How Idrees Ahmad Whitewashes British Imperialism in Palestine and Syria

Regime change advocates are writers or propagandists who want to alter the governments in the Global South and replace them with a government to Western likening. This can be done directly when a Western power sends its army overseas, militarily invades the nation-state and rids the country of the existing government as in Iraq or indirectly as in the case of Libya were local proxy forces were used and with the help of superior Western air power (NATO) the hitherto existing Libyan government was removed. As the world witnessed in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003, journalists, academics and think-tank professionals who advocate for these pro-Western regime change operations tend to be whitewashers, deceivers, liars or outright conmen. Naturally, these traits inevitably seep out into their published works.

In the past, this writer has dealt with the regime-change enthusiast Robin Yassin-Kassab highlighting the hoax in his book about the war on Syria. The University of Cambridge academic Dr. Priyamvada Gopal has denounced anyone who doesn’t accept Western regime change narrative on Libya and Syria as either “Gaddafists” or “Assadists”. So it was inevitable that this esteemed Cambridge don is not indifferent to a little sleight of hand analysis in her much acclaimed tome, Insurgent Empire.

Dr. Muhammad Idrees Ahmad of the University of Sterling is another enthusiastic advocate for regime change in the Global South and he too can also be found wanting in the sincerity department. Ahmad and Yassin-Kassab both edited what appeared to be an anti-imperialist website, Pulse. A website edited by two people that sprang out of nowhere which claimed or at the very least implied it was against the war in Iraq and also pro-Palestine. Yet once the upheaval in Libya began in 2011 and the British government began advocating for military intervention, Idrees Ahmad and Yassin-Kassab began denouncing anyone who opposed Western military intervention in Libya.

Idrees Ahmad has written a very informative and fantastically referenced book, The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War, on the role of American neoconservatives in driving forward the decision to go to war in Iraq. One of the arguments made by neoconservatives in the war on Iraq was that American and Israeli interests were indistinguishable. As Ahmad claims, for neocons, to “fight Israel’s enemies…was to fight for America.”[i] Therefore, many of the most enthusiastic politicians calling for war on Iraq were also very pro-Zionist.

However, in the gratuitous appendix to this excellent book, Ahmad may have revealed his true modus operandi. The appendix’s purpose is to analyse John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s, The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Herein, Ahmad claims that Zionists attempts to garner Western support for “a future Jewish State as an imperial outpost proved futile” before WW1 but goes onto say that Britain issued “issued the Balfour Declaration during World War 1 mainly to court Jewish support in getting the US to intervene on its behalf, but retreated shortly afterwards”.[ii] This is a demonstrable lie. The British Empire did not retreat once it issued the Balfour Declaration. All the evidence is to the contrary.

From the moment it issued the Balfour Declaration until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the British were the leading facilitators in establishing the Zionist state in Palestine. Britain was the rubber stamped colonial power over Mandate Palestine shortly after the end of World War 1. No sooner had the Empire’s occupation began than British Minister Lloyd George ordered his Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill that “he mustn’t give representative Government to Palestine.”[iii]

The historian Professor Walid Khalidi in a lecture given at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on 21st February 2009 argued that a central strategy of British imperialism in the era of the British Empire’s colonial occupation of Palestine was to deny democracy to the indigenous Arabs. The population of Palestine in 1917 was overwhelmingly Arab at about 700,00, while Jews constituted about 60,000 therefore a representative democracy would not have taken kindly to establishing a Jewish national home for European Jews. So, it’s no surprise that by 1935, the new European Jewish settlers had swelled the Jewish population to 400,000 and Palestinian Arabs seeing the writing on the wall revolted in 1936 in what became known as the Arab Revolt. In response to this revolutionary struggle, the British Colonial Secretary, William Ormsby-Gore declared in parliament,

“…The Arabs demand a complete stoppage of all Jewish immigration, a complete stoppage of all sales of land, and the transfer of the Government of Palestine…to what they call a National Government responsible to an elected democratic assembly. Those are their three demands, and quite frankly, those demands cannot possibly be conceded.”[iv]

And it was on this basis that the Palestinian Arab revolution was militarily crushed by the British Empire and its Zionist colonial militias that it had developed and harnessed over the previous decade. Many of these militias went on to establish the state of Israel in 1948.[v]

So much for Idrees Ahmad’s “retreat” which can easily be seen as a palpable untruth or to express it in academic parlance, totally disingenuous.

