Palestine – it’s not worth it

One of the most alarming experiences as a European is to see how our politicians and the media continue to criticize Israel but not the Palestinians, whose pseudo-national aspirations garner more attention than Syrian war casualties, Chinese human rights abuses and the plight of women and girls enslaved by Islamic terrorists.

It is strange that the Palestinians – who have no historical, cultural or legal rights to the land of Israel – are endowed with international and economic patronage by the US, the EU and the UN. How did the Palestinians and their Arabist-Islamist backers manage to achieve such a feat?

Firstly, the Palestinians have learnt that violence is rewarded. Acts of terror against Israelis have only strengthened the West’s belief that a Palestinian state is of paramount importance. The latest round of fighting in Gaza confirms this.

Secondly, the Palestinians have managed to convince most of the world that they are a landless and suffering people, whose plight is equal to that of the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. This is has to be one of history’s biggest hoaxes. And it is a very dangerous hoax indeed. Why? Because the “Palestinian issue” has enabled Europe to reconnect with its Jew-hating past by blurring the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

The fact that Jewish businesses across the world are being boycotted is testament to the perverse success of the Palestinian movement. Jews in France have been murdered. Synagogues in Belfast and London have been vandalized. Anti-Semitic chants and references to the Holocaust are commonplace in Europe’s cities. Countries that pride themselves on their enlightened and liberal societies – such as Sweden, Germany and Norway – are all places where Jews no longer feel safe.

At last, the shocking rise in anti-Semitism in Europe is garnering some media attention. But the issue is still not taken seriously by the liberal-left, the police and most politicians. This is because much of the anti-Semitic abuse is carried out by Muslims who claim it is retribution for their “brothers” in Gaza. And the liberal elite either agrees or looks the other way.

The situation cannot continue. It is incomprehensible that Jews are suffering the same hatred as they did during the 1930s and 1940s. The curse of anti-Semitism is once again strangling Europe’s hard-won freedoms. The post-1945 consensus that Jews will never again be made to suffer at the hands of fascists is falling apart.

Perhaps Europe’s leaders should be asking themselves one simple question: is the creation of a Palestinian state really worth the aggravation? After all, the people who call themselves Palestinians have had at least seven opportunities since 1937 to establish a state alongside Israel and each time they have refused. Since it is clear that the Palestinians are not interested in peaceful co-existence, it is surely incumbent on the international community to focus on more important matters (such as the liberation of the Kurds from Islamist imperialism).

Will Europe listen? Or will it continue to advance the Palestinian issue until not a single Jew is left in Europe? Only time will tell. But in the meantime don’t be surprised if the number of Jews making Aliyah continues to rise.

 

 

 

Broken Britain: UK Jews suffer anti-Semitic backlash

In a fascinating article for The Tower Magazine Benjamin Kerstein convincingly argues that a global pogrom against Israel and the Jewish diaspora is being conducted by an alliance of anti-Semitic Islamists and Far Left agitators.

In recent weeks the Jewish community in Britain has seen its fair share of alarming hatred from this obscene Islamist-communist alliance. In the UK there has been a 36 per cent rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents since the start of Operation Protective Edge. Businesses in Manchester, Whitechapel, Brixton, Brighton and Birmingham have been attacked and/or forced to close because of pro-Palestinian protestors. Jews have been attacked in the street and the windows of a Belfast synagogue have been smashed.

But it is in Greater Manchester and London – home to Britain’s two largest Jewish communities – where Jews are experiencing the worst and most sustained anti-Semitic hatred. Protestors have barricaded businesses, thrown eggs and drink cans at Jewish pedestrians, and hurled torrents of racist abuse. Jews (and non-Jewish supporters of Israel) are regularly subjected to accusations of bloodletting and baby-killing, thus recalling the detested medieval blood libel.

