Israel, Zionism and the Media

Tag: palestine (Page 2 of 11)

Is the synod EAPPI with this?

In response to the recent vote in the General Synod of the Church of England to support closer ties with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel),  I was involved in writing this response on behalf of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region which was subsequently sent to Christian magazines as an open letter:

The Jewish Representative Council  of Greater Manchester and Region  expresses  its great disappointment  at the result of  the vote in the General Synod to support EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).

Whereas it is perfectly legitimate for any Church or religious body to question or criticise the actions of the UK government or any foreign  government for that matter, as a question of conscience, it is alarming in the extreme to see the established Church of England support an organisation which itself associates with individuals and organisations whose motivation is not that of human rights or religious conscience, but of demonization and deligitimisation of the State of Israel.

This  was reflected in the tone and content of some of  the speeches made at the Synod. The debate at Synod  was littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’.

This is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind the motion.

The content of the EAPPI website  itself is rife with uncontextualised allegations, witness and declaration whilst giving but lip service to balance, historical perspectives and disputed legalities.

The Church of England would do well, if not better, to concentrate its efforts, and lead on the parlous situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian Arab Territories and throughout the Middle East where they are subject to attack, abuse, dispossession, forced conversions, expulsion and murder not at the hands of Jews but of Muslims.

It should be noted that Israel is the only country in the Middle East whose Christian community is growing.

Our Council  which only last week joined in the celebrations connected with  the establishment  of the Council of Christians and Jews 70 years ago  will continue its interfaith work with the Church of England in Manchester with whom it has strong and highly valued ties; but this relationship has been severely damaged by this vote.

We especially thank the Bishop of Manchester Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch for his opposition to the motion and  for his deep understanding of the real issues.

I have emphasised the area under discussion but I believe this topic merits more than one blog post.

I read today in YnetNews

The Orthodox Christian Church in the Gaza Strip is claiming that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped five Christian Palestinians, a young man and a mother and her three daughters, to force them to convert to Islam.

In a statement, the church said that “the dangerous Islamist movement is trying to convince Christian men and women to convert to Islam, destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip.”

The church refused to divulge the name of the Islamist group it accused of these attempts.

The head of the Gaza church claimed that one of the Christians was abducted on Saturday after he had been heavily pressured to convert to Islam and had been prevented from seeing his family. According to the leader, the young man’s parents filed a police complaint, but the police did nothing after learning that the person behind the alleged kidnappers was a senior cleric identified with Hamas.

This reinforces my emphasised text above written before this story. All over the Arab world and within the Palestinian Authority Christians are under attack. In Bethlehem they are leaving or being forced out not by Israelis but by Muslims who intimidate them and appropriate property; in Egypt the Copts have been under attack. In Syria; in Iraq the Christian population is all but gone after centuries. Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post reviewed the situation last year.

So where is the EAPPI equivalent in these countries? Where are the Synod resolutions? What is the Church doing about it? Which governments are they protesting to? Which NGO’s have they set up to investigate?

As usual, it’s only Israel and the Jews who are subject to a level of scrutiny Israel alone in the Middle East would tolerate.

Meanwhile the in Israel the Christian community is the only one in the Middle East that is growing and the only one that feels safe and whose religious rights and practices are protected not just by law but in fact.

I make a point about Jewish refugees from Arab lands

For months now a particular pro-Palestinian website has directly linked to an image on my website.

The image was of a UK and an Israeli flag and used to illustrate an article, on this other website, about the decision of the UK government to tighten up the universal jurisdiction rules which were being abused to issue arrests for Israeli lawmakers and military visiting the UK.

I just deleted the image so that a blank space would replace the flag image.

Then, after so many months, still linking to my site, I decided to strike a blow for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab lands who were expelled over a decade for no other reason than they were Jews in a spiteful ‘revenge’  for the creation of the State of Israel.

Of course, where would these refugees go? Many to Israel. Thus the Arab countries were hoist by their own petard, as it were and now it was my time to do a little hoisting of my own.

So I recreated the image I had deleted but this time it carried a message: “Between 1947 and 1958 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries because they were Jews”; beneath is the Israeli flag.

So far, it’s still there.

I wonder how long it will remain.

I guess you might call it self-hacking on their part.

But then, those uprooted Palestinians are the only refugees in history whose numbers have increased over time and who are granted that status in perpetuity and uniquely.

