Thursday 19 October 2023

Rishi Sunak in Israel

At the joint Israel-UK press conference earlier today, Benjamin Netanyahu gave a rambling denunciation of Hamas as "the new Nazis", and likened them to Islamic State. He said that this moment is Israel's and the world's darkest hour, and what his bombing raids over Gaza are is a "battle of the entire civilised world." As his terror strikes and repeated war crimes might drag others into the mire, he's not wrong.

Rishi Sunak could only offer Netanyahu words of encouragement. He said the UK "absolutely support Israel's right to defend itself", quickly adding "in line with international law". He urged the IDF "to go after Hamas, take back hostages, deter further incursions, and to strengthen your security". But without wanting to appear too bloodthirsty, he praised Israel for "taking every precaution to avoid harming civilians" and offered Bibi effusive thanks for opening routes for humanitarian aid. "We stand in solidarity with your people and we want you to win." No British Prime Minister since the war has so happily covered for the war crimes committed by a friendly, allied state. Netanyahu could have scripted his contribution.

With Sunak following Joe Biden and Olaf Scholz in delivering identical messages (it was Scholz who introduced the Nazi comparison), it's obvious that they're not about to stay the free hand of the Israeli government. The bombs will carry on falling, the propaganda and lies about Palestinians killing their own will continue, and the mass murder of civilians is not going to stop. Not in the north of Gaza. And not in the so-called "safe zones" declared by Israel in the south. This tiny strip of land has gone from an open air prison camp of two million people to an abattoir. This is how the Israeli government and its domestic and international supporters have chosen to memorialise the 1,400 dead from Hamas's unexpected attack.

The Tories, like the Labour leadership were always going to stand with and minimise Israeli war crimes. As the most overly militarist and warmongering of the main parties, the organic organisation of the British ruling class, and that most rooted in the institutions of state, it and Labour are more likely to see eye-to-eye on foreign affairs than not. Or "defence of the realm" as they euphemistically put it. But the Tory interest in Israel has slightly different roots to Labour's. While many Labour MPs found Zionism attractive because of its initial leftish hue and the historic debt Europe owed Jewish people for the Holocaust, Tory sympathies owe more to political alignments. First, like the Americans Britain saw Israel as a Cold War bulwark against communist and Arab nationalist movements - especially when many of Israel's neighbours were loosely allied to the USSR from the 1960s onwards. This became genuine enthusiasm in the 1980s with the Anglo-American alliance run by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Especially so in the case of American politics. No Republican candidate could hope to win the GOP nomination without courting the Christian fundamentalist right, among whom not a small number feted the existence of a Jewish home land as the prelude to the Biblical end times.

But this is Britain and the Tories we're talking about. As second fiddle to the US its priorities for the Middle East were the UK's, and therefore the Tories' priorities. As argued previously, one cannot separate the party from the weight fossil fuels have among British capital and the Tories. Because of the much reduced status of Britain as a global military power, its preservation and the rewards that come with this - added soft power from control over a strategic resource - can only be sustained by staying close to Uncle Sam. Israel, as is well known, is a destabilising force in the Middle East. Its presence is a source of friction between Arab states, and such division ultimately prevents the countries sitting atop the world's largest oil reserves from exercising the clout that comes from it in ways inimical to the US (and therefore the UK) interest. Furthermore, armed to the teeth as it is Israel is the gendarme of last resort in the region. Ethnically cleansing Palestinian territory is tolerated by the West as long as it checks pan-Arabism and assists regional divide and rule.

This is why the Tories are an instinctive supporter of Israel. Its aims and UK objectives tally. The Tories want the status quo maintained in the Middle East, and the likes of Netanyahu fully understand that this is expected of them. The green light to expel the population of northern Gaza and annex it to Israel proper can't be separated from the blind eye the US and UK have always turned toward illegal settlements and coloniser violence in the West Bank. A reward for services rendered you might say, and one Sunak was all too happy to convey.

Image Credit


Jeff Crisp said...

Good explanation of the UK's apparently limitless support for Israel. But left me wondering what has happened to the antisemitic wing of the British right. Has it disappeared, or found a political home elsewhere?

