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Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Fighting anti-Israelism in the U.K.

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When he was ambassador to Britain – a post that he left earlier this year in order to head Israel’s delegation to the United Nations – Ron Prosor expressed his dismay that “the core British values of fairness, decency, and common sense” were “under threat” when it came to Israel.

Writing in the Telegraph (June 10, 2008), he lamented that “Israel faces an intensified campaign of delegitimization, demonization and double standards.” Britain, he feared had “become a hotbed of radical anti-Israeli views and a haven for disingenuous calls for a ‘one-state solution’, a euphemistic name for a movement advocating Israel’s destruction.”

Prosor’s concerns are, of course, well founded and echo the views of so many who have drawn attention to the increasingly hostile climate that Israel – and Jews in general – need to contend with, not only in Britain, but throughout Europe. Recently, in the Jerusalem Post (June 8, 2011), columnist Isi Leibler referred to “the pathological antisemitic hatred sweeping Europe.” The mix of what he describes as “rampant anti-Israelism” with “the revival of classical antsemitism” has, in his opinion, created an environment for the Jews of Europe that may be “even worse than the 1930s during the heyday of Nazi propaganda.”

Part of the problem, in Leibler’s view, is that “in many communities the Jewish leaders are in a state of denial, insisting that the levels of antisemitism are wildly exaggerated, arguing that the principal issue of contention is the Jewish state and that one must distinguish between the demonization and delegitimization of Israel and Jew hatred.”

And while there is more than ample evidence that Leibler’s impressions of European Jewry are accurate, there are fortunately still instances where the resolute voices of activism and urgency are able to filter through the ether of appeasement and complacency.

Such voices were heard in mid-May at a convention in London, sponsored by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). Under the banner of “we believe in Israel,” and launched with the pledge that “we will not be seen as the generation who did not do enough,” the meeting attracted 1,500 delegates, the largest attendance ever at an Israel advocacy conference in Britain.

The list of (almost 100) speakers included Jewish Agency for Israel chair Natan Sharansky; Israel’s minister of education, Gideon Sa’ar; Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould; the former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp; politicians from both the British House of Commons and House of Lords; academics; journalists, and religious and community leaders. Notably, 20 per cent of the participants were of student age.

At a time when anti-Israel sentiment in Britain is becoming ever more strident and uncompromising, it’s especially encouraging that the BICOM conference was so successful. The message may at last be percolating that it’s long overdue that the Jewish collective gets off its knees and begins to stand up to those who, through word and action, seek to destroy the State of Israel.

And what better place to start than in Britain, which, through its post-colonial geographic machinations in the aftermath of World War II, created the template for most of the conflict in the Middle East in the first place.

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