Archive for the ‘Theresa May and Israel’ category

President Trump: The Courage to Act

December 11, 2017

President Trump: The Courage to Act, Gatestone InstituteDouglas Murray, December 11, 2017

The reaction around the world in recent days has been a reminder of the one central truth of the whole conflict. Those who cannot accept that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel tend to be exactly the same as those who cannot accept the State of Israel.

Trump comes out of the whole situation well — taking on a promise that his three predecessors made, but on which only he had the courage to act. Those who have most forcibly criticised him, on the other hand, have shown something weak, as well as ugly, about themselves.

President Trump’s announcement on the status of Jerusalem last week was both historic and commendable. Historic because it is the first time that an American president has not just acknowledged that the Israeli capital is Jerusalem but decided to act on that acknowledgement. Commendable for breaking a deceitful trend and accepting what will remain the reality on the ground in every imaginable future scenario. As many people have pointed out in recent days, there is not one prospective peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians in which Tel Aviv becomes the capital of the Jewish state.

Yet, the Palestinian leadership, much of the mainstream media, academia and the global diplomatic community take another view. They believe that the American president should have continued with the fairy tale and should never have said “That the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and that the United States Embassy to Israel will be relocated to Jerusalem as soon as practicable.” They claim that this is not a simple recognition of reality and not simply the American President granting the State of Israel the same right every other nation on the planet has — which is to have their capital where they like. Such forces claim that this is a “provocative” move. Amply demonstrating the illogic of this position, the first thing the Turkish Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan did after the American president made his announcement was to threaten a suspension of Turkish relations with Israel.

The reaction around the world in recent days has been a reminder of the one central truth of the whole conflict. Those who cannot accept that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel tend to be exactly the same as those who cannot accept the State of Israel. Consider the expert whom the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight chose to bring on to receive soft-ball questions on this issue. Dr. Ghada Karmi, from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, a notorious opponent of Israel, was inevitably given the sort of respectful interview style that Newsnight presenters generally reserve for when they are interviewing Madonna or some other mega-star they cannot believe their luck at having gotten to speak with.

Here is what Ghada Karm had to say — with no meaningful challenge from the programme’s presenter, Emily Maitlis.

Ghada Karmi: We know that Donald Trump is not a free agent. He is surrounded by pro-Israel advisors, pro-Israel officials.

Emily Maitlis (BBC): To be fair the American stance towards Israel has not differed particularly from one President to another.

Karmi: No, because it’s always been dictated by Israeli interests.

Maitlis (BBC): So what are you saying – that he cannot broker peace or America cannot broker peace in the region.

Karmi: No – of course not. He can’t. He’s compromised. He is surrounded by pro-Israel propagandists, people who want Israel’s interests above any other and he cannot operate as a free agent even if he had the wit to do it…. Why it is so dangerous is because you know one of the first things that might happen — and watch for this — is that Israel will be emboldened to take over the Islamic holy places. It’s had its eye on the Aqsa mosque for a long time.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, when Maitlis then turned to interview the Israeli ambassador to the UK, she adopted a different tone.

Ambassador Mark Regev was not given these sorts of soft-ball questions. If he had claimed that the Palestinians were planning to bulldoze the Western Wall, it seems unlikely he would have been allowed to say it uncontested. He was in fact treated throughout as though he were simply some well-known variety of idiot or liar, who had no concept of the “offence” (a favourite threat term) that this move by the American President would cause Palestinians.

Ghada Karmi was not challenged on the claim that the Israelis were about to take over any and all Islamic holy places (to do what?), but Ambassador Regev’s suggestion that the State of Israel already has its Parliament, Supreme Court and every wing of government in Jerusalem, and that Jerusalem might just be Israel’s capital, was treated as though it were the most inflammatory nonsense the BBC had ever heard.

Most disappointing was the response of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. Goaded on by the deeply anti-Israel (not to mention anti-Semitism-harbouring) Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, May, for the second time in a fortnight, chose to berate the President of Britain’s closest ally. Captured by the logic of the UK’s Foreign Office, May announced:

“We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement.

“We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.

“Our position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and long-standing: it should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.

