Israel deserves Britain’s support

israel uk

The Freedom House index has consistently shown Israel to be by far the most ‘free’ state in the Middle East and North Africa.

Today’s Israel is a vibrant, cosmopolitan and forward-thinking democracy. As the forces of Islamic extremism wreak havoc on its neighbours, Israel deserves, and needs, our support.

Two weeks ago, dozens of rainbow flags fluttered along Tel Aviv’s spectacular sea front. On 12 June, over 100,000 people gathered in the city to celebrate Asia’s largest gay pride event. It would be wrong, however, to believe that this annual week of events is simply an expression of LGBT confidence. Rather, for many in Israel and the wider Middle East, the celebration is representative of something exceptional in the region – a country in which civil liberties, the rule of law and a vigorous democratic system prevail.

The Freedom House index has consistently shown Israel to be by far the most ‘free’ state in the Middle East and North Africa, and its democracy ratings are more respectable than those of several EU countries. Today, Israeli society looks and feels like almost any other Western country. Women serve in leadership positons throughout politics, the military and business. Israel is multiracial and multi-ethnic, with Arab, Druze and other minorities guaranteed equal rights under law. There are currently 17 Israeli Arab members of the Knesset, and polling regularly shows Israeli Arabs to be strongly in favour of the maintenance of the Jewish state. Israel is the only country in the region where the Christian population is increasing, and Israel’s independent press is as varied and active as that of the United Kingdom.

Despite these things, one does not need to spend long speaking to Israelis to discover that they feel misunderstood by the British public and isolated on the world stage. It is undeniable that Israel suffers from a major and very damaging public relations problem, which is only exacerbated by a worrying naivety in the West surrounding the country’s foundation and its history of conflict with its Arab neighbours.

It is important to point out that Israel regularly adds fuel to the PR fire. When criticism has been levelled at them from abroad, Israeli politicians have all too often resorted to accusing their critics of anti-Semitism or ignorance. Yet foreign governments, especially those friendly to Israel, must be allowed to voice their concerns regarding Israeli policy, and Israel must listen. Military practices such as ‘roof knocking’ and the use of landmines damage the global perception of the Israel Defense Forces, thus undermining how seriously the world views the IDF’s claims about minimising collateral damage to civilians. Settlement expansion in the West Bank, tacitly encouraged by Likud and others, is deeply unpopular in the West. It will be difficult for Israel to change the British public’s perception as long as the settlements continue to grow.

Nonetheless, it is time that the British people realised that Israel is a natural friend for the United Kingdom. We can find fault with much of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinian territories whilst also being supportive of the Israelis’ multiracial, democratic and increasingly secular country. It is in the UK’s interest to advance the cause of freedom across the world, and Israel is a bastion of freedom in a turbulent Middle East.

Travelling just 120 miles from the dynamic and progressive city of Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights, it is possible to see why Israelis are so anxious that their country does not become isolated. From Mount Bental, the regular fall of artillery fire from the Syrian Civil War is easily visible. The black flags of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front can clearly be seen flying over Syrian border villages. Drive just a few miles to the west and the yellow flags of the terrorist Hezbollah movement flutter from buildings used to launch rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon. These horrific and vile groups, whose actions are well known, do not seek to change the nature of Israeli society, but seek to wipe Israel from the map. Sadly, repugnant and anti-democratic propaganda is regularly fed to the Palestinian people through their own media channels, which are monitored with growing concern by Palestinian Media Watch. Whilst British citizens may take their democracy for granted, Israelis are all too aware that genuine freedom in the Middle East ends at their borders.

This is why the British people must abandon anti-Israel movements such as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). BDS not only damages the Palestinian economy as much, if not more, than Israel’s, but also seeks to destroy Israeli-Palestinian cultural and sporting peace initiatives, such as those organised by the Peres Center for Peace.

The vast majority of Israeli citizens simply seek peace within their own, democratic state. In a region saturated with instability, extremism and Dark Age justice, modern Israeli society stands as a shining exception, and it’s time that the British people understood this.

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