Writing in the British Jewish Chronicle, Reut team leader Eran Shayshon describes an uneasy UK political alliance that threatens both peace and Israel’s existence
Eran Shayshon, 01/07/10, The Jewish Chronicle
In recent years, Israel has faced a dramatic assault on the very legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish and democratic state. In this regard, the UK — and especially London — acts as a prominent “hub” in moves to delegitimise Israel. This is due in part to London’s position as a media, cultural and academic centre and the UK’s impact as an English-speaking nation.
I recently led a group of four analysts from the Reut Institute — an Israeli policy group designed to provide strategic support to Israeli leaders and decision-makers — on a 10-day visit to London to assess developments in this area. We met leading journalists, experts in international law, human rights activists, diplomats, and representatives of Jewish and Muslim organisations.
Though the Israeli-Palestinian issue seems to be very low on the average Londoner’s agenda, there are several structural aspects that comprise a convenient platform for anti-Israel sentiment in the UK. One is Britain’s post-colonial history --- notably the sense of historical responsibility for the current make-up of the Middle East, including Israel’s creation. Another is the UK’s historical role as a hospitable base for political radicalism.
But the main engine for delegitimising Israel in the UK is what is known as the “Red-Green Alliance” – an unholy pact between the radical British left and Islamist groups. Theses include Respect, Socialist Action, War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Muslim Association of Britain.
Powered by the increasing radicalisation of the UK’s Muslim community towards Israel, and the inversion of the left’s view of the Zionist project (from once having represented the ultimate socialist model society to today being seen as the ultimate expression of Western imperialism), these groups have made the attack on Israel’s legitimacy into a rallying cry.
Although this alliance is far from being a hierarchical, top-down structure, it has become increasingly institutionalised in recent years. The annual “Cairo Conference”, for example, is an anti-Zionist event that brings together far leftists from Britain, radical Arab nationalists and militant Islamists — as well as the “BDS” movement, which promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
The aims and methods of the Red-Greens are very different from acceptable, “softer” criticism of Israeli policies, mainly on behalf of human-rights groups. This kind of criticism is prevalent in Israel itself — as it is in any open democracy. But, while the Red-Green Alliance is still a marginal phenomenon in British politics, its delegitimisation activity is having a disproportionate impact as a result of the alliance’s ability to unite with these “softer” critics of Israeli policies, blurring the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and illegitimate attempts to undermine its right to exist.
Red-Green strategy has several components. One is the creation of an “’all-or-nothing” dynamic against Israel by advocating boycott as the only effective protest option. Another is to make criticism of Israel “trendy’” by framing it in the worthy language of human rights.
In this regard, key institutions such as trade unions, campuses and NGOs are subjected to political campaigns. All of this is underpinned by the demonisation of Israel, portraying it as an “Apartheid” state, and as the principal source of conflict in the Middle East and beyond.
The Red-Greens have enjoyed success as a result of many anti-Israeli protestors believing they are thereby promoting human rights and supporting the Palestinian cause. This is clearly not the case. It is not the Palestinians who are influencing London; it is London that is influencing the Palestinians. At present, only a few key Palestinian individuals or organisations play an active role in the Red-Green Alliance, but radical left-wing ideology is slowly infiltrating and radicalising Palestinian discourse in the West Bank. Increasing calls among traditionally moderate Palestinian leaders to question the two-state solution are certainly buoyed by the increasing attempts among the Western left to undermine Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Challenging the two-state solution on the basis of “liberal” post-modern theories is a recipe for continued violence and insecurity in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Instead of seeking to delegitimise Israel, pro-Palestinian groups should be working for coexistence, peace and good governance within the Palestinian Authority. Moderate Israelis and Palestinians can only hope for the emergence of an anti-radical alliance in support of a two-state solution to counter the dangerous message currently coming out of London.
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