Fatah: London’s Big Ben was stolen from Palestine!

January 25, 2021 • 9:00 am

How about a little levity to start the week? Inadvertent levity, that is, for the perpetrator of this “fake news”, Fatah, is the ruling party in the West Bank, and the levity is meant to be propaganda. Fatah is the biggest of the organizations/political parties under the aegis of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Mahmoud Abbas is the head of both Fatah, the PLO and, of course, president of Palestinian Authority.

If you pay attention to the “news” put out by various Palestinian state media, of which Fatah is one, you’ll find all kinds of amusement amidst the lies. For example, Fatah regularly asserts that Mossad, the main organ of Israeli intelligence, trains animals to attack Palestinians and others. These include rats trained to bite Arabs in Jerusalem, wild pigs trained to destroy Palestinian fields, and sharks trained to attack European tourists in Egypt to damage the Egyptian tourist industry. There’s even a Wikipedia page on this issue called “Israel-related animal conspiracy theories.” It’s hilarious (check out the references).

Fatah also argued that Jews poison their wells, used the disaster in Haiti to harvest human organs for transplantation into rich Jews, and that Jewish archaeologists plant fake “proof” of ancient Jewish presence in the Holy Land.

The thing is (is) that many Palestinians and Arabs believe this stuff. The latest and perhaps biggest whopper is the one below, again promulgated by Fatah: the British stole Big Ben from the British Mandate of Palestine (the area where Jews and Arabs lived after the Ottoman Empire collapsed), and took Big Ben to London, where it now chimes daily.

If you ask how people can believe this guff, well, ask yourself why so many Americans believe in QAnon.? The power of confirmation bias is strong.

Here’s a Palestinian woman who firmly believes the Purloined Big Ben Theory. If you speak Arabic, feel free to translate some of it.


And here’s the article from the official Fatah news showing the supposedly stolen clock in situ in the 1920s (click on the screenshots to go to the site):

And the entirety of their article. Note the claim that Big Ben was taken to the British Museum!

Well, it takes about ten seconds of Googling to dispel this fiction. According to Wikipedia, the clock tower in England (it’s the bell itself that’s formally known as “Big Ben,” not the whole clock or the tower) was completed in 1859, well before the supposed theft.  And the clock’s movement was finished in 1854, five years before it was put into the tower.

Of course, I suppose you could always claim that Wikipedia was a Jewish conspiracy. . .

We can be thankful that the New York Times hasn’t gone this far—yet.


h/t: Malgorzata

26 thoughts on “Fatah: London’s Big Ben was stolen from Palestine!

  1. Here is a Telegraph photo gallery of early historical pictures of the clock tower. While most of the photos occur after the conspiracy claims, pictures 7, 14, and 15 are from before 1922. #15 appears to be the oldest, having been taken in 1881.

  2. `Of course, I suppose you could always claim that Wikipedia was a Jewish conspiracy. . .

    `We can be thankful that the New York Times hasn’t gone this far—yet.’

    You can be sure that if someone actually did make this claim, the NYT would dutifully report it as something that might actually be true.

    1. ” . . . the NYT would dutifully report it as something that might actually be true.”

      Along with “may” and “could” (and “signals”). More and more in (not only) the Times, headlines and reportage employ these conditional words. When such words are used are facts being reported? What can’t one say employing these weasel words? “Everything I say is (“might” be) a lie.”

  3. Yes, but what happened to the clock to which they refer. According to Wikipedia, there really was a clock tower built on top of the Jaffa Gate (not at: on) in 1908. It was demolished by the British who thought it didn’t look right. They moved it elsewhere and finally demolished it altogether in 1934.

    Did the clock come back here? The British Museum collection doesn’t seem to have the clock in it now.

    ETA: The pictures of the Jerusalen clock show it to be far too small to be the one in The Westminster clock tower.

      1. Edited to Add

        It’s used on some forums I frequent to indicate that you’ve changed the post after initial publishing so everybody understands that you’ve modified the content after the fact.

