Analysis: Battle is being lost in public

By Robin Shepherd, July 16, 2009

It is starting to happen. For years we have heard words of consolation that bien pensant hostility to the Jewish state might remain safely contained in a world of its own.

Let the Guardian ply its wares. Let the NGOs ply theirs. Like a mad dog in a cage, growling menacingly but ultimately unable to do more than snap at its own tail, the anti-Israeli constituency could startle us, but it could never escape into the world of high politics.

But now it is time to wake up to the new realities.

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv is parading its best Foreign Office sophistry to say that this move does not meet the technical definition of an embargo.

But the fact remains that British companies have, for overtly political reasons, been forbidden from selling military hardware to Israel.

According to an Israeli diplomatic memo obtained by Ha’aretz, “the decision stemmed from heavy pressure by both MPs and human rights organisations.”

So where is this leading? Richard Burden, the chairman of the Britain Palestine All-Party Commons Group, wasted no time in saying that the next step should be a ban on sales to Israel via third parties, the United States in particular.

A domino effect across Europe is a real possibility. Belgium, it is widely mooted, could be next.

The bigger picture here is of an opinion- forming establishment in Britain, which has built up such an edifice of hostility to Israel that, sooner or later, their views were bound to affect the policymakers.

The battle is being lost in the public domain, and only there can a meaningful counter attack be waged.

Robin Shepherd is director of international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society.

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010