Events in Manchester have come to symbolise the plight of British Jewry. The city centre has witnessed an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism since the start of the Israeli-Hamas war. Pro-Palestinian protestors make Nazi salutes and make obscene comments about Jewish suffering under the Nazis. Zionism is routinely equated with genocide and Nazism. Shoppers are prevented from entering shops that sell Israeli products because they apparently “fund the Israeli war machine in Gaza.”

It is not just Jews who are suffering. Stores which have nothing to do with Israel have have pulled down the shutters because of the chaos. Shop workers who have no connection with the Middle East are intimidated and harassed by the marauders. The local economy is suffering and Manchester’s reputation as a multicultural and commercial powerhouse is under threat. Not surprisingly, the city council has had furious rows with the police who are blamed for not doing enough to prevent public disorder.

To be fair, the police have done their best to maintain a balance between the legal right to protest and the right for shops to trade freely. But they have been overwhelmed by the size and the persistence of the pro-Palestinian mob. A leading police chief has said the ongoing stand-off between pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis could be the start of a breakdown in community cohesion. In my view, the ethnic and religious divide between Muslims and Jews in Manchester is now beyond repair.

The situation in London is just as bad. For the third time in a month, tens of thousands of anti-Semites have brought the capital to a standstill. Pro-Palestinian protestors have bullied their way through London’s streets, intimidating passers-by and verbally abusing Jews and anyone else who gets in their way. Douglas Murray, writing for The Spectator, has described these rallies as “disgusting” and “anti-Semitic.” These protestors, he says, are nowhere to be seen when Isis ravages Iraq or Boko Haram commits atrocities in Africa.

A new and disturbing development is the flying of the Islamic State flag in Britain. The black flag of jihad has been spotted in Manchester and London. The fact that Asian youths feel free to fly the Isis flag on an east London housing estate is one more sign that nothing substantial is being done to prevent the radicalisation of British Muslims. This, of course, spells disaster for the Jewish community, which is in no position to withstand the growing presence of Islamic State sympathisers. (Christians in the UK should not be complacent either. Church buildings and Christian culture are hardly immune from the threat of radical Islam.)

Meanwhile, the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is in full swing. As well as calling for an end to arms exports to Israel, the BDS campaigners want an economic and cultural blockade on all things Israeli (including Israeli people). Shops, banks, universities, theatres and even entire towns are being targeted by BDS bullies.

A London theatre is refusing to host the UK Jewish Film Festival because it is sponsored by the Israeli embassy, while the National Union of Students wants a boycott of Israeli products on British campuses. Several town halls in England and Scotland are flying the Palestinian flag in a “gesture of solidarity.” And the ridiculous (but dangerous) George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, has unilaterally declared Bradford (a town in northern England) an Israel-free zone:

“We don’t want any Israeli goods; we don’t want any Israeli services; we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college. We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford even if any of them had thought of doing so.”

Galloway’s incendiary words came after a Jewish man in Bradford was repeatedly called a “f**king Jewish bastard” by men collecting money for Gaza.

A number of Westminster politicians have also thrown their weight behind the delegitimization campaign. Baroness Warsi chose to resign her job as Foreign Office minister the day after a ceasefire came into place. She claims that her government’s even-handed approach to the Israeli-Gaza crisis is “morally indefensible and not in Britain’s interests.” It’s a pity she didn’t resign when the government failed to act over Syria.

On the Labour side, Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary during the Iraq war in which more than 100,000 people were killed, has referred to Israel’s war in Gaza as an “unspeakable horror.”  And in a transparent attempt to shore up the left-wing and Muslim vote, Labour leader Ed Miliband has condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza as “wrong and unjustifiable.” Miliband claims to speak on behalf of the British people but it is quite clear that he is an opportunist trying to outmanoeuvre Prime Minister David Cameron.

The British media must also accept a large share of the blame for the anti-Semitic upsurge. Apart from The Telegraph, newspapers and other news outlets have spewed anti-Israel vitriol. It is quite clear that most of the British media are offended by Israel’s strength of purpose – which is to protect its citizens.

