Criticism of Israel in UK is open and loud

Published — Monday 3 December 2012

Last update 2 December 2012 7:20 pm

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This refers to “The cost of British meddling in Palestine,” by Neil Berry (Nov. 26)
I’m a British. I do not particularly specialize in history and politics of the Arab/Israeli conflict. Sympathy for the Jews and horror at how they have been treated in Europe over the centuries leading to the Holocaust are both thoroughly inculcated in the British and my belief is that they still inform our views of Israeli “rights” and claims to their state in the Middle East.
You are right that the historical part, which British politicians and leaders have had in the setting up of the Israeli state and the impact, which this had on the existing Arab populations is not generally known.
I think the general feeling in this country would be that, in WW II, the British and the Allies fought against German, Italian and Japanese fascism and our victory was a moral one. What was revealed about the Nazification of Germany and the destruction of the Jews across Nazi occupied Europe was so appalling and on a scale that is unprecedented in our knowledge and experience.
However, the Holocaust remains perceived to be the moral nadir and the defining peak of evil for humanity. For a long time to criticize the Israeli state was literally seen to be the same as being anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is something which — given our history and intervention in WW II — British people (and generally people the world over) cannot tolerate or allow to be perceived in themselves. This leads to a natural, fundamental sympathy for the Jewish people.
You are also right that the British people’s views have changed dramatically over the last few years and particularly since the attacks Israel inflicted on the Palestinian people during the 2009 war and, of course, the most recent unforgivable attacks. The blockade of Gaza and the treatment of Palestinians are really very much highlighted here now. I think most news coverage is biased in favor of the Arabic point of view and Israeli government officials are really given a hard time.
I have seen political discussions on TV in which live audiences boo and heckle pro-Israeli spokespersons or Israeli officials. There is much talk of boycotting Israeli goods and imports. Criticism of Israel is open and loud and no longer attached to the perception of anti-Semitism in the ordinary public here.
I regret every minute of the Gaza blockade; I regret every injustice to Palestinian people and am horrified by the example you give above (the two 12 year-old children). I regret every bullet and every bomb that destroys or harms and kills Palestinians. I am horrified by the inequality of conditions between the Israeli population and that of Gaza. All of this is iniquitous. I do not know any person who thinks differently from me on this.
Likewise, Palestinians should oblige by recognizing Israelis right to exist.
However, no matter how sympathetic British people are to the Palestinians, it cannot be denied that there is much Arab rhetoric and opinion which is anti Jewish and anti Israeli. There are large parts of Arab societies, which do not see Jews and Israelis as “fellow human beings” with an equal right to exist. I also think that gender inequality is a huge barrier to real progress in Middle Eastern countries and is something quite incomprehensible to most in the West. The way in which women are treated is a real barrier to understanding and engagement for someone like me. — A reader, By email

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