Will Britain’s Labour lose the Jews again in 7 weeks?

http://www.timesofisrael.com/will-britains-labour-lose-the-jews-again-in-7-weeks/

 

LONDON — For Britain’s battered Labour party, there will be a particularly cruel irony in the fact that the formal start to the country’s general election campaign in two weeks’ time will come almost 20 years to the day after Tony Blair’s historic victory on May 1, 1997.

Labour’s landslide win two decades ago turned the country’s political map red as scores of constituencies which had been solidly Conservative for decades fell into Blair’s lap. One of the most symbolic gains came in Finchley in northeast London — a seat which Margaret Thatcher had represented in parliament for over 30 years and where around 20 percent of voters — the highest concentration in the country — are Jewish. Blair’s victory in Finchley mirrored wins in a string of other seats with a comparatively sizeable Jewish presence, few of which are natural Labour territory.

With the opinion polls suggesting that Prime Minister Theresa May will inflict a crushing defeat on Labour when the country votes on June 8, it is probably safe to predict that Finchley and Golders Green will remain in Conservative hands.

As in 1997, though, the “Jewish vote” will prove an excellent barometer as to which party has captured the center ground on which Britain’s general elections are won and lost. Moreover, while the Jewish community’s relatively small size limits its electoral potency, its voters are nonetheless clustered in a handful of marginal seats: Hove, Hendon, Brent Central, Harrow East, Harrow West, Ilford North, Hornsey and Wood Green, Hampstead and Kilburn. And, then there are of course, Finchley and Golders Green, which are traditionally on the general election front line.

American Jews have remained, alongside African-Americans, one of the Democratic party’s most loyal constituencies. This historic party loyalty prompted essayist Milton Himmelfarb to quip that “Jews earn like Episcopalians, and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Britain’s Jews, however, have long since become detached from their traditional moorings on the political left.

British Prime Minister Theresa May walks out of 10 Downing Street to make a statement to the media in central London on April 18, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

Concentrated in the East End of London and similar inner-city parts of Leeds, Manchester and nearby Salford, Jewish immigrants to Britain in the early 20th century were, like other working-class voters, naturally drawn to the Labour party. When Labour won its first parliamentary majority under Clement Attlee in the 1945 general election, seats with large Jewish populations voted overwhelmingly for the party.

But, beneath the surface, British Jewry was already undergoing significant demographic shifts. As they joined the ranks of the middle-classes, Jews moved out of the inner-cities to the Tory-voting suburbs and old political allegiances began to loosen.

Photograph of former British prime minister Clement Attlee during visit to Hill Auditorium at University of Michigan in 1956 (public domain)

These socioeconomic factors were overlaid and complicated by Britain’s relationship with Israel. The Attlee government’s betrayal of the Zionist cause which Labour had hitherto steadfastly advocated, coupled with Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin’s notorious hostility to the young Jewish state, angered and offended many British Jews. So, too, did the party’s stance during the Suez crisis in 1956 when Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell compared Britain’s actions to someone helping “the burglar [Israel] shoot the householder [Egypt].”

But, in its greatest hour of need in October 1973, it was Labour who was to prove the Jewish state’s better friend, attacking Edward Heath’s government for imposing an arms embargo on both sides and urging solidarity with “democratic socialist” Israel.

A few months later, the country went to the polls. Where their votes counted, Jewish voters punished Conservative MPs who had backed the government’s stance and rewarded those who had rebelled against it. Indeed, Labour has provided three of Britain’s most pro-Israeli prime ministers of the past four decades: Harold Wilson, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Nonetheless, Labour has too often forced Jews who might naturally vote for it to choose between their party and their support for Israel in a manner that the American Democratic party has never done.

The US “kosher vote” has remained steadfastly loyal, in part, because the Democratic party has never succumbed to the virulent hostility to Israel which became fashionable in some sections of the European left during the 1970s. That tide of anti-Zionism swept over Labour in the early 1980s when, in the wake of Thatcher’s election in 1979, the hard left attempted to seize control of the party.

In this 1980 file photo, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher poses for a photograph in London. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Gerald Penny)

Labour’s lurch to the left extended well beyond the arena of foreign policy in general and Israel in particular. Given the overwhelmingly middle-class nature of the Jewish electorate, the party’s newfound radicalism on economic and social policy would regardless have alienated many Jews who had previously voted for it it, as it did with millions of other Britons.

But difficulties for Labour in the community were compounded by the fact that virulent opposition to Israel was one of the hallmarks of the hard left, while attacks on the Jewish state became a mainstay of debates in many local parties.

Virulent opposition to Israel was one of the hallmarks of the hard left, while attacks on the Jewish state became a mainstay of debates in many local parties

The principal beneficiary of these developments was Thatcher. As polling by Prof. Geoffrey Alderman indicates, in northeast and northwest London, Jewish electoral behavior was significantly different from that of other voters in these areas — almost always, Jews were more likely to vote Conservative and less likely to vote Labour.

In 1987, as she headed towards a then-record three consecutive general election victories, Thatcher captured the votes of six out of 10 of Finchley’s Jews; a share six points higher than that of other middle-class professionals in the seat.

When Britain swung back to Labour 10 years later, however, constituencies with large Jewish populations fell to the party with greater than average swings.

