Political Zionism was a Christian aspiration for centuries before becoming a Jewish agenda in 1897. Even then, for decades after Hertzl’s inaugural conference, Zionism remained a divisive minority movement in Judaism. It took global resistance to Jewish flight from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, followed by the Holocaust, to change that. Yet today, as Israel’s violent relationship with Palestine alienates Western Jews, Israel increasingly sees the Christian world as a more reliable ally. Symptomatic of the historic shift now under way is the controversial ‘definition’ of antisemitism devised by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and swiftly adopted by the UK in 2016.1
The definition has been criticised as poorly drafted and ambiguous, but above all as a defence of Israel under cover of defending Jews. By radically expanding its definition of antisemitism to include anti-Zionism, the IHRA and those who adopt its code have had to deny that it suppresses criticism of Israel and infringes free speech. They reassure that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’.2 However the reality is different.
Antisemitism in the academy?
Two months after the British Government adopted the IHRA code, Lord Pickles, appointed by Theresa May as ‘UK Special Envoy on post-Holocaust issues’, demonstrated its real purpose. He condemned an article by a Bristol University lecturer as: ‘one of the worst cases of Holocaust denial’ he had seen in recent years. ‘To describe the murder of six million Jewish people like this frankly beggars belief. I am all for debate and freedom of speech but this passes into a new dimension.’ The author, Rebecca Gould, should ‘consider her position’.3
The British Government’s Holocaust spokesman had uncovered Holocaust denial in a leading British university. What could this academic, a specialist in Middle East literatures, have written to merit official condemnation and formal investigation by her university?
‘Beyond Anti-Semitism’ was published in 2011.4 Rebecca Gould narrates and reflects on a journey into Jerusalem from the West Bank, where she then lived. I searched the article for any denial of the Holocaust, blatant or otherwise. There was none. Certainly she criticises Israel for justifying violent oppression of Palestinians by referencing the Holocaust. Yet forthright views very similar to her own have previously been expressed in The Times, on Welsh television (S4C), in the work of a respected Jewish theologian, and indeed by Primo Levi, who said the Holocaust ‘is Begin’s favourite defence. And I deny any validity to that defence.’5
Gould writes ‘Two wrongs do not make a right. Jewish suffering will never be appeased by making Palestinians pay the price for the world community’s silence half a century ago, when the Jews were being exterminated.’ Her argument reflects The Times’ leader comment in November 1945: ‘Western civilization cannot shift to Arab shoulders the burden of the reparation which it owes to persecuted Jewry.’6
She writes: ‘If the Jews do not engage in violent, pre-emptive “self-defense,” the logic continues, then they will face another extermination.’ In 2010, Joshua Liss, a recent emigrant from Cardiff to Israel, who I interviewed in Jerusalem for S4C, used the exact same logic with me.7 I vehemently rejected his opinion and walked off camera, leaving him standing in front of the Wailing Wall.
When she writes: ‘Israel must find a way of not passing on the crime the Nazis introduced into the world onto the next generation … As the situation stands today, the Holocaust persists and its primary victims are the Palestinian people’, her concerns reflect the work of prominent Jewish theologian, Marc Ellis: ‘In the displacement of the Palestinians … we have taken our place alongside others in the world of empire and in a manner too often like all other victors. Thus, to end Auschwitz is to admit that we are no longer innocent and that Israel is not our redemption… by recognizing the trauma Israel has caused and the right of Palestinians to be healed of their trauma – we might also be taking a step in the healing of our own trauma of past suffering.’8
If Gould’s article was antisemitic, The Times, S4C and several Jews should join her in the dock, Primo Levi included. But there is no dock. The IHRA Code is not law, and accusations, even from Holocaust Envoy Lord Pickles, cannot be tested or challenged in a court of law. Yet simply by threatening one academic career, Pickles cautioned against violating these new limits to free speech. What underlies Eric Pickles’ remarkable authority on antisemitism?
