"It may fail. I do not deny that this is an adventure. Are we never to have adventures? Are we never to try new experiments?" Lord Balfour, House of Lords, 21 June, 1922
Further to the subject of Little Britain and the Palestinians, I note the following, staggering report:
"Every schoolboy used to know that at the height of the empire, almost a quarter of the atlas was coloured pink, showing the extent of British rule. But that oft-recited fact dramatically understates the remarkable global reach achieved by this country. A new study has found that at various times the British have invaded almost 90% of the countries around the globe. The analysis of the histories of the almost 200 countries in the world found only 22 which have never experienced an invasion by the British... The analysis is contained in a new book, All the Countries We've Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To. Stuart Laycock, the author, has worked his way around the globe, through each country alphabetically, researching its history to establish whether, at any point, they have experienced an incursion by Britain. Only a comparatively small proportion of the total in Mr Laycock's list of invaded states actually formed an official part of the empire. The remainder have been included because the British were found to have achieved some sort of military presence in the territory - however transitory - either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment. Incursions by British pirates, privateers or armed explorers have also been included, provided they were operating with the approval of their government." (British have invaded nine out of ten countries - so look out Luxembourg, Jasper Copping, telegraph.co.uk, 4/11/12)
Stuart Laycock is quoted as saying: "The book is not intended as any kind of moral judgment on our history or on our empire. It is meant as a light-hearted bit of fun." While I appreciate his efforts in exposing the extent of Britain's global depredations over the centuries, BOLLOCKS! is about all I can muster in response to his apologetic suggestion that "moral judgment" should somehow take a back seat to the "fun" of the exercise.
Certainly, for a people such as the Palestinians, who have lost everything as a result of Britain not only invading but literally giving their country away to certain feral 'friends and acquaintances', memories of British rule evoke only one kind of verbal response - the curse.
The following 3 examples are recorded by former Palestine policeman and author Douglas V. Duff. The first two come from the opening year of the great Palestinian revolt of 1936-1939 which the British put down with the utmost savagery. The third comes from the early fifties, followed the Nakba of 1948:
"At the Pillar of the Five Holes [in the Church of the Nativity]... I saw a tall woman in her steeple-headdress, standing taut and dry-eyed, her hands clenched rigidly at her sides. I knew her well, she was a woman about 50, who had been housekeeper to some friends of mine in Bethlehem.
"'Subbikh b'il Khair ya Um Boutros.' ('May thy morning be blessed, O Mother of Peter'), I said.
"Slowly she turned and looked at me. Without showing surprise at seeing me, she spoke in a low voice and with a bitter intensity of venom.
"'May thy mornings, and that of all thy accursed countrymen and women, be black and damned! she answered, never raising her voice. 'May your nation perish and God forget you! May He make you prey to your enemies! May he blast the womb of every woman in your land! Have you not heard? Peter, my only son, is dead. Dead! Killed by the bullets of your assassin British police. Speak not to me, Duff Effendi, I wish to have no speech with any man of the English.' Deliberately she turned away from me and resumed her stony, wrapt contemplation of the dimly-seen, far-off altar.
"Awed and bitterly sorry, I turned away. I had known Peter, her son. Often had I given him a few piastres, or jockeyed him into a good position to see the colourful pageants when the Patriarchs arrived at Christmas-tide in his town. His mother, one of the finest type of native Christian ladies, had been one of the most loyal supporters that Britain possessed. She had been an admirer of our regime, and saw in our occupation of the Holy Land the answer to centuries of despairing prayer, the reward of countless martyrdoms and humiliations of her people. And now she lived to curse us." (Palestine Picture, 1936, pp 175-176)
"Two or three miles on and we approached Bireh. Screams and yells, and the dreadful keening note of the Arab women mourning their dead, came from one of the houses, and as we stopped at a soldier-manned barrier a young woman came rushing towards us, her dress torn down the front, her breasts exposed, ashes rubbed on to her face and into her hair, a dreadful look of delirium in her eyes.
"'English murderers, English dogs!' she screamed. 'May you and all your nation perish. May you lie beneath the heel of a tyrant. May your women and children be bereaved by foreign bullies even as I am bereaved. May the blood of Isa, my brother, be visited upon all of you, may his spirit haunt your death-beds. What harm has my family ever done to you that he should be killed like a sheep? Why should he be murdered, he for whom we lived in poverty that he might go to the best schools? Have we denied ourselves all these years that he should be butchered by your shameless ruffians?' The maiden collapsed moaning upon the ground.
"'Poor thing,' said a corporal, dispassionately. 'Nice looking piece, too, if she were washed and dressed up a bit. What an 'ell of a fuss these Eastern people do make over things, screaming and yelling all over the place, and rubbing muck on themselves.'
"'Who is she, corporal?' I asked.
"'I'm 'anged if I know,' he replied. 'Must be some relation of that young blighter that we bumped off yesterday evening when 'e refused to 'alt and ran away from our patrol-lorry.' He paused, 'Ad a revolver in 'is pocket, too, curse 'im.'
"As elsewhere in the world, it is the woman who, in the long run, does the paying." (ibid, pp 260-261)
"The three decades during which the flag of Britain rustled in the hot suns of Palestinian summer and the cold blasts of a Jerusalem winter are gone, and with them has fled much of our honour. The saddest commentary on what we did, or, even more exactly, on what we failed to do, was spoken by an Arab refugee when I was recently in the Middle East, making my sixth Outganging to the land of Outremer. I had known this Muslim gentleman when he was the head of a wealthy, respectable, honourable family living on his own land in the hills of Galilee.
"'Why did you Franks ever come to our country to ruin us and to leave us to die in exile?' he asked. 'Why could you not have left us to the Turks? Under the Sultan we had, at least, security to live on our own land, under our own religion and without fear of infidel supplanters. Why did you lie to us, buoy us with false hopes, make yourselves foesworn? May God punish your England in the same fashion as He has permitted you of Britain to be the instruments to undo my people! May you, too, know exile, the breaking up of families, hunger, destitution, violent death, and see your homes in the grasp of a trespasser, your woman and children dead at your feet before you die yourselves!'" (Bailing With a Teaspoon, 1953, p 218)