Of course, Jewish voters do not vote on the single issue of Israel. Blair may, as one former aide put it, have purged his party of its “anti-Israelism,” but his commitment to education, emphasis on the values of community and reciprocal responsibility, and desire to rid Labour of its knee-jerk hostility to entrepreneurialism, all resonated with many Jews.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, on March 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Andrew Biraj)

Similarly, Thatcher’s longstanding support for Israel did not alone explain why she was able to capture large swaths of the “Jewish vote.” Instead, her close relationship with then-Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits symbolized her deep respect for Jewish values and what she termed the “Jewish approach to life” along with the symmetries she detected between them and her own religious and political beliefs. Such was the affinity that in 1988 the pro-Conservative Sunday Telegraph admiringly declared that “Judaism has become the new creed of Thatcherite Britain.”

There is also nothing homogeneous about the “Jewish vote.” As research by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research showed shortly before the Conservatives’ return to government in 2010, while Jews leaned more towards the Tories than toward Labour, Jewish voters demonstrated many of the same characteristics as the country as a whole: Jewish men, those who were married, the over-60s, and the self-employed were all more likely to vote Conservative.

Labour party leader Ed Miliband (center) and his wife Justine Thornton arrive at Labour party headquarters in London on May 8, 2015, the day after a general election. (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

Nonetheless, the period since Labour’s loss of office seven years ago has snapped many of the bonds between the party and Britain’s Jews. Ironically, the initial damage was done under Ed Miliband, the party’s first Jewish leader.

For much of the community, Miliband was a blank slate when he won the leadership in 2010. That was hardly surprising. His parents, wrote Miliband in 2012, “defined themselves not by their Jewishness but by their politics.” A polite but slightly uneasy relationship ensued.

That relationship, however, was put under severe strain by the events of the summer of 2014. Just weeks after returning from a visit to Israel and declaring his commitment to “Israel’s security and right to protect itself,” Miliband angrily denounced Operation Protective Edge.

Infantry soldiers operating on the ground during Operation Protective Edge, July 20, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flickr)

It was less the condemnation itself and more its fiery nature, lack of nuance and empathy for Israeli civilians who found themselves under rocket attack that dismayed many Jews. It didn’t help that there was a strong suspicion that he was using the issue as a political football.

Worse, however, was yet to come: as anti-Semitic attacks in Britain doubled, Labour remained inexplicably silent for four months. Shortly after, Miliband burned his final bridges with many Jews, whipping his MPs to back a parliamentary vote, proposed by Labour backbencher Grahame Morris endorsing unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. (In 2014, Morris compared the Israeli army to IS; he is now a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet away on sick leave.)

Miliband thus casually cast aside the studded even-handedness of the Blair and Brown governments.

Some suspected that Miliband was weak, allowing a resurgent left to dictate his foreign policy. Others believed that the Labour leader was simply part of that section of the left for which the Palestinian struggle is of central importance. Either way, by the following summer’s general election, Labour’s support among Jews had plummeted.

Ahead of the 2015 elections, a poll by the Jewish Chronicle found 69% of Jews intended to vote Tory, with Labour trailing with only 22%. Reflecting the heightened tensions of the previous summer, the poll also found that 73% of Jewish voters said the parties’ approach towards Israel and the Middle East was “very” or “quite” important in determining how they would vote. On that issue, the Tory leader, David Cameron, led Miliband by 65% to 10%.

British former prime ministers Tony Blair (R) and David Cameron attend the funeral of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / ABIR SULTAN)

Miliband resigned the leadership shortly after suffering a heavy defeat in the general election. His legacy, however, continues to haunt the party — more than anyone else, it was Miliband who laid the groundwork for the election of Corbyn, a serial rebel and veteran anti-Israeli activist, to Labour’s leadership in September 2015.

Miliband provided the organizational foundations by changing the rules by which the party elects its leader, thereby throwing open its doors to hard left entrants. And by tolerating extreme anti-Israel rhetoric in the parliamentary party and indulging the left’s fantasies about why Labour had lost power in 2010 and how it should regain it, he provided the intellectual foundations, too.

'The Left's Jewish Problem' by Dave Rich. (Courtesy)

Corbyn’s hostility to Israel is deeply entrenched. As Dave Rich wrote in his recent book, “The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism,” he came of age politically during the era of decolonization. Rich argued that to Corbyn’s generation of leftists, Zionism is “a racist, colonialist ideology, and Israel an illegitimate remnant of Western colonialism in the Middle East.”

Even before he won the leadership, Corbyn’s past description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” his links to a motley crew of extremists, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, and his willingness to campaign alongside those who question the Jewish state’s very right to existence damned him in the eyes of many Jews.

Little he has done since has changed those initial evaluations. Corbyn’s attempts to show he takes anti-Semitism in Labour’s ranks seriously have proved unconvincing. The credibility of a report he commissioned into the problem last year — which largely exonerated the party — was left in tatters when just weeks after its publication he awarded its author a peerage and then appointed her to his shadow Cabinet.

Earlier this month, Corbyn refused to join calls for the party to expel former London mayor Ken Livingstone over his comments that Hitler supported Zionism and that there had been “real collaboration” between Jews and Nazis before World War II.

Labour may not, then, have plumbed the depths of Jewish support. A poll last summer suggested just 8.5% of Jews would vote for the party. For the many Labour MPs who have a long history of fighting anti-Semitism and defending Israel, and for the many more left-leaning Jews who feel the Labour party no longer offers them a home, the next seven weeks may well prove uniquely challenging.

