The Tories And Israel

Here’s a straw in the wind. The Daily Telegraph is in many ways the bastion of British (or rather English conservatism). I worked for it as an intern in the summers of 1984 and 1985, while I was also moonlighting in Margaret Thatcher’s personal policy shop. (My contribution was a paper arguing for an aggressively pro-environmental stance for conservatism, which died a very quick and sudden death.) Back in those days, it was still literally on Fleet Street in a great mausoleum of a building that was the model for the paper in Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel, Scoop. It was then edited by the man Waugh lampooned as “William Boot” in the novel, William Deeds, an astonishingly sane, charming and decent man, and seconded by the man who shepherded me into the higher arts of hackery – even if I simply never mastered the functional alcoholism which was the Fleet Street rule in those days.

Which is a long way of explaining why the paper that championed Thatcher, that has a soft spot for UKIP, and that is by and large to the right of David Cameron, just ran a piece that no right-of-center outlet in the US – save The American Conservative (peace be upon them) – would ever dream of running. It’s about Israel, and it follows the British parliament’s overwhelming but non-binding vote to recognize a Palestinian state as a way to put some pressure on Israel to stop its continued assault on the land and homes and dignity of the Palestinians it controls. Money quote:

If you need proof of just how friendless Israel’s hard-Right government has become, consider the statements last night from MPs who would normally count themselves the country’s natural allies.

Arch-Tories such as Nicholas Soames (whose grandfather Winston Churchill is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political hero) spoke eloquently in favour of Palestinian statehood … Not a single MP on either set of benches dared to express support for Israeli policies such as this summer’s devastating assault on Gaza or the ever-expanding settlement project (which experts warn may be about to destroy any chance of dividing Jerusalem between the two sides as part of a future peace deal). And Israel was criticised in terms that until recent years were considered taboo: Labour MP Andy Slaughter’s comparison of the West Bank occupation to South African apartheid drew only murmurs of assent around the chamber. Even most of those who expressed misgivings about the motion preferred to follow the Tory leadership and abstain rather than openly oppose it.

Alan Duncan, former Tory minister, and shadow leader of the Commons, yesterday let it rip as well:

Since 1967 Israel has continuously and systematically built outside its legitimate borders and has claimed its neighbours’ land as its own. Israeli settlements are the worst, most destructive, aspect of the military occupation, an occupation which has become the longest in modern international relations. The continued expansion of settlements demonstrates that the occupier has little or no intention of ending that occupation or of permitting a viable Palestinian state to come into existence …

This illegal construction and habitation is theft, it is annexation, it is a land grab – it is any expression that accurately describes the encroachment which takes from someone else something that is not rightfully owned by the taker. As such, it should be called what it is, and not by some euphemistic soft alternative. Settlements are illegal colonies built in someone else’s country. They are an act of theft, and what is more something which is both initiated and supported by the state of Israel…

Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity: this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame to the government of Israel. It would appear that on the West Bank the rule of international law has been shelved. One should not use the word ‘apartheid’ lightly, but as a description of Hebron it is both accurate and undeniable.

Netanyahu knows the American Congress will continue to enable this “wicked cocktail,” as long as fundamentalist end-times Christians and the American Jewish Establishment have anything to do with it.  But soon, the American Congress will be all Israel’s got in the Western world. And the US will become as isolated as well.