The BBC, Channel 4 and Sky have consistently failed to report the facts, preferring to take Hamas statements as gospel truth. Plus, the macabre obsession with the death toll in Gaza – combined with the media’s inability to explain why the Israeli death toll is comparatively low – has fuelled the irrational belief that Israelis and Jews are genocidal maniacs.

If Israel is demonized, Hamas is exempt from criticism. For example, The Times newspaper refuses to run an advert that criticises Hamas’ use of children as human shields. Why? Because “the opinion being expressed is too strong […] and will cause concern among a significant number of Times readers.”

Back in Manchester, the mood is pessimistic. Despite a feeling of comradery, a sense of insecurity and foreboding hangs in the air. Some people are openly talking about emigrating to Israel. Others are prepared to stay in Britain and fight the BDS movement but are unsure how to proceed. Stay or go, everyone shares the belief that Britain is on the verge of some kind of 1930s-style nightmare.

If the media is not capable of telling the truth and politicians are too afraid to stand up for Israel and the police are incapable of protecting the most vulnerable minority, then the UK should no longer consider itself to be a beacon of liberal democracy. If anything, Britain is broken. And there is no indication that anyone is prepared to fix this ailing country.

 

 

 

10 ways to support Israel

Ways to help Israel

 

1. Buy Israeli produce from Jewish stores, as well as from supermarkets which stock Israeli goods e.g. Tesco.
2. Use services and buy products from companies and organizations which have some connection to Israel e.g. Marks and Spencer, Barclays, Sainsbury’s, H&M. If possible let the management know why you are purchasing Israeli goods.
3. Boycott companies (e.g. the Cooperative) which have given into pressure from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
4. Boycott trade unions which have signed up to the BDS agenda.
5. Report all instances of anti-Semitism to the Community Security Trust (CST) and the Police.
6. Write to your MP, ministers and the media to express your concern about anti-Semitism, anti-Israel hostility and media bias.
7. Organize and/or take part in pro-Israel marches and demonstrations. Hand out leaflets, talk to the public.
8. Use social media to make the case for Israel. Delegitimize Palestinianism by setting out the facts.
9. Zionism was once hailed as a liberation movement of the Jewish people. We need to realign Zionism as a progressive cause which supports democracy, freedom of worship, protection of minorities, gays, women, etc.
10. Punish the “Islamoconomy” by not buying goods or services from Muslim countries. Instead of holidaying in Turkey or Dubai, holiday in a “non-Muslim” country, preferably Israel.

Intimidation on the streets of Manchester

The British city of Manchester is currently under siege from a pro-Palestinian mob protesting the existence of an Anglo-Israeli shop on one of the city’s most upmarket streets.

The shop under siege is Kedem, a store that sells cosmetics made from minerals extracted from the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Kedem is not a political shop. It is a registered British company, paying British taxes. Nonetheless, Kedem is now the focus of the malignant boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The pro-Palestinians have declared Kedem an “easy target.”

For two weeks Kedem has been subjected to a daily eight-hour-long siege. But Kedem’s products have nothing to do with Gaza or even with the “settlements” in the so-called West Bank. It is just a shop selling soap and exfoliating cream. When the protests first started, the shop was forced to shut for four days. But a large contingent of Israel supporters has come to the rescue. Day after day, Manchester’s Jewish community have turned out to support the shop and to oppose the pro-Palestinian protesters.

The pro-Palestinian contingent is mixed. There are Islamic fundamentalists (including one man who claims to be Hamas’ leader in Britain), anarchists, hardcore leftists, self-styled peace activists, Pakistani gangsters, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and even Druids. Many of these people are already known to Greater Manchester Police, who have seen the same faces at anti-fracking demonstrations.

