We need to face up to the scale of the axis against Israel

There is onslaught against Israel and the Jews from an unholy alliance between extremist Muslims, the left and the political class, and we need to start taking the fight to them


The BBC (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

January 17, 2024 14:44

The Conservative MP Andrew Percy has accused the BBC of putting British Jews directly at risk through its coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Absolutely. The BBC’s relentless portrayal of the Israelis not as the victims of genocidal terror but as hard-hearted, vengeful and wanton killers of children and the innocent has channelled ancient antisemitic tropes of Jewish blood-lust and helped fuel an enormous increase in attacks on Jews.

As Percy said, the BBC’s double standards on Israel, treating patently absurd civilian casualty figures from Hamas as reliable while casting doubt on Israeli statements, present Israel rather than Hamas as the aggressor and rogue actor.

A principal offender has been the Today programme presenter, Mishal Husain. Interviewing the Defence Secretary Grant Shapps on Monday, she unleashed a barrage of distorted and out-of-context quotes to demonise Israel as a bloodthirsty aggressor.

Claiming that the IDF spokesman, Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari, had said in October that “our focus is on creating damage not precision,” and that Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, had said “we will eliminate everything” in Gaza, Husain said these remarks suggested Israel wasn’t acting within international law and might be why “so many Palestinians have died”.

Yet as the Guardian acknowledged on 5 December, Hagari had been mistranslated. He had actually said: “While balancing accuracy with the scope of damage, right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage”.

Gallant’s words have been taken out of context. He had said: “Gaza won’t return to what it was before, and Hamas will not exist. We will eliminate everything”. He meant eliminating Hamas, not Gaza’s civilians.

In any event, what matters is not what’s said but what Israel does. For the ratio of civilians to combatants killed by Israel is around two to one.

This is far fewer than the proportion of civilians killed in war by any other nation’s army — and when taking into account the Hamas rockets falling short into Gaza and killing its people, fewer still.

Most disgusting of all was how Husain twisted Benjamin Netanyahu’s reference to the ancient Israelites’ biblical foe, Amalek, when he said: “We remember, and we are fighting.”

Husain claimed that “Amalek” involved the injunction to spare no-one and destroy “every man, woman and child, sheep, camel and donkey”. And she suggested this was the cause of Israel’s rate of death and destruction in Gaza.

This was grotesque. Amalek was the genocidal enemy of the Jewish people, whose attack was so lethal that the Jews have a religious commitment to “remember” him in order to destroy any such enemy before it can wipe out the Jewish people again.

Yet Husain and other Israel-haters have abused this sacred duty to defend the Jewish people against genocide by claiming obscenely that it meant Israel intends to wipe out the Palestinians as an act of malign aggression.

The government has supported Israel over its show trial at the International Court of Justice. The Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, has said South Africa’s accusation against Israel of “genocide” is wrong because “genocide” involves an intention to wipe out an entire people whereas Israel is merely defending itself in Gaza.

Defending Israel, however, takes more than objecting to “when did you stop beating your wife” harassment. It involves calling out the murderous lies that are circulating about Israel’s behaviour, and stating the truth instead.

But instead, Cameron took aim at Israel with a few poisonous barbs of his own. He was “worried,” he told a parliamentary committee, that Israel “might be in breach of international law” in Gaza and that “on lots of occasions” its compliance was “under question”.

Since he offered no evidence of any such breaches, his remarks served merely as yet another smear against an Israel fighting for its life according to international law and yet being demonised for doing so.

The Jews find themselves in the hallucinatory situation of being under unprecedented physical and verbal assault by a western world determined to erase genocidal Jewish victimisation and instead delegitimise Israeli Jews as enemies of humanity.

This has been building up for years. Yet the community’s leadership has chosen not to call out publicly the enemies of the Jews in British society. Instead it has sought to appease, to genuflect and to grovel.

Last week the Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, indicated the desperate failure of that approach when he called for British Jews to be “brave” and challenge Muslims over Israel following the “deeply disappointing” Muslim attacks on the Jewish state since the October 7 pogrom.

Candidly, Mirvis regretted that he hadn’t always prioritised Israel in interfaith dialogue, which mostly “focused on what unites us”.

The community needs to start calling out the unique evil of the onslaught against Israel and the Jews from the unholy alliance between extremist Muslims, the left and the political class.

Instead of responding with instantly forgettable rallies against antisemitism to the malevolent falsehoods raining down daily from the intelligentsia, the church and the Hamas Broadcasting Corporation, British Jews should start taking the fight in public and by name to those intent on destroying truth, justice and the Jewish people.

Melanie Phillips is a Times columnist

January 17, 2024 14:44

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