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No Middle East promise

Published:  18 January, 2007

What is happening in the Middle East doesn't bear thinking about.

Lebanon has been years in rebuilding, and then suddenly a few incidents and to all intents and purposes there seems to be a full-scale war going on. Not long ago we ran a feature on Israeli winemaking, and a colleague was due to be in Israel this week researching a forthcoming feature. Needless to say, he is safely tucked up in London. Harpers doesn't run to Katie Adie or John Simpson.

It is not for us to go into the rights and wrong of the situation, but it is such a gut-wrenching shame that a region that seemed, on the surface, to be settling down, to the extent that committed wine people on both sides of the border were planting vines, investing in equipment and starting to have aspirations for the future, has had those aspirations literally blown away.

On page 3 of this issue Harpers carries news on how the wine industry in Lebanon and Israel is dealing (or not) with the current conflict. In situations like the one emerging in the Middle East, wine and the fate of vineyards is, quite rightly, far down the list of priorities. Nevertheless, the wine trade is a global community and I would expect that members of the UK wine trade wish their counterparts in the affected regions the best of luck.

Watching Arabs and Israelis debating the events and issues on television programmes such as Newsnight is frankly wearisome - their views are so entrenched and the hatred runs so deep that a meaningful discussion is rendered futile as it degenerates into a slanging match. At some stage, the Israelis have to sit down and talk to the various Arab factions, otherwise it really will be a fight to death - and the fate of wine production in the region will be little more than an irrelevance.

Christian Davis