The protesters love to chant anti-Israel slogans. “One, two, three, four, occupation no more” is a particular favourite. “Palestine will be free, from the river to sea” is another. Pro-Israel supporters are regularly subjected to accusations of murder, baby killing, genocide, ethnic cleansing. One of my Jewish friends was told he was “not a Jew but a Nazi.”

Insults like “dirty Jewish pig” and “ZioNazi thugs” are commonplace. And yet the protesters continue to insist they are not anti-Semitic.

According to the BDS fanatics, it is not anti-Semitic to boycott a Jewish-owned shop. But we remind them that Jewish shops were targeted in the 1930s. But they don’t listen. They don’t care that Jews in Britain are genuinely afraid of where this situation is heading. For example, five cars full of men drove through a Jewish residential district in Manchester waving Palestinian banners and shouting anti-Semitic remarks including “Heil Hitler.”

Despite the hatred emanating from the pro-Palestinians, the Jewish community has been galvanized. Jews of all creeds – from atheists to Hasids – have come together to support Kedem and the State of Israel. On some days we have managed to outnumber the opposition. Plus, our speakers are much more eloquent (and often louder). Many Jews and non-Jews have stepped up to the microphone to make the case for Israel. Our arguments are cogent, intelligent and respectful. On many occasions we have drowned out the opposition. Indeed, the pro-Palestinian side seems to have been taken aback by the strength of Jewish support for both Kedem and Israel.

A former film maker from Canada is lending his support to the Israeli contingent. His name is David Semple and he is currently writing a book about Jerusalem. David is a righteous gentile. He is passionate about Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people. He has a thorough knowledge of Middle East affairs and history. David’s speeches are utterly brilliant and they seem to have had a demoralising effect on the opposition.  One policewoman told me she had learnt a lot about Israel’s history thanks to David.

Another encouraging factor is the support of the public. I’ve had Jews and gentiles who work and/or shop in Manchester offering their support. American tourists have congratulated us for our efforts. On the other hand, some members of the public have accused us of “having blood on our hands.” One man called us “animals” and “scum.”

As well as making the case for Israel, we try very hard to highlight the hypocrisy of the boycotters. It is all too easy to boycott an innocent shop that sells soap but why don’t the protestors discard their USB flash drives and instant messaging software which were both invented in Israel? Why don’t they throw away their laptops and computers which are powered by Israeli Intel processors? Why continue to use Microsoft Office, Windows XP and Windows Vista when they were invented by Microsoft Israel? We tell them to stop using Google because Google uses an advanced text search algorithm invented by an Israeli student.

We remind them that mobile phones, voice mail and the mobile camera function were all invented in Israel. But the BDS fanatics either don’t believe us or don’t care. One protester said he didn’t want to throw away his Smart phone because he needed it to ring his mum and dad. Do such people know the meaning of the word hypocrisy?

We ask them why they single out Israel for criticism whilst ignoring the fact that Israel is a democracy where one in five citizens are Arabs who have the right to vote and sit in the Israeli parliament. We ask them why they support Hamas when they use their own people as human shields and spend millions of dollars of aid money building terror tunnels. Their response: outright denial.

We admit that Israel isn’t perfect, just like the UK or France isn’t perfect. But constantly demonizing Israel –whilst ignoring the massacres in Iraq and Syria or the exploitation of workers in India and China – isn’t constructive criticism. It is racism.

Kedem is tired of being an easy target. The Jewish people are sick of being intimidated and abused. But after thousands of years of persecution, Jews are no longer prepared to be led like lambs to the slaughter. And as long as this horrible situation continues we will do all we can to support Kedem and the State of Israel, even if it means standing outside a soap shop for eight hours a day.

 

 

 

UK visit to Iran only emboldens Tehran

The decision by a group of British parliamentarians to meet with top Iranian officials is another sign that London is foolishly attempting to restore diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Earlier this week, Jack Straw, who was British Foreign Secretary when the UK invaded Iraq in 2003, met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He was joined by three other British MPs, including Norman Lamont, who held the post of Chancellor in Margaret Thatcher’s government during the early 1990s. It is likely that a reciprocal visit to London by Iranian MPs will take place in the near future.

