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Queen Elizabeth, King Charles, and the Middle East



Queen Elizabeth has died at age 96, and her son Prince Charles has now become King Charles III.

Her death prompts all sorts of thoughts, about the dissolution of the British Empire after World War II, the declining role of Great Britain in the world, the immigration problems that Great Britain brought upon itself (Enoch Powell, Greek scholar and Tory eminence, famously commented in 1968 in his “Rivers of Blood” speech about Britain’s immigration policy that “Those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad”). One might well wonder what, if anything, her death will mean for the U.K.’s relations with the countries of the Middle East and, specifically, with Israel and the Palestinians. It is not that the royal family makes foreign policy, but attitudes exhibited by the reigning royal can set the tone for, and may well influence, others of high and low estate.

A summing-up of the late Queen’s attitude toward Israel, and toward British Jewry, can be found here: “Why did Queen Elizabeth II never come visit Israel? – comment,” by Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post, September 9, 2022:

In her seventy years on the throne, the UK’s Queen Elizabeth has traveled widely and visited many countries – nearly all the countries of the Commonwealth – with Canada in particular. She visited Canada as many as 27 times, and after turning 50, she visited 43 different countries for the first time. In all, she visited 129 countries.

She has visited Jordan, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa – but never Israel.

Her first visit to another country was to Libya, and fellow monarch King Idris, in 1954. In 1979, she went to the Middle East, where she visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman. Later, on a trip to North Africa, she visited Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. She also visited Egypt and Jordan. These visits were all at the behest of the Foreign Office.

Yet, though she visited 129 countries, she never visited Israel. Was it a want of sympathy? A lack of interest? Or was it simply that, as Queen, she had to follow the directives of the Foreign Office on what countries she could visit? And those Foreign Office Arabists, always distinctly unfriendly to Israel, would have been worried that such a visit would antagonize the Arab states whose oil Great Britain wanted to buy, and to whom Great Britain wanted to sell weapons worth billions of pounds.

She was a friend of King Hussein of Jordan and then of his son King Abdullah, both of them fellow monarchs, English-speaking Arabs who no doubt fed her stories about the “plight of the Palestinians.” On her visit to Jordan in 1984, the Queen raised some alarm amongst British Jews, according to a report in the New York Times. Sympathetic comments that she had made while in Jordan about the supposed plight of the Palestinians and her reference to what she called “the occupation” caused more than a mere flutter amongst British Jews.

For all that, she was sufficiently well disposed to Israelis to receive Presidents Chaim Herzog and Ezer Weizman, and to confer an honorary knighthood on President Shimon Peres.

Herzog did in fact invite her to Israel, and although the queen herself never came, her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, her sons Prince Charles and Prince Edward, and her grandson Prince William all came separately to Israel, but the only official visit until 2020 was that of Prince William.

Prince Charles has gone to Israel three times. The first time was to attend the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. The second time was for the funeral of Shimon Peres in 2016. And the third time was when he visited Israel in 2020, on his first official visit to the country to attend the World Holocaust Forum. It was on that visit that he also went to the grave of his grandmother, Princess Alice, who is buried in Jerusalem.

It was Prince William who in 2018 paid the first official visit to Israel by any royal, and did so, surprisingly, at the behest of the British government. Clearly, the Foreign Office no longer saw Israel as a liability, but instead, as an asset, a major trading partner, technology powerhouse, and defense ally. 

It was commonly believed that the British Foreign Office, for fear of Arab boycotts, had advised the queen not to visit Israel, but even after there was no longer any real fear of boycotts and oil embargos, the Queen still did not come.

The Queen’ s relationship with Britain’s Jewish community was always good, and within recent memory, she elevated Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits and his successor, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, to the peerage and conferred knighthoods on many other British Jews.

As for her her speech in Jordan in 1984, in which she briefly expressing sympathy for the Palestinians, and used the telltale word “occupation,” I suspect that she merely read the speech written for her by the Foreign Office, as she did on all her state visits,, with a few brief remarks at the beginning and end of the prepared remarks to put her own, “personal” stamp on it.

Now that the deuteroelizabethan age has come to an end, how will the new monarch, King Charles III, treat Israel and the Palestinians? He’s been to Israel three times, and the third time, in January 2020, he went in order to attend the World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, This event had a visible effect. On that occasion he paid a visit to Yad Vashem, signed the guestbook, and gave the expected “never again” speech, but the remarks were his own, and delivered with real feeling.

On the same trip, Prince Charles visited Bethlehem, where he proceeded to praise the city’s convivencia between Christians and Muslims. Apparently no one had told him that the Christian population has sunk from 86% in 1948, when Jordan took it over, to 11% today. Christians have left the city because, as non-Muslims, they have been under terrific pressure – social, economic, and political – from their often hostile Muslim neighbors. In that same speech, which he gave at the Church of the Nativity, Prince Charles delivered himself of various remarks about his hope for Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live in harmony. He apparently hasn’t read the Qur’an, which would have disabused him of his rosy view of a non-existent coexistence. One sentence in his speech I found especially galling: “It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice, and equality to all Palestinians.” He has no idea that it is not Israel, but Mahmoud Abbas and his corrupt cronies, as well as the hard men of Hamas, who have deprived the Palestinians they rule over of freedom, justice, and equality.

Charles has clearly been deeply moved by the Holocaust. Last year he commissioned six different British artists to paint portraits of six Holocaust survivors as a gesture to the aging generation. The portraits were unveiled at the Buckingham Palace, where they were on display for several months.