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Theresa May Calls for New Election in Britain, Seeking Stronger ‘Brexit’ Mandate

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain on Tuesday called for an early election in less than two months, clearly anxious that her thin majority in Parliament would weaken her hand in complicated negotiations on the British exit from the European Union.

Mrs. May’s proposal for a snap election on June 8 broke her oft-repeated vow not to call an early vote and was aimed at exploiting her popularity to gain more parliamentary seats. This would strengthen her political backing in the negotiations for Britain’s departure, known as Brexit.

But it also provides a new opportunity for Britain’s anti-Brexit voices to be heard, potentially reopening the bitter disagreements that polarized Britons over their nation’s future during the referendum campaign. Voters narrowly decided last June to leave the European Union.

Nobody expects the new election to undo that decision. Yet depending on how well Mrs. May’s side does, it could affect her demands in the negotiations.

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” Mrs. May said in a sudden appearance outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, adding that she had “only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.”

Having fired the starting gun for two years of talks with Brussels and the other 27 members of the European Union only last month, Mrs. May is already facing divisions within her own Conservative Party. She is clearly counting on a strong performance in June — before those talks get serious and difficult, before the British economy is seen to be hit and before critical German elections in the fall — to carry her government through the exit, hard or soft, that she has promised to deliver.

The financial markets bid up the pound on the news, apparently anticipating a Conservative sweep that would give Mrs. May the mandate to override hard-liners in her own party who might resist concessions to the European Union in return for market access — the so-called soft Brexit.

Certainly, the Conservatives’ election prospects look promising. They are riding high in the opinion polls, with the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in disarray, the centrist Liberal Democrats weak and the fractious far-right U.K. Independence Party, if anything, more a threat to Labour than to the Tories.

Although the margins are sure to tighten, the Conservatives hold a double-digit lead over Labour, which, if it holds up, would translate into a working majority in Parliament of more than 100 seats, compared with only 17 seats now.

But the decision does carry political risks for Mrs. May. For a politician who has cultivated a reputation as a straight shooter who puts country before party, the about-face on early elections could smack of opportunism. And in a year of election surprises, embittered but highly motivated voters from the Remain camp could coalesce behind one of the parties to register their anger over leaving the bloc.

“She presents herself as someone putting the national interest first, before her party, and someone who does not play political games,” said Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. “It might bite her, but she’ll play the stability-versus-instability card.”

Mrs. May apparently calculated that the risks of an early vote were small compared with the possible payoff from a strengthened Conservative hold over Parliament.

Mrs. May took office less than a year ago, when her Conservative predecessor, David Cameron quit after losing the June 23 referendum on British membership in the European Union. Chosen by the Tories to become prime minister when her most obvious rivals fell away, Mrs. May is now seeking an electoral mandate of her own to deal with her real danger: an unhappy group of anti-European Conservative legislators who are opposed to anything that might smell of compromise with the European Union.

Without an early vote, Mrs. May said, “the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election,” in 2020. She added, “Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.”

Analysts generally praised her decision to call early elections. “This is the act of a rational politician, but one who had repeatedly promised not to call an early election,” Mr. Fielding said. “But her lead in the polls can only go down as soon as Brexit negotiations start, so why not go now?”

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, in London last month. CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Some were more effusive, all but guaranteeing a Conservative sweep. “It’s a surefire certainty it will be a thumping majority, no doubt about it,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “Something terrible about Theresa May would have to emerge between now and polling day for that not to be the case.”

The last election was in 2015, when Mr. Cameron won a surprising but thin majority as the Labour Party lost heavily in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats were reduced to just eight seats in Parliament.

Labour’s choice of Mr. Corbyn, a man of the hard left, has proved hugely unpopular, but on Tuesday he issued a statement welcoming an early election, as politically he had to do. That makes it likely that Parliament on Wednesday will give Mrs. May the two-thirds majority she needs to call an early election under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, which otherwise mandates an election in May 2020.

“I welcome the prime minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first,” Mr. Corbyn said in a statement. “Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and N.H.S.,” the National Health Service.

Mr. Corbyn, 67, was elected after Labour’s bad defeat in 2015 and took the party strongly to the left. He was a weak supporter of the Remain campaign, and efforts by Labour legislators to unseat him have failed. He will lead a badly divided party and, if Labour loses this election, too, as expected, will be under considerable pressure to resign.

The Liberal Democrats, under a new leader, Tim Farron, have explicitly opposed leaving the bloc and have called for another referendum on any final deal with Brussels. Though the Liberal Democrats are expected to win back some seats in June from the Conservatives, the Conservatives are expected to win more seats from Mr. Corbyn’s Labour Party because many Labour constituencies in Britain’s hard-pressed northern cities voted strongly for leaving.

While a third or so of Conservative voters voted against leaving, they are considered likely to back Mrs. May, given the alternatives, especially as she has hinted lately that a transitional deal with Brussels would probably involve some compromises in the national interest.

Mrs. May portrayed the election as one of leadership. “It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest, with me as your prime minister, or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats who want to reopen the divisions of the referendum,” she said Tuesday.

The Liberal Democrats have promised to bludgeon the Conservatives with the specter of a “hard Brexit,” in which Britain would leave the European Union’s single market and customs union without a mitigating trade agreement.

On Tuesday, Mr. Farron said that “if you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit, if you want to keep Britain in the single market, if you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.”

“Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority,” he added.

Mr. Cameron endorsed Mrs. May’s announcement, calling it a “brave — and right — decision.”

The leader of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party, was harsh, saying, “This announcement is one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history, and it shows that Theresa May is once again putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country.”

Ms. Sturgeon, who favors an independent Scotland but also wants to remain within the European Union’s single market, said the snap election was about “standing up for Scotland in the face of a right-wing, austerity-obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.”

Paradoxically, however, a more confident Mrs. May, with a larger majority, is likely to be able to negotiate more flexibly with Ms. Sturgeon over final terms to leave the bloc and undercut momentum for another Scottish independence referendum.

In recent weeks, Mrs. May’s office repeatedly insisted that an early election was not going to happen, despite considerable pressure to call one from party notables like the former leader William Hague. But British politicians remember well how speculation that a Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, was going to call an early election in 2007 rebounded on him when he failed to follow through, destroying his credibility.

Mr. Brown took office after his predecessor, Tony Blair, stepped aside. Despite polls showing that Labour would win a commanding majority and provide him with his own mandate, Mr. Brown waited and suffered from the 2008-9 financial crisis, despite his skillful management of it, and Labour lost the 2010 election.

PALESTINIANS LAUNCH ONLINE CAMPAIGN DEMANDING BRITAIN APOLOGIZE FOR BALFOUR DECLARATION

 

More than 11,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the British government to formally apologize for the Balfour Declaration, a letter written by British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour in 1917 expressing Britain’s support for the establishment of a Jewish state in historic Palestine.

The petition was recently launched by the Balfour Apology Campaign (BAC) and calls for the British government “to openly apologize to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration.”

 

The 100th anniversary of the Declaration, which many see as the document that paved the way for a Jewish state in Israel, will be marked in November, and British Prime Minister Theresa May has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the UK for the occasion. Netanyahu has accepted the invitation.

The British government was responsible for Palestine from 1917 to 1948, when they withdrew just before Israel declared an independent Jewish state. Palestinians say they now want an apology.
“We have said clearly that we have been victims of British colonialism and that the least we would expect from the UK is to apologize to the Palestinian people,” Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the PLO, told the Media Line. “A foreign colonial power decided to give Palestine to an organization that was not even in Palestine. This is one of the darkest episodes of the past 100 years.”

The petition demanding an apology is sponsored by the Balfour Apology Campaign. As the petition has already reached 10,000 signatures, the British government must issue a formal response, within three days. Organizers said it had passed the 10,000 mark five days ago and they have not yet received a response.

If they reach 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in parliament.

The Balfour Declaration, issued on November 2, 1917, was a 67-word statement as part of a letter addressed to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. The text reads as follows: “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The Balfour Apology Campaign says that it is this letter that is responsible for the fact that Palestinians do not have an independent Palestinian state today.

“An apology would be recognition of the mistake that Britain made in the Balfour Declaration. There are many precedents in which UK Prime Ministers recognized Britain’s role in causing suffering in its former colonies.

For example, Tony Blair in 1997 apologized to the Irish for the famine the country endured in the middle of the 19th century. Gordon Brown in 2009 issued a formal Government apology to thousands of British children who were shipped from Australia and other Commonwealth countries between 1920s and 1960s. Similarly, Cameron in 2011 recognized that Britain’s colonial history made it responsible for much of the historic problems in the world when he was discussing the dispute in Kashmir.

In addition, many leading scholars and historians such as Avi Shlaim stated that Britain should apology to the Palestinians ‘for all the betrayal going back to the Balfour Declaration,’” the website of the Apology Campaign states.

The Israeli government says it sees the Balfour Declaration as a significant marker in the history of the Jewish state.
“It was the first time that a great power recognized the Jewish people as a people who deserve and have the right to build their home,” Michal Maayan, deputy spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry told The Media Line. “The same language appears later in the UN resolutions about the creation of Israel. We are marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.”

She also said that the Palestinians are focusing on a 100-year-old document instead of finding ways to restart peace talks with Israel.
“It is another example of the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish people’s right to have a country in Israel,” Maayan said. “It shows their focus on the past instead of their commitment to find a peaceful resolution in the present.”

PLO spokesman Abu Eid disagrees.
“We don’t say there is no two-state solution. We recognized Israel within the 1967 borders and that recognition is still in force,” he said. “But it would make a difference if they acknowledged what they did to us.”

Some Israeli academics note that the Balfour Declaration does not preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“They have nothing to apologize for. The Balfour Declaration promised self-rule to the Jews without taking anything away from the Arabs,” Moshe Zimmerman, a professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told The Media Line. “Colonial powers thought they could allocate territory to anyone they wanted. If they (the British) have to apologize for anything it is for being a colonial power.”

US, Britain, France hold Assad regime responsible for Syria gas attack

The White House on Tuesday confirmed a “reprehensible” and “intolerable” chemical attack had taken place in Syria and pinned the blame squarely on Bashar Assad’s regime.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said US President Donald Trump had been briefed extensively on the attack, and suggested it was in the “best interest” of the Syrians for Assad not to lead the country.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible,” Spicer said, saying the administration was “confident” in its assessment that Assad was to blame.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the attack “bears all the hallmarks” of the Syrian government.

Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that he was “horrified” at the reports of the attack and said Assad’s government has repeatedly used chemical weapons in the past.

