Is­rael: Signs of des­per­a­tion

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - Neil Berry

Iden­ti­fy­ing the United King­dom as the cen­ter of an ef­fort by Is­lamists and the hard left to dele­git­imize Is­rael, the Is­raeli think tank, the Reut In­sti­tute, is ex­hort­ing Bri­tish Jews to help to build a "po­lit­i­cal fire­wall" around Is­rael against attacks on its right to ex­ist. At the same time, Is­rael's stri­dent For­eign Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man is or­der­ing Is­raeli em­bassies all over Europe to adopt mea­sures to im­prove Is­rael's stand­ing in Europe, in­clud­ing the re­cruit­ment of 1,000 "al­lies" who will be en­cour­aged to speak up for Is­rael in the me­dia and at pub­lic meet­ings.

Is­rael's im­plicit as­sump­tion is that Europe is in the throes of a fresh up­surge of anti-Semitism that of­ten mas­quer­ades as "prin­ci­pled" anti-Zion­ism and that is be­ing fu­elled by anti-Zion­ist Is­lamist pro­pa­ganda. That Is­rael's sul­lied im­age might have any­thing to do with its own un­sa­vory con­duct does not seem to oc­cur to Is­raeli politi­cians and PR spe­cial­ists. They are ap­par­ently in­ca­pable of com­pre­hend­ing that great num­bers of in­di­vid­u­als have formed a view of Is­rael's be­hav­ior that has noth­ing to do with ha­tred of Jews. The truth is that Is­rael's mas­sively de­struc­tive 2009 as­sault on Gaza, to­gether with this year's storm­ing by Is­raeli com­man­dos of the Turk­ish Gaza aid flotilla, brought to a head a grow­ing sense across the civ­i­lized world that Is­rael not only rides rough shod over in­ter­na­tional law but tram­ples on ele­men­tary prin­ci­ples of hu­man de­cency. The Is­raeli jour­nal­ist, Aluf Benn, has re­marked that not even Abba Eban, the most per­sua­sive spokesper­son Is­rael ever had, could now re­ha­bil­i­tate the Jewish state's rep­u­ta­tion, so com­pro­mised in in­ter­na­tional eyes has it be­come.

The in­creas­ingly neg­a­tive pub­lic per­cep­tion of Is­rael poses awk­ward prob­lems for the leader of Bri­tain's Con­ser­va­tive-Lib­eral Demo­crat coali­tion govern­ment, Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron. Noth­ing if not pre­sen­ta­tion-con­scious, Cameron is anx­ious not to be as­so­ci­ated with the blan­ket sup­port of Is­rael of­fered by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, as was in­di­cated by his de­scrip­tion of Gaza as a "prison camp". Yet he pre­sides over a na­tional po­lit­i­cal cul­ture whose readi­ness to bow to Is­raeli and Zion­ist pres­sure long ago as­sumed the char­ac­ter of a con­di­tioned re­flex. Speak­ing at a re­cent din­ner to cel­e­brate the 250th an­niver­sary of the Bri­tish Board of Jewish Deputies, his friend and col­league, Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Ge­orge Os­borne, left his lis­ten­ers in no doubt about the depth of the Bri­tish govern­ment's com­mit­ment to Is­rael. The chan­cel­lor was, in­ci­den­tally, shar­ing the plat­form with none other than Blair, whose in­sis­tence that Is­rael's se­cu­rity is­sues were the se­cu­rity is­sues of the whole of the Western world pro­voked the kind of au­di­ence re­sponse nor­mally re­served for rock stars.

Os­borne and Blair's lav­ish praise of a state whose be­hav­ior is so widely ab­horred went un­no­ticed by the main­stream Bri­tish me­dia. David Cameron must be hop­ing that sim­i­larly ex­igu­ous at­ten­tion is ac­corded to his govern­ment's stealthy ef­forts to pla­cate Is­rael and Bri­tish Zion­ists by di­lut­ing Bri­tain's com­mit­ment to the in­ter­na­tional law of "uni­ver­sal ju­ris­dic­tion" which has made it pos­si­ble for pri­vate cit­i­zens to ob­tain a war­rant from a mag­is­trate on pro­vi­sion of ap­pro­pri­ate ev­i­dence for the ar­rest of vis­it­ing Is­raelis be­lieved to be guilty of war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity. Last year, the for­mer Is­raeli For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Livni can­celled a trip to London, know­ing that she faced pos­si­ble ar­rest on this ba­sis. Pro­pos­als in the Bri­tish govern­ment's cur­rent Po­lice Re­form Bill would make it much more dif­fi­cult to in­voke the law of uni­ver­sal ju­ris­dic­tion against vis­it­ing Is­raeli dig­ni­taries, how­ever strong the grounds for do­ing so. The pro­pos­als in ques­tion have the po­ten­tial to dra­ma­tize the sharp­en­ing po­lar­iza­tion over Is­rael be­tween govern­ment and pub­lic opin­ion, in­di­cat­ing as they do that elected Bri­tish rep­re­sen­ta­tives are pre­pared to flout in­ter­na­tional law on Is­rael's be­half.

Vis­it­ing London last week, the UN Spe­cial Rap­po­teur on hu­man rights in the Oc­cu­pied Territories, Pro­fes­sor Richard Falk, un­der­lined the cen­tral­ity of in­ter­na­tional law for the Mid­dle East con­flict at a moment when it is in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that the "lo­cus of the con­flict" has slipped from gov­ern­ments and the United Na­tions to the peo­ples of the world. Re­mark­ing that the Pales­tinian cause now oc­cu­pies the high moral ground as never be­fore, Falk af­firmed his be­lief that it is in­ex­orably suc­ceed­ing the strug­gle against apartheid South Africa as the pre-em­i­nent moral strug­gle that unites peo­ple of con­science ev­ery­where. One of the meet­ings Falk ad­dressed took place at London Uni­ver­sity, and it is uni­ver­sity cam­puses in Bri­tain and else­where that could play a ma­jor role in es­tab­lish­ing jus­tice for the Pales­tini­ans as an anti-apartheid-style mass move­ment that Western gov­ern­ments can no longer ig­nore. Stu­dents in Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties are cur­rently protest­ing against govern­ment plans to raise tu­ition fees but there is a grow­ing sense that they are be­com­ing rad­i­cal­ized over larger is­sues of in­jus­tice in ways not seen since the 1960s.

Is­rael's fran­tic PR of­fen­sive against those who would dele­git­imize it smacks of ris­ing alarm that the Jewish state is in peril of oc­cu­py­ing the same place in global po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness that apartheid South Africa once did. Yet if Is­rael truly wishes to be seen as a le­git­i­mate state it will hardly achieve that ob­jec­tive with con­fronta­tional talk about build­ing "fire­walls".

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