Magazine article The Spectator

The End of Israel?

Magazine article The Spectator

The End of Israel?

Article excerpt

Once again Israel is judged the enemy of peace, and even its support in the US is shaky. If the Jewish state is to survive, it must persuade us that its war is our war, says Stephen Pollard

Perhaps the least important aspect of Sunday night's events in international waters off Israel is what actually happened. In the world in which Israel operates, the rights or wrongs of what Israel actually does are irrelevant. Reaction to Israeli behaviour is no longer governed by facts or by rational responses. The country is judged - and found guilty in advance - in the context of a perception on which all right-thinking people agree - that Israel is the enemy of peace.

Whenever Israel acts, the default response is to condemn first and inquire later. That has certainly been the pattern this week.

The pattern is well established. Remember the Jenin 'massacre' in April 2002? The condemnation travelled round the world, and became accepted fact before the truth could get its boots on. According to a Guardian leader, the events surrounding Israel's destruction of suicide bomb-making factories in Jenin on the West Bank during the second intifada were 'every bit as repellent' as Osama bin Laden's attack on New York on 9/11. Palestinian spokesmen such as Saeb Erekat reported 3,000 dead civilians.

The media recycled this as fact, with daily updated tales of Israeli war crimes, summary executions and general depravity. Israel was condemned across the planet.

But when the facts emerged, weeks later, there were not 3,000 dead but 46 - all but three of whom were combatants. One Palestinian newspaper even celebrated Jenin as a 'great victory against the Jews', with 23 IDF soldiers killed in door-to-door fighting.

For years, supporters of Israel's right to defend itself from terror have shared the same oft-repeated moan: why isn't its PR better? Surely lies such as Jenin, and the rush to judgment this week, could be avoided if more effort went into PR.

But that misunderstands the dynamics.

Israel does not just have a better case than the near universal condemnation it now receives across the globe implies; it is the front line in the war to defend Western civilisation from radical Islam, its citizens faced daily with the threat from terror.

This is the crucial point. We are embarrassed - shamed - by Israel's refusal to bend as we do. Increasingly spineless ourselves, we cannot even agree that radical Islam is a threat in the UK, let alone decide how to defeat it. Many of those in authority here would rather pretend all is well than confront it. Daily, as the body count increases, our will is being sapped in the military version of that fight in Afghanistan. And increasingly we forget the monumental and hard-won achievements in Iraq.

Israel, however, seems to make no concessions, even when it actually makes things worse for itself. Its dogmatic refusal to hold its own independent inquiry into Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last year meant that the malevolently biased Goldstone inquiry defined the terms of Israel's 'guilt'. Holding its own inquiry would not have been an admission of culpability; rather, it would have demonstrated the strength of Israel's democracy.

Similarly, its settlements are a standing affront to justice, and clearly make any kind of peace with moderate Palestinians even more difficult. Yet Israeli governments of all stripes have exacerbated the situation with more building.

Mark Regev, the cogent Israeli spokesman, may be ever-present on our screens whenever Israel is deemed to have transgressed, but the Israeli PR effort is not even half-hearted. …

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