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Hatred in Britain

Hatred in Britain

Britain is a hotbed of radical anti-Israeli sentiment.

by Ron Prosor

Throughout its modern history, Britain has prided itself on its liberal society, which cherishes human rights and values civil liberties.

That pride was well founded, both in the international arena, when Britain stood alone in Europe facing the dark forces of the Third Reich, and in the domestic field, when Britain led the way in establishing a national health service, granting women the right to vote and protecting the basic social rights of the working class.

During a previous posting to Britain, I developed a keen admiration of this record, and of the core British values of fairness, decency and common sense.

Since returning to these shores as Israel's ambassador last November, however, I have been dismayed to find that, as far as Israel is concerned, these values are under threat.

Fairness is all too frequently absent in a debate that has been hijacked by extremists.

Israel faces an intensified campaign of delegitimisation, demonisation and double standards. Britain has become a hotbed for radical anti-Israeli views and a haven for disingenuous calls for a "one-state solution", a euphemistic name for a movement advocating Israel's destruction.

No other country in the world is constantly forced to justify its own existence.

Those who propagate this notion distort Israel's past while categorically denying Israel's right to exist as a liberal Jewish-democratic state. No other country in the world is constantly forced to justify its own existence.

At the end of last month, members of the University and College Union (UCU) passed a motion that in effect called for a boycott of the Israeli academia.

The concept of an academic boycott is a ludicrous oxymoron, undermining the democratic principles of free speech and free debate. Academics, who are supposedly society's guardians of knowledge, objectivity and informed debate, have seen their union held hostage by radical factions, armed with political agendas and personal interests.

British academia has built its reputation on freedom of expression and the pluralistic exchange of ideas. Alarmingly, these values are under threat in an institution that should be safeguarding them.

The boycott campaign, which has been gathering force since 2002, is a license to harass, humiliate and victimise purely on grounds of nationality.

In recent years, cases of discrimination have included two Israeli academics being ousted from the editorial board of a journal and an Israeli postgraduate who was refused doctoral supervision because he had served in the Israeli army.

Over-simplifications, half-truths and lies have been swallowed as reality and disseminated as truth. Israel has been cast as a pantomime villain. A climate of hatred is fomented on campuses. The complexities of the situation are overlooked, as are the responsibilities of other actors in the region.

The pattern is exacerbated when coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is routinely tainted with bias and a surprising lack of context.

Double standards are rife. Israel's military reaction to the attacks it faces is given in-depth, microscopic coverage. Yet the attacks to which Israel is responding are often ignored. Terror attacks, ambushes, suicide bombings, the constant barrage of rockets being fired on Israeli citizens are frequently disregarded.

The average British citizen is painfully unaware that, since Hamas seized control of Gaza last year, 1,400 rockets and 1,500 mortar bombs have landed on Israeli soil.

The average British citizen is painfully unaware that, since Hamas seized control of Gaza last year, 1,400 rockets and 1,500 mortar bombs have landed on Israeli soil. No government in the world would tolerate such a sustained attack without taking action.

Israel is a democracy under fire, but when this context is neglected, it clears a path for the unhealthy, unacceptable demonisation of Israel. While Israel faces many challenges, it is still the only functioning democracy in the region, and the only state in the area that offers minorities full civil equality and freedom of speech.One of my greatest sources of pride is the open discourse conducted within my country. Critical debate thrives and Israelis scrutinise every aspect of our policies. We are not afraid of criticism.

I am concerned, however, that in Britain the most extreme elements of the debate have been allowed to hijack the mainstream. Those who share the values on which British democracy is built must say "no" - no to the delegitimisation of Israel, no to the demonisation of Israel and no to the double standards to which Israel is subjected.

I implore the British public to prevent the radical fringe from monopolising British-Israeli discourse. It is vital that British values of fair play and even-handedness are brought to the debate. The time has come for the silent majority to speak up and say "yes"; yes to context, yes to democracy and yes to an understanding of the challenges Israel faces as a democracy under fire.

This article originally appeared in the

June 14, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 42

(42) Mike Lampard, January 9, 2011 8:16 PM

I greatly regret the truth of what you are saying.

Sadly, Mr. Ambassador, you are right in the main. I respond as one who is vehemently PRO Israel and agree that the extremists have high-jacked main stream opinion. There are 2 issues here: one: the standard of journalistic integrity has markedly deteriorated in the last 10 years. This has resulted in poorly researched articles in our so-call intellectual newspapers who pride themselves on a liberal ethos. Secondly, we have had a government who is 'left-wing/liberal in outlook with legislation to match that has created a norm that fairness and justice are secondary to what they understand as 'human rights'. That is the stupidity of their thinking. Although there are pockets of people in the UK who bemoan this trend and the extremism that results, you are right the the main stream public are blissfully unaware of the realities of hamas and Hazbollah, etc. Our support of PM Chamberlain in 1938 appeasement of Hitler suggest that our national tempramment is vulnerable to such tendencies that you highlight, as we are in effect 'appeasing' the evils of extremism.

(41) Patrick B. Leek, January 9, 2011 2:53 PM

Britain is a hotbed of radical anti-Israeli sentiment.

The Brits are anti-Israel thanks to their media like the infamous Guardian and the BBC which more often than not portray the side of the Arabs. Check out Honest Reporting for a history lesson.

(40) Esther, November 4, 2008 2:30 PM

I know a british guy

and hes extremely anti-israel. He doesn't even know what hes talking about half the time, he just goes with whatever arguement supports his skewed viewpoints even if it's obviously untrue. I dont understand why people are so quick to throw away historical fact when it comes to Jews and Israel. It seems like that is the only topic where people refuse to look at facts and just get all angry and hateful about it.

(39) Norman Roberts, August 3, 2008 8:36 PM

Muslim influence

The Muslim influence in our American universities is alive and well. Patience and time are on their side... Wake up in the USA as well as in Europe before it is too late...

(38) Mike, June 22, 2008 7:20 AM

Sadly this observation is all too accurate.

I have been aware of thesecomments for a long time, and it seems that insidious anti-semtism is pervading our whole society. It is, however, symptomatic of a greater evil in Britain: secularisation. This undermines any absolute sense of values which include fairness and objectivity, and makes us vulnerable to being hi-jacked by extremism. I think within a decade, all our claims to fairness and human rights will be history. Those in positions of authority in the UK are generally people of total and utter garbage, and I personally have no respect for them. They make a sewer sound better!

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