[ 31 July 1947 ]

On this day in 1947, “seven (British) armoured cars roared through the main street of the all-Jewish city of Tel-Aviv… with machine guns firing into shops and passing traffic,” killing at least five and wounding fifteen others.[1]  This indiscriminate act of violence appeared to be in retaliation for the brutal lynching of two British soldiers who’s bodies had been found earlier the same day, a crime which had itself been provoked by the hanging of three leading Jewish militants, suspected of planning acts of terror, two days earlier.[2]

According to an official police statement one man had been killed by machine gun fire in Allenby Road and “in the Hatikvah quarter of Tel Aviv armed men ‘described as troops or police’ shot up and threw a hand grenade into a cafe, killing three people and wounding several others.”[3]  There was little sympathy from Britain’s press. Even the left leaning Daily Mirror merely reported it under a subhead of “Clash in Tel-Aviv,” noting that “British military authorities at Jerusalem said this morning that no troops were out of barracks in Tel Aviv at that time,” although evidence later emerged which showed that British soldiers had indeed been responsible for the terror killings. [4]

It is of interest that the world’s two most prestigious newspapers, The Times and The New York Times took up different approaches to the horrific murders. The headline in London was “British Sergeants Found Murdered,” while The New York Times led with an arguably more balanced header of “Troops Avenge Hostage Deaths: 5 Jews are slain in Tel Aviv After Hanging of Two Britons.”  However, even the latter headline failed to reflect the true gravity of the crime of uniformed soldiers shooting down random civilians, entirely unconnected with the lynching.[5]  Some police officers were later disciplined but no criminal charges were ever brought against any of the killers.


[ 31 July 1986 ]

On this day in 1986, the Tory Reform Group, issued a press release causing surprise and shock within the Tory party.  For the first time several leading Conservative figures, including the Earl of Stockton (former prime minister Harold Macmillan) and Lord Carrington (previously Foreign Secretary) opposed the Conservative government’s refusal to impose any economic sanctions on South Africa.

However rather than highlight the obvious ethical reasons for questioning the government’s position, the press release emphasized that with the increasing international isolation of Britain, it was now becoming an economic imperative to end our support for Apartheid. Otherwise British exporters would be likely to loose out in other African markets, and from retaliation by any future democratic government that might emerge in South Africa.  “Britain’s economic, strategic and political interests all require us to impose substantial sanctions against South Africa.”(6)


[ 31 July 20015 ]

On this day in 2005, Stephen Vincent, a journalist embedded with UK forces, wrote a damning article in the New York Times, entitled “Switched Off in Basra“, alleging that the police in southern Iraq’s main city, were comprised mostly of bloodthirsty fundamentalist armed militias in uniform who were being uniformed and supported by the British.  When he asked a group of British troops whether there was any training to encourage loyalty to the national government, rather than a local mosque, there were only shrugs. “Not our job mate.”

Vincent also suspected that the recent admission by the head of Basra’s police force that half of his men were affiliated to Shiite political parties was an underestimate and he quoted a Young Iraq officer who had told him that “75 per cent of the policemen I know are with Moktada al-Sadr. He is a great man.”  Some of these officers appeared to have been assigned to hunting down former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party, an assignment they pursued with a predictable excess of zeal.

“An Iraqi police lieutenant,” explained Vincent, “confirmed to me the widespread rumours that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations – mostly of former Baath Party members – that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of ‘Death Car’; a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.”

He also reported how an administrator at the city’s university had explained that it was no use calling the police to prevent self-appointed religious monitors patrolling the campus to enforce a strict religious dress code since the police were affiliated to the same fundamentalist groups. The British appeared to be overseeing a rapid islamisation of the city. It wasn’t even as if it were inadvertent since it was a predictable consequence of their known reliance on extremist Shiite militias to police the city.(7)  Three days after the article was published Vincent was kidnapped by men in police uniforms and murdered.(8)


[ 31 July 2018 ]

On this day in 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that the British government had “materially misled” the high court over how it had denied desperate refugee children refused entrance into the UK, their legal rights to know and challenge the reasons for their visa applications being turned down.

The Judges added that the process used to assess 2000 children from the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp was both “unfair and unlawful” and that five hundred children had not been given adequate reasons for refusal. This was in the circumstances a highly restrained criticism. Only 750 children had been granted a visa and the remainder were only given the news of their refusal on a spreadsheet with a word or short phrase to explain why their application was being rejected. (9)

The Home Office refusals had been originally upheld by the High Court who were wrongly advised that the lack of any proper explanation was “a requirement of the French authorities.” The truth was the exact opposite.  At the high court the appeal, brought by campaigning group Citizens UK, was able to show that Home Office officials were advised by lawyers to avoid detailed replies in order to avoid legal challenges. The French, on the other hand, had requested the children be provided full explanations for any refusals. “Otherwise,” an email sent by French officials explained, “the young people especially will not understand, we will not be able to explain it to them and the situation will quickly become unmanageable for you as well as for us.”(10)

The verdict of Yvette Cooper, who chaired the Home Affairs Committee, was that the Home Office’s conduct had been “a shocking denial” of children’s rights.  “Even though ministers agreed to help many child refugees from Calais,” she observed, “it appears the default setting of the Home Office was still so hostile that it deliberately made it harder for others to appeal or to rejoin relatives.”(11)


Imagine a Russian report suggesting that military interventions shouldn’t be focused on the idea of democracy promotion, but that instead they proclaimed their willingness to ally themselves with war criminals to strike deals with powerful and ruthless regional elites and terror groups.  There would be loud condemnation across the political spectrum.

However there were was almost no reaction when a British Foreign Office report, published on 31 July 2018, noted,  after studying 21 cases of military intervention, that the best results for British interests are when we ally with war criminals and terror groups, rather than make any attempt to promote democracy, and that’s how we should conduct foreign policy in the future.  Alastair Burt, a Foreign Office minister, who commissioned the report, explained that “there will be times when we have to hold our nose and support dialogue with those who oppose our values, or who may have committed war crimes.”(12)



  1. “Jewish sources say five killed by troops in Tel Aviv,” The Northern Whig, 1 August 1947, p1
  2. Peter Clarke (2008), “The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: The Demise of a Superpower, 1944-47,” Penguin Books, London, p498.
  3. “Jewish sources say five killed by troops in Tel Aviv,” Ibid and “British deny troops rioted in Tel Aviv,” The Coventry Evening Telegraph, 1 August 1947, p1
  4. “Palestine Leaders Told Act Now Or,” The Daily Mirror, 1 August 1947, p1
  5. Peter Clarke (2008), Ibid.
  6. TRG Press Release quoted in Elizabeth M. Williams (2015), “The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle,” I.B. Tauris, London and New York, p74
  7. Steven Vincent, “Switched Off in Basra,”  The New York Times, 31 July 2005 accessed online at https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/31/opinion/switched-off-in-basra.html
  8. Frank Ledwidge (2011), “Loosing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Yale University Press, London p33 and “The Dawn of New Basra”,  The Independent, 20 December 2008 accessed online at  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-dawn-of-a-new-basra-1204990.html
  9. Alexandra Topping, “Government misled court on treatment of Calais child refugees,” The Guardian 1 August 2018 p5 and “Judges criticise Home Office over handling of ‘Jungle’ children visas,”  The Metro, 1 August 2018 p2
  10. Richard Ford, “Home Office misled court over child migrant refusals,” The Times, 1 August 2018 p2.
  11. Ibid p2
  12. Patrick Wintour, “UK must talk to ‘unpalatable’ groups – Foreign Office report,” The Guardian, 1 August 2018, p2





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