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March 31, 2011 1:54 pm

Perfidious Albion and Israel

avatar by Isi Leibler

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British Jews who primarily interact with fellow Jews in their daily lives, and thus remain largely insulated from direct anti-Semitic confrontations, frequently underrate the impact of the relentless demonization of Israel on their standing in society. Others, who insist that the anti-Israeli onslaughts are unconnected to anti-Semitism, are simply in outright denial The principal barometer is the media which is now so consistently hostile to Israel that an occasional neutral or positive article is almost cause for celebration.

The poisonous atmosphere has now extended to the entertainment arena. In London, I saw the final episode of “The Promise,” a four-part drama series televised during peak viewing time on Channel 4, which encompasses the history of the Jewish state from its birth to modern-day Israel. I doubt whether any production in the Western world has ever related to Israel with such vile bias and venom. Virtually every Jew is demonized as a duplicitous and heartless monster.

The drama focuses on a British soldier who witnessed the Nazi death camps and subsequently served in the British mandatory forces when the state of Israel was born. His granddaughter, the heroine, witnesses Israeli brutality against peace-loving Palestinian women and children. It concludes with the aged former British soldier pontificating that despite the Nazi death camps, the creation of Israel was a terrible event which dispossessed the Palestinian people. The historical events are utterly distorted; rich Jews celebrate as innocent Arabs are butchered; a Jewish sniper deliberately murders a young Arab child and Israeli soldiers continuously abuse elderly Palestinians.

The Jewish director, Peter Kosminsky, had the gall to inform the media that the research undertaken prior to production demonstrated that overall, Israel had squandered the compassion it derived from the Holocaust and was now “isolated, feared and loathed in equal measure.”

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The credits at the end of the film disclose the dominant involvement of Jews and Israelis in the production.

My concern is that “The Promise” will serve as a trailblazer for future dramas in which Israelis and Jews will be portrayed as despicable villains.

AT THE universities, the situation continues to deteriorate. Campaigns to boycott, divest and sanction Israel are the order of the day. Many Jewish students are intimidated by the aggressiveness and violence of pro-Palestinian leftists and Arabs. Only two weeks ago, an Israeli activist at the University of London was brutally attacked and hospitalized after peacefully challenging anti-Semitic remarks expressed at an anti-Israeli demonstration.

The hypocrisy and double standards of British universities were highlighted when the director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, was obliged to resign after it was disclosed that the LSE had received huge donations from the Gaddafi family and hosted Gaddafi’s son Saif, who had provided them with the benefit of his insights on civil society and human rights.

The visceral hatred against Israel extends to the British judiciary. A judge recently went so far as to acquit seven anti-Israel activists vandalizing and causing $300,000 damage in a factory supplying weapons to Israel. His ruling exonerated the perpetrators on the grounds that they were preventing Israel from indulging in further Nazi like “war crimes”! The government maintains the tradition of perfidious Albion towards Israel, with the Conservatives behaving no better than their predecessors.

On March 2, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a major speech to the Jewish community extolling the contributions of the Anglo-Jewish community, condemning anti-Semitism, claiming his “belief in Israel” was “indestructible” and even endorsing Zionism.

Yet according to “All the president’s messengers” in The Economist, with encouragement from US President Barack Obama, Cameron remains at the forefront of one-sided condemnations of Israel at the United Nations and within the Quartet. During his visit to Turkey, the PM endeared himself to his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan by describing Gaza as an “open air prison camp” and condemning Israel for its “attack” on the Mavi Marmara.

Foreign Minister William Hague is also at the forefront of the European anti-Israeli pack. In response to the upheaval in Egypt, he reprimanded Israel for using “belligerent language” and congratulated the fervently anti- Zionist Labor Parliamentarian Gerald Kaufman for taking a “tough line” on the peace process.

YET, THERE is some light at the end of the tunnel. Prime Minister Cameron has for the first time conveyed concern regarding the failures of multiculturalism and one senses a popular backlash against Islamic extremism and terror. Regrettably, this is not accompanied by a more positive attitude towards Israel and the Jews.

The Jewish community is besieged. I met with the well-intentioned leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews seeking to cope with a difficult situation.

