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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Cherie Blair's comments: Did she overstep the mark?
Cherie Blair, the wife of the UK prime minister, has apologised for any offence caused by remarks she made about Palestinian suicide bombers.
Speaking at a charity event in London, Mrs Blair said young Palestinians felt they had "no hope" but to blow themselves up.
Her remarks came just hours after 19 Israelis died and over 40 were injured in a suicide bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem.
The Israeli embassy in London expressed regret at the comments, and shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said Mrs Blair had caused "massive offence" to the families of those who died in Jerusalem.
Since entering 10 Downing Street with her husband in 1997, Cherie Blair has campaigned on a number of issues but has so far attempted to avoid any suggestion of playing a political role.
What do you think of Cherie Blair's comments? Were they offensive and did she overstep the mark? Or have her critics overreacted?
This Talking Point was suggested by Chris L, UK :
Should Cherie Blair have made the statement she did with regards to the terrorist attack by Hamas on the Israelis?
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This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Cherie is wrong! If they want peace there is hope. At the end of Clinton's term it seemed peace was close. The Palestinians said no. They destroyed their own chances for a better life. Every homicide bomber makes all Palestinians' lives worse. Ms Blair needs to examine the facts, not just spout slogans.
Barry, London England
Cherie Blair's remarks did not have the best timing. If you're going to make a statement about Palestine and Israel, however, there's a pretty good chance that your timing is always going to be poor. I don't agree with the people who say that she shouldn't comment because of her position. She has just as much right as anyone else to voice her opinion, regardless of what her husband does. Personally, I understand the point she was trying to make and while I don't disagree in some ways, I found them to be too simplistic. Remarks like that turn the responsibility from those people who recruit, arm, and support the bombers. They don't strike me as feeling too "helpless". Of course, those people are still alive and in one piece.
The majority of comments against Cherie Blair seem to refer to a completely different comment than that which I heard. Perhaps these are based more on the "interpretations" of this remark than on what was actually said. It is true that if Palestinians FEEL that they have hope of change, they will be less likely to want to die for the cause. This is a simple statement of fact. She was not sympathising with or condoning the bombers, and the cause of this feeling of hopelessness could be blamed on either Israel or the Palestinian leadership.
D Roberts, UK
Yes - well done Cherie. I'm not sure why there has been such an uproar. She didn't condone the suicide bombers, she just highlighted the terrible predicament the Palestinians are in.
Cherie Blair has every right to say what she likes - we live in a country which values free speech. She may be the PM's wife but she also a well respected, highly intelligent women who has the same rights as everyone else.
Thank God there are still some people (in Britain) who have the intelligence to know the truth, and the courage to speak out. Mrs Blair is one such individual.
Well done Cherie Blair for saying what so many other people are thinking.
She has nothing to be ashamed of whatsoever. She has got closer to the root of the problem and tragically no-one seems to want to engage in the debate.
Cherie Blair simply showed human compassion when she noted young Palestinians felt "no hope" but to blow themselves up. Don't we all feel the hopelessness on both sides in the tit for tat killings?
I agree with Cherie Blair that committing suicide by blowing oneself up can be the result of hopelessness. However, there is a distinction between ending one's own life and becoming a human bomb in order to obliterate as many people as possible, deliberately targeting women, young people and babies.
We may or may not agree with Mrs Blair's comments but in a democracy we have to justly defend her right to say it. Most of the suicide bombers are young and impressionable and do not live in a democracy. They are trained by grown adults who should be helping and protecting them, not indoctrinating and encouraging them to die. Who is going to look after the rights of these young and impressionable people and protect them from those who seek to gain from their death and those of their victims?
The suicide bombings started immediately after the Oslo Agreement was signed, when hope was at its highest. So a feeling of hopelessness is no excuse nor reason.
I think Cherie Blair only amplified a view already shared by many. It does not require a genius to imagine the sheer desperation and hopelessness it takes for a person to blow themselves up.
What Mrs Blair said is shocking and wrong. Firstly homicide bombing is wrong no matter what the circumstances are. Killing innocent children solves nothing. Secondly, former Israeli Prime Minister Barak gave Yasser Arafat the best peace offer in history and he walked away from it. Arafat clearly is the one responsible for Palestinian suffering, not Israel.
Paul Haire, UK
It is not a case of what she did say but what she didn't say. Not a word about the 20 innocent people killed, some of them children. The suicide bomber was a murderer. Simple enough. More compassion for the murderer than the victims and Mrs Blair indicated as such.
Cherie Blair has the right to freedom of speech like the rest of us. However she should emphasise that remarks she makes in public are her private opinions only, and have no bearing on government policy. I sympathise with the Palestinian cause, but I couldn't sympathise with a suicide bomber who thinks blowing up himself and others is an act of heroic martyrdom. More like barbarism.
Terrorism is terrorism whichever way you dress it up. The comments by Ms Booth were totally inappropriate and appeared to give the terrorists an excuse. These terrorists don't do it out of lack of hope but to be a martyr for the cause. The young man who blew up the bus is considered a hero by his family, how can that be construed as lack of hope?
I don't like the situation in Israel but terrorism on any level is unacceptable.
Cherie Blair made a factual statement, she did not condone the suicide bombers. There are faults on both sides and extreme religious acts are often the result of perceived lack of alternatives.
There are desperate and hopeless people all over the world. The reason that only the Palestinians and a small number of other groups resort to such horrific acts of terrorism is that extremist groups use it as a means to further their cause.
