|Volume 48 Number 15, May 19, 2018||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
David Cronin, Electronic Intifada, May 9, 2018
Supporters of Israel among Britain's ruling elite tend to recite mantras about the two nations sharing the same values.
If theft and plunder were regarded as values, the mantras would have a ring of truth to them.
Expecting full honesty and transparency from Theresa May's government would, however, not be realistic. So it comes as little surprise that one of her cabinet colleagues has wished Israel a happy 70th birthday, while trumpeting its commitment to "justice, compassion, tolerance".
The greeting - from Gavin Williamson, Britain's defence secretary - was delivered at a time when unarmed protesters were being massacred in Gaza.
Omitted from the discourse on shared values is that Israel and Britain have a shared culpability. While Zionist troops were directly responsible for the Nakba - the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine - their crimes were enabled and, in some cases, abetted by the British authorities.
The first important point is that the Haganah - the main Zionist militia at the time - was, to a large extent, trained by Britain while it ruled Palestine between the two world wars.
Although the Haganah was illegal, the British relied on it when conducting ambush operations against a Palestinian revolt during the 1930s. The Haganah provided thousands of men who joined the "supernumerary" police force that the British assembled while trying to crush that revolt.
On 20 April 1948, Cyril Marriott, the British consul-general in Haifa, sent a telegram to London officials apprising them of the security situation where he was based. Zionist forces were expected to attack Haifa - a strategically vital port city - within the next day or two, Marriott noted.
The priority of the military, he added, would be to safeguard "the route and installations" regarded as essential for the evacuation of British troops. Once that objective was achieved, Britain would "let Jews and Arabs fight it out in other parts of the town".
The instruction to allow the warring parties to "fight it out" overlooked how the Haganah was numerically stronger and equipped with more modern weapons than the Arab forces.
When the offensive took place, Zionist forces swiftly captured a large part of Haifa. Hugh Stockwell, a British general, refused to allow Arab reinforcements to advance towards the town. He also ordered British forces to withdraw.
Stockwell then instructed Arab forces to disarm. He told "all foreign Arab males" to assemble at a place designated by the Haganah, so that these men could be expelled "under military control".
Palestinian leaders in Haifa complained that Stockwell's conditions were unfair. Without any viable alternative, they requested that Palestinians leave the area.
As the Palestinians fled - reportedly with just the clothes they were wearing - the Haganah fired on an ambulance, ransacked a hospital and looted homes. Once more, the British held back.
By leaving Palestinians with no option than to quit Haifa, Stockwell was arguably an accomplice in mass expulsion. The Zionist capture of Haifa that he facilitated helped turn it into what David Ben-Gurion called a "corpse city".
Ben-Gurion, it should be stressed, favoured transforming Palestinian communities into corpse cities. He predicted that the Zionist success in Haifa could be replicated throughout Palestine.
Within a few weeks, Ben-Gurion had formally declared the establishment of Israel. He became its first prime minister.
Britain's involvement in Palestine did not end when it gave up the League of Nations mandate. For most of Israel's seven decades, Britain has given it practical and rhetorical assistance.
Britain's ruling elites have never atoned for their role in enabling the 1948 dispossession of Palestinians. Rather, they have prolonged and exacerbated the suffering of Palestinians, while pretending to believe in justice.