Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Myth Of The ‘Honest Broker’: Britain & Israel

Global Research Feature Article
www.GlobalResearch.ca
By Mark Curtis

The Myth Of The ‘Honest Broker’: Britain And Israel

Britain’s apparent complicity in Israel’s military assault on Jericho prison should finally demolish an enduring myth about Britain’s foreign policy. Iraq’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction was not the only line peddled by the government to justify the invasion. Another was that Britain was an ‘honest broker’ in the Middle East and would influence Washington to press Israel for peace with the Palestinians. Now that peace prospects look gloomier than ever following Israeli, US and EU reactions to Hamas’ success in Palestinian elections, the reality of Britain’s role needs to be exposed.

Since the government of Ariel Sharon came to power in 2001, Britain has exported around £70 million worth of military equipment to Israel. Last year’s supplies of combat aircraft technology and components for surface-to-surface missiles follow previous exports of armoured cars, machine guns, components for tanks and helicopters, leg irons, tear gas and categories covering mortars, rocket launchers and explosives.

Growing links between the British and Israeli militaries have just resulted in one Israeli company, Elbit systems, receiving a £317 million contract from the Ministry of Defence. The MoD has trialled an Israeli-built anti-tank missile despite its use against civilians in the occupied territories. It also purchased 26,000 cluster shells from Israel in 2003 and 2004, some of which were used in the invasion of Iraq.

The British government has no mechanisms to monitor whether British firms violate human rights in the occupied territories. The construction company, Caterpillar, a US firm with a large British subsidiary, sells military bulldozers to Israel used to demolish 4,000 houses and which killed the peace activist, Rachel Corrie. At the same time, there is evidence that British companies have exported equipment used in the construction of Israel’s ‘security wall’ inside Palestinian territory.

Britain’s diplomatic stance towards Israel has also been striking. A major gain for the Sharon government has been Tony Blair’s persistent line, shared with the US, that ‘there is not going to be any successful negotiation or peace without an end to terrorism’ first. Palestinian suicide bombings are unjustifiable acts of mass murder but, as Uri Avnery of the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom, has noted, this Blair line means that ‘until the armed opposition to occupation stops, there can be no talk about ending the occupation’.

Blair's personal statements rarely condemn Israel outright but assert that ‘both sides’ are responsible for the violence. This ignores the fact that one of the actors is illegally occupying the territory of the other. British government statements, however, rarely even call for the occupation to end. At the same time, the British embassy in Tel Aviv describes Britain ‘as a good friend of Israel’ and its ‘natural partner’, while ‘our two prime ministers are in regular contact and have a good working and personal relationship’.

London has also helped to maintain the fiction that Sharon's government supports the ‘shared goal’ of a viable Palestinian state, as Jack Straw recently told a Labour Friends of Israel event. Yet in a confidential document leaked to the Guardian last November, the British consulate in East Jerusalem wrote that Sharon’s illegal building of settlements in East Jerusalem was designed to prevent it becoming the capital of any Palestinian state. Privately, then, even some British officials refute the government’s public line.

Jack Straw’s intense diplomacy to prevent Iran pursuing uranium enrichment compares to virtual silence on Israel’s possession of over 100 nuclear warheads. Whitehall exerted huge pressure on EU members to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe; yet in response to a recent parliamentary question, the government again rejected applying EU sanctions against Israel. Instead, London acts as Israel’s chief defender in Brussels by resisting calls to suspend the EU’s trade and aid agreement, even though it requires 'respect for human rights'. Whitehall even backs a proposed EU action plan that would deepen political cooperation and economic relations with Israel. By contrast, Britain was key in securing EU agreement to ban the political wing of Hamas and place its leaders on a terrorist blacklist.

Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman told Parliament in December that ‘we do not believe that Israel complies rigorously with international law’ in continuing to build settlements and conducting targeting killings and house demolitions. The government has also provided (low-key) criticism of Israel's construction of the ‘security fence’ in Palestinian territory. Yet such occasional demarches are meaningless in light of other policies which help to protect Israel from greater international pressure to end the occupation.

Two formerly secret documents help explain British policy. A 1970 Foreign Office report called 'Future British policy toward the Arab/Israel Dispute' rejected both an openly pro-Israel and pro-Arab policy, the latter 'because of the pressure which the United States government undoubtedly exert… to keep us in line in any public pronouncements or negotiations on the dispute'. It also rejected 'active neutrality' since this would damage 'our world-wide relationship with the US'. Therefore, the Foreign Office argued for a 'low risk policy', involving 'private pressure upon the US to do all in their power to bring about a settlement'.

The second document, a Joint Intelligence Committee report from 1969, notes that 'rapid industrialisation' was occurring in Israel which was 'already a valuable trading partner with a considerable future potential in the industrial areas where we want to develop Britain as a major world-wide manufacturer and supplier'. This contrasted to the Arab world where, despite oil, 'recent developments appear to confirm that the prospects for profitable economic dealings with the Arab countries are at best static and could, over the long term, decline'.

Three decades later, Israel is Britain’s third largest trading partner in the Middle East while the government describes Israel as ‘a remarkable success story for British exporters’, especially in high-tech industry. Appeasing Washington and prioritising profits are Whitehall’s entrenched interests that need challenging if Britain is ever to support human rights in the region.

*************

Mark Curtis is author of Unpeople: Britain's Secret Human Rights Abuses (Vintage, London, 2004). www.markcurtis.info.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) at www.globalresearch.ca grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles in their entirety, or any portions thereof, on community internet sites, as long as the text & title are not modified. The source must be acknowledged and an active URL hyperlink address to the original CRG article must be indicated. The author's copyright note must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

To express your opinion on this article, join the discussion at Global Research's News and Discussion Forum

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com

© Copyright Mark Curtis, GlobalResearch.ca, 2006

Click here if you no longer wish to receive the GlobalResearch.ca Newsletter

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news