The Palestinians would not be so "desperate" and "hopeless" if their corrupt leadership made the responsible choice to crack down on terrorist groups, allowing the democratic Israeli government to initiate peace proposals without fear of precipitating early elections.
Comments from the likes of Cherie Blair which try to justify the inexcusable and rationalise the outrageous do nothing to help.
Julian Hayward, UK
Contrary to Mrs Blair's comments the Suicide Bombers are full of hope. Hope that their actions will lead to a place in paradise, and hope that they will also lead to the destruction of Israel.
I fully support Mrs Blair's right to free speech and cannot understand what all the fuss is about. We all have the right to our own opinions and she need not forfeit hers just because she is married to the PM. Why should we be afraid of hearing an intelligent and educated woman speaking out on important issues of the day?
Saying that someone has "no hope" but to blow themselves up is both offensive and untrue. That said, I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt that her remarks were of the moment and not reflective of what a more careful use of her intellect would have produced.
Peter Judge, UK
Mrs Blair would do well to learn from Queen Rania of Jordan, herself a Palestinian who chose her remarks very carefully.
The comments made by Mrs Blair yesterday are absolutely outrageous and disgraceful. In an instant, Cherie Blair lost her guard, and revealed her true sentiments to the world.
Mrs Blair's comments simply told the truth. Anyone committing suicide, regardless of the effects of those around them, feels that they have no other means of achieving their aims. She was not condoning the bombings, nor was she supporting any particular side.
Cherie Blair is right. Suicide bombing does not bring peace so we must understand ways to bring hope where there is currently so much despair.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, as PM's wife she should not make such statements. However we all know she has political aspirations and is already pulling strings in Downing Street.
She was accurate in her assessment of the plight of the Palestinians. They deserve human rights also.
I know who I'm not voting for next time around.
Steven Daniels, England
For once someone has had the right idea and not skirted around the real problem. She was quite right to say what she did. You cannot degrade her freedom of speech because she is married to the PM, though it may be seen as an abuse of her position. She's just lucky in a way to be in that position. It's time something was seriously done about the state of affairs both here with our ludicrous political correctness stopping us from saying the truth in a way that needs to be said, and in the Middle East to end this endless cycle of violence.
We have to be firm with terrorism, there is no doubt about that. But I am concerned when even the simplest comment about life 'on the other side' is smacked down so vociferously. We are supposed to have free speech and we must carefully guard the ability to debate and discuss with freedom.
Mrs Blair just stated the obvious and I am at a loss to understand how anyone can imagine that it amounted to condoning the bombings.
The criticisms of Cherie Blair reveal more about the critics than about her. She may be right or wrong but her comment was about the objective situation and not an expression of approval or disapproval. It is not difficult to understand what she said. Young people do not blow themselves up when they have a life of opportunity before them.
Why should she apologise for speaking the truth? I wholeheartedly condemn the actions of these suicide bombers but I have to ask myself what level of desperation must these young people be experiencing that they feel compelled to take their own lives as well as those of innocent people in such a horrific manner? It's also a sad indictment of the times in which we live that someone making such a valid observation as this should feel pressurised into apologising for their legitimately held views.
Mrs Blair is entitled to her opinions - if she keeps them to herself. If she makes public statements she should expect a rebuke.
Whether she was right to speak out is, I feel, a minor issue. She has commented before publicly on matters of the day, and presumably will continue to do so. What concerns me is the reaction to her comments. The remarks in themselves seem perfectly sensible and innocuous. Of course Palestinians will continue to blow themselves up if they feel that there is no other option in life. The reaction to these comments is nothing short of ridiculous, pandering once again to a particular corner and to political correctness in the worst possible way.
The truth may be offensive but it's still the truth.
Of course she was not right. I don't think she or anyone else living outside Israel know what it must be like. To be terrified while going to school, work, to a restaurant or bar. There have been hundreds of suicide attacks in Israel over the last few years. Could you imagine if it happened in this country? Imagine a place, where parents were constantly scared their children may not return home from school or work.
Why on earth should she apologise for stating the obvious? Clearly many Palestinians feel that blowing themselves up is the only meaningful act of resistance left, or they wouldn't be doing it. And if Israel would stop treating Palestinians so badly there would be no occasion for Israelis to take offence to comments like these.
Cherie has spoken the obvious truth. Does anyone seriously dispute the fact that only an unimaginably desperate person would choose to blow himself up for a cause?
With all due respect, I feel Mrs Blair's remarks were a slap in the face to all the victims and their immediate families.
Why should she not express her view? I may not like the Blairs but they have every right to express themselves, just like I do. For too long we have been force fed misinformation about Israel, but the truth is a lot more complicated. For years the Palestinians have been oppressed by both Israel and the West. For many the only action left is suicide bombings. While I cannot condone or support this, I understand why they do it and I expect that was what Cherie Blair was trying to say. Israel and the West should address the cause of the problems, not the effect. How about giving them back the land that was stolen from them in the first place?
What Mrs Blair said is reality, whether we like it or not. Somebody has to say it.
I don't think she has overstepped anything. Young Palestinians who blow themselves up deserve as much attention as any of their Israeli counterparts. Both people seem to make no distinction between military and civilian targets so why would compassion for a young Palestinian be considered offensive?
18 Jun 02 | UK Politics
18 Jun 02 | UK Politics
18 Jun 02 | Middle East
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