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.

Why Europe needs Israel

Zeev Elkin, Israel’s deputy foreign minister is worried that the chasm between the EU and Israel will continue to grow if there is no solution to the new EU criteria concerning Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

I think Elkin is worrying too much. Yes, Israel is heavily dependent on trading agreements with Europe, but it’s just as true to say that Europe is dependent on Israel. Why? For the simple reason that Europe must become a dynamic knowledge economy if it is to compete with Asia and the US, and the best way to achieve this is for the EU to work closely with its neighbor and economic partner, Israel.

After all, when it comes to knowledge-based industries, Israel is one of the most competitive economies on the planet thanks to its remarkable capacity for innovation. Indeed, it is no secret that Israel is a world-leader in the hi-tech and start-up sectors. Israel’s remarkable laboratories and scientific institutes are the envy of the world and a magnet for international investment.

Let’s look at the facts. Israel boasts around 4,000 technology start-ups, which is more than any other country outside the US. Not surprisingly, half of Israel’s exports are of the hi-tech variety. Israel leads the world in patents for medical equipment and is a supplier of inexpensive but crucial medicines to Europe (such as Copaxone for multiple sclerosis and Actos for type 2 diabetes).  And it has attracted the most venture capital investment per capita in the world, 30 times more than Europe.

In the years and decades to come, Israeli engineers, computer scientists, inventors, chemists and biologists will drive not only Israel’s economy but will provide benefits to Europe and the world at large. The UK for example is quietly building solid trade links with Israel amid talk of a stronger partnership between British and Israeli companies in the areas of innovation, hi-tech and science. (The fact that a young and tiny country like Israel is well ahead of the UK in terms of research and development speaks volumes about the lackluster nature of British industry.)

If Europe wants to compete with China and the US in the areas of medical technology, homeland security, communications and aviation, then it must cooperate with Israel and jettison its pointless obsession with Palestinian Arabism. On one level, the EU is well aware of this. This is why Israel was the first non-European country to be associated to the EU’s Research and Technical Development program. It is also why the EU wants Israel involved in the Horizon 2020 program.

But there is a problem. In July the EU issued guidelines (due to come into effect next January) that say any agreement between the EU and Israel must include a clause in which Israel relinquishes its claim over East Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria. This is unacceptable to Israel and has jeopardized Israel’s involvement in Horizon 2020, the EU’s flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness.

Antonio Tajani, the European Commission’s vice president for enterprise and industry, has pledged to strengthen industrial cooperation between the EU and Israel. Indeed, the whole point of his recent two-day mission to Israel was to procure Israel’s cooperation in the areas of space technology, communications and water technology. The implication is that without Israeli input, EU industry will lag behind the rest of the world.

Tajani specifically wants Israel to sign the Horizon 2020 agreement because Europe needs Israel’s cooperation in the areas of job creation and scientific research. In other words, Israel’s involvement in the flagship scheme would not only benefit the Jewish state, it would boost prosperity in Europe.

This is echoed by Elmar Brok, a German Christian Democrat politician and foreign policy adviser to Angela Merkel. He has publicly stated that Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020 is important to Europe.

“I think it is a European interest. It would be stupid of us if we do not continue this cooperation,” he told the Jerusalem Post, before adding: “Because it is very much to our advantage.”

The deadline to sign Horizon 2020 is the end of November, which is why the EU is trying desperately to reach a compromise solution in the coming weeks.

Without Israel, Europe is less competitive. And in the aftermath of a global recession and a continuing Eurozone crisis, a return to economic competitiveness is vital for the well-being of Europe and the rest of the world. The EU leadership must be realistic and abandon the insane boycott of Judea and Samaria and concentrate instead on building solid relations with the world’s leading innovator, Israel.

 

 

Celebrating Dylan’s Zionist anthem

On October 27, it will be exactly 30 years since Bob Dylan unveiled his brilliant up-tempo Zionist anthem, the ironically-titled “Neighborhood Bully” on his Infidels album.

Probably written during the 1982 Lebanon War and recorded in the spring of 1983, “Neighborhood Bully” is a passionate defense of Israel and her foreign policies. I have it on good authority that it is a favorite among Dylan fans in Judea and Samaria.