The visit comes a month after the UK’s newly appointed chargé d’affaires, Ajay Sharma, journeyed to Iran in a first diplomatic visit by a British envoy since London extracted staff from Tehran after the storming of its embassy in November 2011. Sharma is on record as saying he is “very much looking forward to renewing direct UK contact with the Iranian Government.”

All of which confirms the view that Britain and the West are trying to rehabilitate Iran in the wake of an international agreement regarding Tehran’s nuclear policy. In addition to America’s diplomatic work, the British delegation is the fourth visit by European politicians since Hassan Rouhani took office in August. In November, David Cameron and Rouhani spoke on the phone. The last time a British prime minister had direct contact with an Iranian leader was a decade ago.

The Tehran trip can hardly be compared to the enthusiastic overtures made by London towards Beijing in recent months. David Cameron and other top UK politicians have been wooing China for some time in a desperate attempt to attract Chinese money into Britain’s ailing economy. Still, the all-party parliamentary expedition to Tehran and the diplomatic desire to restore relations is yet another sign that London is willing to work with regimes that have bad human rights records.

Iran is a dangerous country – not just to its Jewish and Arab neighbors but to the world at large. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies see the West’s rapprochement with Iran as a deliberate political and diplomatic realignment. Iran’s gradual rehabilitation should be seen in the broader context of the West’s inability to deal with Tehran’s genocidal intentions towards Israel, as well as its vicious proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. It’s beginning to look like a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” First, Bashar al-Assad is let off the hook after attacking his own people with chemical weapons. Then sanctions against Iran are relieved. And if a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai is to be believed, there is now a diplomatic backchannel between the UK and Hezbollah.

The West’s appeasement of Iran and her proxies has obvious echoes of Britain’s misplaced appeasement of Hitler at the end of the 1930s. Neville Chamberlain has gone down in history as the man who was duped by the Fuhrer. Will Obama and Cameron be castigated by future historians for failing to stop the world’s most dangerous regime? In all likelihood, the answer is yes. Indeed, the West’s leaders already look weak and silly. Russia, Iran and Syria have successfully wrongfooted the West and have changed the political and diplomatic climate in a surprisingly short space of time. Britain and the US, on the other hand, have been on the backfoot and are now trying to save face by reformulating relations with Tehran.

The rehabilitation of Iran has echoes of Britain’s reconciliation with Libya, a pariah state since the end of the 1960s. But in the 1990s the relationship between the UK and Libya improved, with events culminating in Tony Blair’s declaration of a “new relationship” with Colonel Gaddafi in December 2003. The fact that Gaddafi was behind one of the worst terrorist attacks ever perpetrated against the West (the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988) was conveniently forgotten. I can foresee a time when Iran is similarly reconciled to the West.

Should Israel be worried? Yes, because the budding Iran-West rapprochement not only isolates Israel, it actually makes war in the Middle East far more likely. Iran will be emboldened by the US and UK’s overtures and (in all probability) will continue its nuclear program. Meanwhile an exhausted West will relax sanctions in the full knowledge that a nuclear Iran is inevitable.

Israel, though, is hardly likely to allow Iran to go nuclear and will take military action against Iran’s nuclear sites (possibly with Saudi Arabia’s tacit blessing) This may happen next year; perhaps 2016 or 2017. Binyamin Netanyahu has already promised that Israel “will act against [Iran] in time if need be.”

If attacked, Tehran will play the role of victim and appeal to the West. Having made their peace with Iran, the UK and the US will find themselves in the absurd position of condemning Israel for making the world a safer place. In the long run, however, Israel’s actions might be viewed more positively. The Jewish state was widely criticized by the international community after it destroyed a nuclear reactor south of Baghdad in 1981. But fast forward two decades and Operation Babylon is viewed in a better light. Bill Clinton, for example, used an interview in 2005 to express his support for the attack, describing it as “a really good thing.”

