Why did Queen Elizabeth II, world’s most traveled monarch, never visit Israel
By Hafsa Kara-Mustapha In June this year, when Queen Elizabeth II marked the platinum jubilee of her accession to the throne, Britons got a flavor of what media coverage to expect on the world's longest-reigning monarch’s passing.
Since her death on September 8, every detail of her life has been talked about, explained, and over-analysed. Viewers from Britain and other countries were bombarded with pictures of a baby princess Lilibet all the way to the dying sovereign just a day before she took her last breath.
This was clearly a royal reign for the modern age, where media scrutiny, aided by news agencies and the internet, provided consumers with every aspect of the late head of state’s life, work and legacy.
Though nothing ever has transpired of her politics or political beliefs, which her role as a constitutional monarch forbids, occasional reports offered her subjects glimpses of the values she espoused.
Information carefully ‘leaked’ showed a young queen tilting clearly on the right of the political spectrum. She married young and immediately started a family and was said to have been a firm believer in the more traditional family values, her own family would later so openly reject.
Throughout the years and constant media scrutiny, Britons discovered that she loved her pet corgis, had a sharp sense of humour, and Andrew, her third-born, was her favourite child.
Amid all the media saga on her life, one interesting element transpired: in her 70-year-long reign the “million mile” monarch visited almost every single country on earth: those of the Commonwealth of course, but also friendly, not so friendly and at times even those considered hostile to Britain.
In 1961, she visited Iran. In 1991, she was hosted by the late president Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. In 1986, she famously toured China and walked along its Great Wall.
Yet one exception emerges and is all the more striking considering the close ties the regime has traditionally had with Britain.
Queen Elizabeth II never visited Israel. Though she was seen as a devout Christian and held the title of head of the Church of England, she never even attempted a trip to the occupied territories of Palestine to visit the Christian religion’s holiest of places.
The pro-establishment British media, compliant in always toeing the official political line, has abstained from any comments on this curious boycott. After all, the successive UK prime ministers have enthusiastically declared the country’s commitment to its close relationship with Israel.
The former British premier, Boris Johnson, famously stayed in a Kibbutz in his younger years and wrote of his fondness and admiration for the Zionist entity as a journalist. His successor, Liz Truss, stated during her campaign that she favoured a transfer of the British embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which saw her jump from the fourth position in the leadership race to the top one.
Margaret Thatcher, who remained in power in the 1980s, traveled to Tel Aviv and showed resolute support for Israel despite the countless violations of international law the regime committed during her premiership, most notably the massacres of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
No British prime minister, since Elizabeth II was crowned the queen in 1952, can be deemed unfriendly, hostile, or even neutral towards Israel.
In the aftermath of World War II, Western countries, feeling the need to share the burden of Nazi crimes, multiplied efforts to agree to all of the newly-formed Zionist entity’s needs and whims, often to the detriment of their own people or public opinion.
An official visit, with all the pomp and ceremony, would have consolidated the relationship always portrayed as particularly close, yet the Queen never embarked on the trip even though her own mother-in-law is buried in St Mary Magdalene’s Church in Jerusalem.
As this revelation began to surface, some commentators have over the past few days attempted to offer an explanation for this curious decision that is clearly not in line with Britain’s official position on the regime in Tel Aviv.
Furthermore, for many, Britain is not only a close partner of Tel Aviv, but it is also in many ways the godfather of Zionism, the illegitimate regime’s aggressively fascist ideology. It was after all Britain, under the guise of Lord Balfour, that pledged to offer Palestine – which was never Britain’s — for the establishment of the so-called “Jewish homeland”.
It was this infamous declaration made in 1917, and whose centennial former premier Theresa May celebrated with ‘pride’, that paved the way for mass Jewish immigration from Europe designed to ouster native Palestinians from their ancestral lands.
Such is the nature of Anglo-Israeli relations that a snub from Britain’s head of state has long been a taboo in political and diplomatic circles.
So, the question is, why did the Queen never visit Tel Aviv? The answer lies in both her official role as a monarch as well as that of mother, wife, and even daughter.
The late monarch, who died at the age of 96, was 20 when a bomb exploded in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people. The explosion planned and executed by the Jewish terror group Irgun claimed the lives of 11 senior British officials and countless other civilians.
The hotel built in 1929 had become by the early 1940s an unofficial headquarter for Britons appointed to serve in Mandatory Palestine. It was a well-known spot where these officials and their families would congregate.
The terror attack, which followed a long-running campaign led by Jewish terror groups, marked a turning point in Britain’s policy in the Levant and prompted a gradual withdrawal of troops leaving civilian and unarmed Palestinians to face well-armed Jewish terror groups such as Irgun or the Stern gang in the coming years, culminating with the ethnic cleansing of Arab villages in 1948.
Though now conveniently shelved, news of these terror attacks at the time shocked the kingdom to the core. Given these were committed not by foreign fighters resisting British occupation but by Jewish organisations once politically supported by Britain, the sense of betrayal was tangible.
“Hon. Members will have learned with horror of the brutal and murderous crime committed yesterday in Jerusalem. Of all the outrages which have occurred in Palestine, and they have been many and horrible in the last few months, this is the worst,” then British prime minister Clement Atlee stated in the House of Commons.
