Monday, January 25, 2016

Reason for optimism in London

Eli Hazan,

Image from, with caption: Women hold signs stating ‘I support Israel and I am proud of it’ at a London rally on Sunday, July 20, 2014

I visited London last week as part of a public diplomacy mission and found it to be welcoming to Israelis. Hebrew was common on Oxford Street and near Buckingham Palace, and unlike in other places in Europe, local Jews are unafraid to wear their yarmulkes in public, and there are dozens of kosher stores and synagogues around the city.

However, an incident at King's College last week illustrated the ironic and absurd reality Israelis face while trying to promote a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A lecture given by former Labor MK Ami Ayalon came to a halt due to aggressive pro-Palestinian protest calls.

Such aggressive protesters expose the true goal of those who hate Israel -- they want to replace Israel with one Palestinian state. This, of course, runs contrary to the international community's misguided assumption that a Palestinian state should exist alongside Israel.

Muslim immigration to Britain, alongside the long-time distorted portrayal of Israel in the British media, have served to demonize the only true democracy in the Middle East. Absurdly labeling Israel as an apartheid state empowers the boycott movement against us. This poses a complex challenge for those who view themselves as responsible for Israel's fate -- one that requires sophisticated countermeasures.

To the credit of bodies such as the Israeli Embassy in London, the British Jewish community and various British supporters of Israel it must be said that they work tirelessly to generate hope for the future, making this complex challenge appear surmountable.

For example, the day after the Ayalon lecture incident, the Conservative Friends of Israel, a British parliamentary group that stands steadfast by Israel, hosted a solidarity event in parliament. The fiery speeches given in support of the Jewish state during the event left little doubt as to how far our friends are willing to go for us.

Furthermore, over the past year, the British parliament has discussed over 300 bills concerning Israel, but there were always those who stood up for us. This was the case, for example, during a parliamentary debate on a bill seeking to delegitimize Israel over how it is dealing with the recent wave of terrorism. Conservative Party MP Andrew Percy took the floor and began refuting the false accusations made against Israel in the bill. He presented parliament with the perverted "rock-throwing incitement doll" sold in the Palestinian Authority, which illustrates the dire situation on the ground.

The majority of ministers in Premier David Cameron's government have visited Israel and continue cultivating joint ventures, despite the British Foreign Office's clear pro-Arab positions.

It is important to emphasize that despite the various hurdles, Israel-Britain relations are flourishing. The bilateral cooperation is growing stronger thanks to unique Israeli qualities, and both Jerusalem and London seek to cultivate deeper ties. But we need to continue investing human capital and resources into meeting this complex challenge.

To paraphrase the lyrics of Israeli singer Chava Alberstein, who famously said that London isn't waiting for her -- London, it seems, is, in fact, waiting for us.

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