UK: Bombing Syria, hypocrisy and supporting terrorists

The debate made it clear the West has no detailed strategy to end IS rule over any territory.

December 14, 2015 21:12
Jeremy Corbyn

DATE IMPORTED: September 15, 2015 The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn gestures as he aknowledges applause after addressing the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton in southern England, September 15, 2015.. (photo credit: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

Major parliamentary debates in Europe often feature elements Israel should observe carefully.

This is true of the UK parliamentary process, for instance, where hypocrisy, masked by illusions of fair play and good manners, can be exposed by examining speeches and voting history. One case is the major debate on December 2, when the House of Commons approved with a 174-vote majority the government’s proposal to expand air-strikes against Islamic State (IS) from Iraq to Syria.

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The Labour Party’s pacifist leader Jeremy Corbyn opened the debate for the Opposition, and came out against the bombing. This extreme leftist has described Hamas and Hezbollah as “my friends” and several years ago attended meetings organized by a Holocaust denier.

Corbyn’s speech was however eclipsed by that of Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. He spoke in favor of the air-strikes and said that Britain must attack the “fascists” of IS of Iraq and the Levant because “we never have, and we never should, walk by on the other side of the road.”

The Telegraph daily wrote that the speech would stand “as one of the great orations in our Parliament.”

That may be, but Benn’s words will also stand as one more example of extreme hypocrisy in the ranks of the Labour Party’s top brass.

In 2014, under its previous left-wing leader Ed Miliband, Labour presented a motion in Parliament for Britain to recognize a Palestinian state. Benn voted in favor, and later described his feelings at the time: “I was proud as a Labour member of Parliament last year to go through that division lobby in the vote on Palestinian recognition in the House of Commons and I want to say that I stand by the vote that I cast on that day.”

As Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Benn is familiar enough with the Middle East to be well aware that when he cast his vote, he did precisely what he condemned in his opponents in his speech on Syrian air-strikes. When he voted for the recognition of Palestine, he “walked by on the other side of the road,” deliberately ignoring that the majority Palestinian faction Hamas in their charter call for the genocide of Israelis and Jews.

Benn also ignored that the second-largest Palestinian faction, Fatah, and its leader Mahmoud Abbas, glorify murderers of Israeli civilians in many ways, and continue to incite in the current terrorist killing spree.

In the debate on Syria, Benn said of IS that “they hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt, they hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt, they hold our democracy – the rules by which we will make our decision tonight – in contempt.” All this can equally be said about the Palestinians whose non-existent state he recognizes.

While Benn now supports bombing of IS, an organization which although expressing evil intent rarely attacks British citizens, he was not at all supportive when Israel finally reacted to the many rockets fired by Hamas into the country over the years, until Israel fought back massively in summer 2014. Benn felt Israel should have its hands tied through sanctions on UK military exports, and should settle the dispute through discussions with Hamas and Fatah. Perhaps his voters should ask him why he voted in favor of stepping up the bombing of IS rather than volunteering to travel to the IS capital Raqqa to try to settle the dispute through political dialogue.

The double-dealing Benn and the terrorist sympathizer Corbyn represent two aspects of the widespread degeneration in many European social democrat parties.

The application of the term “terrorist sympathizer” in this context came the day before the parliamentary debate, from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, addressing the few conservative MPs who opposed the government’s involvement in Syria. He warned them that they should not vote with “Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathizers.” During the debate, there were several demands from Labour and Scottish National Party MPs for Cameron to apologize for his use of this expression. The prime minister refused, yet softened his remark to say there was “honor” both in voting for or against military action.

Later Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said on the BBC that Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonell looked like terrorist sympathizers to her.

Cameron’s use of the term “terrorist sympathizers” for opponents of British air-strikes against IS in Syria raises questions about the timidity of Israeli politicians. They rarely make similar statements about the many anti-Israel hate-mongering politicians, biased media, NGOs, liberal church leaders and trade unionists, however well-deserved such statements would be. These inciters condemn Israel and remain silent about Palestinian terrorists and those who glorify the killing of civilians.

Other elements surrounding this debate also relate to Israeli interests. There are still Israelis who think that Britain is the country of fair play. Both before and after the vote there was major abuse – not limited to the social media – of Labour MPs who supported the government.

Photographs of dead Syrian children were shoved under the front doors of some MPs. After his speech Benn was called a murderer and received death threats via social media. MP Stella Creasy was subjected to the following tweet: “Enjoy sleeping when the first child dies. Maybe you can keep one of their limbs as a souvenir?” MP Neil Coyle said: “I have received several threats to my safety and have flagged one to the police. It’s a first for me to be threatened with violence by people claiming to be pacifists.” The Holocaust was brought into the threats as well. One Labour member said that former leadership candidate Liz Kendall and others should suffer a Nazi-style “final solution.”

During the debate questions were asked as to why IS is still around despite all the air-strikes by Western forces to date. After the debate Defense Secretary Michael Fallon predicted that the bombing in Syria would last for at least three years. This perhaps is an example of British understatement. The debate made it clear the West has no detailed strategy to end IS rule over any territory. As this radical Muslim movement is also a threat to Israel it is important to realize that IS is likely to be around for quite a few years.

The author is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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