We Israelis owe a debt of gratitude to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. Were it not for his cogent clarifications last Friday, we’d have never known why we aren’t too popular with enlightened British opinion-molders and with the ever morally superior denizens of the EU.
But thanks to Her Majesty’s top diplomat, who has just graced us with a brief visit, we’re no longer benighted. He has opened our eyes and made us see the light from London.
Israel, he told us via Sky News, has lost support in Britain and elsewhere in Europe due to settlement activities of which the UK “disapproves” and which it “condemns.”
No other problems cloud London’s sky. It’s just all about settlements. Presumably before we started annoying virtuous nations with Jewish construction beyond the 1949 Armistice Line, all was hunky-dory. We were the toast of the Free World and loved to bits by the Brits.
Much of that love was already evident on our first imperiled day as a sovereign state within a nightmarishly untenable mini-patchwork of territory. Already then, in Israel’s scariest neonatal hours, Britain played a proactive role in Arab plans to throw us into the sea.
The best-trained Arab army, the Jordanian Arab Legion, was established and organized on official orders from London by Major-General Frederick G. Peake (a.k.a. Peake Pasha). In 1939 Peake was replaced by Lancashire-born Lieutenant-General John Bagot Glubb (a.k.a. Glubb Pasha), who remained the Legion’s commander until 1956. Glubb led the 1948 Arab Legion’s invasion of Israel and engineered the Legion’s conquest of east Jerusalem, in direct contravention of the UN Partition Resolution.
British aircraft bombed and strafed Israel’s underdog fledgling forces. We won’t even mention Britain’s pre-state refusal of asylum to desperate Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Europe nor Britain’s hunt on the high seas postwar for Holocaust survivors and their incarceration for years under appalling conditions in Cyprus prison camps.
We won’t focus on the turning over of strategic positions to Arab marauders at the conclusion of the British Mandate over this land. We won’t even dwell on the arming of Arab militias.
There’s plenty more but suffice it to say that an abundance of such British affection was showered on Israel before it could plausibly have been denigrated as a menacing ogre; before Israel survived the genocidal onslaught upon it and won its War of Independence; before Israel was forced to defend itself in the Six Day War and found itself in Judea and Samaria; before Jews dared return to parts of Jerusalem and the so-called West Bank from which Britain had earlier assisted to expel them; and before all this was maligned as criminal occupation and illegal settlement.
With so much British love, no wonder we Israelis failed to gauge the ill-will we aroused when we crossed the lines of our exhaustion, drawn in green in 1949 – following the war that Britain helped wage against us. Our blindness persists. Many of us just obstinately fail to be convinced that it’s only settlements.
Our unfounded paranoia leads us to suspect that there’s a powerful predisposition against Jews and their state. But thanks to Hague’s elucidation we now know that it’s our sins that cast us as this peaceful planet’s baddies.
By fluke, shortly before Hague dispensed his conventional wisdom to Sky, the competition at the BBC had released yet another of its international popularity polls. As expected, once again, Israel ranked abysmally low, right near the bottom of the positivity scale.
Some 26,000 respondents from 25 countries were asked to rank a list of states according to their “mainly positive" or "mainly negative" influence in the world.
Germany topped the list with 59 percent of respondents viewing it positively, followed by Canada (55%), the UK (55%) and Japan (51%).
Only North Korea, Pakistan and Iran scored lower than Israel. Twenty-one percent of respondents viewed Israel's influence as mainly positive, while 52% saw the Jewish State's influence as negative.
In the corresponding BBC poll 12 months ago, only Iran and Pakistan outranked Israel in perceived malice. Iran got top negativity billing (55% of the vote) from 24,090 respondents worldwide; Pakistan was the runner-up (51%), while Israel and North Korea tied for the title of third-worst (50%).
The fact that we had now moved ahead of North Korea is nothing to scoff at. Pyongyang may starve its masses, explode nuclear devices and threaten the world with atomic warfare, but we construct (very few, actually) houses for Jews in the heart of the Jewish homeland. By any yardstick, nothing can top that for villainy.
We have only ourselves to blame for our rotten rep year after year. In 2007, for example, the same BBC poll (then comprising 28,389 respondents in 27 countries) also revealed that we aren’t at all liked. At that time things looked even gloomier. Israel had then topped the list of troublemaking countries and even beat Iran for the dubious distinction.
That was when Ehud Olmert headed our government and there has never been an Israeli PM as wrong-headedly generous with territorial and other existential concessions as he was. Yet Olmert’s inordinate risk-fraught largesse was rewarded with heaps of scorn from the polled masses abroad. So much for leftist land-for-popularity slogans (akin to the land-for-peace farce).
