Andrew Roberts: Britain Blew Up Jewish Refugee Ships


By Joshua18
September 20, 2010
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This piece has been reproduced in its entirety:

"New York - A new book uncovers shocking secret attacks launched on ships bearing Holocaust survivors en route to Israel. Andrew Roberts on the violent lengths to which post-war Britain went to appease oil-rich Arab states.

As Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the pitiful remnants of History’s greatest crime, tried to make their way across an often hostile Europe at the end of the Second World War, toward at least a semblance of safety in the Holy Land, they had no shortage of problems with which to contend, including disease and malnutrition, Polish anti-Semitism, Soviet indifference, Allied bureaucracy, and Arab nationalism. Now we discover that they faced yet another peril in the shape of bombs planted on their transport ships by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.

'A new book to be published next week entitled MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, by the distinguished British historian Keith Jeffery, reveals the existence of Operation Embarrass, a plan to try to prevent Jews getting into Palestine in 1946-'48 using disinformation and propaganda but also explosive devices placed on ships. Nor is this some speculative spy story that can be denied by the authorities: Dr. Jeffrey’s book is actually, in their own words: “Published with the permission of The Secret Intelligence Service and the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.”

It's shameful that Britain blew up humanitarian flotillas after the Holocaust, but now condemns Israel for halting politically inspired flotillas to Gaza.

When on June 1 this year the British government denounced as “completely unacceptable” the way that the Israelis landed troops on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza we did not know that its predecessor had done much the same, actually blowing up one ship and damaging two more vessels of a genuinely humanitarian flotilla that was trying to bring Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camps to their people’s ancient homeland.

Of course the hostility of the British establishment toward Jewish immigration into Palestine since long before the notorious 1939 White Paper on the subject is well-known—even King George VI wrote that year to say that he was “glad to think that steps are being taken to prevent these people leaving their country of origin”—nonetheless this is the first indication of the violent lengths to which post-war Britain was willing to go in order to appease the oil-rich Arab states of the region. For it now emerges that in late 1946 the Labour government of Clement Attlee asked MI6 for “proposals for action to deter ships masters and crews from engaging in illegal Jewish immigration and traffic,” adding, “Action of the nature contemplated is, in fact, a form of intimidation and intimidation is only likely to be effective if some members of the group of people to be intimidated actually suffer unpleasant consequences.” Among the options contemplated were “the discovery of some sabotage device, which had ‘failed’ to function after the sailing of a ship,” “tampering with a ship’s fresh water supplies or the crew’s food,” and “fire on board ship in port.” Sir Stewart Menzies, the chief of the SIS, suggested these could be blamed on an invented Arab terrorist group called The Defenders of Arab Palestine.

Operation Embarrass was therefore launched after a meeting held on February 14, 1947 between officials from MI6, the armed services, the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office, the last represented by William Hayter, the head of Foreign Office Services Liaison Department, a high-flier who later became ambassador to Moscow. I knew Sir William Hayter in later life, but needless to say he never breathed a word about this operation. In his defense, it must be said that Hayter did order MI6 to ensure that arson “must be arranged, if at all, when the ship is empty.”

The Operation Embarrass team was told that “the primary consideration was to be that no proof could ever be established between positive action against this traffic and His Majesty’s Government [HMG].” A special communications network, codenamed Ocean, was set up with a budget of £30,000 ($47,000), a great deal of money in 1947. The operation had three aspects: direct action against refugee ships, a “black” propaganda campaign, and a deception scheme to disrupt immigration from Black Sea ports. A team of former Special Operations Executive agents—with the cover story of a yachting trip—was sent to France and Italy with limpet bombs and timers. If captured, “they were under no circumstances to admit their connection with HMG” but instead claim to have been recruited in New York “by an anti-Communist organization formed by a group of international industrialists, mainly in the oil and aircraft industries,” i.e. to lay the blame on rich, right-wing, unnamed Americans. They were told that this cover “was their final line of defense and, even in the event of a prison sentence, no help could be expected from HMG.”

During the summer of 1947 and early 1948, five attacks were undertaken on ships in Italian ports, of which one was rendered “a total loss” and two others were damaged. Two other British-made limpet mines were discovered before they went off, but the Italian authorities did not find their country of origin suspicious, “as the Arabs would of course be using British stores.” Operation Embarrass even considered blowing up the Baltimore steamship President Warfield when in harbor in France, which later became famous in Israeli history as the “Exodus” ship that “launched a nation.”