McIntosh said...

And it does help Sunak being out of the country when two disaterous by election results are announced. i believe, for once, he went without the prsee corps so no questions on by elections when he is showing himself as a statesman on the world stage.

Like all statesmen and adult politicians he can show himself indifferent to the deaths of a few thousand people in pursuit of eradicating terrorism.

Who knows, his next job may be peace envoy to the Middle East - there is a precedent, though he may actually have to sanction the destruction of a country to get that.

Anonymous said...

If Sir Keir was there, his nose and mouth would be a shade of brown.

Anonymous said...

Anti-semites generally love Israel. They'd like to cleanse their lands and have all the Jews in the world move there . A right wing dream.

Aimit Palemglad said...

Its difficult to know what to feel at the moment. Rage? Despair? Horror? Sorrow? Disgust? Hatred? All of these and more. Never have I seen the hypocrisy of our establishment more blatantly exposed, nor their naked self-interest and desperation to appease those whose interests they believe align with their paymasters.

I mistakenly turned on R4 briefly during the news and heard a hush-voiced presenter talking from inside a bomb shelter near Tel Aviv, trying to emote the fear* and trauma of those using it, while seemingly unaware that not far away being bombed by representatives of these same people, an entire population of 2.3 million have no shelters, and can't even run away. It was so grotesque that it felt like a sick parody.

*I will add that the fear is understandable and real, and that those sheltering deserve sympathy and protection. I don't subscribe to the argument our leaders, and those of Israel make, which is that all Gazans are guilty by association and thus can be punished for the crimes of some. I would point out, that if the argument for punishing all Gazans for the crimes of some is accepted, then surely it would be legitimate to argue that all Israelis are culpable for the crimes of their military?

Has the phrase "self-defence" ever been more abused? It's as if someone came into your garden and killed your child, so you went to their street and systematically destroyed every house in it, killing many of the occupants, then avoided prosecution by claiming it was self-defence. After all, those neighbours knew what he was like, they could have stopped them or reported them to the police, so they are all implicated and therefore guilty of aiding and abetting the murder of your child. Hence fair game to be slaughtered in retaliation. All we need now is for the land beneath the razed houses to be incorporated into your land, and we are getting somewhere close to the hideous injustice and insane logic on display.

Anonymous said...

Any idea on how you eradicate Hamas without killing civilians? Do Hamas terrorists wear badges to idntify themselves? Or does Israel intelligence have pictures of them all and precision bullets that only kill militants?

Or is it indiscriminate slaughter supported by the civilised international community?

Zoltan Jorovic said...

We have been here before. "No surrender to the IRA" was code for "we should be able to discriminate against, mistreat and abuse Catholics unimpeded". "All lives matter" was code for "Some lives matter a lot more than others, and we get to choose which". "Israel has the right to defend itself" is code for "Israel can abuse, mistreat, oppress, occupy, humiliate, torture, steal from, expel and kill as many Palestinians as its wants, for as long as it wishes to".

Just as the IRA was the product of hundreds of years of occupation and oppression, so Hamas is the result of 75 years of such abuse. Terror is what we call it when non-state actors practice what states have always done - use violence to intimidate, coerce and enforce.

The world's worst terrorists are the military of the most powerful countries because they can (and do) inflict more destruction and death more quickly than all the non-state "extremists" in history have ever done. We think its OK because we think they won't do it to us. So long as we don't step out of line, that is.

JN said...

Jeff Crisp,

Antisemitism and support for Israel are not mutually exclusive, counterintuitive as that might seem. For a start, Israel is in many ways what the far-right aspire to: an explicitly ethno-nationalist state, plus militarist, expansionist, oppressive, violent (all the shit that they're into...). It would not be at all surprising if many on the right and far-right have a grudging admiration for Israel, without necessarily giving up their prejudice against Jews.

This is the thing that tends to be ignored by mainstream politicians and media: Israel is Jewish but it is not only Jewish. That Israel is a racist and heavily-armed Euro-American colony is perhaps more to the point.

JN said...