        1. Thanks! I couldn’t find a definition of ETA that seemed to fit your usage. Now, add that usage to Wiktionary. 🙂

          (The picture in the Fatah piece, BTW, seems to be of Allenby’s entry to Jerusalem during World War I.)


    1. Did the clock come back here?

      The mechanism? Or the bells?
      Ironmongery and machined brass gearing are sufficiently common engineering accomplishments that the cost difference between making one locally and shipping one inf from distant countries are going to be pretty marginal – particularly shipping stuff from the “Empire” back to the “Engineering capital of the world” – as Britain straight-facedly described themselves in the 1930s.
      The arguments for the bells is a but more complex, as the prices of various alloy metals including the tin/ copper/ lead/ low arsenic of “bell metal” have fluctuated over the years, but several tonnes of a mix with a known-good composition retains appreciable value over the bare metals. Again, transport would be a significant part of the cost, so I’d expect them to be re-used closer to origin (scrap yard) rather than a couple of thousand miles away.
      But hey, applying logic and knowledge to propaganda is just a way to get you filed by the propagandaists under “troublesome”.

    2. The Ottomans erected a bell tower on the Jaffa Gate in1908.
      I cannot blame the British for taking it down for aesthetic reasons in 1922.
      The clock itself ended up in Allenby square and was (?) demolished in 1934. Nothing to do with Big Ben.
      The best bell clocks were reputedly made in the Low Countries, in what is now Holland, Belgium and adjacent areas

  4. Big Ben is actually the biggest of the five bells in the tower (Elizabeth tower): it is neither the clock itself nor the tower. It was recast in 1858 at 13.5 tons.
    It was cast in Whitechapel Bell Foundry in the East End of London, in the same street as my music school.
    The same foundry made the Liberty Bell.
    Both bells have a crack.

    1. Bell metal is a bronze with a higher tin content than normal, which makes it harder (lower internal sound damping), but also more susceptible to cracking. The two properties rather go together like glass hammers and rubber knives.
      Are we going to have the discussion about the difference between “hard” and “tough” now? And how flint (hardness 6, Moh’s) in Chalk (hardness under 4) can wear the teeth off a diamond (hardness 10) drilling bit in a few, very expensive, metres. It’s been decades since I had to explain that to the engineers instead of just telling them their bit has been destroyed by the rocks.

      1. I know more about sound properties of wood than of metals, I’m afraid.
        Interestingly teak wood contains a high level of silicon (up to 1.4 percent) in “flinty”, granular vitreous form and also as oily organic silicon which helps to waterproof the wood.
        Teak is notorious for blunting tools and often being difficult to glue.
        It’s a bit like your chalk with bits of flint.

        “Hard”, high-density woods like rosewood usually have a more percussive, pingy acoustics (suited to plucked instruments): these woods often split easily.
        Softer, medium-density woods like maple/sycamore have interlocking cross-fibres which oppose longitudinal splitting (suited to bowed as well as plucked instruments).
        Sycamore could, in a sense, be considered “tougher” than rosewood, since it is less likely to split.

        The Greek tradition was/is to use large beams of wood instead of metal: these resonate a bit like a bell. Called the semantron/xylon. Used for religious services or calling villagers together.

        1. I didn’t know about the silicon content of teak. I did know that some families of plant – in particular the large, successful, recent group of “grasses” – had relatively high silica contents with consequences for the tooth structures of animals which eat large amounts of grasses. That can be seen in the mouth of most domesticated mammals … and I’d be surprised if the insectologists and wormy-philes around couldn’t point at similar changes in the jaws of their groups, for chewing on grasses.
          The silicon is present as amorphous grains of hydrated silicon dioxide (“silica”, to confuse the pronunciation), not as the metalloid “silicon”. Exactly what crystalline form of silica it is – or if it is crystalline in any meaningful sense – varies sufficiently that it is sometimes an identifying characteristic in micropalaeontology. But “silica” is good enough for the sub-PhD level.

