James Watt, Britain’s Ambassador to Jordan, and Frances Guy, Britain’s Ambassador to Lebanon, seem anxious to convince us of an alternative “reality” of their own.
These two “gone native” envoys share an unfortunate track record of blunders in their blogs, which appear on the official website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
On one post he mentioned that he was looking forward to reading Shlomo Sands’ The Invention of the Jewish People – a blueprint for delegitimisation if ever there was one. But he doesn’t seem to have needed any help from that book in accruing an anti-Israel attitude, comprising denying the right of the Jewish People to self-determination and of Israel to proper self-defence, for he’d already made such statements as these:
"No one is prepared – or very few – to take Zionist arguments at their face value any longer. Completely non-factual assertions – for example that a Jewish people was building Jerusalem 5,000 years ago - only serve to emphasise the absence of real content or reasoning. The strange thing is how long Western audiences tolerated such claims without challenging them: I think because they were hoping that a reasonable settlement with the indigenous Palestinian population would emerge in the course of things (and with some diplomatic heavy lifting)."
“The origin of the problem – the arrival of the Zionists in Palestine, with their commitment to avoiding any kind of integration into existing society, and their policy of importing their co-religionists from cultural and social backgrounds alien to Palestine, changed everything. So did the massive expulsion of huge numbers of Palestinians from their land. Their right to return, and to compensation, remains the central demand, backed by all Arab states and reflected also in the principles set out by the international community for peace."
“I offer my condolences to the families of those who were killed [aboard the Mavi Marmara], in what should have been an entirely avoidable tragedy... the entire world has had enough of the blockade of Gaza – a blockade which Israel should have long ago lifted under the terms of UN Security Resolution 1801, as well as other international law. And the world has had enough of the pretexts Israel uses to continue it.”
“Few observers would disagree with [David] Hirst [in the book Beware of Small States, which Watt had read with enthusiasm] that Israel has long committed itself to a policy of massive military deterrence, which is now becoming progressively more violent - and, by the account of its own officials, more ready to inflict civilian casualties on a large scale in pursuit of its political goals. Gaza showed that progression: more remote shelling and rocketing by the Israeli forces, with minimum risk to its own soldiers: ten lost their lives, and three Israeli civilians, while 1,330 Gazans (most of them civilians and 410 of them children) lost theirs. Compare that to the 43 Israeli civilians who died under Hizbullah rocket fire in July-August 2006, and 119 Israeli soldiers in the fighting, against over a thousand Lebanese civilians (one third of them children) and an unknown number of Lebanese combatants.”As Melanie Phillips remarked when Watt’s blogposts came to public attention, thanks to a commenter on the blog Harry’s Place:
"Watt makes it clear he doesn’t think Israel has an overwhelming historic claim to its existence, thinks the Palestinian Arabs were indigenous to the land and that the idea that Israel was the Jews’ national home thousands of years ago is fanciful.
[H]e denies Jewish national self-determination .... [H]e denies Jewish and Middle Eastern history.... [H]e denies Jewish history and national self-determination and descends into rank bigotry....[H]e is peddling the Big Lie by Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO that misrepresents Israeli defence as aggression and describes all Arabs killed by Israel as civilians whereas in fact most are terrorists .... [H]e is sympathising with the Turkish terrorists who were killed on the Mavi Marmara when they tried to lynch the boarding Israeli soldiers, and claiming that Israel’s reason for restricting the flow of goods into Gaza, that it is to prevent arms smuggling and weaken the grip of Hamas, is a lie ....
It is an old cliché that diplomats are sent abroad to lie for their country. But one inevitable effect of Watt’s demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel through such distortions and bigotry is to whip up yet more genocidal hatred throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
The British Government says it is committed to a two-state solution. Why is its Ambassador to Jordan suggesting that the state that already exists is illegitimate? Is this the British Government’s position? If not, why is it allowing its Ambassador to Jordan to represent such an obnoxious view? Will Foreign Secretary William Hague repudiate these distortions and the vicious hostility Watt displays towards Britain’s ally? Or are we to conclude that these are beliefs that he himself shares?" http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/6132169/camels-were-never-this-vicious.thtmlNow, in the wake of the New Year’s Eve atrocity in Alexandria that left 23 Coptic Christian churchgoers dead and another 100 or so injured, Mr Watt http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/watt/entry/living_in_harmony reflects on the Arabic concept of al-ta'ayush (co-existence). Its spirit, he tells us, “is part of the human and cultural richness of Arab civilisation”. It ‘conveys clearly the sense of “living in harmony”, rather than simply “existing together’ and its spirit “is part of the human and cultural richness of Arab civilisation”.
“It is a term in common use in those Arab societies where Christians and Muslims live together (and as Jews did too not long ago). Those societies treasure ta’ayyush. They know it is a prize that calls for daily efforts and constant care. They know the disaster and grief that follows if those efforts fail.”Note the dishonest comment about the Jews. Watt (whose second wife, Amal Saad, comes from an Arab family in Lebanon) implies that they lived alongside Arabs in harmonious paradise. He tells us nothing of dhimmitude, nothing of persecution, nothing of some 750,000 Jewish refugees from Arabic lands who fled to Israel.
Let him see this, for starters:
By coincidence (I assume) Frances Guy has been posting on a similar theme.
