In March 2012, British MP Douglas Carswell accused William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, of being "under the thumb of pro-Arabist" diplomats in the Foreign Office. In response, a furious Hague denounced Carswell as a "fantasist".
Britain has certainly worked hard over the last few years to strengthen its relationship with the autocratic Gulf States. Prime Minister Cameron has visited the Gulf States on a number of occasions, taking representatives from the arms trade along with him. His most recent trip followed an outburst by the Saudi ambassador to London, who said the Saudi kingdom was "insulted" by British parliamentary proposals for an inquiry into relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] Government condemned a British newspaper's decision to publish an editorial written by an anti-regime activist from the UAE.
Cameron and his entourage met with Saudi and UAE officials to smooth things over and set up a number of lucrative arms deals. Cameron stated that ensuring security for Saudi Arabia and the UAE was also "important for our security." Further, the Conservative government recently signed a declaration reaffirming the 1979 UK-UAE Treaty of Friendship.
Last month, the Prince of Wales toured the Gulf States. The Guardian has reported that William Hague, the foreign secretary, and Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, are planning their own Gulf tours.
But is it actually all about trade? Certainly, the £15bn of goods and services exported to the Gulf each year, as well as the £1.4bn investment the Gulf States poured into Britain in 2009, is a position upon which the government is keen to build. Britain's support and excuses made for other actors within the Middle East, however, clearly go beyond economic interests.
Since Carswell accused Hague of 'Arabism,' the behavior of Britain's ruling Conservative Party suggests that Carswell was on the right track. Earlier this month, the British Parliament held a rare debate on "hate incitement against Israel and the West by the Palestinian Authority." The discussion was initiated by Gordon Henderson MP, who cited evidence compiled by Palestinian Media Watch, which documented the Palestinian Authority's long history of glorifying terror and promoting hatred against Jews.
In response to the examples of Palestinian incitement that were presented, Alistair Burt, the Under Secretary for the Foreign Office, stated that this hate education "is not simply a cause of separation between peoples and hatred; I am afraid that it is a symptom of it … We deplore incitement on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Blaming Israel for the Palestinian government's glorification of suicide bombers was not quite enough; Burt added that it is important the Parliament sees Palestinian incitement "in context."
Here is the deal that exists so far: The British government provides £86 million every year to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority pays the salaries of terrorists in Israeli jails, names football competitions after suicide bombers, and its government-controlled media promotes martyrdom and demonizes Jews.
While the British government is keen to whitewash its funding for the terror-supporting Palestinian Authority, it is even keener to demonstrate its opposition to any funding of Israeli scientific projects.
In response to a campaign by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a radical anti-Jewish movement which has long supported the terror group Hamas, Burt sought to reassure the extremist group's members: "We understand that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories received an EU contribution totalling 1.13 million Euros ... for Research, Development and Technological Development. We are following up with the European Commission to outline our concerns."
In the battle between providing funds to support and glorify terrorists, or to a scientific research project, evidently scientific research is considered the bigger villain.
In the 1930s, after returning from a posting to the Middle East, a few British Foreign Office officials famously took to wearing Arab dress as they walked around Whitehall. Today, such imitation may not be so vividly apparent, but plenty of Conservative MPs echo the sentiment. William Hague, for example, while in opposition in 2006, claimed that Israel had "over-reacted" to the cross-border attacks by the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah. Now as the Foreign Secretary, he recently described Israel's stance towards the Palestinian Authority as "belligerent."
In early 2012, Conservative politician Julian Brazier blamed Israel's policies for attacks by Taliban terrorists against British soldiers in Afghanistan. Also, Nicholas Soames, Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, condemned Britain's decision to abstain rather than vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations General Assembly.
The Conservative government, moreover, seems eager to avoid discussing the issue of Palestinian terrorism at all. In May 2012, the Glasgow Herald published details of a secret document, which incriminated the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) in the Lockerbie bombing, and cast doubt on the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan who was convicted for the deadly attack. Although the document was originally obtained from Jordan by the Crown Office, it was never shown to Megrahi's defense team.
For months, the British government, apparently desperate to prevent publication, threatened legal action against the newspaper. Government lawyers had arranged for the document to be covered by Public Interest Immunity on national security grounds. Why is it so important to protect the Palestinian reputation?
In calling the British Foreign Minister an "Arabist," Carswell was perhaps being a bit too generous. Support for Arab interests actually goes all the way to the top.
Not long after Prime Minister David Cameron first entered 10 Downing Street, he decided to resign, very publicly, as a patron of the UK's Jewish National Fund – a position that involves no work but is designed to illustrate Britain's high-level support for the state of Israel. Until Cameron's refusal, every single British leader since 1901 has held this honorary position. Although Cameron's office claimed that he had stepped down from a number of charities, only the Jewish National Fund was publicly named.
Meanwhile, charities accused of links to terror receive government support. Although Islamic Relief Worldwide, for example, is designated as a "terrorist front" by the Israeli authorities, it enjoys strong support from the Conservative Government. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has stated that the charity "provides support and assistance to Hamas' infrastructure." In spite of these alleged connections to terror, in 2011, during its annual conference, the Conservative Party screened an Islamic Relief fundraising video. In 2012, the Department for International Development matched public donations, up to £5 million, to Islamic Relief Worldwide's Ramadan appeal.
Douglas Carswell MP accused Foreign Secretary William Hague of subservience to "pro-Arabist" diplomats in the Foreign office, but what if it is actually the other way around?