Blair cannot be an impartial Mideast negotiator: Lauren Booth

TEHRAN, Sept. 9 (MNA) -- Lauren Booth, a peace and human rights campaigner from Britain, says Middle East quartet envoy Tony Blair cannot be an impartial negotiator between Palestinians and Israelis because he is extremely biased in favor of Israel and against Muslims, as revealed in his book A Journey.

“This man cannot be a negotiator between the two parties,” Lauren Booth, who is the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Tony Blair, told Tehran Times and Mehr News Agency reporters in an interview in Tehran on Monday.

Booth was part of a group of people who embarked on a voyage in August 2008 to break the siege of Gaza, and she is optimistic that the blockade will be smashed.

She had entered Gaza by ship from Cyprus. However, she then became stuck in the Gaza Strip as she was refused entry into both Israel and Egypt.

“I was in the first Free Gaza Movement attempting to break the siege,” she noted.

Following is an excerpt of the interview:

Q: What is your feeling about visiting the besieged Gaza Strip?

A: I had the honor of (being)… with the strongest people and the kindest people, who deserve to be copied in the world. They made me strong, and I really want to help the Palestinians even more.

Q: What is your assessment of the movement that has been started to break the Gaza blockade? Do you think the Gaza siege will finally be broken through such moves?

A: In fact, there are hundreds of international groups, all committed to smashing the siege of Gaza, the flotilla groups, IHH (the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief)… the Free Gaza Movement. They have now spread the word across the world. There are the American ships planning to go, Jewish ships wanting to go, Libyan ships, Greek ships, Swedish ships. The world has seen the true face of Israeli aggression and is… against it in a beautiful, friendly, and loving way.

And then we have the wonderful deeds of the Palestinian movement led by George Galloway, which continues to try to go across the land and bring hundreds of people to the Gaza Strip.

All of them want to go there to see with their own eyes and to give moral support rather than practical support to the people of Gaza, and this is so important. It gives the people there strength to carry on because they feel something is happening, because the people of this world will force Israel to change. I don’t believe Israel will change itself.

 Booth receiving a Palestinian diplomatic passport from Ismail Haniyeh.

Q: What is your assessment of the Middle East talks, especially the recent meeting between the acting Palestinian Authority president and the Israeli prime minister? What are the prospects and challenges?

A: Well, I think anybody who really is interested in Palestinian justice has a duty to support Palestinian unity and should in no way try to take one side in the Palestinian question. And by that I mean we need unity between Fatah and Hamas to put in order a decent and strong list of demands to Israel, and unfortunately this is impossible on the Palestinian side at the moment because they have factions. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is Avigdor Lieberman. The foreign minister of Israel is a racist, and while Netanyahu is glad-handing Obama and talking about prospects for peace, the foreign minister says there will be no agreement with Palestine for another generation. Avigdor Lieberman is the real face of Israeli politics.

Q: Do you believe that we will have a two-state solution in one territory at the end? Israel and Palestine side by side?

A: With Avigdor Lieberman ruling over Palestine, it would never be likely. But I’m interested in the one-state solution idea primarily because it scares the hell out of Israel.

Q: What is the role of Britain in the Middle East peace talks?

A: The new British government is led by the Conservative Party. About eighty percent of the Conservatives are members of a pro-Israeli group. Tell me how that can be a fair negotiation team?

Q: What role can Tony Blair play in the Mideast quartet committee?

A: (He) should now resign immediately in light of his revelation in his book that his world view revolves around Israelis’ needs, which is written in his own words in his memoirs, and his clear belief that if you are an Arab, Middle Eastern, Persian, or Afghan, you have no right to protest in a loud way. You have to only accept what you are told. This man cannot be a negotiator between two parties when that is his view of the Middle East.

Q: Do you think Obama can broker a deal between Israel and Palestine?

A: Well this is the best chance in a political generation for clever maneuvering that comes out of America concerning the so-called Middle East peace process. I think Obama has got more intelligence than the former ones. But we still have Hillary Clinton, who swears allegiance to Israel every moment that the camera is on her. And yet, he (Obama) has been critical of the settlement building.

Q: You wrote a letter to Press TV in which you called Mr. Blair a representative of a crusade. Is that true?

A: I’m only commenting on Tony Blair’s own words in his book A Journey. At the end of his book, in the final chapter, he talked in great detail about what he sees as radical Islam, extreme Islam, political Islam. What he seems to mean is any form of Islam and certainly the form of Islam which gives people the right to protest against the U.S. and Israel. So it can be seen as some kind of personal religious crusade, by which I mean Israel is backed by the Christian Zionist groups.

Tony Blair backs Israel. All of these people are against Islam in the Middle East and against protest against Israel. You can see it as a crusade.

Lauren Booth as she arrived to Gaza late August, 2008. (AFP/file)

Q: In general, do you think that there will be some kind of Armageddon between the East and the West in the future?

A: I’m very optimistic most of the time and not very afraid that this moment will come. I’m optimistic because never before in history has there been such contact between human beings from each country, activists around the world trying to bring peace, trying to change the dialogue and trying to sail boats for freedom, and doing wonderful actions without their governments’ permission. I think it is a wonderful thing and can change the world in a good way.

Q: Would you tell us about your memories and your contacts with the Palestinian people.

A: I once asked a rabbi, “Do you go to Jerusalem?” and he said, “Never, ever because I would be working in the field of Palestinians.”

I meet Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza when I go. I’m desperate to know that leaders support them, but they also want unity and support a united Palestinian leadership with all factions. The Palestinians also feel they have been betrayed by Arab leaders. I was in Hebron with my eight-year-old daughter last November. We went for a peace cycle together from Amman to Jerusalem. My daughter cycled all the way through the West Bank. She did thirty kilometers a day. She is eight and she said, ‘I’m cycling for peace mommy.’ I was in a van, but she would not get off her bike, and it was one of the most beautiful things in the world to see. This child cycled with boys from Qalqilya, which is surrounded by the war. It is an ancient town guarded by Israeli soldiers. For 10 days they cycled, and the happiness that they shared just to be free in their own land, I’ll never forget it.

Q: Do you have any plans to go to Gaza in the future?

A: I hope to go on the next ship next month.

EP/AA/PA/HG
END
MNA

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