Treason is commonly defined as the betrayal of a trust or allegiance, especially to one’s country or government. But what about when one faction of the government or establishment betrays another? Who will be regarded as the real traitor then depends on the balance of political power.
One historical example that comes to mind is that of Edward VIII, Britain’s Nazi King. This extraordinary individual was portrayed in Netflix’s drama The Crown. He has also been the subject of several documentaries over the years, including this one.
In 1936, Edward famously abdicated in favour of his brother George VI, the father of Britain’s current Queen Elizabeth II. The story put about at the time was that Edward gave up his throne “for love”, so that he could marry Wallis Simpson. As a divorcée, it was said, marrying her was impossible for the British monarch.
However, secretly, the British government had other concerns. The King was well known to be a Nazi sympathiser. British intelligence had both him and Wallis Simpson under surveillance.
One British diplomat recorded in his 1933 diary that the views of the then Prince of Wales were “quite pro-Hitler”; Edward had said that, “It was no business of ours [Britain’s] to interfere in Germany’s internal affairs either re- the Jews or anyone else.” Ominously, Edward was also reported to have “added that dictators are very popular these days and we might want one in England [sic].”
It is also likely that US citizen Wallis Simpson was secretly passing information onto the Nazi government in Berlin. The FBI had her under surveillance and reported to President Franklin D Roosevelt that, “The British Government has known that the Duchess of Windsor [Simpson] was exceedingly pro-German in her sympathies and connections.”
The Bureau explained further that, “There is a strong reason to believe that this is the reason why she was considered so obnoxious to the British Government that they refused to permit Edward to marry her and maintain the throne.”
The British establishment was at the time torn in its loyalties, and still very much in the appeasement phase concerning the rise to power of the Nazis. Edward was far from the only British aristocrat to sympathise with Nazi rule, as a bulwark against communism and socialism, and thus the potential end of their hereditary privileges.
After abdicating, Edward and his wife infamously and openly visited Germany as personal guests of Adolf Hitler. The Nazi leader plotted to make Edward his puppet monarch after the successful invasion of Britain. Thankfully, that never happened.
A recent book describes Edward as the “Traitor King”. This poses an interesting political question: can the monarch of a country be regarded as a traitor to that country, when he or she is, after all, the head of state?
I would argue that, yes, he or she could; after all, Edward betrayed his own country. But this requires us to understand the genuine interests of the country to be those that most benefit the masses rather than “the national interest”, that intentionally vague term so often favoured by politicians.
For very similar reasons, I argue that Israel’s propagandists and flunkies within Western governments are traitors to their own country when they undermine the expressed support of the masses in favour of the Palestinian people and against Israeli war crimes. My colleague at The Electronic Intifada, David Cronin has reported an absolutely appalling recent example of such treachery in Ireland.
The Palestine solidarity movement has always been far stronger in Ireland than in Britain. After all, the Irish were colonised by the British, and the north of Ireland is still occupied by British soldiers; evacuation, followed by peaceful re-unification with the Republic, will hopefully come sooner rather than later.
In Ireland’s parliament – the Oireachtas – there is far stronger criticism voiced of Israel than there has ever been heard in Westminster. In 2019, both houses of the Oireachtas passed the Occupied Territories Bill, to ban Irish trade with Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank.
However, Ireland’s pro-Israel government ministers ignored this clear instruction from the people’s deputies and sabotaged the bill, blocking its implementation. And in June, Kyle O’Sullivan, Ireland’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, wrote a simpering opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post apologising for Irish opposition to Israeli war crimes, as well as for the Irish people’s supposed “emotive and single-minded view of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.”
The actions of those pro-Israel ministers and the ambassador can accurately, I believe, be described as treasonous, because they are a treacherous betrayal, not only of the expressed opinions of the Irish people, but also of the legislation enacted by the Irish parliament. All, apparently, to defend Israel from criticism and even the mildest form of sanctions targeting its illegal settlements and settlers who expel Palestinians and steal their land.
As Cronin reported, though, instead of doing anything to hold Israel to account, the Irish government is instead exerting political pressure to punish and discipline its critics. Irish human rights lawyer Susan Power – who works for the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq – tweeted that O’Sullivan’s actions were the actions of an Irish Zionist and that his article was “treasonous”. In my view, Power was 100 per cent correct.
But the Irish government can’t handle the truth, it seems. It set about trying to get her fired, writing to Al Haq and exerting serious pressure on Sadaka, an Irish pro-Palestine campaign group, of which Power had been a board member. Shamefully, the Irish government’s pressure was so severe that she felt that she had no choice but to step down.
Ireland and its people have suffered from colonialism more than most. If its government’s betrayal of that legacy is not treasonous, I don’t know what is. Such treachery must end.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.