Collateral Damage: Vince Fean the Wrong Target 73

The physical hassling of Vince Fean by Palestinian student activists is a mistake. Vince is not only an extremely decent man, but his private views are of horror at the occupation, and as Consul-General he refuses to deal with the Israelis in the West Bank.

Anger at William Hague is perfectly understandable, I feel it myself. As is anger at Matthew Gould’s repeated and uncalled for declarations of commitment to zionism. But I urge all Palestinians not to attack Vince; he is doing his best and on your side.

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73 thoughts on “Collateral Damage: Vince Fean the Wrong Target

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  • Phil

    It’s sad the Palestinans chose the wrong target, as you point out. Birzeit University quotes the desirability of ‘dialogue’, too.
    When I worked, on a few happy but nerve-wracking occasions, in Palestine (for PBC, the Palestinian Broadcasting Organisation), we were partly funded and greatly supported by the Consulate; their senior officers (while remaining diplomats) were hugely supportive of what Palestinians were struggling for – even then, back in the mid-90s.
    The local guys missed the point today, unfortunately. A case of ‘shooting the messenger’, perhaps? Not good.


  • ToivoS

    That is one real dilemma. Craig knows him as an honorable man with decent instincts. But he is a face of the British government. Thus I would say he is a legitimate target for protest against Britain’s continuous support for Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.

    We should not lose sight of the fact that Israel’s legitimacy resides in two major events — the Balfour declaration and the UN recognition of Israel as the legitimate state over what had been known as Palestine. Has Britain ever tried to retract the Balfour declaration? It has to be one of the most bizarre diplomatic declarations ever written — the state of Britain, when in 1917 had no jurisdiction over the land of Palestine, simply gave it to a group of Europeans that never lived there. This then became a sacred, never to be questioned, document that Zionists pull out to establish their rights to Palestinian land.

    If I were a Palestinian, I too would be pissed off about this. Even if in this case they are targeting an individual who sympathizes with them.

  • glenn_uk

    TolvoS: The British Government has more than once aspect to it, even the Israeli political system is not a monolithic entity with a single mindset. It does seem that the Palestinian supporters (of which I count myself one) have achieved a well publicised own-goal here, one which will be trumpeted as a “you cannot deal with these people!” by the Palestinians’ main oppressors.

    Dismissing even minor dissidents within the British apparatus of government as “a legitimate target” is the language of a fanatic. Are only total enemies of justice allowed to become part of the British government, in any form, and nobody else should ever dare try to enter it to change things – is that really what you’re trying to say?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Toivis,

    ” Has Britain ever tried to retract the Balfour declaration?”

    Well – has Britain every sought to make an apology for the Atlantic African Slave Trade which it financed, sustained, actively participated in for centuries, organised divide and rule strategies for within Africa, and maintained plantations for centuries while shipping profits back to Britannia from Caribbean plantations – so:-

    “Has Britain ever tried to retract the Balfour declaration?”

    And any time soon is HMG likely to demonstrate decency, honesty, compunction and any degree of humanity?

    Methinks – not!
    P.S. Government functionaries – given the official positions that they represent – are the designated faces and spokespersons for government’s official policies. Thus, it seems to me that even if a “pretty face” ( i.e. nice person type – say –a Craig Murray) is the official representative. If the policy is wrong and opposed, then the face can legitimately receive some pie throw in the direction of that face. That is legitimate protest. The point is not how pretty the face – or – nice the guy or girl – but what is represented behind the pretty face.
    P.P.S. But – Craig Murray might not be a very pretty face, and is a nice guy who got pie thrown his way, by his former boss – the government – for being too nice and honest a guy.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Glenn,
    “The British Government has more than once aspect to it, even the Israeli political system is not a monolithic entity with a single mindset. It does seem that the Palestinian supporters (of which I count myself one) have achieved a well publicised own-goal here,…”
    Own goal for standing up in the diplomatic face of from whence the whole problem started, with duplicity and betrayal?
    Get real – this is but mild protest – given the betrayals by HMG of the Palestinian people. You really are not aware of the duplicity of HMG – are you Glenn? So:-
    “British diplomat attacked by Palestinian protesters over century-old government policy supporting a Jewish homeland
    • British consul general, Sir Vincent Fean, mobbed by Palestinian protesters outside Birzeit University, near Ramallah, today
    • He was not hurt but one demonstrator was seen kicking him in the shins
    • Student activists said they were protesting over decades of British policy toward Palestinians”

    What honour for HMG – or – the diplomat? The students were right and obviously acted with restraint.

    Craig –let’s get real man!

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Craig,

    “Anger at William Hague is perfectly understandable”

    Yes – indeed. And therefore -why not -anger at his representative?

