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Peres backpedals over "English anti-Semites" remark

Israeli President Shimon Peres has issued a denial over a claim that he called the English “anti-Semitic”. Praising Britain’s stand against Nazi Germany, a spokesman for the octogenarian “insisted that his comments were driven by dismay that some in Britain did not understand the grim reality of living under the threat of terrorism”. No comment has been made by Israeli historian Benny Morris, to whom Mr. Peres gave the interview from which the original accusation came. Benny Morris has his own history of backpedalling, going from exposing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 to believing that Israel basically didn’t finish the job.

One thing that has not been repudiated is the claim that some British MPs are scared of upsetting their Muslim constituents, which influences how the British government treats Israel and the Palestinians. This is, of course, nonsense, depending as it does on there being sufficient numbers of MPs with a majority of Muslim constituents to be in a position to have such influence assuming as it does that the only people campaigning for justice for the Palestinians are Britain’s Muslims. Neither is true.

What Mr. Peres and those in Britain who have been quick to agree with his original statement fail to acknowledge is the large number of Jews in this country and abroad – including Israel itself – who oppose the policies of the Jewish state. Individuals and members of groups like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions are prominent in pro-justice demonstrations in major cities around the world. Now that Peres has backpedalled, will Jacob Vince, the director of Christian Friends of Israel do likewise? He took the opportunity to make his own Islamophobic contribution, saying it was, “difficult to see how many MPs would not be influenced by the number of Muslim voters in their constituencies”. We assume that Mr. Vince finds it equally “difficult to see” how the honourable Members for constituencies with large concentrations of Jewish voters would not be influenced by their constituents in the way that they vote and speak on matters relating to Israel and the Middle East.

By focusing in this way on British Muslims, Shimon Peres has, perhaps unwittingly, given succour to far-right groups such as the English Defence League whose members have been photographed carrying Israeli flags at their own anti-Muslim protests. However, even as Israel’s own government moves ever further to the political right, it must be said that Israel and the EDL are strange bedfellows indeed. Is it not one of the ironies of the last twenty years or more that the most vociferous supporters of the state of Israeli have emerged from the swamp of right-wing politics, the same odious swamp that spawned National Socialism in Weimar Germany in the 1920s? We all know what that led to.

Shimon Peres is an acknowledged elder statesman who is much-feted and decorated (he has an honorary knighthood from HM the Queen). He should be ashamed of trying to divert attention from his country’s shameful human rights record in the occupied territories by playing the “anti-Semitism” card against Britain’s Muslims. If he wants to find real anti-Semites, he should look no further than his new-found allies in the EDL. Is he proud when he sees such people waving his country’s flag? MEMO thinks we should be told.

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