"the historic debt Europe owed Jewish people for the Holocaust"

And of course the many centuries of discrimination, persecution, violence, and sometimes total expulsion that preceded it, right across the continent from England to Russia. What I've never understood though is how that guilt can be displaced onto the Palestinians. Strangely, you don't see Germany, or Russia, or Britain, or Spain, etc... volunteering to give up any of their own land for a Jewish state.

Anonymous said...

The UK supports Israel because it is an ally and the only democratic state in the ME. And obviously, because it suffered a heinous attack.

Hamas supporters have a problem - it is either a democratically elected government, as it was, or it is a terrorist organisation that does not represent all Gazans. Generally speaking, if a state's army committed an attack against a neighbour in the manner of Oct 7, few would question the right of the state to strike back against that state. This is what the UK did to Germany, for example. The fact that this is both overlooked, AND the Israelis take some measures to avoid civilian casualties, is telling.

Hamas clearly exaggerates casualties by roughly a factor of 10. The MSM (which has uncritically accepted the figs from a state/ terrorist org, take your pick) is beginning to wake up to this. The incident at the hospital, for eg, is now believed to have claimed between 50-70 lives. You do the maths.

This is not to say Israel has acted well. There are many examples of disingenuous behaviour both in Gaza and the West Bank. It has a gov of fanatics, who I am sure welcome this opportunity. However, without any doubt whatsoever, the Islamist death cult of Hamas provoked this attack and no number of dead Palestinians will be enough for it.

And of course, Egypt and the Arab world did and have done nothing to cater to Palestinian refugees for 70 years, precisely to distract from their own shortcomings. Meanwhile, the many millions of refugees elsewhere during this time, have largely been accommodated.

In short, the truth is nuanced. Unfortunately, it seems few people are.

Anonymous said...

JN, some history
- The Russians in particular had the Pale of Settlement and still have the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (1928) which was not a hit, not least because many Jews chose Israel
- Israel was identified as the Zionist homeland, and was around 30 per cent Jewish by the 1930s (around 10 per cent pre-Zionism)
- The British didn't grant Jews their own territory, but to be fair the Balfour Declaration granted them settlement in Israel.
- People bang on about colonisation but FFS, every nation that exists exists because it has taken someone elses' land. To my knowledge, Israel is the only nation actually created by the UN. What would you prefer?
- in 48 and thrice thereafter, the Arabs tried to snuff out Israel, which is largely why their territory expanded. Not great, perhaps, but who are the bloody victims here?
- there were around 800,000 Arab refugees, and they remain that. Meanwhile there were the same number of Jews from the Arab world. These were absorbed by Israel. The Arabs were rejected by all other Arab states, Jordan and Egypt in particular. Many lost their Jordanian nationality, for example.
- There are 2 million Arab Israeli citizens who share precisely the same rights as Israelis, and an Arab judge on the Supreme Court even recently condemned a prime minister. How is that 'Apartheid'?
- IMHO the Palestinians (who are really Jordanians) are the greater victims of the Arab world which uses them as pawns. This is not at all to say the Israelis are perfect - they have done many, many objectionable things, but compared to more or less all other nations throughout history ever, I think a little balance could be applied.

Anonymous said...

Some history for anon 14:26;

- Many Jews also, like those of the Bund, wanted to fight for a home in the various countries in Europe they lived in, not Palestine
- Zionists also once thought of going to Uganda
- The Balfour Declaration was vague
- People "bang on about colonisation" because it impacts people now. Israel was unilaterally declared by Zionist leadership by force while the Security Council was still trying to arrive at a conclusion. The plan was never implemented. In other words, it wasn't created by the UN
- No they didn't. Arab countries and leaders were not interested in a war with Israel. Barely coming out from under colonialism, their actions during the war showed that they never really joined the war with eliminationist intent, as the popular narrative goes. The Jordanians were more interested in acquiring the West Bank as a stepping stone to their real ambition, which was Greater Syria. As a matter of fact, there is ample evidence of collusion between the Israelis and Jordanians during the 1948 war, with deals under the table pretty much gifting parts of the West Bank to Jordan in return for not interfering in other areas. This is why Glubb Pasha, commander of the Arab Legion, described the 1948 war as a “phoney war“
- Palestinian refugees need to be given the right to return
- Despite allowing a certain number of black parliamentarians, Rhodasia was still a racist entity ruled by a white minority, with the very honest declared goal of maintaining itself as a white state. Therefore, a country like Israel can also have parliament members of the oppressed indigenous group and still practise apartheid
- No, Palestinians aren't "really Jordanians" and both are aware of that. Palestinians even tried to overthrow the Jordanian peoples beloved monarchy. People sometimes get funny when Palestinians refer to themselves as Palestinian, not Arab, or as the above poster seems to think, Jordanian, because it threatens the Israeli narrative of the non-existance of Palestinians

