June letters

Hard power is the only currency that is truly respected


This article is taken from the June 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Real realpolitik

Sam Bidwell would like Britain to adopt an “unsentimental” foreign policy in the Middle East, exclusively focused on pursuing its own national interests. (TIME FOR REALPOLITIK IN ISRAEL, MAY). 

He goes on to identify these interests: to promote stability in the Middle East, to make sure the oil continues to flow and to prevent large waves of immigration into Europe, especially from communities difficult to integrate because of what he describes as the “poisonous ideology” of radical Islam, which “we should be uncompromising in our efforts to tackle”.

We may not wish to quarrel with this basic statement of foreign policy aims, but it does not follow that Britain should therefore be pursuing a more anti-Israel line, as Bidwell recommends. Indeed, a sober evaluation of the geopolitical realities in the Middle East rather suggests the contrary. 

Bidwell does not seem to have noticed the political realignments taking place in the Middle East. As the Abraham Accords have demonstrated, a new alliance of Israel with moderate Arab countries, once implacably hostile to the Jewish state, is beginning to emerge. 

There are several reasons for this change of attitude from the Arab side: a belated recognition of the threat posed by politicised Islam to the survival of their own regimes; a wish to modernise their economies and reduce dependency on oil; but above all, the need to counter Iran, which is the uncompromising agent of subversion and the fomenter of violent extremism in the region — a strategy fuelled by its revolutionary theocratic ideology that hates America and the West and wishes to see Israel destroyed. 

In all these respects, the new realism of the moderate Arab states recognises that normalising relations with Israel better serves their interests than riding the tiger of anti-Israel demonisation as in the past. But it needs the West, including Britain, to do everything in its power to reinforce this new alliance and not provide more ammunition to the Israel-haters. 

Ultimately, the two-state solution, which is the long-standing aim of British policy, will only come about when the Palestinians are convinced by the strength of this new moderate coalition and find leaders prepared to abandon the campaign to delegitimise Israel, renounce violence and become genuine partners for peace. 

It also follows that whatever progress can be made in eliminating the threat of Islamist violence globally, will help deradicalise our own homegrown ideologists.

Unfortunately, Bidwell’s analysis fails to take account of these new realities. Indeed, Iran goes unmentioned. He continues to apply the outdated assumptions of the old Arabist Foreign Office. 

Our own Foreign Office was blindsided by the developments leading to the Abraham Accords, which it did nothing to anticipate and which was entirely an American initiative. Hard power is the only currency that is truly respected. 

So when Bidwell tells us that the Gulf States are more likely to defer to Britain than to the United States, all he does is alert us to his own “sentimentality” and lack of realism.

Alan Bekhor

Lessons of history

I am not disputing Sam Bidwell’s theory that Britain should act in its own interests in foreign policy or that certain Israeli politicians deserve criticism or that “as Britain tried to broker a solution in the wake of the Second World War, right-wing Zionist groups conducted a campaign of terrorism against British authorities”.

But in passing from 1930 directly to 1946 his analysis leaves out the critical period of the Second World War and the Holocaust. You cannot disregard the total insensibility of British authorities in Palestine towards Jews fleeing the Nazi gas chambers. 

There were many terrible episodes, so I shall mention only one: the tragic case of the ship Struma, which was sunk by mistake by the Russians in the Black Sea. All but one on the ship died, 780 of them. Why did Britain reject them? This attitude embittered the feeling of the Jews of Palestine towards the British. This is not an excuse for terrorism; I just try to explain.

Meanwhile, Haj Amin al-Husseini was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and an ally of Hitler. The legacy he left behind still plagues the region. Britain, to avoid complications, did not arrest him, just let him go free.

Josef Oskar
Milan, Italy

Forced march

Theodore Dalrymple (EVERYDAY LIES — MAY) complains about the BBC describing walkers as “forced” to trespass across private property in order to reach open countryside. 

As a regular walker and occasional trespasser, the sight of a farmer’s freshly erected fence fills me with an irresistible compulsion: I am forced to trespass. Conscience, habit and an innate desire to go where I damn well please as a free-born Englishman intervene. 

To the foes of rambling, I can only repeat the words of the old song: Success to every poacher that wants to sell a hare / Bad luck to every gamekeeper that will not sell his deer.

Anna Miller

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