Fundamentally Freund: Britain’s Falkland follies
Before Britain dares to criticize Israel, it should take a long, hard look in the mirror.
A protester burns the UK flag in Argentina Photo: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters
Last week marked the anniversary of a military clash, one that resulted in a
prolonged occupation of territory that continues to cast a shadow over
Attempts at mediation and appeals to the United
Nations have proven fruitless, as two peoples with competing claims vie for the
same small piece of territory.
The result has been periodic outbreaks of
saber-rattling and occasional bloodshed, with no immediate end in sight to a
dispute that seems as outdated as it is senseless.
I am referring, of
course, to the British stranglehold on the Falkland Islands.
marked 180 years since British and Argentine naval vessels battled it out at
sea, with King William IV’s forces emerging triumphant and asserting His
Majesty’s control over the area.
In the finest tradition of British
imperialism, a governor was quickly appointed, and some 1,800 settlers descended
on the Falklands within 20 years, despite howls of protest from the Argentine
UNTIL TODAY, Argentina continues to demand the return of what
they refer to as Las Malvinas, and the two countries fought a brief but bloody
war over the islands in 1982 which left 900 dead.
The row over the issue
once again made headlines last week when Argentine President Cristina Fernández
de Kirchner published an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron in
the Guardian on the subject.
This set off another round of debate and
discussion over the future of the Falklands, and led Cameron to respond to
Kirchner’s broadside, in which she referred to Britain as a “colonial
Regardless of what one might think of the two sides’ positions on
the issue, it is hard not to delight in the delicious irony of the
After all, in recent weeks Britain has been among the most
outspoken critics of Israel’s policies in Judea and Samaria, with Foreign
Secretary William Hague hurling some harsh words at the Jewish state.
yet, even as the British government feels free to lecture Israel for its
so-called occupation of Judea and Samaria, it continues to dig in its heels and
insist on prolonging its own domination of the Falklands.
Indeed, back in
December, after Israel approved new Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem and
the territories, Hague declared that, “Israeli settlements are illegal under
international law and undermine trust between the parties.” He also warned that
it would “undermine Israel’s international reputation” and even went so far as
to suggest that it would “create doubts” about Israel’s commitment to
Hmmm, now isn’t that interesting. Jews returning to live in their
ancestral homeland, on territory that was acquired in a defensive war, is in
Hague’s view “illegal under international law.”
And yet, when it comes to
the Falkland Islands, which have no historical, geographical or spiritual link
with Britain, and which were seized through colonialist expansion, a different
standard seems to apply.
OF COURSE, Britain chooses to hide behind a
convenient little fig leaf they have put into place by calling a referendum in
March among the Falkland Island residents to decide on their future political
But as the New York Times wryly noted, “For the British leader,
it is a safe bet. About 70 percent of the islanders are of British
In other words, Britain settled the islands with British
settlers over the past 180 years, throws millions of British pounds at them each
year, and is now asking them to choose whether to remain connected with
Not much of a gamble there.
If Israel were to do the
same, and hold a referendum in Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim or Kiryat Arba, giving
Jewish residents the right to determine their political future, does anyone
think Britain would consent to the idea? According to its 2012 census, a grand
total of 2,932 people now live in the Falklands, versus 488,395 sheep, which
averages out to 167 sheep per person.
Not surprisingly, the primary
export is wool.
So just why then does Britain stubbornly insist on
keeping the islands? UNDOUBTEDLY, THE promise of potentially large oil reserves
plays a significant role, as does Britain’s shaky sense of itself.
demise of its empire, and its decline as a great power, have steadily eroded its
standing in the world.
Holding on to the past and its relics, such as the
Falkland Islands, the royal family and that gastronomic atrocity known as “fruit
cake,” surely provide a measure of comfort to a nation that has lost its
Nonetheless, before Britain dares to criticize Israel, it should
take a long, hard look in the mirror.
The fact is that the Jewish state
has every right – morally, theologically, historically and militarily – to be in
Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, which is where our civilization was
The same can hardly be said for the Union Jack and the Falklands.