Israel ambassador leads speakers at Big Tent
In a speech to the Big Tent Israel advocacy conference in Manchester yesterday, which focused on countering political campaigns to delegitimise Israel, the Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, condemned those who "call themselves" Israel's friends because they "support its right to exist".
In his first public address in Manchester as ambassador, Mr Taub said: "There are people asking, is there really delegitimisation of Israel? Not just criticism, but genuine attempts to question its basic sovereign rights?
"And I say, if you want to know the answer to that question, don't listen to Israel's enemies, but listen to its friends or at least those people who call themselves its friends.
"I can't count the number of times I've heard somebody say, 'I'm a friend of Israel and I support its right to exist'. And I wonder, can you image anyone saying that in relation to any other country? I support Australia's right to exist or Guatemala's right to exist - as though that somehow makes me a friend of Guatemala. In relation to what other country does a discussion or policy descend into a question mark over the very existence of that state?"
In comments which drew applause from his 700-strong audience in Manchester, the ambassador said that anti-Israel campaigns that used the delegitimisation of Israel opened a "new front for Israel" in the UK and were a "a serious problem for those institutions and organisations which allow it to fester.
"When a university is not able to allow free debate , when a student who wants to speak up in favour of Israel is fearful of intimidation or even violence, that's a problem for Israel, but more than that it is a problem for the university that has fallen short of its academic standards," Mr Taub added.
The ambassador also condemned an antisemitic "sickness" inside some parts of the British media.
"When a leading newspaper publishes antisemitic words, such as we heard on the release of Gilad Shalit alleging that this deal shows that Zionists values the lives of the 'chosen' more than it values the lives of anyone else - as if we wouldn't have begged to reduce the number of terrorists that should have been released - yes, that's insulting to Israel, but more than that, it's a sign of a great sickness inside media and inside British journalism," he said.