UK and Israel: An Alliance of Enemies
I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers—Bedouin adage
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A well-known proverb states that the enemy of your enemy is your friend; yet, sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is also your enemy. In the Middle East, your enemy may even be your best friend. A less-known, but more accurate, Bedouin adage claims “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers,” stating a clear hierarchy of loyalties. On paper, there is nothing easier than to prove the open hostility between the UK and Israel, to the extent that Israel’s President Shimon Peres seriously claimed in a recent interview “England is anti-Semitic.” Supporting this claim is an impressive list of quasi-arrests of Israeli generals and politicians. General Doron Almog escaped arrest in 2005 after being indicted for war crimes in a British court. In 2009 former military chief Moshe Yaalon—current Vice Prime Minister—called off a visit to Britain because of similar concerns. In December 2009, an arrest warrant was issued by a British court for then leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni, due to war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza when Livni was Foreign Minister. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak faced a similar fate, but the British court ruled that as a sitting minister he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Yet, claiming that Ehud Barak is a war criminal is not enough to define one as anti-Semite; in fact Ehud Barak cannot defend himself due to the very clear indictment issued by the United Nations on Operation Cast Lead.
Israel didn’t behave better. In February 2010, Israel's Mossad used forged British passports in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. This was so well proven that an Israeli diplomat was expelled from the UK in March 2010.
A closer look reveals a different reality. London and Tel Aviv are surprisingly close on financial issues. The London Stock Exchange was the first to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE). The document formalized the ties between the two organizations, establishing regular meetings between senior executives, and mutual access to information in order to facilitate trading of the shares of companies admitted to both markets. At the time, fifty Israeli companies were listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market and Alternative Investment Market. Moreover, one of the main TASE members—its board—is a London-based bank, HSBC. TASE plays such a key role in the Israeli economy that Ester Levanon, its Chief Executive Officer, was a senior Shin Beth officer before joining TASE. At the Shin Beth, she ran the secret police’s computer department. In other words, the mutual access to inner information by TASE and the London Stock Exchange gives a solid testimony of a cozy relationship, even if these cousins—following the abovementioned Bedouin proverb—like to throw stones at each other during their weekend games. This is true even before mentioning that prominent international bankers have substantial interests in both countries.
Britain is not an empire anymore. Militarily speaking it is difficult to even consider it a leading power, despite its nuclear capabilities. Turkey’s navy is larger than the British one. Israel’s army is larger than the British one. Even commercially, Britain is receding. The London Stock Exchange, once the most important in the world is nowadays just the fourth largest. Assets are leaving London; the most prominent example in this category is the recent repatriation—as it was called in Caracas—of Venezuelan gold. Until last year, much of that country’s gold was stored in London. The former empire is so oppressive, that Venezuela paid for the storage and got no interest. The protective wings of China over Venezuela, assured a smooth withdrawal of the goods. Yet, the obvious richness of London is a solid testimony that the city maintains certain powers, though they are of the subtle kind. London is the leading international hub for bank transactions; its lords—their withered moustaches reminding us of their empire's past glory—live mainly on transaction fees. In their magnificent mercy, they let others dirty their hands.
In 2010, London performed 20% of global cross-border bank transactions. In April that year, 36.7% of foreign exchange trading and 45.8% of financial derivative trading went through banks in London. The UK may not have a significant fleet anymore, but it still leads marine insurance and related fields to the extent that it is the only city where all twenty of the world’s largest insurers and reinsurers are represented. Lloyd’s of London is still the world’s biggest insurance market.
Ruling banks and insurance companies which are essential to international trade give the British government the power to carry financial attacks on practically every other country. Despite its apparent hostility towards Israel, the UK is economically friendly. The abovementioned links between the countries' stock exchange companies proves that. This friendliness is not the result of the UK being shy of using its blackmailing power. These days, Britain is conducting an economic war for the sake of its Zionist cousin.
In October 2009, the British government announced unilateral sanctions on Iran, by forbidding all British financial institutions from doing business with The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and Bank Mellat. These sanctions were wild; unapproved either by the European Union or the UN Security Council, which joined the party only much later. This hostile act had not been provoked by Iran, which is a clear target of Western nuclear programs, including the Israeli one. The refusal of British companies to insure Iranian ships is causing problems to the marine activities of the latter. Moreover, Lloyd’s List, which records sales of marine vessels, and the UN's International Maritime Organization, which tracks shipping and records the unique hull-numbers of ships, are both located in London. This is causing difficulties to ownership transactions that include Iran. Though the British banking system likes to portray itself as liberal and openly opposes restrictive legislation by the British government, when one of its banks gets a specific request from the government, it will comply and obviously keep quiet about it. No British bank will confront its government for the sake of protecting the rights of a customer.
Britain also exerts pressure across its borders. In March, SWIFT, a Belgium-based company which handles international financial transactions cut Iran off its network. Much of its transactions go through London’s banking systems; apparently the British government forced the company to do so. A few days ago, on July 1, new sanctions banning EU members from buying Iranian oil became mandatory; oddly enough this deeply affects Japan and South Korea. These two countries are major importers of Iranian oil and insure their tankers in London. Their frantic attempts to allow the operation of their tankers was met with a firm denial by the British government.
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