          1. Yes. I used “silicon” broadly to include ANY form of the element either as the dioxide or as any eventual organic form (such as compounds containing carbon-silicon bonds or derived from silicates etc).
            Since silicates form the basis of clays, I would assume that plants may assimilate silicon in this form or similar (biogenic silica?) and metabolise it as required.
            My biology teacher told me fifty years ago that nettle stinging hairs are hollow and silicon tipped (trichomes). I don’t know if this is chrystalline or organic. They break off after penetration of the skin and pain inducing chemicals are injected. I have always wondered how the silicon/silica actually gets there.
            Various species of Horsetail (Equesetum or Asprella) have been used as natural sandpaper for centuries (e.g. for fine-polishing violin varnish). I understand that the abrasive concerned contains silicon in some form.
            I have tried this, but it is important to get the correct species.
            Apparently diatoms also have a significant effect on the carbonate–silicate cycle (outside my ken). Noteably useful to us as fuller’s earth.

            1. I don’t know how silica is mobilised to become biologically available. But it is one of the less insoluble of soil components, and there is a whole series of soils classified by the gradual removal of silica (and silicate minerals) to leave other minerals (most commonly iron-III-oxide and aluminium hydroxyoxide, and a few other components). These laterites and bauxites are sometimes significant ore bodies (if several hundred million years after they ceased to be soils), as well as having decidedly different physical and chemical properties, making the management of tropical soils quite different to those of temperate climates.
              Warm temperatures and high rainfalls in (some of) the tropics helps the dissolution of silica from soils, and major tropical rivers can carry up to a couple of parts per million of silica into the oceans as an important nutrient for a variety of phyla. Whether that is as simple silicon hydroxide, or to some degree complexed with humic acids … is probably different in different places and seasons.

  5. “Fatah also argued that Jews poison their wells, used the disaster in Haiti to harvest human organs for transplantation into rich Jews…”

    As I’ve noted before, I had several college professors who believed these conspiracy theories and promulgated them in the classroom. Unfortunately, such conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel reach far beyond the confines of terrorist organizations and theocracies. In fact, though I can’t find it now, I think I remember a UN report in the early 2000s that claimed Israel poisoned wells and food supplies in the Palestinian territories.

    1. I’ve certainly heard that claim too, but with the blame pointed precisely at the actions of “settlers” occupying Palestinian people’s property in contravention (at that time) of Israeli law. Part of the “land grab” for Lebensraum carried out in anticipation of one or other of the political deals to “solve” the problems of the Levant. I can’t remember which deal – there have been so many. All wildly successful, or so we have been told. Every time.
      Nobody would ever accuse a government of acting illegally, or condoning the illegal actions of a minority.

  6. My favourite of the Israeli animal conspiracies involves Saudis arresting a culture with tags in Hebrew. It was thought to be a spy until scientists confirmed that it was being tracked for study.

  7. Yes, I was using silicon to mean any form of silicon, from silicon dioxide to ” biogenic silica”.
    My biology teacher from 50 years ago told me that the hollow, hairs of stinging nettles (trichomes), have a “silicon” tip which breaks off injecting pain inducing chemicals.
    Certain species of Horsetails (Equisetum/Asprella) have been used as a natural abrasive (eg. in fine-polishing of violin varnish) for centuries, apparently due to their silicon content. I have tried this but you have to find the right species.
    Apparently horsestails were once the most common plant on the planet (100 million years ago): now they are a fairly common “weed”.
    Diatoms also have a high silicon content. Useful to us as fuller’s earth.
    I have never investigated as to how silicon actually gets into plants: i assume the slightly soluble forms like silicates and silicic acid or others can be slowly assimilated and metabolised.
    There apparently exists a carbonate-silicate cycle (outside my ken) which is influenced by diatoms etc.

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