In my opinion, they are overwhelmed by the hostile climate. They still emphasize the merits of retaining a low profile, prioritizing silent diplomacy and avoiding confrontation. They also remain reluctant to resort to public action other than as a last recourse. Together with BICOM, a generously-funded organization commissioned to promote Israel advocacy, they appear to be continuously on the defensive, desperately seeking to prove their bona fides to the Left. They invest more effort against the marginal fascists than the far more threatening Arabs and anti-Israeli far Left.

The community also faces internal problems. The head of the unaccountable ‘Jewish Leadership Council’, Mick Davis, who also chairs the UJIA, has been severely condemned for encouraging Jews to be critical of Israel. Samuel Hayek, the JNF UK head, resigned in protest and Davis was also subject to considerable criticism by rank-and-file members of the Board of Deputies. The feisty Zionist Federation vice president Jonathan Hoffman was obliged to withdraw a petition calling on Davis to resign when threatened by him with a costly libel suit. Hoffman’s subsequent challenge to debate Davis was ignored. There are also increasing grassroots calls demanding that Jewish leaders become more assertive in their pro-Israel advocacy and public activity.

The highlight of my visit was meeting talented young people who, under the leadership of Sam Westrop, have formed a new pro-Israel advocacy body called “The British Coalition for Israel.”

Despite resistance from some establishment Jewish communal and student leaders averse to confrontation, they have received a remarkable flow of grassroots support from activists throughout the UK. Together with a British offshoot of “Stand with Us”, they now stand at the forefront of those courageously resisting the anti-Israeli onslaughts at universities and in the media.

Prominent individual publicists are also making an impact. There is the renowned journalist Melanie Phillips, author of the book Londonistan which exposed the extension of radical Islamic influence within the core of British society. Currently she is under police investigation for having referred to “the moral depravity” of the Arab “savages” who slaughtered the Fogel family in Itamar and those who incited them. She represents a beacon of light, fearlessly exposing the cant and hypocrisy of the viciously anti-Israeli media. Also Robin Shepherd, a non-Jew who after publishing a brilliant book supportive of Israel, personally experienced outrageously anti-Israeli sanctions by Chatham House, which dismissed him from his post as Senior Fellow. He now writes a superb, widely read blog, commenting on Middle East affairs.

Sadly, the best pro-Israel activists are frequently condemned by the Jewish establishment as extremists and accused of damaging the reputation of the Jewish community. May they grow from strength to strength.

ileibler@netvision.net.il

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post

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  • Keith Lowe

    I am replying to Isi Leibler’s column “Perfidious Albion and Israel”.

    As a British citizen, a Londoner, a historian, and a life-long supporter of Israel, I find articles like this extremely troubling. Mr Leibler is correct when he says that there is a great deal of anti-Zionist sentiment in my country, but he is wrong to portray Jews as a besieged community. He conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Jews are not “besieged” here, and live their lives as freely and unmolested as anyone else.

    Many of the examples Mr Leibler writes about in his column are of British Jews criticising Israel for its actions. While I do not always agree with these criticisms, I applaud such people for voicing opinions that I imagine might be quite difficult on a personal level. Some of these people are the mirror image of British Muslims like Mehdi Hasan, whom the Allgemeiner recently praised for his brave comments about his own community. Surely it is possible for Jews to disagree with the policies and actions of an Israeli government without automatically being labelled “anti-Israel”, just as Mehdi Hasan is not “anti-Muslim” – and I myself am not “anti-British” just because I disagree with many of David Cameron’s policies.
    The problem in Britain, as elsewhere, is that the arguments for and against Israel have become so hopelessly polarised. British people cannot stand up for Israel without being denounced by the left as reactionary. (This is not helped by the fact that those who are most vocal in their support for Israel are indeed very right wing: to describe Melanie Phillips as a “beacon of light”, for example, is enough to alienate anyone with left wing or centrist views.) Likewise, as your article makes clear, anyone who criticises Israel is immediately denounced as anti-Semitic.

    Such posturing by both sides of the political divide does nothing to promote rational argument, but only serves to entrench people’s already polarised positions. The righteous indignation – on both sides – needs to be toned down. Relentlessly pointing the finger never won any argument.

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