    Put the party politics aside for a moment.

    Can’t you – as a very experienced diplomat see the relevance and significance of symbolically kicking the man in the shin (i.e. Hague’s representative) while not in any real or significant way doing the man any harm?

    Craig – bad post. Move on – next post.

  • Mary

    Well said Courtenay.

    I read this yesterday on Sonia Karkar’s excellent Australians for Palestine site so am not really surprised at the undercurrent of discontent and anger. It comes from Gideon Levy who writes for Ha’aretz.

    LEVY: The pain of almost a million arrests

    Each one of those young people must have a relative or know another Palestinian who has been in an Israeli prison. I am sorry that they are venting their anger on this man but he is part of the UK system of support for Zionist Israel. He should get out.

    PS What was Fean knighted for? Oh one of those gongs that Her Maj hands out.

    The Royal Victorian Order (French: Ordre royal de Victoria)[n 1] is a dynastic order of knighthood recognising distinguished personal service to the order’s Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms,[1] any members of their family, or any of their viceroys.[2][3] Established in 1896, the order’s chapel is the Savoy Chapel, its official day is 20 June, and its motto is Victoria, alluding to the society’s founder, Queen Victoria. There are no limits on the number of inductees,[1] and admission remains the personal gift of the monarch,[1] with each of the organisation’s five hierarchical grades and one medal with three levels representing different levels of service. While all members receive the ability to use the prescribed styles of the order—the top two levels grant titles of knighthood, and all accord distinct post-nominal letters—the Royal Victorian Order’s precedence amongst other honours differs from realm to realm, and admission to some grades may be barred by government policy. Though similarly named, the Royal Victorian Order is not related to the Royal Victorian Chain.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Couple of points if I may:

    1/. Revoking the Balfour Declaration would be a purely symbolic act – the genie is out of the bottle – and is simply not going to happen. For a start, it would be seen to be (and would be) equivalent to denying the right of Israel to exist. So to talk about this is just to raise a red herring.

    2/. ToivoS’s phrasing in his first post is rather loose: I don’t think the Balfour Declaration “gave Palestine” to a collection of European Jews. I was under the impression that it promised a Jewish National Home IN Palestine (extent undetermined). The implication that the whole of Palestine was involved is, I think, misleading. But please correct if I’m wrong.

    3/. As usual, Mary attempts to damn some person or another she’s taken against by putting irrelevant facts into the arena. In this case Fean’s RVO. Such a decoration is for “personal services” to the Soverign and would typically – Craig can confirm this – be awarded to a diplomat en poste for helping to organise a Royal visit. Had he remained in the Diplomatic Service, it is not ruled out that Craig himself would have received such an award had he been in the right place at the right time. It is completely irrelevant to the issue under discussion and I do wish Mary would at last stick to relevant facts and comment.


    La vita è bella, life is good! (and the gong is a nice one)

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    As an afterthought : if Sir Vincent Fean is an intelligent and honorable man and a true friend of the Palestinians (as Craig says he is), I’m sure that he will understand why this incident happened and will not hold it against either those involved or the Palestinians as a whole.
    But it’s true that the incident holds propaganda value for the Israeli government and those ill-disposed toward the Palestinian cause and from tjhat point of view is unfortunate.


    La vita è bella, life is good! (kick Netanyahu, not Fean)

  • craig Post author

    Actually I turned down an LVO and a CVO – offered for organising state visits in Warsaw and Accra respectively. The level you get – MVO, LVO, CVO, KCVO – depends entirely on your rank at that time. I turned mine down quietly, as it would be hypocritical as a Republican to accept.

    If you are really trying to affect Western policy, as opposed to promote anarchy, kicking (literally) those within the governmental machine sympathetic to you is not a sensible way of going about it.

    Palestine is not in a position to earn justice by physical force. Israel’s behaviour has become so outrageous and its governments so right wing that political opinion in the West – on which Israel is logistically dependent – is turning against Israel. Kicking Vince Fean may make some people feel better but is an example of tactical stupidity as well as personal injustice.

    If I were Vince I would have hit back very very hard at that student. He is a very understanding man.

  • ValuePlus

    Craig, I almost always agree with you but this is not well thought out. You stood up against British policies. There is nothing to stop Vince Fean to resign if he is such a decent fellow. In any case, as others have pointed out, people in Palestine protest against British policies and whoever represent these. All such protests are justified.

  • N_

    Don’t be so silly, and stop kidding yourself that the answer lies in the goodness of this Brit apparatchik and the badness of that one. It doesn’t.

