Britain's Agenda of Anti - Israeli Hate and the New Triangle in the Mideast / Robin Shepherd/

Feb 6, 2012
As Islamist extremists take power in Egypt and beyond, the New Statesman publishes a vicious, defamatory trash job on Israel’s democratic traditions
Ben White has taken to the New Statesman to attack Israel yet again
Robin Shepherd, Owner / Publisher

Of all the bigotries, in the world today, one stands out for special consideration. That is not simply because it is so odious, though it is certainly that. It is because it is the one bigotry that presents a clear and present danger of translating into a genocidal outcome. It is also the one form of bigotry that has been openly accepted and internalised by large sections of a British and West-European political intelligentsia that remains dominated by the liberal-Left.

I am talking, of course, about anti-Zionism – a uniquely discriminatory agenda aimed at deligitimising the State of Israel and ending that country’s existence as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

In the context of Iranian threats to destroy the country, the loss of Turkey as an ally and the new pre-eminence of extreme, anti-Israeli Islamists in Egypt, the rantings of Western anti-Zionists have now acquired a new and more dangerous significance.

Think of it this way: it’s one thing to spout abuse about black people to a group of equally bigoted but basically passive racists when nobody else is listening; it’s quite another to do exactly the same thing in front of a frenzied, knife-wielding mob of skinheads heading towards a black neighbourhood.

I make no direct analogy, but enter Ben White, author of, “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide“. On Sunday, he published an extensive piece in the leading weekly magazine of the British Left, The New Statesman. Essentially, it’s a trash job on Israeli democracy. It, perversely, charges a British pro-Israel grouping, BICOM, with having unwittingly revealed, in a series of recent essays, that Israel is not in fact a proper democracy at all: it’s a racist “ethnocracy“ run by and for Jews.

You’ve heard it all before, of course. And I will come to the “substance“ (if such a word is appropriate in the circumstances) in a moment.

But let me first re-emphaise the point made above, and make it relevant to the fate of Israel in the Middle East.

For there is nothing new about fanatical hostility to Israel in the British and European mainstream. The Guardian newspaper – the media-intellectual home of the British Left and, effectively, the house journal of the BBC – has been at it for years.

What is new is the context in the Middle East where Israel now looks set to be ensnared in a potentially deadly triangle of annihilationist regimes. On one point on that triangle is Turkey – a country that in little more than a blink of an eye has moved from being an ally to an enemy; a country whose leadership is increasingly using anti-Israeli rhetoric as a rallying cry and which has even gone so far as to threaten sending its warships to protect pro-Hamas “aid“ flotillas to Gaza.

Now draw a straight line from Ankara to Cairo for the second point on the triangle. Egypt’s parliamentary elections were resoundingly won by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists – both of which combine extreme forms of anti-Semitism with resolute opposition to the existence of the Jewish state. Together, they took over 70 percent of the seats.

Now go to Tehran, drawing the line necessary to complete the triangle from both Ankara and Cairo. (Iranian hostility to Israel surely needs no elaboration.)

That’s the neighbourhood Israel has to reckon with: Iran to its east; Turkey to its north and Egypt to its south. There are lots of other unpleasant characters to contend with. But these are the region’s big three – each with populations approximately 10 times greater than Israel’s.

Now, back to Britain and Ben White’s article in the New Statesman. Mostly, it’s a re-hash of the old arguments that because Israel is a Jewish state it can’t be a true democracy. The fact that it’s had an elected parliament for longer than almost half the countries in the European Union – the 10 members from central and eastern Europe plus Spain, Portugal and Greece – is obviously not mentioned. Nor is the fact that it has one of the finest supreme courts in the world. Nor is the fact that Arabs in Israel have a tradition of living in a liberal-democratic environment that has been absent for Arabs living anywhere else in the region. (And the way things are going that is not likely to change due to the so-called “Arab Spring. “)

Instead, there is a list of items starting with the Law of Return which purports to demonstrate White’s case by showing that Israel has given a certain, minimum degree of primacy on immigration and citizenship policy to Jews over anyone else.

