Peter John Beyfus

The Future May Not Be Rosy, But Red

Sir Keir Starmer’s landslide victory on the 5th of July may have been greeted by many as welcome news, but by others with a sense of trepidation. The turnout in the British 2024 General Election was not anything to be complacent about: just 60% of the electorate bothered to cast their votes; and Labour enjoyed a meagre 34% of the votes but enjoyed a handsome reward of 412 seats. One may take issue with the first past the post system of electing governments, levelling the charge it does not represent a true democracy, but there is little prospect of it changing to PR, when both main parties favour the current method of election that guarantees success for one or the other. But more important than debates about whether first past the post or PR is the fairer system, what does a Labour Government hold for the Jewish community of Britain?

The short answer is there is cause for  concern. Those in the Labour Party who have expressed repeated antisemitic tropes in the past and those who wish to condemn Israel for the prosecution of a war against acknowledged terrorists organisations have not disappeared into the ether: they are very much alive and kicking!  It is only a matter of time that elements in the Labour Party will be calling on the Government to add to the isolation of Israel by adopting BDS. The Attorney General, Richard Hermer, has effectively given the green light for councils to boycott Israel. Although Hermer has criticised, in the past, the proposed BDS legislation, there is every possibility that the bill will be redrafted and become part of Britain’s foreign policy, shunning any trade or investment opportunities with Israel. The next step will be to turn on the Jewish community for its tacit or fulsome support for Israel’s right to exist.

With the ominous presence of hard-left activists in the Labour Party and a significant influence being exerted by Muslim Party members and MPs, it is highly likely there will be a further upsurge in antisemitic incidents, that have skyrocket since 7 October last year. Sir Keir will, no doubt, wish to distance himself from this trend, but he will not be able to withstand increasing pressure from the hard-left. David Lammy, as Foreign Secretary,  is not good news for the British Jewish community. I predict he will become increasingly vociferous in calling for an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and will lean toward support for those accusing Israel of human rights violations and genocide: both of which have not been established by an impartial third party. 

There is still a fair measure of good will toward the Jewish people and  Israel  among the British population. It is imperative organisations like the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Chief Rabbi and other Jewish religious bodies speak out against any move to boycott Israel. The case has to be put why Israel is fighting this war, one she did not invite, and how the IDF has done its upmost to avoid civilian casualties. To counter the misinformation that is disseminated by not just social media is a daunting task. Modern youth has no conception of what urban warfare is like; most people in the West have not experienced war directly and certainly not the type of war the IDF is fighting. 

I have stated it before, Israel needs Diaspora Jewry and Jews living outside Eretz Israel need to support a country founded on millennia of suffering and which abides by democratic principles and justice. If Israel should fail to resist its many enemies, it will be a very sad day for international Jewry, and, indeed, the free world. Israel, unlike its immediate neighbours, is a democracy, governed by the rule of law, whose creation and right to exist was endorsed by the UN. It has endeavoured during its 76 years of tortuous existence to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours. Progress has been made to normalise relations with a number of formally unfriendly Middle Eastern countries, notably Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The unprovoked attack by Hamas on 7 October 2023 put an imminent accord between Saudi Arabia and Israel on hold; surely calculated to smash any further advance in recognition of Israel by erstwhile enemies. One should remain optimistic that Saudi Arabia will acknowledge, in the near future, Israel’s legitimate statehood, something Saudis and Israelis have been working on for many years 

Long-term occupation of Gaza is not a political option. Militarily the focus is on the  destruction or degradation of Hamas and its allies. Once that objective has been achieved, the IDF must evacuate Gaza, but before doing so ensure a robust security fence is erected to afford maximum protection for Israeli settlements close to Gaza. Whether meaningful negotiation about the future of Gaza can be entered into with the PLO remains pure guesswork; the only credible Palestinians voice, and that is stretching a point, is the PLO, and whether a genuine two-state solution to this intractable problem can be reached, ultimately, rests with the representatives of the Palestinians. 

Israel is facing an existential threat to its survival as the only Jewish State. Militarily she is sufficiently sophisticated to deal with attacks from terrorists and the armies of her immediate neighbours, but she is not so lucky in prosecuting the propaganda war. Our television screens are full of negative reportage and social media fuels the anti-Israeli rhetoric. She is cast as an imperialist colony, as an apartheid state, as pursuing a policy of genocide against the Palestinians. She is constantly accused of crimes she has not committed, and the media, notably the BBC, has been forced, on an alarming number of occasions, to correct its coverage of alleged Israeli violations  in Gaza.  The greatest challenge facing Israel and Jews worldwide is how to counter these false accusations. When up against a public that lives on sound bites, sentimentality, ignorance and misinformation, there appears little that can be done. However, there are, thankfully, intelligent, well-informed, commentators, like Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Jake Wallis Simons and Richard Kemp, who consistently take issue with the falsehoods pumped out by both mainstream and social media. We need more advocates for Israel to present the alternative narrative to the prejudicial presentation we are bombarded with every day. The positives are known to those who are prepared to look: Israel is a democratic state; it has a judicial system, second to none; Palestinians enjoy equal citizenship with Jews and are represented in the Knesset; many would choose to remain Israeli citizens than live in an Arab country or, indeed, in their own state, should that ever be achieved. That says everything and nails the lie about discrimination against Palestinians. The problem here is the above points are based on reason, and that, sadly, is not how the world works today!

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.
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