For those who are not familiar with the song, do not be misled by the title. The phrase “neighborhood bully” is an ironic allusion to the accusation that Israel is an aggressor. The real bully, says Dylan, is the international community which has a “noose” around Israel’s neck. Another bully is Islamism, the ideology of “maniacs” who believe they have a “license to kill” Jews. The song enables Dylan to take a swipe at anti-Semites who condemn Israel for simply “being alive” and he castigates so-called pacifists in the West who expect Israel to simply “lie down and die when his door is kicked in.” He also celebrates Israel’s remarkable contribution to medical science in which “sickness and disease” are “turned into health” but he laments the fact that Israel’s achievements are overshadowed by anti-Semitism.

“Neighborhood Bully” is also something of a Jewish history lesson. Within 11 verses, Dylan refers to the descent into Egypt, the Babylonian exile, the “trampling” of holy books by the Nazis and the Six-Day War. There is a clever reference to the fierce battles that took place in late 1947 and early 1948 when the Yishuv/Israel fought the Arabs using “obsolete weapons.” And there is a superb and acerbic rebuttal of the United Nations which condemned Israel’s bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981:

He destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad:

The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad.

What is particularly intriguing about the song is that Dylan does not differentiate between the State of Israel, the ancient Israelites or the Jews driven out by the Romans in 70 CE. It’s as if the Book of Genesis, the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the modern-day Islamic terrorist threat are happening at the same time to the same people.

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land

He’s wandered the earth an exiled man

Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn

He’s always on trial for just being born

He’s the neighborhood bully.

But Dylan takes this poetic conceit even further. As well as conflating time and space, Dylan makes this personal – literally. The Jews – whenever and wherever they are – are bound together so tightly that they are “one man.” This man, who was exiled from Judea by the Roman Army, is now told that he doesn’t belong anywhere, not even in his historic homeland:

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man

His enemies say he’s on their land

They got him outnumbered about a million to one

He got no place to escape to, no place to run.

This single individual or corporate personality can perhaps be interpreted as the third patriarch of the Jewish people: Jacob, ancestor of the Israelites. According to Jewish tradition, Jacob experiences many personal struggles both in the land of Israel and out of it, which foreshadow the trials and misfortunes of the Jewish people as they fight for their dignity and their inheritance.

But, argues Dylan, the Jewish people have essentially triumphed over history by returning to Eretz Israel, even if the rest of the world is hostile to that fact. “Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone,” he sings. Egypt, Rome and Babylon have all perished but the Jewish people live on and have made “a garden of paradise in the desert sand.” But will Israel survive, he asks, if anti-Semitism and terrorism continue to undermine the morale and security of the Jewish people?

In the end, the answer is “Yes.” Israel will survive because it is a miraculous nation. The enigmatic final verse hints at Israel’s closeness to G-d. Israel is “standing on the hill”. Not just any hill, but the hill, which is probably an allusion to the Temple Mount, the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest and where G-d gathered the dust used to create Adam. It is also the place where the Third Temple will be built, thus ushering in the Messianic era. As it says in Isaiah 2:2:

And it shall be at the end of the days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it.

II

Dylan’s paean to Zionism surprised (and angered) many of his fans, but the song was really a natural outflowing of his Jewish heritage and his love for Israel. Dylan considered moving to a kibbutz in the early 1970s and he has made several trips to Israel, both personal and professional.

According to Meir Kahane, the American-Israeli rabbi whose ultra-nationalist views about Israel outraged many liberals, Dylan attended several meetings of the Jewish Defense League in the 1970s.  And in a 1971 interview with Time Magazine, Dylan made positive comments about Kahane. “He’s a really sincere guy,” said Dylan. “He’s really put it all together.”

Dylan converted to born-again Christianity in the late 1970s but he never forgot his Jewish roots and his songs continue to be soaked in imagery from the Tanakh. In the early 1980s, it was alleged that Dylan had returned to Judaism. Indeed, he was rumored to be studying with Chabad Lubavitch and had recorded an (unreleased) album of Hassidic songs. Even today, Dylan refuses to clarify his religious beliefs. My own view is that he considers himself to be a type of Messianic Jew, i.e. a Jew who believes Jesus is the messiah but retains many of the cultural practices and symbols of Judaism.

