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May 23, 2013 9:17 am

Israeli Minister Steinitz Says British Harbor Disguised Anti-Semitic Views Towards Israel

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Israeli International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz. Photo: Beit Hashalom.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence and strategic affairs minister, had some harsh and frank words for Britain ahead of UK Foreign Minister William Hague’s visit to the Holy Land.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Steinitz was non-commital on whether the two countries remained friends.

“It’s difficult to say,” he said “Traditionally we had good relations with Britain and currently we have good intelligence cooperation with Britain and it’s very successful. [But] we are concerned about the relations, about what we see as some animosities, some incitement in Britain, in the media, made by NGOs [non-governmental organisations] against Israel. I hope we will be able to use [Mr Hague’s] visit to improve relations.”

Steinitz pointed to campaigns calling for boycotts of Israeli products, academics and universities – a movement which recently welcomed Prof Stephen Hawking, the renowned British physicist,  to its ranks after he chose to withdraw from a conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres next month.

Expressing “disappointment” at Prof Hawking’s decision, Mr Steinitz said: “I didn’t hear that Prof Hawking or other British academics, who are so easily boycotting Israel, are boycotting other Middle East countries. Or if they have reservations about America invading Iraq, they so easily boycott American universities. So some Israelis feel that there is some kind of double standards.

“The fact that Israel is treated differently, the fact that some people can say so easily, let’s do something against Israel, let’s boycott Israel, let’s boycott Israeli products, this is some kind of disguised anti-Semitism. In past times people said that they are against the Jews. Now, especially after the Holocaust, nobody says that they are against the Jews, but people are against the Jewish state.”

Mr Steinitz – a former finance minister – said British perceptions of Israel were more negative than those of other Western or European countries and drew comparison with popular sentiment in the US, Canada and Australia.

“There should not be much difference between people in America, Canada, Britain and Australia,” he said. “[They have] the same language, very similar cultures. And still in America, Canada, in Australia in opinion polls, most citizens support Israel with a very warm feeling. In Britain it is much less.

“When you think that all four are Anglo-Saxon democracies, why should people in America, Australia or Canada have different relations to or appreciations of the minuscule Jewish state than the people of Britain? Just recently, there was a very general poll in the United States. The support for Israel in the United States was stronger than ever. I’m not confident that this is the case with Britain as well.”

Asked if this difference in attitude might be reflected in the Foreign Office or in Government policy, he replied: “This might be the case.”

Steinitz insisted that he was not accusing Mr Hague or other British ministers who had criticized Israeli building in Judea and Samaria of anti-Semitism, saying this was a “legitimate view.”

“Not every kind of criticism is anti-Semitism,” he said. “I didn’t say that any criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic or unfair even. If somebody has some criticism of Israel, this is one thing. The same person can also have some criticism of his own country.

“But if somebody is following criticism of Israel and becoming anti-Israeli, saying ‘I’m ready to cooperate with Israel’s enemies or boycott Israel, or Israelis or Israeli academia or Israeli institutions’, this is something different.”

Still, Steinitz rejected the view that continued Israeli building in the West Bank threatened to derail any possible chances of a two-state solution.

“I think those allegations about the settlements are fundamentally wrong. To come to Israel and say why are you doing this and this, this is totally wrong,” he said.

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