"Sharon and Arafat must solve Middle East conflict"

US congressman offers some out of date advice on Israel/Palestine.

Looking for a new and fresh approach to solving the Israel/Palestine conflict? Don't ask US Representative Joe Pitts, the Pennsylvania congressman who has become something of an internet sensation. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday:

Replying to a Chester County constituent's e-mail regarding Middle East tensions, Pitts wrote on April 20 that "it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat" to hunker down at the negotiating table.

Problem is, Arafat died in 2004. And Sharon, no longer Israel's leader, has lain in a coma-like state since a massive stroke in 2006.

. . .

"Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns," Pitts began. ". . .With the global war against terrorism, it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat to clamp down on Palestinian extremists that have perpetuated violence and to restart a peace process."

Pitts' assistant said: “It’s a dumb mistake that is the result of human error in a complicated mail system,” rather than a reflection of the congressman's knowledge of international affairs.

The Times of Israel reported that neither Sharon or Arafat were available for comment.

Hat-tip: Huffington Post

 

A Palestinian artist paints a mural of Yasser Arafat, Gaza City, 2005. Photograph: Getty Images

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Leave.EU is backing a racist President - why aren't more Brexiteers condemning it?

Our own homegrown Trump trumpeters. 

The braver Republican politicians are condemning Donald Trump after he backtracked on his condemnation of far-right protestors in Charlottesville. “You had a group on one side and group on the other,” said the US president of a night in which an anti-fascist protestor was run over. Given the far-right protestors included neo-Nazis, it seems we’re heading for a revisionist history of the Second World War as well. 

John McCain, he of the healthcare bill heroics, was one of the first Republicans to speak out, declaring there was “no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry”. Jeb Bush, another former presidential hopeful, added: “This is a time for moral clarity, not ambivalence.”

In the UK, however, Leave.EU, the campaign funded by Ukip donor Arron Banks, fronted by Nigel Farage, tweeted: “President Trump, an outstanding unifying force for a country divided by a shamefully blinkered liberal elite.” A further insight into why Leave.EU has come over so chirpy may be gleaned by Banks’s own Twitter feed. “It was just a punch up with nutters on all sides,” is his take on Charlottesville. 

Farage’s support for Trump – aka Mr Brexit – is well-known. But Leave.EU is not restricted to the antics of the White House. As Martin Plaut recently documented in The New Statesman, Leave.EU has produced a video lauding the efforts of Defend Europe, a boat organised by the European far-right to disrupt humanitarian rescues of asylum seekers crossing the dangerous Mediterranean Sea. There are also videos devoted to politicians from “patriotic" if authoritarian Hungary – intriguing for a campaign which claims to be concerned with democratic rights.

Mainstream Brexiteers can scoff and say they don’t support Leave.EU, just as mainstream Republicans scoffed at Trump until he won the party’s presidential nomination. But the fact remains that while the official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, has more or less retired, Leave.EU has more than 840,000 Facebook followers and pumps out messages on a daily basis not too out of sync with Trump’s own. There is a feeling among some Brexiteers that the movement has gone too far. "While Leave.EU did great work in mobilising volunteers during their referendum, their unnecessarily robust attacks and campaigning since has bordered on the outright racist and has had damaged the Brexit cause," one key Leave supporter told me. 

When it comes to the cause of Brexit, many politicians chose to share a platform with Leave.EU campaigners, including Labour’s Kate Hoey and Brexit secretary David Davis. Some, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, get cheered on a regular basis by Leave.EU’s Facebook page. Such politicians should choose this moment to definitively reject Leave.EU's advances. If not, then when? 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.