The rise and fall of Priti Patel
She was a far from popular ex-lobbyist for the tobacco and alcohol industries whose political objectives once included the return of the death penalty. Beyond describing EU social and employment regulations as “a burden,” the fierce but muddled Brexit champion also declared that “the British are among the worst idlers in the world.” Fellow MP Crispin Blunt rightly suggested that Patel’s rise to power was the result of positive discrimination, saying she was a “great British Asian representative in the Conservative Party” and thus accelerated to a top job.
Patel’s overall demeanor was that of a reactionary far-right, low-intellect egotist with little interest in doing anything for anybody except for herself, and those with large bank balances. Her abject lack of integrity was reflected in supremely reckless behavior during her 16 months in government. Most catastrophically — and of course most significantly — this included falling into the hands of Israeli power brokers who wanted to use their diminutive new “friend” to advance their own interests.
In this sense, the Patel scandal is a spectacular example of how Israel hones in on morally weak but well-connected figures to try to control British policy. Their manipulation of Patel was so blatant that it was illustrated by a Twitter photograph of the permanently grinning MP posing on the terrace of the House of Commons in London with Gilad Erdan, arguably the most abrasive security enforcer in Israel’s ruling Likud Party.
The scandal is a spectacular example of how Israel hones in on morally weak but well-connected figures to try to control British policy.
Erdan is a lynchpin of Israel’s attempt to destroy the increasingly successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which fights Israel’s appalling human rights record through peaceful economic action. Just as controversially, Erdan is in charge of the large-scale targeting of influential foreigners deemed antipathetic toward Israel.
At the time of her happy snap with Erdan — early September — Patel was in fact meant to be a supporter of Palestinians too, not least of all because she had a £13 billion plus aid budget designed to alleviate the suffering of the world’s poor. Instead, what she sought to do was cut Palestinian aid.
Her one-sided disdain for the principal victims of Israel’s colonialist regime extended to spending no time with any notable Palestinians during her wretched “private holiday” to the Middle East in August. She was too busy glad-handling allies, including Benjamin Netanyahu himself, as well as the Israeli prime minister’s Foreign Ministry Director General, Yuval Rotem.
There are no known minutes of Patel’s discussions with those responsible for some of the most lethal, repressive and cruel policies in Israel’s recent history. Not only have they backed more illegal land grabs, but were directly behind the 2014 attacks on Gaza which saw more than 1,500 civilians murdered, including 551 children and 300 women. In return, Palestinian rockets claimed the lives of four civilians in Israel, including one Thai national.
Patel could still technically be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for these unrecorded exchanges with men like Netanyahu, who is regularly accused of war crimes and other barbarous acts against humanity.
Rather than taking an interest in Palestine’s smashed infrastructure, illegal imprisonments including that of hundreds of boys and girls, and all the other abuses and breaches of international law that characterize Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, Patel was far more enthusiastic about buttressing the war machine that enforces it. With breathtaking cynicism, she suggested that British taxpayers’ money should be diverted into the woefully misnamed Israel Defense Force (IDF) — one that spends most of its time on the offensive, and which already receives billions of dollars from the US.
Following massacres such as Gaza, the IDF is currently involved in a murky initiative to treat fighters escaping Syria’s civil war on the Golan Heights, an area that Britain and the rest of the world do not even recognize as belonging to Israel. Despite this, Patel visited a field hospital on the illegally occupied Golan with military and political personnel, so breaking all established protocols. Patients in such medical facilities include Al-Qaeda and Daesh militants, who are patched up by the Israelis before returning to the conflict against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
Patel’s view that this kind of “humanitarian work” by the IDF is a worthy recipient of British taxpayers’ money would have had everything to do with the hold the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) had on her. The group’s president, the peer Stuart Polak, set up at least 14 covert meetings for Patel in Israel and the UK. The Tory fixer is now refusing to answer questions about his role in the rise and fall of the dismal Patel.
This lack of democratic accountability has led to numerous conspiracy theories, including claims by pro-Israel propagandists — some calling themselves journalists — that the British government have been lying about what they knew about Patel’s Israel visit, and her own rogue foreign policy.
In the midst of such sinister scheming, the Patel denouement did not solely expose the inadequacies of a low-grade chancer whose ruthless ambition was by no means matched by her abilities. Far more importantly, it shed light on the outrageous manner in which the agents of Israeli hegemony operate at the heart of sovereign governments.
• Nabila Ramdani is an award-winning French-Algerian journalist, columnist and broadcaster who specializes in French politics, Islamic affairs and the Arab world.
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