Lord Pickles is the UK’s representative on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. He recently revealed he was ‘part of the team that persuaded the IHRA to accept this definition’9 – a definition of antisemitism where seven of the eleven ‘examples’ refer to Israel. Earlier in 2015 he condemned ‘a new sinister aspect of British politics that we must confront: the deliberate conflation of Israeli opinion with Jewish opinion, so that British Jews are held accountable for actions of the Israeli Government.’10 Apparently he is unaware that by conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism, the definition that he persuaded the IHRA to adopt achieves exactly that sinister result.
Pickles is also a Christian: ‘If you stripped away my Christianity, or your Jewishness’ he told The Jewish Chronicle, ‘we’d be lesser people’11. His Christianity flies from the same flagpole as his nationalism. In 2014 as Communities Secretary he ‘stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish. Heaven forbid. We’re a Christian nation. We have an established church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.’12 As Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have no established church, we don’t know whether Pickles meant England, Britain, or both.
There is no ambiguity about a third flag flying from Pickles flagpole: he is Chairman in the Lords of Conservative Friends of Israel, a lobby group that includes some 80 per cent of all Conservative MPs, cabinet ministers included. CFI is acclaimed as ‘the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel’. It also works to strengthen ties between the Conservative party and Israel’s ruling Likud party. Pickles joined CFI on the day he became an MP in 1992.
A basic article of antisemitic faith is the alleged Jewish conspiracy to control nations and governments. Conservative Friends of Israel is neither hidden, nor a conspiracy, nor Jewish; yet ‘no other lobbying organisation carries as much weight at Westminster … it is impossible to understand the modern Conservative Party without a grasp of the scale and profundity of its links to the state of Israel.’13 This irony will be lost on true antisemites.
The IHRA definition of antisemitism, adopted so enthusiastically by Theresa May, is a product of Pickles’ various agendas. It has emerged at a time of growing Western disaffection with Israel, expressed in different ways by liberals and socialists, Jews and non-Jews. The code itself is less concerned with real pressures facing Jews in the UK, than with the politics of Israel, and the shared political interests of Israel and the UK. The consequence for Rebecca Gould was that suddenly, her job was on the line.
A Christian’s hope of salvation
Christians played a major role in creating the colonial movement called Zionism, which has now been at the heart of British government interests for nearly two centuries. Today’s Conservative Friends of Israel (founded in 1974) look back to many predecessors. In 1839, Lord Shaftesbury, a committed Christian and President of the British and Foreign Bible Society, called on Jews to ‘return in yet greater numbers and become once more the husbandman of Judea and Galilee … though admittedly a stiff-necked, dark-hearted people, and sunk in moral degradation, obduracy, and ignorance of the Gospel [they were nevertheless] vital to a Christian’s hope of salvation.’14 For Christian Zionists, the prophesied return of the Jews to Judea necessarily precedes the Second Coming. Shaftesbury persuaded his father-in-law, Lord Palmerston (British Foreign Secretary and then Prime Minister) to adopt the cause.
By 1917, Britain’s strategic interests in the eastern Mediterranean (oil, and access to India through the Suez Canal) merged with Christian millennialism to create a wide pro-Zionist political consensus. The result was the Balfour Declaration by the Liberal PM Lloyd George, a Welsh Christian, and Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour, a former Tory Prime Minister: ‘HM Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.’
By contrast, Jewish Zionism divided Judaism for decades after its foundation by Theodor Herzl in 1897. Orthodox Jews rejected the attempt to hasten by secular means, the coming of the Messiah and the return to Jerusalem. Reform Jews, concentrated in Germany, declared that Judaism was their faith, not their nationality, seeing themselves as full citizens of their homelands, and fearing that Zionism would raise suspicion about divided loyalties. The Bund, the Jewish labour movement in pre-war eastern Europe, fiercely opposed Zionism.
