Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Checking settlement exports "impossible," EU admits

The European Union has admitted that it cannot monitor whether producers working from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are fraudulently taking advantage of trade privileges.


Since 2000, the EU has allowed most Israeli goods to enter its markets without incurring taxes or customs duties.


Exports from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights are not eligible for those perks, because the EU does not recognize those territories as part of Israel.


Yet a document – obtained under EU freedom of information rules – states that checking where Israeli goods originated from has proven “impossible.”


Dated from June this year, the document was sent from Lars Faaborg-Andersen, then the EU’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, to a senior official handling trade policy in Brussels.


Faaborg-Andersen noted that Israel’s introduction of a “new seven digit ZIP code system” has complicated matters. EU diplomats, he suggested, could not work out which codes applied to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights.


Despite how Faaborg-Andersen called Israel’s scheme “new,” it has been in operation since 2013.


The system means that Israel could have as many as 10 million unique postal codes, even though its population is less than 8 million, according to the newspaper Haaretz.


Deferential


The admission by Faaborg-Andersen indicates that attempts to distinguish goods from settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights from other Israeli exports proved ineffective throughout his four-year stint as ambassador.


Asked if the Union has been hampered from monitoring Israeli settlement exports since 2013, an EU spokesperson would not answer the question. The spokesperson merely stated that discussions on the related issues are “ongoing.”


The EU stipulated in 2015 that goods from settlements should be labeled as such. It is hard to imagine how labeling can be accurate if identifying the origin of goods has not been possible.


The logical conclusion is that all trade privileges should be revoked. The EU has the power to do so.


The agreement covering its relations with Israel allows the EU to apply sanctions over violations of human rights. Israel’s settlement activities involve daily abuses of Palestinians. Moreover, the building of colonies on a militarily occupied land is a war crime under international law.


There is a growing legal consensus that international law requires governments to not just label settlement goods but to prohibit their import entirely.


Instead of any real action, Faaborg-Andersen advocated that an “expert meeting” should be convened. He also stated that EU diplomats “politely declined” an invitation from Eli Cohen, Israel’s economy minister, to take part in a propaganda tour of settlements.


Faaborg-Andersen has not just been polite towards Israel’s hard-right government; he has been consistently deferential.


As soon as the EU’s labeling guidelines for goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights were published, Faaborg-Andersen sought to downplay their significance.


Portraying the guidelines as technical, rather than political, he has emphasized that products from Israeli settlements are “still welcome” on Europe’s supermarket shelves.


He has argued that the labeling requirements have “nothing to do” with any other issues concerning Israel or Palestinians. That was a bizarre statement given how Israel’s settlement activities place a chokehold on many aspects of Palestinian life.


Underdog?


This is by no means the first evidence that EU attempts to differentiate between goods from within present-day Israel and from its settlements in the West Bank have been circumvented.


Tnuva, an Israeli food company, has been filmed bringing milk from farms located in such settlements to processing facilities inside Israel.


By using such tricks, exporters can present their goods as “made in Israel,” thereby fraudulently enjoying preferential access to the EU’s markets.


Faaborg-Andersen, a Danish diplomat, has been out of step with European public opinion.


While ordinary people in many countries have protested at the oppression of the Palestinians by shunning Israeli goods, he has been hostile to the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.


Last year, he attended a conference at which an Israeli government minister threatened Palestinian political activists with “targeted civilian elimination.” That is the same term Israel uses for its extrajudicial executions, yet Faaborg-Andersen refused to condemn the threat.


In a farewell message before he stepped down as ambassador to Israel in August, Faaborg-Andersen argued that the EU’s relationship with Israel is its “most developed” with any state outside the 28-member bloc. He especially praised Israel for providing “under-the-table security cooperation and intelligence.”


His remarks indicate that the EU is forever snuggling up closer to the Israeli authorities – the same authorities that deny Palestinians their basic rights.


Along with the “under-the-table” collaboration to which he alluded, Israel is a key beneficiary of the EU’s scientific research program.


Manufacturers of weapons used during the major offensives against Gaza have been showered with EU grants in the name of “innovation.”


Faaborg-Andersen has peddled Zionist myths by claiming that when he first visited Israel in the 1970s (to work on a kibbutz), it was akin to “David struggling for survival against the surrounding Arab Goliaths.” In later years, Israel has moved from “underdog to the top dog” in the neighborhood, he added.


In truth, Israel has never been the underdog. For the past seven decades, Israel has behaved as a pit bull terrier towards the Palestinians.


The fiercer the pit bull gets, the more the EU humors it.


●First published by The Electronic Intifada, 28 September 2017.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fired AIPAC hawk Steven Rosen expands Israel lobby's reach in Europe

Steven Rosen had a reputation for being one of the most effective pro-Israel advocates in Washington. By some accounts, he relished that reputation. According to a New Yorker profile, he once boasted of being able to gather signatures from 70 senators in a 24-hour timeframe.


While Rosen’s two decades with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been analyzed in the media, other aspects of his work have evaded scrutiny. One little-known fact is that he has helped the Israel lobby to expand beyond the US.


Rosen is among the lobbyists connected to a pro-Israel group with the deceptively bland name of European Leadership Network.


A biographical note prepared for a 2013 Los Angeles conference on financing pro-Israel activities billed him as a “senior strategic adviser” to that organization.


The European Leadership Network is coy about its relationship with Rosen. His name does not seem to feature at all on the group’s website. Neither Rosen nor the European Leadership Network replied to a request for clarification.


Is something being concealed here? One reason why the organization may not wish to broadcast its links to Rosen is that his reputation has been tarnished.


In 2005, he was charged with conspiracy to violate US law on espionage. It was alleged that he had passed on confidential information to a journalist and a foreign diplomat.


The case against Rosen dragged on for a few years before the charges were withdrawn in 2009.


Embarrassing


The case proved embarrassing for AIPAC, which fired Rosen, alleging that his “conduct did not comport” with its standards. Rosen sued his former employer over his sacking. Intriguingly, a judge dismissed Rosen’s lawsuit on the grounds that it was “impossible” to know what standards AIPAC expected of its staff.


Since his fall from grace, Rosen has been recruited by Daniel Pipes, an influential bigot who has recommended the mass incarceration of Muslims.


Rosen joined Pipes’ Middle East Forum, a club dedicated to promoting “American interests” and “Western values.”


The work conducted by Rosen in that capacity suggests he regards American and Israeli interests as synonymous. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Rosen argued repeatedly that the US should back away from demanding an end to Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.


With branches in several cities, the European Leadership Network has conveyed the impression it is a moderate organization. It has jointly hosted events with influential “think tanks” such as the European Policy Centre in Brussels and Berlin’s Federal Academy for Security Policy.


It has held discussions with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. In France, the European Leadership Network has claimed that some of its advisers have become the main foreign policy aides to Emmanuel Macron, the president.


Facile


Arié Bensemhoun, head of the European Leadership Network’s French office, has made a series of ignorant comments. “In France, the Islamists want to kill the Jews,” he tweeted last year. “Like the Palestinians in Israel.”


The French press has suggested that Bensemhoun is more strident than other prominent players in the country’s pro-Israel lobby. Bensemhoun is fond of using terms such as “Islamofascism” and even “Nazi-Islamism.”


Such facile rhetoric echoes the racism of Europe’s far-right, which has portrayed Muslims as a threat to freedom.


The European Leadership Network purports to be interested in “dialogue” and the “pursuit of peace.” Its commitment to those noble ideas is questionable.


At least three of its earliest administrators – Raanan Eliaz, Roz Rothstein and Michael Dickson – are also serving or former board members in StandWithUs.


Headquartered in Los Angeles and bankrolled by the Israeli government, StandWithUs pumps out propaganda for the Israeli military – the same army which subjects Palestinians to a brutal occupation.


The aforementioned Steven Rosen has been named, too, as a “strategic adviser” to StandWithUs on documents filed with the US authorities.


One such document states that StandWithUs applies its “mission of education” through the European Leadership Network. It appears that the European Leadership Network was established, effectively, as a front for StandWithUs before being spun off.


The array of different groups in the Israel lobby can be bewildering. Keeping tabs on them involves wading through an alphabet soup of acronyms.


Though these groups may not be identical, they do have one thing in common. All want to shore up international support for Israel, a nuclear-armed apartheid state. Everything they do should, therefore, be monitored and exposed.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 11 September 2017.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The warped logic of pro-Israel bully Jonathan Hoffman

Should I feel flattered or afraid?


Each time I give a talk in London, there is a strong likelihood that the pro-Israel bully Jonathan Hoffman will attend.


Hoffman turned up at a recent event held to promote my new book Balfour’s Shadow.


Not content with heckling on the evening, he subsequently posted a review on the Amazon website accusing me of “glaring mistakes.”


Yet he failed to provide an example of even a minor error in the book.


Earlier this year, Hoffman was removed by police from a meeting at which I spoke in the British Parliament.


He followed that episode by complaining that I have written for Spinwatch – “that strange organization which seems obsessed with ‘Jewish power.’”


Hoffman failed to substantiate that smear for obvious reasons: there is no basis to it. Spinwatch has cogently rejected the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Hoffman suggests it is peddling.


