This is a guest post by Roslyn Pine
Last Monday, July 19th, I was privileged to attend the UK launch of Friends of Israel Initiative (FII), hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, and chaired by the new MP, Robert Halfon, in the House of Commons, Westminster, London.
An illustrious panel, including three of the founding members, addressed the packed meeting. It comprised former Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar; former President of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera; British historian, Andrew Roberts; and was joined by the distinguished British lawyer and academic, Anthony Julius. Each spoke from their own individual perspective.
FII is an initiative formed in response to the rising tide of criticism, hatred and delegitimisation aimed uniquely at Israel. FII is funded by private donors from Spain, America, Israel, France, Italy and the UK – with an initial working budget of almost £1 million a year.
The proceedings were opened by MP Robert Halfon, who observed that just weeks earlier there had been a hostile meeting of parliamentarians, led by foreign secretary, William Hague, in that very same committee room, to debate Israel’s culpability in the Mavi Marmara incident.
Hose Maria Aznar, the driving force behind the initiative, gave the first address, and his message was that any attack on Israel’s legitimacy is nothing less than an attack on Western civilisation and the values it embodies. Simply put, “if Israel goes down, we all go down”.
Marcello Pera spoke about Israel, our “forefather”, and how the culture of human rights was born and has flourished in those countries that have been shaped by Judeo-Christianity. Israel and the Jews are, therefore, central to the greatest political achievements of the West. The assault on Israel is itself an assault on Judeo-Christian values, and by defending Israel we are defending ourselves.
Andrew Roberts described how the State of Israel has packed more history into her 62 years than have many others in 600 years. He reflected upon the miracle of Israel’s survival, and then on the reasons that confirm Israel’s legitimacy, marvelling at the Jewish contribution to every field of human endeavour – to a degree totally disproportionate to their tiny population. He concluded his barnstorming speech by asserting that no people in history have needed the right to self-defence and legitimacy more than the Jews of Israel, and that is what we, in the Friends of Israel Initiative, “demand here today”.
Anthony Julius set the campaign against Israel in the context of centuries old anti-Semitism which has now mutated and modernised, and directs its bile against the Jewish state.
Speeches were followed by questions, and the only hostile question, “what about Israel’s human rights abuses?,” was robustly dealt with by Marcello Pera, who countered that Israel does not abuse human rights. He said that when, for example, a photographer contrives to take a photograph of an Israeli soldier standing next to a Palestinian child, he is constructing a narrative of his own choosing that does not reflect the truth. He suggested that the questioner should be more concerned about the large-scale human rights abuses in the countries surrounding Israel.
There was an extraordinary contribution from a Libyan Muslim member of the audience, who reflected on the terrible fate of Libya’s Jews, the oldest Jewish community in the Arab world – one which was destroyed during, and in the years following, WWII. He said he was proud to be associated with this initiative to stand by Israel.
The FII has already published its first paper, “The Challenge to Israel’s Legitimacy,” by former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold, in which he eloquently describes the formidable ideological warfare directed against Israel – the ultimate goal of which is the state’s total demise.
The purveyors of hatred, directed at the world’s only Jewish state and against Jews as such, foremost of whom reside in the media and in university campuses worldwide, have been served notice that their nefarious activities will not go unchallenged, and that the State of Israel has friends who are united in their determination that she shall prevail.
All people of goodwill who stand by Israel were invited to lend their support to this marvellous initiative by adding their signatures of support. We look forward to its deserved success.