Financial Times’ Chris Patten – Hard on Israel, Soft on Hamas

Chris Patten’s  op-ed  in the Financial Times on July 29, 2010, offers another example of his inability to get past his ideological blinders and offer a fresh look at the conflict. Employing loaded language, Patten offers a one-sided condemnation of Israeli policies while failing to explain  how Palestinian intransigence and belligerence precludes policies he favors.

Loaded Language

Patten pejoratively labels Israeli residential neighborhoods in the West Bank as “colonies,” thereby equating Israeli residential neighborhoods on disputed land contiguous to Israel with past British colonial practices. He charges that  “Palestinians are being squeezed out of” Jerusalem, even though the city’s municipal records tell a different story.

Patten is particularly incensed about Israel’s security barrier, which he calls “The Wall,”  despite the fact that 95 percent of its length is fence and it is no different in intent than similar barriers built by other nations. Patten is no stranger to the need for security barriers, as the former Governor of the British colony of Hong Kong, he oversaw a security fence in the frontier closed area that kept mainland Chinese immigrants out of Hong Kong.
Patten objects to much of the barrier being built on disputed territory in the West Bank. He doesn’t inform his readers that the Israeli’s constructed the barrier not to define the borders of the state, but in response to the Palestinian suicide bomber campaign of 2001-2004, and that it has been very effective in reducing suicide bombings.
Misrepresents Facts of Gaza Conflict

When it comes to Gaza, Patten’s imbalance is complete. He describes the Israeli blockade’s objective as “collective punishment… simply because they [Palestinians] have a Hamas administration.” In fact, the blockade was not implemented after Hamas won the elections of 2006. It was implemented in June 2007 following the Hamas coup against the Palestinian Authority’s President which was accompanied by increased rocket fire on Israeli towns, as well as in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

Arguing that Hamas must be drawn into negotiations similar to the manner in which Sinn Fein in Ireland was brought to the negotiating table, he ignores the profound difference between Sinn Fein’s demands and those of Hamas. Hamas consistently and unambiguously insists that it will never accept the Jewish state and demands that all of Israel belongs to the Palestinians. Sinn Fein never demanded that the English leave Britain and turn it over to its Celtic inhabitants.

His fixed view of the conflict is compounded by his rescitation of outdated information. Relying on  population projections made years ago, he claims that the Palestinian population will “likely double within just over 15 years.” The birth rates in the West Bank and Gaza have steadily declined over the past decade rendering such projections obsolete.  
Patten’s failure to keep up to date with the facts and unwillingness to address the core beliefs of Hamas underscore the unbalanced nature of his prescriptions. This op-ed, like previous ones he has penned for the Financial Times, reflect an unchanging partisan political position and add nothing helpful to the discussion.

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