Richard Friedman
Jewish Federation director, Journalist

British Buy Anti-Israel Hogwash As World Turns Upside Down

An unsettling article appeared on the Times Of Israel website a few days ago. It was headlined, “Britons loathe Israel more than Iran, survey finds: Only North Korea is regarded more unfavorable study shows; compilers note poll was taken in August, at height of war with Hamas.” All who care about Israel, Western interests and resisting terror ought to take heed. The story reflects the continuation of a dangerous and insidious trend designed to isolate the world’s only Jewish state and Middle East’s only authentic democracy.

Reported the Times Of Israel: “Britons feel more ‘unfavorable’ to Israel than any other country worldwide except North Korea, a survey found. The survey — taken in August and published recently by Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs — showed a massive surge in negative attitudes toward Israel since the previous such study, two years earlier. Thirty-five percent of Britons said they ‘feel especially unfavorable towards’ Israel in the 2014 survey, compared to 17% in 2012.” Added the story, “Israel is regarded more unfavorably by Britons than Iran…only North Korea fares worse.” Reflecting on the dramatic rise in hostility toward Israel, the pollsters noted that, “The survey was conducted in August 2014 at a time when…Israel was engaged in a military operation in Gaza against Hamas that caused large numbers of civilian casualties.”

These results are disturbing and hand the terrorist group Hamas and all other Islamic terror groups who seek Israel’s destruction a victory. By continually attacking Israeli population centers in the southern part of the country with deadly rockets, and leaving Israel with no alternative but to respond, civilian casualties in Gaza were inevitable despite the best efforts of the Israel Defense Forces to avoid them. Moreover, these poll results reflect the demonizing of Israel and its army ever since last summer’s conflict, unfair attacks on Israel that ignore what really happened.

Israel went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, a difficult feat considering that many of the rocket installations, which needed to be destroyed, were deliberately planted in civilian areas. In fact, last November, US Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to limit civilian casualties during the conflict and that the Pentagon had sent a team to study the operation, according to Reuters. It’s also worth noting in any discussion of casualties stemming from last summer’s effort by Israel to put an end to the rocket fire against its civilians, that there would be thousands of dead Israelis, if not more, if Israel hadn’t developed a sophisticated network of warnings and security measures to protect its civilian population. As Margaret Kartus Duvdevani, a Birmingham native who has lived in Israel near the Gaza Strip for 35 years, continues to point out, the terrorists from Gaza, unlike the Israel Defense Forces, deliberately try to kill as many civilians as possible. And that has included her, her husband and their family.

The world is turning upside down. There is no way around confronting this startling reality. We, as Jews, saw it happen in the 1930s and it is happening again. Jews and now the Jewish state are being vilified at every turn and subjected to the “big lie” strategy that helped launch Adolph Hitler’s genocidal war against the Jewish people. People say that today is different; that European governments are on the side of the Jews. This may be different, thankfully, but what’s not different is that Jews and the West in general are facing an enemy — radical Islam — which is as dangerous, fanatical and determined as the Nazis were as they ascended to power. For the British people to be so misguided in their understanding and perceptions of Israel, is a dangerous development that should cause anxiety in all of us, especially given the fact that Britain is a chief ally of the US.

What a study such as this one illustrates is that organizations such as The Birmingham Jewish Federation must remain strong, determined and focused to meet these growing challenges. We at the Federation are committed to doing this, and we are in the process of developing new plans and strategies to further our ability to tell Israel’s story fairly, combat growing anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere, and motivate our elected officials and other public opinion leaders to do more to combat radical Islam. We thank those who support our efforts by contributing to our Federation’s yearly fundraising campaign. These dollars provide the organizational structure, staffing and funding needed to address these urgent issues.

About the Author
Richard Friedman is Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation in Alabama. He also is a well-known Alabama journalist.