Brazenly offensive


Perversely, Hoffman has leapt to the defense of a journalist who made brazenly offensive comments about Jews.


Kevin Myers was recently fired by The Sunday Times over a column which implied there was a link between the Jewish religion of two presenters at the BBC and how they were among the best paid women working for the broadcaster.


Myers had recycled an age-old anti-Semitic trope. Yet Hoffman argued that Myers was really paying Jews a compliment.


A careful reading of Hoffman’s articles leads to the conclusion that he is not interested in fighting anti-Semitism per se. Instead, he sees allegations of anti-Semitism as a weapon to be used selectively. Myers – a right-wing pundit who has previously disparaged Africans and single mothers – is permitted to insult Jews for being Jews.


Hoffman’s indulgence of such anti-Jewish bigotry is undoubtedly related to Myers’ history of defending Israel and attacking supporters of Palestinian rights.


Critics of Israel are, by contrast, vilified by Hoffman.


He has, for example, alleged that Jackie Walker, a socialist Jew, is anti-Semitic because she has described Israel as a racist state.


No doubt inadvertently, Hoffman then proved her right by alluding to how Israel prohibits Palestinians from using what are effectively Jewish-only roads in the occupied West Bank.


By his own warped logic, he himself is an anti-Semite for acknowledging the existence of that state-sponsored racism.


Vitriolic


Hoffman has been even more vitriolic towards Hajo Meyer, an Auschwitz survivor who died three years ago.


Meyer poignantly spoke out against how Israel was dehumanizing the Palestinians as the Nazis tried to dehumanize Jews.


For drawing a parallel between his own suffering and that of the Palestinians, Meyer got labeled an “amazing dancing bear” by Hoffman.


It was by no means the only time Hoffman has displayed callousness. In March, he made fun of how a politician known to be sympathetic towards Palestinians suffered a heart attack.


And Hoffman has previously insinuated that a campaigner who uses a wheelchair had exaggerated his disability.


Hoffman’s penchant for disrupting Palestine solidarity events appears to be appreciated by the pro-Israel lobby. The Reut Institute, a “think tank” founded by a former adviser to the Israeli government, is known to have consulted him.


In 2011, Hoffman took part in a conference organized with that institute on countering Israel’s “delegitimization” – code for robust criticism of Israel and the state’s ideology Zionism.


That event took place more than a year after Hoffman had been photographed attending a demonstration to support Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank organized by the far-right English Defence League.


He was again seen flanked by extreme right activists at an anti-Palestinian protest last month.


His willingness to embrace overt fascists may have lost Hoffman some friends. In 2012, he failed to secure re-election as a vice-president with the Zionist Federation, one of the oldest pro-Israel lobby groups in London.


That does not mean he has been shunned by fellow lobbyists. On the contrary, some of those who seek to cultivate a respectable image for Israel have remained happy to work with him.


Ahead of the 2016 referendum on Britain’s European Union membership he signed a joint article with Jeremy Newmark from the Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel pressure group within Britain’s main opposition party.


Perhaps I should consider myself lucky. Though Hoffman has been rude towards me, I have not been subjected to his full boorishness.


During a presentation by Thomas Suárez, whose book State of Terror chronicles the role played by Zionist armed groups in the establishment of Israel, Hoffman shouted “answer my question, you bastards.”


Hoffman also tried to dismiss the book’s findings on the comically absurd basis that Suárez is a violinist, rather than a historian (in fact, Suárez is both).


Hoffman is undoubtedly a bully but nobody should allow themselves to be intimidated by him or by similar lobbyists. Their belligerence illustrates that Israel feels discomfited by Palestine solidarity activists.


They don’t like the message, so they slander the messengers.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 25 August 2017.

Friday, July 21, 2017

EU spreads lies about Israel boycott

A senior European Union representative has been advised to malign Palestine solidarity campaigners.


Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice commissioner, was given a briefing paper earlier this year about how to handle various topics in a discussion with the pro-Israel lobby.


Drawn up by Brussels officials, the paper provides some talking points about the EU’s “position” on the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. It alleges that “the encouragement of boycotts against cultural and academic institutions or artists” contradicts the “EU’s stand on non-discrimination and freedom of expression.”


That paints a false picture of the BDS movement. Its activities are subject to guidelines, which make clear that the cultural boycott does not target Israeli artists as individuals.


The cultural boycott is, instead, applied to artists who represent the Israeli state or institutions complicit in Israeli crimes or take part in branding exercises intended to divert attention away from the oppression of Palestinians.


Jourova’s briefing paper - obtained under freedom of information rules - was prepared ahead of a Holocaust memorial ceremony held in January this year.


The ceremony was hosted by Israel’s embassy to the EU and the American Jewish Committee, a pro-Israel advocacy group.


The officials who drew up the paper recycle almost verbatim accusations made in 2016 by Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU’s anti-Semitism coordinator. Von Schnurbein had claimed that “anti-Semitic incidents rise after BDS activities” in Europe’s universities. She was unable to provide specific examples of such incidents when asked.


Jourova’s office did not respond to requests for comment.


“Appalled”


The BDS National Committee, a Palestinian umbrella group that coordinates boycott activities, stated that it was “appalled” by Jourova’s briefing paper. The document “defamed the BDS movement as anti-Semitic,” Ingrid Jaradat, a legal adviser to the committee, stated.


A crucial detail omitted from the briefing paper is that the BDS movement has consistently denounced anti-Jewish bigotry.


Jourova’s briefing paper is at odds with previous comments made by other EU representatives.


The Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated last year that the EU “stands firm in protecting freedom of expression.” Although she opposed the boycott of Israel, Mogherini recognized that activists have a right to advocate BDS tactics. That right is protected by the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.


Despite the clarity of that statement, some of the EU’s institutions and governments have continued to cast aspersions against the Palestine solidarity movement.


Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has conflated opposition to Israel’s state ideology Zionism with hatred of Jews. On Sunday, Macron called anti-Zionism “a mere re-invention of anti-Semitism.”


Dishonesty


Macron’s comments echo a decades-long effort by Israel and its supporters to imply that Palestine solidarity activists have ulterior motives. The efforts have been undertaken since at least 1973, when Abba Eban, Israel’s foreign minister at the time, labeled anti-Zionism as the “new anti-Semitism.”


That deliberate dishonesty has been reflected by a dubious definition of anti-Semitism approved last year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental body.


That definition is virtually identical to one which was proposed by pro-Israel lobby groups more than a decade earlier. It recommends that strong criticism of Israel – such as describing that state’s foundation as a “racist endeavor” – should be seen as anti-Semitic.


Even the definition’s lead author, formerly a senior figure in the American Jewish Committee, has strongly criticized efforts to use it to stifle speech critical of Israel.


Yet the German government has been particularly supportive of the definition. In late 2016, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, then the German foreign minister, contacted senior EU officials to argue that the definition was a “very useful instrument for combating anti-Semitism – both for the police and in science and education.”


The definition is not legally binding. Yet 24 of the EU’s 28 governments have endorsed it. According to internal documents, police services in a number of the Union’s countries are already using the definition for training purposes.


During a visit to Israel last month, Jourova issued a joint statement with her hosts applauding the European Parliament for endorsing the definition. She encouraged governments to use it while monitoring their citizens’ activities.


Not for the first time, the European Union’s representatives are sending out mixed signals. Supposed champions of free speech are trying to muzzle dissent. Solidarity is being smeared to placate an increasingly belligerent Israeli government.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 20 July 2017.

Friday, July 14, 2017

When Haaretz explains Israel's crimes

It is easy to romanticize Haaretz, to view the Tel Aviv daily as a liberal counterbalance to the more hawkish organs of Israeli public opinion.


Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, the paper’s best writers, have taken considerable risks to chronicle Israel’s crimes and demand that Israel be held accountable. While it is proper that their work should be circulated widely, Haaretz as an institution deserves no praise.


Some of its most senior journalists behave as stooges to an apartheid state.


Amos Harel is promoted by the paper as “one of Israel’s leading media experts on military and defense issues.” He is a practitioner of hasbara – the Israeli brand of propaganda.


Hasbara is frequently translated as “explaining.” And Harel tends to “explain” Israeli conduct in a sympathetic way.


Downplaying a disaster


Take his coverage of the energy crisis in Gaza.


“Limited cuts” to electricity were “announced” by Israel “at the urging of the Palestinian Authority,” he wrote earlier this month.


By qualifying these cuts as limited, he was downplaying how Israel had deliberately worsened a humanitarian disaster. Far from being limited, the cuts have reduced Gaza’s electricity supply to an all-time low.


Harel’s framing of the situation chimed with the Israeli government’s claim that the energy crisis was an internal Palestinian matter.


Israel reluctantly accepted a request from the Palestinian Authority, Harel inferred. He provided no background details about how Israel has a history of subjecting Gaza to blackouts and how the – undeniably cruel – PA acts as Israel’s lackey, not the other way around.


Harel’s messages can get muddled. A few days after describing the power cuts as “limited,” he reported that the electricity supply in Gaza had been reduced to less than three hours per day. He then quoted Gadi Eisenkot, Israel’s military chief, as saying that the Israeli approach was one of “intelligent risk management.”


