We Israelis owe a debt of gratitude to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. Were it not for his cogent clarifications last Friday, we’d have never known why we aren’t too popular with enlightened British opinion-molders and with the ever morally superior denizens of the EU.
But thanks to Her Majesty’s top diplomat, who has just graced us with a brief visit, we’re no longer benighted. He has opened our eyes and made us see the light from London.
Israel, he told us via Sky News, has lost support in Britain and elsewhere in Europe due to settlement activities of which the UK “disapproves” and which it “condemns.”
No other problems cloud London’s sky. It’s just all about settlements.
Presumably, before we started annoying virtuous nations with Jewish construction beyond the 1949 armistice lines, all was hunky-dory. We were the toast of the Free World and loved to bits by the Brits.
Much of that love was already evident on our first imperiled day as a sovereign state within a nightmarishly untenable mini-patchwork of territory. Already then, in Israel’s scariest neonatal hours, Britain played a proactive role in Arab plans to throw us into the sea.
The best-trained Arab army, the Jordanian Arab Legion, was established and organized on official orders from London by Maj.-Gen. Frederick G. Peake (a.k.a. Peake Pasha). In 1939, Peake was replaced by Lancashire-born Lt.-Gen. John Bagot Glubb (a.k.a. Glubb Pasha), who remained the legion’s commander until 1956. Glubb led the 1948 Arab Legion’s invasion of Israel and engineered the legion’s conquest of east Jerusalem, in direct contravention of the UN Partition Resolution.
British aircraft bombed and strafed Israel’s underdog fledgling forces. We won’t mention Britain’s pre-state refusal of asylum to desperate Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Europe nor Britain’s hunt on the high seas postwar for Holocaust survivors and their incarceration for years under appalling conditions in Cyprus prison camps.
We won’t focus on the turning over of strategic positions to Arab marauders at the conclusion of the British Mandate over this land. We won’t dwell on the arming of Arab militias.
There’s plenty more but suffice it to say that an abundance of such British affection was showered on Israel before it could plausibly have been denigrated as a menacing ogre; before Israel survived the genocidal onslaught upon it and won its War of Independence; before Israel was forced to defend itself in the Six Day War and found itself in Judea and Samaria; before Jews dared return to parts of Jerusalem and the so-called West Bank from which Britain had earlier assisted to expel them; and before all this was maligned as criminal occupation and illegal settlement.
With so much British love, no wonder we Israelis failed to gauge the ill-will we aroused when we crossed the lines of our exhaustion, drawn in green in 1949 – following the war that Britain helped wage against us. Our blindness persists. Many of us just obstinately fail to be convinced that it’s only settlements.
Our unfounded paranoia leads us to suspect that there’s a powerful predisposition against Jews and their state. But thanks to Hague’s elucidation we now know that it’s our sins that cast us as this peaceful planet’s baddies.
By fluke, shortly before Hague dispensed his conventional wisdom to Sky, the competition at the BBC had released yet another of its international popularity polls. As expected, once again, Israel ranked abysmally low, right near the bottom of the positivity scale.
Some 26,000 respondents from 25 countries were asked to rank a list of states according to their “mainly positive” or “mainly negative” influence in the world.
Germany topped the list with 59 percent of respondents viewing it positively, followed by Canada (55%), the UK (55%) and Japan (51%).
Only North Korea, Pakistan and Iran scored lower than Israel. Twenty-one percent of respondents viewed Israel’s influence as mainly positive, while 52% saw the Jewish state’s influence as negative.
In the corresponding BBC poll 12 months ago, only Iran and Pakistan outranked Israel in perceived malice. Iran got top negativity billing (55% of the vote) from 24,090 respondents worldwide; Pakistan was the runner-up (51%), while Israel and North Korea tied for the title of third-worst (50%).
The fact that we had now moved ahead of North Korea is nothing to scoff at. Pyongyang may starve its masses, explode nuclear devices and threaten the world with atomic warfare, but we construct (very few, actually) houses for Jews in the heart of the Jewish homeland. By any yardstick, nothing can top that for villainy.
We have only ourselves to blame for our rotten rep year after year. In 2007, for example, the same BBC poll (then comprising 28,389 respondents in 27 countries) also revealed that we aren’t at all liked. At that time things looked even gloomier. Israel had then topped the list of troublemaking countries and even beat Iran for the dubious distinction.
That was when Ehud Olmert headed our government and there has never been an Israeli PM as wrong-headedly generous with territorial and other existential concessions as he was. Yet Olmert’s inordinate risk-fraught largesse was rewarded with heaps of scorn from the polled masses abroad. So much for leftist land-for-popularity slogans (akin to the land-for-peace farce).
Mind you, all that hardly prevents Olmert from sounding even more censorious than Hague – almost as if he’s not one of us, almost as if his own egregious offers were not insolently rebuffed by Mahmoud Abbas’s crew of “peace partners.” Severely taking to task the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he hates with undisguised passion, Olmert informed us that the government we only recently voted for is thoroughly to blame for the international antipathy toward Israel.
