Ignorance is certainly not bliss

Yvonne Ridley

“Ignorance is bliss,” wrote the 18th century poet Thomas Grey whose famous poem “On a Distant Prospect of Eton College” tried to enlighten the world that the more knowledge you have, the greater your grief. In many ways Grey was right and, for sure, the British government would like to keep everyone in a state of infinite ignorance as it goes about its very dirty business around the world.

If the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza has taught us anything at all, it is how rotten and rancid the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a state really is. The government’s unquestioned support for Israel as it carries out its genocide is disgraceful, and makes a mockery of claims to respect human rights and international law. This shouldn’t surprise us, though, because the UK is a state which built an empire on the blood of innocents with countless atrocities being carried out against native peoples around the world, including those unwilling British citizens in the countries which make up the UK beyond the Westminster bubble.

Perhaps the British government doesn’t need to hold its nose over the stench of genocide in Gaza

But the rest of us are gagging, because that disgusting effluvium wafting across the world from the Zionist apartheid state is something of an acquired taste which has, obviously, intoxicated the ruling classes in the West.

As we witness grim milestones in the systematic obliteration of morality and humanity in Gaza, the Zionists are more than happy to remind us all of the evil deeds of the British Empire while justifying their own depravity against the Palestinians. While theirs is an evil political ideology, I have to admit that the Zionists have a point. Whatever evils they are carrying out today against the people of occupied Palestine, the Brits have already “been there, done that, got the t-shirt, got the video.”

When ordinary people protested against the dropping of bunker-busting bombs and other terrifying missiles on civilians in Gaza, obnoxious Zionist commentators such as Ben Shapiro resurrected with great enthusiasm the shocking precedent of the carpet bombing of the German city of Dresden in February 1945. At least 25,000 civilians were killed in that horror, which had no military strategic value. The British government at the time justified the bombing by saying that it was designed to force Germany to surrender by deliberately targeting civilians. The same excuse was given by the US for dropping the atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few months later, even though Japan was already on the verge of surrender.

Pick out any page in the history of the British Empire and the chances are that you will find appalling atrocities of the kind that are being repeated by Israel in Gaza. Anything and everything has been done in the name of the British monarch and the Union Flag; little wonder that the flag has been dubbed the “Butcher’s Apron”.

Remember the baby-in-the-oven claim after 7 October? Well, it happened, but was not done by Hamas, and not in 2023. It happened in April 1948 at the hands of the Zionists, as recounted by Othman Akel, a survivor of the Deir Yassin Massacre, who was an eyewitness to the terrible crimes carried out by Jewish terrorists. The Zionists have projected onto the Palestinians the crimes for which they have been responsible over the decades, and which they learned from other, just as bloody British occupations. They know how repulsed people will be when fed such stories by a compliant Western media, but we can see through their lies.

Just a few days ago at the White House, the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar felt compelled to give US President “Genocide Joe” Biden a lesson on his Irish ancestry. A million Irish men, women and children died of starvation and a million were forced to emigrate during the Great Famine from 1845 to 1852 which had a major impact on Irish society and history.

“We see our history in their (the Palestinians’) eyes,” said the Taoiseach. “A story of displacement, of dispossession, a national identity questioned and denied, forced immigration, discrimination and now hunger.” The blame for the famine is laid fairly on the shoulders of the British parliament and arguably it had a revolutionary impact on Irish politics. It certainly became a defining moment for Irish nationalists in their struggle for independence from the British yoke.

Independence-seeking Scottish folk also tell a similar story about the 18th century Highland Clearances, during which large numbers of tenants were forced off the land in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. This was ethnic cleansing by any other name, with a centuries-old way of life destroyed and around 100,000 people losing homes and livelihoods.

This ethnic cleansing — exactly what illegal Jewish settlers are doing to the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip today, even included a ban on wearing clan tartans in Scotland, which was only lifted when the threat to the British state was deemed to have been dealt with. Today we see the Zionist state of Israel and some of its allies banning iconic Palestinian symbols in an effort to eradicate Palestinian culture and way of life.

