May 14, 2008
Triple Cross: How Britain Created the Arab-Israel ConflictBy Rachel Neuwirth
I hope that no one will mistake me for an enemy of the British people. I lived in London for six months, and I have been a frequent visitor to England. I can testify to the warmth, hospitality, courtesy, and friendliness of her people. A foreigner staying as the guest of an English friend is cosseted as if he or she were a long-lost niece or nephew. It is easy to strike up a conversation with a total stranger in a public place who quickly becomes a friend. When one is boarding a train with a heavy bag, there is always someone willing to help you get your bag in it before the train leaves (this too rarely happens Stateside). When one gives an Englishman or Englishwoman a tip for services, he or she usually says thank you and smiles -- a man will even doff his cap to you when tipped. Even taxi-drivers are friendly and helpful. They go so far as to entertain their fares with jokes and puns. Try to find a taxi-driver like that in New York!
Nevertheless, some members of Britain's still extant class structure reveal a darker side to the British national character. Her "chattering classes," as the British call them -- journalists, academics, writers, "talking heads" and "intellectuals" -- include in their ranks all too many people who are moralistic, self-righteous and judgmental without being genuinely ethical. Many (of course, by no means all) of the people in these classes are quick to express indignation at the alleged misdeeds of others, while ignoring the principles expressed in Lincoln's formula, "with malice toward none and charity toward all," or the New Testament saying, "judge not that you be not judged," and in the Talmudic saying, "judge no man until you have stood in his shoes." Rather, these classes are subject to what Lord Byron called "fits of morality" that are arbitrary, capricious, extremely selective, and vindictive.
If the British chattering classes have their shortcomings, they are still not as severe as that of Britain's politicians and "civil servants" (read "bureaucrats") who specialize in foreign and colonial policy. All too many British officials in these branches of the government (again, not by any means all) speak the language of morality (phrases like "a sacred trust" come easily to their lips) while pursuing what they regard as the interests of the British Empire (now disguised as the British Commonwealth) by any and all means, including lies, deceit, trickery and broken promises. It is these officials who, through the centuries, have won for Britain the venerable ignominious epithet "perfidious Albion."
Outside of the Muslim countries, no press in the world is as biased, as unfair, and as dishonest and vindictive towards Israel as the British press. The BBC and the newspapers The Guardian and The Independent take the lead in relentlessly vilifying the Jewish state, but Sky News, Reuters, The Economist and numerous other major media outlets do not lag far behind them in their race to see which can defame and malign Israel the most. Israel is incessantly castigated as an imperialist and colonialist power whose people stole their country from its "indigenous" and rightful owners, the "Palestinians."
That the press of a country that at one time or another conquered a substantial chunk of the entire world by the most ruthless and deceitful means imaginable (consider, for example, Sir Walter Raleigh's frank account of the murderous treachery that he employed to seize Trinidad from the Spanish, or Sir Francis Drake's ruthless plundering of the Spanish colonies) should castigate as colonialist, imperialist and racist a country that, even including the "occupied" territories, is only the size of Wales -- which, by the way, is yet another country that England conquered in a series of brutal wars -- is hard to fathom. So is the British press's outrage at Israel's "undemocratic" rule over perhaps a million and a half Arabs, when Britain ruled for centuries in the most autocratic manner hundreds of millions of subjects, many more people than lived in Britain itself, to whom it gave no democratic rights whatsoever. Britain only surrendered this Empire when it was bankrupt after two world wars, and no longer had the means to hold onto it. Even then, she surrendered it only under intense prodding from the United States, whose help she absolutely needed to rebuild her shattered economy and defend herself.
Yet the press and government of this nation that ruled vast territories thousands of miles from its own shores, countries that posed no threat whatsoever to Britain, have the gall to condemn Israel for maintaining a few checkpoints in the "Palestinian" territories, located only a few miles or in some cases only a few yards from her major population centers, in order to prevent terrorists from bringing bombs into these population centers and using them to murder thousands of Israelis. And they have the gall to call these checkpoints an "occupation," even after Israel unilaterally handed over most populated areas of the "occupied" territories (whose total size, in any case, is only equal to that of the English suburban county of Sussex) to her enemies, in a vain attempt to make peace with them.
The British press creates the impression that Britain has no connection to "Palestine" except as a sympathetic observer of the suffering of its Arab inhabitants at the hands of "Zionism." One would never guess from reading it that it was not so long ago that Britain ruled Palestine, or that she set in motion the Arab-Israel conflict in the first place, or that the conflict would not even exist without decades of British broken promises and odious divide-and rule maneuvers in the Middle East.
Britain conquered Palestine from the Turks in 1917-18. First Her Majesty's Government promised Palestine to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and then again in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922, in which it solemnly accepted as "a sacred trust of civilization" to "be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home." Then it repudiated that promise in a "White Paper" of 1939, which announced her intention to allow only 75,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine over the next five years (this as World War II and the Holocaust was just beginning) and after that to allow no further Jewish immigration without Arab consent. The White Paper also placed severe restrictions on the purchase of land by Jews. And it promised the Palestinian Arabs that Palestine would become an independent Arab state within ten years. All this was in flagrant violations of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine; the League of Nations Mandates Commission noted this, and refused to ratify the White Paper. Britain implemented it anyway -- to the extent of refusing to admit to Palestine 750 Jews who had managed to escape Nazi Europe in a leaky boat while the Holocaust was in full swing. The Jews were forced to turn back into the human-shark-infested waters of the Black Sea, where their leaky crate was torpedoed, and all but one of them killed.
Other Jews who managed to reach the shores of Palestine were deported by the British Navy to the remote island of Mauritius and kept in a detention camp, where many of them died of disease before finally being released after the end of the war. This British measure was strangely reminiscent of an earlier Nazi plan to deport the Jews of Europe to Madagascar, a larger island in the Indian Ocean not far from Mauritius. Still the British detained other Jews who managed to board ships bound for Palestine for years in camps on Cyprus. This was the way His Majesty's Government kept its promises to the Jews.
Having already promised Palestine to both the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs, Britain after World War II promised it again, this time to Syria! Secret British correspondence, recently discovered by an Israeli scholar, not in the archives of Britain but in those of France, which intercepted British and Syrian communications through espionage, reveals that the British promised to hand over Palestine to Syria in return for making Britain Syria's "protector" to replace France. The British even assisted the Syrians to carry out a massacre of French civilians and soldiers in order to force France out of Syria.
Britain encouraged the Arab states to form an "Arab League" as World War II came to an end. A British representative sat in on the League's meetings and raised no objections as the Arab states planned to invade Palestine -- even though Palestine was still under British control!
In 1947, Britain referred Palestine to the United Nations and asked it to find a solution to the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine that Britain had done so much to foster through its contradictory promises to both sides. When the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that Palestine be partitioned into separate and independent Jewish and Arab states, His Majesty's Government, through its representative in the United Nations, solemnly promised to help implement the resolution, even though it had not voted for it.
Instead, the British sabotaged the resolution in every way possible. It refused even to allow the commission that had been appointed by the United Nations General Assembly to oversee implementation of the partition resolution into the country. On the other hand, it permitted the Arab states to send troops into Palestine under the guise of "volunteers," even before the British administration had completed its withdrawal from the country. It stood aside and did nothing to preserve order as war raged throughout the country and thousands of both Jews and Arabs were killed, even though it nominally retained responsibility for the administration of Palestine until May 15, 1948. Worst of all, it withdrew its administration without appointing or recognizing any government, Jewish or Arab, to take its place, or organizing any kind of successor administration. In an unprecedented act in the history of colonialism, the British simply withdrew, leaving the country that they had misgoverned for thirty years in total chaos. One British author has called this bizarre act an "experiment in anarchy." Another has characterized British policy in Palestine as "divide and lose."
Britain's two-faced machinations did not prevent Israel from winning the independence that the Jews had been promised, but only at the cost of thousands of lives, and with no help whatsoever from the promise-bearing great power. However, Israel has had to live in a constant state of siege from neighbors who remain at war with her, and who still refuse to allow her the "secure and recognized borders" enjoyed by all other sovereign states in the world.
The Palestinian Arabs never got the state that Britain promised them. Syria never "received" Palestine in accordance with Britain's secret promise, either. First incited to go to war for Palestine, and then left to shift for themselves by their forked-tongued British ‘friends," the Palestinian and Syrian Arabs are still fighting Israel for the land that Britain once promised each of them.
Britain, for her part, has done absolutely nothing to encourage the Arab states to make peace with Israel. Instead, its inflammatory press incessantly incites the Arabs to continue their war of terror against the Jews. The British Foreign Office has done nothing to discourage the British gutter press from indulging in this incendiary propaganda and misinformation campaign. And the BBC, a government owned and controlled station with close ties to the Foreign Office, has actively participated in the hostile propaganda and incitement against Israel, in both its Arabic and English-language services.
It ought not to be forgotten that the British flag consists of a triple cross -- the cross of St. George for England, that of St. Andrew for Scotland, and that of St. Patrick for Ireland (Wales, it would seem, does not even merit a cross!). What a fitting symbol this "Union Jack" is for the nation that triple-crossed the Jewish people, the Arabs of Palestine, and Syria into believing that she would give each of them Palestine, while breaking its promises to all three. It is a trail of broken promises that has led to six decades of seemingly endless war.
John Landau contributed to this article. Our thanks also to our correspondent Dr. "J.P.," whose trenchant questions led us to write it.