By Yvonne Ridley
I am beginning to ask myself, “What’s the point of David Miliband?” – a question I’ve no doubt Gordon Brown posed just a few days ago following the failed attempt to have the Prime Minister ousted. Miliband has drawn fire from angry Labour backbenchers who felt that his seven-hour delay in responding publicly to Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt’s call for a secret ballot on Brown’s leadership last week was an indication that he may have been weighing up its implications for his own leadership ambitions.
The truth is that Miliband is hardly leadership material. He fails to inspire and when I see him on the world stage with other foreign ministers he looks like a juvenile, gate-crashing upstart; only the short trousers are missing. But our Foreign Secretary is not the only political pygmy on that world stage; step forward Egypt’s man in the role, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, someone else with the presence of an empty piñata. Both are immodest little men with much to be modest about and yet they are in highly-elevated positions, plotting and scheming like a couple of school sneaks behind the bike sheds rather than acting like international statesmen as their offices demand.
In the past couple of weeks David Miliband has started the ball rolling to put measures in place to protect the alleged war criminals masquerading as serious politicians in Israel, having assured his friends at the Jewish Chronicle that he would do all he can to make sure that warrants for their arrest cannot be issued in Britain under the laws of universal jurisdiction (the same principle that Israel used to capture, put on trial and execute Adolf Eichmann in 1962). Ahmed Aboul Gheit and the Egyptian government, of course, collaborate with the Israelis in the immoral blockade of Gaza, a collective punishment of more than 1.5 million Palestinians and are in the process of building a steel wall to stop food and other essentials being taken through tunnels into Gaza. Evidence is mounting that Egypt has been using poisonous gas to kill Palestinians working in these tunnels; 54 men have been killed to-date.
Aboul Gheit sneaked into Britain a few days ago for a 30 minute meeting with Miliband; there was a virtual media blackout about this. The very next day British MP George Galloway was deported unceremoniously from Egypt less than 48 hours after his Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy had reached Gaza in triumph. Mr. Galloway was roughly manhandled by Hosni Mubarak’s secret police, very possibly the same secret police who tried to punch me in the face and rip off my hijab; these thugs succeeded in doing that to other Muslim women during a street demonstration in Cairo and video evidence is plentiful should you doubt my words.
I’m proud to say that George Galloway is a close friend of mine although I’ll be the first to admit that he’s not to everyone’s liking. His forthright manner has a ‘Marmite’ affect on people they either love him or hate him. But even those who dislike Galloway admire his quick-fire wit and ability to articulate. Whenever the Respect MP rises to his feet in the House of Commons you can guarantee one thing; the backbenches begin to fill and the Speaker wishes he’d taken the day off, as do those who get caught in his verbal crosshairs.
Why do I mention this? Well, George Galloway’s shadow has more presence and personality than Ahmed Aboul Gheit and David Miliband put together; one can imagine their childlike glee and sniggering once the decision was made to deport the feisty Scot. However, Egypt’s move was, in soccer terms, an own goal, because in trying to humiliate the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, all they did was elevate him to an even higher pedestal.
In doing so Aboul Gheit and Miliband have left themselves exposed for turning their once great offices into a petty, vindictive side-show in order to attack a man who in the eyes of the Arab world is a hero for having led hundreds of European, American and Turkish people into Gaza bearing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of aid; all this after an exhausting four week-long journey with many trials and tribulations on the way. Well, I hate to rain on the Aboul Gheit and Miliband parade, but George Galloway is now planning to join a flotilla of ships to break the siege of Gaza by sea in March this way, at least, he will be spared the thoroughly unpleasant possibility of having to deal with Aboul Gheit and his ilk in Cairo.
In a few years time the names of Ahmed Aboul Gheit and David Miliband will be long-forgotten in their own countries, never mind overseas, but I’d like to hazard a guess that the name of George Galloway will live on for generations in the Middle East as a champion of the poor and oppressed, as well as in London’s East End where he represents his constituents with the same passion, courage and vigour.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.