Palestine is the only hope
My grandfather straddled these worlds. Migrating from eastern Europe to Germany to join Leipzig’s world-leading fur trade, then fighting for Germany in the first world war, he tried throughout the 1920s to gain German nationality.
Image courtesy Mike Joseph
He raised a family, bought a house, valued his good relations with all he met – customers, colleagues, neighbours – in the city and on his travels. To his brother who had left Poland for Palestine in 1934 he wrote ‘How are relations with the Arabs? Try getting along in peace and friendship with Arabs! It’s likely to be important! … It would be fine to communicate and to live in peace together with this similar race of people to ours in future.’15 His was a different kind of Zionism, that of Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt, who sought not a Jewish state but a binational federation for Arabs and Jews.
Even after two years of Nazi rule, by 1935 he was still not ready to abandon Germany. He made this distinction: ‘Our position is, that Zionism and our country’s expansion and flourishing, will give us a spiritual home. Especially for the young, Palestine is the only hope.’ Israel would be there for his children, but for him only in spirit.
In September 1935 the Nazi regime enacted the Nuremberg race laws, excluding Jews from German society. This was decisive. My grandfather immediately wrote: ‘I changed my mind … I don’t want to send my two [older] girls alone to the land of Israel … We live here … with all people in peace, and nevertheless we are not happy … we’d like to see a better future together with our children. Two weeks ago I applied to the Palestine office to emigrate there.’ Nazi racism had forced him to become an active Zionist.
The moment was crystallised in a book by Yitzhak Baer, a German-Jewish émigré to Palestine, published in German in 1936 and then in English in 1947: Galut [Exile]:
There was a short period when the Zionist could feel himself a citizen of two countries … Now that the Jews have been denied the right to feel at home in Europe, it is the duty of the European nations to redeem the injustice committed by their spiritual and physical ancestors by assisting the Jews in the task of reclaiming Palestine and by recognising the right of the Jews to the land of their fathers.16
But faced with the loss of home and livelihood and the challenges of a new start in a pioneer colony, my grandfather still hesitated. Late in 1937 he wrote ‘It’s hard to decide to end life and work here. I want to wait until the children are grown up and have finished their studies. Nobody actually knows what is the right thing to do.’ Nine months later the decision was no longer his. Overnight he was expelled with his entire family from Germany to Poland. There in 1941, excepting only my mother and aunt, the whole family of forty-six people were killed.
My mother survived the Holocaust and the war, a refugee in Wales, in lifelong grief at the loss of her family. If only her father had fulfilled his Zionist dream with action, he would have survived. In years to come, it would be impossible for her to admit any misgivings she may have felt about Israel. How could she criticise the one country that might have saved her family?
Growing up in Wales in a Zionist home, I knew nothing about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that accompanied the birth of Israel. My mother repeated the official Israeli lie, ‘the Arabs ran away voluntarily, hoping to return victorious’. I heard that my father’s brother had fought in Israel’s founding war, a hero perhaps. Only many years later I discovered a darker side to my uncle’s story.
In 1967 Israelis and diaspora Jews celebrated Israel’s lightning victory in the Six Day War. Le Monde noted, ‘alas on the back of the Arabs … in the past few days Europe has in a sense rid itself of the guilt incurred in the drama of the Second World War and before that the persecutions which … accompanied the birth of Zionism.’17 But as the West relaxed, Jewish disquiet grew. With Israel occupying new Palestinian territories, what would military occupation do, not only to the Palestinians, but to Israel?
Israel’s Prime Minister immediately planned to settle Jews in the new territories, and sought legal approval. Theodor Meron was the Israeli Foreign Office Legal Advisor (and later President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). In 1967, he warned the prime minister that ‘civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention’.18 But as he reflected years later, ‘the government chose to go another way and a wave of settlements followed, making the prospects for a political solution so much more difficult’.19
By 1973, I was a television journalist reporting another Israeli-Arab war. With both sides claiming victories, I contributed to mainstream British media speculation that the ceasefire could lead to a serious exchange of occupied land for peace. Already over 10,000 Jews had settled in the West Bank. On the day of the ceasefire, I followed novelist Amos Oz from his tank unit in the Golan Heights to his kibbutz. I wanted to interview Israel’s leading voice for peace with the Palestinians. Later I drove up into the hills to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, to visit my uncle, with the novelist’s words in my mind: Shalom Achshav, Peace Now.
