Canada PM shames UJIA boss

By Melanie Phillips, November 29, 2010

On a recent speaking tour in Montreal and Toronto, I was struck by the beleaguered state of many Canadian Jews. They were battling the usual mad barrage against Israel from the media, politicians on the left and rabid anti-Israel and Judeophobic lies and libels on campus. Home from home, in other words.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect was that they appeared not to possess the verbal ammunition with which to respond. It seemed to me that, as I wrote here last month, the problem was that, to a greater or lesser extent, they themselves had been sucked into the narrative of lies.

Because so many were centrist or liberally-minded folk, they accepted a premise they quite mistakenly thought represented the "centre ground".

That premise was that the settlements were the big problem. That inevitably paints Israel as the bad guy in the region. So these Israel defenders are forced on to the defensive. Once there, the argument is all but lost.

But, as I put to them, Israel has actually done nothing to be defensive about. It is instead Israel's attackers who are murderous aggressors who refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state, even though settlements have been evacuated and territory offered up as a compromise.

Mick Davis is not just very wrong but is tragically wrong

So I suggested they should rethink their entire approach. Change the narrative. Get off the back foot and put Israel's attackers on to theirs.

Refuse to argue on the Israel-bashers' chosen ground. Disdain them socially. Take their words and their reputations apart. Treat them as pariahs for their bigotry. And so on.

The response was startling. For these Canadian Jews were amazed. No one, it seemed, had ever suggested any of this to them before.

Suddenly, they saw a way out of the box. Suddenly, they saw how they could reclaim for Israel not just the language but the great cause itself of truth, law and justice.

Just after I got back from Canada, the storm broke over the criticisms of Israel made by Mick Davis, chairman of the UJIA. And it struck me that precisely the same problem was at work again here, too.

Unlike some, I do not take the view that Mr Davis's crime was to criticise Israel. Personally, I think Israel should be criticised - for failing to make its case adequately and for conniving at the narrative of injustice which its enemies use against it.

Somehow, though, I don't think that is quite what people like Mick Davis mean when they say Israel should be criticised.

Nevertheless, I think he has a perfect right to say what he thinks. And others have a perfect right to say what they think about what he thinks.

And my view is that he is not just very wrong but is tragically wrong. Tragic because, as he rightly says, many British Jews - perhaps the majority - share his views about Israel. And that is why British Jews are failing so conspicuously to defend it. Because instead of truthfully identifying the cause of the conflict as Arab intransigence and genocidal hatred, they parrot the Israel-bashers' false claim that the impasse is really all Israel's fault.

Bamboozled by the bullying, they cannot see that the received wisdom is actually a certain route to injustice, genocide and war.

That is why it simply doesn't occur to them that Israel might well be criticised, not for failing to do enough to aid the appeasement process but for doing too much.

Instead, like Mick Davis, they may even grotesquely blame Israel --- as Mick Davis so unforgiveably did --- for making their own lives as diaspora Jews difficult.

So just when Israel is being delegitimised through lies and libels and the world softened up to shrug aside the murder of Jews, some who think of themselves as Israel's friends are unwittingly aiding that terrible process.

While I was in Canada, its Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an astonishing speech for a western leader. He said he refused to go along with anti-Israel rhetoric, even at Canada's expense in the UN. He spoke of the Jew-hating ideologies of the anti-Israel "mob", and of a "solemn duty" to defend vulnerable Israel and challenge its aggressors.

The non-Jewish Canadian Prime Minister gets it. What a tragedy that the chairman of the UJIA and so many other diaspora Jews do not.

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist.

Last updated: 10:57am, November 29 2010