    So Britain wants to keep in with some oil sheikhs, and MI6 has several agent-handlers who speak Arabic with mother-tongue fluency and tell their agents oh yes, those bloody Israelis. Which neither party believes, except in a way similar to how they probably also go on about those bloody Yanks. And what way is that? A way that is without consequence.

    Britain hasn’t got an independent foreign policy or Foreign Office. If it wasn’t Gould or Bethlehem or Sheinwald, it would be someone else. Britain sends its military forces to fight the Zionists’ wars for them in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, and allows its embassies to be used to interfere in the whole of the Arab region to help the Zionists.

    Yeah yeah, the Brit consulate in East Jerusalem isn’t accredited to anyone. So what? If it didn’t help the Israelis, they’d have closed it down years ago.

  • N_

    Craig, you go on and on about the good people in the effing British Foreign Office. Any good people in it leave.

    It can’t be reformed.

    You will not be called back from Ramsgate-les-deux-Eglises to give evidence to a Foreign Office Reform Commission.

  • N_

    In other news, the United States of America, the Great Satan, has finally murdered Hugo Chavez.

    It looks as though the same method was used as Mossad employed to murder Yasser Arafat. (In case anyone suffers from amnesia about this, the Israeli government said they would murder Arafat, but a motion at the UN Security Council to sanction them was scuppered by US veto.)

    The Venezuelan authorities have kicked the US air attaché Colonel, David Delmonaco, and his assistant Devlin Kostal, out of the country.

    When oh when is a country going to break off relations with the US entirely, not just ending all diplomatic relations, but completely banning the import of US cultural items, derecognising US passports, and boycotting all international organisations with US membership?

    How about before it’s too fucking late?

  • Jay

    Vince Fean`s in box is probably full of desperate please and would make stimulating reading.

    Let`s hope the students have the strength to work and educate and enlighten, to make way`s for the future generations.

    For their part we must have hope that can work through this very difficult situation.

    THe trend of confrontation like this is one of hate, let hope give them strength.

  • guess who

    You advise people who suffer injustices on a scale which you yourself have never suffered on how to fight back against them, and you do it in the guise of advising on tactics and public relations.

    OK then tell us what kind of public relations it would have been for the Brits if their man had kicked the person back “very very hard”.

    Try to realise that your being a decent person means that the British Foreign Office in their own terms were right to get shot of you.

    It also means you were mistaken to sign up with the bastards in the first place.

    (That’s a compliment by the way.)

  • sybil

    The Daily Shmail describes Britain as “an ally of Israel”.

    By what treaty’s that, then?

  • Mary

    See Yael Kahn’s comment below the Daily Mail article. I have met her. She is an Israeli now living in Islington and like many Jews in this country, is an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. She could not stick it there any longer.

    ‘Nearly 100 hundred years of sufferings because Britain gave away a country not theirs to people who didn’t live there. I was born there and grew up on the land stolen from the people who were forced out of their homes and were made refugees. Not only the Palestinians have been denied their right to return, but the refugees, on whose land my childhood home was built, are being bombed by Israel in their refugee camp in Gaza and are subjected to barbaric siege. As an Israeli woman I agree with the Palestinian protesters and ask anyone with conscience to support the fantastic initiative by people in London: “We call on our Government to acknowledge publicly that British policy and actions in Palestine from 1917 to 1948 led to catastrophe for the Palestinian people.”‘

    – Yael Kahn , London, 06/3/2013 02:21 Speaking. Her visit to Gaza.

  • CE

    Any actual facts or evidence relating to this ‘assassination’, or just the usual ill-informed, conspiratol, nonsense?

    Even Hugo himself didn’t subject us to this guff.

  • Herbie


    How come you’ve such a detailed knowledge of when and to whom queenie opens the sweetie jar?

    Been queuing, have you.

  • Fred

    “If I were Vince I would have hit back very very hard at that student. He is a very understanding man.”

    I expect the student is getting used to being hit by now.

    But if you had been a student in Palestine not a mate of Vince Fean what would you have done? He went there to bullshit them on behalf of HMG, to buy more time so a bit more of Palestine could be ethnically cleansed.

    He should think himself lucky he didn’t get the treatment the Israelis gave to Sgt Clifford and Sgt Paice. I expect they were very nice men as well.

  • nevermind

    Oh dear, a thread to save the poor diplomat, voicing tabloidal fears of anti Israel bias and attacking our diplomats.

    I think he’s got exactly what should be expected, that security around him was reduced to one man is only underlying this story, which is out of all proportion.

    I’m more concerned about Mr. Fean’s blood pressure than his shins. As a diplomat he should be able to take the odd knock with his port.