Meanwhile the 900,000 Jews have settled and got on with their lives building a future for their families having left behind their property, memories and dead relatives who lived in their former host countries for centuries.

Nothing speaks more eloquently of the need for a Jewish homeland than those who would deprive us of one.

Israel, Palestine, valuing life, valuing death

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Rabbi Israel Meir Lau speak at the official opening of the new King David High School in Manchester.

I had heard him on three previous occasions, the first in Birkenau in 1998. You can see a snippet of that speech in the video I posted of the March of the Living here. Rabbi Lau, now Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, mesmerised his audience at King David with a vivid account of his experiences after liberation from Buchenwald concentration camp. He was 8 years old and was at a young persons convalescent camp near Paris.

I won’t rehearse the story here. I suggest you do what I did and that is to buy his memoir ‘Out of the Depths’.

Almost every page contains a heart-rending story, an amazing life-saving incident, a tearful memory. You gasp, you cry with every line and the unfolding of his amazing story.

I was struck at the beginning of the book where Rabbi Lau describes one of the many occasions where his life was saved by what appeared to be a providential hand.

The story I have in mind is heart-breaking and unbearable. Rabbi Lau describes how, as a 7 year old, he was to be placed on a transport with his mother whilst his older brother Naphtali was separated with the men of working age.

Rabbinit Lau knew that she and the women and children were destined for death, whereas those who could work had a chance, at least, for life.

With a mother’s desire to see her child live she literally threw ‘Lulek’ at his brother in order to save him, knowing full well that it was unlikely she would see either of them again. She took the agonising decision to separate herself from her little boy and face almost certain death alone so that he might live.

Her instinct was to do anything she could to save her son.

How different, I thought, when reading this, from those mothers in Gaza and Jenin and across the Palestinian territories who do the exact opposite. Instead of saving their sons and daughters they encourage them to strap suicide belts to their bodies and detonate them in Israel. Then they celebrate their son or daughter as a martyr and rejoice at the deaths their child has caused.

Not all Palestinian mothers think this way, of course, but many, many do.

At the heart of the conflict with its many nuances and complexities lies this awful truth.

The Jewish experience means that we embrace life and mourn loss and regret the killing of innocents – their are always those who do not fit that generalisation, but it is largely and overwhelmingly the case; the Palestinian experience has taught them to embrace death and martydom and exult in its consequences – another generalisation but very often true.

Am Yisrael Chai




Left-wing luvvies gang up on Israeli artists

H/T Barry Shaw

I don’t read the Guardian. I used to when it was a decent newspaper.


when I was alerted to this letter

(no,  I am not going to give them the benefit of a link even from my modest website – on principal)

I was outraged at the list of people, who claim to be artists, that are objecting to the appearance of Israeli theatre group Habima at the Globe.

The reason is that this company has performed at and co-operated with ‘halls of culture’ in Israeli ‘settlements’.

Here are these morally outraged Thespian signatories so YOU know who to boycott in the future:

David Aukin producer
Poppy Burton-Morgan artistic director, Metta Theatre
Leo Butler playwright
Niall Buggy actor
David Calder actor
Jonathan Chadwick director
Caryl Churchill playwright
Michael Darlow writer, director
John Graham Davies actor, writer
Trevor Griffiths playwright
Annie Firbank actor
Paul Freeman actor
Matyelok Gibbs actor
Tony Graham director
Janet Henfrey actor
James Ivens artistic director, Flood Theatre
Andrew Jarvis actor, director, teacher
Neville Jason actor
Ursula Jones actor
Professor Adah Kay academic, playwright
Mike Leigh film-maker, dramatist
Sonja Linden playwright, iceandfire theatre
Roger Lloyd Pack actor
Cherie Lunghi actor
Miriam Margolyes actor
Kika Markham actor
Jonathan Miller director, author and broadcaster
Frances Rifkin director
Mark Rylance actor
Alexei Sayle comedian, writer
Farhana Sheikh writer
Emma Thompson actor, screenwriter
Andy de la Tour actor, director
Harriet Walter actor
Hilary Westlake director
Richard Wilson actor, director
Susan Wooldridge actor, writer

I’m sure, like me, you have admired many of these names for years.

I would hazard a guess that very few of them know the history of the conflict and have accepted the narrative of ‘Occupation’ and ‘colonialism’.

How many of them have ever protested about anything else?