Mind you, all that hardly prevents Olmert from sounding even more censorious than Hague – almost as if he’s not one of us, almost as if his own egregious offers were not insolently rebuffed by Mahmoud Abbas’s crew of “peace partners.” Severely taking to task the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he hates with undisguised passion, Olmert informed us that the government we only recently voted for is thoroughly to blame for the international antipathy toward Israel.
“I think it is inarguable that Israel’s main problem isn’t public diplomacy; it’s first of all a policy problem,” Olmert intoned. “We won’t be able to convince the world we’re right unless our reality changes.”
“As long as we are in the territories,” Olmert pontificated, “almost no public diplomacy efforts can compete with the claim that this policy leads to extreme responses, including violence.”
So what if it was no better during his tenure? Can a negligible detail like that detract from a bitter and ongoing political vendetta? Likewise, so what if Israel was as detested even before Olmert’s own term and even farther back in time from Netanyahu’s comeback?
What disingenuous carpers like Olmert probably know but fail to openly acknowledge is that this has nothing to do with the record of any Israeli prime minister.
Even the BBC’s 2007 poll – when Olmert was our lead policy-maker – was, alas, nothing new. In 2003 the EU citizenry voted Israel “the greatest danger to world peace.” The same happened in 2000, when Ehud Barak headed Israel’s second most compromising government ever.
Our image as a danger to world stability appears guaranteed, regardless of which government is voted into office and regardless of how pliable and accommodating it is to the demands of a disapproving international community.
Right-wingers, left-wingers, patriots, defeatists – it makes no difference. Politically incorrect as it is to say so, when it comes to Jews, it never did.
For over two millennia, Jews could do nothing to reduce Judeophobia – for whatever pretext. If it wasn’t one thing it was another and there was never any shortage of rationalizations for why we deserve to be singled out for abhorrence.
Jews always had and still attract abuse – even when they call themselves Israelis. From time immemorial they found themselves in the eye of whatever storm was brewing. They didn’t rouse the tempest, but it always menacingly revolved around them.
When humanity was caught up in paganism’s fear, frenzy and frolic, we introduced the principled One-God. When others adopted offshoots of our monotheism, they accused us of deicide or of spurning Allah’s Prophet.
Imagine the unimaginable. Imagine, as a hypothetical, that two machete-wielding Jews had attacked a British soldier in the heart of the British capital and had decapitated him while prancing about gleefully with bloodied hands and shouting religious slogans.
Hague would have uncontrollably fumed with rancor. So would his boss David Cameron. All Jews would have been not just ostracized and vilified, but in unmistakable physical danger.
But after Muslims committed the unspeakable horror (and it wasn’t their first terrorist outrage), Britain’s establishment couldn’t bend backwards enough to absolve the Muslim masses of the bloodshed. Again Whitehall politicos lauded “moderate Islam,” the one that is serially invisible and unheard.
It violates the multicultural pluralist code to pin collective blame on any group – with the glaring exception of Jews/Israelis/Zionists.
Jews were the reviled plutocrats and bourgeoisie in dictatorships of the proletariat, and proletariat agitators to robber-barons and captains of capitalist industry. We were too ostentatiously rich or too bedraggled poor, too repulsively ugly or too exotically enticing, too obsequious or too arrogant, too downtrodden or too exploiting, too high on the moral ground or baking matzos with the blood of Christian tots (or Muslims, depending on libelous particulars).
We were continuously too smart for our own good and therefore accused of cabals and hatching nefarious plots. We were the perfect target because we were weak, but decried as too strong when we strove not to be so helpless.
As a consequence, our self-defense is habitually denounced – only ours, of all the nations on this earth. The Brits aren’t unaware of this. They condemn us with kneejerk alacrity and they know it.
This predisposition was satirized back in the 1980s by the matchless sitcom creators who gave us the BBC’s Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Get this hardly far-fetched exchange of views at Number 10 Downing Street:Prime Minister
: I gather we're planning to vote against Israel in the UN tonight.Foreign Secretary
: Of course!Prime minister
: Why?Foreign Secretary
: They bombed the PLO.Prime minister
: But the PLO bombed Israel!Foreign Secretary
: Yes, but the Israelis dropped more bombs than the PLO did.
This skit was scripted nearly 30 years ago. It could have been credibly written yesterday and realistically performed by Cameron and Hague.www.sarahhonig.com