Israel must view the Iran situation with a long lens and act accordingly. As a Brit I can only apologize for my country’s inability to see Iran for the dangerous bully that it really is.

 

 

The real danger facing Jews

In a new op-ed for Arutz Sheva, Moshe Kempinski warns of the creeping tide of Hellenism (non-Jewish practices) or a “sea of political correctness” which threatens to overwhelm Jewish identity.

He has a point, although I think the situation is more complicated. Plus, there is a far more dangerous threat to Jewishness than the “new Hellenism.”

It’s true that diaspora Jews face a struggle to retain their religious and cultural identities due to legal rulings and cultural prejudices. Only recently, the Council of Europe described circumcision as a “violation” of children’s human rights. In Switzerland, a Geneva city councilman warned his municipality against allowing a public Hanukkah event, which he said would infringe Swiss law. In Poland, ritual slaughter has been suspended on the grounds that Jews (and Muslims) are not exempt from animal protection laws.  And in Britain, some Jews are being denied unemployment benefits because they refuse to work on the Sabbath.

Throughout their long and painful history, Jews have struggled hard to maintain their religion and cultural practices. Anti-Semitic attitudes, pogroms, terrorism, assimilation, forced conversions and legal restrictions have all frayed the tapestry of Jewish identity.

However, the dividing lines between Jewishness and non-Jewishness are not always easy to define. Scholars believe that the Sadducees and even some Pharisees (two of the Jewish sects active in Judea in the Second Temple period) were willing to incorporate Hellenism into their lives. The most notable product of Hellenistic influence was the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Philo and Josephus considered the Septuagint to be as reliable as the Hebrew Masoretic text. Interestingly, Septuagint manuscripts have been discovered among the Qumran Scrolls in the Dead Sea.

Jewish places of worship owe much to Hellenism. The word “synagogue” comes from Koine Greek, a language spoken by Hellenized Jews in southeast Europe, the Middle East and north Africa after the 3rd century BCE. Many synagogues were built by the so-called Hellenistai. These were adherents of a type of Hellenistic Judaism in the Greek Isles, Syria and northern Israel in the first century BCE.

And let’s not forget that there are many good things about Hellenistic culture. The world would be a poorer place without the writings of Homer, Aristotle and Plato or the mathematical discoveries of Pythagoras and Euclid.

On the flip side of the coin, non-Jewish cultures have absorbed many Hebraic ideas. Thanks to Judaism, westerners experience time as linear rather than cyclical. This has fostered a belief in material and social progress. The notion of a monotheistic personal God is thoroughly Hebraic, of course. Ethical imperatives such as justice for the oppressed and sustenance for the poor are derived from the Hebrew prophets. Yes, some of these ideas have been propagated by Christianity and Islam, but neither of these religions would exist without the parent religion of Judaism.

Hebraism and Hellenism are not enemies. The problem when arises when one culture tries to force its beliefs on another as when Antiochus IV Epiphanes (174–163 BCE) tried to impose Hellenic cults on Judea.

I completely understand the concerns of Jews who are afraid that assimilation or modern-day Hellenism will swallow up Jewish identity, particularly in America. And I sympathize with Jews who are pained by the banning of ritual slaughter and the attack on circumcision in Europe. But the real problem facing Jews today is not Hellenism. The real problem is actually something far more pernicious and life-threatening. It is Palestinianism.

II

In Europe, physical attacks on Jews receive little attention in the media because much of the abuse is carried out by Arabs who are under the political protection of some liberals who accuse critics of Islamophobia or racism. Given the European media’s irrational hatred or suspicion of Israel, this is not surprising. You only have to look at the biased news coverage and the vitriolic editorials in publications like The Guardian.

The Palestinianist ideology is particularly dangerous because it draws strength from a range of sources. You don’t have to be an Arab or a Muslim to be a Palestinianist. A large number of western socialists, liberals, conservatives and even neo-Nazis can be described as Palestinianists. Many Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, university academics, trade unions, NGOs and charities also deserve the epithet. All share an irrational hatred or distrust of Israel and/or Jews.

What is disturbing about Palestinianism is that it comprises many stripes of anti-Semitism. Christian and Muslim Palestinianists believe in replacement theology in which their respective faiths supersede or make obsolete the Jewish faith. Liberal Palestinianists dislike Israel because they perceive the Jewish state as exclusivist. Socialist Palestinianists abhor Israel because it is a military power with close links to the US.

The totalizing effect of this confluence of prejudices is the fetishization of Arab revolutionary violence (“We are all Hamas now”) and the denial/falsification of the Jewish people’s historical, legal and cultural ties to the land of Israel. This approach involves the appropriation of Jewish identity. Hence, Israel is recast as ‘occupied Palestine’ and Jerusalem is al-Quds. Judea and Samaria – an ancient geographical term for the land west of River Jordan – is now the West Bank. The Palestinians are the ‘new Jews’ and the Shoah is sidelined to make way for the Nakba.

Some Palestinianists hold the strange belief that the Temple in Jerusalem never existed. Others use the Bible or the Quran to ‘prove’ that God has rejected Judaism in favor of Christianity or Islam. Some Palestinianists deny the Holocaust or are calling for another one. And of course, many Palestinianists simply use violence to inflict physical and psychological damage on Jews – not just in Israel, but also in France, Sweden, Bulgaria, the UK and elsewhere.

I respect Moshe Kempinski’s concerns about assimilation and “Hellenistic” political correctness. He is certainly right to highlight these issues. But I would offer the view that Palestinianism – not Hellenism – poses the more immediate threat to contemporary Jews. Today’s challenge is not about the survival of Judaism as a religion or cultural tradition but about the survival of Jews and of Israel. This challenge does not come from Athens but from Mecca, Tehran, Brussels and Moscow.

Or to put it another way: if the Maccabees were alive today, they would be fighting Hezbollah, not the Greeks.

 

Moshe Kempinski’s article can be read here: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/14178#.UpySp8RSixJ

Christians must reject unethical BDS

The debate continues. Should Christians boycott Israel? That is the question on the lips of the Methodist Church in Britain, which is planning to write a report about the viability of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

In July 2013, the Methodist Conference launched a consultation in order to consider how to respond to the BDS movement. The Church’s deadline for public contributions to the debate expired a few days ago but the debate goes on as Church leaders use their findings to establish the question of whether Israeli products, academics and cultural events should be shunned by British churchgoers.

This may not cause much of a stir in Israel. After all, the Methodist Church in Britain has only 300,000 members, which equates to around 0.5 per cent of the UK population. But before Israelis stifle a yawn, they might want to consider the positive effect of a Methodist rebuttal of BDS.

First of all, the Methodist Church is an important (if underappreciated) component of UK society, thanks to its historic influence on the British Left. There is an old saying that the British Labour Party “owes more to Methodism than to Marx.” There is a lot of truth in this. With the exception of the hard left, socialism in Britain is rooted in the New Testament rather than Das Kapital. What the Methodist Church decides on the issue of BDS may have a knock-on effect inside the Labour Party (and a future government).

Secondly, if the Methodist Church decides that BDS is a bad thing, then this may positively influence other churches which are either committed to the boycott or are prevaricating. Moreover, it would be a blow for Israel-bashers if an entire organization such as the Methodist Church in Britain rejects the aims and methods of BDS.

But before we get ahead of ourselves (the report won’t be ready until 2014), it is worth addressing a major concern about the consultation, which comprises fourteen questions, all of which are worded in a fashion that seems to presume Israel’s guilt.

