By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem
Last week, a few Palestinian journalists and I had the opportunity to meet with Martin Day, a spokesman of the British government. The meeting, which was hosted by the Arabic Media Internet Network (AMIN), took place in Ramallah. In his introductory remarks, Day gave the impression that the imminent renewal of peace talks between the almost completely helpless Palestinian Authority (PA) and a brazenly insolent Israel, ruled by the most hawkish government in the Jewish state's history, will eventually achieve peace and lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. He also lauded the Obama administration, underscoring its "sincerity" towards resolving the enduring Palestinian cause. Day's remarks were received with disbelief and dismay by the small audience of journalists, writers and cameramen who thought that Day either didn't know what he was talking about, or he did know what he was saying but was detached not only from truth but from reality as well.
As a torrent of questions was directed at him, the British diplomat switched "from straight talk" to PR talk, recollecting some of the "pro-Palestinian" gestures and postures made recently by the British government, such as supporting the Goldstone Report at the United Nations.
Day was asked if he thought that the flaccid British approach toward Israel – for example, asking nicely if the Jewish state would like to refrain from undermining peace efforts would really make Israel reconsider its manifestly criminal policy toward the Palestinians. Fleeing from the heat of the question, Day said there was no alternative to peace talks. He then dodged another question on whether he thought the impending talks would be truly genuine or just more of the same, as most Palestinians think. He was reminded about the fiasco of direct PA-Israel talks which lasted for eighteen years. One journalist asked, "What makes you think that three months or even one year of indirect talks will succeed in achieving what eighteen years of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians failed utterly to achieve?" Frustrated by the directness of the questions, Day seemed at a loss about how to answer, knowing very well that the present so-called "peace efforts" are nothing more than a desperate regurgitation of previous talks.
He refused to answer a question on why the European Union, including Britain, was refusing to exert meaningful pressure on Israel to stop building Jewish colonies on occupied Palestinian territories, which undermine really seriously the feasibility of the increasingly moribund two-state solution. One journalist asked Day if he thought the Obama administration, which has been unable to persuade Israel to freeze settlement expansion, would be able to force Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Unable to answer the question, Mr. Day, who had earlier praised the Obama administration, said he was speaking only on behalf of the British government.
Our encounter with the British diplomat convinced us that Britain has a consistently pro-Israeli policy and that the occasional gestures made toward the PA regime are meant only to cover up the long-standing British acceptance of Israeli criminality. Britain does give the PA regime some aid in the form of training the PA police force. However, it is very clear that the British aid is not conditional on an undertaking by the PA to respect the human rights and civil liberties of Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. Hence, one can claim safely that Britain is effectively helping the PA to torment its citizens and violate their human rights, a fact corroborated by many human rights organizations, including the London-based Amnesty International.
Palestinians, along with many honest and conscientious people around the globe, including many British citizens, have hoped that successive British governments would one day try to atone for Britain's grave sins against the Palestinian people. After all, it was Britain which gave Palestine to the Zionist movement through the infamous Balfour Declaration in 1917.
However, to the chagrin of many, Britain has shown consistently that the same criminal mindset that gave Palestine to Zionism on a silver platter remains alive and well in London. In fact, one could cite hundreds of examples showing that Britain is not really sincere about reaching a just peace in Palestine.
For example, the decision by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to prevent the issue of arrest warrants for suspected Israeli war criminals, such as Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Olmert, to name but a few. Under the new proposal made by Brown less than two weeks ago, the Crown Prosecution Service will take over responsibility for prosecuting war crimes and other violations of international law. Bowing to Zionist pressure and utterly ignoring the massacres Israel carried out in Gaza last year, Brown wrote in the Daily Telegraph, "As we have seen, there is now significant danger of such a provision being exploited by politically-motivated organizations and individuals who set out only to grab headlines knowing their case has no realistic chance of a successful prosecution".
This ill-advised proposal by Brown should be viewed as a blunt betrayal of the thousands of Palestinians killed, maimed and incinerated by the Israeli war machine during Israel's genocidal onslaught against the people of Gaza. It should also be viewed as a tacit encouragement to Israel to keep up its militaristic approach toward the Palestinians. In the final analysis, crime unpunished is crime encouraged. The proposal also shows that the British decision to back the Goldstone Report at the UN was no more than a PR exercise intended to maintain a semblance of credibility among Britain's Arab friends.
This duplicity on the part of the British government is further underscored by the virtual British silence in the face of the latest provocative decisions by the Israeli occupation authorities to build tens of thousands of additional settler units for Jews in East Jerusalem.
The feeble and certainly ineffective British stand in the face of Israel's determination to destroy every chance for peace proves that Britain is actually a hindrance to, rather than a facilitator of, peace in the Middle East. Indeed, since British Ambassador to the UN Lord Caradon drafted the Resolution 242 in November 1969, Britain has been pandering to the whims of the Zionist regime in a manner that is only outmatched by America.
Some Palestinians and Arabs had thought naively that the exit of the certified war criminal Tony Blair from the British government would restore some balance to British foreign policy toward the Muslim world, especially Palestine. However, with a gung-ho approach towards Iran, the murderous intervention in Afghanistan and the nefarious connivance with the Israelis, Britain is riding roughshod over all Arab and Muslim sensibilities. This more or less strengthens the arguments of extremist groups like al-Qaeda, which say that the West will not behave justly and decently toward Muslims unless it is forced to do so.
While the British government is certainly to blame for its hypocrisy and duplicity toward the Palestinians' plight, for which it must shoulder some responsibility, Palestinian and Arab officials should always challenge British diplomats and officials to act on their criticism of Israel. It is unacceptable to criticize Israeli settlement expansion in the morning while assuring Israel in the evening that relations with Britain will remain exceptionally strong and be unaffected by any differences over the settlement issue. Britain is the mother of all the calamities that have befallen the Palestinian people since 1914. Hence, a British discourse toward the Palestinian people that is based on deception and dishonesty can never be accepted, even if British diplomats claim it is based on good will.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.