Following my post the other day about the intervention by Matthew Gould, the new British ambassador to Israel, his caution that the country’s support among UK Parliamentarians is eroding, and that anyone who cared about Israel’s standing in the world should be concerned about this, there have been further slices of punditry, though not all of the same thoughtful standard.
Demonstrating a mix of ignorance and rank cowardice, right-wing group blog The Commentator put out yesterday what was effectively a rebuttal of Gould’s analysis, and such was the courage of the humourless Robin Shepherd and his minions that none of them had the spine to put their name to it.
Gould’s comments are dismissed by The Commentator’s anonymous author as something denoting his being a creature of the Foreign Office. The piece complains that little evidence exists for the remarks, but brings none of its own. It claims Gould is “wrong-headed” and “propagandising against the Jewish state”. It engages in cheap whataboutery by saying “yeah, but Palestinians”.
But all is fine in Commentator land, as it just means that Britain is a declining influence in the Middle East. This is a mindset that is immune to listening: it is not just in the UK, and not just in Parliament, that opinion is becoming tired of the continuing lack of progress in resolving the continuing problems between Israel and the Palestinians. Knee-jerk responses will not help matters.
The Commentator’s cowardly and anonymous author may find dismissing the opinion of Avraham Burg less straightforward: he is a former Speaker of the Knesset. Burg has penned an op-ed for the New York Times, “Israel’s Fading Democracy”, in which he looks back at the hopes and dreams of his generation, growing up in the then new state of Israel in the 1950s and 60s.
Then he considers what Israel has come to, tellingly noting “We never gave much thought to the Palestinian Israeli citizens within the Jewish-democratic equation. We also never tried to separate the synagogue and the state. If anything, we did the opposite. Moreover, we never predicted the evil effects of brutally controlling another people against their will. Today, all the things that we neglected have returned and are chasing us like evil spirits”.
And he adds “The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel”. When I first visited Israel back in 1996, it all looked so different: here was a welcoming and relatively open country, making good progress with its Palestinian neighbours. Avraham Burg’s piece underlines how change has come, and maybe not for the better. True friends of Israel should read his words, and think on them.
But the Commentator’s rant is worse than useless. They might as well not bother.