Why It Is Hypocritical to Boycott Israel – Jake Wallis Simons (Telegraph-UK)
(dailyalert.org, May 7, 2014)
Later this month, I am planning to travel to Israel to appear in the Jerusalem literary festival. As surely as night follows day, I have received an “open letter” from a group of 71 activists calling themselves the British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWIP), who “respectfully encouraged” me to boycott the event. But I am honored to have been invited to Israel, and will be proud to attend. Here’s why.
It is my strong belief that Israel is, relatively speaking, a force for good in the world. Every country that abides by the democratic process, enshrines in law the rights of women and minorities, and conducts itself with compassion both in war and in peace – or at least aspires to do so – deserves our support and respect.
What about Israel’s flouting of international law, I hear you ask? Very well: Britain intentionally bombed civilian targets during the Second World War, which was the last time we were under existential threat. If we were at war again, against an enemy that was able to strike at the heart of our civilian population centers, how would we behave?
The Jewish state is roughly the size of Wales, with a ridge of high ground running along the middle of the West Bank. If Britain were surrounded by hostile neighbors at such close proximity, some of which contained terror groups bent on the destruction of the country, would we be doing any better? It is significant that a man who knows war, Col. Richard Kemp – the former commander of Britain’s armed forces in Afghanistan – testified to the UN Human Rights Council that the Israeli military does “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
From a historical point of view, Israel has been attacked repeatedly by an enemy bent on its destruction (when the Arab world attempted to liquidate the Jewish state in 1967, the settlements had not yet been built). The country has suffered terror attack after terror attack, tragedy after tragedy. Clearly, whatever the boycott activists may say, to draw a parallel with pre-1994 South Africa is ludicrous.
And given that according to a YouGov poll, 3/4 of Britons “see no reason why British performers should not travel to Israel” – and fewer than one in five Britons believe that Israeli artists should be barred from the UK – I travel in the knowledge that I have public opinion on my side.