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Saturday 4 August 2012

Israel Hears A Friend’s Warning

There is a school of thought particular to that New Conservatism which decrees that any criticism of any action by the state of Israel is not to be tolerated. Any upstanding Republican politician in the USA, or aspiring Tory in the UK, must conform to this unwritten decree. Equally, anyone breaking ranks is fair game for whatever abuse and merely adverse comment can be mustered.

The enforcers of this doctrine range from the ranks of “think tanks” who instantly categorise criticism as “hate speech” to newspaper pundits to the websites and group blogs epitomised by Matt Drudge and the disciples of Andrew Breitbart in the USA, and ConservativeHome and The Commentator in the UK. The accent changes, but sadly, the originality of the rhetoric does not.

One favourite target of the yah-boo boys is the deeply subversive Guardian, where an opinion posted on Comment Is Free is instantly seized upon by the likes of the permanently humourless Robin Shepherd and asserted to be editorial policy. Should the post be significantly anti-Israel, the goons at CiF Watch will join in and invariably find the paper to be anti-Semitic at the very least.

With that backdrop, Harriet Sherwood’s article posted yesterday – “Israel losing international support, says British ambassador” – will doubtless have the usual suspects frothing as they denounce Alan Rusbridger for deviating from the line that they would impose on him given half a chance. But the piece is well worth reading, as is the reaction of the Israeli Government.

Matthew Gould, the new British ambassador to Israel, and the first Jewish occupant of the post, has said in an interview for Channel 10 in Israel “Support for Israel is starting to erode and that's not about these people on the fringe who are shouting loudly and calling for boycotts and all the rest of it. The interesting category are those members of parliament in the middle, and in that group I see a shift”.

But in case anyone thought his tone was hostile, he added “Anyone who cares about Israel's standing in the world should be concerned about the erosion of popular support”. This is the message of a friend of Israel, who is relaying the concern of many over lack of movement in negotiations with the Palestinians, along with settlement expansion on the West Bank and movement restrictions.

And the reaction from an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman was one of receptiveness: “diplomats don't just make comments, they convey messages. We have taken good note”. Sometimes your best friends are the ones who are prepared to tell you when all is not as well as you believed. Far better to be thus informed, than deafened by wall to wall ranting denunciation.

That is a lesson the self appointed supporters of Israel on the right may never learn.

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