It is even harder to determine whether Dylan still stands by the sentiments expressed in “Neighborhood Bully.” At one point in his career he seemed to distance himself from the song but Dylan has always been enigmatic and enjoys ridiculing journalists who question him about the messages in his music. It’s also worth noting that he has defied the BDS movement by playing in Israel.

Whatever his political views, “Neighborhood Bully” remains an authentic expression of one man’s outrage over the way Israel and the Jewish people are slandered by the press, the public and politicians.

And for the record, it is one of my favorite (and most-played) Dylan songs.

 

Ukip not fit for public office

Concerned by the prevailing anti-Israeli sentiment in British and European politics, some British Jews are wondering whether to vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), a right-wing, anti-immigration, anti-EU party. As things stand, Ukip does not have any representatives in the House of Commons but it does have 73 seats in the European Parliament, three members in the House of Lords and one seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

At first glance, the party is attractive to Jewish voters who are fed up with the three main political parties in the UK. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are all tarnished by the inclusion of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic members. And all three parties are broadly pro-EU at a time when the EU is pushing ahead with a spate of anti-Israel measures designed to economically isolate the Jews of Judea and Samaria.

So supporting a party that is seemingly opposed to the political machinations of Westminster and Brussels is attractive to many Jews. But the truth is Ukip comprises an awful lot of bigots, sexists, homophobes, racists and anti-Semites.

Earlier this year, Anna-Marie Crampton, who had been due to stand local elections, posted an anti-Semitic message on Facebook profile.  According to Crampton, the Second World War had been “engineered by the Zionist Jews,” adding: “Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers.”

Around the same time, a Ukip supporter on Twitter claimed that Israel has nuclear weapons because “Jews are all powerful in [the] US.”

In recent days, more ugly revelations about Ukip have emerged. According to a report by Channel 4 News, Ukip leader Nigel Farage sang Hitler Youth songs and used racist and fascist language as a 17-year-old at Dulwich College.

A letter written in June 1981 by English teacher Chloe Deakin reveals how she tried to persuade the master of Farage’s college to reconsider the decision to appoint Farage as a prefect.

An extract from the letter reads: “Another colleague, who teaches the boy, described his publicly professed racist and neo-fascist views; and he cited a particular incident in which Farage was so offensive to a boy in his set, that he had to be removed from the lesson.”

Today, another prominent Ukip member, Godfrey Bloom MEP, has been publicly shamed after referring to a room of female delegates as “sluts,” shortly before whacking a Channel 4 News journalist over the head with a copy of the Ukip manifesto.

This is the same Godfrey Bloom who said Britain should not send aid to “bongo bongo land,” a derogatory term denoting Africans and Asians.

It is clear from the comments and behavior of Ukip members that the party is stuck in the 1950s. Its outdated and offensive remarks about women, foreigners and Jews are unacceptable and unbecoming of a British political party with national aspirations.

Anyone – Jew or non-Jew – may want to think twice before voting for this unpleasant bunch of amateurs.

Germany’s moral imperative

In an interview published in the most recent edition of Jewish Voice from Germany, Angela Merkel says Israel’s security is part of Germany’s “national ethos, our raison d’être.” This echoes her 2008 speech to the Knesset when she spoke of Germany’s “Holocaust shame” and asserted her country’s support for the Jewish state.

The German chancellor’s comments are very welcome but can Germany really uphold its commitment to Israel? If domestic opinion is anything to go by, probably not. According to a BBC World Service Poll conducted this year, a staggering 67% of Germans say they dislike Israel.  And a survey conducted on behalf of Stern magazine shows that around two-thirds of Germans believe their county has no special obligations to the Jewish state, with many denouncing Israel as a country that pursues its interests “without consideration for other nations.”

Germany’s feelings about Israel are inescapably tied to memories of Nazism and the desire to close the book on the past. But it would be terrible if the Holocaust ever loses its universal resonance. The Shoah is a potent reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. More specifically it is a reminder of what Europe is capable of when it turns its back on the Jewish people.

