While not a British citizen nor subject, I can’t help hearing the upbeat music of Rule Britannia without sensing pomp and glory. At times, the song has taken on different meanings, but it has certainly epitomized the heyday of British global imperial power.
Meanwhile, across the Channel, other European hypocrites have been in full bloom as well, adding to the Brit’s own audacity...
“…European Union foreign-policy chief Josip Borrell put forward a surprise resolution on Israel’s new government that included the following: 'The E.U. does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank. The E.U. reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law'”...
Indeed, much of the world is now having a conniption over the thought of Judeans--Jews--once again residing and ruling in parts of Judea and Samaria.
Along with those thoughts, I recently had an opportunity to view 'The Iron Lady' again, a movie about Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher. Especially relevant was her decision to go to war to “reclaim” the Falkland Islands (aka, Las Malvinas)--some 8,300 miles away off the Argentine Coast. I couldn’t help but ponder Argentina staking claim over the Isle of Wight…
So, while other nations have indulged in such duplicitous policies, it’s the Brits that I will again focus upon.
John Campbell’s biography of former Prime Minister Thatcher (1979 to 1990) hit the big screen in 2012. Meryl Streep took home another Best Actress academy award for her portrayal of the Iron Lady.
Like her nation’s overwhelming, centuries’ old imperial past, there are multiple ways of viewing Thatcher’s own actions as well.
Ask people which empire, in all history, was the largest, and see if they know.
The British Empire beats them all by far--at one time comprising nearly a quarter of Planet Earth’s land mass, and about a quarter of its population.
Name the location - all North America; British West Indies; Egypt and much of the rest of the Middle East and North and sub-Saharan Africa; Australia and New Zealand; Hong Kong; the former Burma, Ceylon, and Indian sub-continent and environs; islands off of South America; and so forth, not to mention the earlier forced acquisition and consolidation of the Scottish, Welsh, and Irish peoples’ lands.
Rule Britannia’s realm dwarfed all others, and despite many of the Brits’ former possessions now having attained independence, the legacy of that imperial, neo-colonial experience is still very much with those former subjects today, with impacts on much of the rest of us as well. The late 19th century poem by Rudyard Kipling, The White Man’s Burden, sums this up nicely. While addressing America’s new dabbling in such enterprise after war with Spain, it was originally written with Great Britain in mind.
A few years into Thatcher’s administration, in 1982 Argentina once again reached the boiling point over British imperial and colonial policies which had resulted in its earlier snatching islands just a few hundred miles off the Argentine coast.
About 8,300 miles away from Great Britain, Las Malvinas--aka, the Falkland Islands--were perceived as a thumb in the eye of Argentine pride. As hinted earlier, think of the latter staking claim to the Isle of Wight or the Hebrides off of “Great Britain”-- Scotland’s coast. Indeed, ask some Scots themselves how they feel about that forced union. Does the movie Braveheart ring a bell?
Anyway, after the Argentine invasion to “reclaim” Britain’s far overseas possession, the Iron Lady’s military went to war in the name of British sovereignty and national interests--once again, almost a third of the circumference of the world away.
In comparison, and related to the misnamed “annexation” issue regarding the relationship between Judeans and Judea--let’s turn the clock back to the June 1967 War in the Middle East. And, to really understand, we’ll go back even further, to the break-up, after World War I, of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which controlled much of region for some four centuries.
The Brits made a lot of conflicting promises to different peoples during those days.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt--and going beyond those who would claim just neo-colonial, divisive policies--there was also a sincere feeling, in at least some circles, that long-suppressed peoples should finally get a taste of freedom and independence.
Arabia for Arabs, Judea for Judeans (Jews), Armenia for Armenians, and Kurdistan for Kurds was one way of expressing this view. President Woodrow Wilson’s famous “Fourteen Points” emphasized this as well. The hopes and aspirations of other peoples, like Assyrians, also periodically surfaced.