How many of them know that although settlements are illegal under certain interpretations of international law there is no ‘Occupation’ in any legal sense and there has never been any legal ruling that Israel is an occupier.  And before you knee-jerk, just check. Here’s a useful link for the sceptics

Maybe American actors should be boycotted and made pariahs because of Guantanamo or Iraq?

It’s only ever Israel and the ‘Occupation’ which gets these people frothing at the mouth and hearts bleeding.

But, you see, this is the Left’s favourite cause. The Lord forfend that they should be tainted by association with Israeli actors who have committed the terrible crime of setting foot in a ‘settlement’.

“The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

As individuals they are entitled not to go to see Habima.

As indivduals we are entitled to never watch any film, play or documentary any of these people appear in.

Keep the list handy.


Aya’s story

How often do we hear or read about how terrible Israel is preventing Palestinians in dire need of medical treatment getting through checkpoints and borders quickly enough?

How many reports have you read which characterise the massive humanitarian efforts of the Israeli medical community as somehow being part of the ‘occupation’?

I have written before about the extraordinary Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa.

I have no problem reproducing in full this story I received today which is just one example of hundreds, thousands, which are simply overlooked by the likes of the Guardian because it is a positive story which undermines all the negativity and false spin some of the media puts on anything positive which comes out of Israel.

So here is the report from the Rambam by David Ratner, Director:

Haifa, 5 February 2012

Just a Heartbeat Away…

Aya and Prof. Avraham Lorber : Photo by Pioter Filter-RHCC

When Aya Almasal, 12, left her Gaza home approximately one month ago and headed for Rambam, she didn’t know that this trip would save her life. For several years Aya had suffered from sudden bouts of unconsciousness, and her doctors couldn’t find the cause. About a month ago, Aya set out for Rambam to treat this problem, which had accompanied her since birth. Upon leaving Gaza, she felt ill and the situation steadily deteriorated. As the girl neared Rambam, in Haifa, her heart stopped working and she was, in effect, dead. After repeated attempts at resuscitation, the girl’s heart began to pump and she arrived at Rambam, artificially respirated and in serious danger. At the hospital, Aya was diagnosed as suffering from Long QT Syndrome, a disorder of the heart’s electrical system that causes irregular and rapid heart rate, and had prevented blood from reaching her brain. This had caused Aya to lose consciousness suddenly, and could have killed her.

Shortly after the diagnosis, Aya was hospitalized in Rambam’s Department of Pediatric Intensive Care, where she remained for a week. Doctors there stabilized her condition, and Dr Munder Bolus, director of the Unit of Electrophysiology implanted her with a defibrillator pacemaker. Accompanying drug treatment, the pacemaker supplies an electrical shock which ‘jump starts’ the heart during irregularities. After almost a month of hospitalization, Aya felt better, was discharged last Thursday, 2.2.12, and returned to her home in Gaza, standing on her own two feet.

According to Aya’s treating physician, Prof Avraham Lorber, who is head of Rambam’s Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Adult Congenital Heart Defects, Long QT Sydrome is a widespread heart defect that can be controlled with appropriate treatment. “Aya will need a pacemaker all her life,” said Prof Lorber. “She will be monitored to be sure the pacemaker and battery are working correctly.”

Fortunately, Aya had arrived at Rambam in time to receive life-saving treatment. But the girl did not have to die in order to live. Aya’s congenital defect should have been detected earlier. “Every year we treat a number of children with these types of problems,” says Prof Lorber. “Some patients are diagnosed when they seek treatment for their irregular heart rates, and others in regular check-ups. This early detection of life-threatening problems illustrates the far-ranging implications of preventive medicine.”

Rambam’s Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Congenital Heart Defects treats a wide range of disorders, like Aya’s. A large number of patients, some 650 children and youth, arrive from neighboring countries and are treated on a humanitarian basis. A number of Palestinian patients are currently at the department, among them a three-week old infant scheduled for heart surgery, and a 40-day old baby who needs a stent procedure. “Other Palestinian patients are now receiving treatment here or will soon be transferred to Rambam,” states Prof Lorber. Our experience in general medicine, and in cardiology, specifically, allows us to help most of these patients.”

I doubt we will see Guardian reporter Harriet Sherwood and all the others mentioning this any time soon. Unless they can find a way of making it an anti-Israel story.

Alistair Burt, Israel and the hypocrisy of hope

About 20 years ago I was travelling back to Manchester from London on a crowded train.

