Alon Liel at ‘Comment is Free’: a match made in BDS heaven.

Quite why it was deemed necessary down at Guardian HQ to publish an article by Harriet Sherwood which does nothing but regurgitate the words of another article it published fourteen minutes earlier on ‘Comment is Free’ is a mystery. 

One thing, however, is clear: Alon Liel (the author of the CiF piece of June 27th) is the type of Israeli with whom the Guardian can do business. He makes all the right noises, uses all the right buzz-words, is not averse to delegitimising his fellow countrymen and conforms splendidly to the simplistic ‘Guardian World View’.

Alon Liel

Thus, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) becomes a noble way in which to promote peace instead of what its instigators really intend it to be – a campaign to reverse Jewish self-determination. 

The peace process is of course (yet again) in imminent danger and only the enlightened such as Alon Liel can save us from ourselves. For good measure, he throws in a couple of scary references to ‘apartheid’ and ‘expansionist policy’: almost comical when one considers that the country being discussed has only relinquished territory over the past four decades. 

The ‘settlements’, according to the Liel sound-bites, are of course ‘illegal under international law’ and on ‘occupied land’. They – and they alone – jeopardise peace and a two-state solution. Not terrorism, not generation after generation of officially sanctioned Palestinian incitement, not the inability of Palestinian society to conduct democratic elections and come up with one truly representative leader with whom Israel can negotiate and not even the basic refusal to accept a Jewish presence in the Middle East. 

And of course according to Liel, the West Bank is ‘Palestinian land’ which is being ‘gobbled up by growing settlements’, which are in turn somehow ‘erasing the Green line’ – a ‘line’ which Liel somehow appears to forget was drawn solely as the result of an armistice agreement at the end of a war of attempted annihilation. 

Despite a ten-month building freeze which failed to bring Mahmoud Abbas to the negotiating table, Liel has no qualms about distorting the facts into “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of US President Barack Obama’s plea to freeze settlement growth”.

As offensive as it is to see an Israeli collaborating with the campaign to delegitimize and dehumanize a significant proportion of the Israeli population, Alon Liel is of course entitled to his own opinion. He is even entitled to plaster it all over the pages of any and every foreign and domestic newspaper which will accommodate him. But – as Israelis will be aware (and Guardian editors apparently choose to ignore), this is not the first time that Alon Liel has been wrong. 

The former diplomat (who apparently had no qualms then about taking government salaries paid for in part by the income tax of people he today wishes to delegitimize and boycott) was part of the team which engineered the Oslo Accords.  He is closely associated with Yossi Beilin – the author of the Geneva Accords – and the two have joint business interests today, in addition to Liel’s own business, primarily located in Turkey

Liel is also involved with the political NGOs Ir Amim (board of directors) and ‘B’Tselem‘ (public council), both of which have received funding from the New Israel Fund, of which his wife – Rachel Liel – is director in Israel. In 2006 Rachel Liel took part in an ‘alternative’ Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony organized by ‘Yesh Gvul’, which encourages Israeli soldiers to avoid “serving apartheid” by refusing to serve beyond the ‘green line’ and claims that the Sabra and Shatila massacres were “IDF supervised”. She is also part of the management team of ‘Agenda‘. 

Alon Liel is also known for his self-initiated attempts to negotiate with the Syrian government. Together with American-Syrian businessman Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, he conducted a series of unauthorized talks with Damascus beginning in 2004 and continuing for just under two years.  Liel set up the Israel Syria Peace Society and in 2007 organised a rally in the Golan Heights calling for renewal of negotiations with Syria which he claimed was “not intended to arouse provocation against residents of the Golan”. In the same year, Liel campaigned against school hiking trips in the Golan on the grounds that they were “a political provocation” which supposedly undermined peace.

Imagine if that particular Alon Liel campaign to negotiate with a mass-murdering dictator had been successful: today Israel would have a Syrian civil war, complete with the dangers of a sizeable chemical weapons arsenal falling into unknown hands, just minutes away from its major water supply and several mid-sized population centres in its north.  

Those familiar with Alon Liel will not find it surprising that he is prepared to scaremonger, to distort facts, to willfully ignore the true nature and aims of the BDS movement and even support the bigoted Alice Walker in order to advance the same Don Quixote agenda he has been pushing for decades. Those familiar with the Guardian will not find it shocking that the paper would be keen to co-operate with Liel – although two practically identical articles in the space of 14 minutes has to be a bit desperate – even for them. 

In 2008 Alon Liel ran in the Labour Party primaries. He was not elected: apparently even members of the Israeli Labour Party did not wish to embrace his off-the-wall ideas. But obviously, neither he nor his new best buddies at the Guardian can come to terms with the fact that Alon Liel represents a fringe view not only rejected by the Israeli democracy as a whole, but also disturbingly oblivious to the complex realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

It’s a perfect match. 

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