My uncle was scandalised at criticism of his government. Unconditional support was required. For him the question was profoundly simple: survival. As I could not understand that, I should visit nearby Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum. After I left, he wrote to my mother:
We were very disappointed to hear Michael’s opinions and were astounded at how he spoke against Golda and our government... Strange how he got such ideas – presumably not from you, and who knows what kind of material he’s publicizing in England.
My mother replied:
I hope he has not upset you with his radical views! He upsets me very often and I argue with him often half the night. You see, he is a product of a different age and a different environment to us. He has grown up free from discrimination and persecution (thank God!) and free from religious and social pressures, in short, all the things that made us the haunted, almost obsessive Zionists we are.20
By 1982, the number of Jewish settlers in occupied territories had grown to 100,000, and Lebanon had become a major refuge for displaced Palestinians, and for the armed PLO. Their presence threatened the fraught religious and military balance in that country of eighteen sects. The Christians in particular felt their hold on power in Beirut was threatened, and from 1975 armed conflict and sectarian violence between Christian and Palestinian militias raged unchecked. This made the Christian leaders and warlords of interest to Israel, in particular Bashir Gemayel, leader of the far right Phalange, a movement inspired originally by Mussolini.
1982 conspiracy finally exposed
The following account partly draws on my reading of a secret appendix to the 1982 official Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. In public, the Israeli inquiry exonerated Israel of ‘direct responsibility’. The secret appendix, published in English in autumn 2018, now reveals otherwise.21 This is a raw record of state leaders conspiring to perpetrate a massacre. The interpretations are mine.
Regular contacts between Bashir Gemayel and Mossad’s Deputy Head Nahum Admoni22 began in 1974.23 Soon Israel was supplying the Phalange with arms, tanks, training and advice. With Israel’s first right-wing government elected in 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin not only shared Gemayel’s hostility to the Palestinians, but also a common political inheritance from Mussolini. Albert Einstein and political theorist Hannah Arendt were amongst those who had denounced Begin and his Herut (subsequently Likud) party as ‘akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties’.24
In 1982, the pace of contacts accelerated. Israel planned to invade southern Lebanon to remove the PLO threat. Gemayel’s forces would do the detailed work on the ground. The military alliance offered each side decisive benefits. Knocking out the PLO would give Israel a freer hand in the West Bank. Eradicating the Palestinian refugee camps would remove an existential threat to Christian Lebanon.
Israel invaded Lebanon on 6 June, laying siege to Beirut for seven weeks. For Begin, ‘Israel was faced with the choice between Treblinka and the invasion of Lebanon.’25 With apt symmetry, on 23 June 1982, Gemayel told Mossad’s Admoni that a Christian state would not survive if the demographic aspect was not dealt with. Admoni later explained that by demographic change, Gemayel meant ‘killing and elimination’.26
Gemayel said the Phalange would ‘need several “Deir Yassins”’.27 Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village close to Jerusalem, suffered a notorious 1948 massacre by hard-line Zionist forces led by Begin. The massacre triggered a wave of Palestinian terror and flight. Israeli spymaster Admoni stressed the need for plausible deniability, warning that ‘as long as the IDF [Israeli army] is around, the Christians will have to refrain from this type of action’. But Gemayel’s carefully chosen words could be understood by any Israeli, and above all, by Menachem Begin.
