Last week at the British Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, England, the mere mention of former Prime Minister and Labour leader Tony Blair’s name was met with boos. Blair is not well liked in Britain today, and increasingly, nor is he in the Middle East.
After further details of his financial dealings were revealed recently, Blair’s role as peace envoy to the Middle East looks in long-overdue trouble. After his role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and his pandering to Israeli interests in occupied Palestine, Blair deserves no place in the Middle East Peace Process, let alone the distinction of serving as Quarter Representative in the region.
First, there is the question of Blair’s objectivity. Palestinian diplomats are now threatening to sever ties with Blair since it was revealed that he has only visited Gaza twice. This is the site of the greatest injustices and humanitarian affronts of the Israeli occupation. Is it possible to truly secure peace from only one side of the wall?
Blair has long been a member of Friends of Israel, a conservative organization devoted to supporting Israel’s “biblical, historical, and moral rights to live within secure borders.” Observers could be forgiven for questioning Blair’s loyalties.
Even then the Iraq War would always be a greater cause for concern. Despite relinquishing weaponry in the 1990s after crippling UN sanctions (which killed 1 million civilians, some 500,000 of them children), Iraq was sanctioned once again in May 2003 on Blair and President George W. Bush’s orders. They both expressed a lack of interest in United Nations mandates or international law. Blair helped launch a war based on complete fabrication. Now Blair is drumming up support for a war with Iran.
It did not always look this bad. Many Palestinians were thankful when Blair arrived. He had secured peace in Northern Ireland in 1998, and ordered an intervention in Kosovo which some still hail as one of the successes of 1990s “liberal interventionism.”
But in 2011, Blair’s peace record is beyond disgraceful, and his financial one is just as murky. In 2009 The Guardian revealed Blair’s use of an obscure tax loophole in the Partnership (Accounts) Regulations Act 2008, which meant he could legally withhold his finances from the British electorate. And those finances are extensive.
Thanks to journalist Peter Oborne’s recent Channel 4 documentary, The Wonderful World of Tony Blair, we are beginning to see the true extent of Blair’s economic interests in the Middle East and abroad.
Blair regularly stays in his $1.5 million apartment at the exclusive American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem. He has made a reported $14 million from his public speaking engagements around the world.
Earning and spending this kind of money isn’t criminal, but it is indicative of an opulent lifestyle that justifies journalist Robert Fisk’s nickname “Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara.” Lord Blair also enjoys $3 million a year in consultancy pay from investment giant JP Morgan. Since 2008 he has earned $9 million providing them with a “unique and invaluable global perspective.” But it’s a two-way deal.
Blair has been lobbying for the development of Gaza’s offshore gas fields, which are reportedly worth more than $3 billion. Any planned deal under his tenure would most likely secure Israel control of the gas fields as well as any surplus gas.
It is no coincidence that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which as well as blocking trade and vital seafood stocks, prevents access to valuable natural resources which, Noam Chomsky claims, have already been appropriated by the Israel Electric Corp.
Interestingly, the rights to operate in the field are owned by British Gas — a client of one of Blair’s paymasters, JP Morgan. There are other cases like this.
What is the true extent of Blair’s involvement? If Blair’s collusion with Israelis indeed this direct, it might more easily be looked at as criminal. Regardless, Blair has been incredibly damaging to the Peace Process and to the welfare of the Palestinian people.
Photo Credit: World Economic Forum