Despite purporting to be an analyst, Harel did not analyze – or explain – the meaning of that repugnant euphemism.


Harel also transcribed a comment by Eisenkot that “it is in our interest for the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to have hope.”


The “hope” being granted here apparently came in the form of some new houses that Israel had authorized for Palestinians. Harel did not point out that Israel has made strenuous efforts during its 50 years of occupying the West Bank – Judea and Samaria in Zionist parlance – to snuff out hope.


Harel evidently thinks it is appropriate to reach for the lexicon of perfume-makers when discussing the theft of another people’s land. “There is no such thing as a fragrant occupation,” Harel wrote in June.


“Subjecting a civilian population to your total control provides many opportunities for violence and abuse, far from the oversight of commanders,” he added. Commanders, he infers, are well-intentioned and violence against Palestinians is perpetrated by rogues. The truth, however, is that the occupation is inherently violent and abusive, and perpetrators of crimes against Palestinians are effectively granted total impunity by their superiors.


Hero worship


Harel labels Palestinian resistance fighters as “terrorists” yet casts Israel’s military commanders as heroic figures.


In another recent piece on Gaza, he reported that Israeli government ministers believed a general named Yoav Mordechai would “once again save the day” by averting a flare-up with Hamas.


Fixated on Mordechai’s ability to “save the day,” Harel neglected to explain how that particular commander has been accused of extreme violence. Mordechai led a battalion during Operation Cast Lead – an attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Soldiers under his direction reportedly took part in bombarding the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City and may have been involved in killing an eight-year-old hospital patient.


Today, Mordechai is in charge of overseeing the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In that capacity, he is directly tasked with enforcing a medieval siege.


But you would not know that from Harel’s dispatches. Rather, he applauds Mordechai for extending the area in which Gaza’s fishermen may work – without observing that the fishermen are constantly fired upon by the Israeli navy – and for allowing the entry of some extra trucks into Gaza – without noting that the boundary crossings for people and goods are routinely closed.


The only problem with Mordechai is that he “can’t produce miracles,” Harel suggested in May.


Earlier this year, Harel interviewed Naftali Bennett, perhaps the most extreme minister in the Israeli government. Bennett argued that Lebanon should be sent “back to the Middle Ages” and that all its civilian infrastructure should be considered “legitimate targets” if another conflict breaks out between Israel and Hizballah.


That call for massacres was arguably genocidal; it was made by a politician who has boasted that “I have killed many Arabs in my life” and who participated in the 1996 massacre of more than 100 civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana.


You would learn little about Bennett’s record, however, if you relied on the interview by Amos Harel. To him, Bennett’s comments were “interesting.” Not once in his article did he express anything that could be qualified as disapproval.


At times, Harel’s columns read like briefing papers on military strategy. When it appeared that the massive 2014 attack on Gaza was nearing its end, Harel helpfully prepared a list of issues that would “need to be addressed” before future operations were undertaken.


When Harel criticizes the Israeli military he does so timidly. More than once lately, he has written about “mistakes” being made.


Elor Azarya, the Israeli army medic who shot dead a Palestinian lying on the ground, made one such “mistake,” Harel has implied. Azarya was filmed carrying out an extrajudicial execution but the soldier’s youth and “turbulent emotional state” meant there were “mitigating circumstances,” according to Harel.


This is the kind of garbage that Haaretz publishes regularly.


Egregious human rights abuses are downgraded to unfortunate errors on the pages of a “liberal” paper. No matter how heinous Israel’s atrocities are, Amos Harel has his explanations at the ready.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 13 July 2017.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How Britain brought waterboarding to Palestine?

Were the Palestinians dispossessed by a sadistic lawyer?


Norman Bentwich was the chief legal officer with the British administration in Jerusalem between the two world wars. A committed Zionist, he drafted many of the ordinances that enabled Jewish settlers to seize land which indigenous Palestinians had farmed for generations.


Arguably, then, he was more responsible for uprooting Palestinians than anyone else in that period, except perhaps for his political overlords. There are strong reasons to suspect that Bentwich took pleasure in the pain that he caused.


In his book Mandate Memories, Bentwich admitted that a system of apartheid was introduced during that period, even using the term apartheid. The admission was not, it would appear, made through any sense of remorse. Rather, he applauded the violence by which the system was entrenched.


Orde Wingate, a British military commander who insisted that Palestinians be tortured and killed, imposed the “strictest discipline” and inspired “daring and devotion” among the Jewish troops that he mentored, according to Bentwich.


Over the past few years, I have plowed through the records left by many Britons who ruled Palestine from the 1920s to the 1940s. I was disgusted, if not surprised, by the sense of imperial hubris captured by these documents.


Yet it was a single line in Bentwich’s memoirs that unnerved me most. He noted casually that most members of a gendarmerie which the British dispatched to Palestine in the early 1920s “had been in the celebrated Black and Tan Brigade in Ireland, formed to crush the Irish rebels” during that period.


No excuse


My great granduncle, Patrick Hartnett, was shot dead by the Black and Tans – British forces stationed in Ireland during its war of independence. If a “rebel” meant somebody who was involved in an armed revolt – as Bentwich implied – then Patrick Hartnett was not a rebel.


Hartnett was a postman from Abbeyfeale, County Limerick. On 20 September 1920, he was chatting with Jeremiah Healy, a blacksmith, as they walked along a country road. The men were caught unawares by Thomas Huckerby, a member of the Black and Tans.


Huckerby shot the two men at close range, killing both of them.


A military court of inquiry accepted, in effect, that Huckerby had no excuse for his actions.


Such courts routinely handed down verdicts of “justifiable homicide” when examining killings by British forces. In Huckerby’s case, the court of inquiry merely recorded that Hartnett and Healy died because of “revolver shots fired by T.D. Huckerby.” Neither of the victims had been involved in the Irish Republican Army.


According to a local historian, Tom Toomey, Huckerby was “by far the most notorious of all the Black and Tans in County Limerick.” His other victims included John Hynes, a 60-year-old man shot dead on the way home from a pub.


Huckerby resigned from the Black and Tans towards the end of 1920. Although he had not been punished for his misdeeds, disciplinary charges were pending at the time he left the force.


Celebrated?


His barbarity was by no means atypical. The Black and Tans may have been “celebrated” in the mind of Norman Bentwich. To the Irish, they were feared and despised.


Patrick Hartnett and Jeremiah Healy were not the only ones killed by the British forces on 20 September 1920. Two men were also “done to death” – the words engraved on a commemorative stone – that day in Balbriggan, County Dublin, the town where I grew up.


The killings left a lasting bitterness. I can still recall one of the town’s residents ranting in the early 1980s against the “bastards” who killed those two men – Seamus Lawless and Sean Gibbons – more than six decades earlier. The killings took place during the “sack” of Balbriggan, when British forces burned down numerous houses and pubs and a factory on which hundreds relied for employment.


I was fascinated to learn that the gendarmerie sent to Palestine in the early 1920s was comprised largely of men who had served with the Black and Tans and a similar division called the Auxiliaries. It was that fact which prompted me to write my latest book Balfour’s Shadow.


British forces perceived their role in Palestine as similar to that which they had performed in Ireland. As Geoffrey Morton, one British officer, observed, they were “intended to be used not as real policemen but as shock troops.”


The gendarmerie to which Norman Bentwich referred was assembled in response to Palestinian anger at Britain and its sponsorship of the Zionist colonization project. The British authorities had declared a state of emergency in Palestine during the early 1920s. As a result, there were few bounds on what the British police could do.


Douglas Duff had worked with the Black and Tans in Galway. He confessed to “going berserk” after being dispatched to Palestine.


Duff, who became a police chief in Jerusalem, may have been a pioneer of waterboarding. In his memoirs, he wrote about how a torture victim would be “held down, flat on his back, while a thin-spouted coffee pot poured a trickle of water up his nose.”


Malcolm MacDonald, then Britain’s colonial secretary, stated during 1938 “that we must set our faces absolutely against the development of ‘Black and Tan’ methods in Palestine.” His plea came too late. Black and Tan methods had been used for almost two decades at that point.


Every so often, someone asks me why Irish people empathize with the Palestinians.


In the past, I have struggled to give a succinct reply. Now I am convinced that the question can be answered in four words: the Black and Tans.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 10 July 2017.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Do European Parliament staff work for Israel?

At this juncture, it would be foolish to predict the full consequences of Brexit. One probability, however, is that Britain’s departure from the European Union will cause Israel to lose a few apologists in Brussels.


Those apologists include Britain’s Conservative members of the European Parliament. Geoffrey Van Orden, a representative of eastern England, excuses Israeli aggression with the haughty demeanor one would expect from a retired military officer (which he is).


Earlier this year, he accused Palestinians of “violent and frustrated envy” at Israel’s “success.”


Van Orden is in regular contact with the Israel lobby. He has admitted to being consulted by Alex Benjamin, a leading pro-Israel advocate in Brussels, about how the lobby organizes itself.


