Thursday, 17 March 2011

The progressive case for Israel

One of the surprises in recent years has been the way in which traditionally progressive organisations in the UK such as parts of the trades union movement, the Quakers and the Methodist Church have come to view Israel as an oppressor. This is surprising because the State of Israel from its outset has sought to proclaim the highest and most progressive Judeo-Christian values.

Part of this can be put down to the well funded and constant campaigns that are financed by oil. When I was young my Jewish neighbours used to say that it was all because Moses lacked a sense of direction. Had he turned right instead of left, the Arabs would have the oranges and the Jews would have the oil.

There are those that have grown rich on oil, who have all the resources necessary to run campaigns against the only democratic state in the region. Many workers in the region envy Israel with its free trades unions, freedom of speech, intensely democratic parliament and open society.

It is no accident that a recent poll of Arabs living in East Jerusalem shows that many would prefer to remain part of Israel   and continue to enjoy access to the same services as Israelis, including health care, education, unemployment benefits and pensions.

However we have to understand that anti-Semitism is still very much part of the darker side of western societies. We only need to read 19th and early 20th century English literature to realise how casually it was an accepted part of our culture. It went underground after the horrors of the Holocaust and is now re-emerging disguised as an attack on Zionism. Not all, but many of those campaigning against Israel are anti-Semite to the core. It is a form of racism to which the British left, and out own church,  must not indulge or excuse.

The Jewish Chronicle recently carried an impressive article by Robert Philpot  which sums up the case far better than I can. His critical argument is:


Israel is, after all, a country founded on social democratic principles; and the Israeli Labor Party, which, alongside our own Labour Party, is a member of the Socialist International, was the country's dominant political force for decades. 

Indeed, it is because of those social democratic principles that Israel's attributes are undeniably progressive: a free and vibrant media; a robust and independent judiciary; strong trade unions; a generous welfare state; and a commitment to free, world-class education that enables Israel to have one of the highest-skilled workforces on earth. 

Contrast, too, the equal rights which women, gays and lesbians and other minorities enjoy in Israel with the second-class citizenship and persecution meted out to such groups in most, if not all, of Israel's neighbours.


12 comments:

John Cooper said...

If it is such an equal society - why is there the separation barrier and separate roads for certain people in Israel?

I get upset by injustice - whichever country or group delivers it and believe all the groups you list act as a challenge to injustice, not out of anything 'darker' than that.

Methodist Preacher said...

Sadly there has been a real problem with security over the years. The seperation barrier has done much to halt the Hammas bombing attacks. It is very difficult to stop brainwashed 13 year olds launching suicide attacks without them.

offended jew said...

to John Cooper

have you asked yourself why the separation barrier is there at all? There was no impediment at all before 2000. Everyone, Israelis and Palestinians, could just walk or drive in AND out of Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Kalkilya, and everywhere else in the West Bank and to and from Israel. I did - many times! Have you reflected on why there is the need for such action now? Do you even know? In case you don't - here is a clue – an article from Ha'aretz dated 17/9/09 - it says it all -

Larisa Grischenko, 39, died on Wednesday from critical wounds sustained four years ago in a terror attack at the Hadera market.

Grischenko had been in a coma since the October 2005 bombing, which left five people dead and another 55 wounded. Another woman died of her wounds two weeks after the attack, raising the death toll to six.

Grischenko is survived by her husband and three children. She will be laid to rest Thursday afternoon at the Hadera cemetery.

The Israel Defense Forces responded to that attack by entering a town south of Jenin to hunt down members of the Islamic Jihad cell responsible for the bombing.

One of the men killed was Jihad Awidat, the Jihad operative who dispatched the bomber Hassan Abu Zaid, 21, to Hadera. Abu Zaid had been released from Israeli jail just weeks before he carried out the bombing.

So …. three children emotionally drained for four years and finally left motherless!

In short - there was no separation barrier or indeed any obstacle or restriction prior to 2000 when Arafat's launch of the 2nd intifada broke the coexistence. The barrier's construction began in 2003 and the value of the fence in saving lives is evident from the data: In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered; in 2009, 8 Israelis were killed.