As the train was about to leave the station, a man sat down opposite me carrying a dark briefcase and proceeded to take out his mobile phone.

That man I instantly recognised as Alastair Burt who was the MP for the constituency neighbouring mine.

These were the heady days of the John Major government in the interregnum between Thatcher and Blair.

When Mr Burt began speaking to ‘John’ on his mobile phone I wondered whether this was the PM at the other end with instructions for his Under Secretary of State at the Department of Social Security.

Being a Labour party voter at the time, I’d remained decidedly unimpressed by Mr Burt. He lost his seat in 1997 and returned to a safe Tory seat in 2001, but he all but disappeared during the Blair and Brown years, so I gave him little thought.

But politicians have stamina. With the return of Tories to power, albeit as part of a coalition, Mr Burt was back in business and soon found himself as Under Secretary of State At the Foreign and Commonwealth office with a Middle East portfolio.

So, when I heard that Mr Burt was in Israel and had made a speech at Bar Ilan University, I was intrigued to hear what he had to say and prepared to not be impressed.

A link to this speech (edited and audio only) can be found here.

After what appeared to be a nervous start Mr Burt both surprised me and didn’t.

He surprised me after a slow beginning because he was quite convincing on his and his government’s commitment to, and support for Israel. He surprised me due to the often charming and sincere way he delivered the medicine.

He’s no great orator but he is a competent speaker.

It was the medicine which did not surprise me; the toeing of the party line about how illegal settlements detract from Israel’s image abroad and how the occupation weighs heavily on the Palestinians; how the stringent restrictions against Gaza are counter-productive to Israel’s interests; how building in ‘occupied East Jerusalem’ is illegal.

He told his student audience how those that were always against Israel will remain so, but many who used to support Israel now remain silent. Mr Burt is a ‘former’ member of Conservative Friends of Israel. Hmm.

Although there was nothing exceptional or new in this, and Mr Burt went on to praise Israeli high-tech, medicine and Nobel laureates, a couple of things struck me whilst I listened.

Firstly, as ever, it always has to be Israel that has to make ‘painful compromises’ and see the ‘Arab Spring’ as a reason for greater urgency in negotiations and not an excuse to avoid them.

Her Majesty’s government never acknowledges that the PA is still dedicated to Israel’s destruction, refuses to recognise its right to exist and daily demonises Israel and Jews in its policies, institutions, schools and media.

Neither does Mr Burt and his party appear to wonder for one moment whether a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza would pose a threat to Israel given that there is no guarantee that it would not become a proxy for Iran with a Hamas government.

With Egypt apparently willing to tear up its treaties with Israel, with the Road Map ditched by the Palestinians and Jordanians also making noises about the existing peace agreement with Israel, any deal with the Palestinians can be dishonoured in a heartbeat. But Mr Burt does not live in Tel Aviv, a short missile distance from prospective Hamas launch sites.

HMG appears to be labouring under the same delusion as the Left and appeasers in Israel itself, namely that Israel must do everything in its power to create a political reality that presents a clear and present existential threat, whilst the Palestinians need do nothing except make demands which make that thereat more lethal.

So I wondered why, if HMG so loves Israel and claims to be its strong ally and friend, it wants it to speed along its own self-destruction.

This is what is known as politics, diplomacy or realpolitik. We can’t really blame politicians for issuing platitudes posing as policy; is that not what politicians always do? Problem is, they believe their own rhetoric and spend much time and diplomatic effort pursuing illusion and refusing to see the truth. The truth cannot be confronted because it means that they would have to confess the futility of peace talks where one of the parties has never wanted a peace which will destroy its own raison d’être – namely the destruction of Israel.

It also struck me and at least one member of the audience, why it is that Britain has arrogated to itself the right to travel the world criticising the policies of other countries. I don’t see Indians or Brazilians or the Japanese coming to the UK and putting its policies under a microscope. Israelis neither. Maybe they should every time an Afghan is abused or a missile goes astray in Helmand and wipes out a village. Maybe some junior minister from the Knesset with a north west Europe portfolio should go to the LSE and berate the Met for poor policing of the riots or using disproportionate force in kettling demonstrators or for taking money from journalists. At least he won’t be arrested as a war criminal now the moment he steps off the El Al plane at Heathrow.