Benjamin, who heads the Europe Israel Public Affairs group, used to be a press officer for the cross-party alliance to which Van Orden belongs.


Named the European Conservatives and Reformists, it is the third largest such alliance in the parliament. As well as the British Conservatives, it comprises the far-right Danish People’s Party and a number of Christian Zionists.


“Second homeland”


Bas Belder, a Dutch politician, is among those Christian Zionists; hailing from a Calvinist background, he views Israel’s activities as the fulfilment of a biblical prophecy. Belder has said that “no day passes” without him thinking of Israel, his “second homeland.”


Belder may have flouted the European Parliament’s rules.


Press reports indicate that he has taken part in a number of trips hosted by pro-Israel organizations over the past few years.


Under a code of conduct, the parliament’s members are required to declare all trips paid for by pressure groups. No declarations have been uploaded to the parliament’s website for Belder since September 2014. I asked Belder why he has not published details of how his visits to the Middle East were financed; he did not reply.


Belder has bragged of how right-wing members of parliament have used their “political weight” to insist that policy documents criticizing Israel be watered down. In 2015, he wrote an article for The Jerusalem Post about his role in thwarting an attempt to have the European Parliament formally call for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners and for the labeling of goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.


Cowards


Part of the European Conservative and Reformists’ work on Israel is undertaken by Elise Coolegem, the group’s adviser on Middle East policy. Last year, she and Belder signed an opinion piece, which recycled the Israeli government’s talking points on Hamas and Hizballah.


Coolegem has strong connections to Israel. Before her current job, she was an intern with the EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv and with the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, a “think tank” in the nearby city of Herzliya. That institute seeks to cloak Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians with a veneer of intellectual gravitas. Among the hawks steering its activities are a former head of Mossad, Israel’s spying and assassination agency.


Israel’s embassy in Brussels has an entire division dealing with the European Parliament. Coolegem is known to liaise with Israeli diplomats and pro-Israeli lobbyists.


I emailed Coolegem seeking details of her working relationship with Israel and if she has received any payments from the Israeli state. Rather than answering those questions, she referred my query to Jan Krelina, a spokesperson for the European Conservatives and Reformists. Krelina stated that the parliament’s rules forbid staff from being paid by “third parties” and “I can assure that all our employees strictly respect these rules.”


Krelina also stated that the “work of our staff requires professional contact” with various “diplomatic missions.” Fair enough. But there is a huge difference between “professional contact” and groveling.


Coolegem’s activities can be categorized as groveling, as can those of the politicians she advises.


The correct term for someone who defends a bully is a coward. The European Conservatives and Reformists are abject cowards determined to throw their “political weight” around in defense of that notorious bully Israel.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 29 June 2017.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Britain's great deception in Palestine

Consistency has never been Boris Johnson’s strongpoint.


When Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Foreign Office earlier this year, Johnson beamed as he pointed to the ‘desk where the Balfour Declaration was composed’. Johnson has both celebrated that November 1917 document as a ‘great thing’ and described it as ‘tragicomically incoherent’ and ‘bizarre’.


The Balfour Declaration is indeed bizarre. Britain had no legal or moral standing to dictate Palestine’s future in November 1917; it was still part of the Ottoman Empire. That did not stop Arthur James Balfour, then foreign secretary, from issuing his pledge to facilitate the development of a ‘Jewish national home’ - code for a Jewish state - in Palestine. Lip-service was paid to the ‘civil and religious rights’ of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants but the idea that they could constitute a nation was not entertained. Through that deception, Britain threw its weight behind a colonisation project that is still continuing a century later. With the stroke of Balfour’s pen, Palestinians were condemned to upheaval and oppression.


That much became clear after Britain was tasked with administering Palestine under a League of Nations mandate in 1920. Over the next five years, the British authorities issued around 150 ordinances, many of which facilitated the dispossession of and discrimination against Palestinians.


As well as favouring Jews in access to land and employment, the British enabled the so-called Jewish Agency - a body representing settlers in Palestine - to behave as a de facto government. As part of their efforts to quell Palestinian dissent, the British trained and recruited Jewish forces. Replicating Britain’s policies in other lands that it controlled, one section of the population was armed so that another could be subjugated.


That does not mean that Britain relied on proxies; its own forces - including some illustrious commanders - were guilty of immense brutality. Bernard Montgomery, a military chief later credited with a key battle victory in the Second World War, advocated a ‘shoot to kill’ policy against all those who took part in or assisted a Palestinian revolt in the 1930s. Jaffa’s Old City was largely demolished in that period; men from a number of villages were rounded up en masse; hospitals were attacked and torture chambers established. Many suspected rebels were interned without trial in a concentration camp - the precise term used by British representatives.


Britain bears much of the responsibility for the Nakba (Arabic for ‘catastrophe’), the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Around 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted then by Zionist militia who had been mentored by the British Army. The expulsions from Haifa took place under British supervision.


The relationship between Britain and the Zionist movement has been occasionally fractious. Two armed Zionist groups even waged a campaign of guerilla warfare against the British in the 1940s. The relationship has nonetheless endured, albeit in an often grubby manner. Britain has tried at times to manipulate Israel - the state it sired - in order to advance its own agenda. That was certainly the case in 1956 when Britain and France persuaded Israel to attack Egypt over the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, which lay on a key shipping route between Europe and India. Israel again declared war against Egypt in 1967. Though Israel was now acting on its own initiative, it received substantial supplies of arms from Britain. The result was the seizure of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights - territories that remain under Israeli occupation 50 years later.


During the second half of the twentieth century, the British were forced to accept that they had been replaced by the United States as the world’s leading imperial bully. Henry Kissinger was among the key strategists in advancing American power. His approach towards the Middle East involved simultaneously courting Arab dictators and Israel. Britain connived in such efforts, which continued long after Kissinger ceased to play a direct US government role.


Tony Blair, for example, doubled up as a guarantor of arms contracts with Saudi Arabia and as a leading apologist for Israel. By applauding Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon - a criminal endeavour that involved spraying vast tracts of land with cluster bombs - Blair finally lost the confidence of his Labour Party colleagues. Yet that did not prevent him from bagging an international job focused on the Middle East ‘peace process’ within hours of saying farewell to Downing Street. That post ended without any tangible results, according to many pundits, yet it did allow Blair strengthen his connections with the Israel lobby. He was among the star attractions at the latest annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful pressure groups in Washington.


The Conservative-led governments of the past seven years have tried to hug Israel even tighter again. While serving as foreign secretary, Philip Hammond enthusiastically backed Israel’s 2014 offensive against Gaza. Not only was the British government unperturbed by how entire families were wiped out by the Israeli military, it has ordered significant quantities of Israeli arms tested out on Palestinian civilians. Securing a free trade deal with Israel, meanwhile, has been identified as a priority for Britain now that its membership of the European Union is coming to an end.


Following the recent general election, the newly retired MP Eric Pickles wondered how Labour candidates sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle could prove attractive to voters. Pickles’ remarks smacked of desperation. Foreign policy has been regarded as an elite issue by successive British governments; they have treated the views of ordinary people with contempt. The contempt may not be sustainable, especially if it is rejected at the ballot box. And while Britain’s support for Zionism remains solid after a century, the toxic alliance could ultimately collapse.


• First published by Left Book Club, 23 June 2017.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pro-Israel group NGO Monitor teams up with Europe's far-right

The pro-Israel group NGO Monitor hunts for hidden motives where there are none. It has made many baseless allegations that human rights activists are hostile towards Jews.


Displaying enormous hypocrisy, NGO Monitor appears happy to ally itself with actual peddlers of bigotry. This week, it is jointly hosting an event in the European Parliament with a representative of the far-right Danish People’s Party.


Anders Vistisen, the politician in question, would be a suitable candidate to run Donald Trump’s Nordic fan club – if such a thing exists. In some respects, Vistisen has acted as a vanguard for the politics of division that the US president espouses.


Trump made his infamous call for a Muslim entry ban in December 2015. Vistisen urged similar measures in Denmark almost two years before then.


More recently, Vistisen has advocated that a barbed-wire fence should be erected on Denmark’s border with Germany in order to keep refugees out. He also favors the Australian model of detaining refugees in large camps.


Amnesty International has found that the Australian authorities have been deliberately cruel towards refugees. Those who arrive in boats are forcibly transferred to what Amnesty calls “abusive” camps in Nauru and Manus Island.


Promoting racism


Vistisen’s party promotes racism and religious intolerance.


Its former leader Pia Kjaersgaard has complained of Copenhagen hosting ethnic groups “at a lower stage of civilization.” Other members of the party have proposed that refugees be shot and that pressure be applied on Muslims to attend Christian services.


Although Vistisen styles himself as a champion of transparency, he is helping NGO Monitor to use deceptive tactics.


The flyers for this week’s event indicate it will focus on “evaluating” the impact of European Union funding to human rights and environmental organizations. There is no mention of the Middle East or explanation that NGO Monitor is an Israel lobby group.


The uninitiated could easily think, therefore, that NGO Monitor is some kind of charity watchdog.


This is not the first time that the group has been less than open.


Earlier this year, it circulated a paper in the European Parliament on funding of campaigning organizations. That paper, too, failed to spell out that NGO Monitor has a pro-Israel stance.


