It does not often happen that a cabinet minister loses his temper and starts scolding a parliamentarian of his own party. Last week, however, William Hague, the normally even-tempered British Foreign Secretary and one of the most influential politicians of the governing Conservative Party, lost his cool in a heated discussion with thirty MPs belonging to the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). The MPs accused Hague of being part of a "bigoted" Foreign Office plot against Israel.
"The Foreign Office is not pro-Palestinian. I've never heard such claptrap," an angry Hague snapped at Douglas Carswell MP when the latter told Hague that he is "under the thumb" of "pro-Arabist" diplomats in the Foreign Office. "The Foreign Office displays a kind of bigotry towards Israel," Carswell said. "The whole idea of self-determination in the Middle East is anathema to some Foreign Office people. It is anti-Israel just as it is pro-EU."
Hague reacted by calling Carswell a "fantasist" who is "talking total nonsense." Carswell, however, was not alone in his criticism. James Arbuthnot MP, a respected senior Tory, called on Hague to be "more constructive" and not "alienate" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Hague had recently called "belligerent." Robert Halfon MP told Hague: "The Foreign Office has not done enough to stop the delegitimization of Israel. We must speak up for its right to exist."
Others were equally critical. Nick Boles MP claimed that Britain had not done enough to condemn the Palestinian National Authority for glorifying suicide bombers. Hindu MP Priti Patel, one of the young upcoming women in the Conservative Party, said: "We must be more critical of the Palestinians for not giving up violence." Andrew Percy MP added: "We give the Palestinians money to help the poor, but they spend it on hate education."
When Carswell insisted and told Hague, "Ministers are supposed to direct officials, not the other way round. You are being one-sided and saying completely unacceptable things about a fellow democratic country," Hague replied: "It is completely untrue to suggest I have been taken captive by the Foreign Office. I overrule their advice all the time." With this remark, Hague implicitly acknowledged that the Foreign Office is, indeed, biased against Israel.
The Palestinian Authority gets £86 million ($135 million) of British aid a year. Last year, it was revealed that the PA had given £5 million in compensation to the families of terrorists who had died while perpetrating their terrorist activities and another £3 million to 5,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The payments, using taxpayers' cash donated from Britain and the European Union, were described by Conservative MP Philip Davies as "ludicrous" and "utterly inexcusable." However, Britain has not cut back its aid to the PA.
The diplomats of the British Foreign Office share most of the opinions of their colleagues in the other member states of the European Union (EU). They belong to the cosmopolitan elite which favors the transfer of national sovereignty to the EU institutions in Brussels and the latter's political goal of transforming Europe into a genuine federal state. It is highly paradoxical, but the foreign departments of the various European states, which were once established with the explicit goal of furthering their nation's national interests and defending its sovereignty, have today come to loathe that very task.
They are as pro-EU as they are anti-Israel, says Carswell. It is as if they despise Israel because it is one of the last Western nations which unashamedly defends its national interests in a way which European nations no longer dare or want to do. Hence, the reproach to Netanyahu that he is "belligerent."
Apart from bilateral aid to the Palestinians, Britain also gives large amounts to the PA through the European Union. The EU started funding the Palestinians in 1971. These funds dramatically increased after the signing of the Oslo Agreements in 1994. Since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, the EU aid, which was initially given in the form of development assistance, has focused on direct support to the Palestinian Authority and the development of the PA's institutions.
The EU does not seem tot mind that the PA is rife with corruption. In 2005, the EU anti-fraud office OLAF investigated allegations of abuse of funding by the PA to support terrorist activities. OLAF found "no conclusive evidence" of abuse, although it admitted that "the possibility of misuse of the Palestinian Authority's budget and other resources cannot be excluded, due to the fact that the internal and external audit capacity in the Palestinian Authority is still underdeveloped."
Rather than suspending its financial support, the EU increased it. While the European governments are imposing austerity measures on their own taxpayers, these taxpayers are being asked to give ever more money to the Palestinians. Last year, the European Parliament decided to raise Europe's aid to the Palestinians by €100 million ($130 million).
The pro-Palestinian bias of the British and European foreign policy establishment makes little sense unless one sees it in the broader picture of the EU's attempts to forge an alliance with the Islamic world.
In her book Eurabia, historian Bat Ye'or argues that the EU authorities are creating a European-Arab axis. In fact, the idea of a Euro-Islamic Alliance is much older than the EU, which was established in 1957. It was already present during a meeting of the British Cabinet's Palestine Committee on April 20, 1939, in which Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told his Cabinet that it was of "immense importance" from the point of view of strategy, "to have the Moslem world with us;" he added: "If we must offend one side, let us offend the Jews rather than the Arabs."
The plan to sacrifice the Jews to an Arab appeasement policy resurfaced after the 1973 oil crisis, when the Arab countries used oil as a weapon against countries which had allied themselves with Israel in the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War of that same year. In exchange for a guaranteed steady supply of oil, the EU promised to give the Arab countries technological and economic assistance, to take in large numbers of Arab immigrants, who would be allowed to preserve their own culture, and to forge a joint EU-Arab foreign policy.
Bat Ye'or cites official documents, agreements and "directives" (pieces of EU legislation) to prove her thesis. "Eurabia," she says, "represents a geo-political reality envisaged in 1973 through a system of informal alliances between, on the one hand … the European Union (EU) … and on the other hand, the Mediterranean Arab countries. … This system was synchronised under the roof of an association called the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) created in July 1974 in Paris. A working body composed of committees and always presided jointly by a European and an Arab delegate planned the agendas, and organized and monitored the application of the decisions."
Bat Ye'or argues that the fear of losing Arab oil even led the European establishment to accept an "oil for immigrants" policy. She fears that Europeans will never be able to liberate themselves from Eurabia. "It is a project that was conceived, planned and pursued consistently through immigration policy, propaganda, church support, economic associations and aid, cultural, media and academic collaboration. Generations grew up within this political framework; they were educated and conditioned to support it and go along with it."
Perhaps, however, Bat Ye'or is too pessimistic. The establishment of groups such as Conservative Friends of Israel shows that Europe still has perceptive and courageous politicians who speak out in defense of Israel. It is no coincidence that the same people stand for their own national interests and sovereignty. Europe's freedom and independence is best served by standing side by side with Israel.