Letter: Peace of a sort in the Middle East

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Sir: It is sad that so clever a man as Conor Cruise O'Brien ('Arafat is not the bringer of peace', 8 July) should become, when he writes about Palestine, not merely a Zionist publicist - which we have come to expect - but a propagandist for Likud, Israel's aggressively expansionist and largely racist right-wing party.

Dr O'Brien complains that Arafat cannot give Israel peace in exchange for her gift of territory. He would have been more honest had he said that Arafat cannot give Israel peace because Israel has not given him territory.

The reason why the peace process is unpopular with many Palestinians is that the Oslo and Cairo agreements denote, in the words of the Israeli, Meron Benvenisti, an 'absolute Israeli victory' and an 'abject Palestinian defeat'. Israel remains in control, and all her illegal settlements, for which she has stolen Palestinian land, remain in place. In other words, what are on offer are Palestinian bantustans.

Nevertheless, Yitzhak Rabin and the Israeli Labour government are, to the fury of Likud, trying to make a peace of a sort. The alternative after all, which Dr O'Brien carefully omits to mention, is a continuation of Israel's brutal and rapacious occupation: torture, the use of live ammunition on unarmed children (hundreds of whom have been killed or wounded), mass imprisonment, collective punishments, more and more illegal settlements, apartheid, settler violence and a wrecked economy. All that is fine in the eyes of Likud and, evidently, O'Brien.

Conor Cruise ''O'Zion', it has been said, 'specialises in exonerating the overdog (but) is no slouch at blaming the underdog'. That is certainly true of him over the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Let us hope that in future he confines his overdog views on Palestine to the US lecture circuit, where they will be welcomed by deluded American matrons, and spares your better-informed readers here his Likudist propaganda masquerading as serious analysis.

Yours faithfully,


House of Lords

London, SW1

10 July