If the German people are suffering from a collective case of Holocaust amnesia, then it is hardly surprising that negative attitudes towards Israel are growing. This may explain why in the past few years, anti-Zionism has become a socially acceptable way of expressing anti-Semitism in Germany on both the Left and the Right. Already Germany has distanced itself from Israel by abstaining from (rather than opposing) a UN vote approving the de facto recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Another problem that could undermine Israeli-German relations is the Islamification of Europe. By Merkel’s own admission, Germany is well on its way to becoming an Islamic stronghold. “Our country is going to carry on changing,” she told a newspaper in 2010. “Mosques, for example, are going to be a more prominent part of our cities than they were before.”

How can Merkel reconcile the Islamification of Germany with Israel’s security? She can’t.

Islam is the largest minority religion in Germany, which has over 3 million citizens of Turkish-Muslim origin, representing 4% of the population. There are also between 159,000 and 200,000 Palestinian Arabs in Germany. By comparison, there are a mere 119,000 German Jews and this figure is projected to fall to 108,000 by 2020.

A rapidly growing Muslim population and a declining Jewish community mean that future German politicians will ignore the Jews and pander to anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic Muslims. I won’t be surprised if a left-wing party in Germany promises to upgrade relations with the Palestinians in order to win over the Turkish vote.

What would happen if Germany reneged on its support for Israel? Practically speaking, nothing much. But it would be a blow to the conscience of the world. Because of its crimes against the Jewish people in the 1930s and 1940s, Germany has a special moral imperative to protect and support Israel in good times and bad. This means distancing itself from the Palestinian cause and offering strong diplomatic support for the Jewish state at the UN and in the EU. If Germany abandons its support for Israel, then it would send out a message that the guilt of the Holocaust is finally assuaged. It would be a green light to neo-Nazis, the Far Left and Islamofascists across Europe to act with impunity against the Jews.

Already there are signs that things are going awry. Newspapers in Germany and Britain demonize the State of Israel by printing anti-Semitic cartoons.  Muslim thugs routinely harass and assault Jews in Toulouse and Malmo. Left-wing politicians in the EU parliament lend their support to Hamas. Equally vile are the Far Right bigots in Greece and Hungary who demonize Jews, gypsies and Muslims on the grounds of race.

We cannot escape the fact that there is a wide seam of intolerance in Europe. And this intolerance – which found its most gruesome expression in the 7/7 and Madrid bombings, as well as the recent beheading of a British soldier – is incompatible with the values of democracy, free speech and sanctity of human life.

The bewildering rise in terrorism, street protests, radicalism and bigotry in modern Europe recalls the shrill and shallow politicking of the 1930s. Contempt for “the other” (usually Jews) is as commonplace now as it was in fascist Germany. The media and the megaphone are the political tools of Palestinianists and Nazis alike. The threat of violence (real and imaginary) is used to silence the critics who are denounced as Zionists or American puppets. Musicians are suppressed because of their allegiance to the Jewish people. Contemporary jazz musician Eric Herrera was recently banned from playing the Fiesta Major Alternativa because he was photographed in Barcelona attending an event marking Israel’s 65th anniversary. How is this different from the Nazi prohibition of Jewish composers like Arnold Schoenberg? In short, there is no difference at all.

Europeans are seemingly powerless to resist the return of fascism. Wallowing in post-colonial guilt and cultural relativism, Europe has spectacularly failed to address the problem of resurgent anti-Semitism, probably because it so captivated by the absurd narrative of the Palestinian underdog.

As things stand, the EU is a hollow entity. It is a superstructure without a soul. The Nazis mocked the moral code found in the Hebrew Scriptures, while today’s Europe discards the ethical system bequeathed by the Jews via the Christians. Indeed, the EU is embarrassed by its Christian heritage but it is willing to tolerate Islam. It welcomes Muslims but is unable to integrate them into European society. It condemns racism but turns a blind eye to anti-Semitism. It prides itself on protecting minorities but routinely ignores Jewish voices.

The EU needs something to fill the void. If there was ever such a thing as Judeo-Christian culture, it turned to ashes in the crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Europe has been running on empty ever since the end of the Second World War and if it’s not careful the void will be filled by the twin evils of neo-Nazism and radical Islam. And in their wake the pestilences of anti-Semitism, racism, terrorism, homophobia and sexism will ravage the continent.

A fascist Europe poses a danger to everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike.