Why did a closed-door meeting of top officials from Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) erupt into a fist fight last month? Could it have been an over-heated debate about the continuing economic crisis, the escalating unemployment rate, the looming public service cuts, or even bedrock union issues – equal pay, work conditions and the minimum wage? None of the above.
The issue that roiled the workers’ passions was – you guessed it – Israel; specifically, a motion that had been proposed by the Fire Brigades Union (the people who are supposed to put out fires) calling on all trade union members to boycott goods produced in “illegal Israeli settlements”. Predictably, the TUC’s General Council gave it the green light and the motion was approved by the entire membership of the union movement.
There is nothing shockingly new in this. Everyone, it seems, is boycotting Israel. They object to the Wall, the Tunnel, the Roadblocks, the Settlements, the Occupation… What is truly shocking is the level of violence and public hysteria that accompanies sentiment towards Israel.
The anti-Israel campaign that is sweeping so much of the West, particularly Europe, is carried on a cloud of irrational hatred and buoyed by a bizarre set of conspiratorial fantasies. Israel is not only harvesting Palestinian organs and perpetrating war crimes, but also committing genocide against the Palestinians. Who can doubt, let alone question, that Israel is the new apartheid state and that Israelis are the new Nazis?
It is nonsense, of course, but nothing must be permitted to tarnish the pristine mythology that has been crafted around the Question of Palestine. The fact that Israeli soldiers – from privates to generals – do not commit war crimes; that the Israeli army does not harvest Palestinian organs; that there are demonstrably no parallels between Israel’s vibrant multi-ethnic democracy and the racist barbarity of apartheid South Africa… all this cuts no ice. The storyline must not be disturbed.
People – and some eminent people among them – see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. And what many in Europe want to see and hear these days is “evidence” that serves to demonise and delegitimise Israel as the brutal aggressor.
What does all of this mean? One American commentator summed it up rather well when he declared that, “Israel is denounced not for what it does, but for what it is”. That opens a more chilling discussion with far more profound implications. We’re not talking about a demonstration here or a boycott there. The only way that Israel can satisfy these critics is, quite simply, to cease existing.
It is not a question of a wall here or a settlement there. The febrile anti-Israel protests are directed against the actual existence of the Jewish state itself. And, while we are being brutally honest, it is not only Israel. For the hatred of Israel has metastasised into what, perhaps, it always has been: a new expression of the oldest hatred: antisemitism.
Writing in a recent issue of the American Enterprise Institute’s journal the American, a non-Jewish American writer, George Gilder, declares that, “at the heart of anti-Semitism is resentment of Jewish achievement. Today that achievement is concentrated in Israel. Obscured by the usual media coverage of the ‘war-torn’ Middle East, Israel has become one of the most important economies in the world, second only to the United States in its pioneering of technologies benefiting human life, prosperity, and peace.”
Gilder notes that, “Israel is the pivot, the axis, the litmus, the trial. Are you for civilisation or barbarism, life or death, wealth or envy? Are you an exponent of excellence and accomplishment or of a levelling creed of frenzy and hatred?”
In his new book, The Israel Test, Gilder dares to peer into the abyss that the anti-Israel obsessives would take the world: The future of freedom, democracy, capitalism, America, the West and Israel are indissolubly linked. Israel, he writes, is “not only a major source of Western technological supremacy and economic leadership — it is also the most vulnerable source of Western power and intelligence”.
And Israel, he adds, is “not only the canary in the coal mine — it is also a crucial part of the mine.” If Americans will not defend Israel, they will “prove unable to defend anything else. The Israel test is finally our own test of survival as a free nation”.
Pity the comrades at the TUC did not read George Gilder. Actually, the real pity is that it would not have made any difference.