His comments followed reports from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which put the death toll from the attack at 58.

Johnson said his government “will continue to lead international efforts to hold perpetrators to account.”

French President Francois Hollande also blamed Syrian leader Assad for what he termed a “massacre.”

“Once again the Syrian regime will deny the evidence of its responsibility for this massacre,” Hollande said in a statement.

“Those who support this regime can once again reflect on the enormity of their political, strategic and moral responsibility,” Hollande added.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg, April 3 2017. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg, April 3 2017. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

Despite the accusations, the Syrian military vehemently denied it was behind the strike.

“The army command categorically denies using any chemical or toxic substance in Khan Sheikhun today,” said a statement carried by the state news agency SANA.
“It stresses that it has never used them, any time, anywhere, and will not do so in the future,” it added.

The attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun left dozens struggling to breathe and displaying symptoms such as foaming at the mouth and vomiting and fainting, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A hospital in the town where doctors were treating victims of the attack was also bombarded, an AFP correspondent said.

France called earlier Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the attack.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura also called for the perpetrators to be held accountable for the “horrific” attack.

De Mistura urged “clear identification of responsibilities and accountability.”

Speaking on the eve of a conference on Syria’s future, he said “every time we have a moment in which the international community is capable of being together — 70 countries tomorrow — there is someone, somehow, that tries to undermine that feeling of hope by producing a feeling of horror and outrage.”

But, he added, “we are not going to give up.”

The UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Syria said that it had begun investigating the incident.

“Reports suggesting that this was a chemical weapons attack are extremely concerning. The commission is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this attack including the alleged use of chemical weapons,” said a statement from the UN experts who are probing potential war crimes committed during Syria’s civil war.

The condemnations followed those of others in the international community.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call that the chemical weapons attack was “inhuman” and could endanger peace talks based in the Kazakh capital.

“President Erdogan said that this kind of inhuman attack was unacceptable and warned it risked wasting all the efforts within the framework of the Astana process” to bring peace to Syria, presidential sources said.

The sources did not indicate who was to blame for the attack, describing it as a “chemical weapons attack directed at civilians.”

Syrian mourners pray next to bodies lying in the back of a pick up truck outside a makeshift morgue following reported air strikes by government forces in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on April 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Abd Doumany)

Syrian mourners pray next to bodies lying in the back of a pick up truck outside a makeshift morgue following reported air strikes by government forces in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on April 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Abd Doumany)

Turkey has been a major foe of the Assad regime in Syria throughout the Syrian civil war, repeatedly accusing Damascus of war crimes. Russia has helped Assad by providing military and diplomatic support, including air strikes and ground forces.

But in the last months Ankara has deepened ties with Assad’s ally Russia, co-brokering a ceasefire that until now had drastically reduced the levels of violence.

Russia’s military said its planes did not carry out any strikes near Khan Sheikhun.

“Planes of the Russian air force have not carried out any strikes near Khan Sheikhun of Idlib province,” said a statement by the Russian defense ministry.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the attack as “monstrous” and added: “I have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.”

Ayrault said “chemical weapons” had been used in the attack and that it was “more proof of the savagery that the Syrian people have been subjected to for so many years.”

Everything People Believed about Hitler’s Intentions Toward Britain was a Myth Created by Churchill

Hitler didn’t want to invade Britain. He actually admired the British Empire, with its inherent presumption of racial superiority.

It’s good that the UK Government is going to pardon the thousands of Army deserters who enlisted in the British forces during World War Two.

Of course, no army can allow desertion; however, these men were not court-martialled, but were subject to a blanket ban on state employment that deprived them of their constitutional right to due process.

The vast majority of them deserted from June 1941 onward, when the theoretical possibility of a German invasion had all but vanished.

 

The men who deserted did so after being effectively cheated into becoming soldier-serfs, cutting turf on the Bog of Allen.

That was the second great lie of their young lives. The first one was that Ireland ever faced a serious threat of invasion by Germany, which was the spawn of an even vaster falsehood — that in 1940, Hitler wanted to invade Britain. But he didn’t. He actually admired the British Empire, with its inherent presumption of racial superiority. We know from the diaries of Lord Halifax, the British foreign minister, that Hitler offered terms that did not involve German control of Britain. Churchill refused to allow these terms to be read to the cabinet, and they remain prudently concealed under the 100-year rule.

Instead, Churchill’s determination to keep Britain at war turned what had been merely a continental defeat of its army into the enduring myth that in 1940, Britain faced a war for national survival.

But the German naval leader, Raeder, had repeatedly forbidden his staff from planning an invasion of Britain. And far from wanting to continue the war, in June 1940, Hitler ordered 20pc of his army to be demobilised, in order to get the German economy going again. The “invasion fleet” that the Nazis began to assemble that summer was no more capable of invading Britain than it was Hawaii. It was war by illusion: its purpose was to get the British to the negotiating table.

This “fleet” consisted of 1,900 canal barges, only one- third of which were powered, to be towed cross-channel, in clusters of three, by just 380 tugs. These barges had tiny keels, blunt prows and small rudders, with just two feet of freeboard: the distance between the water and the top of the hull. They would have been swamped during even a direct crossing of the English Channel, a shallow and violent waterway linking the raging North Sea and Atlantic. But an invasion would not be direct. The barges, with their untrained crews, would be able to make only about three knots, from the three “invasion” centres: Rotterdam, Le Havre and Boulogne. These ports are, respectively, from any south-coast landing beaches, at best, 200 miles and 60 hours, 100 miles and 30 hours, and 50 miles and 15 hours, with seasick soldiers crammed into keel-less floundering barges without toilets or water. What army would be fit to fight after a journey like that? And then there’s the 55,000 horses that the Wehrmacht would need: its transport was still not mechanised.