“I think it is inarguable that Israel’s main problem isn’t public diplomacy; it’s first of all a policy problem,” Olmert intoned. “We won’t be able to convince the world we’re right unless our reality changes.”
“As long as we are in the territories,” Olmert pontificated, “almost no public diplomacy efforts can compete with the claim that this policy leads to extreme responses, including violence.”
So what if it was no better during his tenure? Can a negligible detail like that detract from a bitter and ongoing political vendetta? Likewise, so what if Israel was as detested even before Olmert’s own term and even farther back in time from Netanyahu’s comeback?
What disingenuous carpers like Olmert probably know but fail to openly acknowledge is that this has nothing to do with the record of any Israeli prime minister.
Even the BBC’s 2007 poll – when Olmert was our lead policy-maker – was, alas, nothing new. In 2003, the EU citizenry voted Israel “the greatest danger to world peace.” The same happened in 2000, when Ehud Barak headed Israel’s second-most compromising government ever.
Our image as a danger to world stability appears guaranteed, regardless of which government is voted into office and regardless of how pliable and accommodating it is to the demands of a disapproving international community.
Right-wingers, left-wingers, patriots, defeatists – it makes no difference. Politically incorrect as it is to say so, when it comes to Jews, it never did.
For over two millennia, Jews could do nothing to reduce Judeophobia – for whatever pretext. If it wasn’t one thing it was another and there was never any shortage of rationalizations for why we deserve to be singled out for abhorrence.
Jews always had and still attract abuse – even when they call themselves Israelis. From time immemorial they found themselves in the eye of whatever storm was brewing. They didn’t rouse the tempest, but it always menacingly revolved around them.
When humanity was caught up in paganism’s fear, frenzy and frolic, we introduced the principled One-God. When others adopted offshoots of our monotheism, they accused us of deicide or of spurning Allah’s Prophet.
Imagine the unimaginable. Imagine, as a hypothetical, that two machete-wielding Jews had attacked a British soldier in the heart of the British capital and had decapitated him while prancing about gleefully with bloodied hands and shouting religious slogans.
Hague would have uncontrollably fumed with rancor. So would his boss David Cameron. All Jews would have been not just ostracized and vilified, but in unmistakable physical danger.
But after Muslims committed the unspeakable horror (and it wasn’t their first terrorist outrage), Britain’s establishment couldn’t bend backwards enough to absolve the Muslim masses of the bloodshed. Again Whitehall politicos lauded “moderate Islam,” the one that is serially invisible and unheard.
It violates the multicultural pluralist code to pin collective blame on any group – with the glaring exception of Jews/Israelis/Zionists.
Jews were the reviled plutocrats and bourgeoisie in dictatorships of the proletariat, and proletariat agitators to robber-barons and captains of capitalist industry. We were too ostentatiously rich or too bedraggled poor, too repulsively ugly or too exotically enticing, too obsequious or too arrogant, too downtrodden or too exploiting, too high on the moral ground or baking matzos with the blood of Christian tots (or Muslims, depending on libelous particulars).
We were continuously too smart for our own good and therefore accused of cabals and hatching nefarious plots. We were the perfect target because we were weak, but decried as too strong when we strove not to be so helpless.
As a consequence, our self-defense is habitually denounced – only ours, of all the nations on this earth. The Brits aren’t unaware of this. They condemn us with kneejerk alacrity and they know it.
This predisposition was satirized back in the 1980s by the matchless sitcom creators who gave us the BBC’s Yes, Ministerand Yes, Prime Minister. Get this hardly farfetched exchange of views at Number 10 Downing Street:
Prime Minister: I gather we’re planning to vote against Israel in the UN tonight.
Foreign Secretary: Of course!
Prime Minister: Why?
Foreign Secretary: They bombed the PLO.
Prime Minister: But the PLO bombed Israel!
Foreign Secretary: Yes, but the Israelis dropped more bombs than the PLO did.
This skit was scripted nearly 30 years ago. It could have been credibly written yesterday and realistically performed by Cameron and Hague.
If that’s the way it is now Sarah, what’s going to happen when we have to hit the Russian S-300’s or horror of horrors, go it alone on Iran? There’s going to be a few upset people around….oh well….whaddya gonna do?
Accurately and brillantly put, Sarah Honig.
Is there an answer for what will have people no longer revile the Jews?
Probably, only if and when we have all become just enlightened and compassionate human beings.
Thank you Sarah for such an intelligently written synopsis of Britain’s view of Israel. Every sentence was encyclopedia worthy! Too bad it will fall on deaf ears like usual.
An analysis of the present British position written with laser like Honig accuracy and style. Could not have put it better myself.
I remember years ago at a Barnet Conservative Club speech given by Hague how he declared his unswerving loyalty to Israel, it’s right to existence – “yadi yadi yada” – and compare it now to his revised declarations as Foreign Minister of Her Britannic Majesty’s government!!! Amazing how vested interests can alter a man’s principles!. How the worm has turned.
