Here’s gratitude for you

The Spectator this week led with a “Happy 60th Birthday, Israel” feature by Melanie Phillips. Perhaps there is nothing unusual about that, given that it repeats a whole load of the usual pro-Israeli claims which seek to deny anyone else’s claim over the land, but it displays a breathtaking ingratitude towards the western countries which are the country’s main allies and have been for decades.

Here is one of Phillips’s outrageous statements:

Israel finds itself trapped by a pincer movement of military and psychological attack from not only the Arab and Muslim world but also the West. And Britain, whose intelligentsia has swallowed wholesale Arab and Muslim lies, is the Western leader of those baying for Israel’s head. Thanks to the poison spread by the British media, the universities, NGOs and the churches, Israel has been systematically demonised and delegitimised.

The fact is that most of the major Arab players have been bought off or neutralised since the 1970s. True, Syria and Lebanon remain hostile and Saudi Arabia nominally so, but Iraq has been occupied by allies of Israel and Jordan and Egypt are essentially at peace; Egypt in fact re-sealed its borders with Gaza when Palestinians broke out of Gaza last year. The idea that Britain (as opposed to elements in British society) is itself “baying for Israel’s head” is scandalous. For one thing, Gordon Brown accepted the position of patron of the Jewish National Fund UK in July last year after replacing Tony Blair as Prime Minister; other patrons include Blair, David Cameron and the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. The same Jewish Chronicle article notes that he told a meeting of Labour Friends of Israel that his father, a Church of Scotland minister, had taught him of “the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, about the enormous suffering and loss during the Holocaust, as well as the extraordinary struggle he described to me of people to create this magnificent homeland”. Hardly the words of someone baying for Israel’s blood.

On the third page of her article, Phillips alleges that the Arabs have no right even to Gaza:

Ben-Gurion would today be surprised to find, for example, that Israel is regarded as illegally occupying the West Bank (and until 2005, Gaza). Along with modern Israel, this was part of the territory of Palestine within which in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain the task of re-establishing the Jewish national home because of the unique claim by the Jews — the only people for whom it had ever been their nation state, hundreds of years before the Arabs invaded it. In other words, far from being ‘Palestinian land’, the Jews are entitled to claim it under international law, which also gives it the right to hold on to it in self-defence.

In fact, the Jews were but one of a number of nations which occupied the land (and even then, not all of Mandate Palestine and certainly not Gaza). If we are to use the Biblical version of the land being the Jews’ Promised Land, we must accept that the promise was delivered on, and that the Jews were eventually displaced for reasons doubtless similar to those which led to them being led into captivity in Babylon. The Jews were mostly gone from Palestine centuries before the “Arabs invaded”; most of the present Palestinans are Arabs only by language; they are the native population, mostly Muslims (many of those with some actual Arab ancestry) with some Christians. The original Arab Muslim conquest of Palestine was done with a small army, most of which went back to Arabia afterwards.

Later on, on page five, she brings out the old chestnut of the establishment of the state of Jordan being the original “two-state solution”, with the remainder of the land being earmarked for the Jews. At that stage, demand for Jewish migration to Palestine was considerably less than it became after the war, since the rise of Nazism had barely begun and, although there was a Zionist movement, it had yet to become a mass movement. Phillips alleges that “Winston Churchill unilaterally gave away three quarters of the original territory of Palestine to the Hashemite dynasty, creating what is now Jordan, with the remainder supposed to go to the Jews”. In fact, most of the land in Jordan is desert, with the rest having serious water shortage issues. The most fertile land in that region is that west of the Jordan, which is why Israel has been so keen to occupy it. Contrary to popular misconception, most Arabs are not desert people; they are farmers or they live in cities.

Phillips then goes on to accuse the United States of “self-serving meddling” in pressuring Israel to accept Hamas’s ‘truce’ (her quotes) and trying to “force the agreed outline of a Palestinian state by the time President Bush leaves office”. One would have thought that the Americans would have had some right to meddle, given that Israel has received hundreds of billions of dollars in direct American aid, mostly grants rather than loans, and most of it direct military aid, on more favourable terms than other recipients of aid. However, this ingratitude and sense of entitlement is not unusual among supporters of Israel; one remembers the Israeli rabbis who claimed that Hurricane Katrina was a Divine punishment for American support for the Israeli pull-out from Gaza.

She concludes by insisting that Israel, by realising that it has to fight to survive, will still be there in another 60 years’ time, and suggests that the same might not be true of Britain or Europe:

But the future of Israel is the future of the West. If the front line in Israel were to go down, the West would be next. Given its current internal appeasement of Islamism, however, the West may go down anyway.

Another pathetic, sweeping lie which is plainly aimed at a particular gallery. The article is a classic example of the phenomenon of “truth-space”, real or virtual “spaces” were particular ideas or notions are presumed to be true, whether or not they really are, and it is pointless to argue otherwise. “Truth-spaces” are usually blogs and webzines, not mainstream political magazines; one wonders how the majority of Spectator readers will take the assertions in Phillips’s piece, which would ordinarily have been more fitted to Phillips’s blog. It is not true that Europe has appeased Islam. It is an accusation commonly repeated in the “truth-spaces” of the American right-wing blogosphere, but in many places Muslims’ lives have deliberately been made more difficult, particularly Muslim women’s.

However, I am sure many westerners will take issue with the idea of Israel as the West’s front-line as well. Israel is not a bulwark for western values; it is an alien imposition which has become a liability for the west to prop up. It is a colony established by people descended from westerners who claimed that their roots were in the Middle East who chose to migrate to the Middle East and speak a Middle Eastern language. Geographically, it is not part of the West. Besides, the presence of Israel will not prevent an Islamic resurgence in predominantly Muslim regions of eastern Europe. Israel’s status as an outpost of the West is of value to Israel, not to the West; it would be more beneficial to the West to have all its high-tech industry and know-how in a safe place, which means nowhere near any war zone. The ingratitude displayed by Phillips is nauseating, although I appreciate that she is not Israeli; supporters of Israel should be careful what they wish for regarding Europe, since any collapse of Europe would make Israel’s position much more precarious than it is now.

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