Turning to today’s contemporary international politics, Idrees Ahmad spends a healthy amount of time on social media denouncing those who do not accept Western narratives on the war in Syria. Since 2011, Western powers took advantage of legitimate grievances among certain elements within Syrian society and encouraged them to challenge the Syrian government. Britain then led the Western charge for military intervention in Syria. In western mainstream media, this regime change operation was disguised as a “revolution”. One of the initiatives Britain helped to produced during the war on Syria in the last decade was inventing a medical respond service, Syria Civil Defence, popularly known as the “White Helmets”. This organisation was set up by a former British intelligence officer, James Le Merurier. Although it is claimed that the White Helmets are impartial, they only operate in parts of Syria under “rebels” rule. The rebels in turn were always some variant of Islamist fighters. Some have argued that the White Helmets have very close links with al-Qaeda elements in the war on Syria to the extent that personnel of the two organisations do overlap. The acclaimed veteran journalist, John Pilger calls the “White Helmets” a “complete propaganda construct”. Idrees Ahmad has tweeted that an attack on the White Helmets is an attack on him because they are his family. When Zionist backed Syrian rebels were defeated in southern Syria, the White Helmets were evacuated by the Israeli Defence Force.

If it had been a “revolution” in Syria and not a regime change operation, then why is Britain’s Zionist entity, Israel supporting these “rebel” groups? Why is Israel keen on backing Syrian rebels but continues to crush Palestinians under its occupation and steal their land? Furthermore, why did Israel rescue Syrian first responders, White Helmets, but less than two months earlier was literally killing Palestinian first responders? Then British foreign Secretary thanked the Israeli government for rescuing the White Helmets. But Idrees Ahmad in the immediate aftermath of the Zionist army rescuing the Syrian “White Helmets” denounced anyone sharing this observation as a “conspiracy theorist”. His “family” was rescued by Zionist soldiers and he could either face up to the truth or remain in denial by lashing out by sadly accusing his opponents as conspiracy theorists.   

Obviously, conspiracy theories do exist. But it is an easily corroborated fact that Britain and Israel supported the regime-change operation in Syria. It is also a corroborated fact that the British Empire laid the foundations, over a thirty year period, for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-8 beginning with issuing the Balfour Declaration.

Idrees Ahmad is correct in highlighting the role played by neoconservatives in agitating for war on Iraq in 2003. But so were British imperialist politicians. Indeed the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had wanted the United States to ignore the international community during the first Iraq war in 1991 and to carry on until Western forces had reached Baghdad.[vi] Whereas, on the whole, neoconservatives had only began advocating for a complete invasion of Iraq from the mid-1990s onwards. So, it is no surprise that Tony Blair clamoured for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 no less than neoconservatives. Understandably, it is much easier for Idrees Ahmad to produce a book about American neoconservatism’s drive for war instead of writing about British imperialism urge for war because he then can work with and off existing research and books published by American academics, whereas Britain has a very limited amount of literature on contemporary British imperialism.[vii]  

The first casualty of war, as we know, is truth. Mearsheimer and Walt recommend that going forward and in order to reduce the influence of pro-Israeli advocates in American foreign policy, Americans need to make themselves aware of the truth behind the founding of the Israel state. Specifically, people need to know what actually happened when Zionists built “a Jewish state in the midst of an indigenous Arab population.”[viii]Likewise with British based academics, such as Idrees Ahmad, they need to acknowledge the role played by British imperialism in laying the foundations for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine which can be traced back to the issuing of the Balfour Declaration instead of whitewashing British imperialism and lying about a nonsensical “retreat”.

[i] Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, “The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War”, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press) 2014, pg. 116. Also see  John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, (London: Penguin Books), 200, pg. 248-250

[ii] ibid., pg. 188.

[iii] Randolph Churchill, “Winston S. Churchill – Companion Volume 4, Part 3”, (London: Heinemann), 1977, pg.1559.

[iv] Commons Debates, Fifth Series, Vol. 313, Column 1324, 19th June 1936.

[v] For a full discussion on how British imperialism laid the foundations for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine see Nu’man Abd al-Wahid, “Debunking the Myth of America’s Poodle: Great Britain Wants War”, (Winchester: Zero Books), 2020, Chapter 5.

[vi] Margaret Thatcher, “The Downing Street Years”, (London: Harper Press, 2011), pg. 828

[vii] Abd al-Wahid, op. cit., I argue in this book that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war of 2003 is rooted in British imperialism and not in Britain being America’s poodle.

[viii] Mearsheimer and Walt, op. cit., pg..350-1

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