uploaded : Thursday 18th Apr 2002 at 23:49
by : Rabbi Dr John D Rayner CBE
On 15 April, the London music critic Norman Lebrecht wrote a long and impassioned article in 'The Evening Standard' newspaper suggesting that Britain is no longer a pleasant place for Jews. Observing that the UK's media and intellectual 'chattering classes' have made life a misery by constantly attacking Israel and organising vitriolic boycotts and demonstations against the Jewish State, Lebrecht asserts that British Jews are fearful of a 1930s-style hatred not seen since the days of Oswald Mosley's blackshirts.
To read Norman Lebrecht's article go to:
From: Rabbi John Rayner
Thank you for e-mailing me the Norman Lebrecht article from the Evening Standard which I have read with great interest and deep depression. Let me make a few comments on it.
There is an old Latin saying, Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat prius,
"Those whom God wants to destroy, He first sends mad." The article, by an important journalist, indicates that he is the latest victim.
Let us go back a little bit in time. Ever since the Six Day War Israel has been relentless colonising the conquered territories by building more and more settlements on them, and then connecting roads. In the process it has
stolen innumerable acres of Palestinian land, and bulldozed countless houses and orchards. It has done so by voting ever more astronomic budgets for the purpose, and to bribe Israelis to live in the settlements virtually rent free, and to finance a huge army to defend the settlements and roads, and to risk their lives daily in doing so.
It has done so at the expense of settlements and other projects in urgent need of financial support in Israel proper, and a consequent decline in Israel?s social services and economy.
It has done so in defiance of the UN and of world opinion, even of the US, and of every canon of justice and common sense. It has gone on doing so
under every Israeli government, both Labour and Likud. It went on doing so during the Barak years in the most blatant possible violation of the spirit of the Oslo agreement. It has built 34 new settlements since Sharon became
Prime Minister. And it recently voted a larger sum than ever for the building of still more settlements in the occupied territories.
Why has it done so? The short answer is: expansionism. All forms of Zionism are to some extent expansionist, some more openly than others. That is, they want the Jewish State to comprise as much as possible of Cisjordanian Palestine. To Labour Zionists "as much as possible" means that they are willing to make territorial compromises under international
pressure and/or for the sake of peace. The Likudniks don?t even make that concession. They want all of Palestine, leaving no room for a Palestinian state, therefore rejecting the two-state solution. Sharon has been perfectly consistent in that respect all his life. That is why he has opposed every peace plan ever put forward, even Begin?s peace with Egypt to
which the Greater Israel? concept doesn't strictly apply. That is why he tried to destroy the PLO in Lebanon in 1982. That is why he has demonised and humiliated Arafat and his Palestinian Authority ever since he came to
power. That is why he did his Temple Mount walkabout to provoke the Palestinians into another intifada. That is why he has now all but
destroyed the PA and will soon be able to say that Israel has no peace partner or only a bunch of demoralised collaborators willing to settle for a mini-mini-state which can always be wiped out in a matter of days if not minutes at some future time.
Given all these facts, is it any wonder that the Palestinians had begun to lose faith in Israel?s seriousness about implementing the Oslo agreements
and making any remotely acceptable kind of peace with them? Is it any wonder that after years of relative quiescence they were driven back into a
mood of violent resistance of the occupation and launched their second intifada? And given the extreme brutality of Israel?s reprisals, and its
continuing refusal to stop its settlement programme even for the sake of a cease-fire, as required by the Mitchell report, is it any wonder that more and more Palestinians were driven into the arms of the extremists, including
the suicide bombers?
On the contrary, what I find surprising, even amazing, is that until quite recently, according to opinion polls, the great majority of Palestinians still, in spite of everything, believed in a negotiated settlement.
Therefore, yes, terrorist attacks against Israel have increased, and inevitably, the two motives of shaking off the occupation and hoping to
destroy Israel altogether, have got mixed up, and it is no longer easily possible to differentiate between them. And yes, any Israeli government was
bound to take strong measures to protect its people against such attacks.
In addition, Sharon shrewdly took advantage of America?s war against terrorism to claim that he was only doing the same in his own region. And
it sounds perfectly plausible. But Israel has brought it all on itself!
If Israel had not colonised Palestinian land for the last 35 years; if Israel had heeded the UN and world opinion and stopped its settlement
programme; if Israel had not continued with it even after Oslo; if Israel had evacuated just two or three of its settlements in the most sensitive
areas, like Gaza and Hebron; and if it had not retaliated quite so ferociously ? then the level of Palestinian resentment would have been so
much lower, and the incidence of terrorism so much less, or might even have fizzled out almost completely as has happened with the IRA since the Good Friday agreement; and the present situation would never have arisen in its present form. None of this excuses suicide or other terrorist attacks
against civilians; it only shows that they would not have happened, at least to such an extent, if Israel had behaved differently, and honourably, and rightly, over the years.
But even given the situation as it was a few weeks ago, although it made a strong Israeli response necessary, it was not inevitable that Israel should have set out to destroy the PA police, which alone could have suppressed
Palestinian terrorism, and that then Arafat should be condemned for not doing what he had been disabled to do. And it was not inevitable that the IDF should behave as brutally as it evidently has, violating the Geneva Conventions and the Declaration of Human Rights in innumerable ways, and committing atrocities which will shame us Jews for centuries to come.
But given all that has happened, it is not surprising either that almost the whole world should feel revulsion for Israel?s behaviour towards the Palestinians in places like Jenin, and that in this anti-Israel (i.e., anti-Sharon) fury several different motives should get mixed up:
(a) sympathy for the underdog, (b) contempt for the big bully, (c) outrage against the injustice that has been done to the Palestinians ever since
1948, (d) anger against Israel?s persistent defiance of the UN over many years, and (e) common-or-garden anti-Semitism, expressing itself even in attacks on synagogues in the Diaspora.
Given all this historical background, for Israelis, supported by Diaspora Jews, and now even by Lebrecht, STILL to maintain the myth of Jewish innocence and to say: we have done nothing wrong, we are merely the victims of world-wide anti-Semitism, is nothing less than madness. But it could easily become a self-fulfilling madness, for as Israel and world Jewry continues in its defiant, self-pitying, self-righteous posture, so of course it will further stimulate the very anti-Semitism which it fears, and in the Muslim fundamentalist world especially that could become an overwhelming force. Hence "Quem Jupiter vult perdereS" could yet prove true once more.
You must read today?s article by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian.
He speaks of two parallel universes (of perception) which never meet, and
offers no hope.
But there IS a way out of the impasse even at this eleventh hour. It is, as I keep on saying, for both sides to admit that they have made mistakes, to try to understand each other?s point of view, to implement the Mitchell Report, and after a cease-fire and a cooling off period to convene a peace conference based on the Saudi proposal as its agenda.
Now I hope you understand why I find Norman Lebrecht?s article only half-true and totally unhelpful - and Jonathan Freedland's article almost completely true and equally unhelpful.
To read Jonathan Freedland go to: