By Marcus Dysch
May 31, 2010
I went for a few drinks last night with a group of old school friends I hadn’t seen for the best part of ten years.
At one point the conversation turned to comparing suntans. One friend had gained hers thanks to a week at Hurghada in Egypt. Mine was courtesy of a week in Tel Aviv.
“Oh, Tel Aviv,” she said. “Where is that?”
“Israel,” I replied.
The idea that this was somewhere she could have travelled on Easyjet for the same price as a week in Magaluf or her trip to Egypt would no doubt have brought an equally bemused look to her face.
Later another friend mentioned how they hope to join the British Army. I mentioned that I have a friend currently serving in the Israeli Defence Force.
There was no response - the IDF raised no greater interest in my friend than the army of any other democratic country.
All too often there is a feeling, and indeed a fear and paranoia, among Britain’s Jewish community that any mention of Israel, Israelis or the IDF, will open the floodgates to a barrage of abuse, both anti-Israeli and potentially antisemitic.
True, there are groups and individuals genuinely committed to campaigning against the Jewish state at every single turn.
But the realistic picture in Britain is quite different. My friends were a group of highly educated twentysomething men and women, highly-successful in business and with a reasonable grasp of current affairs.
It is worth remembering, particularly on a day when the conflict is making headlines around the world, that most normal, middle-of-the-road Brits know little, and care less, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To them it is as much of an alien concept as the terms Kashmir, Balkans or Falklands.
“Tel Aviv, where’s that?” is a far more likely response to be found on the streets of this country than “death to Israel” ever would be.
Update: I wrote this at lunchtime today but due to the hacking of the JC website was unable to upload it.
There is probably some irony in both the hacking and the reaction to the developing Gaza flotilla situation which actually renders some of my comments as possibly already out of date.
Time will tell what response the above-mentioned “normal, middle-of-the-road Brits” have to the situation.