My Word: Prosecution or persecution in the UK?

Prosecution or persecuti

I was born and raised in London and although I long ago gave up drinking tea with milk, I still have the lower-middle-class tendency to swallow the letter "t" in words like "better." And now and again I discover that nobody understands a word I'm saying because the particular word is Cockney rhyming slang of the type that my mum and her skin-and-blisters (sisters) often used so naturally, but which hasn't been heard much in these parts since the British finally gave up the Mandate in 1948. LAST WEEK, not for the first time, I couldn't understand the British. And I'll spare you the words that came out in language which was not publishable in a family paper. Think of something that rhymes in a Cockney accent with "bottle and glass" and you'll know where I think the British court can stick their arrest warrants against Israeli leaders and officers. England has obviously changed over the years - but not necessarily for the better. As once more we see what Post writer Elliot Jager among others has called "lawfare" being waged in the UK, I feel not so much angry at Britain as sad for it. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown might have called Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to apologize for the affair in which the former foreign minister apparently faced arrest for war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead last year, but such incidents don't bode well for either country. The arrest warrant was apparently withdrawn when Livni - evidently forewarned - canceled her visit to address the Jewish National Fund. But it will take a good many cups of tea to get rid of the bad taste it left. This is, of course, not the first time that an Israeli politician or IDF officer has faced the threat of arrest in the UK. In 2005, it was Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former OC Southern Command, who had to abort his fund-raising mission for adults with autism when he was warned that he would be detained should his feet touch the ground at Heathrow Airport. Many more names have been similarly paraded and humiliated since then. Sitting in Jerusalem, it sometimes seems that Israel-bashing has overtaken soccer as the British national sport. The almost-arrest of Livni joins a series of events such as calls for boycotting Israeli academics - would leftist new Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath be exempt? - and labeling products originating over the Green Line. When it rains, it pours - particularly in England. I don't remember NATO countries, whose forces accidentally killed some 2,500 civilians during the fighting in Yugoslavia of the 1990s, or the US, which now and again accidentally bombs Afghani civilians, facing such prosecution. But such court cases have little to do with the principle of "universal justice" the plaintiffs profess to cherish. Those who press charges against Israelis might just as well enter the courtroom wrapped in Palestinian flags. They are not looking after the best interests of the citizens of the world - and definitely not of the average British citizen. They are waging war, a war on behalf of Palestinian extremists and their backers, Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran. Boycotts aren't about human rights, progress or freedom of choice. Neither are these constant threats of arrest anything to do with a greater truth. When was the last time leaders from China, Iran or Saudi Arabia faced arrest in Britain? So much for "universal jurisdiction" and justice. BUT IT is definitely a global village. A friend in London a week ago e-mailed me the story of Miky, the Hebrew-speaking, IDF-trained dog who ended up in Montana where it took a Chabad rabbi to act as an interpreter before the canine and his handler could understand each other - the command h'pess (search) with the guttural het does not trip off the Midwestern tongue the way it does in the Mideast. During the e-mail exchange, my friend asked if I had any plans to come to England in the near future. I do not. Despite the many relatives and friends I'd love to see, after 30 years in Israel, England is neither home nor a place where I feel at home. Chava Alberstein's song "London lo mehaka li" - "London's not waiting for me" proclaims: "In London, they have more movies; in London, they have good music; in London, the television is great; in London, the people are polite. Thus, the despair is more comfortable." But this is not enough of a reason for a visit. I fear I might even face arrest for having served in the IDF - including a stint in the Military Government - or be subject to attack for simply being proudly Israeli and Jewish. Brown and former premier and current EU envoy Tony Blair may dial Jerusalem and tell the Israeli leadership that the arrest warrant case is not representative of the British public, but that is hardly reassuring. Some wags might even point out that they themselves can barely claim to represent the British public. Arguably, Blair belongs in court more than Livni, having admitted he went to war in Iraq despite having no evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He certainly had a lot less support from the British public than the Israeli leadership received from its citizens, fed up with some 80 missiles a day raining down on the South from Gaza. That Hamas's firing on Israeli civilians is not considered a war crime is as telling as the way that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas last week referred to the head of the UN committee of inquiry as "Richard Muhammad Goldstone." This is a case of hypocrisy, not human rights. Britain can hardly hope to play a role in that ever-elusive "peace process" when Israelis can't step off the plane onto British soil without finding themselves steeped in mud. And who can gain from this? Well, obviously those who file the petitions have already gained a PR coup even if the case never comes to trial. Slanderous attacks on the Jews in Britain are not new. Sadly, physical attacks are not new or even so rare either. One wonders what it will take for Britain to realize it is being hijacked by Islamic extremists - especially if it didn't get the message during the 7/7 London transport bombings in 2005. Israel, of course, has been in the forefront of the war against global terror - with more to offer than the remarkable Miky - and yet it finds itself increasingly accused of crimes against humanity while bleeding hearts bark up the wrong tree. In late October, anti-Israeli activists in Germany prevented the showing of director Claude Lanzmann's film Why Israel?. Last week, he called the German media's indifference to the ban the "larger scandal." Similarly, when I asked a friend in London on December 16 what he made of the Livni case, he replied: "The honest answer is that the British man or woman in the street neither knows nor cares. The story hasn't been played on the front pages, and even if it had been, for most of them it would be just those fascist jackbooted Israelis throwing their weight about again. If anything that's the greatest scandal of all." Gordon Brown is now promising - finally - to push through legislation that would prevent anti-Zionists continuing to conduct their campaign of psychological warfare against visiting Israeli officials. But I fear it might be too late. The Battle of Britain could be lost. Israelis might be the first victims, but if we have learned anything from Jewish and world history, they will not be the last.