Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Britain’s “extremist mainstream”: MidEast ambassadors reveal their true colours


by Robin Shepherd


Sometimes it takes a while before the sheer horror of what is going on in one's own country truly sinks in. How many times have I written here about another "new low" in British attitudes to Israel, the Jews, and Islamist terrorism? How much room, therefore, can there still be for anything sufficiently dreadful to have any shock value? But the revelations last week about the British Foreign Office and two of its ambassadors in the Middle East were so mind bogglingly appalling that I felt it sensible to spend the weekend pondering on what this all meant. Others have written well (indeed brilliantly, see Melanie Phillips here) on the matter already. But, for what it is worth, here is what I have come up with after a couple of days thinking things over.

First the facts of the matter. Last week, Frances Guy, Britain's ambassador to Lebanon wrote an entry on her official Foreign Office blog mourning the death of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual godfather of the Jew-hating, Hezbollah terror group. She described Fadlallah — the man who blessed (literally) the suicide bombers who killed more than 300 Americans in the 1983 Beirut bomb attack — as "a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith." And, she went on to say: "The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints".

The relatives of the hundreds of people whose arms, legs and heads he had blown off might take a different view of the kind of "impact" Fadlallah has on "everyone he meets, no matter what their faith". But before we come to the commentary, be aware that there has been more of this sort of thing from the British government's top representative to Jordan. Here is a selection of recent remarks from Ambassador James Watt:

"No one outside Israel is prepared – or very few – to take Zionist arguments at their face value any longer." He said the notion that "a Jewish people was building Jerusalem 5,000 years ago" was "completely non-factual". He described the Arabs as "the indigenous Palestinian population". He lamented "the arrival of the Zionists in Palestine, with their commitment to avoiding any kind of integration into existing society" which he described as "the origin of the problem." He wrote of Israeli policies being "progressively more violent" and, "more ready to inflict civilian casualties on a large scale in pursuit of its political goals" and he repeated various pieces of Hamas propaganda about Operation Cast Lead and the Gaza blockade.

I will deal with both of these characters together in a moment. But it is also worth noting a postscript to the scandal (or lack of one) surrounding the remarks by Frances Guy, HMG Ambassador to Lebanon, in particular. Her initial remarks have now been removed from the website — even the Foreign Office has baulked at mourning the death of a man who approved the slaughter of hundreds of Americans, citizens therefore of Britain's greatest ally. But what has now materialised is a new blog by Guy in which she appears completely unaware of what she has done:

"The problem with diplomatic blogging," she says, "is that you risk being anodyne or controversial". No. The problem with diplomatic blogging is that you risk saying what you really think and thus revealing your core beliefs and values. "I have no truck with terrorism wherever it is committed in whoever's name," she says.

Ah yes. That's the official Foreign Office line. But caught without her diplomatic clothes on, her thinking was revealed to be very different, wasn't it? And even in what is supposed to be an apology, she is still unable to tell the truth about the mass murderer that she had spoken of in such glowing terms: "The blog was my personal attempt to offer some reflections of a figure who while controversial was also highly influential in Lebanon's history and who offered spiritual guidance to many Muslims in need." (My italics)

And, she concludes: "I regret any offence caused". Really? So why didn't you prove that point by describing Fadlallah as he really was? The truth is that, in the absence of a single word about Fadlallah's profoundly significant and direct support for terrorism, the only sense in which her statement of regret can be taken seriously is in the sense that she regrets having revealed the underlying thinking of the British Foreign Office about Islamist terror. Thus, even as she offers an apology, she reaffirms her original offence.

But here, and simultaneously bringing in her counterpart in Jordan, we come to the core issue. In the thinking of the British Foreign Office, she (and he) committed no offence at all. A slip of the tongue, perhaps. A faux pas, certainly. But an offence? Not really. Who in the hierarchy of the British Foreign Office really disagrees with either of these two ambassadors' views on terrorism, Israel and the conflict in the Middle East? These aren't two rotten apples in an otherwise blemish-free barrel-load. As Mark Steyn is wont to say in such circumstances, quoting the language of the computer techies, this isn't a bug, it's a feature.

In other words, this is policy. This is what the British Foreign Office stands for. This what Great Britain Plc does in the world. This, in other words, is the extremist mainstream — a centre-ground in Britain which is now so saturated with hatred for the Jewish state, with sympathy for the "grievances" of the terrorist, with ambivalence about liberal-democratic values themselves that a complete reversal of normality has now been achieved.

Views which should exist only at the far fringes of a healthy democratic society now occupy the mainstream; views which should occupy the mainstream are shunned, demonised and exiled to the fringes.

I sometimes chide people for being too casual with their analogies to the 1930s. But in this case the only sense in which I would disapprove is that the situation in Britain in 2010 is starting to look a good deal worse. For if there is a Churchill waiting in the wings, I really haven't been able to spot him.

This can only go on for so long before something finally snaps. I don't know where we are heading. But the future is looking darker by the day.


Robin Shepherd

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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