Evasive


Details provided by NGO Monitor to a register of lobbyists working on European affairs are comparably misleading. The only hint of the group’s Middle East focus is that a Jerusalem address is given for its head office.


I phoned Laura Silva from NGO Monitor’s Brussels office, asking why she is teaming up with the Danish far-right. She evaded that question by pointing out that other politicians are involved in next week’s event.


When I asked if NGO Monitor was itself a far-right organization, she replied: “I will not comment.”


NGO Monitor’s staff try to find clever and convoluted arguments to justify Israel’s crimes. Gerald Steinberg, the group’s founder, has contended that human rights are “utopian idealism” and “divorced from the reality of bitter and very violent conflict in much of the world.”


A new paper by NGO Monitor defends firms active in the settlements Israel has built in the occupied West Bank. Although all of the settlements are illegal under international humanitarian law, NGO Monitor suggests that firms operating within them are not violating human rights. This argument is at variance with the findings of most reputable lawyers.


NGO Monitor has strong connections to the Israeli government. Steinberg has worked as a consultant for the Israeli foreign ministry and other official bodies.


He draws on the same sources of funding as some key players in Israel’s settler movement. One named donor of NGO Monitor, the Orion Foundation, also gives money to Elad, a group that seizes Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem so that they can be taken over by Israelis.


NGO Monitor has its own fundraising arm in the US. Previously known as American Friends of NGO Monitor, the fundraising division now calls itself REPORT.


Donors to REPORT – such as the Klarman Family Foundation – are known to have supported Elad, too.


NGO Monitor prides itself on asking awkward questions about human rights organizations and how they are funded. The bitter irony is that for all the accountability it demands from others, NGO Monitor is coy about what it is really up to.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 23 June 2017.

Friday, June 16, 2017

New British minister Michael Gove gets funding from Israel lobby

Rupert Murdoch’s influence over British politics is finally sagging. His best-selling paper The Sun – which in 1992 claimed to have won a general election for the Conservatives – tried its best to lampoon opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn ahead of last week’s general election. The efforts backfired: against the odds, Corbyn’s Labour Party dramatically increased its vote.


Murdoch has nonetheless been offered a consolation prize. Michael Gove, a Conservative with a record of sycophancy towards the media tycoon, is back as a cabinet minister.


Since his bid to lead the ruling Conservatives failed last year, Gove has been writing a column for The Times – a Murdoch title.


Gove has used that platform to argue that Britain should be more strident in its support for Israel. In one article, he advocated that Britain should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


That would be a reversal of official British policy – which opposes Israel’s settlement activities in occupied East Jerusalem as they violate international law.


Gove has also worked as a pro-Israel lobbyist during the past 12 months.


Misleading


He has become a trustee of the Henry Jackson Society, which he has misleadingly called a “charity dedicated to upholding democratic values worldwide.”


The Henry Jackson Society is not actually dedicated to democracy – if democracy means ordinary folk having a genuine say in their nation’s affairs. Rather, the London-based outfit espouses a neoconservative worldview; it was founded in 2005 to make the case that the US and Britain “must shape the world more actively.”


Support for Israel is integral to its viewpoint. And the group’s staff frequently behave as mouthpieces for Israel – by, for example, depicting those who expose Israel’s human rights abuses as “terrorist” sympathizers.


The Henry Jackson Society is embedded within the wider pro-Israel network in London. In November last, Gove took part in an event that the Henry Jackson Society organized to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s 1917 pledge of support for Zionist colonization in Palestine. The event featured, too, an array of Israeli diplomats.


Earlier this year, Gove visited Washington. He met US government officials in his capacity as a lobbyist for the Henry Jackson Society, according to his parliamentary declaration of interests.


Most of his expenses for that trip were covered by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful organizations in Washington. Gove was a speaker at AIPAC’s annual conference.


Evangelical


He has been active, too, in Conservative Friends of Israel, a pressure group within his party that enjoys extremely close relations with the Israeli state apparatus.


It regularly brings members of parliament on trips to the Middle East. The trips are organized in tandem with and receive significant funding from the Israeli foreign ministry.


The staff at Conservative Friends of Israel include former employees of the Israeli state. Tanyah Murkes, who heads the group’s office in Tel Aviv, has previously worked in “public relations” for an Israeli embassy, for example.


Gove is especially close to David Meller, an entrepreneur in the jewelry and cosmetics trade who has been a senior officer with Conservative Friends of Israel.


When Gove held the post of education secretary in the British government a few years ago, he introduced “reforms” aimed at treating schooling as a commodity, rather than a basic right. Meller was involved in some of the projects under that rubric and was given a post in the education ministry while Gove was steering through his “reforms.”


A man named David Meller was among the donors to Gove’s failed Conservative leadership bid in 2016.


Gove now holds the environment portfolio in the reshuffled British cabinet. If his past performance is anything to go by, there is little chance that he will discard his neoconservative baggage and concentrate on saving the planet.


Before the 2015, general election Gove held the post of government chief whip. He still found time to engage in pro-Israel activities then. It is highly probable that he will do so again.


Parroting Israeli propaganda is almost mandatory for right-wing British politicians. Gove is evangelical in his support for Israel – to the point of praising that state as a “near miraculous” success story.


Perhaps Gove believes the hyperbole that he has churned out. His activities indicate, though, that he is not an independent analyst. He is a gun for hire.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 15 June 2017.

Friday, June 9, 2017

How Britain aided Israel's 1967 war

The British press can display a dubious sense of priorities when it comes to marking important anniversaries. Far more attention has been paid lately to how The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is 50 years old than to how Harold Wilson’s government assisted Israel’s capture of Arab territories in 1967.


The assistance was both practical and diplomatic.


In March 1965, Levi Eshkol, then Israel’s prime minister, visited London to meet Wilson, his British counterpart, and other political figures.


Eshkol enquired if Britain would be willing to sell a large consignment of Centurion tanks. Denis Healey, Britain’s defense secretary at the time, proved receptive. “I see no reason to think that we shall not be able to meet your needs,” Healey told him.


The Centurion was the main British battle tank for around two decades following the Second World War and Israel had already placed orders for it before Eshkol’s trip.


By July 1965, Britain supplied Israel with more than 180 such tanks. Another 150 were transported between that month and May 1967.


They were not the only weapons that Britain gave Israel. Just one week before Eshkol’s government made a surprise attack against Egypt on 5 June 1967, a ship brimming with machine guns, tank shells and armored vehicles sailed to present-day Israel from the English port of Felixstowe. It was among a series of secret weapons deliveries.


“Handsome praise”


The Centurions were heavily used by Israel as it seized Arab territories.


The British embassy in Tel Aviv was pleased with that fact. It noted how Israeli military commanders were “particularly handsome in their praise” of the Centurion. The tank “apparently did far more than was ever expected of it,” according to an embassy memo.


Harold Wilson also gave advice to Israel on the circumstances under which attacking its neighbors would be deemed acceptable.


His book The Chariot of Israel refers to a letter that he sent Eshkol ahead of the war. The letter, Wilson explained, backed the US argument that Eshkol should only order military action against Egypt if its leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, blocked Israeli ships from the Straits of Tiran, the narrow Red Sea waterway that all ships must pass to reach the Israeli port of Eilat. “If we are to give you the international support we wish, it must be based on your undoubted [shipping] rights,” Wilson wrote.


Nasser had long been perceived as hostile to Western interests. In 1956, Britain and France had persuaded Israel to invade Egypt over Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. While doing so, the Israelis committed massacres in Gaza that have been airbrushed by many historians.


Under a decision taken by Nasser in May 1967, oil tankers passing through the Straits of Tiran were required to submit documents saying that they were not destined for Israeli ports. The decision was taken amid an Arab League boycott of Israel.


Natural and proper?


Nasser did not present any existential threat to Israel. According to US intelligence assessments, Egypt’s military deployments in the Sinai were defensive and Israel would have no trouble defeating the combined armies of neighboring Arab states. That has even been acknowledged by the notoriously hawkish Menachem Begin when he was Israel’s prime minister in the early 1980s.


There was no proof in 1967 that Nasser was about to attack Israel, Begin declared 15 years later. “We must be honest with ourselves,” Begin said. “We decided to attack him [Nasser].”


As the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has documented, Israeli leaders had harbored a desire, and prepared plans, to conquer the remainder of Palestine that they had not seized in 1948. They only sought the appropriate pretext.


Begin himself called the 1967 conflict a war of “choice.”


Harold Wilson was enamored of Zionism, Israel’s state ideology.


The Chariot of Israel attributes his admiration for Zionism to what he learned about biblical prophecy during his childhood. The admiration was so intense that Wilson has ignored the victims of the Zionist project. His chapter on the 1967 war omits any mention of the 400,000 Palestinians displaced when Israel invaded Gaza and the West Bank that year.


Wilson’s government officially backed UN Security Council resolution 242, which urged Israel to relinquish the territories it seized in 1967. Yet in 1972, Wilson (then an opposition leader), said “it is utterly unreal to talk of withdrawal.”


