UK Conservatives chart an extreme pro-Israel path

UK Conservatives chart an extreme pro-Israel path
Comment: Despite the odd exceptional statement, the UK Conservative Party is unlikely to waver from its unconditional support for Israel anytime soon.
4 min read
08 Apr, 2015
Cameron has rarely been critical of anything Israel has done [Dan Balilty/AFP/Getty]

In Ankara in July 2010, to an audience of businessmen, the British prime minister David Cameron declared that "people in Gaza are living under constant attacks and pressure in an open-air prison" and "The situation in Gaza has to change... humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."

The prime minister's comments came less than two months after Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which they executed 10 Turkish activists. Cameron described the flotilla

     Better to be 'morally indefensible' than financially and politically naive.

attack as "completely unacceptable". Hopes were raised: Did the UK finally have a government prepared to take a strong line on Israel?

Changing his tune

Fast forward to 2012: Gaza was still an "open-air prison" perpetually on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, but when Israel carried out a massacre of the captive population, Cameron markedly changed his tune, telling his Israeli counterpart Binyamin Netanyahu that Hamas bore the "primary responsibility", its rockets being "the immediate cause of the situation."

Cameron's willingness to flip reality on its head regarding Israel was evident again in 2014 when, amid international outcry at another unprovoked Israeli massacre in Gaza, Cameron could not be persuaded to even describe the attack as "disproportionate". It cost the PM his foreign office minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who resigned in protest, calling the government's policy towards the assault "morally indefensible".

Warsi had been a key figure for the rebranded Conservative Party in 2010, Muslim, female and northern, a sharp contrast to the majority of the party: privileged, white and male. After Israel's flotilla attack, it was apparently Warsi who warned Foreign Secretary William Hague against coming out in support of Israel, a warning that he did in fact heed.

Back in 2006, Hague had criticised Israel's invasion of Lebanon as "disproportionate". This was met by a furious response from Zionists within the Conservative party. The Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group took the matter up directly with the Prime Minister and received a promise that such language would never be used again.

So many Conservative MPs are fanatical, unquestioning supporters of Israel, and so much money flows from rich Zionists to the party at election time that the party leadership has learned the lesson of 2006.

In 2006, it was sufficiently far from the general election that the Conservative shadow cabinet had years to reposition itself. Similarly, in 2010, having just formed the government, Cameron and Hague could offer some words of criticism, chiming with public opinion (and with businessmen in Turkey) without seriously jeopardising their fundraising for future UK elections.


By 2012, they appear to have decided that this was all too risky and by 2014, were happier to lose a member of the cabinet, risking the embarrassment of her public denunciation, rather than criticise Israel's war crimes.

"Better to be 'morally indefensible' than financially and politically naive" could be their maxim.

"Better to be 'morally indefensible' than financially and politically naive" could be the Conservatives' maxim.

So, the Conservative approach to Palestinian rights is hamstrung by extreme fear of pro-Zionist wrath and extreme support for Israel's policies among members of parliament. This makes it difficult for the party, when in government, to honestly push for the fulfilment of the UK's official policy of establishing a just and lasting two-state solution. Instead, such fine words provide cover for tacit support for the deepening and broadening of the occupation and the crimes that come with it.

A truly conservative policy would see action taken to bring about the realisation of the overwhelming international consensus for ending the conflict and the occupation. This would also boost the country's chances of stemming the flow of British recruits to Islamist terrorist organisations, making the UK a safer, more cohesive place. Instead, Conservative policy reflects much of the party's pro-war, anti-independence instinct, trapped in a long post-colonial hangover. This, combined with the influence of Zionist money, maintains the status quo.

In the domestic context, it has been a habit for Cameron to say whatever necessary to make short-term gains.

Just as he talked tough on Israel to a room full of Turks, Cameron also claimed that his government would be "the greenest government ever", a lie, but one told to boost the image of a new, fresher Conservative party.

Warsi, the environment and the Palestinians are three casualties of five years of Conservative-led government in the UK. The party is no longer looking to win a landslide victory at the polls, so is less vigorous in its attempts to appeal to progressives. Like Labour, they will be happy to sneak in to government with a coalition, and if they do, expect the Israelis to have another reason to feel satisfied.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.