The former Home Office Minister Sayeeda Warsi claims that British Jews who go to fight for the IDF should be treated in the same way as British Muslims going off to fight for ISIS.
I left the UK to join the IDF when I was 21 and was inducted at the age of 22. The Israelis sent me to fight threats to Israel. They are facing attacks on their own soil, in their own cities and in their own homes. When I left for Israel the British Army had just been sent to Sierra Leone. It was pretty clear which homeland needed defending more.
Baroness Warsi was a member of David Cameron’s cabinet until she resigned in 2014 as a protest to ongoing British support for Israel. In an interview with the Middle East Eye she spoke about how British law doesn’t allow a British national to be prosecuted for service in a foreign army saying;
“The only reason we allow the loophole to exist is because of the IDF, because we are not brave enough to say if you hold British citizenship, you make a choice. You fight for our state only.”
Warsi’s argument is twofold, that it’s only because of the Jews that no one is prosecuted for serving in a foreign army and that Muslims are being arrested for fighting for ISIS while Jews are free to go and fight for Israel. This argument is abhorrent. It is also wrong on both counts.
Britons have a proud tradition of serving in foreign militaries for causes that are close to them. Brits fought against communist insurgencies as part of the Omani and Malayan armed forces during the Cold War and have joined other militaries around the world for a whole range of reasons. In fact the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the Foreign Legion is called Alex Rowe and hails from Newcastle!
And this is an arrangement that works both ways. There are plenty of citizens from foreign countries serving in the UK military. The beloved Gurkas hail from Nepal and many citizens from commonwealth countries serve in the British military with pride and are welcomed with open arms. Baroness Warsi is quick to demand from the Jews that they refuse to fight for Israel would she also be happy to condemn the Gurkas risking life and limb for the UK on the same point of principle? Would she condemn Alex Rowe who joined the French Foreign Legion after being told by the British Army that he was medically unfit to serve?
Furthermore ‘Muslims’ aren’t going and fighting for ISIS. Individual Muslims who find the idea of chopping off someone’s head (probably a fellow Muslim’s) and blowing themselves up in the name of Islam are. It’s perfectly fitting that such people are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Jews heading out to Israel to defend the only Jewish state are deserving of praise not prosecution. In a region where the strongest and most brutal tend to amass the most power it is the Jewish state that has continually served as an example to others in the region on what democracy looks like.
Time after time British fringe politicians have attempted to use the Jewish connection to Israel as a stick to beat the community with. Ken Livingstone, the man Londoners chose as their mayor, twice, is still waiting to find out whether he is guilty of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute by his constant comments about Jews, Nazis and Israel. Warsi’s comments serve only to show that this kind of attitude exists among prominent politicians on both sides of the House of Commons, in all political parties. It should be stamped out.