Having said this, those magnanimous views often clashed with those actually running the British Foreign Office and others like them.
Thus, so as to not anger Arabs, the Brits, whose imperial navy (what a coincidence!) had recently switched from coal to oil, reneged on promises to Kurds--currently some 40 million truly stateless people who pre-dated Arab and Turk conquerors by millennia in the region.
After receiving a favorable decision from the League of Nations regarding heavily Kurdish-populated northern oil fields in 1925 which awarded that territory to the British Mandate of Mesopotamia instead of to Ataturk's new Turkish Republic, London next supported only Arab interests in what soon became Iraq instead. Specially designed British Hawker-Hunter aircraft helped take care of Arabs’ Kurdish headaches afterwards.
A few years earlier, London was involved in similar Rule Britannia, shenanigans:
While Jews had earlier been promised that they would be able to live throughout the Brits’ other, smaller Mandate of Palestine, in 1922 almost 80% of the land was handed over instead to Arab nationalism, in one of its many permitted subspecies.
How is it that Arabs get to have dozens of states, yet other peoples are still deprived of one?
The Emirate of “Transjordan” was severed from the remaining 20% of the original April 25, 1920 Mandate of Palestine’s territory (meant for the Jews, remember?), while still technically being part of the Mandate (until gaining independence in 1946).
Led by the British Sir John Bagot Glubb (“Glubb Pasha”), Transjordan’s Arab Legion seized lands west of the Jordan River in attacking a minuscule reborn Israel in 1948. Subsequently holding territory on both banks, it soon renamed itself Jordan.
Note: The conquest of historical Judea and Samaria (only recently dubbed “West Bank” due to this illegal conquest), was an illegal occupation of non-apportioned territory in the Mandate, and no nations besides Pakistan and the British themselves recognized this.
In his book upon which the movie, 'Iron Lady', is based, John Campbell refers to Israel’s defensive actions on the "West Bank" as illegal acquisition of “Palestinian” lands. It’s not clear whether those words are his thoughts or are actually those of the Iron Lady. Either way, they’re simply wrong.
Contrary to Arab assertions, the disputed lands were indeed non-apportioned, and all the Mandate’s residents were allowed to live there. Much, if not most, of the area were state lands, and Jews lived and owned property there until they were slaughtered by Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s. Transjordan made its "West Bank" territories Judenrein after 1948, as it had done earlier on the East Bank after 1922.
Thatcher’s Britain--which could fight Argentina 8,300 miles from home in the name of national interests, would continue to press Israel to leave territories used to launch attacks against it and on which Judeans/Jews (unlike Brits on the Falklands, French Polynesia, American Samoa, Russian Chechnya, etc.) have thousands of years of history and land ownership.
Great Britain, France, Belgium, and other EU nations (not to mention Russia and the Arabs’ own internal conquests and colonization of scores of millions of non-Arab peoples themselves)--which conquered territories and peoples around the globe while grabbing their natural resources as well--see no discrepancy in threatening Jews and complaining about an allegedly “expansionist” Israel because, having been repeatedly attacked by Arabs who want their sole, minuscule nation destroyed, insist that they need something beyond the 9-15 mile wide sardine can Israel was left as after the UN-imposed Auschwitz/armistice lines were imposed in1949. They are asking for the very territorial compromise that, ironically, the British Foreign Secretary had promised Israel earlier himself.
As today, “land for peace” became the constant lecture--even from the friendly Iron Lady--though it was clear to all with eyes open and neurons intact that the only “peace” most Arabs had in mind for Israel was the peace of the grave--regardless of its size.
What makes this more confusing is that it was an earlier British Foreign Secretary, Lord Caradon, chief architect of the final draft of UNSC Resolution 242 in the aftermath of the June ’67 War, who deliberately built in a territorial compromise over the disputed lands so that Israel would, at long last, get more secure, defensible, and real political borders i(nstead of armistice lines imposed in 1949 after the combined Arab attack of 948). Again, those lines left Israel a mere 9-15 miles wide at its waist, where most of its population and industry were located - an irresistible temptation to its enemies.