Among critics of the consultation are NGO Monitor and the British Board of Deputies. NGO Monitor describes the questionnaire as “seriously flawed” because of the way it blames Israel for the origins and perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Moreover, says NGO Monitor, the consultation “fails to ask hard-hitting questions of Palestinian representatives regarding their role in the origins and perpetuation of the conflict,” such as anti-Semitic incitement, terrorism and rejection of the right of Jews to live in their ancient homeland.

The British Board of Deputies cites “strong concerns about the premise and the processes around this report.”

Meanwhile, Dexter Van Zile, the Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (Camera) has described the consultation as “a kangaroo court.”

In an open letter to the Methodist Church, he says: “A quick perusal of the questions indicates that the church has already concluded that Israel is solely responsible for the continued existence of the Mideast conflict, and that the Palestinians (and their Arab supporters) bear no responsibility. The only question facing your church is how Israel should be punished.”

The critics are right to be critical of the consultation process. A quick look at the Methodist Church’s website confirms this. The questions include:

“Do you support a boycott of products produced within Israeli settlements?”

“Do you support the call for a wider consumer boycott of all Israeli products?”

“If you do not support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, could you ever see yourself supporting such a call in the future? Under what circumstances?”

“Do you support an academic boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.”

“Do you support a cultural boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.”

Out of the fourteen questions, there is just one question that hints at Palestinian responsibility. But even this is couched in terms that obfuscate Arab accountability:

“What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?”

Fourteen questions and not a single one mentions the decades of rejectionism, anti-Semitism, Arab invasions and terrorism.

Indeed, one could go further and question the entire premise of the consultation. Why is Israel being singled out in the first place? Its human rights record is far superior to that of the USA (see Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel).  Next to Turkey, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as most of Africa, eastern Europe and South America, Israel is a model of virtue. It is absurd to question Israel’s ethics while its neighbors are busy slaughtering each other.

What is also worrying is the fact that the Methodist Church’s questions focus on Israel rather than on the methods and goals of the BDS movement. The BDS movement deserves a lot more scrutiny than it is currently getting. BDS is not a fair critique of Israeli policies but is a malicious propaganda tool designed to undermine the political, constitutional, economic and diplomatic foundations of the world’s only Jewish state.

According to the EU’s working definition of anti-Semitism, BDS is anti-Semitic. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is anti-Semitic. Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not demanded of any other democratic nation is anti-Semitic. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is anti-Semitic.

The Methodist Church should be aware that contemporary anti-Semitism is not restricted to racial slurs and pogroms but includes the unfair delegitimization of Israel. BDS is guilty of this and must be judged accordingly.

Those who are already opposed to Jewish self-determination and/or ignore the reprehensible role of the Arabs and Palestinians will not be persuaded by the EU working definition. But anyone with a mind for fair play and rational thought ought to understand the notion that BDS is not pro-Palestinian but simply anti-Israel. And this is the most troubling aspect of BDS. It is the fanatical hatred of Jewish statehood which is alarming.

So here’s the dilemma. The Methodist Church is questioning whether it is right to support BDS. This is a good thing because far too many Christian organizations have lent their support to the boycott movement without a proper appraisal of its aims. However, the consultation is deeply flawed. The questionnaire is inherently biased against Israel, omits the Palestinian role in the conflict and ignores the anti-Semitic character of BDS.

On the plus side, it is still possible that the Methodist Church will reject the call to boycott Israel. Yes, the questionnaire is defective and its premise is unfair, but there is always the possibility that enough people have used the consultation to explain why BDS is unethical and Israel is in the right. Plus, the fact that the consultation itself has been criticized may cause the writers of the report to rethink their prejudices and be more careful in their use of language in the future.

So I implore the writers of the report and the Methodist Church in general to listen to the complaints of NGO Monitor and other critics. And I call on them to thoroughly reject the claims of the BDS movement. I ask this not because I am part of any Israel lobby or pressure group but because I believe it is the right thing to do.