“In line with relevant Security Council Resolutions, we regard East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Following President Trump’s historic and commendable announcement on the status of Jerusalem last week, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May chose to berate Trump. Pictured: PM May, on January 27, 2017 addresses the media in Washington, DC alongside President Trump. (Image source: 10 Downing St./Flickr)

There is something which the entire world ought to recognise about the British government’s attitude towards “occupied territory”, which is that the august entity in Whitehall still believes that land in northern Israel should be returned to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Even now, the greatest minds of the Foreign Office in London advocate that Assad has not had enough territory to immiserate and destroy in recent years. Who knows, perhaps President Assad could have killed more than a half a million people in his country’s civil war if he could only have got an extra sliver of land?

Perhaps May feels the pressure of the Foreign Office status quo. Or perhaps she feels the pressure of Jeremy Corbyn’s band of anti-Semites at her back. Or — who knows — perhaps she worries about the millions of British Muslims from South Asia who can occasionally be whipped up into believing that the prime responsibility of Muslims worldwide is to rage about Middle Eastern politics — only of course if Jews are involved (otherwise they remain placid). Certainly that appeared to be on the national broadcaster’s mind, with the BBC choosing to go straight to the Muslim-dominated city of Bradford to ask South Asian Muslims there what they thought about Jerusalem.

There have been reactions around the world to US President’s historic announcement. Trump comes out of the whole situation well — taking on a promise that his three predecessors made, but on which only he had the courage to act. Those who have most forcibly criticised him, on the other hand, have shown something weak, as well as ugly, about themselves: When the facts on the ground were staring them in the face, they chose instead to bow to domestic fantasies of their own creation.

Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.”

 

Britain’s Little Lies

December 31, 2016

Britain’s Little Lies, Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray, December 31, 2016

This is a serious category error for a Prime Minister to make. It puts critics of a religion on the same plane as people wanted for terrorism. It blurs the line between speech and action, and mixes people who call for violence with those who do not.

Only now, a fortnight later, has the true duplicity of Theresa May’s speech been exposed. For now the world has learned what diplomacy the British government was engaged in even as May was making her speech. At the same time as the Prime Minister was talking about “true friendship” in front of friends of Israel, her government was conspiring with the outgoing Obama administration to kick that friend in the back. The British government was exposed as being one of the key players intent on pushing through the anti-Israel UNSC Resolution 2334. British diplomats were revealed to have been behind the wording and rallying of allies for the resolution.

The British government, whilst saying that it remains committed to a peace deal that comes as a result of direct negotiations between the two sides, has its own preconditions for peace: a freeze on the building of what it calls “settlements.” They maintain this line despite the fact that settlements have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Before the June 1967 Six Day War, there were no such things as “settlements.” Palestinians were trying to destroy and displace Israel anyhow. The core problem is not, and never was, “settlements,” but the right of Israel (or any non-Muslim nation) to exist inside any borders in that part of the world.

If you take a stand that is based on a lie, then that stand cannot succeed. If you try to oppose anti-Semitism but pretend it is the same thing as “Islamophobia,” then the structure on which you have made your stand will totter and all your aspirations will fail. If you try to make a stand based on the idea that settlement construction rather than the intransigence of the Palestinians to the existence of a Jewish state is what is holding up a peace deal, then facts will keep on intruding.

On December 12, the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, gave a fulsome speech to the annual Conservative Friends of Israel lunch. Before a roomful of 800 pro-Israel Conservative MPs and party supporters, she lavished praise on the Jewish state. She praised Israel’s achievements and castigated its enemies. She said that Britain would be marking the centenary of the Balfour declaration “with pride.” She also stressed that cooperation and friendship between Britain and Israel was not just for the good of those two countries, but “for the good of the world.”

For many of the people listening in the room, there were just two discordant notes. The first was related to the focus on anti-Semitism in May’s speech. As she used the opportunity rightly to lambaste the Labour party for its anti-Semitism problem, she extended the reach of her own claims for herself. While boasting of her success as Home Secretary in keeping out the prominent French anti-Semite Dieudonné and finally deporting the Salafist cleric Abu Qatada al-Filistini back to his native Jordan, she also used the opportunity to congratulate herself for banning Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Pastor Terry Jones from coming to the UK. “Islamophobia comes from the same wellspring of hatred” as anti-Semitism, she explained.

This is a serious category error for a Prime Minister to make. It puts critics of a religion, such as Geller and Spencer, on the same plane as people wanted for terrorism (Qatada). It blurs the line between speech and action, and mixes people who call for violence with those who do not. The comparison also fails to follow the consequences of its logic to its own illogical conclusion. The comparison fails to recognise that anyone who objects to Islamic anti-Semitism is immediately known as an “Islamophobe.” Therefore, someone hoping to come to Britain would have to accept being attacked by Muslim extremists for fear of being banned from entering the UK. These are serious and basic misunderstandings for a Prime Minister to propagate.

