Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

The Times. Will Charging For Online News Work?

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Unpleasant

I don’t know whether it will work or not but I think I have to support the effort, much as it sticks in my throat to do anything in support of  Rupert Murdoch or his unpleasant offspring and cronies.

As a writer, I have to believe in the idea that online content can be “monetised” or what is my own future?

In passing, can I at least blame that revolting new word on Murdoch?  It would be some small consolation for paying him £2.00 per week for my online access.

I think The Times is still the finest newspaper in the land and I cannot let its ownership stand in the way of my appreciation of its content.  Even though I am now a subscriber, I shall still buy the Saturday edition in print.  I have avoided The Sunday Times for years since it size began to offend me and its content became almost indistinguishable from the Daily Mail.

Still Thundering

There is one aspect of The Times though, that is gone for ever.  Even my paid subscription cannot bring it back.  I used regularly to link to The Times’ stories from this blog but now that is useless unless all my readers are subscribers too.  So my only solution is cut and paste.  In celebration of this heinous, copyright infringing intent, I reproduce below the  stand out article from this Saturday’s edition, an intelligent and incisive article about Israel and Palestine from Margaret Atwood.   Please enjoy it with the compliments of this subscriber.

In one respect though, I still stand absolute against the Murdoch empire.  Though Sky is undoubtedly the finest digital TV system available, particularly with its PVR and HD capabilities, I will not support its outrageous charges or dreadful customer service.   Freesat, Freeview and BitTorrent for the programmes I miss is a much happier solution.

******

From The Times, 14th August 2010 by Margaret Atwood

Seven futures are possible. Which will it be?

Wiped out by nuclear bombs? Constant war? But the crystal ball also shows the path to peace for Israel and Palestine

Picture a minor prophet. Perhaps he’d be working as an astrologer. He’s looking towards Israel and Palestine, consulting his charts and stars, getting a handle on the future. But the future is never single — there are too many variables — so what he sees is a number of futures.

In the first one, there’s no Israel: it’s been destroyed in war and all the Israelis have been killed. (Unlikely, but not impossible.) In the second, there’s no Palestine: it’s been merged with Israel, and the Palestinians either slaughtered or driven beyond its borders. Israel has become completely isolated; international opinion has been outraged, boycotts have been successful, financial aid from the US — both public and private — has evaporated, and the US Government has cooled towards Israel, and swung towards entente with the Muslim world. Israel has become like North Korea — an embattled military state — and civilian rights have suffered. Moderate Israelis have emigrated and live as exiles in a state of bitterness over wasted opportunities and blighted dreams.

In the third future there’s one state, but a civil war has resulted, since the enlarged population couldn’t agree on a common flag, common laws or a common set of commemoration days — “victory” for some being “catastrophe” for others.

In the fourth, the one-state solution has had better results: it’s a true one-person, one-vote democracy with equal rights for all. (Again, unlikely in the immediate future, but not impossible in the long run.) In the fifth future, neither Israel nor Palestine exists: nuclear bombs have cleared the land of human beings. In the sixth, climate change has turned the area into a waterless desert.

But there’s another future: the seventh future. In this there are two states, “Israel” and “Palestine”. Both are flourishing, and both are members of a regional council that deals with matters affecting the whole area. Trade flows harmoniously between the two, joint development enterprises have been established, know-how is shared, and, as in Northern Ireland, peace is paying dividends.

That, surely, is a desirable outcome, thinks the stargazer, but how was it achieved? Since he has the gift of virtual time-travel, he leaps into the seventh future and looks back at the steps taken to get there.

The impetus came from within Israel. Its leaders saw that the wind had shifted; it was now blowing against the policy of crushing force and the appropriation of occupied lands. What had caused this change? Was it the international reaction to the destructive Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza? The killing of flotilla activists? The gathering boycott activities in the US and Europe? The lobbying of organisations such as J Street? The 2010 World Zionist Congress vote to support a settlement freeze and endorse a two-state solution?

For whatever reasons, Israel had lost control of its own story. It was no longer Jack confronting a big bad giant; the narrative of the small country struggling bravely against overwhelming odds had moved to the Palestinians. The mantra “plant a tree in Israel” was no longer respectable because it evoked images of bulldozers knocking down Palestinian olive groves. Israel could not continue along its current path without altering its own self-image beyond recognition. The leadership decided to act before a peaceful resolution slipped forever beyond reach. Leaders are supposed to guide their people towards a better future, they thought, not over the edge of a cliff.

First, the Golan Heights was returned to Syria under a pact that created a demilitarised zone with international supervision. The few Israeli inhabitants were allowed to remain if they wished, though they then paid taxes to Syria.

Then, with the help of a now-friendly Syria, Hamas was invited to the peace negotiations. The enlightened leaders realised that they couldn’t set as a precondition something that remained to be negotiated, so they didn’t demand the pre-recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Hamas, to the surprise of many, accepted the invitation, as it had nothing to lose by doing so. Peace was made between Fatah and Hamas, and the Palestinians were thus able to present a single negotiating team.

The negotiations were complex, but people worked hard not to lose their tempers. Remembering South Africa, they knew that yelling and denouncing would not accomplish anything. The agreement took less time than expected, as happens when people are serious. Then the occupation — disastrous for those in both countries, physically and morally — was over, and Palestinian independence was declared. A mutual defence pact was signed, along with a trade and development pact. As Israel had realised that it could not rest its foundation on international law while violating that law, the borders reverted to those of 1967, with a few land swaps along the edges. Jerusalem was declared an international city, with both an Israeli parliament building and a Palestinian one, and access to the various holy sites for believers.

Gaza was joined to the West Bank by corridors, as in the East/West Germany of old; ports were opened and fishing boats could sail once more. Development money poured in, creating full employment. Fair-access- to-water agreements were signed, pollution cleaned up, and more fresh water created through a new cheap solar-driven desalination process.

What about the difficult matter of the settlements? Settlers could stay in Palestine if they wished, under lease agreements. The leases and taxes paid by the settlers were a source of income to the Palestinian state, and as their products were no longer boycotted, the settlements did better. On the whole, peace reigned. There was even a shared Memorial Day, in which all those fallen in past wars were honoured.

The seventh future is within reach — the stars favour it — but the stargazer knows that many prefer the status quo; there can be advantage as well as profit in conflict. However, change often comes abruptly, as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the storming of the Bastille, or the end of apartheid. The amount of blood shed in such transitions — from none to a great deal — depends on the wisdom of the leadership.

How to promote such wisdom? It’s a prophet’s traditional duty to lay out the alternatives: the good futures and also the bad ones. Prophets — unlike yes men — tell the powerful not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. “How can I put this?” thinks the stargazer. “Something beginning with the handwriting on the wall . . ?”

© O.W. Toad Ltd. 2010

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