Written by Richard Millett
Historian Avi Shlaim was invited to speak on Balfour and Palestine: From Balfour to May on Tuesday night at St James’s Church in central London.
St James’s is a church hostile to Israel and no expense is spared. In 2013 St James’s dedicated its entire Christmas to demonising Israel’s security wall at a cost of £30,000.
St James’s knows how to harness extremists’ hatred for Israel and on the way out on Tuesday The Rev Lucy Winkett was beaming with pride at seeing 300 people in her church. One can only imagine the usual turnout on Sunday mornings.
Su McClellan, of Embrace the Middle East (see below), set the dire tone for the evening when she described Shlaim’s family as simply having “left Iraq for Israel for various reasons”.
Those “various reasons” might have included the Farhud massacre visited on Baghdad’s Jewish community in 1941 which was followed up with continued oppression and confiscation of property by the Iraqi government. Shlaim’s father lost everything it seems. None of this was mentioned.
Farhud and Hamas were the main words totally absent from Shlaim’s talk. He blamed the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians solely on Israel. He claimed “settlements only are continuing the conflict.”
Shlaim seems proud to be a part of the British establishment. Throughout the evening he repeated that he married the great-grand-daughter of David Lloyd George and said that although “his wife was proud of her great-grand-father she was ashamed of the role he played in Palestine”. Palestine, he said, had been “wiped off the map”.
Lloyd George was Britain’s PM at the time of the Balfour Declaration which promised a national home to the Jewish people “in Palestine”. Shlaim ascribed the Declaration to Lloyd George’s “anti-semitic view that the Jews were uniquely influential.”
Meanwhile, Shlaim repeated Christian metaphors to appeal to his audience. He condemned Winston Churchill as a “dog in a manger” for overly praising Jews during the 1936 Peel Commission and he criticised the “old historians who stick to Israel’s beginning as one of immaculate conception”.
Quite incredibly Shlaim then praised Ilan Pappe as his inspiration. Pappe has been described by Benny Morris as “one of the world’s sloppiest historians”. Pappe has also been caught on film agreeing propaganda may be more important than facts.
Shlaim then claimed the Balfour Declaration meant Palestine had been “twice promised”, having already been promised by the British to the leader of the Arab world, via an exchange of letters, in return for Arabs fighting the Muslim Ottomans during World War One.
Shlaim continued that the “intrusion of a foreign entity in the shape of the Zionist movement showed a total disregard (by the British) for the indigenous population”.
He concluded by praising the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC dedicates itself to the demonisation and eradication of Israel) and saying that only recognition of a Palestinian state as a UN member can “save Israel from itself”.
During the Q&A Shlaim defended the Labour Party against “alleged anti-semitism within the Labour Party” and praised Jeremy Corbyn (warning: this kicks off a bit):
Shlaim should watch the film Whitewashed: Anti Semitism in the Labour Party.
At the end Rt Rev Michael Langrish gave a fundraising appeal for the church’s Embrace the Middle East charity to raise money for the Palestinians (this despite the Palestinian Authority having paid out $1bn to Palestinian terrorists over the last four years).
Last year the appeal was for Gaza. This year it was for Palestinians in the “occupied West Bank” and….Israel.