Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 6 May 2020. © Richard Kemp
Coronavirus has turned the world upside down. One Through the Looking Glass moment was the UN’s praise for Israel over ‘unprecedented cooperation on efforts aimed at containing the epidemic’. Those of us who follow the Middle East know that any judgement on Israel apart from outright condemnation is unprecedented for the UN.
What is not unprecedented is cooperation between Arabs and Israelis such as we see today. One hundred years ago, a Jewish microbiologist, Dr Israel Kligler, led the fight to eradicate malaria from this land. For centuries, the territory had been ravaged by the mosquito, decimating the people that tried to live there, leaving it barren and sparsely populated. Shortly before Kligler’s war on malaria, British General Edmund Allenby, speaking of his 1917-18 fight against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine, had said: ‘I am campaigning against mosquitoes’. His battle plans against the Turks were shaped above all by the need to overcome the murderous effects of malaria on his own forces.
Like Coronavirus, malaria did not differentiate between Jews and Arabs, and both communities learnt the need to work together against a disease that had for so long caused devastation to both their peoples. Despite violent efforts by Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, to prevent his people from cooperating with the hated Jews, Kligler’s endeavours enabled the land to be cultivated, populated and developed, and eventually led to the total elimination of the disease in the area.
Like al-Husseini, some Palestinian Arab leaders today seem to prefer that their own people succumb to disease rather than cooperate with Israel. While Palestinians and Israelis on the ground pull together against Coronavirus, Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says: ‘Some soldiers are trying to Continue reading
The ICC should be an important part of the international rule of law, but Bensouda is betraying its honorable legal tradition
Article published in The Jerusalem Post, 4 May 2020. © Richard Kemp
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has contorted the jurisdiction of the court into a dangerous parody in her desperate efforts to drag Israeli soldiers and political leaders into the dock at The Hague. Now, according to a senior Palestinian leader, she has also been colluding with members of the internationally-proscribed terrorist groups Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to achieve her baleful objective.
The ICC should be an important part of the international rule of law, but Bensouda is betraying the honorable legal tradition established by the court’s predecessor tribunals that brought war criminals to justice at Nuremberg and Tokyo after the Second World War.
The court’s founding Rome Statute allows investigations only within the sovereign territories of state parties to the treaty. But the prosecutor has unlawfully accepted delegated jurisdiction over the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza from what she calls the ‘State of Palestine.’ Palestine is not a state and never has been. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, from which the Palestinian Authority derives its very existence, the PA was not granted any criminal jurisdiction over Israelis whatsoever nor can it transfer such jurisdiction to international institutions like the ICC.
The ICC accuses Israel of committing crimes against international law (all demonstrably fallacious) within what is an area unlawfully treated as sovereign Palestinian territory. Yet the borders of any Continue reading
Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 22 April 2020. © Richard Kemp
The coronavirus pandemic is a 9/11 moment. Al Qaida had been at war with the West for years before the destruction of the twin towers. But it took that barbarism to galvanise its largely supine prey into action.
Now we have Covid-19. Unlike 9/11 we have seen no evidence so far that China deliberately unleashed this virus on the world. There is certainly evidence, however, that it resulted from the policies of the Chinese Communist Party and that Beijing’s habitually duplicitous and criminally irresponsible actions allowed it to spread around the globe, leading to tens of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided.
Commentators and politicians today worry that the current situation might trigger a new cold war with China. They fail to understand that, in a similar but much more far-reaching pattern to the jihadist conflict, China has been fighting a cold war against the West for decades, while we have refused to recognise what is going on. The reality, in Beijing’s book, is that the cold war between China and the West, which began with the communist seizure of China in 1949, never ended. Despite the Sino-Soviet split and subsequent US-China rapprochement in the early 1970s, for the Chinese leadership the US was still the implacable enemy.
Like 9/11, Covid-19 must now force the West to wake up and fight back.
China today is by far the greatest threat to Western values, freedom, economy, industry, communications and technology. It threatens our very way of life. China’s objective is to push back against the US and become the dominant world power by 2049, a century after the creation of the People’s Republic. Dictator for life Continue reading
A version of this article was published in The Daily Mirror on 31st March 2020. © Richard Kemp
In 2008-2009 I led a campaign in the Mirror that resulted in the creation of the Elizabeth Cross to recognise the sacrifice of members of the armed forces killed in war. We called that campaign Honour the Brave. At the front-line of the war we are fighting now are not soldiers but health workers and we should also honour their unquestionable bravery.
The war against Coronavirus is very different to military combat but there are striking similarities. As in battle, those on the front-line today are willing to sacrifice themselves for others, risking their own health and even their lives. In Britain, two doctors have died of Coronavirus and in Italy the number has soared to 50.
Risks increase when soldiers aren’t issued adequate protective equipment. When we went into Iraq in 2003 there weren’t enough bullet-proof ceramic plates to go round for body armour. In Afghanistan and Iraq troops had to use Snatch Land Rovers, described as ‘mobile coffins’. Yet they fought on. Today, often lacking proper masks, gowns and gloves, our doctors and nurses continue with their fight.
In Northern Ireland there were never enough troops, and they often worked round the clock with little sleep. Today many NHS nurses and paramedics work 13 hour shifts and volunteer for more. Such is the dedication of NHS doctors and surgeons whose normal work is suspended, some have been volunteering for shifts as nurses.
When insufficient troops are available, volunteers come forward from the reserves including many who have retired from service. Like the rush to the colours in both world wars by school pupils and university students, young medical students have been volunteering in large numbers to work as porters. Already 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to fight Coronavirus. What could be more humbling? Continue reading
An accelerating sense of crisis now engulfs our society. As the impact of Coronavirus deepens and the death toll mounts, the scale of the emergency is unprecedented in peacetime. Yet there is a silver lining to this black cloud. It can be found in the growing ethos of selfless compassion across the country, with millions of citizens feeling a new concern for their neighbours and the vulnerable.
During the Second World War, our nation became renowned for its unity and self-sacrifice, an outlook known as the ‘Blitz spirit’. Today we can see a reawakening of that same community spirit, reflected particularly in local neighbourhood schemes, where people volunteer to check on the elderly, organise essential home deliveries and support imperilled businesses.
That mood of compassion should now be harnessed more systematically for the good of the nation. Yesterday Lord Stevens, the former head of the Metropolitan Police, called for the urgent mobilisation of retired coppers in order to relieve the huge current burdens on the police, the NHS and other emergency services. Pointing out that there are at least 100,000 former officers, Lord Stevens rightly said that their experience and enthusiasm is a ‘golden resource’ that ‘we cannot afford to waste’.
While I welcome his admirable suggestion, I would go even further. I believe that, in response to the crisis, we now need a national citizens volunteer force to help maintain the civic infrastructure which is under unique strain. This new organisation would capitalise on the yearning of so-many people to do their bit, as well as giving the public a defiant sense of purpose in these dark times. There is a vast range of tasks that could be carried out by these volunteers, like performing basic duties in the NHS, cleaning and sanitising public buildings, transporting goods, and providing cooked meals and groceries to the housebound. Former teachers could organise childcare for key public workers. Continue reading
Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 11 March 2020. © Richard Kemp
Private Joseva ‘Lewi’ Lewaicei, a soldier from my regiment, the Royal Anglians, was killed in Basra in 2006 by a roadside bomb, alongside his comrade Private Adam Morris. Lewaicei, who had a seven-year-old daughter, previously served in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Jordan and was a regimental boxer and rugby player. With a great sense of humour, he was the life and soul of his platoon.
Lewaicei was from Fiji, one of many Commonwealth soldiers serving in the British Army. On Monday, at a service in London commemorating the contribution of the men and women from Commonwealth countries who have fought for the Crown, Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary General, said: ‘I salute their legacy, manifested in our shared values, which guides us all to follow their example of duty in the service of humankind.’
Today, however, our country is failing in its duty to Commonwealth soldiers who have fought for us in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of former troops whose service entitles them and their families to live here after they are discharged have been forced to leave or to live as fugitives. Their situation can be compared to UK citizens of the Windrush generation and, as with Windrush, responsibility lies firmly at the door of the Home Office bureaucracy.
Throughout a 30-year career I served alongside many Commonwealth troops like Lewaicei, who made staunch and often courageous contributions and several became close friends. During a recruiting crisis in the late 1990s, we turned to the Commonwealth to fill the ranks of fighting troops and they unhesitatingly answered the call. Renewed recruiting drives have seen ever more Commonwealth soldiers signing up. As with their Continue reading
Article published in The Jerusalem Post, 26 January 2020. © Richard Kemp
Despite the closest of ties between our intelligence services and armed forces today, the Foreign Office has maintained its bias against the Jewish state.
What was Britain’s role in the Holocaust? What was its role in the establishment of the State of Israel? The Holocaust first fully entered my consciousness at the age of 13 when I read Simche Unsdorfer’s The Yellow Star. The disgusting brutality inflicted on the author – who wrote the book in Britain after surviving the Nazi terror – and his fellow inmates of Auschwitz, shocked me to the core and never left me from that day to this.
The Yellow Star is a story of the utmost savagery but also of the most profound courage. During a 30-year military career, recollection of 19-year-old Unsdorfer’s personal bravery and moral strength inspired me to overcome challenges I myself faced – all paling into insignificance alongside his own existential struggles with the devil incarnate.
Knowledge of the Holocaust increases my pride as a former British soldier over our army’s decisive role in re-creating the State of Israel, which followed close on its heels. At a cost of 168,000 casualties, British Empire forces freed the land of Palestine from the malignant rule of the Ottoman Empire in a defensive campaign from 1915 to 1918. Had our troops not secured victory, the Turks would have maintained dominion over that land and there could never have been a Jewish state.
Britain’s military campaign, with Jerusalem liberated on Hanukkah 1917, the Balfour Declaration immediately beforehand, and the 1920 San Remo Resolution that formalized Balfour’s intent to establish a Jewish national homeland, gave hope to Jews everywhere. That hope was dashed, and the San Remo mandate Continue reading
Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 20 January 2020. © Richard Kemp
Prince Harry earned huge respect among the Armed Forces for his 10 years of military service. One of the most privileged men in the land, there were many people who did not want him to put his life on the line in the battle zone of Afghanistan where so many British troops were killed and maimed. Unlike most soldiers, he had to personally fight the system to get himself into action. But in the face of opposition from a government worried by the risk to national prestige if he was killed, wounded or captured, he eventually arrived in Afghanistan ‘with butterflies in my stomach’.
Soldiers who served alongside him during his two tours in Afghanistan, on the ground and in the air, have spoken of Harry’s leadership and courage, of his down-to earth approach to ordinary soldiers and of his devotion to his comrades in arms. That devotion extended beyond his direct military service. He played a major role in looking after the war wounded and took part in a gruelling 200-mile trek to the South Pole in December 2013 to raise awareness for the charity Walking with the Wounded.
Most notably he set up and led the Invictus Games, which have been so important for restoring confidence, morale and self-respect among some of the most horrifically wounded of our troops as well as allied forces. I know several participants in the Games, all of whom met and were inspired by Prince Harry and the extent to which he cared for them personally. In his words, the games ‘have shone a spotlight on the “unconquerable” character of servicemen and women’.
Although it is gratifying to learn that he will keep up his role with Invictus, he is stepping down from his ceremonial appointments in the Armed Forces, including Captain General of the Royal Marines. Continue reading
Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2020. © Richard Kemp
‘Death to America! The great Satan!’ Predictable chants on the streets of Tehran following President Trump’s strike against Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. Comments by many political leaders in Britain suggest their own feelings may not be much different. Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction, in any case now politically irrelevant, was so predictable it can be passed over. The candidates to replace him also lined up to condemn Trump’s action, led by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry who spoke of ‘Trump’s reckless lurch towards war’. Clive Lewis condemned ‘this cowboy action’.
Is it strategic naïveté that leads these people to side with Tehran over Washington? Ill-judged comments like this can only embolden Ayatollah Khamenei in his plans to retaliate against America. Desperate to split the EU further from the US, he knows the value of such backing, demanding that European leaders condemn President Trump.
These Labour politicians are far from alone, with academics and so-called experts in international law wheeled out in the media to accuse the US of acting illegally and even committing war crimes, despite ignorance of the intelligence that led to the attack order. At one point I expected the BBC to play martial music in the days immediately after Soleimani’s death, so sombre was their coverage of his funeral. Their correspondent in Beirut on Monday came across more like a spokesman for Tehran. Next maybe we should expect to see Soleimani transformed into an anti-imperialist icon, with Left-wing politicians donning t-shirts bearing his image Che Guevara-style.
All of this demonstrates breath-taking moral bankruptcy. Repudiating action to contain long-term lethal Iranian violence against US forces and diplomats ignores the depravity of a regime that kills gays, oppresses women, tortures prisoners and murders demonstrators. Ordinary Iranians know their own theocratic government is the Great Satan, not the US. Many have been privately celebrating Soleimani’s end, in contrast to the throngs of ‘mourners’ eagerly broadcast on Western TV, mostly there at the point of a gun. Hearing about President Trump’s threat to attack 52 targets, a lot have been hoping he will do it sooner rather than later.
They know the cause of much of the economic misery they have been protesting in recent months was Soleimani himself. Eulogised by commentators in the West, his unique influence over the Supreme Leader has led the country into disastrous imperial adventures across the region which have killed tens of thousands of Continue reading
Article published in The Sun, 4 January 2020. © Richard Kemp
Soleimani’s killing is the most strategically significant US military action since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iran will want a violent reaction to the death of its most important commander. But Tehran is terrified of fighting a war with the US that they could not win and so will not start World War 3.
Instead this attack might spell the beginning of the end for the savage regime that has ruled Iran since 1979. They have been crippled by US sanctions and widespread demonstrations in the streets have left the ayatollahs fearful for their own survival. President Trump’s bold action will give the protesters, as well as their anti-Iranian counterparts in Iraq, hope that one day they might bring their oppressors down.
What are Iran’s military options? Soleimani put in place a network of terrorist proxies, not just in the Middle East but around the world. These might be used in a calibrated response to his death. The most powerful is Lebanese Hizballah, with tens of thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon, pointing at Israel. They exist to react to a US or Israeli attack on Iran. But they are a one-shot weapon: if launched they would be obliterated by Israel’s massive retaliation.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards could strike US warships or aircraft in the Gulf. Soleimani’s militias in the Middle East, especially Iraq, could attack US forces and diplomats. The same might happen in the US, Europe including the UK or elsewhere where sleeper cells await orders.
What should Britain do? We do have a dog in this fight. Apart from the ongoing threat to our interests in the Middle East, including from Iran’s nuclear programme, Soleimani’s proxies killed more than 1,000 British and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during the conflicts there. At the time I put forward to the prime minister an intelligence case for military action against this aggression. Continue reading