Cameron's dismissal of Israel

Government ministers might be concerned to know quite how often I am now accosted by strangers in public places.

These strangers are usually, although not always, Jews. They accost me on the Tube, at the theatre, in the supermarket, in restaurants and in the street.

They all say the same thing: keep on saying it about Israel, keep on telling it as it is, don't ever give up.

What is happening to us? they murmur. It's unbelievable, astonishing, terrifying. The bias, the hatred, the lies. Where is it all going to end? And an increasing number say there's no longer any future for us Jews in Britain.

Almost every few days brings fresh examples of the Israel Derangement Syndrome that so disturbs and frightens them. Last week, anti-Israel hooligans disrupted a Promenade concert where the Israel Philharmonic was playing, causing the BBC to abort its live broadcast.

Last month, a St Andrews University student was convicted of racially abusing a Jewish postgraduate student over his support of Israel. And week in, week out, Israelis are blamed for defending themselves against mass murder.

Despite his ignorant rant, Alan Duncan is still in post

By now, it must be obvious to all but the most supine or hostile to Israel within the UK Jewish community that what is happening is an evil uniquely targeted at the Jewish people.

For the demonisation of Israel is of a nature and type extended to no other country.

While atrocities by tyrannies and rogue states provoke almost total indifference, Israel is treated as in a class apart: apparently the very worst country in the entire world, a kind of global blight which has to be expunged altogether from civilised society if not from the face of the earth.

Sound familiar? Oh, sorry, I forgot. Part of the madness is that we are totally forbidden to identify what this actually is - a prejudice directed solely at the Jewish people, who in this latest manifestation are uniquely demonised as usurpers in their own historic homeland.

Few government minsters grasp the nature and scale of what is happening. Most don't think there is a problem, and many of those who do think it is Israel's own fault.

Ministers would be amazed and appalled to know how many British Jews now feel so betrayed and abandoned. That's because ministers tend to meet only those Jews who tell them that anyone who thinks like that can be safely disregarded as an hysteric, extremist or right-winger.

They would be even more appalled to be told that they themselves play a significant part in fuelling the madness.

They maintain - and probably genuinely believe - that the British government is a true if candid friend of Israel. To which one can only say: with friends like these who needs enemies? Actually, it's more like having a close relationship with someone suffering from multiple personality disorder.

For there is no doubt that at the military and intelligence level, Britain's relationship with Israel is close and mutually supportive. British spooks and soldiers tend to understand very well the immense benefit to the UK of Israel's intelligence and military prowess.

The problem lies at the political level. While many Tory backbenchers support Israel, the government - with some very honourable exceptions - is hostile.

So much so that a group of Tory MPs and others in the party who are well-disposed to Israel have reportedly formed an informal group to prevent David Cameron from throwing Israel under the bus altogether.

This group has become very alarmed by the government's repeated sniping against Israel, such as Cameron's calculated gesture of hostility in stepping down as patron of the JNF.

And then there was last month's video by International Development Minister Alan Duncan, in which he made false and inflammatory claims that, through its security barrier, Israel was annexing the Palestinians' land and was also stealing their water.

First, the Foreign Office briefed that Duncan was only stating British government policy; later, it seemed to distance itself from his remarks. But the fact is that, despite his grossly ignorant and prejudiced rant, Duncan is still in post.

Why? Because the callow and opportunistic Cameroons are blank slates upon which can be written the fashionable bigotry and historical illiteracy of our times.

The Cameron government did not create the madness now raging against Israel. It could, however, control it by standing up for truth and justice against lies and prejudice. Tragically, it is choosing to fan the flames of ignorance and hatred instead.

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist

    Last updated: 10:39am, September 9 2011