“Israel’s reaction is natural and proper in refusing to accept the Palestinians as a nation,” he added. “It is not recognized as a nation by the world.”


There was something both contradictory and consistent about Wilson’s stance. Through the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain promised to help establish a “Jewish national home” in Palestine. The idea that indigenous Palestinians could belong to a nation was not entertained.


Britain had backed a racist colonization project in 1917. The war of June 1967 was a continuation of that project. Once again, it was enabled by Britain.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 7 June 2017.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Britain's concentration camp in Palestine

Theresa May’s election manifesto contains a pernicious lie. Near the bottom of page 37, it says: “Britain is already a significant influence for good around the world.”


With May as prime minister, Britain is a force for ill in global affairs. Far from defending the downtrodden, her government has courted dictators and oppressors.


May has sanitized the history of Britain’s meddling in the Middle East. She has made a commitment to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration “with pride.”


That 1917 pledge to support Zionist colonization in Palestine “demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people,” May has said.


Her government has ruled out apologizing to Palestinians for the injustices inflicted on them because of Britain’s alliance with the Zionist movement.


The injustices are bigger than most people realize. While researching my new book Balfour’s Shadow, I learned that the British administration which ruled Palestine between the two world wars set up a concentration camp.


Mass incarceration


Although the term “concentration camp” has become synonymous with the Holocaust, it was in use long before then.


Early in the twentieth century, Britain established the first concentration camps of the 20th century during the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. And British archives dating from the 1930s are peppered with references to a “concentration camp” in Palestine.


During 1936, a major revolt against Britain and its support for Zionism erupted in Palestine. The authorities responded with a policy of mass incarceration.


In June of that year, Arthur Wauchope, the British high commissioner in Palestine, received a telegram from London officials. The officials informed him about a parliamentary query on “what steps are to be taken” to provide “reasonable conditions at Sarafand concentration camp.”


A British military base had been installed next to the village of Sarafand al-Amar on Palestine’s coastal plain and was, in Wauchope’s view, a “healthy locality.”


Wauchope tried to depict the camp positively by noting that it had been approved by an unnamed director of medical services and that access to tobacco was “unrestricted” and “facilities are given for daily exercise.”


Wauchope was less rosy in a letter he sent to the Colonial Office in London the next month. He acknowledged that one of the two sections in the camp had “no water closets and bathrooms.”


The section in question was initially reserved for villagers and peasants (fallahin in Arabic), whereas the other section was used for “the urban and effendi [noble] class of inmates,” according to Wauchope. As it was disliked by prisoners, Wauchope “abandoned” that system of segregation, he stated.


A paper drawn up for British diplomats in Geneva the following year was less rosy again.


Emergency regulations, it noted, had enabled harsher punishments against Palestinians who shot at British forces or possessed illicit weapons. More than 460 “agitators were confined for months in the concentration camp at Sarafand without trial” as a result, the file added.


The Palestinian revolt lasted from 1936 to 1939 and the British resorted to large-scale detention and killed thousands of people in that period.


Reputation of cruelty


In 1939, Malcolm MacDonald, then Britain’s colonial secretary, was asked a parliamentary question about “how many concentration camps are established in Palestine.” He replied that there are “13 detention camps at present in existence in Palestine.”


Another question was put to him about “the number of people interned in concentration camps in Palestine and how many of them are fallahin.” MacDonald stated that “the total number of persons at present under detention in Palestine is 4,816, of whom about 2,690 are fallahin.”


Harold MacMichael, Wauchope’s successor as high commissioner, reported to the Colonial Office in June 1939 that “1,154 Arabs and 63 Jews were detained in concentration camp.” It is not clear if he deliberately wrote “camp” in the singular.


Britain ruled Palestine under a League of Nations mandate that gave it the task of creating the conditions required for building the “Jewish national home” – a euphemism for a Jewish state.


And the British response to the 1930s revolt demonstrated how it was wedded to the Zionist project. Jewish colonists were hired in significant numbers to the British police force tasked with quelling dissent. Among the tasks assigned to Jewish police officers was to guard over the huts and stores in the Sarafand camp.


Many of the Jewish police officers belonged to the Haganah, a Zionist militia and the forerunner of today’s Israeli army.


One British soldier, Orde Wingate, brought Haganah commanders into the “special night squads” that he led. Those squads gained a reputation for cruelty; their tactics included rounding up all the male inhabitants of villages who lived near an oil pipeline connecting Palestine and Iraq and whipping their naked torsos.


Israel glorifies this cruelty to the indigenous Palestinians to this day with a number of memorials dedicated to Wingate.


The British resorted to great brutality in crushing the revolt. The use of torture against Palestinian detainees was approved at a high level in the British administration; villagers were forced into cages; patients were shot dead in their hospital beds; and the Old City of Jaffa was largely demolished, leaving hundreds without shelter.


Around 5,000 Palestinians were killed during the revolt. On a proportionate basis, that casualty rate was higher than those caused by Israel during the intifadas which broke out in 1987 and 2000.


It was through such violence that Britain laid the foundations of the Israeli state.


That is the history in which Theresa May has expressed pride. Her claims that Britain has been a force for good merit nothing but contempt.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 1 June 2017.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Winston Churchill sent the Black and Tans to Palestine

Sometimes a fragment reveals more than a tome. Karma Nabulsi, a politics professor at Oxford University, introduced me to one such fragment. Did I know, she asked, that Winston Churchill sent the Black and Tans to Palestine?


That conversation helped me grasp why Irish people tend to feel a sense of affinity with the Palestinians. Our historical experiences are not identical but they do have striking parallels, which I became eager to explore.


This year marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. The November 1917 letter to the Zionist movement committed Britain to support the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine. Through that document, the world’s pre-eminent power gave its backing to a project aimed at colonising with Europeans a land where most of the population was Arab.


Arthur James Balfour, then Britain’s foreign secretary and the declaration’s signatory, had previously served as chief secretary of Ireland. He was best known for ordering police to open fire on an 1887 land reform protest in Mitchelstown, County Cork. Resulting in three deaths, the incident earned him the sobriquet Bloody Balfour.


Balfour was among many British political figures to leave a deep impression on both Ireland and Palestine. As home secretary in 1916, Herbert Samuel oversaw the internment of almost 2,000 people allegedly involved in the Easter Rising; he also approved Roger Casement’s hanging. Samuel became the first high commissioner of Palestine as Britain took charge of its administration between the two world wars.


Faced with unrest in 1921, Samuel ordered air strikes against Palestinian rioters and declared a state of emergency. At that juncture, Churchill, then colonial secretary, advocated that a “picked force of white gendarmerie” be established for Palestine, according to official records. Churchill’s idea was that the gendarmerie should be comprised of men who had served with crown forces during Ireland’s War of Independence.


Henry Hugh Tudor, commander of the Auxiliaries in Ireland, had advised Churchill that up to 800 “absolutely reliable men” could be made available from those forces. The Auxiliaries had worked alongside the Black and Tans and the two policing divisions were often regarded as synonymous. The gendarmerie founded at Churchill’s initiative contained members of both.


Ruthless


In effect, then, the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries were assigned to Palestine once their presence in Ireland was no longer deemed necessary. The parallel fascinated me. One of those forces’ most notorious escapades occurred in my hometown - Balbriggan, County Dublin. As revenge for the killing of a police officer by republicans in September 1920, the forces torched a hosiery factory that was a major local employer, as well as destroying and damaging numerous pubs and houses. The “sack” of Balbriggan, as the incident became known, prompted a Westminster debate about whether the crown forces lacked discipline.


Britain’s imperial archives show that some diplomats asked if the “Black and Tan tradition” was being followed in Palestine. One briefing document apparently written for the British Army pointed to how many members of the Churchill-initiated gendarmerie had formerly been based in Ireland. “This original composition gave the force a military efficiency, combined with a certain ruthlessness,” the paper added.


Douglas Duff had been stationed with the Black and Tans in Galway before moving to Palestine. His memoirs make clear that he brought a great deal of bigotry with him. Referring to the Palestinians of Haifa, he wrote: “Most of us were so infected by the sense of our own superiority over these ‘lesser breeds’ that we scarcely regarded these people as human.”


Officers who had served in Ireland played a prominent role in quelling protests by Palestinians against the expropriation of land where they lived and farmed. Raymond Cafferata, for example, had been part of the Auxiliaries during the Irish War of Independence. In 1933, he headed a contingent of foot police at a Jaffa demonstration which had been banned. A baton charge that he ordered was commended by British administration in Jerusalem for being “magnificently executed” despite how numerous Palestinians were shot dead during the protest.


Repression


Later in the 1930s, a full-scale Palestinian revolt erupted. Grattan Bushe, a legal adviser to the Colonial Office, warned that “repression by force is repeating the mistake which was made in Ireland”. His warning was ignored; military commanders were assured that they could take “whatever measures are necessary”. The measures were to include demolishing much of Jaffa’s old city, imposing collective punishment on villages with rebels in their midst and mass detention in labour camps.


