Reflecting on my last almost 3 weeks in Israel, it seems to have been for me a truly meaningful and at times momentous stay.
And this was during a period of relative calm in the north of the country , particularly in Herzliya where I was lucky to be staying. But what has affected my thinking has been the roller coaster of emotions prompted by the external reactions not just of Israel’s immediate neighbours but by its more distant friends including America during the war, so called, against Hamas.
My stay began almost three weeks into this war, with a visit to Tel Ha Shomer Hospital to visit soldiers recovering from their injuries sustained in battle. Imagine me, a sheltered man from London whose most frightening life experience may have been some mid flight turbulence on a flight I remember some years ago. And then compare this to the fears that will have affected every soldier fighting for Israel, not least those I had the privilege to meet who went through fear and experience none of us should be exposed to, facing risk of imminent death and being saved by medics and doctors ready to sacrifice their own lives in the heat of battle to save their Comrades. One soldier I met had been assessed as having less than 30 seconds to live absent the emergency tracheotomy performed in the field before his being airlifted to a place of greater safety and recovery. And to see him as I did, well he seemed so normal – but he never will be again.
And to add to this experience I was in the company of two war veterans of the Yom Kippur war, each having lost an arm in battle, one at Suez, the other in the battle for the Golan Heights. And me, a sheltered man from London whose most frightening experience was quite irrelevant on a flight from London to Switzerland, I seem to recall.
So this war becomes a real event for me, after which I go back home for lunch with the family!
And then I read more and more postings on Facebook and on email, from writers and friends around the world commenting as if we are at all able to influence the outcome of events around us, on the actions and activities of our enemies and our Governments alike, and on the statements and interventions of foreign powers which appear to have only limited capability to make any difference at all!
I see America, Israel’s greatest supporter, cosying up to Qatar, that most well developed and respected of nations, currently renowned for its support of Hamas, its ownership of Harrods and Sainsburys, also the proposed host of the FIFA World Cup in 2022, and I read of its bankrolling Hamas and arming it with weaponry, and truly I ask has America gone mad to think that Qatar can and should be the mediator between Israel and Hamas?And then I thank God for Egypt and President Sisi, that ‘democratically’ elected President who thankfully opposes Hamas as much as Israel, given its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, and I wonder why America appears to wish it to be tolerated by Israel. As a cartoon in Israel has pointed out, recently, America can oppose ISIS as a cancer that must be cut out, but Israel is expected to live with Hamas as if it is merely diabetes! Ha ha.
I read countless articles from Alan Dershowitz published by The Gatestone Institute, and pieces from Israeli commentators such as Ira Leibler in Jerusalem, and I read articles by Ari Shavit and Amos Oz who are more to the Left of the political spectrum, all agreeing by and large that Hamas must be defeated and Israel must be allowed to complete the job, and then I read a piece by a retired American General, Allen West which appeals to my equivalent leanings in calling for more involvement from the present Administration, and I post it, and find criticism from some of my more Left of Center friends in America, and in case I have offended their sensibilities, I post an apology only to find that no-one thinks I need to apologise given perhaps the different perspective I might have sitting in Israel at this time. And by the way, as I write this piece, my RedAlert notifying me of missile attacks in Israel is going off at regular intervals, 20 last night snd at least 15 this morning)telling me that citizens in Israel are again having to rush to bomb shelters in order to reach safety, and I think of family and friends living this life right now daily.
And I then have to watch the British media broadcast from Gaza showing all the ghastly horrors of war without showing any perspective from Israel, only the twisted perspective from Gaza that is so one sided, it cannot fail to capsize. According to the BBC, and The London Evening Standard, every single death in Gaza had been a civilian death, ( so not a single militant!) but that figure is now being revised marginally, and according to Sky News and at least one of their guest commentators, there hasn’t been any increase in anti Semitism in England since the war has begun. And according to these apparently professional media reporters, it is Gaza that is oppressed but only by Israel, not by Hamas and not even perhaps by Egypt, the other country helping to control what goes into Gaza, in terms of weapons, armaments and tunnel building materials.