Anonymous said...

Weasel words anon. 1947.

For countries not interested in a war with Israel, invading a few hours after the end of the British Mandate suggests that they did not require much persuading.

"Israel was unilaterally declared by Zionist leadership by force while the Security Council was still trying to arrive at a conclusion."

On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain's former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end.

"Palestinian refugees need to be given the right to return." Will Jewish refugees be given theirs? Polemicism pure and simple.

"Despite allowing a certain number of black parliamentarians, Rhodasia was still a racist entity ruled by a white minority..."

Arab Iraelis share the same rights and are a minority, so what you are saying is rubbish.


Jordan annexed the West Bank on 24 April 1950, after the 1949 armistice agreements. After the annexation, all Palestinians in the West Bank became Jordanian citizens.

Your feelings are not backed by facts. Try harder.

Anonymous said...

"The UK supports Israel because it is an ally and the only democratic state in the ME. And obviously, because it suffered a heinous attack"

No it doesn't. It supports US imperialism, and when America says "jump", England says "how high". Historically, Britain favoured Palestine as the Jewish homeland because it wanted an outpost in the region - a little Ulster - and because our own elite, some of whom were antisemitic, didn't want mass Jewish immigration to the UK. So, nothing to do with the welfare of Jewish people.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2107.

You're saying it's not an ally? What nonsense. The UK does not support Israel because the US tells it to, it doesn't need to - all 'Western' nations have shared interests.

That much is obvious. And you're right, the UK wanted an ally, which it got, which brings me back to my initial point.

The truth is either

- The Left and ordinary Muslim supporters of Palestinian 'liberation' are for a large part useful idiots
- Or, they are uninterested in engaging their critical faculties and acknowledging the manipulation and abuse Palestinians have been subjected to by totalitarian and anti-democratic forces both in the ME and in the ex-USSR to further their reactionary interests.

Anonymous said...

OK anon 20:35. Meanwhile;

- the '48' war occurred in the context of Zionist aggression (Deir Yassin) and expansionist aims. As Chairman of the Jewish National Fund, Menachem Usishkin puts it
"the Arabs do not want us because we want to be the rulers. I will fight for this. I will make sure that we will be the landlords of this land . . . . because this country belongs to us not to them". Arab countries were not interested in war and despite their propaganda and rhetoric, sought different secret opportunities to end the war with Israel, which were rejected by the latter with the goal of maximizing its land-grabs. For example, there were negotiations between Israel and Egypt in October 1948, where based on previous correspondences, Egypt was prepared to offer many concessions in exchange for peace, even offering to resettle the Palestinian refugees in the UN decreed “Arab” areas of Palestine. Four days after Israeli politician Eliyahu Sasson went to meet with Heikal, chairman of the Egyptian senate, Ben Gurion launched a new military operation. The Syrians also attempted to end the war at the beginning of 1949, where prime minister al-Azm informed the US ambassador of their desire to stop the fighting. The only conditions they put forward was that Palestinians be afforded the right to self-determination, and the recognition of traditional and historic Syrian fishing rights in certain areas of lake Tiberius. In the same month, a Syrian mediator attempted to meet with Eliyahu Sasson’s assistant in Paris to directly discuss a peace treaty. He was instantly turned down because the Israelis believed that any negotiation with Syria meant discussing the division of water sources, which Israel wanted to control in their entirety

- The resolution does not in any way obligate the people of Palestine to accept it, especially considering the non-binding nature of UN resolutions

- "Will Jewish refugees be given theirs ?" By whom ?