But since that is also the minimum that was necessary to correct a vast historic wrong done to the Jewish people who were driven out of a homeland to which they have now in large numbers returned, White’s argument amounts to nothing more than the tired old mantra that the Jews have no right to self-determination in their ancient homeland and Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state.

It’s worth pondering on this for a moment. All democracies have immigration policies which discriminate in one way or another. People from other countries have priority in the immigration queue due to ancestral ties and marriage, for example. People without such ties are often excluded from that queue altogether.

But in other cases the country in question has not had Israel’s need to reconstitute and reconnect the people with the land and the state. That need derives from the uniquely painful history of dispersion and persecution of the Jewish people – a point that White, of course, shows no sign in his article of recognising.

Unless you are up against a thoroughgoing anti-Semite who believes that Jews and only Jews are to be denied the right to meaningful self-determination these are easy arguments to win, and the ground has been covered many times.

If you’re not Jewish and you get into Israel you will live and work in one of the freest, law-based democracies in the world. You will have opportunities to go to great universities and better yourself. You will have access to a health system that is the envy of much of the world, and certainly far superior to Britain’s National Health Service.

It has its downsides, and very particular downsides -- just as Britain’s downsides are particular to Britain, France’s to France, America’s to America. But as countries go, the Israelis have made a pretty good go of it by any standards, and they should be proud of themselves.

Which is more than can be said for Ben White and the New Stateman.

Consider this:

“Search BICOM's essays in vain...,“ he says, “for serious acknowledgement that Israel the 'liberal democracy' was founded on the basis of ethnic cleansing and mass land expropriation; that the only reason there is a 'Jewish majority' at all, is because of the historic fact of the forced exclusion of Palestinians from their homes and lands.“

The historical ignorance would be incredible if it weren’t so predictable. First, there was no policy of ethnic cleansing. As I have remarked many times before, if Israel had attempted to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians they did a remarkably bad job of it: between a fifth and a quarter of the Israeli population is not Jewish.

The departure of Palestinians in 1948 was due to the dislocations caused by a war started by the Palestinians and the Arabs themselves following their own rejection of the United Nations partition plan which would have formed a Jewish and an Arab state living side by side.

This was not Czechoslovakia after World War II where approximately three million ethnic Germans were expelled, their property expropriated. The German population of Bohemia and Moravia dropped from around a third to around half of one percent. Now that’s ethnic cleansing, and I am certain that White writes about it frequently. (Or would the gentleman in question be so kind as to correct me, giving reasons if he does not?)

Second, if the Palestinian/Arab side had accepted the partition plan, the Jewish state would still have had a Jewish majority as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the circumstances of the time should know. White really needs to check out some schoolboy-level facts.

But I return to the central purpose of this essay. White is well known for his extreme hostility to Israel and, sadly for the future of our own liberal democracy, there are many like him.

What matters is that with the emergence of an exceptionally dangerous environment in the Middle East, mainstream media outlets are sending out the message that the deligitimisation of the most defamed and threatened state in the world is acceptable practice.

If the West is looking to calm anti-Israeli emotions as the Islamists take power, how will we respond when they retort that respected magazines in Britain and elsewhere in Europe publish sentiments that are much the same as their own?

In a free society, White and the New Statesman have the right to say what they want about Israel. Their incitement is too indirect to be actionable under any legal provision I am aware of. They are too distant from the object of their hatred for the skinhead analogy above to apply to them directly.

But make no mistake about it. In an interconnected world, the validation of prejudice is no longer something with a purely local character. You do not need to be standing in front of a crowd with a megaphone to have an effect on people.

What White and the New Statesman are part of is a globalised agenda of hate. They won’t be the ones to pull the trigger. They’ll just help the person who does pull the trigger feel that his victim had it coming all along.

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