I can just imagine in the halls of the Foreign Office some senior jobs worth declaring that the Minister must declare and emphasise the British position regarding those pesky Jews in Palestine. How irritating for those upstarts to cause so much irritation – especially during the cricket season!!!!
just goes to show that Israel can only rely on herself, in all aspects of self preservation. how fortunate we had such early leaders with great foresight, like Zev Jabotinsky and Theodore Hertzl,
As long as Israeli leadership ‘wimpingly’ continues to follows a policy of “leading from behind” (sounds familiar?; as Obama has so vocally and internationally promotes as a policy that America should pursue) the worlds ‘so called leaders and the ‘lefty press’ will continue to ‘kick Israel down the block’ and trash Israels sovereign rights to ‘run its country in the interest of its National Image and the good and welfare of its citizens, the ‘Beat will go on’.
Olmert the anti-Zionist was dead wrong and he was a real danger to the state of Israel…
Hague the Antisemite is DESPICABLE like all the rest of his species…but the fate of Israel will not determined by that SCUM…it will be decided by the people of Israel and THEIR determination, to secure their land and to stand tough !
Yes, Israel needs to revise its ‘National Image’ to reflect a more postive, self assured and ‘Independent stand in its own behalf’. ‘Evil’ can only ‘fall to the Good’ when it is confronted by Strength and Power to prevent itself from the ‘bullies of the world’ who continue to ‘ScapeGoat’ Israel as the problem’ for all the ‘Ills of the world’. Only through the ‘Clarification of the state of Israel will ‘final respect come about!
Sarah’s article reminds me of a conversation I recently had with someone at a party given by the local Chabad house. We were talking about the 1948 War of Independence, and they told me that during the Mandate period, British troops tended to be very rude to the Jews, and many times, they were drunk. On the other hand, Australian troops were generally very gracious. So the Jews had a few friends. Unfortunately, the Brits were in control. What is puzzling, though, is how some British Christian Zionists could so fervently believe that the land of Israel was meant to be the land of the Jewish people since ancient times, yet be hostile to individual Jews. Ehud Olmert? He’s a well-meaning man, except to his own people, sometimes. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, either. Nice article, Sarah.
The Mandate for Palestine specifically encouraged close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
This right still exists today by virtue of article 80 of the UN Charter.
Jews have the undeniable legal right to settle in the West Bank.
Hague clearly seeks to now renege on this long established international law that Britain was a prime mover in originating.
Renewed acts of British treachery are rearing their ugly heads once again.
They should be unequivocally rebuffed and rejected.
Thanks for the article. Your insight took the words out of my mouth. One of the problems with Britain is that they still having a hangover with the alcohol fron their colonies. My I add, where was their moral high road when they were looting treasures from Africa, India, Greece,etc,etc. One thing is for sure, it took Russia a few years to recognize that the USSR is no longer in existence , because they are smart. But for poor brits, it may well be for eternity to start behaving as a poor nation. Oh, less i forget their opium trade to the Chinese. Where were their moral high horse.
Several months from now, the original Balfour Declaration will be brought to Israel for display at the new national library (?) or national archives (?). I think we should fight this tooth and nail. 1) It was the League of Nations Mandate that created the Jewish national home in Palestine, not the Balfour Declaration, which was only a letter to a private individual that had no force of law. 2) The British failed to execute the duties that the League of Nations assigned to it in the Mandate document and began imposing immigration quotas and restrictions on Jewish land ownership almost immediately. 3) The British effectively repudiated both Balfour and the League of Nations Mandate with the 1939 White Paper. 4) The British prevented millions of people from leaving Europe. Those deaths soak the Balfour Declaration in blood. Remember that they enforced immigration quotas for years before Hitler ever came to power. 5) The British colluded with the Arabs of Palestine and the Arab League countries first to try to violently prevent the establishment of Israel, and then to try to destroy the new state. 6) One percent of Israel’s population perished in that war. 7) The British recognized Jordan’s illegal annexation of the West Bank, land that Jordan seized by force in an aggressive war of territorial conquest, in violation of international law. 8) The British have never taken responsibility for their actions, and they have never apologized. 9) The British whipped Jewish children in Palestine. See Menachem Begin’s memoir The Revolt. 10) The British kept babies and children, including orphans, imprisoned with adult Jews in a concentration camp on Cyprus long after the war had ended; and the whole world understood the fully horror of the Holocaust. Children died there, surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers. Golda Meir’s autobiography My Life details conditions on Cyprus when she travelled there in 1947 to secure the release of babies and orphans. Later, when she was prime minister, she had the remains of the children who perished there brought home to Israel. 11) No decent person should celebrate what the British did in Palestine, and that includes honoring the Balfour Declaration with publicity and display. Let’s stop it.
There are times when I’m proud to be a Brit, and other times when I’m not. When I look at the history of my country’s many betrayals of the Jewish people, which goes back centuries, then i’m not so proud. And as an evangelical Christian, I’m also ashamed of the anti-Semitism that is rearing its ugly head YET again within the Church.
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