The British media outlets were outraged and many called for tougher action against these Jewish terror groups. In a report released in 2003, it was noted that the Stern gang was recruiting British Jews to commit terror attacks inside the UK using war surplus aircraft.
Despite the shock and political fall-out from the King David attack, these Jewish terror groups did not stop there. On March 1, 1947, 17 British officers were killed in a similar attack targeting a local club frequented by the armed forces. A few days later a British guard standing outside an orphanage was killed.
In another instance, soldiers were hanged and their bodies stuffed with explosives in a bid to inflict maximum pain and double the fatalities. British railway guards were murdered outside a station.
In August of that year, three British policemen were killed in the bombing of the British Labour department in Jerusalem. A few weeks later, four British policemen were killed outside a bank, followed by 10 other policemen killed when the local police station was bombed.
By 1948, more than 800 servicemen, who’d been appointed to serve “king and country” had perished at the hands of these terror groups which were made up of those who would soon become Israel’s political class.
The Queen, a witness of these events would have clearly remembered them, in particular as many of those killed had just recently returned from the war against Nazi Germany and which was reported to have caused so many casualties among Europe’s Jewish population.
These squaddies and their superiors were now being targeted by the very people they sought to fight for just a few years before.
British commentators, always keen on downplaying Zionist crimes, for fear of losing their jobs, have also pointed to the sovereign’s other snub in the region: Egypt. They appear to forget the period in which she had just been crowned, coinciding with the greatest political crisis of that decade: Suez.
A few years into her reign, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, a valuable Egyptian waterway through which much of the oil tankers transporting the precious commodity would go through, challenging Britain’s authority in the region.
At the time, British media and politicians alike were rushing to describe the Arab leader as a tyrant and the ‘new Hitler,’ a term now commonly used to describe anyone rejecting Western hegemony.
In response to reports of journalists describing Nasser as a ‘mad dog’, he responded in kind by calling the Queen “the daughter of a thousand dogs” a particularly offensive form of insult in Arab culture.
By the time that crisis was forgotten, Princess Diana, her former daughter-in-law, was killed in a car accident in 1997, alongside her Egyptian partner Dodi Al Fayed. This prompted many in Egypt to claim the crash was orchestrated by the royal family, who could not tolerate the idea of a Muslim/Arab half-brother to the heir of the throne.
Civil actions were launched inside Egypt, followed by a long investigation funded by Dodi’s father Mohamed Al Fayed in which he also claimed the official involvement in the killing of the princess and her Arab partner. In that tense climate, a trip to Egypt was therefore inopportune.
But, what about Tel Aviv?
As a princess raised during World War II, which left thousands of families bereaved, she felt a particular attachment to these men who made the ultimate sacrifice for her father and the country.
It is worth noting that the period in which she grew up would have shaped her outlook on life. How could she travel and visit, with all the pomp and ceremony, a country built on British political support yet drenched in the blood of its soldiers?
Stranger still, how have these events been completely deleted from the public consciousness when that period is still so overly discussed and debated to this day?
Unlike the politicians elected to serve her, the Queen appears to have chosen not to forget her soldiers. As the commander in chief, she obviously had a duty towards servicemen dedicated to serving the nation, yet on a human level too she was the daughter, wife, and mother.
In her twilight years, she could perhaps have softened her position, but for that to happen Israeli regime politicians should have shown some level of contrition given the scale of the carnage. Instead, the regime in Tel Aviv celebrated the anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel with leading politicians, including former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, going as far as unveiling a plaque honouring those who committed the atrocity.
A lukewarm and admittedly pathetic statement issued by Britain’s ambassador to Israel criticising the decision read as follows: “`We do not think that it is right for an act of terrorism, which led to the loss of many lives, to be commemorated.”
Despite this being “the highest death toll for British subjects in a terrorist attack” as stated by parliament at the time, relations did not dent further. And as is custom with Israeli crimes, media coverage of this deeply offensive celebration, that added insult to injury, was subdued.
Desperate to conceal from the British public this very damaging chapter in Anglo-Israel affairs, sources have claimed that the Queen abstained from any visit to the Zionist entity so as not to offend Arab states and monarchies.
This of course is part of a plethora of excuses presented to the public as a digression from the real motives of the late sovereign and her vivid memory of a terror campaign that cost many British lives.
And as news emerges of her very deliberate snub, pro-Israel advocates are claiming that the Foreign Office somewhat ‘prohibited’ her from travelling to Israel. Knowing full well she is no longer here to offer an explanation, people such as Stuart Polak who sits in the House of Lords are putting forward such ridiculous claims in the hope of deflecting attention from the embarrassing revelation that the most travelled head of the state in history never visited Tel Aviv.
In the words of former Haaretz editor-in-chief David Landau, writing in 2012: “This marvellous, dedicated, 86-year-old sovereign is nobody’s puppet…if she wanted to visit the Jewish state or have one of her close family visit it, she could insist on it, and get her way.”
Clearly, she didn’t want to have anything to do with the apartheid Israeli regime.
Hafsa Kara-Mustapha is a journalist, political analyst and commentator with a special focus on the Middle East and Africa. She has worked for the FT group and Reuters and her work has been published in the Middle East magazine, Jane’s Foreign report and a host of international publications. A regular pundit on TV and radio, Hafsa can regularly be seen on RT and Press TV.
(The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV)