As September came to a close Lord Heseltine, a man who held high office under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, appeared on the popular BBC primetime television program Question Time and promptly made a pronouncement that floored me.
The show had been focusing on the “snubs” shown British Prime Minister Gordon Brown by President Obama since the release of Lockerbie terrorist Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish jail. The question posed to the panel was whether the “special relationship” had been damaged.
Heseltine, his face filled with misery and rage, told the millions watching that there never actually was a special relationship, that it was a creation of some fanciful Britons, and that the only special relationship the United States has is with Israel. The way he vomited out “Israel” was special. It was a sort of “I am talking about human excrement” expression on his face. He added that the heinous behavior of Americans who supported the IRA added to the absence of a special relationship.
I decided to answer his lordship’s accusations in this op-ed in the form of a letter.
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Dear Lord Heseltine,
I understand you think there is no special relationship between the United States and Great Britain. Well, going back to the two world wars which were started by tribal, internecine strife among the peoples of Europe, the U.S. did not have to come in to bail you out. They could have chosen to remain isolationist and tell all sides to go to hell. Ten thousand young men buried at Omaha Beach and thirty thousand dead pilots commemorated at RAF Duxford, not to mention the thousands of American men remembered at Madingley cemetery, died to help keep Britain free from Hitler. The idea that there is no feeling of a bond between us is preposterous if not deeply hurtful.
From the day any American sets foot in England, many a conversation will invariably turn to “the guilt the United States must bear” for the atrocities committed on the British mainland by the Irish Republican Army. The participation of Noraid, the American organization in decades-long campaigns to end the Troubles, is seen by an overwhelming majority of Britons as a ruse to send funds and arms to the IRA. You were seething when you mentioned American support for the IRA. This is a fury I have seen many times. It cancels out any gratitude you Britons might wish to proffer for all the good America has done in the world.
Now we come to Israel: Why, your lordship, do you think the U.S. has a special relationship with Israel? First of all, the fact that in thirty-four years I have never been able to find a liver knish or kasha mit varnishkes anywhere in Britain is neither here nor there. The influence of Jews on British culture is negligible, whereas the positive aspects of Jewish culture that permeate American life are palpable. This, Lord Heseltine, has nothing to do with that horrendous, all-consuming, world menace Britons like to refer to as the “lobby.” Be it Jewish or Zionist, the lobby is perceived as a gigantic Beelzebub that seems to have a stranglehold on American policy. The bond is much more complex.