And this so often comes pretty close to patronising. It goes something like this: we are your friend and trading partner (nudge, nudge) and we believe that that relationship would be even stronger, and your country will be a better place, if you were as good as us at human rights, civil liberties and, oh yes, democracy. Yeah, we know you are surrounded by millions of people who want to destroy you, but peace is never that easy. Once you have dismantled the settlements and withdrawn behind the 1967 lines the Palestinians will be so happy about their freedom that peace will reign and all will be well with the world. What’s that you say? You did that in Gaza and look what happened. Ah.

So it is a bit rich when Mr Cameron swans off to Saudi Arabia, a country with an appalling civil and human rights record, where thieves have their hands amputated and people have their head hacked off for offences which would be minor in most Western countries, where women’s rights are non-existent, freedom of religion is curtailed and democracy absent.

Yes, that Saudi Arabia, birth place of Osama bin Laden, center of Salafism and cradle of Wahhabism, the source of funding for UK schools which teach antisemitic tropes and encourage hatred of Jews.

Yes, the same Saudi Arabia which has lots of oil and spends shed loads of money on British arms and tries to hush up any investigation into illegal sweeteners for defence contracts.

Yes, Saudi Arabia whose king gets a full-blown state visit with all the trimmings.

The same Saudi Arabia where no Under Secretary of State visits to tell them that cutting off people’s heads and oppressing women, funding Islamist schools and sending troops into Bahrain to suppress the same Arab Spring which shot Mr Cameron to Tahrir Square to proclaim victory for democracy, is wrong and gives them a bad image.

But that’s what politics is about, isn’t it? It’s about hypocrisy, fudges, and defence contracts. It’s about not upsetting your constituents so you get re-elected. It’s about looking after your country’s self-interests and telling your friends ‘do as I preach’.

Politics is a dirty business, especially when you have to do that business with regimes you don’t like, as William Hague has said when challenged.

Look, “nobody’s poyfect!”.

So don’t ask me to put too much faith in an Under Secretary’s ability to be of any relevance whatsoever. Mr Burt is a nice man but he isn’t going to change anything. Don’t expect him to appear at a Damascus university criticising the Assad regime any time soon.

Oh yes, friends may criticise, but is it not also incumbent upon these friends to criticise even more the actions of those who would destroy your friend and are not that shy to publicise that fact? Instead, we get Obama-esque audacious hope with a good helping of cant thrown in for good measure.

Gingrich and Palestinian Identity [2]

Well, my last blog post ‘Why Newt Gingrich is wrong about Palestinian identity‘ appears to have placed me as one swimming against the tide or rather, outside the shoal.

Notice I said he was wrong about Palestinian identity and not the fact of the invention of a Palestinian people.

These two things, identity and peoplehood are subtly different. But one does lead to the other.

Most of what I wrote is echoed by many commentators:

Commentary Magazine

Melanie Phillips

Elder of Ziyon


The most important point is that the Palestinians created an identity in order to destroy another – Jewish peoplehood.

We all agree on that.

We also agree that this identity is being used in a continuing war of delegitimisation of the Jewish people’s connection to Israel.

I stated, however, that any people who consider themselves a nation has a right to be considered as such. Clearly, not in the Passport to Pimlico sense. Let’s leave aside the absurdities that my statement above could be used to imply.

There is a Palestinian identity- however that identity came about. And that identity is tied to a scrap of land in the Middle East.

It is pointless and irrelevant to deny this, however cynical we are about the origins of that identity.

Let me put it another way. If that identity is denied simply because of the way it is used as a weapon to be wielded against  Jewish identity, where does it leave several million people who cannot and would not be Israelis, cannot and would not be Jordanians?

My point was that Gingrich does not move us nearer peace by stating the historical truth. He, and all of us, should recognise the current reality.

Palestinian identity and peoplehood has emerged out of their own perverse insistence on destroying another nation and out of their inexhaustible stamina in the pursuit of prolonged victimhood and grievance.

But it is, nevertheless, an identity and, like it or not, that identity will lead to peoplehood and nationality at some stage in the future. The confirmation of that identity can only be achieved if they recognise the Jewish identity of Israel. This is why UNESCO’s recognition of a Palestinian state is wrong and is a regressive and hostile act against Israel. This is why there is no peace.

If Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab league declared tomorrow that they recognise Israel’s right to exist based on the 1967 lines with land-swaps, Israel would be the first country to recognise Palestine and, by implication, a Palestinian identity and peoplehood. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated this clearly at the UN a few weeks ago. And this would be exactly the scenario envisaged in the UN Partition Plan of 1947 , albeit with rather different borders.