Here were the Iron Lady’s colleague, Lord Caradon’s, very words on this subject…
“…It would have been wrong to demand Israel return to positions of June 4, 1967 … those positions were … artificial … just places where soldiers of each side happened to be on the day fighting stopped in 1948 … just armistice lines. That’s why we didn’t demand Israelis return to them…”
With this in mind, Jews would obviously have to repopulate areas in Judea and Samaria in which they indeed had lived for millennia.
Hence the confusion over this next alleged statement from the Iron Lady in 1980, recorded in a secret diplomatic cable written by Ambassador John Robinson on May 4, 1980:
“…Efforts to convince (Prime Minister) Mr. Begin that his West Bank policy was absurd, and that there should not be Israeli settlements, had failed to move him… His response was that Judea and Samaria had been Jewish in biblical times and they should therefore be so today…”
To her credit, however, she also made the following statement on page 246 in her book, Statecraft: Strategies For A Changing World:
“…Israel must never be expected to jeopardize her security: if she was ever foolish enough to do so, and then suffered for it, the backlash against both honest brokers and Palestinians would be immense – ‘land for peace’ must also bring peace…”
As a relevant footnote to this overall topic and discussion, please also consider that the Minutes of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations and other solid documentation show that the vast majority of Arabs were newcomers into the Mandate themselves…i.e., Arabs settlers setting up Arab settlements in Palestine.
Indeed, after the combined Arab invasion in 1948 backfired on the Arabs themselves, so many Arabs in the Mandate were indeed newcomers that the United Nations Relief Agency set up to assist Arab refugees had to adjust the very definition of that word to assist those people.
So many Arabs were recent arrivals—settlers!--themselves that UNRWA changed the definition of “refugee” from its prior meaning of persons normally and traditionally resident to those who lived in the Mandate for a minimum of only two years prior to 1948…!
There were other disturbing episodes as well…like when Thatcher joined American leaders, such as George H.W. Bush and James Baker III in condemning Israel’s surgical destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. Just imagine if Saddam had had the bomb when he invaded Kuwait and went to war with Iran.
And, working non-stop on behalf of freedom for the Soviet Union’s Jewish refuseniks (to her credit), the Iron Lady then made the painful, incorrect leap comparing them to allegedly “stateless” Arab refugees. The plight of the latter was indeed largely Arab self-inflicted. That of the former was not
That of the former folks was not.
Furthermore, to date, Arabs have almost two dozen states--including one that Great Britain itself awarded to them on most of the original 1920 Mandate of Palestine--Jordan. Arabs refused another partition in 1947 which would have given them half of the 20% that was left after the 1922 gift. 90% of the territory was not enough…
Question: What compromises have Arabs ever made with any of their own national competitors?
Jews were entitled to nothing in this self-centered vision of justice--the same Arab mindset which victimizes scores of millions of other non-Arab peoples in the region to this very day.
It is very disappointing when folks like the Iron Lady fail to see such differences.
In the broader perspective, however, and despite all of the above and other “flaws” (just ask the Irish), when judging world leaders, the world would be a better place if Margaret Thatcher was still in her office at 10 Downing Street today.
Perhaps with Prime Minister Boris Johnson now at that residence, the Iron Lady’s legacy may not only live on, but improve as well.
1. Please open http://q4j-middle-east.com and see a Roman coin of conquest for another of its very troublesome provinces. Note please, a Iudaea (Judaea) Capta coin--not a Palaestina Capta one.
2. Vespasian would help subdue early Brits as he had done with Jews in Judaea as well. See accounts of contemporary Roman historians, Tacitus and Dio Cassius, regarding the latter here /Articles/Article.aspx/10171)