If John Cooper lived say, in the coastal town of Netanya (my son was studying there) where suicide bombers from the West Bank (less than 15 miles to the east) exploded practically every week during the 2nd intifada, would he then be in favour of the fence?

As to the roads - I'm afraid John that it's the same story. There was no separation of any of the roads until Israel's open society attitude became intolerably exploited by unbearable levels of Pal terrorism and cynicism (drive-by shootings, snipings, road-side bombs, etc) again largely dating from the outbreak of the 2nd intifada. In fact, today, as Israel tries to improve conditions for the Palestinians by removing restrictions, dismantling checkpoints and opening up previously closed routes for use by all, so the terrorists exploit these, as was witnessed last weekend with the brutal murder of five members of the Fogel family.

So, in order to understand, you need first to have some proper context Mr Cooper

Methodist Preacher said...

John I went to Israel several times in the 1990s. It was very easy to get between, for example, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. On one occasion I was picked up by a Palestinian owned bus at the King David hotel and taken to Bethlehem where we met PA officials for lunch. It was all very relaxed.

However on another occasion there was a security alert and a road block was set up. This caused massive disruption and both Jew and Arab at the hotel were complaining about it.

The security barrier is there for a purpose and that is to protect a civilian population against an enemy that have no scruples about sending young children in with bombs.

Had the London bombings continued we would have similar precautions.

See this YouTube new of a teenager who decided at a critical point to abort his mission:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPU4UN03t7E

John said...

Ok..ok....stop with the lecturing can we try engaging?

I put my viewpoint across because I didn't think that David's explanation of an egalitarian utopia in israel was correct.

Can either of you explain a situation where divisions along religious lines, enforced by either a government of civil society, has lead to a long lasting peace?

I can't see any in the history books.

Methodist Preacher said...

Israel, isn't anymore an "egalitarian utopia" than any other western democratic state. There are problems, for example I think that the extreme form of PR they have in Israel mitigates against the creation of consensus -but I'm not going to start lecturing them on electoral reform.

I'm not certain I understand what you are looking for in the history books. There is a lot of history.

Are you suggesting that the Jews have no right to establish a Jewish state? Because that is exactly where I think that a lot of the anti-Israel rhetoric comes from: the Jews are not allowed to have state of their own. Why not?

John said...

david - history wise I'm more looking at places like India/Pakistan or Northern Ireland - so modern states established (or separated) along religious lines.

Leaving aside the question of historic or religious 'right' to establish a state - world population is such that no new country can just be 'created' out of nothing.

I look around the globe at 'security walls' of the past in Northern Ireland and Berlin and wonder if they built peace or prolonged war.

Thats why i commented on this position. Because I don't believe the devision-based security solutions in place in Israel and the territories will deliver a lasting peace. they only deliver hatred and misunderstanding.

There are many injustices that go in the region. Many horrible violations of the basic laws of human decency. However it appears at times that people are more interested in 'an eye for an eye so we all go blind" rather than delivering justice for all.

I don't believe that official segregation and oppression makes israel as forward and positive state as outline.

Methodist Preacher said...

John I think you hit the nail on its head when you say:

"no new country can just be 'created' out of nothing."

Israel hasn't been created "out of nothing". Jews have been in the Holy Land for thousands of years.

You are right about walls. But you do seem to be under the impression that the walls epitomize the State of Israel. They are a response to a regrettable security situation and a comparatively recent addition to the landscape.

Obviously we should work and pray for peace. This will inevitably ensure a viable two state solution. Sadly it is taking the Palestinians a long time to establish a viable state. The situation in Gaza demonstrates the challenges they face within their own people. The Hammas regime reject the very nature of Israel. Their rhetoric calls for all Jews to be murdered and swept into the sea. It makes nation building and negotiation close to impossible.

Take a closer look at Hammas and you will not like what you see.

Methodist Preacher said...

John, this Palestinian video about Hammas will show you what the local population in Gaza now face:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1M4eH9Kk7I

Offended Jew said...

John - i'm not lecturing, I'm trying to provide you with proper context (unlike your presidents!)

Have you actually been to Israel? If so, whereabouts, how many times and when?

For your information, Israel is far closer to an egalitarian utopia than Britain.