On 8 July, Bashir Gemayel met Ariel Sharon, Israel’s Defence Minister, at Phalange Headquarters in Beirut. Gemayel asked if there were objections to him moving bulldozers into the [Palestinian] refugee camps ‘in the south [of Beirut] to remove them, so that the refugees won’t stay’. Sharon offered none.28
Shortly before midnight on 1 August, Gemayel and Sharon and their top intelligence directors met at Sharon’s farmstead in southern Israel.
Sharon spoke: ‘The most dangerous thing would be a Lebanese government agreement to leaving 1000-1500 terrorists in West Beirut.’29
Gemayel: ‘We’ll take care of everything and we’ll let you know soon.’
Yehoshua Sagi (Mossad Director General): ‘The time has come for Bashir [Gemayel’s] men to prepare a plan to deal with the Palestinians.’
Sharon: ‘The Jews are weird but you must agree about the issue.’30
Ariel Sharon thus acknowledged that some Israelis would not stomach the proposed action.
On 12 August, despite US support for Israel’s invasion, President Reagan phoned Menachem Begin, to condemn Israeli bombing of West Beirut as ‘a Holocaust’.31 (Today Reagan would breach the IHRA antisemitism code by ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’.)
On 23 August, as PLO forces sailed away from Lebanon watched by the Israeli army, Bashir Gemayel was elected President of Lebanon, to be congratulated by Menachem Begin as ‘my dear friend’.32 Gemayel immediately faced two irreconcilable pressures: to win Lebanese Muslim support for his presidency, and to agree to Begin’s demand for a peace treaty as a quid pro quo for helping him rid Lebanon of Palestinians.
A week later, Lebanese President-elect met the Israeli Prime Minister in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. Begin repeated his demand for a treaty of peace between Israel and Lebanon as Gemayel took office. Gemayel resisted, saying a peace treaty could not precede a national consensus. Begin knew that Lebanese Muslims would never agree a treaty, and Gemayel was therefore backing off. He warned Gemayel that without a treaty, the Israeli Army and their Lebanese proxies would remain in the south. Gemayel would face a partitioned Lebanon.
A French television reporter warned him, ‘The Israelis are counting on you to make a treaty with them. What is your answer Mr President?’ Gemayel insisted ‘the question is premature’.
On 12-13 September, Sharon negotiated with Gemayel overnight in Bikfaya, his home village outside Beirut. Sharon offered Gemayel to go ‘into Fakahani, Sabra, Shatila – to go in, mop up and eliminate the terrorists ... We would be very happy ...We are ready even tomorrow morning to provide them with all the data about the neighborhoods, as there is close contacts between the forces’. ‘Detailed agreements were reached.’33
By the afternoon of 13 September, Sharon with his Chief of Staff General Eitan, and Gemayel with all the Phalange leaders, assembled at Phalange HQ in Christian Beirut. This meeting would prove to be crucial to the Israel-Christian Lebanese relationship, and here is how it is remembered today in Christian Beirut: Gemayel pressed for an Israeli advance into West Beirut. Sharon repeated the condition of a peace treaty. The Phalange leaders were dismayed at Gemayel’s hesitation. They feared it was a huge mistake, that Gemayel had signed his own death warrant, and that it would end the Christian military ascendancy. They tried in vain to persuade him to sign a treaty.
Bashir Gemayel insisted: ‘My country is 10,452 square kilometres. The Muslims will not approve. I cannot have my country divided between Muslims and Christians. Half the country is Muslim. I don’t want to divide my country.’
Sharon responded, ‘Bashir sign. If you don’t, you will sacrifice many Christian generations to come, and your country will know no peace. You will be overtaken by the Muslims. If you want a Christian Lebanon to survive, sign with us and you will have a very prosperous country. You had better sign, as Jordan did, as Egypt did.’
Gemayel said, ‘Our people work in the Gulf, Saudi, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi. They depend on that for their livelihood. They are Muslim, but they are also Lebanese. I can’t sign.’
Sharon replied, ‘don’t worry about Muslims. We will take care of them afterwards.’
