There is simply no question that Margaret Thatcher was a great admirer of the Jewish people and promoted and was influenced by Jewish Brits in a way never seen before:
“As half of one percent of the British population, Jews in the Margaret Thatcher era held 5 of 20 cabinet positions. Her high office Jewish contingent included Nigel Lawson (Chancellor, who resigned over the “Westland Affair”), Leon Brittan (Trade and Industry Secretary), David Young (Minister without portfolio, Malcolm Rifkind (Foreign Secretary), and Keith Joseph… “I was born to a Lithuanian father and am of Jewish descent,” noted Minister David Young. “My only brother, Stewart, is chairman of the BBC. My father used to say, ‘One son deputy chairman of the government, another chairman of the BBC — that’s not bad for immigrants.”
The former Tory prime minister, Harold MacMillan, quipped that there were more “old Estonians in her cabinet than old Etonians” – an almost classic trope of an upper-class Tory condescension toward Jews. She shattered that kind of attitude – and was absolutely right to. Which is why the neocons fall all over her. Kirchick’s piece is insightful when it comes to the cultural and religious affinities Thatcher’s Methodism had with what she saw as Jewish virtues (he could have no better source than John O’Sullivan).
But Jamie simply ignores the factual record of her dealings with the Jewish state. If Thatcher were to do to Israel today what she did in her time in office, I have no doubt that Kirchick would be calling her an anti-Semite. Why? She was often infuriated by Israel’s foreign policy and firmly and consistently opposed the project of Greater Israel, which is now the unspoken goal of the Israel Lobby in America. Ali Gharib examines the official records of her actual history with the state of Israel:
Documents released by the British archives reveal Thatcher as a hard-nosed opponent of Israel’s West Bank settlement project. Just weeks after taking the premiership in May 1979, she hosted Begin, the Israeli leader who’d formed the country’s first right-wing government in 1977, at No. 10 Downing Street. The meeting was reportedly tense: Thatcher’s foreign minister railed against the settlements. Thatcher, as many world leaders then did and today do, believed that settlements imperiled a potential deal that could end the Mideast conflict.
Gharib also relays Thatcher’s reaction to Israel’s ’82 invasion of southern Lebanon to root out the PLO:
Late last year, when previously undisclosed papers on the British reaction became public under the U.K.’s thirty-year rule, Jenni Frazer rounded up the Thatcher government’s sentiments: it was “more concerned with maintaining ostensible balance in the Middle East than in recognising Israel’s determination to stamp out terrorism from its northern border.” Frazer goes on:
Overwhelmed with managing the Falklands War, Mrs. Thatcher—though MP for Finchley and Golders Green—drew a comparison with invaded Lebanon in Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands. Francis Pym, Foreign Secretary, made it clear publicly that Britain wholeheartedly condemned Israel’s invasion. In private, the papers confirm, Britain was furious with Israel. A Foreign Office memo states: “It would be odd if we were now to conduct bilateral business with the Israelis as though nothing had happened.” An invitation to Israel to attend the British Army Equipment Exhibition was withdrawn and licences for arms sales were stopped… .
Today, the notion that the U.S. would stop buying weapons for Israel, let alone block their sales, is unthinkable.
Thatcher, unlike the neocons, believed in international law (she opposed the invasions of Grenada, the Falklands and Lebanon alike), as Scott McConnell notes. And she was not afraid to pressure and punish the Jewish state if she viewed its actions as violations of such law and a threat to long-term peace in the Middle East and British interests. That precise position today is regarded as proof of anti-Semitism by the Greater Israel lobby. I believe in suspending all aid to Israel until it stops the settlements. That’s enough to make me a Jew-baiter in today’s America.
Just one request: call Thatcher an anti-Semite too. Show a little fucking consistency.