And then so gradually the world is perhaps beginning to see what has been happening in Iraq and Syria, at the hands of the Islamic State in The Levant , as it then was, and at the hands of the Islamist State as it now is, mass murders and open graves of opposing fighters, beheadings and the hoisting of the decapitated heads on sticks for all to view, rapes, mass murder and crucifixions too of Christians and Yazidis, of Shia and Sunni innocents ( each side worshiping the same prophet ! – but still at war with each other) and commentary that the IS wants to reclaim its place in Spain which it must be said has historically had a very influential and valuable Muslim past, and further commentary that the IS will not stop until it has established its Caliphate across the Middle East, and all along I realise that the funding of these organisations come from private and sovereign funds across Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and no doubt other countries equally keen to foment chaos in the Middle East. Yet in all of this, there has been almost no words of significant protest or note from Christian leaders including the Pope, or the Archbishops of England and America, nor from political leaders who have, within their own countries,mcommunities from which Islamic Fundamentalist sympathisers and fighters are being attracted to fight in and for the IS. The UK is one of the leaders in this respect.
And unsurprisingly perhaps there has been almost nothing but a constant barrage of criticism of Israel, and Jewish people and communities throughout Europe. And the critics have included racist xenophobes like George Galloway, and politicians like Baroness Warsi none of whom have utterd a single word about ISIL, or IS or Hamas or The Muslim Brotherhood or Boko Haram, but who have words of complaint only about Israel and its policy of self defence. Only about Israel, only about Israel.
And in England, France, Germany, and Belgium to name just 4 Member States of the EU, we have seen massive increases in incidents of anti-semitism and protests by Muslim and pro Hamas and pro Islamic Jihad groups against Israel and against Jewish communities in these countries, which have highlighted the reality that anti Zionism and anti Israel protests have been in every example anti -semitism by just another name. This, in Europe some mere 75 years after WWII, and the defeat of Nazism, which few if any would have predicted, even a year ago. The genie has escaped from the bottle and the trick has been disclosed – the nazis are back but this time they are Muslim not German.
Yet, whilst the Muslim communities and their supporters in Paris, Belgium, Malmo, Luton, Berlin and elsewhere in Europe have rioted, demonstrated, committed acts of violence and spoken harsh and offensive words of racist abuse, the politicians have largely remained silent against them except in Canada where Prime Minister Harper has made his country’s position clearer than that of any other in favour of Israel’s right of self defence. Where has been the equivalent moral clarity within Europe or The USA?
And Jews in Europe have more than begun now to question their futures here, rightly so, in my opinion, when a black Palestinian flag is hoisted in place of the Scottish sattire in the city of Glasgow nailing that city’s leadership principles firmly to the mast – stand with the terrorists first, and put their position ahead even of the position of Glasgow’s own inhabitants a number of whom are themselves Jewish.
Bradford’s elected representative has gone one better attempting to declare his city constituency an Israeli free zone. Yes Mr Galloway is a bit of a joke but who amongst the non Jewish communities we live amongst has stood up for decency, for morality and for clarity of principle in this country against his extreme and self popularising Muslim radical positioning? Where are the Christians in our midst opposing his tyrannical outbursts? Where are the politicians in our midst opposing his prejudice and his racism?
And now horribly we see the execution of an American journalist James Foley, broadcast in the press whose death may yet perhaps, I speculate, prove to be the Pearl Harbor of the current war between radical Islam and the West. If so, it may prove a terrible death that provides in time some sense of purpose. But it is clear that a war that is cultural, religious, idealogical, and vicious, which needs to be won I apprehend by the West (for imagine the alternative for even a second, if you will) has begun and has advanced well beyond the phoney stage. What the so called Western powers have been doing whilst this has been allowed to evolve is itself a disgraceful commentary on today’s so called leaders. Where have they been? What have they been thinking? What have they been doing?
The West now must recognise and differentiate and uphold the values it claims to espouse, it must emphasise and exercise the distinctions between the principles of right and wrong and it must, if it is serious, openly and proudly acknowledge and affirm to its peoples, that the Jewish communities within its midst are major contributors to their society, are welcome and wanted, that Israel’s defence of its citizens against Hamas is no less than the defence that each Western country would make for its own citizens, and that any support, express or implicit, of any terrorist groups must be denounced, denied and defeated.
As for me, I have made up my mind a while ago, that in contrast to Lord Finkelstein, I do not have confidence that as a Jew I will always live comfortably in England. I prefer to be reasonably sure that I can always engage with my neighbours and my people in moral, intellectual and principled comfort. I prefer not to have to worry about demonstrations, media bias and general hatred against what I might wish to stand for, merely because I am a Jew, and that simply put is important for me.
This then is the result of my most recent stay in Israel where I experienced a true sense of belonging, and a true sense of being at home. Sorry Europe, and sorrier still, (Great?) Britain.