Dear Mr Corbyn, please distribute these 10 Israel facts

May 05, 2016 12:26

As director of the Jerusalem Press Club, I have hosted quite a few Labour MPs, mostly on trips organised by Labour Friends of Israel. I felt privileged to speak to such informed and open-minded people who, while being fairly critical of some Israeli government policies (like many of us here), have a special bond with the Jewish state.

No wonder, then, that the recent antisemitic comments coming from Labour circles left me exasperated. Without wanting to stain Labour over some rotten apples, I would nevertheless be more reassured had Jeremy Corbyn disseminated among Labour members the following list of historical facts, and encouraged them to make up their minds about Israel based on facts, not on myths:

1: The Peel Commission of Inquiry in 1937 called for the partition of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. It said: "If it offers neither party all it wants, it offers each what it wants most, namely freedom and security." David Ben Gurion, the staunch Zionist, said yes. The Arabs said no, and instead intensified their bloody revolt.

2: Following UN resolution 181 in 1947, which reiterated the need to partition Palestine, my parents went down to the street, and danced and wept with joy. The Arabs responded with gunfire.

3: On May 14, 1948, Ben Gurion announced the establishment of Israel, adding: "We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of co-operation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The state of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East." The next day, regular Arab armies invaded Israel from all sides, vowing to wipe it off the map.

4: The Arabs lost the 1948 war, but the word "accountability" seemed missing from their vocabulary. During the 20th century, refugees were resettled anywhere, but the UN created a unique agency for Palestinian refugees, Unwra, which perpetuated their misery. Rich Arab states contributed nothing to their refugee brothers and sisters.

5: In 1967, in an act of self-defence, Israel broke the yoke of siege and conquered Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. However, the Israeli government, on June 19, 1967, announced its willingness to return them for peace. The Arabs, in the Khartoum Summit, responded not with one, but with three NOs: No negotiations, no recognition, no peace with Israel.

6: In 2000, at Camp David, the Israeli prime minister put on the table the most far-reaching offer Israel has ever made. Yasser Arafat rejected it.

7: In 2005, responding to world pressure, Israel pulled out of Gaza. In return, it got barrages of rockets. Defending itself, Israel had to fight an enemy that had hidden itself among civilians. The regrettable destruction and loss of life in Gaza in 2014 could have been avoided had Hamas accepted Israel's offer of a ceasefire, and in general, diverted its energy to nation-building instead of harassing Israel.

8: Ongoing Arab and Palestinian rejectionism prompted an Israeli drift to the right, which boosted settlements. Still, in poll after poll, two out of every three Israelis say they are in favour of a two-state solution, once there is a credible partner, realising it would entail painful territorial compromises.

9: Despite being embattled from day one, Israel has maintained a solid democracy, with free elections, rule of law, freedom of the press and the freedom of citizens - myself included - to harshly criticise the government. Israeli Arabs are represented in the Knesset, even by those who challenge the notion of Israel being a Jewish state.

10: There is a myth that if only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was settled, the Middle East would calm down. Look at Iraq, Syria, Daesh, Yemen, and more, and imagine that Israel did not exist. Would that make a difference?

Mr Corbyn might as well send Labour members a speech by the late David Cairns MP, former Chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. Ideally, he could highlight the following words: "I will be critical of Israel when I need to be. But I call on my friends and colleagues who support the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to cease the language of de-legitimisation; to end the comparisons with South Africa and Nazi Germany; to halt the demands for boycotts of Israeli produce and people; to put an end to the movement to sever academic ties; and to recognise Israel's strong and continuing adherence to the selfsame progressive values that we fight for here at home."

Corbyn's Labour and antisemitism - what you need to know. All the comment and analysis in one place, here

May 05, 2016 12:26

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