Former US Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee did not mince words regarding his stances on the burgeoning Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations while visiting the capital Monday.
During a press conference held at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum, Huckabee patently denounced the BDS movement as “embarrassingly stupid” and questioned the substance and viability of US-brokered peace talks.
“The BDS movement is embarrassingly stupid because Israel represents the one place [in the Middle East] where freedom exists,” said the former Arkansas governor, who came to the capital with nearly 300 Christian American pilgrims to tour the city and attend a new exhibit at the museum.
Moreover, Huckabee said the contention that Israel is an “apartheid state” – an increasingly prevalent argument on US and international college campuses – is based on anti-Semitic sentiment and is irrefutably false.
“I think a lot of it is a sense of anti-Semitism.
How else can one understand this?” he said. “I know this: As a Christian, if I’m injured in this country, I’ll be welcomed at Hadassah Medical Center to be treated; if an Arab [is injured], he will be taken to Hadassah to be treated; and if a Jew [is injured], he will be taken to Hadassah to be treated.”
Huckabee continued, “Will we be treated any differently? No. We will have exactly the same medical treatment.”
A prominent Christian, the former governor questioned how a nation that accepts all religions in a region rife with intolerance and brutal theocracies somehow continues to be incongruously, and unfairly, vilified in the international media.
“Tell me how many places in Saudi Arabia, how many places in Qatar, how many places in Kuwait, how many places in Syria can I go and build a church?” he asked rhetorically.
“How many places can I go and even express that I’m a Christian? Nowhere. Not one place.
“Boycotting Israel is the most ridiculously stupid thing you can do. What we need to be doing is celebrating what Israel represents.
And I say that not as an Israeli, not as a Jew – I say it as a human being who can see [the situation] for what it is.”
Additionally, Huckabee asserted that were it not for the Israeli government and army protecting religious freedom, the Middle East would be devoid of a single nation fostering tolerance and democracy.
“This is my 41st trip to Israel, and I hope one of the things that always occurs is that the people I bring here with me go back [home] with a vivid, powerful and deep-within understanding of the power and preciousness of freedom, and how close we all are to losing it,” he said.
“So, part of my goal and mission in coming to Israel repeatedly is that I want people to come away as ambassadors for Israel – a place where there is freedom, where there is democracy.”
The politician went on to laud actress Scarlett Johansson for resigning from Oxfam after the human rights organization repudiated her for promoting SodaStream International Ltd, which employs Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank.
“Much to her credit, she showed she has more sense than 99.9 percent of the people sitting in the UN today,” he said. “She showed she has far more scholarship and understanding of the issues than most of the people serving in the foreign service and diplomatic core.”
Noting that Palestinians and Jews receive similar wages and benefits by the company, Huckabee said he was incredulous how anyone could conclude that SodaStream somehow engenders apartheid.
“SodaStream has put more money into the pockets of [Palestinians] and their families than they’ve ever earned before,” he said.
“How can anybody think that is somehow apartheid? No, that’s progress.”
Huckabee also called on Oxfam, which he claimed was a proven funder of Palestinian terrorism 30 years ago, to issue an apology to Johansson.
“If anything, Oxfam owes Scarlett Johansson a big apology for ever trying to embarrass her,” he said. “And the whole world owes her big thanks for having the courage and the intelligence to stand against that nonsense.”
In terms of contentious ongoing peace negotiations, Huckabee said he was not remotely sanguine about the prospect of any breakthroughs, due to a lack of Palestinian concessions, compounded by the Palestinians’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
“I don’t think [talks are] going anywhere at all. And why would they?” he asked. “Nothing has been asked of the Palestinians – nothing. Not one thing. And until there is some understanding that there must be recognition by the Palestinians of the Jewish state’s right to exist, I’m not sure what there is to discuss or negotiate.”
Indeed, Huckabee said he was flabbergasted that Israel is being pressured by the international community to negotiate with an adversary that will not concede its very existence, and teaches its children to celebrate terrorism.
“It’s very difficult to negotiate with someone who doesn’t believe you have a right to exist,” he said.
“And as long as the textbooks for the children of the Palestinians celebrate the death of Jews, I’m not sure why anyone… with common sense would talk about peace if one of the parties has no intention of a peaceful resolution.”