The British and their Arabs

Britain has a long loving history with the Arabs, mostly to the detriment of Israel. Of course, that is well within their rights. However, lately there have been several revelations which could, or should, embarrass Britain.

The Guardian reveals that Syrian officers received training at Sandhurst Military Academy.

Asked about why Britain has been training Syrian troops, a spokeswoman for the defence department said she could not talk about individual cases but claimed no training would be given if it would lead to human rights abuses

Hmm. That worked out very well didn’t it?

The same article reveals that a top-flight UK public relations firm represented Asma Assad, Syria’s first lady:

Meanwhile, Lord Bell, the chairman of Chime, the London public relations company that includes Bell Pottinger, told on Wednesday how he acted for Syria’s first lady, Asma al-Assad, in 2007 and 2008 at the beginning of a public relations drive to place her at the forefront of Syria’s international image, which culminated earlier this year in a sympathetic Vogue article that branded her “a rose in the desert”.

In a manner similar to Libya’s links to and funding of the LSE, we now hear of Syria’s funding of St. Andrew’s University, attended by no lesser a personage than HRH Prince William himself, together with his wife (as of tomorrow) Kate Middleton.

The University of St Andrews, where Prince William and Kate Middleton studied, has received more than £100,000 in funding for its centre for Syrian studies with the assistance of Syria’s ambassador to the UK, Sami Khiyami.

… the centre’s board of advisers also boasts figures closely associated with the Damascus regime, including Fawaz Akhras, the charismatic British-based cardiologist who is not only Bashar al-Assad’s father-in-law, but also acts as a gatekeeper for the family, screening British journalists before they are granted an interview with his daughter Asma al-Assad or his son-in-law.

Akhras is also the founder of the British Syrian Society, which has organised visits to Damascus and meetings with Bashar al-Assad for sympathetic members of parliament

It’s funny how none of this was controversial until the Syrian regime’s brutality became impossible to ignore.

Supporters of the centre and of Hinnebusch – including the author Patrick Seale, who is an adviser to the centre – insist on the necessity of engaging with Syria as it appeared to be grappling with reform, and stress the seriousness of its academic work.

All these funding scandals go a long way in explaining the ardour of UK universities to boycott Israel and her academics.

But there are some “righteous people in Sodom” after all.

But critics claim that British universities should have been far more vigilant before associating with regimes with a record of human rights and other abuses.

Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, who has called for an inquiry into universities’ links with despotic Middle Eastern regimes, said: “We need to learn from what’s happened with Libyan funding of our universities, that universities should not accept money from governments like Syria, or those with connections to the Syrian government. The danger is that you get compromised by the amount of money, and it inevitably influences your outlook on the Middle East. I’ve argued that universities that take money from dictatorships should receive a reduction in their public subsidy.”

The MP said he found it astonishing that St Andrews had not mentioned the relationship with Syria in response to a freedom of information request he submitted about donations from the Middle East or Africa since 2000.

Robin Simcox, who studied foreign funding of universities in a report for the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “Universities take this money claiming they’re going to break down walls and open relations. What they end up doing is colluding with murderous family-run regimes. These universities have got it wrong. With the likes of Gaddafi, they say the people they’re taking money from are reformers. They’re notreformers, they’re tyrants.”

Sam Westrop, a spokesman for a student-run campaign to ensure ethical funding of universities, said that it would put pressure on St Andrews to explain its Syrian links.

Not surprisingly then, along comes the report that UK universities have become hotbeds of Islamic extremism, although this might have as much to do with political correctness as Arabophilia.

Islamic fundamentalism is being allowed to flourish at universities, endangering national security, MPs and peers said yesterday.

Academics are turning a blind eye to radicals because they do not want to spy on students, a report claimed

Secret files obtained by The Daily Telegraph and WikiLeaks disclosed this week that at least 35 terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay were indoctrinated by extremists in Britain.

The leaked documents, written by senior US military commanders, illustrated how Britain effectively became a crucible of terrorism over the course of two decades.

And now, the icing on the cake, topping off all the rest, we read that the Syrian Ambassador to the UK has been invited to tomorrow’s Royal Wedding – while former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been excluded.

The Syrian ambassador is not the only representative of a dubious international regime who will attend Friday’s ceremony – among the guests will be diplomats from Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe.

Other questionable regimes whose representatives are rumoured to have been invited include Oman, Swaziland, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei and Abu Dhabi.

Earlier this week the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, decided not to attend after protests threatened to disrupt his visit.

These stories almost make me laugh, although I know I shouldn’t.  I am greatly enjoying some schadenfreude at the Brits’ expense.  Unfortunately I don’t think any of this embarrassment will make them rethink their actions.

UPDATE: The Independent reports that the Syrian Ambassador has had his invitation to the Royal wedding withdrawn.

His invitation, when Britain is at loggerheads with Damascus over the bloody crackdown on protesters against President Bashar Assad, had sparked fury, particularly among Labour supporters angry that former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were omitted from the guest list.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said representatives of all countries with which the UK had diplomatic relations had been invited.

“An invitation does not mean endorsement or approval of the behaviour of any government, simply that we have normal diplomatic relations with that country,” it went on.

“In the light of this week’s attacks against civilians by the Syrian security forces, which we have condemned, the Foreign Secretary has decided that the presence of the Syrian ambassador at the royal wedding would be unacceptable and that he should not attend.

Perhaps they should have thought of that before the invitation went out.

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1 Response to The British and their Arabs

  1. u knowwho says:

    כל הכבוד אמא!

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