For those objecting to the pro-justice for Palestine marches in London and asking, “Why here?” the answer is obvious. During World War One, the British government issued the now infamous Balfour Declaration offering support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…” This was incorporated in the mandate given to Britain by the League of Nations in 1923 to administer the territory of Palestine and “secure the establishment of the Jewish national home”. At no time were the Palestinians consulted, nor were they even mentioned by Balfour or the mandate, other than as “non-Jewish communities”. It was said by Balfour in a 1919 letter to his fellow English peer Lord Curzon that the “Four Great Powers [Great Britain, France, Italy and the US] are committed to Zionism”, and that, “so far as Palestine is concerned… [they] have made no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.”

And violate they did. The rights of the Palestinians were ignored completely.

Britain’s failures were swept under the Empire’s carpet and, just as in Iraq and Afghanistan decades later, Britain scurried away in 1948 leaving Palestine to the Zionists. The ticking time bomb they left behind has resulted in decades of conflict and bloodshed and immense suffering for the Palestinians. Three-quarters of a million were ethnically cleansed by what Robin Corbett calls “Jewish terrorists” and became stateless refugees in neighbouring countries, the West Bank (then held by Jordan) and the Gaza Strip (held by Egypt).

As a former colonial power, Britain has continued to rewrite the history books, deny its complicity in anything negative, and distance itself from its moral responsibility to advocate for a just solution in occupied Palestine. The ignorant are blissfully unaware of the UK’s moral and legal responsibility for creating the immoral and illegal “facts on the ground” imposed on the Palestinians, and so can neither see nor understand why millions of ordinary people are marching in towns and cities around the world for justice in Palestine. Those like former Home Secretary Suella Braverman who are also “committed to Zionism” — her husband is a Zionist — brush off Palestinian rights as if they hold no importance or legitimacy, when in fact they have both in abundance.

Anti-Semitism has been weaponised, with the ludicrous IHRA definition of this vile racism suggesting that legitimate criticism of Israel as a state and the racist policies it employs against the Palestinians, is “anti-Semitic”. If that’s correct — and it isn’t, and shouldn’t be — then a massive percentage of the world’s population are adjudged to be anti-Semites, which is absurd. They — we — simply want justice for the people of occupied Palestine and an end to the brutal military occupation of their land by the Zionist state.

Only by acknowledging the consequences of Britain’s bloody colonial history and engaging diplomatically as one of the historic “Great Powers”, can the British government move forward. It can start by insisting on an immediate, permanent ceasefire and providing humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in Gaza.

What we are seeing, though, is Britain’s colonial past haunting its future. Democracy and the dominance of the two-party political system are beginning to implode. Typically, the ruling political class is turning on minority groups in the UK, specifically Muslims, and trying to sow division among British citizens.

It will not succeed. Too many people are aware of Britain’s responsibility for and complicity with what is happening in Palestine. We have all seen the genocide being carried out in real time on social media. Official denials of genocide expose transparent support for Zionist Israel, the genocidaire. They insult the intelligence of the people. As Zionist lobbies in the West buy the loyalty of politicians and media alike, their lies are rejected by their right-minded fellow citizens. The protests will continue, no matter how much they are dubbed “extremist” by our governments.

The mantra of Israel’s right to self-defence falls on deaf ears.

As the occupying power in Gaza it has no such right. Even the mainstream media is finding it almost impossible to keep up the pretence that Israel is a victim and not the perpetrator. Nevertheless, there is a serious credibility problem. Viewers are switching off in their millions from the BBC because of its biased reporting and pro-Israel propaganda. Watching Israeli soldiers filming their own war crimes is almost beyond credulity but, once seen, these atrocities cannot be unseen. If ignorance is bliss, then it is our MPs and journalists — with some honourable exceptions — who are drowning in it.

Collective punishment of a civilian population is a war crime. Destruction of civilian infrastructure is a war crime. Using starvation as a weapon is a war crime. Building settlements on occupied land is a war crime. The list goes on. The warmongers in Israel must be stopped now. The liars, hypocrites and war criminals have had their day, and we know who they are.

The UK spawned a psychotic entity addicted to violence because the ideology underpinning it is inherently violent; it has to be: occupying another people’s land is a de facto aggressive position to take (hence, you cannot claim self-defence to protect an act of aggression). The US is sustaining this entity with unlimited military aid and diplomatic cover at the UN. Both must stop if peace is to prevail. Ignorance might have been bliss for at least one poet in the 18th century, but not today. Never again means never again. Ceasefire now.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.