Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Albion's perfidy in Arab world

Baroness Warsi branded the UK's policy on Gaza mealy-mouthed and morally indefensible
Baroness Warsi branded the UK's policy on Gaza mealy-mouthed and morally indefensible

Baroness Warsi's resignation over the Government's stance on Gaza is a setback to David Cameron.

Warsi, who supports the Conservative Friends of Israel group, wrote in her resignation letter that the Government's support for Israeli military action, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,800 Palestinians, is "morally indefensible... (and) not in Britain's national interest".

Warsi's decision was backed by other Conservatives, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, who is Jewish and has criticised Cameron's failure to condemn Israel's "unjustifiable killing of civilians in Gaza".

But if you look at the history of British foreign policy in the Middle East for the last 100 years and beyond, it has always been a source of embarrassment.

The centenary of the First World War reminds us of Britain's promise to the Arabs to grant them independence in exchange for fighting the Turks, who were Germany's allies.

However, after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the Russians exposed a secret deal between France and Britain – the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement – to partition one part of the Arab world into different countries (Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq) and to colonise them.

Britain also created oppressive monarchies in the Arabian Gulf, including the Saudi dictatorship, and rejected democratically elected governments.

The 1917 Balfour declaration, in which Britain promised to create a Jewish state in Palestine and brought Jewish migrants without consulting the Palestinians, led to the creation of Israel and the expulsion of most of the Palestinians in 1948. Britain also supplied Israel with the heavy water necessary to produce the country's nuclear weapons.

George Bush and Tony Blair's lies about Iraq's WMD to justify invading Iraq was just the most recent foreign policy disaster.

Warsi is right to highlight the need for an ethical foreign policy that reflects public opinion, instead of a policy based on securing oil resources which would still have been accessible while holding the high moral ground.

Mohammed Samaana is a Belfast-based freelance writer

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