'I will defend Israel's right to exist as long as I have breath in my body'

By Jessica Elgot, September 22, 2011
Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove promised to defend Israel's right to exist "as long as I have breath in my body" in a strikingly pro-Zionist speech this week.

Speaking to the UJIA's annual fundraising dinner in central London, he said the state was "under assault" and challenged the hypocrisy of some of Israel's critics. "I'm forced to ask certain questions. Why is it that in the cries for compensation and Palestinian right of return, there's no demand for compensation for Jews driven out of Aleppo or Alexandria?

"Why is it that a viable Palestinian state can only exist in the eyes of so many when it is purged of its Jewish citizens, of their homes?

"Why is it that people talk of Jenin as a massacre, and pass over the atrocities that China has been responsible for in the past?"

Speaking to an audience of 700, Mr Gove called Israel "a moral test for us all" and a "light to the world." He said: "As a friend of Israel and an observer, let me remind you how whenever there is a disaster, an earthquake or tsunami, it is the IDF and Israeli aid there to help the victims. Whenever there are Jewish citizens in need, in Russia and Ethiopia, Israel is always a welcoming home. Israel is a democracy, at a time when democracy is under assault. Israel is an nation where every life is precious.

"These things underline what a precious place it is and what a light it is to the rest of the world. Will we allow that light to be snuffed out? Through indifference, through ignorance, through a lack of courage? If we turn away from Israel now, it means that those who take strength from dark prejudices will think they can eventually prevail."

He said he would be restless in the fight against antisemitism, "because the fate of the Jewish people is a touchstone, a moral test of our times. That is why it is so important for me, because the security of the Jewish people is a mark of how free a society is. It tells you how civilised a country is. The more secure Jewish citizens feel, the more free it is, like Renaissance Holland and America today. It's an inarguable, unbreakable historical fact."

Last updated: 2:50pm, September 22 2011