So how does using the term ‘invented’ help us move toward that goal?

Recognition of Palestinian peoplehood is almost universal. Israel and its supporters will have to live with it. It may be a ruse invented as a weapon of mass destruction, but the Palestinians have, if you will, turned themselves into a people despite themselves.

Let’s assume Gingrich becomes President or Vice President and has to have some role in advancing peace in the Middle East. How is bringing up the ‘invention’ of a Palestinian identity going to help?

The two-state solution is the only game in town. two states for two peoples. Isn’t this what all of the commentators above support, even grudgingly. So what it is it about ‘two peoples’ that we are not supposed to understand?

Is it the Jews and and a assorted bunch of Arab and Bedouin tribes or is it Israel and Palestine. And if Palestine, why not the Palestinians.

It is quite legitimate to point out how Palestinian nationality is being used against Israel and to oppose its use to further illegitimate recognition. But I stand by what I wrote. Gingrich’s statement is irrelevant. It does not matter that he is historically correct because it’s the history of the last 60 years that will matter and the history of the next hundred years, not the status quo ante.



Why Newt Gingrich is wrong about Palestinian identity

Newt Gingrich’s leaked comments which describe Palestinian identity as ‘invented’ have a profound importance in the Middle East conflict and these remarks have to be challenged.

One of the reasons that the Gingrich view has to be confronted is that when Jewish peoplehood is questioned by the Palestinians and their cheerleaders on the Left, Muslims and Arabs remain silent in tacit agreement. The Palestinians’ outrage at Gingrich’s remarks are, therefore, hypocritical.

The Mail Online reports Gingrich’s words here.

This is the quote which has caused the outrage which comes from an interview with a Jewish news channel:

‘Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places,’ Gingrich said, according to a video excerpt posted online.

In a way, he is right; Palestinian peoplehood may be the first instance of a nation being formed explicitly and deliberately to destroy another nation – the Jewish national home – Israel.

You may wonder what would have happened if the forces of the Arab League had triumphed in 1949. Would the land ‘from the River to the Sea’ be a separate state called ‘Palestine’?

Perhaps we already have the answer to that conundrum.

From 1949 to 1967 the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. Did they create a Palestinian state on the land which subsequently became the focus of Palestinian national aspirations? No.

Why not?

The PLO, which I remind you stands for the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was formed in 1964. What ‘Palestine’ were they trying to liberate in 1964 before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza?  For those of you too young to remember or starved of facts, let me explain. The PLO’s ‘Palestine’ included Israel. In other words, the PLO and its offshoots, Fatah and the current Palestinian Authority leadership, were formed with a single objective: to destroy Israel, to wipe it off the map, and to create an Arab state in all of the Western portion of the original British Mandate for Palestine.

The PLO was, therefore, formed to deny Jewish peoplehood, and it has not shifted one iota from that position. It has had at least three chances to create its own own nation but because it was more interested in destroying the Jewish nation, it has consistently failed to do so.

Not only has it not shifted, it continues to demonise Jews in its education system, deny Jewish connection to the land, Islamise Jewish holy sites and support narratives which pervert the history of the Jewish people and seek to delegitimise their claim to their historic homeland.

So whilst Palestinian peoplehood could be seen as a ruse with which to deny Jewish peoplehood, and is, in that sense ‘an invention’, nevertheless, as a result of this 100 year conflict, and as a result of the PLO’s half century of establishing a Palestinian identity, the Palestinians, a nation no older than 100 years, has as much right to peoplehood and nationhood as the Jews, a people whose roots are at least 3,500 years old.

It could easily be argued that all nations are inventions. Gingrich’s own nation, the United States is as much an invention as any other. Many of the countries in the Middle East whose borders are not in dispute – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan – are recent ‘inventions’ of colonial Britain and France. No-one denies that Syrians are a nation or that they are merely a bunch of Arabs living in a particular place.

Denying Palestinian peoplehood gets us nowhere. When enough people regard themselves as a nation then no-one has a right to deny them their nationhood.

The problem with Palestinian nationhood is that it refuses to live alongside Jewish nationhood.

The problem with Palestinian nationhood is that because it is a relatively recent occurrence (or invention if you like) it struggles to place itself as a separate Arab culture with a distinct history, civilisation, art, music, literature.