- Israel distinguishes between citizenship and nationality. For example, you can be a citizen of Israel but be a Druze national, or a Jewish national. Your nationality is determined by your ethnicity and it cannot be changed or challenged. Many of the rights you are accorded in Israel stem from your nationality not your citizenship. Meaning an “Arab” Israeli citizen and a Jewish Israeli citizen, while both citizens, enjoy different rights and privileges determined by their “nationality”. Seeing how Israel is an ethnocracy it is not a mystery who this system privileges and who it discriminates against. This is not merely discrimination in practice, but discrimination by law. For example, the Law of Return and Absentees’ Property Law are but two examples of flagrant racism and discrimination in the Israeli legal system. As well as that, almost half of all Palestinian citizens of Israel live under the poverty line, with a considerable percentage close to the poverty line. They also have a considerably lower life expectancy, a higher infant mortality rate, less access to education and resources as well as less municipality and government funding. But according to you, because they have some natives in knesset and a judge, its all equal

- Palestinians rejected being Jordanian, and Jordanians rejected them. So while they might of become citizens, they still went to war with each other. That's just a historical fact

Anonymous said...

Your first two points are pointless, as they say.
3. The Arab countries they were unwillingly expelled from, many (if not most) losing properties and businesses in the process (oh, boohoo, right?)
4. This is a characteristic of the Israeli state, due to its unique circumstances, and yes, arguably can lead to some disparities, but nothing compared to Apartheid. The principle one is the Law of Return. otherwise Israel's Declaration of Independence enshrines the principle of equality for all of its citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious background, literally the opposite of Apartheid South Africa,
5. Pointless.

You're grasping at straws, quite frankly. Yes there are peculiarities to the Israeli state, but compared to many others it is not so bad. Certainly compared to every other Arab state (er... women, for example?).

If you were really worried about inequality you would be campaigning for a socialist Britain, but the Left is most of all concerned with preserving its privilege by focusing on issues abroad and at home that don't touch it.

Anonymous said...

@anon 09:54;

- the Jewish refugees from other parts of the Arab world can remain in Palestine. However, there needs to be a pause in the development of settlements to allow Palestinian refugees an opportunity to return to theyre homeland. The Israeli government also have to stop using the expulsion of Oriental Jews as if its a fault of Palestinians

- we'll just have to agree to disagree

- if you insist

"You're grasping at straws, quite frankly. Yes there are peculiarities to the Israeli state, but compared to many others it is not so bad. Certainly compared to every other Arab state (er... women, for example?)"

OK, thats your opinion. As expected, you pivot to womens rights in the wider Arab world, which we all acknowledge are bad, but its not really related to what we were discussing. Yes, compared to some of the Arab states, women's rights are better in Israel, although interestingly, for a place that's supposed to be a women's utopia, Israel is pretty central in the world of sex trafficking, which isn't really consistent with women's rights, and they're concerns for women's rights haven't stopped them trying to seek normalisation with the Saudis, who have about the worst track record, or they're initial support of Hamas, compared to the secular (and by no means perfect) PLO.

"If you were really worried about inequality you would be campaigning for a socialist Britain, but the Left is most of all concerned with preserving its privilege by focusing on issues abroad and at home that don't touch it."

Are you that rigid that you don't understand that two things can be fought for at once - socialism at home, and oppression abroad. Our government is ploughing money into a war that we don't support, and right at a time we're struggling to eat. Neither Tory, Liberal, or Labour offer a way out of this, and people are done with it.

Anonymous said...

"You're saying it's not an ally? What nonsense. The UK does not support Israel because the US tells it to, it doesn't need to - all 'Western' nations have shared interests"

No, I'm saying it's relationship as an ally is based on imperialist interests, not the welfare of Israelis in and of themselves.

Or, people don't agree with Hamas, but they don't believe Palestinians should be collectively punished, or in the banning of supporting Palestine, or equating supporting Palestinians as supporting Hamas etc...