As I See It: Britain’s nightmare post-election scenario

The UK’s election alternatives on Israel would seem to be between decent but ignorant and thus incoherent on the one hand, and poisonous, existentially agonized and lethal on the other.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London (photo credit: REUTERS)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the run-up to next week’s UK general election Gulzabeen Afsar, a Conservative Party candidate in the simultaneous local council election in Derby, wrote on her Facebook page about the Labor Party leader Ed Miliband: “Never ever will I drop that low and support the Al Yahud!” Al Yahud is Arabic for “the Jew.”
Ms. Afsar was promptly suspended by the Conservative Party. The affair caused a few ripples. A number of people expressed shock at such a comment. People in Britain regularly express their shock and amazement at the increasingly common displays of outright Jew-hatred.
One wonders just how many more such outbursts must occur to stop them being so amazed.
It never occurs to them that the tsunami of anti-Israel bigotry which has swamped Britain these past 15 years and more has legitimized ever-more brazen expressions of Jew-hatred. On the contrary, people in Britain tend to think that anti-Jew stuff has nothing to do with anti-Israel stuff. Since so many Jews are hostile to Israel or Zionism, they chorus, this can’t possibly be anti-Jew, can it? I suspect that Ed Miliband himself makes precisely this distinction. For the Labor leader, who is himself a Jew, is in effect deeply anti-Israel.
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Not that he would characterize his position in this way. Indeed, in this week’s Jewish Chronicle he claims once again to be “a strong friend of Israel.”
This even though he damned Israel’s Gaza war last summer as “wrong and unjustifiable.” Since that war was driven entirely by the need to halt the thousands of attacks intended to murder as many Israelis as possible, Miliband was effectively damning Israel for defending itself.
If this is a “strong friend,” you can’t help wonder what an enemy would do. Miliband says he is committed to providing security for Israel. But how can this possibly square with vilifying it for defending itself? Miliband’s position draws upon the systematic lies and distortions deployed in the campaign of delegitimization intended to bring about the end of Israel. In the Gaza war, for example, Israel’s military strikes achieved a far lower ratio of civilian casualties than any other armed force has ever achieved. Yet in the demonology of the Left, Israelis have been vilified as willful child-killers. It is this monstrous libel to which Miliband effectively subscribes.
Others in political life similarly claim to be Israel’s friends but in fact hang it out to dry. So what is the explanation for this two-faced approach? The starting point is that such people cannot admit to having some kind of problem with the very existence of Israel, because they are aware this is indefensible. So they pretend there is a solution to the Middle East impasse which Israel is unreasonably frustrating. In this way, they can line up Israel as the fall-guy while pretending their own hands are clean.
But they can only do this if they deny all the evidence of history and law. So they eagerly subscribe to the revision of history in which the Arab war of extermination has been rewritten as Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
For some Jews who have a troubled or shriveled connection to their Jewish ancestry, this twisted narrative fulfills another function.
It enables them to hang on to the bits that drape them in the mantle of unchallengeable moral virtue – i.e., identifying with the victims of the Holocaust – while repudiating Jewish religion or peoplehood, the dimensions which risk jeopardizing their embrace by non-Jewish society.
This is surely where Miliband is coming from. He and his brother David were brought up by Marxist Jews who, by all accounts, taught them precious little about Judaism and who were reflexively anti-Zionist.
Having apparently realized only a few years ago the extent to which their family had suffered in the Holocaust, the brothers appear to have identified with this tragic element of their identity while dumping the rest of it.
However troubling the prospect may be of such a conflicted prime minister, this is as nothing compared to a possible nightmare scenario that now looms. No one can predict the outcome of this most volatile general election, in which the UK Independence Party and the Scottish Nationalist Party may eat into both the Conservative and Labor vote, thus depriving either David Cameron or Ed Miliband of an overall majority.
Even if Miliband gains the largest number of seats, in order to form a government he may have to enter an alliance with the Scottish nationalists who look set to storm to victory in the vast majority of Scottish constituencies. And the SNP’s hatred of Israel knows no bounds.
The former SNP leader Alex Salmond presents Israel as committing a never-ending series of crimes; after the Mavi Marmara incident, when Israeli forces killed Arab terrorists who tried to lynch them when the Israelis intercepted the boat which was breaching a maritime exclusion zone, Salmond condemned Israel for “an atrocity on the high seas.”
During last summer’s Gaza war, the SNP’s Minister for External Affairs and International Development Humza Yousaf called for an immediate suspension of arms sales to Israel. For two years, Yousaf was the director of the Scottish Islamic Foundation which supported and hosted Islamic extremists.
The foundation was created by former SNP parliamentary candidate Osama Saeed, who wrote of the need to reestablish the Islamic caliphate and supported Islamists such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the extremist preacher who inspired numerous Muslim terrorists, and Youssef al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who supports human bomb attacks against Israelis and Americans.
Stewart McDonald, an SNP election candidate for Glasgow South, has described Israel as an “apartheid” state, backed a boycott and called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be tried for war crimes.
You get the general idea.
Of course it is also possible that David Cameron may stitch together another coalition. In recent weeks, he has expressed his shock and concern that some British Jews are now wondering aloud whether their families have a future in Britain. Doubtless Cameron’s shock is genuine. He’s a decent enough guy.
But it is the demonization of Israel, unchallenged by British politicians and now running at epidemic levels throughout the British political and educated classes – and fed by the Foreign Office, with its false claims that Israel’s occupation and settlements are “illegal” – that is behind this anti-Jew atmosphere.
In short, the UK’s election alternatives on Israel would seem to be between decent but ignorant and thus incoherent on the one hand, and poisonous, existentially agonized and lethal on the other. A no-brainer, you might think – but in a country where reason itself seems to have taken an extended vacation.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK) and will be speaking at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on June 7.