The Sketch: Everyone hates terrorists, and they pointed to prove it

Simon Carr@SimonSketch
Tuesday 13 January 2009 01:00

If it were happening in Africa, people over here wouldn't mind, it might not even register. Eight hundred dead in Gaza? The world has a dozen countries where 800 violent deaths are hardly noticed.

But that part of Middle East exercises the Commons. Voices were raised yesterday, names called. Those of one disposition denounced mass murderers, those on the other side did the same. Everyone abhorred terrorism and terrorists, and pointed as they did so.

Peter Hain told us our experience in Northern Ireland had given Britain important lessons in these matters. It's hard to agree with that proposition. The frivolous, pleasure-seeking, happy-go-lucky, turn-the-other-cheek Ulstermen – they're no guide to Middle East politics.

David Miliband sought to pour oil on the waters but it felt more like oil vapour on water vapour. Reconciliation was essential, he said. There were responsibilities on all sides. There were benefits in peace, we learnt, but war caused pain and death. He was careful not to be led into controversy but when asked if a ceasefire should involve both sides, he was able to agree, cautiously. But, he emphasised, it was important this didn't become pro or anti-Israel or Palestine.

So, for instance, recalling our ambassador would imply we were somehow taking sides. Only in one area did he feel comfortable naming the guilty parties. The real villains turned out to be a shadowy group called "the international community". Bastards!

That may have meant George Bush. He wasn't including Britain in his condemnation, obviously – our own Tony Blair is out there working for peace (he was a minister in the British government some years ago). Gordon Brown has called for a ceasefire – and has done so both "publicly and privately". Courage, you see. He wrote the book of it.

Further, "the international community" has redeemed itself with "a clear call for a durable ceasefire". It was the result of "intense, unifying work" the UN wrote out in Resolution 1860. Clear, strong, authoritative. And, he told us, "rejected by all sides".

It was a lighter moment, I'm not sure he saw it like that.

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