Peres accuses British of anti-Semitism

President causes a storm in England with interview to Jewish Web site.

August 1, 2010 16:48
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres 311. (photo credit: AP)

LONDON - President Shimon Peres has caused a storm in England after accusing the British of being anti-Semitic.

In a recent interview with the Jewish news Web site Tablet, Peres said that Britain has become pro-Arab and anti-Israeli.  "In England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment," he told Tablet.

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The president, who received in 2008 an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, “They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 UN partition resolution... They maintained an arms embargo against us in the 1950s... They had a defense treaty with Jordan, they always worked against us," he said adding that “They think the Palestinians are the underdog... Even though this is irrational.”

Peres also accused British lawmakers of pandering to Muslim voters in order to retain their seats in Parliament.

"There are several million Muslim voters, and for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected," he said.

Peres’ comments caused a storm, generating angry reactions from Jewish and non-Jewish members of Parliament.

Conservative lawmaker James Clappison, who is vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said Peres had got it "wrong."

In an interview Sunday with the Telegraph, he said: "There are pro- and anti-Israel views in all European countries. Things are certainly no worse, as far as Israel is concerned, in this country than other European countries."

Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain, spiritual leader of Maidenhead synagogue, also told the newspaper: "It is a sweeping statement that is far too one-sided... The tolerance and pluralism here make Britain one of the best countries in the world in which to live."

However, Jacob Vince, the director of Christian Friends of Israel, described Peres’ remarks as "measured and moderate." He added that there was anti-Semitism in Britain although many people had a positive view of Israel but were unwilling to express it publicly.

Vince said it was "difficult to see how many MPs would not be influenced by the number of Muslim voters in their constituencies."

In the past decade there has been a significant rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Britain.

According to data collected by the Community Security Trust, a charity set up in 1984 to monitor such incidents. In 2009 there were 924 anti-Semitic incidents, the highest figure since CST began keeping records, and 55 per cent higher than the previous record in 2006.

The figures include reports, accepted only when backed by evidence, of physical assaults, verbal abuse and racist graffiti.

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