Gemayel would not sign. ‘I’m sorry Sharon.’34
The next afternoon at 16:10, a bomb demolished Phalange headquarters in Beirut as Gemayel addressed colleagues. Twenty-six Phalangists were killed, including Bashir Gemayel. As news reached Israel, Begin, Sharon and Eitan commanded the advance into West Beirut. Israeli forces surrounded the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila, ordering that ‘the refugee camps are not to be entered. Searching and mopping up the camps will be done by the Phalangists/Lebanese Army.’35
On 16 September at 18:00, the first Phalangists entered the Beirut camps. At that moment in Jerusalem Ariel Sharon was briefing the Israeli cabinet, defending his push into West Beirut without cabinet agreement.
‘We are our own worst enemy. Tomorrow when the words spoken here about there being no decision to go into Beirut get out – a problem would be created. What is needed now is to eliminate the terrorists present in Beirut. Our services are chasing them …’
Sharon suddenly broke off to receive a message. Then he announced:
‘We have just received information that a large Phalangist unit entered the Sabra camp and has been combing it … The results will speak for themselves. From Sabra they will proceed to another. Thus, let us have the number of days necessary for destroying the terrorists.’36
Paul H volunteered with the Lebanese Red Cross in 1982. I interviewed him earlier in 2018, and this is his account:37
‘When they were doing the massacre we Red Cross wanted to enter, but we were denied entrance by the Israelis. As we waited to get into the camps, the troops of Eli Hobeika [Gemayel’s military strongman] were coming out telling us that Sharon had made it easy for them to enter the camp. They were jubilant. The Israelis allowed them to do everything they wanted. They put a lot of lighting everywhere, and said, enter, and kill whatever you see. Don’t think it’s a child, it’s a woman it’s an old person. Just kill. And that’s what the troops of Eli Hobeika did, with lights provided by the Israelis.’
Paul: ‘Flares. They were lighting the whole camp so the Phalangists could see what they were killing. The Israelis didn’t do the killing but provided the platform to do the killing.
When they finished the massacre, we had a sleepless night, then we got in. The eighteenth in the morning, it was around eight o’clock.
I will never forget it. Indescribable. I saw the hand of a child, just randomly there, the head of an old man, cut. A horse shot. Why did they … why shooting a horse? A pregnant woman, completely … completely opened. Till this day I have memories of this. I have seen very nasty things during the civil war, but this was beyond brutal. They killed indiscriminately. They killed everything. Women. Men. Children. Pregnant women. Horses, dogs. They didn’t go for terrorists. This was a massacre. This was a genocide.’
In Stanisławów in 1941, my grandfather, grandmother, aunt, uncle, two great-grandmothers and forty more relatives were massacred by Ukrainian Fascist militia while Nazi troops sealed off the killing field and watched. In Beirut in 1982, Palestinians were massacred by Lebanese Christian Phalangists while Israeli forces sealed off the killing streets and watched.
I put this to Paul H: ‘Sharon spoke about the camps and every time described the people there as terrorists…’
Author: ‘He said 1000 terrorists, 1500 terrorists, have to go. He always spoke about terrorists.’
Paul: ‘The pregnant woman couldn’t be a terrorist. This child of two couldn’t be a terrorist. This child of a month old couldn’t be a terrorist. They didn’t go only for the men who were terrorists. They went for the whole population of Sabra and Shatila. I’m sorry.’
Author: ‘How were the survivors you saw behaving?’
Paul: ‘Hysterically. Shouting, wailing, in a state of shock. The level of pain. They had lost their families, their homes, everything. We had to ignore that and carry on. We had no time to console them, tending to the wounded, removing the corpses.’
Author: ‘How many people were killed? I’ve seen as low as 450, as high as 3000. What is your opinion?’
Paul: ‘I think it was 3-4000 people at least. At least. And among those maybe about 300, 400 were Palestinian terrorists. The rest was just the population who lived in Sabra and Shatila. It’s the way they did it which was horrendous. Cutting people by pieces. It was killing for killing. They enjoyed the killing. They enjoyed inflicting pain. I have never seen something like this in my life.’