“One of the privileges of being a diplomat is the people you meet; great and small, passionate and furious. People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most. It is an unfair question, obviously, and many are seeking to make a political response of their own. I usually avoid answering by referring to those I enjoy meeting the most and those that impress me the most. Until yesterday my preferred answer was to refer to Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, head of the Shia clergy in Lebanon and much admired leader of many Shia muslims throughout the world. When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith. Sheikh Fadlallah passed away yesterday. Lebanon is a lesser place the day after, but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon's shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a Muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples' lives will be truly blighted. 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. May he rest in peace.”Despite an outcry, she kept her job.
More recently, last September, Ms Guy blogged:
“There are nearly 60 Palestinian veterans in Lebanon who served with the British army during the 2nd World War. The tragic irony of their situation is heart-wringing. After loyally serving the Union Jack, in 1948 they were forced to flee their homes when the state of Israel was created. Some of them have been in refugee camps in Lebanon ever since. ... I am proud that a system is in place to give these brave men some comfort. I am less proud that 60 years after their flight from their homes, diplomacy has so far failed to find a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict. The Royal Commonwealth ex-services League is helping nearly 20,000 veterans all round the world. As they say, these people weren't forced to join up, they chose to. That's why the league is trying to help them. Their quiet dignity in the midst of hardship and poverty is to be admired and respected.”
I couldn’t help but think of that speech, and whether she’s been bamboozled, when I read in a newspaper report from 1945, as quoted by me in a recent post http://daphneanson.blogspot.com/2011/01/palestine-government-did-its-best-to.html, that the Palestinian Arabs serving in units of the British Army proved restless and unreliable, mutinying often, deserting along with their rifles and ammunition, joining without authorisation a VE Day procession in Beirut in which they displayed a picture of the traitorous Mufti, and committing acts of hooliganism. After a subsequent similar disturbance they were discharged on the ground that “their services were no longer required”, so that whereas 15,000 Palestinian Jews remained under British arms, “few if any Arabs” did.
In her latest blogpost http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/guy/entry/cedars_of_lebanonMs Guy has been pondering the symbolism of a celebrated arboreal species. “The Cedars of Lebanon as symbol is poignant,” she writes. “It is an indigenous species that is listed as endangered. Quite – where do so many different confessional groups live in relative harmony?”
Well, it’s not too clear from that strange phraseology what inspired the leap from plant to people, but it would appear Ms Guy is trying to spin us the fiction is that Lebanon is a country in which Muslims and non-Muslims get along just fine, better in fact than in any other country.
The facts fail to support her.
During the 1940s there were about 24,000 Jews in Lebanon, about 3000 in 1975, and there are virtually none today – only aged survivors. Although Lebanon was the only Arab nation whose Jewish population increased following the Declaration of the State of Israel (when Lebanon had a Christian majority, be it noted), many Jews left the country after the 1958 Civil War. The situation of Lebanese Jewry deteriorated with the coming of the Civil War that began in 1975, and in 1982 radical Islamists captured and killed eleven of the community’s leaders.
As for that country’s Christians, Brigitte Gabriel (who comes from that background) has given a harrowing account of how they were reduced from 65% of the population in 1975 to less than 20% today, owing to persecution by militant Islamists, including Palestinian incomers, massacres, and polygamous marriages producing numerous offspring. She tells how tolerant, multicultural, open-bordered, progressive, entrepreneurial Christian-majority Lebanon – “the Paris of the Middle East” – became “a terrorist infrastructure, a hotbed of Islamic Jihad”.
As well as being a warning to the West, which practises the same tolerant and potentially self-destructive immigration policy as did the Lebanon of her childhood, Ms Gabriel’s words directly contradict the absurd fantasy woven of Ms Guy. http://wejew.com/media/10037/Survivor_Of_Islam_-_Brigitte_Gabriel_Speaks_Candidly/
Ms Gabriel also describes the torture and murder of Christians in Lebanon (even of leftist Christians who had aided the Muslim cause) including the nicety of tying one leg of infants to their father and one to their mother and then separating the parents so that the infants were torn apart.
She tells of the deliberate fouling of churches with human excrement and urine – and how the Bible was used as toilet paper.
The Bible as toilet paper, eh? Could that be why Frances Guy isn’t overly keen to give the Bible its due as a sourcebook for those Cedars of Lebanon?
There can be few people who grew up in the Judeo-Christian tradition who are completely unaware that the mighty Lebanese cedar is mentioned several times in the Bible. Cedar wood was used in the interior of Solomon’s Temple, for example.
This beautiful line from the Psalms is particularly famous: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”
Of the cedar Ms Guy writes: “It grows to be majestic and it has contributed to so many different civilisations; the Phoenicians used it for ships; the Egyptians for ships and its resin for mummification; the Ottomans and the British were more prosaic but the railways benefitted.”
Alarmed at the thought that Ms Guy believes that the ancient Israelites are as off-limits with her hosts as their descendants in the Zionist Entity are, I left the following comment beneath her post: “Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem was built of cedar, which figured prominently in Israelite civilisation, especially for building purposes, and there are numerous references to the cedar in the Bible.”
Short and perhaps not so sweet – from the standpoint of a British diplomat grovelling to the Arab world.
But fair dues to Ms Guy, for my comment has now appeared.