The country that ought to be embarrassed by Operation Embarrass—indeed shamed—is Great Britain, which used explosives to try to stop truly humanitarian flotillas after the Holocaust, but now condemns embattled Israel for halting entirely politically inspired flotillas to Gaza despite her rights of legitimate self-defense. The depth of the animosity that Establishment Britain, especially the Foreign Office, felt toward the Jews of Palestine clearly went even further than we had ever imagined, and even 70 years later is by no means extinguished."

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Historian Andrew Roberts' latest book, Masters and Commanders, was published in the U.K. in September. His previous books include Napoleon and Wellington, Hitler and Churchill, and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. Roberts is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/20100919/ts_dailybeast/9998_mi6attack...

COMMENTS

Joshua18

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 22:31

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"It's shameful that Britain blew up humanitarian flotillas after the Holocaust, but now condemns Israel for halting politically inspired flotillas to Gaza."


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:25

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Joshua I agree with you, the behaviour of the British during the Mandate period was shameful and treacherous.

The public behaviour and statements made by Britain's politicians in more recent times is also shameful and treacherous.

The establishment has always treated Israel like a bastard son that nobody wanted. Hopefully with increased public awareness that will slowly start to change.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:36

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PS the Times also ran a piece on this yesterday, I warn you that some of the comments made me very angry.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/books/non-fiction/article2731307.ece#...


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:50

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Incidentally if you want more information the treachery of the Labour party and the Atlee government in particular I'm currently reading "Palestine Betrayed" by Efraim Karsh, highly recommended.


zair (not verified)

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:56

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Err, if it was wrong then it is wrong now. Are you prepared to say it is wrong now? Didn't think so.


Joshua18

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:58

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"The establishment has always treated Israel like a bastard son that nobody wanted."

Israel or no Israel, that is how they have always felt about Jews. And it isn't just the establishment. It is a prejudice that runs right throughout British society, from top to bottom and from extreme left to extreme right.

Memorandum of Conversation by Mr. Harry L. Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt regarding a meeting with Anthony Eden March 27, 1943

"Four months after the State Department confirmed the dimensions of the Holocaust, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden met in Washington with President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. At this meeting, Eden expressed his fear that Hitler might actually accept an offer from the Allies to move Jews out of areas under German control. No one present objected to Eden's statement."

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust/filmmore/reference/primary/index....

---------------

George Orwell: Anti-Semitism in Britain

http://orwell.ru/library/articles/antisemitism/english/e_antib


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:06

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It's not just Britain Joshua it's the whole world. America has a huge problem with anti-Semitism. Check out the FBI statistics for hate crimes committed during 2008. Hell just look at the number of American websites dedicated to defaming Jews and repeating the same old lies. The rest of Europe is just as bad.

But there are also a lot of people in Britain that feel very positively towards Judaism and Israel, and I'm one of them. There are also, unfortunately, a vast majority that just don't really care and make lazy and ill-informed judgements about Israel based on limited knowledge gained from the media.

Zair: If you cannot see the difference between attacking or turning back boats filled with Holocaust survivors and stopping a boat filled with Islamists trying to make a political point then I feel very sorry for you.


Joshua18

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:09

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"if it was wrong then it is wrong now. Are you prepared to say it is wrong now?"

They are, as you well know, two entirely different things. The British were acting like Nazis. The Israelis are merely trying to defend themselves against a virulently anti-Semitic organisation which has dedicated itself to destroying the Jewish state. If any other nation on the planet were in a similar situation, they would be acting in a manner that would make the Israelis look like angels. Can you imagine Britain's reaction if many hundreds of rockets were fired at Brighton or Sheffield?

If you imagine we will go quietly again to the gas chambers simply in order to appease your vile prejudices then you are much mistaken.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:20

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Interesting website by a guy who's put his father's war stories on the internet:

http://www.nickmessinger.co.uk/providence.html


zair (not verified)

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:30

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'Can you imagine Britain's reaction if many hundreds of rockets were fired at Brighton or Sheffield?'

This country was subject to far more effective attacks from the IRA. I suppose you would have been happy for this country to carpet bomb Dublin?


zair (not verified)

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:32

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-1 points

'They are, as you well know, two entirely different things.'

You made the link in your first post.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:42

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Zair that is a lazy and dishonest comparison and you know it.

If the Irish government had sanctioned the IRA's bombing campaign and refused to stop, what then?

What if the population of Ireland had elected their government based on an electoral promise of continued warfare against Britain?

What if the Irish government had sanctioned and encouraged the shelling of British towns over a period of years, and had encouraged suicide bombings in Britain?

If that were the case I think we'd be perfectly within our rights to wage war on Ireland, to remove the regime from power, and possibly occupy Ireland to boot. In fact the public would be demanding no less.

Don't pretend you can't see the difference, you just make yourself sound like an idiot.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 12:51

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Secondly, Israel did not "carpet bomb" anywhere. That is a lie, which you also repeat knowingly.

Why don't you try constructive engagement instead of repeating useless, idiotic tropes and slogans?

Why don't you try original thinking for a change?


zair (not verified)

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 14:24

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'Secondly, Israel did not "carpet bomb" anywhere.'

Using aerial guided precision bombs with a blast radius (ie you will be killed or suffer injury) of 2 football sized pitches would in most reasonable peoples minds constitute carpet bombing if not then it is a pretty damn good substitute.


zair (not verified)

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 14:30

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'the behaviour of the British during the Mandate period was shameful and treacherous.'

With this, mat & josh, I am with you. Sadly this was repeated in many other places, including India where over a million people paid the price for an empire in a hurry to get out.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 14:50

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Yes but the difference, Zair, is that Britain is not now exerting pressure on India to give yet more land to Pakistan, and you'll also notice that Britain is staying out of the Kashmir dispute. Why then are we pushing for Palestinian statehood within Israel's borders?

And you just don't know what carpet bombing means. In using the term to describe limited, precision bombing at specific targets (which is the precise opposite of carpet bombing) you devalue the meaning of the word itself. And you add nothing to the debate.

Here you go, educate yourself.


raycook

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 14:52

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1 point

No, millions paid the price of secessionist Pakistan who wanted a Muslim, hindu-rein state despite the pleadings of Nehru and others.

Britain may have done many bad things but they were not responsible for the mass civilian exchanges and massacres on both sides when the country was divided.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 15:06

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Zair you lose every one of your arguments and just make yourself look less informed with every one of your comments.

Again, why don't you try just constructively engaging people and maybe asking questions of people that know more about the situation than you do?

"It is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"


Anonymous

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 17:07

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This comment by Jon_i_Cohen has been moderated


Jon_i_Cohen

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 17:08

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There is NO comparison at all to what the British did in the 2nd World War and what Israel has done in Gaza.


mattpryor

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 17:17

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And...

Carpet bombing was used extensively against Japanese civilian population centers, such as Tokyo.[6][7] On March 9 and 10 1945, B-29 Superfortresses were directed to bomb the most heavily populated civilian sectors of Tokyo. In just 2 days of bombing, over 100,000 men, women, and children burned to death from a heavy bombardment of incendiary bombs. Another 100,000 were left homeless. These attacks were followed by similar ones against Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya, as well as other sectors of Tokyo, where over 9,373 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on civilian and military targets. By the time of the dropping of the atomic bombs, light and medium bombers were being directed to bomb targets of convenience, as most urban areas had been already destroyed. In the 9-month long civilian bombing campaign, over 580,000 Japanese civilians died.[8]

Now perhaps Zair will take back his silly, unhelpful comment and stop using that phrase in relation to Israel.


Jon_i_Cohen

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 17:22

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And of course the Americans in Vietnam, bombing with Napalm and Agent Orange, the local population, etc etc
hundreds of thousands died.


amber

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 18:31

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zair, Israel does not carpet bomb. That is a lie - motivated by what I wonder?

You are a hater through and through.


amber

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 19:01

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For every British civilian killed by Luftwaffe bombing in WW2, 10 German civilians were killed. In zair's world of moral relativity, the Germans must have been the victims, and the Allies the aggressors.

Even in the liberation of Normandy after D-Day, around 100,000 French civilians were killed by Allied bombing of German positions.

Israel has done nothing of the sort Zair. Care to revise your silly and historically illiterate statement?


zair (not verified)

Thu, 09/23/2010 - 16:22

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'For every British civilian killed by Luftwaffe bombing in WW2, 10 German civilians were killed'

I would like to think that this would no longer be acceptable practice. Things have moved on amber, in some ways I think Israel and its apologists wished we were still in the 1940's when 100,000's could be wiped out without anyone hearing about it for weeks.


mattpryor

Thu, 09/23/2010 - 16:37

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in some ways I think Israel and its apologists wished we were still in the 1940's when 100,000's could be wiped out without anyone hearing about it for weeks"

But where are all these psychopathic genocidal supporters of Israel zair? All these people calling for 100,000's to be wiped out? Where are they?

Has it occurred to you that these people only exist in your head, zair?

There are genocidal maniacs in the world zair. They're the ones that threaten Israel with a second Holocaust. The ones that fire rockets into peoples' homes and schools. Given half a chance they would go after you and your family as well.

But you attack their victims...

What does that make you, "zair"?

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