The British government is refusing to release a 1941 file on Palestine, as it might “undermine the security” of Britain and its citizens. Why would a 78-year-old document be seen as so sensitive in 2019?
One plausible reason is that it could embarrass the British government in its relations with Israel and Iraq, and may concern a long but hidden theme in British foreign policy: creating false pretexts for military intervention.
The Colonial Office document, at the National Archives in London, was uncovered by journalist Tom Suarez and concerns the “activities of the Grand Mufti [Haj Amin al-Husseini] of Jerusalem” in 1940-41.
After the assassination of Lewis Andrews, British district commissioner for Galilee, in September 1937, the British Government dismissed al-Husseini from his post as president of the Supreme Muslim Council and decided to arrest all members of the Arab Higher Committee, including Husseini.
He took refuge in the Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif), fled to Jaffa and then Lebanon, and ended up in Iraq, where he played a role in the Iraqi national anti-British movement.
He spent the Second World War moving between Berlin and Rome and took part in the propaganda war against Britain and France through Arabic radio broadcasts.
A plan ‘to clip the mufti’s wings’
In April 1941, nationalist army officers known as the Golden Square staged a coup in Iraq, overthrowing the pro-British regime, and signalled they were prepared to work with German and Italian intelligence. In response, the British embarked on a military campaign and eventually crushed the coup leaders two months later.
But Suarez discovered in the files that the British were already wanting such a “military occupation of Iraq” by November 1940 – well before the Golden Square coup gave them a pretext for doing so.
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