    To enact the Balfour declaration, without taking a disorganised Middle east into account, is arguably one of the greatest mistakes of Britain’s foreign policy. To then be bombed out of Haifa and run away from terrorists who wanted more land than they were supposed to have been given, leaving Palestine to their murderous campaign, will be seen as crucial to the violence that exist today.

  • craig Post author


    You have no idea what Vince Fean would have said. He was not allowed to speak. I think that you might well have been surprised by what he would have said.

    Power structures are not monolithic. Operating within them can have surprising results. If you read Murder in Samarkand, you will see that I managed to clear through the system (using the FCO’s hypocritical advocacy of human rights agianst it) a strong speech on human rights in Uzbekistan (the “Frredom House” speech) which was what blew the lid on international silence on the abuses of the Karimov regime and gave a huge boost to the Uzbek opposition – ask them.

    If some violent idiots had prevented me from speaking, that would have been very counter-productive. But you plainly believe I should not have been allowed to speak, as I was a representative of the Vritish state. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    Those of you who think that the answer to the Palestinian problem is to stop a decent man speaking are taking a very stupid position. I presume by extension they must believe a solution can only come through war – which they would lose.

  • herbert

    Those who want to avoid using propaganda terms should get into a habit of, well, avoiding using propaganda terms. Rather than the ‘Balfour Declaration’, call it the ‘Balfour letter to Rothschild’, which is what it was.

    Gushingly written by the British Foreign Secretary in 1917, on behalf of HMG, very shortly before the British army carried Christian flags to fly once again over Jerusalem.

    What do we expect from a country where Rothschild son-in-law Lord Rosebery had got to be prime minister a few generations before? After that, doesn’t matter what schmuck gets put in. Bit like with the BBC, etc. etc. etc.

  • craig Post author

    To elaborate further, the large majority of British diplomats are very pro-Palestinian – Gould being a notable exception. Not being allowed by their political masters to recognise Palestine, the FCO has in a “Yes Minister” sort of way been manipulating Vince’s Consul-Geberal position into a de facto Ambassador to Palestine. Vince’s refusal to communicate with Israeli authorities over the West Bank is a part of that, and Vince has taken personal career risks here.

    The idea that only evil people should work for government would probably not lead to us being better governed, if you think about it.

  • herbert

    Again, without plugging your book or repetitively calling anyone stupid?

    I won’t reply in kind.

    You offer the statement that “power structures are not monolithic”. But how useful is your catch-all term “the Uzbek opposition”?

    What assumptions underlie your choice as to when to draw distinctions within a category (‘power structure’) and when not to (‘the opposition’)?

    On the one hand, slave children. On the other, mega-rich international trash who’ve fallen out with the Tashkent regime because someone looked at someone else’s girlfriend, and whose main aim is getting juicy contracts if Karimov falls? United in struggle?

    On one hand, Arab victims of Zionazi terror and oppression. On the other, Brit diplomats making ‘strong speeches on human rights’? United in struggle?

    Who holds the microphone? Who tells whom to shut up?

    Of course a British diplomat should be viewed as a representative of, and spokesperson for, the British state. That’s what he is. He could resign and get a job in a restaurant. He chooses not to.

    Terms such as ‘free speech’ and ‘human rights’ should burn the mouths of British diplomats whenever they utter them.

    Look Craig, for goodness sake, you do not have the right to decide what’s best for Palestinian victims of Zionism. Give it a rest.

    There’s a word for thinking you know what’s best for people better than they do, and that they ought to shut up and do what you tell them, because that’s ‘sensible’, whereas doing something else is “stupid”.

    That word is “patrician”.

    How about finalising your break with British official hypocrisy and the values of the British elite?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Valueplus and N_ :

    One question is whether it is better for a diplomat sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to remain in the FCO, where he might be able, albeit in small ways, to do good, or whether he should resign volontarily and be replaced by someone else who might have oppositie views or simply not care very much. I think the former probably makes more sense, certainly in this case.

    For the rest, Craig’s last post above provides an effective risposte ti those like Guess Who who simply call an entire organisation “bastards”.

    @ Herbie : you have to admit that my “detailed knowledge” was correct, don’t you. As for how I acquired it, you will have to continue to speculate, I’m afraid. After all, as far as I know you might be a spy for a foreign power as you frequently pontificate about international affairs. You might even have been involved in the “assassination” of President Chavez (cf N_’s post, above)!

  • nevermind

    @ Herbert, I take your point, we should not elevate it to more than it really was. some crackpot idea with no relevance to the realities as they existed then.

    But, everyone should have that tabloid day.

    Was Mr. Fean expect to speak?

    As for habbakuk, who clearly wants to leave this blog by making his dirty mark on everyone’s doorstep, farewell Herr Rector, so sorry you must go before you had your lesson on fascism, and how to write it.

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