Recently, The Commentator offered some insight into attitudes towards Israel within the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Further illumination was available this week when Matthew Gould, the British Ambassador to Israel, spoke at a sub-committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem.
There is much in the Ambassador’s speech (which, obviously, reflects the attitudes of those he represents rather than his own opinions) to raise quizzical eyebrows, but insufficient space here to address all the points.
Not the least bizarre was the statement that last year the British government allocated £2 million for security in Jewish schools — without addressing the rather obvious follow-up question of why Jewish schools in the UK (and only they) are in need of security in the first place.
No less bizarre is the following claim:
“…[T]here is indeed a small group of people in the UK – as in many other countries – who are determined to promote a fundamental assault upon Israel’s very legitimacy. They represent a small minority, but they are active, loud and hugely dedicated.
They try, and sometimes succeed, to marshal civil society organisations to their cause. These people are on the margin of political life, but they have made occasional inroads into mainstream politics.”
One can but speculate as to how Palestine Solidarity Campaign patrons such as Jeremy Corbyn MP and Baroness Tonge will react to the knowledge that the FCO considers them to be ‘on the margin of political life’.
Equally, one wonders how the 17 trade unions affiliated to the PSC – representing, according to their own claims, 80 percent of the members of the 6.5 million-strong TUC – became a ‘small minority’. And, according to the Ambassador’s theory, apparently the Church of England can also now be classified as a fringe group.
But among all the claims made in the speech, there are two in particular which merit further discussion. The Ambassador – again, presumably reflecting FCO accepted wisdoms – stated that:
“There is an important battle for public opinion to be had in the UK, but it is not the one at the far fringes of political life. Rather, it is for the centre ground, where the issue is not delegitimisation but a genuine concern about the absence of progress towards peace, about settlements and the occupation.
“By contrast, progress towards peace will further discredit the delegitimisers and allow Israel’s supporters to shift their energy away from extinguishing fires to embracing Israel positively.”
Notably, this view places the onus entirely upon one party involved in the conflict: Israel. It completely ignores the many efforts –and sacrifices – Israel has made over the years in order to try to achieve a settlement to the conflict.