All being well, and that really is a relative term, the first “wave” would take 10 days to land, with the barges plying to and from those three distant ports, requiring tides that would have to obey the demands of the Fuehrer rather than the older ones of the sea, in convoy, often at night, and always without navigation lights.

Why no lights? Ah: the Royal Navy. This is where matters become quite phantasmagorical. In August 1940, the British Home Fleet ALONE consisted of 140 destroyers, 40 cruisers and frigates, five battleships and two aircraft carriers.

The entire German navy, the Kriegsmarin, consisted of just seven destroyers, one cruiser with unreliable engines, two working cruisers, no aircraft carriers, and no battleships or battle cruisers: the Bismarck and Tirpitz were still building, and the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were damaged and out of action until the following winter.

What about the Luftwaffe? Well, it had no torpedo-carrying aircraft, whereas the British had two (the Beaufort and the Swordfish, both of which were later to show their mettle in disabling German capital ships), and air-bombing vigorously defended warships accurately over an open sea is incredibly difficult, even for dive-bombers: Stuka bomb sights were calibrated for stationary targets. All right, but were not British shores defenceless in 1940? No — aside from a largely intact British army, two fully-equipped Canadian divisions arrived that summer, as did 200,000 rifles from the US on the ‘SS Britannic’.

This doesn’t diminish the validity of the allied cause, or the later decision of the nearly 7,000 Army deserters who enlisted in it, for they were taking arms against one of the most evil regimes in world history.

Nonetheless, just about everything that people believed about Hitler’s intentions towards Britain in 1940 — and still believe today — was a myth created by Churchill, which he probably came to believe himself. Consider all the facts above, and then consider how that myth has endured, despite them. Makes you wonder, no?

(Irish Independent)

Britain looks to strengthen trade ties with Israel post-Brexit

Britain will reportedly seek to bolster economic ties with Israel following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union last year.

Israel and Britain will set up a working group to negotiate trade deals between the two countries, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a team of two to four officials from each country will meet by the end of March, and the group is expected to continue meeting two or three times a year to hammer out economic agreements.

On his visit to Israel last week, UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson boasted of the existing close ties between the two countries and mentioned plans to negotiate a new free trade agreement.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Johnson hailed growing bilateral commercial ties: “We have the fastest growing Aston Martin dealership anywhere in the world here in Israel. We’ve done some fantastic export deals with you. But you’ve also greatly contributed to our economy.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure to start negotiations on leaving the bloc, by the end of March. That will begin two years of negotiations between Britain and the EU as to exactly what Brexit will entail.

While it was part of the European Union, trade deals with other countries were done in Brussels on behalf of the entire bloc of nations. Britain is now looking to set up trade deals on its own to replace the existing deals. Although a trade deal with the US is a priority, the UK sees Israel as an important trading partner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Last month Netanyahu visited London, and he and May spoke of “preparing the ground” for a post-Brexit trade deal.

“We’re seeing trading bilateral relationships between the UK and Israel, in science and trade for example, doing better than ever,” British ambassador to Israel David Quarrey told the Guardian. “But there’s the potential to do even better, particularly in the context of Brexit. I was with Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu in London and it was clear there was the determination for this.

“Most business people in Israel look at the UK as a great place to do business, because of its culture, language, and the predictability of the regulatory and tax system,” he said.

James Sorene, chief executive of Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), wrote that “the Israel-Britain alliance is a boost for the British economy and carries sizable strategic advantages for both countries. The reality is that a strong partnership with Israel is an asset that will become increasingly valuable for the UK as it resets relations after leaving the EU.”

Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who serves on the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, told the Guardian that “one of the main areas we can co-operate is cybersecurity, where Israel is receiving 20% of worldwide investments – huge for such a small country.”

Commemoration of Dresden: Why an Apology from Britain to Germany is Due

http://www.renegadetribune.com/commemoration-dresden-apology-britain-germany-due/

 

Having had no need to be seduced into a war with Germany in the first place in September 1939, the British government then moved through three stages of self-inflicted and aggressive injustice under the bellicose Prime Minister Churchill:

1. in May-August 1940 – for, instead of pursuing peace offers from Germany, Churchill set out to incite total war, goading Germany into a wider air war by dropping the first bombs on German civilian areas; and

2. from March 1942, by adopting the Lindemann Plan’s deliberate targeting of German workers’ homes – the so-called “de-housing” policy – rather than supposed industrial targets; and

3. by 1944-45 during the last year (and even closing months) of war, mounting mass scale terror bombing of Germany when it was virtually defenceless, culminating in February 1945 with the gratuitous fire-bombing destruction of historic Dresden plus that 36 hours’ long burnt alive mass holocausting of its civilians and Soviet-fleeing refugees. Thus an apology from Britain to Germany is due.

Hess Brought Hitler’s Peace Offer to Britain in 1941

It was one of the most perplexing episodes of the Second World War which, more than 70 years on, remains shrouded in mystery.

