British Jews must bring views on Israel-Palestine into the 21st century

A sign points to Israeli tourists sites and activities in the Jewish settlement Shilo, West Bank. (Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI via Jewish News)
A sign points to Israeli tourists sites and activities in the Jewish settlement Shilo, West Bank. (Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI via Jewish News)

For those of us in the British-Jewish community who care about Israel’s future and the-viability of the two state solution, the formation of yet another Netanyahu-led Government after a year of political deadlock and three elections, should be a sharp wake-up call.

Gantz’s capitulation, and the awful decision by what remains of Labor to go into coalition with Likud and their right-wing partners, gives a green light to formal annexation and should concern everyone with any interest in Israel’s long-term security and very existence as a democratic state.

The seriousness of what that could mean cannot be overstated. With the blessing of the Trump administration, Netanyahu has gone further in recent years than any Israeli Prime Minister before him, ripping up the status quo on settlement construction and agreements with the Palestinians. He will now have an electoral mandate to move ever closer to full or partial annexation of the West Bank.

It is shocking to think that the Labor Party would agree to join such a right-wing administration, whatever shreds of credibility they had left have now evaporated. As progressive Jews in the diaspora, we must condemn this decision in the strongest terms – as the Jewish Labour Movement has done.

More widely, it is no longer good enough for British Jews who care about Israel’s future to normalise the occupation and pretend that when it comes to Israel, it’s ‘business as usual’.

We must loudly call out the occupation for what it is, brutal and inhumane. We must call out our communal representative bodies when they issue bland statements on Israel and Palestine that ignore the facts on the ground, and we must lead the way in calling on the British Government to stop hiding behind renewed commitments to a two-state solution that are grounded in a political reality that no longer exists.

Those who say they support a two-state solution, whilst repeating the false mantra about Israel being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ are ignoring the lived reality of millions of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule.

Issues such as annexation are no longer the pipe dreams of Israel’s most fervent settlers, they have become mainstream and we need to be honest about what they mean.

The occupation as it exists today is already something that shames Israel, making a laughing stock of the mantra that the country should have been a ‘light unto the nations’.

What would annexation mean? Would the Palestinians who suddenly found themselves inside Israel be able to vote? Send their children to Israeli schools? Use Israeli hospitals? If not, then there’s a word for a society which segregates people in such a way.

In the weeks and months to come, organisations such as the New Israel Fund and Yachad will become more and more important. It’s possible, indeed necessary, for the British Jewish community to bring its views on Israel and Palestine into the 21st century and in line with what is actually happening.

That’s exactly what I will be doing, and I would urge all in the Jewish community who care about Israel to renew their commitment to working towards making it a truly democratic and equal state.



About the Author
Jack Mayorcas is the Co-London Regional Secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement and works in Parliament.