Thursday, January 27, 2011

Perfidious Albion, Again

The following frank admission of Britain's responsibility for the Middle East conflict by British colonial administrator, diplomat and ambassador to the UN (1964-1970) Hugh Foot (1907-1970) comes from his 1964 memoir, A Start in Freedom:

"The failure of British administration in Palestine was inevitable. The double sin had been committed of raising false hopes both with the Arabs and with Jews. The hopes were false because they were conflicting. The Arabs who fought with Britain in the first world war to throw off the yoke of the Turkish Empire were led to believe that they were fighting for their freedom. The Jews were led to believe by the Balfour Declaration in 1917 that they would win a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Relying on British assurances they too fought and worked with us. But Palestine was populated and owned by Arabs. Other nations share the responsibility with us. The United States in particular urged us on in the pursuit of policies which were bound to lead to conflict. But the main responsibility was ours. It is true that when the Balfour Declaration was made and indeed for many years afterwards no one, other than a few Jewish visionaries, thought of a Jewish State in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration promised support for a Jewish National Home in Palestine. It was just, but only just, possible to imagine a Jewish National Home in an Arab country progressing towards self-government and eventual independence. Later on various plans of cantonisation or condominium were broached. But by prevarication and procrastination and basically by the fundamental dishonesty of our original double dealing we had made disaster certain. In the narrow compass of the Holy Land we had unleashed two hopes, two forces, two nationalisms. In 1915 we supported King Feisal's desert rising. In 1917 we signed the Balfour Declaration. The surprising thing is that it was twenty years after those actions before the Arabs revolted and almost another decade before the Jews turned to violence and rebellion. By trying to please both Arabs and Jews we lost the respect and friendship of both and eventually earned the contempt of the world by an ignominious withdrawal. We left those who had relied on our promises to fight it out among themselves. I pray that we shall not make the same terrible error again - in southern Africa for instance." (pp 35-36)

But they have - and in Palestine again: Britain, the nation that betrayed the hopes and dreams of the Palestinian people by unleashing on them one of the most toxic strains of European nationalism and settler-colonialism, namely political Zionism, has not only not apologised for its 31-year long Crime against Palestinian Humanity (1917-1948), but is now second only to the United States in aiding and abetting political Zionism's continuation and monstrous amplification of that crime:

"The Palestinian Authority's security strategy to crush Hamas and other armed groups on the West Bank was drawn up by Britain's intelligence service, MI6, leaked papers reveal. The strategy included internment of leaders and activists, closure of radio stations and replacement of imams in mosques - the bulk of which has since been carried out. Two documents drafted by the Secret Intelligence Service with other British government departments are understood to have been passed to Jibril Rajoub, the former head of PA security in the West Bank, at the beginning of 2004 by an M16 officer. The evidence in the cache given to al-Jazeera TV and shared with The Guardian, highlights the role British officials and security advisers have played in creating and bolstering the PA administration in the West Bank, which is backed and financed by the US, the EU and most Arab states as it pursues what are now all but moribund peace talks with Israel.

"The British papers, one of which is headed 'Palestinian security plan - confidential', included proposals for a security taskforce based on Britain's 'trusted PA contacts' outside the control of 'traditional security chiefs', a British-US security 'verification team' and 'direct lines' to Israeli intelligence... In the most controversial section, the 2004 MI6 plan recommends 'Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists - Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and the [Fatah-linked] al-Aqsa Brigades - through the disruption of their leaderships' communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources'. The document adds: 'We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding'.

"The leaked intelligence plan can be seen in retrospect as a blueprint for PA security control of the West Bank, which has become harsher and more extensive since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses. The former MI6 officer, Alistair Crooke, who worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said recently that the documents reflected a 2003 decision by the then prime minister Tony Blair, to tie British and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led 'counter-insurgency surge' against Hamas - which backfired when Hamas won the 2006 elections.

"The CIA played the central role in building up PA security forces from the late 1990s, in close cooperation with the Israeli military and intelligence, detailed in the leaked documents. But particularly after the killing of three US officials in the Gaza Strip in 2003, British forces played an increasingly active role - though always in close cooperation with their counterpart US agency, according to diplomatic sources. A sequence of leaked British documents begins with an unmarked but detailed MI6 draft of the security plan, faxed from the Egyptian embassy, at a time when the agency was working closely with Egyptian intelligence*; continues with a second more formal paper jointly drafted by SIS, which floats internment; and is then translated into a series of official papers drafted by the Jerusalem consulate's military liaison office, which liaises with British special forces, the SAS and SBS [Special Boat Service].

"The documents confirmed that by 2005, British projects under the Palestinan security plan - first drafted and passed to the PA under MI6 auspicies - included extensive funding of the most controversial parts of the PA security apparatus, including general intelligence, special forces and preventive security under the heading of 'UK-Palestinan projects'." (MI6 creates blueprint for smashing Hamas, Milne & Black, The Guardian/SMH, 27/1/11)

[* How very interesting!]

Britain's criminality in Palestine today, as you will have gathered from the preceding paragraph, includes complicity in the use of torture:

"The British government is complicit in torturing political prisoners detained and jailed in the occupied West Bank by the PA, a senior British officer said. The officer, James Macinnes is charged with training the PA's top security officials as part of a plan to provide assistance and financial support to PA agents in arresting and torturing members of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas. Macinnes admitted to the British role in torturing Palestinian prisoners after an Arab organization for human rights in London revealed that the PA has been torturing prisoners affiliated with Hamas for years.** Torture techniques used in PA prisons included shabh (hanging) of all kinds, beatings with cables, pulling out nails, suspension from the ceiling, flogging, kicking, cursing, electric shocks, sexual harassment and the threat of rape, according to the report. At least 6 Palestinians have died under torture in PA prisons and many other former detainees have permanent disabilities. The human rights organization said that it has documented such 'crimes' for 3 years, from October 2007 to October 2010. During that period, the report said, PA security forces in the West Bank detained 8, 640 Palestinians at a rate of 8 arrests per day. 'Every one of those detainees has been subject to humiliating and degrading treatment, and stayed in cells for more than 10 days', the report said. 'The analysis shows that an astonishing 95% of the detainees were subjected to severe torture, others feeling the detrimental affects on their health for varying periods'. The report also found that 77% of those who had been detained by the PA security forces had been arrested in the past by Israel. Representatives of the organization met with victims or their relatives, and distributed a questionnaire, in secret, to detainees who were held in PA prisons. 'Men and women from all sectors of Palestinian society have been subject to arrest and torture', the report noted. 'These include students, workers, teachers, doctors, engineers, university professors and lawyers'." (UK tortures Palestinians by proxy,, 25/1/11)

[** See my 21/12/09 post Cops Are Tops]

The buck, of course, must stop with former British prime minister Tony Blair (now the Middle East Quartet's special envoy!), under whose watch (1997-2007) Britain's abuse of the Palestinian people resumed with a vengeance. No surprise then to find the following among al-Jazeera's Palestine papers:

"[Blair] was frequently scorned for his efforts to develop the economy of the West Bank... [He] was seen as focusing too much on winning small concessions from Israel for minor development projects, while proving reluctant or impotent when it came to persuading Israel to ease bigger restrictions imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank. In one memo reviewing his proposals, Mr Blair is accused of showing bias to the Israeli security forces and of advocating 'an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank'." (Tony Blair 'biased' towards Israel, leaked documents claim, Adrian Blomfield,, 26/1/11)

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