But a new book claims to have solved the riddle of the flight to Britain in 1941 of Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s deputy. Hess’s journey to Britain by fighter aircraft to Scotland has traditionally been dismissed as the deranged solo mission of a madman. But Peter Padfield, an historian, has uncovered evidence he says shows that, Hess, the deputy Fuhrer, brought with him from Adolf Hitler, a detailed peace treaty, under which the Reich would withdraw from western Europe.

The existence of such a document was revealed to him by an informant who claims that he and other German speakers were called in by MI6 to translate the treaty for Churchill.

The figure, who is not named by Mr Padfield, was an academic who later worked at a leading university. He has since died. Before his death, he passed on an account of how the group were assembled at the BBC headquarters, in Portland Place, London, to carry out the task.

The academic said Hess had brought with him the proposed peace treaty, expressed in numbered clauses and typed on paper from the German Chancellery. An English translation was also included, but the British also wanted the original German translated.

The informant said the first two pages of the treaty detailed Hitler’s precise aims in Soviet Union, followed by sections detailing how Britain could keep its independence, Empire and armed services, and how the National Socialists would withdraw from western Europe. The treaty proposed a state of “wohlwollende Neutralitat” – rendered as “well wishing neutrality”, between Britain and Germany, for the latter’s offensive against the Soviet. The informant even said the date of the Hitler’s coming attack on the east was disclosed.

Mr Padfield, who makes the claims in a new book, Hess, Hitler and Churchill, said: “This was not a renegade plot. Hitler had sent Hess and he brought over a fully developed peace treaty for Germany to evacuate all the occupied countries in the West.”

Mr Padfield, who has previously written a biography of Hess as well as ones of Karl Dönitz and Heinrich Himmler, believes the treaty was suppressed at the time, because it would have scuppered Churchill’s efforts to get the USA into the war, destroyed his coalition of exiled European governments, and weakened his position domestically, as it would have been seized on by what the author believes was a sizeable “negotiated peace” faction in Britain at that time. At the same time, since the mission had failed, it also suited Hitler to dismiss Hess as a rogue agent.

There is no mention of the treaty in any of the official archives which have since been made public, but Mr Padfield believes this is because there has been an ongoing cover-up to protect the reputations of powerful figures. The author says that his informant broke off contact with him after approaching his former masters in the security services.

Mr Padfield has also assembled other evidence to support the existence of the treaty and its contents – as well as the subsequent cover-up.

He has established that two inventories were taken of items carried by Hess when he was arrested after parachuting out of his aircraft, a Messerschmitt 110, on the evening of May 10 1941, near Eaglesham, outside of Glasgow. Neither has ever been released.

He has found witness statements from a woman living near where Hess had landed, which indicate that police were “ordered to search for a valuable document which was missing”. The item, according to the witness, was found “over near the wee burn in the park”.

Mr Padfield also points out that Hess had used a specialist translator from the German Foreign Ministry – even though he had the use of another, fluent English speaker – when drawing up documents for his negotiations with the British, before his flight. This suggests, Mr Padfield claims, that approved wording was required for the documents.

Hess was kept captive in Britain until the end of the war when he was returned to Germany to stand trial at Nuremberg. He was sent to Spandau Prison where he killed by British agents in 1987. The authorities said he had committed suicide, although his son and some historians have claimed the British state had him murdered to protect secrets.

Read more: Martyr Rudolf Hess was Murdered by British Agents in Spandau Prison

Britain again breaks ranks with Europe — this time over Israel

(JTA) — Two days after delegates from more than 70 nations attended the Paris summit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is clear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was wrong to label the meeting “useless.”

Admittedly the France-initiated event, which neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority attended, did not change the international community’s understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor did the gathering take any concrete steps to end the dispute.

But it was neither insignificant nor useless from Israel’s point of view. The summit saw Great Britain break ranks with the countries that did attend in a move that pleased Israel and perhaps the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Instead of demonstrating international consensus as intended by France under President Francois Hollande, the summit turned into a showdown between France and the United Kingdom over Israel. In an unprecedented manner, the rift exposed disagreements within a brittle European Union that is bracing for potentially turbulent relations with the United States under Trump.

The first sign of dissent happened before the summit even began, when the United Kingdom dispatched only junior diplomats. By contrast, Hollande attended, as did 36 foreign ministers, including the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry.

Then, the United Kingdom, along with Australia, declined to join 70 other nations in co-signing a relatively mild statement about preserving the two-state solution, even though it matched positions long supported by the British government – including in its rejection of “continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity” and the call for “meaningful direct negotiations.”

It was a stunning about-face that even caught longtime observers of Anglo-Israeli relations by surprise.

“I was gobsmacked,” Jonathan Hoffman, a former vice chair of Britain’s Zionist Federation, told JTA on Monday.

“It was a watershed moment for U.K.-Israel relations and a huge change from anything I had seen before,” he said, adding that the United Kingdom typically sides with its allies on policies toward the Jewish state.

The British “snub” — as The Guardian termed it — of the Paris peace summit pleased Israeli diplomats, who openly dismissed the event as doomed to fail because it did not address the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate without preconditions — in this case, a public commitment by Israel to halt construction in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The summit “turned as flat as a failed soufflé,” Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s senior spokesman, wrote Sunday on Twitter. “A big show is no replacement for direct negotiations between the parties.”

In previous statements, Israeli officials described the summit as “laughable” in light of Western inaction on the humanitarian disaster in Syria.