Author: ‘Did you see bulldozers?’
Paul: ‘Yes there was bulldozers.’
Author: ‘What were they doing?’
Paul: ‘Clearing the bodies. They didn’t have enough time to clear the bodies so a lot of dead bodies were piled, and there was a very nasty smell. And we had to take the dead bodies and put them somewhere else.’
Author: ‘You had to do this?’
Paul: ‘Of course. Who is going to do it? And there was a terrible smell I remember, when I entered the camp, because they just threw the bodies like this, so we had to take them to bury them somewhere. Even now I remember the smell. And the bodies we took somewhere where they gave them a kind of cremation because there was no way, there were too many people to be buried.
At that time we didn’t feel anything. Afterwards I just couldn’t believe it. I was in state of shock. The most horrific thing I’ve witnessed.’
The Jewish people’s worst enemy
The long-hidden Kahan Inquiry documents now attest that this was a jointly negotiated, planned and coordinated massacre of part of the Palestinian people, because they were Palestinian. By choosing to portray his intended massacre as ‘several Deir Yassins’ to the Israeli leaders, and despite Israeli concern for deniability, Bashir Gemayel ensured that the record would fully incriminate Israel in their joint murderous intent. It is notable that both allies portrayed and justified their lethal intentions as an inescapable response to threats to their own existence. Nazi Germany justified its antisemitism in the same way: ‘The Jews are our Misfortune’.38
The documents testify to a deliberate act of genocide and conspiracy to genocide by the highest leaders of Israel and Lebanon. This is why Primo Levi said ‘The present government of Israel risks becoming the Jewish people’s worst enemy.’39 Israel and Lebanon have both ratified the United Nations Convention on Genocide. I wait to hear from Lord Pickles.
In conclusion, the Kahan Inquiry asked Defence Minister Sharon to ‘draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed’.40 But Sharon had the last word. He was Israel’s Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, given a state funeral in 2014.
The 1982 massacre of Palestinians was a crisis for Israel. For many Jews worldwide it was also a crisis of conscience. I was wholly disaffected by Israel, but there was still more to discover.
By 2007, over 460,000 Jews had settled in the occupied territories. I corresponded with my new Conservative MP, Stephen Crabb, about the settlements. ‘I recognise that they create huge difficulties in the peace plan’, he wrote, ‘but if a real deal is on the table then I believe the Israeli Government will not ultimately allow them to be the reason the deal fails.’
In 2010, 530,000 Jewish settlers were occupying Palestinian territories when I visited Israel and the West Bank for S4C. At Yad Vashem on its hilltop outside Jerusalem, we filmed at the memorial to the destruction of Stanisławów in Poland. That was where my mother’s family were killed in 1941. Later my Yad Vashem visitor guide pointed out a neighbouring hill. ‘That’s Deir Yassin. Last month Yad Vashem sacked another guide for pointing it out to visitors.’ The memorial to destroyed Stanisławów and the actual destroyed Deir Yassin are within sight of each other. Each inheritance denies the other.
I visited my cousin, an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. On his wall hung a tattered Israeli flag, carefully restored, mounted and framed. It was my uncle’s military flag, which had accompanied his soldiering. The name of each mission was inscribed on the flag. That proud narrative revealed that in 1947-48 my uncle himself participated in the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages.
On Israel’s Independence Day in 2016 Stephen Crabb, now a government minister, addressed Finchley Synagogue: ‘The recent wave of violence is unacceptable and Israel has the right and indeed the obligation to defend its citizens. … The success of a lasting two-state solution rests upon the Palestinian Authority starting to teach its young people about peaceful coexistence.’41
With this homily, Crabb airbrushed 70 years of asymmetric violence between Israel and the Palestinians. William Blake’s ‘An Answer to the Parson’ seems apt:
Why of the sheep do you not learn peace?