Some of the men behind projects that are still reviled today were originally from Ireland. Around £2 million - a huge sum for the 1930s - was spent on erecting a rampart along Palestine’s northern frontier. It was the brainchild of Charles Tegart, a Derry-born police chief. Tegart was something of an innovator. He recommended that the most sophisticated surveillance technology of that era should be installed in “Tegart’s fence”, as the project was dubbed.


The Balfour Declaration’s purpose was to form a “little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”, according to Ronald Storrs, “the first military governor of Palestine since Pontius Pilate” (his words). Not everything went to plan: the Zionist movement fell out with and, in the case of two groups, waged a campaign of guerilla warfare against Britain in the 1940s. Storrs’ comment nonetheless encapsulates how the British elite viewed their nearest colony and the Middle East through the same lens.


On 14 May 1948, British rule in Palestine came to an end; Israel declared itself a state that same day. The transition was marked in a low-key ceremony at which Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner in Jerusalem, inspected a colour party.


Cunningham had been in charge during the mass expulsion of Palestinians by Zionist forces, an episode called the Nakba or catastrophe. The British authorities chose not to intervene.
The Palestinian flag is being flown over Dublin’s City Hall this month in solidarity with the Nakba’s victims. That is grimly appropriate. Alan Cunningham was born in Dublin.


•First published by The Irish Times, 19 May 2017.

The scholar who shills for Israel

For the first time, I have been flattered by a pro-Israel lobbyist.


Toby Greene, the lobbyist in question, emailed me a few days ago, seeking help with a project he is conducting for Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Given your knowledge of Israeli-Palestinian issues and EU politics, your insights would be invaluable for my research,” he wrote.


The flattery proved fruitless. I promptly told Greene that I supported the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel. Before I could entertain his request, I would need clarity about who he represented.


Greene replied that his position at Hebrew University was being financed by the Israel Institute in Washington. He claimed, however, that the university and the institute merely “support and facilitate my research” and “like all academics in Israel, I have full academic freedom and I define my own research projects.”


I don’t buy that explanation and have refused to help Greene’s project – which apparently relates to how Israel is viewed by Europe’s political elites.


Cherishing freedom?


Greene is a lobbyist masquerading as an analyst. Apart from holding a post at Hebrew University, he works for a propaganda outfit called the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).


He has previously been a staff member with Labour Friends of Israel. That pressure group – embedded in one of Britain’s largest political parties – coordinates its activities with the Israeli government, as a recent Al Jazeera documentary illustrated.


Greene inferred that his sponsors at the Israel Institute cherish academic freedom. Is that really the case?


The institute was established in 2012 by Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli diplomat, and is funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.


The Schusterman Foundation has made clear that it is supporting academic research with the intention of “strengthening Israel at home and abroad.” The foundation’s declared mission includes funding “efforts to identify, mentor and train student leaders to support Israel and advocate for strong US-Israel relations.”


That is anathema to the whole concept of academic freedom.


Truly independent academics are focused on the production of knowledge, not on the “strengthening” of states or disseminating propaganda to further their political agendas.


I asked Ari Roth, director of the Israel Institute, if it had sponsored any academics who criticized Zionism, Israel’s state ideology. Rather than answering that question, he stated that “descriptions of our grantees can be found on our website.”


Dishonest


I could not find any criticisms of Zionism on its website. But I did find publications which were fundamentally dishonest. One of them claimed Israel had made “notable efforts to avoid civilian casualties” during its major offensive against Gaza in 2014.


Israel killed almost 1,500 civilians – including more than 550 children – in that offensive. That means around one in every 1,000 residents of Gaza was killed.


How can that be construed as a notable effort to avoid civilian casualties?


Toby Greene has told a similar lie. In 2014, he spoke of Israel’s “desire to avoid civilian casualties” while bombing Gaza.


He then had the impudence to scold Jon Snow from the broadcaster Channel 4, one of the few British journalists willing to challenge Israeli spin doctors. Accurately describing the effects of Israel’s attacks on children – as Snow did three years ago – meant he had “abandoned all pretense at objectivity,” Greene wrote.


Greene has a long record of downplaying crimes by both Israel and Britain.


Back in 2006, he advocated that powerful governments should be “ready to reward” Israel’s political leaders who make “positive steps” towards Palestinians. One reward that he recommended would be “international recognition that some of the settlement blocs [in the occupied West Bank] will remain as part of a future land-swap deal.”


That proposal echoed an argument by George W. Bush, then US president, in 2004 that it would be “unrealistic” for Israel to fully withdraw from the West Bank. By making that comment, Bush signaled that he would tolerate Israel’s settlement activities, despite how they violated international law.


Flexible flunky


Greene is also an apologist for Tony Blair.


When an official British enquiry issued a damning verdict last year on Blair’s determination to join the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Greene wrote a lengthy article that was highly sympathetic to the former prime minister.


To Greene, Blair’s only “sin” was “hubris: an overinflated misperception of his ability to shape international politics.” Causing hundreds of thousands to die and destroying an entire country are more grievous sins than hubris – though not, it would appear, in Greene’s mind.


Greene is still lying in the service of Israel. He recently alleged that an event held as part of a campaign to make Britain apologize for supporting Zionist colonization in Palestine was characterized by “anti-Semitic bluster.” A parliamentary investigation into the same event, which was held at Westminster, found no evidence to support the accusations of anti-Semitism made by the Israeli government and its surrogates.


Greene has written a book about the British Labour Party and Palestine. It is a 298-page fan letter to Blair disguised as sober analysis.


A note in the acknowledgements section of that book states: “Two employers, Labour Friends of Israel and the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, generously allowed me the flexibility to pursue my research while under their employment.”


The note is perhaps the most instructive thing about the book. Greene has implicitly admitted that he is a flexible flunky.


He is a scholar who shills for Israel.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 18 May 2017.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Buying respect for Israel in Brussels

Rogues can buy respectability – or a semblance of it.


The cigarette industry provides a textbook example of how to exert pressure by stealth. Knowing that its public image is toxic, it funds various front groups to cajole the powerful.


The European Policy Centre is one such group. It was established in the 1990s by the late Stanley Crossick, a consultant for British American Tobacco. Before long, Crossick’s outfit was styling itself as one of the leading “think tanks” in Brussels, deftly pushing an agenda favored by big corporations.


Political and business representatives continue to mingle at its invitation-only events today; the cigarette industry remains an important, if discreet, sponsor.


Has the European Policy Centre now offered its services to the Israel lobby?


Headed by hawk


One of the contributors to the center’s budget is the European Leadership Network. That insipidly-named organization is dedicated to strengthening relations between Israel and the European Union.


Despite claiming to support the “pursuit of peace,” the European Leadership Network is headed by a hawk. Larry Hochberg, the hawk in question, has previously chaired Friends of the IDF, which finances recruits to the Israeli military.


I asked Fabien Zuleeg, chief executive of the European Policy Centre, why he accepts funding from a pro-Israel group. He argued that the funding from the European Leaders Network “in no way affects” his center’s “independence.”


Gauging whether the European Policy Centre enjoys any real autonomy is hampered by the secretive activities with which it is involved.


“Experts” from the center have been participating in a “strategic dialogue” that the European Leadership Network initiated in 2010. Each session of the “dialogue” takes place in a “private and secluded venue,” according to its official website.


One member of the team behind this “dialogue” is Michael Herzog, a retired brigadier-general in the Israeli military. Herzog has been indicted under Spain’s “universal jurisdiction” law in relation to a 2002 bombing attack on a residential area of Gaza.


Appeasing gangsters


The scarce information available about the “dialogue” does not suggest that it encourages intellectual freedom. A paper based on the “dialogue” and published by the European Policy Centre contends that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, “must strike a difficult yet indispensable balance” between calls made by parties in his ruling coalition and those of his “diplomatic partners” abroad.


Those are weasel words. The Netanyahu-led government includes ministers who have urged that most of the West Bank be annexed, that Palestinians living inside Israel be expelled and that Gaza’s women be exterminated.


The “balance” advocated by the European Policy Centre would mean appeasing such gangsters.


The European Leadership Network is less than transparent about its activities, too.


According to details supplied to a register for lobbyists who interact with the EU institutions, the “network” only began “regular activities” in Brussels during 2016.


Yet documents filed with the US authorities state that the network’s Brussels office had been receiving grants from across the Atlantic for a number of years before then. In 2014, for example, it was given almost $500,000 by a “friends of” group registered in Larry Hochberg’s name, using an address in Illinois.


That “friends of” group was led at one stage by Mark Moskowitz, another pro-Israel lobbyist. Both Hochberg and Moskowitz have formerly worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely regarded as one of Washington’s most influential pressure groups.


Moskowitz is now a vice-president for “global philanthropy” with the Jewish Agency, a body working directly for the Israeli state.


The “friends of” group was established in 2011, after it was given almost $4 million in assets from StandWithUs, a lobby outfit partly financed by Israel and with close ties to the Islamophobia industry in North America.


Roz Rothstein, the CEO of StandWithUs, has also helped run the European Leadership Network, according to documents filed with the Belgian authorities.


I asked Ines von Behr, Brussels director with the European Leadership Network, if her office receives funding from the Israeli government. I also enquired if the “network” coordinates its activities with the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. “We are not replying to any media questions at this point,” von Behr told me.


