Fundamentally Freund: Britain's occupied territories

Whilst the West Bank is the heartland of the Jewish people, UK claims in far-flung locales are dubious.

michael freund 88 (photo credit: )
michael freund 88
(photo credit: )
Even as its armed forces are valiantly prosecuting the war on terror overseas, Britain's diplomats at home are doing their utmost to ensure that this will not be remembered as their country's finest hour. In a baffling turn of events, the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has quietly begun turning up the political heat on Israel in recent weeks, seeking to impose an economic choke hold on the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. On November 3, the UK Independent newspaper reported that London is pressing the European Union to clamp down on imports produced by Jews living beyond Israel's 1967 borders. In a circular distributed to all 27 EU member states, the British Foreign Office grumbled that "there has been an acceleration in settlement construction," and it urged Europe "to look at how UK and Community policies can avoid inadvertently supporting or encouraging settlement activity." Israeli officials are said to be concerned that this may be the first step in a British campaign to bring about a total boycott of Jewish goods from Judea and Samaria. And so, while Palestinian terrorists in Gaza are busy firing rockets into the Negev, the British government is more concerned about Israeli tomatoes being grown in the West Bank. This latest British intrusion into Israel's internal affairs will likely get an additional boost next week, when Foreign Secretary David Miliband visits here and reportedly plans to raise the issue of settlement construction in Judea and Samaria with his hosts. WELL, IF the Brits want to have an open and frank discussion about "occupied territories," I say bring it on. A good place to start would be with Britain's own "occupied territories," which are far more extensive and widespread than anything it accuses Israel of possessing. Indeed, from Europe to South America to the Middle East to the South Pole, there is hardly a corner of the world in which Britain isn't involved in some territorial dispute or another as it obstinately clings to control over disparate chunks of terrain. The most famous of these, of course, are the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, which are claimed by Argentina. Although the islands are of little economic value and are home to more penguins than people, Britain fought a brief war with Argentina over them in 1982 which left 900 dead. And just last week, the British sparked a diplomatic row with Buenos Aires by issuing a new constitution for the Falklands, which it said is intended "to protect UK interests." This prompted Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taina to call a press conference at which he denounced the British for attempting to perpetuate "an anachronistic colonial situation." AND THEY call us stubborn occupiers? Half way around the world lies another fine example of British hypocrisy - the Chagos Archipelago, which London refers to as the British Indian Ocean Territory. Both Mauritius and the Seychelles have strong claims to it as their own, but that didn't stop Britain from forcibly expelling all the inhabitants between 1965 and 1971 to make way for a military base it wanted to lease to the US. And though the Chagossians, as they are known, have repeatedly won court cases against the British government demanding their "right of return," the Brits will have none of it, and have largely left the islands' former residents to fend for themselves in exile. As prominent British columnist Matthew Parris put it in the Times of London last week: "The saga is a stinking disgrace, a slur on Britain's good name." Nonetheless, her majesty's government simply refuses to let go. Thousands of miles to the south, even the polar icecaps of Antarctica have not escaped London's lust for land. Britain has staked a claim to a whopping 1.7 million square kilometers of the South Pole's frozen terrain, part of which overlaps with territories claimed by Chile and Argentina. But the fact that it is stepping on other nations' toes, and ignoring their rightful claims, does not seem to trouble Britain's Foreign Office one bit. Back here in the Middle East, our neighbors in Cyprus continue to suffer from some good old-fashioned British colonial covetousness. While efforts are under way to reunite the Greek and Turkish controlled parts of the isle, Britain doggedly continues to cling to 254 sq. km. of Cypriot territory in the form of the Akrotiri and Dhekelia sovereign military bases. This has sparked the ire of Cyprus' new president, who vowed earlier this year to remove the British "colonial bloodstain" from his country. WHILE WE are on the subject of British colonialism, need we mention the territory of Gibraltar, which Spain wants back? And what about Northern Ireland? So before Britain decides to preach to Israel about the issue of "occupied territories," it would do well to put its own house in order. Put in perspective, it is clear that all of London's harrumphing about Israel's "occupied territories" is just a lot of duplicitous hot air. By contrast, Judea and Samaria are the ancient heartland of the Jewish people, the cradle of our civilization, and Israel has every right - morally, historically, theologically and militarily - to be there. The same can hardly be said for Britain's dubious claims to various specks of land at other nations' expense. As Winston Churchill once famously pointed out: "The English never draw a line without blurring it." And nowhere is that line presently more blurred than when it comes to London's barefaced hypocrisy on the subject of "occupation."