“As the number of Holocaust survivors sadly but inevitably declines, my abiding hope is that this special collection will act as a further guiding light,” Prince Charles told the BBC, adding that the portraits will also serve as a reminder of “history’s darkest days.”

Then there is the little matter of Arab money. It was revealed this past June that the Prime Minister of Qatar,  Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, delivered to Prince Charles’ office $3.2 million in cash. The office of the Prince claimed that the money was deposited with one of his charities. But there is something disturbing and louche about delivering such large sums in bundles cash — for cash, of course, cannot be traced.

In July, another investigation revealed that Prince Charles in 2013 had accepted a donation of one million pounds to one of his charities by an unusual donor – the Bin Laden family. Behind both donations, from Qatar’s P.M. and from one of Saudi Arabia’s richest non-royal families, one can be sure that there was an expectation of a certain quid pro quo. It might have been the hope for help from the Prince in expediting British citizenship for a family member, or allowing the expansion of a historic property, or urging the British government to sell certain weapons, normally prohibited, to Doha or Riyadh. No one should think that these donations were given out of the kindness of their Muslim Arab hearts. Did these large donations really have no effect on Prince Charles?

Charles has also made many disturbing remarks about Islam. Here are some of them:

When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an edict (fatwa) against Salman Rushdie…rather than defend Rushdie’s freedom of speech, Charles reacted to the death decree by reflecting on the positive features that Islam has to offer the spiritually empty lives of his countrymen.

Charles first delivered a major address on Islam on October 27, 1993, at the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford where he is a vice patron of the Centre for Islamic Studies. He declared that the usual attitude to Islam “suffers because the way we understand it has been hijacked by the extreme and the superficial. To many of us in the West, Islam is seen in terms of the tragic civil war in Lebanon, the killings and bombings perpetrated by extremist groups in the Middle East, and by what is commonly referred to as “Islamic fundamentalism.”

The Prince of Wales then explained the causes for this distorted understanding:

“Our judgement of Islam has been grossly distorted by taking the extremes to the norm. . . . For example, people in this country frequently argue that the Sharia law of the Islamic world is cruel, barbaric and unjust. Our newspapers, above all, love to peddle those unthinking prejudices. The truth is, of course, different and always more complex. My own understanding is that extremes, like the cutting off of hands, are rarely practised. The guiding principle and spirit of Islamic law, taken straight from the Qur’an, should be those of equity and compassion.

“The spirit of Islamic law, taken straight from the Qur’an…[are] those of equity and compassion.” What could he have been thinking?

You can be sure Charles had not read the Qur’an – has he even now? – when he made those idiotic remarks.

“Islamic countries like Turkey, Egypt and Syria gave women the vote as early as Europe did its women-and much earlier than in Switzerland! In those countries women have long enjoyed equal pay, and the opportunity to play a full working role in their societies.”

Charles considers Christianity inadequate to the task of spiritual restoration and denigrates science for having caused the West to lose its spiritual moorings. Echoing a common Muslim theme, he declares that “Western civilisation has become increasingly acquisitive and exploitive in defiance of our environmental responsibilities.”…

“Islam can teach us today a way of understanding and living in the world which Christianity itself is poorer for having lost. At the heart of Islam is its preservation of an integral view of the Universe. Islam…refuses to separate man and nature, religion and science, mind and matter, and has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us. . . . But the West gradually lost this integrated vision of the world with Copernicus and Descartes and the coming of the scientific revolution. A comprehensive philosophy of nature is no longer part of our everyday beliefs.”

He concludes by suggesting that “there are things for us to learn in this system of belief [Islam] which I suggest we ignore at our peril.”

He spouts utter nonsense, of course, about the faith – funest and fanatical – of Islam. But that last sentence is true, though not in the way Charles meant it. There are definitely “things for us to learn in this system of belief which I suggest we ignore at our peril.” Yes, indeed, we “ignore at our peril” the contents of the Qur’an and Hadith, the very things that Charles himself ignores. We “ignore at our peril.” Think of Qu’r’an 2:191-193, 3:151, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, 98:6. Think of the hadith where Muhammad claims “I have been made victorious through terror.”  

In a speech at the Foreign Office Conference Centre at Wilton Park in Sussex on December 13, 1996, he called on Islamic pedagogy and philosophy to help young Britons develop a healthier view of the world. Praising Islamic culture in its traditional form for trying to preserve an “integrated, spiritual view of the world in a way we have not seen fit to do in recent generations in the West,” he went on to say:

There is much we can learn from that Islamic world view in this respect. There are many ways in which mutual understanding and appreciation can be built. Perhaps, for instance, we could begin by having more Muslim teachers in British schools, or by encouraging exchanges of teachers. Everywhere in the world people want to learn English. But in the West, in turn, we need to be taught by Islamic teachers how to learn with our hearts, as well as our heads.

Of course, these absurd comments about Islam were made in the 1990s — that is, before the attacks by Islamic terrorists in the U.S. on 9/11/2001, and in London on 7/7/2005, before the murders of Drummer Lee Rigby, or of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, before the pedestrians were mowed down on the boulevard in Nice, before the nightclub audience in Paris was mowed down by gunfire, before the murders of Sarah Halimi and Mireille Knoll and the beheading of Samuel Paty, before the 30,000 attacks by Muslim terrorists that have taken place since the Twin Towers came crashing down.

Would Charles say or think anything today as idiotic about Islam as he did then, a quarter-century ago? I allow myself to believe that King Charles III will reveal that he now comprehends far better the fanatical faith of Islam, and sees it steadily and whole, as the threat it always has been to the wellbeing of Infidels, for the past 1,400 years.


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