Wherever you travel in Israel, whomever you visit, two words have become part of the mainstream of the political vocabulary: ‘existential’ and ‘Iran’. These two words sum up the dilemma facing Israel today.
For the first time in many decades, Israel is facing a fundamental assault on its legitimacy. This assault takes on two fronts.
The first is a desire for the annihilation of Israel by Iran, coupled with its terrorist groupings. The second represents a major attack on Israel’s values and raison d’etre by certain organisations in the West – as witnessed by the recent ‘boycotts’ organised by UK Trade Unions.
From Iran, the main goal of President Ahmadinejad is to "annihilate the Zionist Entity" – a desire he has expressed on numerous occasions. This is not mere rhetoric. For months, Iran has been supplying Hezbollah Islamists with state of the art weaponry and millions of dollars. In the disputed territories, Hamas Islamists received a cheque of $250 million. At the same time the Iranians are attempting to question the truth of the Holocaust, in order to further delegitimise the justification of the establishment of Israel in 1948. As they continue to prepare for nuclear capability, Ahmanidejad’s threat of ‘destruction’ of Israel grows ever more real.
In Lebanon, Syria is manipulating events in the Palestinian refugee camps, covertly working with Hezbollah in order to wipe out the democratically elected Government of that country and extend their sphere of influence.
For Israel these events have had dramatic effects. Far from the withdrawal from Gazabringing piece, civil war has broken out between the Palestinians as Hamas Islamists attempt to wrest all military control from Fatah. From the Gaza border, missiles are fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on a daily basis on to Israeli towns like Sderot. Both the Israeli hostage Gilead Shalit and the BBC’s Alan Johnston remain in captivity.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah – in defiance of UN resolution 1701 – have re-armed – perhaps to an even greater extent than before last Summer’s Lebanon war. They also hold two Israel hostages Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. They have refused to allow any visits from the Red Cross or other NGOs – despite Israel offering to free hundreds of Palestinian terrorists in return. Hezbollah are playing the long game, waiting for instructions from Iran and Syria before they make their next move.
With all these existential threats, you would hope that common sense would prevail in the West. Not a bit of it. Organisations like Amnesty International, so vociferous about Israeli actions in the disputed Territories – have said nothing about the Israeli hostages in Gaza and Lebanon (that is why Dominic Grieve, on a recent trip to Israel with CFI, has pledged to lobby Amnesty on this issue). The Stop the War Coalition has had a ‘demonstration vacuum’ about inter-Palestinian strife in Gaza or the war on the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Feminist movements have remained silent about the real threats from Islamists to female Palestinian journalists for not wearing the hijab on TV. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is set to hold its next rally with luminaries like George Galloway and Hamas representatives as its key speakers.
But far worse than the pusillanimity of the left has been the pro-active attempts by various organisations to delegitimise Israel. Institutions like the National Union of Journalists and the Academic Trade Unions have organised ‘boycotts’ of Israel to protest at their treatment of the Palestinians. Forget Darfur, Chechnya, Zimbabwe. It is Israel that is singled out as the one country in the world that should be ‘boycotted’. The UK government response has been muted with just a few desultory words of condemnation – Labour’s links to the Trade Union movement remain strong.
None of these attacks on the legitimacy of Israel will further the cause of peace. Whilst the delegitimisation campaign may give succour to the left in British politics, they give real encouragement to Islamists across the Middle East, just as Lenin’s ‘useful idiots’ gave legitimacy to Stalin.