In every cloud there is at least one silver lining. In the present conflict in Gaza, there are several.
The first is that, whatever reservations there might be about particular incidents and the much higher rate of casualties suffered by Hamas than by the IDF, there is a remarkable degree of British sympathy for the Israeli position. This may not be quite apparent from the newsreel shots of protests outside the Israeli Embassy in London, or from some of the wilder statements by the usual suspects, such as MPs George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn. But some of the most consistent recent critics of Israel have, to their credit, had the courage to recognise Israel’s dilemma, and to say so publicly.
Consider, for example, Seth Freedman, a Jewish stockbroker from Hampstead Garden Suburb, now living in Israel, who specialises in sweeping attacks on Israel and Zionism launched from the safety of the Guardian website. The overriding characteristic of all these diatribes is a primeval antagonism towards the Jewish state and especially towards religious Zionism, which he once characterised as “the bastard child born of Judaism’s illicit union with rampant nationalism”.
Until a few weeks ago Mr Freedman was a hero of the anti-Zionist brigades. Not any more. On several occasions since the start of Israeli operations in Gaza, he has published hard-hitting pieces supporting these operations. “Anyone sympathising with Gazans’ predicament,” he wrote on December 31, “ought to apply the same view towards beleaguered residents of Israel’s south”. And on January 6 he returned to the attack: “When Hamas fires rockets at schools and homes, the same human rights champions who protest against Israel fall silent.” It is a pity that it has taken Mr Freedman over two years to recognise this but better late than never.
The conflict has also forced some apparent friends of Israel to reveal themselves to us in their true colours. Consider, for example, the Lib Dems. On January 7, Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg called for an embargo on British arms sales to Israel, adding that it would be no bad thing if the European Union were to suspend its proposed economic co-operation agreement with the Jewish state.
I have always suspected the Lib-Dems’ professed support for Israel. When, in May 2005, Israel-hater Jenny Tonge was nominated to a life peerage by the then Lib-Dem supremo Charles Kennedy, I was inclined to excuse this as an unfortunate consequence of the alcoholism from which Mr Kennedy was reported to be suffering. Now I know better. I don’t need to be told that supporters of Israel are to be found within Lib-Dem ranks. They are. But it is Mr Clegg’s pronouncements that Jewish voters will remember whenever the next general election is called.
The conflict in Gaza has also furnished us, most usefully, with further proofs of Islamic prejudice against Jews and Judaism. As I reminded you last week, I have not hesitated to point out that Islam was founded in part on the basis of an explicit anti-Jewish discourse, and that this discourse is alive and well.
I have been pilloried publicly, on more than one occasion, for having said this. So I have taken some pleasure in drawing the attention of my critics to (a) the calls by Hamas “commander” Mahmoud Zahar (on Al-Aqsa TV, January 6) for the worldwide murder of Jewish children and (b) the much-reported possibility that an Islamist website has been used to compile a “hit list” of prominent British Jews deemed guilty of “war crimes”. I have also reminded my detractors that another Hamas leader — Nizar Rayyan, killed by an Israeli air strike on January 1 — is on record declaring: “There is no chance that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. Israel… is an offence against God… [The Jews] are murderers of the prophets.”
The reality is that there is not the remotest possibility of peace in the Middle East as long as Hamas — a client of Iran — controls Gaza. The UK and the USA governments know, understand and accept this, as do those of the more mature European states. Egypt would be delighted to see the Hamas regime cut down to size. So would PA president Mahmoud Abbas.
Ignore the rhetoric at the UN. Ignore the crocodile tears. To the dismay of anti-Zionists, the governments that matter have allowed Israel to get on with the job.