Because I don’t want you to shear my fleece.
The Jewish Chronicle report continued, ‘Welsh-born Mr.Crabb, a Christian, noted that Israel was one of the few places in the Middle East where Christians were free to practice their religion.’ Haverfordwest-schooled Stephen Crabb added, ‘As a Christian, I have always felt a very close affinity with the Holy Land. It was a delight to see places that I had learned about during my own childhood at Sunday school … I was struck by how small Israel is. In fact it is identical in size to my own homeland of Wales … with hills especially around Galilee just as green as the ones in Wales.’
In the summer of 2017, with nearly 600,000 Jews settled in the occupied territories, Eric Pickles left the Commons, and a successor was appointed as Commons Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel: Stephen Crabb. He recalled a visit to Israel earlier that year in The Jewish Chronicle:
The most depressing day ... was when we met one of the Palestinian ministers … the sheer obstinacy, the stubborn refusal to even countenance that there is a desire for peace on the Israeli side … You cannot fail to be impressed by Israel as a beacon of freedom and liberalism in a region characterised unfortunately by too much strife and oppression ... And yes we will celebrate the centenary of Balfour with pride.42
That same summer at Bristol University, where in 1995 Stephen Crabb had graduated with a degree in politics, the review of Rebecca Gould’s article was completed. The university concluded that it ‘is not anti-Semitic and does not breach the proper bounds of freedom of speech and academic freedom. We will therefore be taking no further action in relation to this matter.’43 Rebecca Gould remained in her post. Will others be prepared to risk theirs?
This year when the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, Robert Jeffress gave the opening address, praising ‘our great president, Donald J. Trump and the “prince of peace, Jesus our Lord”’. Jeffress, an evangelical pastor who has previously warned Jews will go to Hell, was welcome in an Israel which is finding that Christian Zionists make more reliable, and more numerous allies than American Jews.
Support for Israel among young American Jews is declining. The American Jewish left, recoiling from the Gaza killings, is energising the boycott movement. Netanyahu believes American Jews will steadily assimilate and disappear. ‘Devout Christians have become the backbone of US support for Israel’, Israel’s Ambassador to the US said. [Evangelical Christians have] ‘got to be a solid quarter of the population, and that is maybe 10, 15, 20 times the Jewish population’.
Replying, the US Ambassador to Israel confirmed that evangelical Christians ‘support Israel with much greater fervor and devotion than many in the Jewish community’. 58 per cent of white evangelical Christians surveyed in the USA in 2010 believe Jesus Christ will definitely or probably return to earth by 2050.44
The New York Times noted this ‘historic and strategic shift, relying on the much larger base of evangelical Christians, even at the risk of turning off American Jews who may be troubled by some evangelical’s denigration of their faith’. We have returned to the world of Lord Shaftesbury and his ‘stiff-necked, dark-hearted people … vital to a Christian’s hope of salvation’.45
In 2018, between the sea and the river Jordan, the number of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs reached approximately 6.5 million, equalling the number of Jews.46 Fifty years of Jewish settlement in Palestinian land have rendered an independent Palestinian state unviable, as it was designed to do. The ‘two-state solution’ is a fiction designed to silence criticism and distract from reality.
What lies ahead is a fully apartheid state – democracy for the Jews, for the Palestinians, a reduced West Bank turned into several new Gazas, held down by Israel’s military and technological prowess; a Jewish state unconcerned at ‘becoming the Jewish people’s worst enemy’, exploiting Western guilt over the Holocaust to delegitimise Western censure and particularly Jewish censure, a state confident in the fervent support of the ‘useful fools’ of the Christian West: the exact scenario for which the IHRA’s sham ‘antisemitism’ code is designed.
Once there might well have been an alternative future: a binational state for Jews and Palestinians, something my grandfather would have understood.
Mike Joseph is a broadcaster, writer and historian of genocide. He is an Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University and member of the International Network of Genocide Scholars.
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