Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Britain Was the Safeguard of Israeli Interests in
the European Union
By Ramzi Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July
|David Cameron speaking to a
Jewish Care audience, June 2016
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: 'Is Brexit Good for Israel?'
After months of anticipation, the United Kingdom has
decided to leave the European Union (EU). Although, the results
were fairly close - 51.9% voted to 'Leave' vs. 48.1% elected to 'Remain’
- the consequences of the decision will be far-reaching. Not only will the
Brits negotiate their exit from the EU (thus, the term ‘Brexit’) within the
next two years, but the decision is likely to usher in an upheaval
unwitnessed before in EU history.
But is it good for Palestine?
In the shadow of the so-called Brexit debate, a whole different
discussion has been taking place: ‘is Brexit good for Israel’, or as an Israeli
commentator, Carlo Strenger phrased it in the Israeli daily, ‘Haaretz’:
"what does (Brexit) mean for the Jews?”
In a last minute pandering for votes, British Prime Minister,
David Cameron – who, to
his credit, had the dignity to resign after the vote - made
a passionate appeal before a Jewish audience on Monday, June 20. He told
the Israel supporters in the Charity, ‘Jewish Care’, that
staying in the EU is actually good for
presented his country as the safeguard of Israeli interests at the Union.
The gist of his message was: Britain has kept a watchful eye
on Brussels and has thwarted any discussion that may be seen as hostile
towards the Jewish state.
“When Europe is discussing its attitude
towards Israel, do you want Britain - Israel’s greatest friend - in there
opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do
you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes
place?” he told the largely Jewish audience.
brought Iran into his reasoning, vowing that, if Britain remained in the EU,
his country would be in a stronger position to “stop Iran (from) getting
While the ‘Leave’ campaign was strongly censured
for unethically using fear-mongering to dissuade voters, Cameron’s comments
before ‘Jewish Care’ - which were an extreme and barefaced example of
fear-mongering and manipulation of Israel’s so-called ‘existentialist
threats’ – received little coverage in the media.
Britain has played that dreadful role for decades, muting any serious
discussion on Israel and Palestine, and ensuring more
courageous voices like that of Sweden, for example, are offset with the
ardently and unconditionally pro-Israel sentiment constantly radiating from
Westminster. Who can forget Cameron’s
impassionate defense of Israel’s last war on Gaza on 2014, which killed
over 2,200 mostly Palestinian civilians?
along with his Conservative Party, has been a “staunch ally of (Israeli)
Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,” as described by Israeli commentator Raphael
Ahren, writing in the ‘Times of Israel’. His love for Israel can also be
more appreciated when compared to, also according to Ahren, “current head of
the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn - who is a harsh critic of Israel and has
called Israel’s arch-foes Hamas and Hezbollah ‘our friends.’”
Corbyn was elected to the helm of the Labor Party with a landslide victory
in September of last year, an apparently manufactured controversy alleging
rampant anti-Semitism within Labor has taken away from the party’s attempt
to refocus its energies on challenging the Conservative’s neoliberal
policies, and slowing down the momentum of the ultra-right Independence
Party of Nigel Farage.
That contrived ‘crisis’ was largely the
work of the Israel lobby in the UK, per
the assessment of investigative journalist, Asa Winstanley. It was a
‘witch-hunt’ that reached an unprecedented degree of incongruity. “It has
reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word ‘Zionist’ is deemed
to be anti-Semitic,” he wrote, “although, tellingly, not when used by
Indeed, many members of Labor were
either themselves involved in that ‘witch-hunt’ or succumbed to its
pressure, taking outrageous steps to defend against the unwarranted
accusations. As a result, the embattled and disorganized Labor, too, urged
its supporters to stay in the EU and they, too, lost the vote.
for Israel, Brexit meant
uncertainty and also opportunity.
The EU is Israel’s largest
trade partner, and an economically weaker Union is destined to translate to
less trade with Israel, thus financial losses. But Israel has also been
sharply critical of the EU, with Israeli leaders making all sorts of
accusations against supposed European anti-Semitism, and with Netanyahu
himself calling for mass
emigration of European Jewry to Israel.
Part of the reason why
Tel Aviv has been fuming at the EU is the nuclear agreement with Iran, in
which the EU is a co-signatory. The other reason is a decision last November
by the EU to impose new regulations on products made in Jewish settlements
built illegally on Palestinian land. According to the new guidelines, goods
produced in these settlements must be labeled "made in settlements", a
decision that further strengthened calls throughout Europe for boycotting
That decision, and others, increasingly made the
EU appear as an untrustworthy ally to Israel; and precisely because of that,
David Cameron desperately tried to sell himself at the last minute before
the vote as the vanguard against other allegedly unruly EU members who
refuse to play by the well-established rules.
one of the loudest, and also fear-mongering groups that campaigned for
Britain to exit the EU is ‘Regavim’, a right-wing NGO that advocates on
behalf of the illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East
Unsurprisingly, ‘Regavim’ used scare tactics by pushing
a Palestinian bogeyman into the midst of Britain’s historical debate. Its
campaign included a mock
video of a masked Palestinian fighter “purportedly from the Hamas-ruled
Gaza Strip, urging UK citizens to remain in the European Union because it
supports the Palestinians,” reported
According to Regavim’s Meir Deutsch, the
organization’s aim was to “harm the EU over ‘its intervention in the
internal conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.’”
according to Deutsch’s ruthless logic, the EU is duly ‘harmed’, Israel is
seeking another bulwark in the European Union to defend its interests.
Israeli analyst, Sharon Pardo, while regretting the loss of a 'friend'
in the Union, asserted that such a loss is not a 'catastrophe,' for the
likes of Germany and the Czech Republic are even friendlier than Britain.
Israel is particularly concerned about its status within the EU’s
Foreign Affairs Council, now that the UK is leaving. “Germany has good
chances of taking the lead here and the fact that Germany is a close ally of
Israel will clearly have implications,” according to Pardo, who added,
“Germany is the responsible adult here.”
While Israel is likely to
move fast to ensure its interests, both financial and political, are
protected following Brexit, the Palestinian Authority is likely to move much
slower and without a decisive, centralized strategy.
departure from the EU might not have an immediate impact on the conflict in
Palestine, especially during the coming months of projected
upheaval, negotiations and transition; however, it could still offer
Palestinians an opportunity for the future.
While pressure must
continue to be applied on Westminster to end its unconditional backing of
Israel, a possibly friendlier EU without the staunchly pro-Israel Britain,
may emerge. The UK’s support for Israel in
the Union, and the backing of all American steps in the same direction, has
seriously hampered the EU’s chances of being anything but a rubberstamp to
US-UK policies not only in Palestine but also throughout the Middle East.
While it is too early to make any significant political forecast
following Brexit, one can only hope that the efforts of pro-peace countries
such as Ireland and Sweden will be strengthened, and that more such friendly
nations will join to rein in Israel for its military occupation and demand
justice for Palestine.
- Dr Ramzy Baroud has been writing about
the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second
Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
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