer for the Russian and South-East European Service, as it then was, in the latter stages of the Cold War I will leave it for the BBC investigation to

Biden failed on Iran

Did American failures contribute to Hamas’s war of terror – its unprovoked attack, its total surprise, its horrific butchering of innocent civilians simply because they are Jews? Yes, but a lesser one. The failures to discover the plans, deter the attack and, having failed at deterrence, to defeat it promptly are Israel’s. The secondary actor here is Iran, not the United States. It was the Islamic regime in Tehran that supplied its terror partner with funds, plans, intelligence and weapons. The basic mistake was a soft, accommodating policy toward Iran and its terrorist proxies Still, the US played a role – a combination of bumbling incompetence and fundamental policy errors

Netanyahu must go – for Israel’s own good

Israelis were turning against the country’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu even before Hamas’s invasion. Over the past six months, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets against Netanyahu’s government and its controversial judicial reforms. Israel has been hit by strikes and road blocks and ministers have been heckled in the streets. In an unprecedented move, resistance even reached the army: some reservists vowed to refuse to serve in the Israeli army if the reform passed. Since the atrocity of last weekend, fury at the Israeli government has become even more widespread. When the war broke out, it was clear that Israel was caught napping. This caused an

Paul Wood, James Heale and Robin Ashenden

23 min listen

This week Paul Wood delves into the complex background of the Middle East and asks if Iran might have been behind the Hamas attacks on Israel, and what might come next (01:11), James Heale ponders the great Tory tax debate by asking what is the point of the Tories if they don’t lower taxes (13:04) and Robin Ashenden on how he plans to introduce his half Russian daughter to the delights of red buses, Beefeaters and a proper full English (18:36). Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran

How Britain can save Israel – and Gaza – from bloodshed

The world changed on Saturday morning with Hamas’s attack on army bases and civilian communities in Israel. What began as a Palestinian military triumph became, within minutes, the greatest single atrocity of the entire conflict to date, by either party.  Every assumption of the status quo ante has been swept aside, including much of the international etiquette around calls for restraint: Israel appears to be hours away from launching the most overwhelming assault on a modern city since Vladimir Putin’s attack on Grozny, with unreserved Western blessing. This will likely unleash every rocket in Hamas’s arsenal onto Israeli cities, and might well drag other parties into the fray, from external actors like

How Hamas fooled Israel – and the West

How to explain Israel’s intelligence and military failure? The obvious comparison – one Israelis themselves are making – is with the 1973 October War, when the country was sucker-punched by Egyptian and Syrian forces on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance. That became known as a failing of the konzeptzia, the Hebrew term for the way we frame the world with all its attendant risks. It seems to have happened again. In the West, Israel is generally seen as either admirably or reprehensibly tough-minded, taking the hardest line against its enemies whatever the circumstances and punching back twice as hard. The trouble is, it’s not at all clear that this is true

Mark Galeotti

Putin has been blindsided by the Israel attack

Inevitably, some have tried to suggest the terrorist invasion of Israel was in some ways orchestrated by Moscow. ‘Russia is interested in igniting a war in the Middle East so that a new source of pain and suffering will weaken world unity,’ said Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky in the aftermath of the attack. But if Russia was involved, why has its response been so weak and uncertain? In fact, the Kremlin seems near-paralysed by the unfolding conflict. Of course, Moscow hopes that this crisis will distract the West from Ukraine and undermine its ability to continue to fuel its war effort. It is also trying to spin useful narratives, such as

Will the ‘Al-Aqsa flood’ unite the Islamic world? 

The name of Hamas’ deadly terrorist attack on Israel over the weekend, the ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’, was deliberately chosen to galvanise support across the Muslim world. The group’s justification for the operation included desecration claims at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Several Palestinian uprisings (intifadas) have been given the Al-Aqsa nomenclature over the years, including in September 2000 after then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s walkabout on the historic compound. Al-Aqsa was the original direction of prayer for Muslims but is now the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The site – also holy to Jews and Christians – is the location of the Isra wa Miraj, Prophet

Dominic Green

The Middle East’s new grandmasters

On Monday, while IDF troops were clearing the last Hamas terrorists from Israeli communities near the Gaza border, Benjamin Netanyahu promised that ‘we are going to change the Middle East’. Only two Israeli prime ministers have spoken like that before. One was Menachem Begin when he waged war on the PLO in Lebanon in 1982. The other was Yitzhak Rabin when he made peace with the PLO in 1993. Neither fully succeeded, but both reshaped the regional balance.  What Netanyahu understands is that the regional balance is shifting once again. It has moved away from the West vs East bipolar order of the Cold War and on from the brief