Richard Gott in The Guardian blames much of the world’s ills on the British empire,
Top of the list of Britain’s ‘disastrous imperial legacy’ is, of course, Palestine, which Gott describes as “a settler colony that Britain abandoned in 1947.”
Ho-hum. Except Palestine was never a British colony as such. It was administered by Britain under a mandate from the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations. Britain’s experience in Palestine was something quite different to Britain’s role in India or other places. And Britain left Palestine in 1948, not 1947.
But then it gets worse. Gott continues: “Unfortunately for the settlers, arriving during the imperial sunset, they had insufficient time to achieve the scale of defeat of the local people, amounting to extermination and genocide, that characterised the British conquest and settlement of Australia.”
Where to start debunking this rubbish? Perhaps by pointing out that until 1948 the Zionist settlers legally bought all the land on which the new towns such as Tel -Aviv were built. It is true that some Palestinians were displaced, not by the Jews, but by the Arab notables who happily sold their holdings. So much for Palestinian solidarity.
But what I find really sinister here, is the ‘thought-crime’ of which Gott accuses the early Zionist settlers. His argument seems to be that had they had sufficient time, they would have committed genocide and extermination. The party line is evolving from ‘Israel is a racist state’ to ‘Israel is a genocidal state’ to ‘the early Zionists were quasi-Nazis themselves’. This would have been news to the thousands of German-Jewish refugees who found refuge in Palestine in the 1930s. If this is indicative of the state of critical thinking on the left, I truly despair.
Curiously – or not – Gott fails to mention the massive humanitarian disaster that has been unfolding in a former British colony: Darfur, in Sudan. Since 2003, when the government in Khartoum unleashed the Janjaweed, the Arab militia, onto the peoples of Darfur, 400,000 have died and over two million been displaced. The greatest number of Muslims killed in recent years have been killed by other Muslims, by paramilitaries and armed forces under the command of the Sudanese government.
Yet not a word about that from Gott. I wonder why?