But none of that matters; the same could be said for Jordan or Syria. In fact, it has all these things. The problem is that it spends too much of its cultural patrimony in denying someone else’s. It spends too much time in ‘inventing’ its own history. It has no need to do that. It only does it to air-brush out Jewish history and connection to the Land. It is why Jesus is a Palestinian not a Jewish Rabbi; it is why Ibrahim is a Muslim not a Jewish Patriarch who founded monotheism.

Newt Gingrich did no-one any favours when he denied Palestinian peoplehood.

He, like everyone else, should concentrate on ensuring that there are two recognised peoples in the conflict: the Jewish people and the Palestinians, and only recognition of the former by the latter can ever be the foundation of a meaningful and lasting peace.

This week I heard Israeli ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, tell us that the conflict is not a zero-sum game; support for Israel does not mean that you cannot also support the Palestinians. Too often supporters of both sides see the conflict that way. It continues to be the position of Israel’s neighbours. It continues to be the position of Israel-haters across the world. Their solution to the problem is to deny to the Jews what they claim for the Palestinians.

So, it may surprise you that I take this view, but let’s think what not taking this view will mean. For the Palestinians it means that they dream of a day when the Jews will disappear and they can have their ‘Palestine’. But would that really be an ideal scenario for them? Decidedly not; and the reason why not is because they have invested so much treasure and so much political and religious capital in basing their identity on hate for Israel and Jews that were the object of that hatred to vanish, their peoplehood would lose its meaning.

This is not a sound basis for national aspirations.

The same cannot be said for the Jews of Israel. If the Palestinians were to disappear one morning the national identity of the Jews would not be affected. The Israelis have not based their cultural identity on hatred. It is based on shared history, culture and values. The Israeli experience is the very epitome of nation-building. Very few Israelis want the Palestinians to ‘disappear’; those that do are decidedly in the minority.

So forget Gingrich and his ignorance. Israelis and Jews must not be seduced by these negative narratives.

But neither must the Palestinians.



Some thoughts on the eve of the Big Tent for Israel conference in Manchester, UK

It’s only a few hours away now and I am beginning to get a feeling in the pit of my stomach similar to that I felt on the eve on my wedding, or my sons’ barmitzvahs.

I have never been so closely involved with an event of this magnitude, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Despite political, community and other problems and issues, we now have the buzz and excitement we wanted with more than 600 people attending the event in central Manchester tomorrow.

Even now I hear that more people from London want to come even though the registration was officially closed at 2pm yesterday.

I have met, communicated with, phoned and emailed dozens of people across the UK and Israel and even the USA.

With a very few exceptions everyone has been incredibly supportive and appreciative of the work that the Organising Committee has carried out in what, in the end, had to be a very short space of time.

We’ve had many ups and downs, a few laughs, several arguments, huge pressure and stress, but tomorrow we shall see that it has all been worthwhile.

A Big, Big Tent thank you to all the team and a special shout out for Debbie Marks of Qube Events who has been and continues to be heroic. Kol HaKavod to Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag whose vision made this event possible.

This is only the beginning of the fight back against the haters and delegitimisers. This is not just about the Jewish community in the UK, it’s about bringing together all those who see the dangers facing Israel from without and within and passionately believe in its survival, in peace and justice for the entire Middle East.

No doubt I’ll be reporting and posting about the event next week.

I can then get back to blogging again which is how I got involved in this in the first place.


Israel and its LGBT haters

This is a follow-up to Scott Piro’s guest post on ‘Pink-washing’ which he was kind enough to allow me to publish.

I wanted to add my two cents.

It should be beyond belief that anyone in the LGBT community should stand with groups who are inimical to that community. For these people their hatred of Israel  blinds them to prejudices that can be literally deadly.

It is the same blindness that leads Jews to make alliances with those who would destroy them.

Surely the LGBT community can be critical of some aspects of Israel’s policies whilst applauding and supporting a liberal society that allows freedom of sexual orientation without fear.

In both cases their ideological antipathy to Israel trumps the absurd paradox of their position.

I would parody Monty Python’s Life of Brian when addressing those in the LGBT community who are cheerleading for Palestinian rights whilst ignoring a clear and present danger to their own well-being and their Palestinian counterparts’:

“So, apart from the freedom of religion, freedom of sexual orientation, freedom of political views, freedom of the press, access to world class health care, access to world class academic institutions, a vibrant democracy, the right to protest and several Nobel prize winners, what has Israel ever done to persuade us that we should not seek its destruction?”

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