In respect of Britain's "disadvantaged" minorities - how many of these are MPs or sit on judicial benches? Did you know, for instance, that across all the Galilee courtrooms there are more Arab judges than Jewish ones. I wonder what the ratio of Black (or even Muslim, or Afro-Caribbean) to Caucasian / Protestant is in say Birmingham or Blackburn? The recent indictment of Israel's ex-President Katsav was presided over by an Arab judge - and this caused no public consternation at all - I'm not sure that anyone in Israel even raised the point! Can you imagine an equivalent scenario here in the U.K. This is because access to Israel's superb universities and therefore the spread of qualifications, is far more "egalitarian" than in the U.K….and their funding is far more transparent and has little to do with politics!

The fact is that the basis for the State of Israel is that it is a home to the Jews – who are a people - it is not divided by "religion".

The Palestinians have also now created themselves as a people (although there is much dispute about this on the basis that there is no common Palestine tradition, history, literature, heritage, folklore, specific culture, etc..). But, to follow the same argument, they are also entitled to a state (which Israel has long since accepted), except that the Palestinians don't seem to want to recognise the right of the Jews to a State - they want that right only for the Palestinians, whoever they are.

.....and there is the problem!

They will stamp their feet and throw their toys out of the pram until they get what they want and Israel DOESN’T get what it wants.

From my experience of Israel, I know that Israel has done and is doing and will always do more than any other comparable state (with its own fringe of crackpots at either end of the political and religious scale) to try to accommodate its neighbours and to allow them "the benefit of the doubt" – but only until it has become impossible to continue indulging their behaviour!

Unfortunately, the current Middle East psyche interprets any goodwill from Israel as a sign of weakness to be exploited!

.....and there is another problem!

But meanwhile ....I wish you both Shabbat Shalom!

Offended Jew said...

John - i'm not lecturing, I'm trying to provide you with proper context (unlike your presidents!)

Have you actually been to Israel? If so, whereabouts, how many times and when?

For your information, Israel is far closer to an egalitarian utopia than Britain.

In respect of Britain's "disadvantaged" minorities - how many of these are MPs or sit on judicial benches? Did you know, for instance, that across all the Galilee courtrooms there are more Arab judges than Jewish ones. I wonder what the ratio of Black (or even Muslim, or Afro-Caribbean) to Caucasian / Protestant is in say Birmingham or Blackburn? The recent indictment of Israel's ex-President Katsav was presided over by an Arab judge - and this caused no public consternation at all - I'm not sure that anyone in Israel even raised the point! Can you imagine an equivalent scenario here in the U.K. This is because access to Israel's superb universities and therefore the spread of qualifications, is far more "egalitarian" than in the U.K….and their funding is far more transparent and has little to do with politics!

The fact is that the basis for the State of Israel is that it is a home to the Jews – who are a people - it is not divided by "religion".

The Palestinians have also now created themselves as a people (although there is much dispute about this on the basis that there is no common Palestine tradition, history, literature, heritage, folklore, specific culture, etc..). But, to follow the same argument, they are also entitled to a state (which Israel has long since accepted), except that the Palestinians don't seem to want to recognise the right of the Jews to a State - they want that right only for the Palestinians, whoever they are.

.....and there is the problem!

They will stamp their feet and throw their toys out of the pram until they get what they want and Israel DOESN’T get what it wants.

From my experience of Israel, I know that Israel has done and is doing and will always do more than any other comparable state (with its own fringe of crackpots at either end of the political and religious scale) to try to accommodate its neighbours and to allow them "the benefit of the doubt" – but only until it has become impossible to continue induging their behaviour!

Unfortunately, the current Middle East psyche interprets any goodwill from Israel as a sign of weakness to be exploited!

.....and there is another problem!

But meanwhile ....I wish you both Shabbat Shalom!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to this conversation but as Offended Jew said Israel is the home of the "Jewish People". The operative word is "People". Most don't understand that the Jewish People is not a religion. It's a nation of people with common heritage and culture who might (or might not) follow their constitution called Torah. You don't even have to believe in G-d to be a member. A person born from a Jewish mother is considered a Jew whether they believe in G-d or not. You can't be born into a religion and you can't convert into a people. It's more complex than a religion.

Israel is a secular liberal democratic state (not a religious state) with the majority of people being Jews.