Her reticence is not surprising. The European Leadership Network appears to be a fan club for Israeli aggression masquerading as a forum for debate and analysis.


Using sneaky tactics, it is trying to confer respectability on a rogue state.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 11 May 2017.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

UKIP dominates new support group for Israeli settlers

The UK Independence Party specializes in distorting reality.


Nigel Farage, UKIP’s former leader and still its best-known representative, poses as a no-nonsense patriot. Curiously, his patriotism does not extend to insisting his chief backers pay their taxes in his beloved Britain.


One of Farage’s allies and donors was the multi-millionaire tax exile Aaron Banks. The aptly-named Banks accompanied Farage as he raced across the Atlantic in November last year, determined to be the first British politician received by Donald Trump, the newly-elected US president.


Banks has subsequently fallen out with the party over apparently trivial matters. Though such squabbles are entertaining, they should not distract from how – despite its claim to champion ordinary folk – UKIP frequently sides with the world’s bullies.


That much is clear from the strong level of UKIP involvement in a recently-formed group dedicated to supporting Israel’s war crimes.


Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament, as the group is called, has been set up in response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.


Fifteen members of the European Parliament support the new group, according to its website. Three of the 15 belong to UKIP, making it the only party to have more than one declared supporter.


Judea and Samaria is the name that Israel gives to the occupied West Bank. The “friends of” group seeks to legitimize Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.


Moreover, it seeks to build a direct link between the Brussels institutions and Israeli settlers.


Diehard


The group was founded by Yossi Dagan, chair of Samaria Regional Council, which is a local authority for some of Israel’s illegal settlements.


Dagan – who was invited to Trump’s inauguration earlier this year – is diehard settler.


He came to prominence by vociferously opposing the evacuation of a small number of settlements in the West Bank.


The settlements were evacuated as part of what was (inaccurately) described as a “disengagement” plan implemented by the Israeli government led by Ariel Sharon in 2005.


In a 2015 interview with Arutz Sheva – a media network supporting the settler movement – Dagan bragged of his “public relations” skills. Politicians and journalists that he had brought on tours of Israeli settlements “now form the core of lobbying groups in their respective countries, advocating for Judea and Samaria, as well as against BDS,” he claimed.


Roger Helmer is among the UKIP representatives supporting Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament. Asked why he has endorsed an organization that defends Israel’s illegal conduct, Helmer replied that there is an issue of “strategic defense.”


“Having stood on the hills of Samaria and looked out over Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport all the way to the Mediterranean – a mere 10 miles or so – it is clear that the State of Israel is simply indefensible without control over those heights,” Helmer added. “This is an existential issue.”


If Helmer really believes his own words, then he has swallowed so much propaganda that he must have constant indigestion.


Only Israel and its supporters view the occupation of the West Bank as a matter of “strategic defense.” Every other analyst recognizes that it is the result of a belligerent act undertaken in 1967 and that the building and expansion of settlements contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Put more simply, they are war crimes.


Balanced?


Petr Mach, a Czech politician who is allied to UKIP, teamed up with Dagan to form Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament. Mach claimed that the group’s “main goal” is to promote a “balanced” and “fair” EU approach “regarding the West Bank.”


“We just wish to have free trade with everybody and we wish peace to everybody,” he stated by email.


The group’s professed desires for fairness and peace are bogus. A leaflet it has published alleges that the EU imposes “trade barriers” on “Jewish goods from the West Bank.”


That accusation is based on how the EU officially refuses to regard Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as part of Israel. Whereas the EU allows most goods from present-day Israel to be exported free of tax or customs duties, such privileges do not apply to produce from settlements in the West Bank.


The “trade barriers” of which the group complains have proven easy to circumvent. Casimex, a French company, markets wines from Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights as “Wine of Israel.” The latter territory is a part of Syria, which Israel has occupied since 1967.


The group also peddles the lie that the European Union is funding “terrorism” by giving money to the Palestinian Authority.


“Terrorism” is the catch-all term that Israel and its supporters use to describe acts of Palestinian resistance.


Far from encouraging resistance, the EU has been financing cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In so doing, it has helped transform the Palestinian Authority into an enforcer of the Israeli occupation.


Apart from endorsing the Friends of Judea and Samaria group, UKIP representatives have flaunted what one called their “absolutely massive” support for Israel in other ways.


An apparently separate outfit, Friends of Israel in UKIP, has been circulating comparable baloney. One of that group’s absurd claims is that calling settlement activities in the West Bank illegal “impedes Israel’s security.”


Three years ago, Friends of Israel in UKIP found its logo derided on Twitter. Featuring a pound sign inside a Star of David, the logo triggered accusations of employing an anti-Semitic trope.


Although the group apologized for any offense caused, that image – or a very similar one – is still emblazoned on its Facebook page.


UKIP’s appreciation of Israel appears clumsy and its representatives appear to have a superficial knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs. That does not make its cheerleading for war crimes any less dangerous.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 12 April 2017.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Britain hands over embassy to Israel's war industry

Does Britain conceal the full extent of its support for Israel?


Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative politician, recently urged the prosecution of British citizens who fight for the Israeli military.


Warsi should be commended for raising an important issue – just as she did when resigning as a government minister over Britain’s refusal to condemn the 2014 bombing of Gaza.


Yet Britain provides more direct assistance to Israel than allowing Londoners and Mancunians join a foreign army.


One example of that assistance has avoided scrutiny: Britain’s embassy in Tel Aviv has hired senior players in Israel’s weapons industry.


Since 2011, the embassy has hosted an initiative called the UK Israel Tech Hub.


The initiative is chaired by Haim Shani, a civil servant-turned-entrepreneur. In 2012, Shani was appointed a director of Israel Aerospace Industries, a leading manufacturer of drones used in attacking Gaza.


The biographical note for Shani on the UK Israel Tech Hub website omits any reference to his post with the weapons firm.


It does, however, state that he is a former head of NICE Systems. No explanation is offered of how NICE, an Israeli corporation, has made surveillance equipment for police services and spying agencies around the world.


Shani is credited with overseeing a seven-fold increase in NICE’s revenues. Following his departure from the firm, its “cyber and intelligence” division was sold to Elbit, another supplier of drones to the Israeli military.


Parroting propaganda


I contacted the British embassy in Tel Aviv, asking why it is hosting an initiative led by a man with such strong connections to Israel’s war industry.


The embassy did not answer that question. Rather, a spokesperson replied that “Haim Shani is a well-respected Israeli businessman.”


The spokesperson claimed, too, that the UK Israel Tech Hub has “improved life” in Britain by facilitating cooperation with Israeli firms involved in health care and the environment.


Those comments indicate that the British embassy is parroting Israeli propaganda. Israel constantly boasts of innovations in water technology and medical treatment – as if such innovation cancels out Israel’s bombing of sewage treatment plants and hospitals.


Other members of Shani’s team also have strong connections to the Israeli war industry.


Naomi Krieger Carmy, director of the UK Israel Tech Hub, is described on the initiative’s website as an “8200 alumnus” – without any elaboration.


Unit 8200 is part of the intelligence corps in the Israeli military focused on technological research. Maor Chester, “digital solutions manager” at the hub, also states on her LinkedIn profile that she served in “an elite intelligence unit (8200)” of the Israeli military.


Amoral outlook


Every so often, the business press publishes articles celebrating how Unit 8200 has contributed to Israel’s “start-up nation” ethos.


Yet there is a far murkier side to its activities than helping to shape the Internet’s activities. Yair Cohen, a former head of the unit, has admitted that it has been involved in spying operations during all of Israel’s major offensives.


Those include activities by Mossad, the Israeli secret service.


In 2014, three dozen Unit 8200 veterans and reservists revealed that the unit deploys its capabilities to collect intimate personal information on Palestinian civilians living under occupation that is “used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.”


They charged that the unit’s activity against Palestinians “fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”


The UK Israel Tech Hub was officially launched by George Osborne, then Britain’s finance minister, in 2011.


During a visit to the Middle East, Osborne rhapsodized about Israel’s “amazing economic achievement.”


The achievement is a byproduct of profound injustice.


Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has enabled its weapons-makers to test out their products. Palestinians have been used as specimens in sadistic experiments.


The British embassy is coy about how it is encouraging such experiments. Yet it does hint that Israel’s much-celebrated technology sector is inextricably linked to an army that denies Palestinian rights.


“Cyber security” has been identified as a priority for cooperation. “Israel is a global leader in the cyber field, with a robust ecosystem drawing on capacity developed in the military arena,” the embassy has noted.


Last year, the embassy arranged for businesspeople based in Britain to visit Israel’s “cyber security” industry. Lockheed Martin, a US military giant with investments around the world, was among the firms to take part.


Matthew Hancock, a British government minister who joined that trip, has said that he wished to study how the partnership between private firms and public authorities that was deemed essential to the success of Israel’s technology sector could be emulated in Britain.


His comments reveal the amoral outlook of the British ruling elite. That elite is impressed by how Israel has turned a military occupation into a business opportunity.


The admiration runs so deep that Britain has handed over part of its embassy to the profiteers of occupation.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 4 April 2017.