The British position was highly unexpected — especially in light of Britain’s leading role, as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described it, in drafting and passing on Dec. 23 a U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements. Using far harsher language than that of the summit declaration, the U.N. resolution condemned Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Trump has called for the United Kingdom to veto any further action on Israel at the United Nations. A midlevel British diplomat, who spoke to JTA on Monday under condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to brief journalists on this matter, said his country will not support any further attempts in the near future to pass another resolution on Israel.

So did the United Kingdom’s decades-long policy on Israel radically change sometime between Dec. 23 and Jan. 15?

Unlikely, according to Yigal Palmor, a former top spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry who currently works in a similar capacity for The Jewish Agency.

The British move in Paris, he told JTA, is the result of a mix of factors, including a “desire to assert independence from the European Union” — which the British government under Prime Minister Theresa May is committed to leaving as per the result of a June referendum over the issue. May replaced David Cameron as prime minister last year as a result of the Brexit referendum.

Hoffman, meanwhile, said the apparent conflict between the British support for the U.N. resolution and its opposition to the Paris summit declaration could stem from power struggles between May and the country’s Foreign Office, which does not share her relatively pro-Israel politics.

In explaining its refusal to cosign the declaration, the British Foreign Office dropped another clue: A written statement objected that the summit was “taking place just days before the transition to a new American president when the United States will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement.”

The Foreign Office statement also pointed to “risks” that the conference “hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace.”

Whereas Kerry avidly supported the summit, members of Trump’s transition team signaled their disapproval to French officials, according to The Guardian. The newspaper suggested that May ordered the Paris snub to align her policy with that of Trump.

Hoffman also attributed the apparent British about-face primarily to a Trump intervention.

“It’s such a dramatic departure from what we have seen in the past that a Trump intervention is the only thing that makes sense,” he said.

Ever since Obama spoke out last year in favor of Britain remaining in the European Union, Anglo-American relations have become strained. Johnson, a former London mayor who became foreign minister following the Brexit vote, accused Obama of meddling in British internal affairs and of harboring anti-British sentiment connected to the president’s Kenyan roots.

The Paris summit was not the first time that Israeli diplomacy benefited from those recent tensions. On Dec. 29, a spokesman for May openly criticized Kerry’s Dec. 28 speech defending the U.S. abstention on the Security Council’s anti-settlements resolution. The spokesman chided Kerry for “focusing on only one issue” of “construction of settlements,” and for saying that the Netanyahu government is the “most right-wing” in Israel’s history.

“We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally,” May’s office said in its unusual criticism of the Kerry speech.

The cracks in the positions of Israel’s allies offer the Netanyahu government “some relief from international pressure” over some of the Jewish state’s policies, Palmor observed.

In that regard, the dissent benefits Israel, he said, but “ultimately it is not about Israel, not really.”

White People in Britain Resisting Propaganda to Racially Miscegenate, Official Figures Show

Recent figures from Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that white people seem to be resisting the deluge of media propaganda encouraging racial miscegenation, and despite being an outright majority of the population, are the least likely to be in a relationship with a nonwhite. 

(New Observer Online)

The report, which has been widely misinterpreted – possibly deliberately – by many of Britain’s media outlets to suggest that interracial miscegenation is affecting white people, was released by the ONS after analysis of the recent national census data.

According to the figures, nearly 1 in 10 people (9 percent, or 2.3 million) who were living as part of a couple were in an inter-ethnic relationship in England and Wales in 2011. This has increased from 7 percent in 2001.

* However, the analysis also showed that people from the “Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups” (as defined in the census) were most likely to be in an inter-ethnic relationship (85%).

* People from the Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups were the most likely to be in an inter-ethnic relationship with over 8 in 10 people (195,000).  People in these groups are themselves likely to be the result of inter-ethnic relationships that have emerged in the last 60 years (from postwar immigration patterns). They have a much younger age profile than some of the other ethnic groups and 80 percent of the group were born in the UK.

* Of all the mixed race ethnic groups as defined in the census, “White and Caribbean,” “White and Black African,” “White and Asian,” and “Other Mixed” were the most likely to be in an inter-ethnic relationship.

* White British couples were the least likely to be in an inter-ethnic relationship at around 1 in 25 (4 percent). This group is estimated by the ONS to be 81 percent of the overall population.

The ONS also has an “Other White” category. Under this classification falls all Europeans who are not “white British.”

The ONS analysis counted different white groups such as ‘white British,’ ‘white Irish’ and ‘other whites’—including people from parts of Europe, America and Australia—as ethnically different.

The ONS defines these “other whites” as a separate “ethnic group” for their classification purposes, and this is where the controlled media has made one of their biggest interpretative errors: by classing all ONS “ethnic groups” other than “white British,” they have drawn the incorrect conclusion that racial miscegenation amongst white British people is far higher than it is in reality.

The ONS report specifically says that “of all people in inter-ethnic relationships, 4 in 10 (40 percent or 933,000) included someone who was White British” but then goes on to point out that the “most common [“inter-ethnic relationship”] being between Other White and White British (16 percent); Other White is the second largest ethnic group in England and Wales (4 percent of the overall population).

In other words, even though there is massive media promotion of interracial relationships, the latest figures seem to indicate that the majority of British people have not miscegenated, and that it is nonwhites or those who have already miscegenated in some way, who make up the majority of the “new” mixed-race population.