There was, however, a clear political sense to them. A Prime Minister in a country such as 21stCentury Britain might believe that he or she has to be exceptionally careful not to appear to be criticising any one group of people or praising another too highly. So for the time being in Britain, a moral relativism continues to stagnate. If the Jewish community complains of anti-Semitism, then you must criticise anti-Semitism. If the Muslim community complains of “Islamophobia,” then you must criticise “Islamophobia.” To make value judgements might be to commit an act of political folly. Wise leaders in increasingly “diverse” societies must therefore position themselves midway between all communities, neither castigating nor over-praising, in order to keep as many people onside as possible.

2172UK Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at the annual Conservative Friends of Israel lunch, December 12, 2016. (Image source: Conservative Friends of Israel)

The same tactic brought the other discordant moment at the Prime Minister’s lunch — the same tactic brought to the discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. For the other discordant note in May’s speech came when she mentioned Israeli settlement building. It was carefully placed in the speech, after a passage in which May congratulated her own Department for International Development (DfID) Minister, Priti Patel. In the days before the lunch, Patel had announced that DfID would carry out an investigation to determine whether British taxpayer money being sent to what May called “the Occupied Palestinian Territories” was being used to fund salaries for Palestinians convicted of terrorism offences against Israelis. Following this May said:

“When talking about global obligations, we must be honest with our friends, like Israel, because that is what true friendship is about. That is why we have been clear about building new, illegal settlements: it is wrong; it is not conducive to peace; and it must stop.”

The comment was received in silence and May moved on.

But this comment fitted in closely with the strategy of her other comment. For having lavished praise on Israel, a castigation apparently seemed necessary. It is wrong, but hardly possible for a British Prime Minister currently to do otherwise. If there are terrorists receiving funds from British taxpayers thanks to the largesse of the UK government, then this may — after many years of campaigning by anti-terrorism organisations — finally be “investigated.” However, throughout any such investigation, the British government, whilst saying that it remains committed to a peace deal that comes as a result of direct negotiations between the two sides, has for years announced its own preconditions for peace: a freeze on the building of what it calls “settlements.” They maintain this line despite the fact that settlements have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Before the June 1967 Six Day War, there were no such things as “settlements.” Palestinians were trying to destroy and displace Israel anyhow — in 1948, 1956, and 1967. The core problem is not, and never was, “settlements,” but the right of Israel (or any non-Muslim nation) to exist inside any borders in that part of the world.

At the time of May’s speech, these two issues seemed like minor cavils to some and gained little notice. Only now, a fortnight later, has the true duplicity of the speech been exposed. For now the world has learned what diplomacy the British government was engaged in even as May was making her speech.

At the same time as the Prime Minister was talking about “true friendship” in front of friends of Israel, her government was conspiring with the outgoing Obama administration to kick that friend in the back. In the wake of the collapse of the Egyptian-sponsored initiative at the UN, the British government was exposed as being one of the key players intent on pushing through the anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution 2334. British diplomats were revealed to have been behind the wording and rallying of allies for the resolution.

The most obvious interpretation of this fact is simply a reflection that friends do not kick friends in the back. Especially not in the world’s foremost international forum for kicking that particular friend. But some people are putting a kinder interpretation on the facts. The kindest to date is that the May government believes that a sterner line on the issue of Israeli settlements would give the British government more leverage with the Palestinians.

If that is so, then it seems that the May government will have to learn abroad the same lesson that they must learn at home. Both will come about because of the same strategic mistake: a reliance on the short-term convenience of what must seem at first to be only convenient little lies. The problem is that such little lies, when tested on the great seas of domestic and international affairs, have a tendency to come to grief with exceptional rapidity and ease.

Politicians are keen on taking stands. But if you take a stand that is based on a lie, then that stand cannot succeed. If you try to oppose anti-Semitism but pretend it is the same thing as “Islamophobia,” then the structure on which you have made your stand will totter and all your aspirations will fail. If you try to make a stand for Israel while simultaneously conniving at the UN to undermine Israel, then your duplicity will be exposed and admiration for this and other stands will falter. If you try to make a stand based on the idea that settlement construction rather than the intransigence of the Palestinians to the existence of a Jewish state is what is holding up a peace deal, then facts will keep on intruding. They have before — at home and abroad — and they will again.