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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

November 01, 2002

At least they’ve heard me

This posting consists of three parts. The first is an e-mail I sent to the British High Commissioner (i.e., the British ambassador) in Ottawa; the second reproduces the article in Ha’Aretz that prompted the letter, and the third is the response from the High Commissioner. All three are reproduced here without any changes.

The import of this letter exchange is to make it clear to the EU-niks that we are looking over their shoulder. I encourage everyone to inundate the EU legations with letters of protest: firm, polite, and documented.

My letter and the relevant news story:

Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2002
From: "Joseph Alexander Norland"
Subject: Israel - For the attention of the High Commissioner
To: generalenquiries@BritaininCanada.org

Ottawa, 16 October 2002

For the attention of the High Commissioner:

Sir,

I am writing to request that you convey the contents of this letter to your government.

I call your attention to a news report dated October 15, which I am enclosing below with the corresponding web address. The report contends, inter alia, that:

The British ambassador to Israel, Sherard Cowper-Coles, says he is "proud" of his comments that were published Monday and in which he described the West Bank and Gaza Strip as "the biggest detention camp in the world."

In the report, Cowper-Coles is attributed with accusing Israel of contravening the Geneva Convention and the Israel Defense Forces of displaying a "lack of professionalism," during a leaked conversation last week with IDF Major General Amos Gilad, coordinator of government activities in the territories.”
Coming on the heels of Mr Blair’s comments, in which he drew a parallel between Israel and Iraq, and coming on the heels of a series of measures to harass Israel economically, and coming on the heels of a virtual British embargo on the sale of military goods to Israel, I must express my profound disgust with your government.

I underscore that I am neither an Israeli citizen nor Jewish, but as a Canadian, I regard Israel as our sister-democracy. In conjunction with the EU’s hostility to Israel, shameful anti-Israeli steps taken by Britain amount to ganging up on the one democratic republic in the entire area, to the great delight of Arab autocracies and terrorists.

Considering Britain’s conduct in Ireland, and considering Britain’s role in the 1938 Munich betrayal of Czechoslovakia, I just have to wonder how your government musters the temerity to criticise Israel in her war of self-defence. I am also old enough to remember such anti-Semitic British ministers as Ernest Bevin, who brought disgrace not on Britain alone, but on the entire commonwealth, Canada included. And I have scarcely mentioned Britain’s outrageous conduct in the “Exodus 1947" affair, the photographs of which appeared in the International press. More significant still is the fact that the
current situation in the Middle East was created by Britain, as explained in detail by the British officer, Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, in his book, “Middle East Diaries”.

As a matter of common courtesy, please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail.

Sincerely yours,

Joseph Alexander Norland
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

-------------------------------------

www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=219937


UK envoy `proud' of critical comments made against Israel

By Charlotte Halle

The British ambassador to Israel, Sherard Cowper-Coles, says he is "proud" of his comments that were published Monday and in which he described the West Bank and Gaza Strip as "the biggest detention camp in the world."

In the report, Cowper-Coles is attributed with accusing Israel of contravening the Geneva Convention and the Israel Defense Forces of displaying a "lack of professionalism," during a leaked conversation last week with IDF Major General Amos Gilad, coordinator of government activities in the territories.

Cowper-Coles told Ha'aretz Monday that the comments, reported in the Yedioth Ahronot daily, were "exaggerated, but broadly true."

The ambassador also criticized Israel for continuing to build settlements, for "the unnecessary humiliation and harassment" of the local civilian population at checkpoints, unnecessarily uprooting trees and making life difficult for the international welfare organizations, according to the report.

Cowper-Coles says he did not regret his comments, which were made "in the spirit of friendship." He said he was "very shocked" by what he has seen in the territories, "as anyone else who visited there would be."

"Anyone who is a friend of Israel would say what I said," he told Ha'aretz, "because [it is clear the situation] is certainly not good for the Palestinians, or for Israel."

The comments reported in Yedioth Ahronot were made during a "private conversation," with Gilad, on instructions from London, and followed an earlier meeting with the Israeli general in the British capital last month, says Cowper-Coles.

He added the source of the leak - "the Foreign Ministry or someone" - was "very selective" in what he chose to reveal of the conversation with Gilad that lasted for more than an hour.

Cowper-Coles says his many references to the suffering of Israelis due to terrorism, security pressures and difficulties relating to pulling out of the territories were not conveyed. "It's a pity because it's not the whole truth." If it emerges that someone in the Foreign Ministry leaked the story, Cowper-Coles said, "it certainly won't increase my respect" of the ministry. "We don't believe in
megaphone diplomacy."

The ambassador, who has learned to speak a competent level of Hebrew since arriving here just over a year ago, has been widely interviewed on Israeli television and radio.

He was recently praised for the sensitivity he displayed when dealing with Israeli terror victims and their families.

On Monday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the ministry had adopted a "serious view" of Cowper-Coles's remarks.

The response of the High Commissioner:

From: Andrew.Burns@fco.gov.uk
To: dt804@yahoo.ca
Subject: RE: ISRAEL
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 17:42:35 -0000

FROM THE HIGH COMMISSIONER

SIR ANDREW BURNS



Dear Mr Norland,

RE: ISRAEL

I am writing in response to your email of 16 October expressing concern about remarks attributed to the British Ambassador to the State of Israel.

Representatives of the British Government regularly hold private and constructive talks with their Israeli counterparts. The private conversation reported was part of that dialogue and a continuation of a discussion that General Gilad held in London. The British Ambassador was raising concerns on instruction from London about the situation faced by Palestinians in the region.

More generally, I believe you have an incorrect view of UK policy in the Middle East. You may wish to read in detail the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour Party Conference. It can be located through the No 10 website (http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page1.asp). As the Prime Minister said at the Conference "what is happening in the Middle East now is ugly and wrong. The Palestinians living in increasingly abject conditions, humiliated and hopeless; Israeli civilians brutally murdered. I agree UN resolutions should apply here as much as to Iraq. But they don't just apply to Israel. They apply to all parties. And there is only one answer. By this year's end, we must have revived final status negotiations and they must have explicitly as their aims: an Israeli state free from terror, recognised by the Arab world and a viable Palestinian state based on the boundaries of 1967. "

You may also wish to glance at the section on the Middle East on the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. This can be located at www.fco.gov.uk

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Burns
High Commissioner,
British High Commission, 80 Elgin St, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5K7, Canada
Tel: (00) 1 613 237 1542 ext. 2365 Fax: (00) 1 613 567 8045
email: andrew.burns@fco.gov.uk website: http://www.britainincanada.org
P.S. I don’t think that either I or the High Commissioner have changed our views as a consequence of this letter exchange, but as I said: At least they’ve heard me.

The comic epilogue to this exchange is my response to the High Commissioner, in which I thanked him for the links he provided, and suggested to him in return to read IsraPundit...

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland