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Israel remains the essential bulwark against genocidal attacks on Jews - The Telegraph - 08.10.23

Hamas’s terrorist assault has taught us that the Jewish state is as needed today as it has ever been says Nick Timothy.


The sight of Hamas carting off Israelis towards Gaza was sickening to anybody with a moral conscience or sense of history. Among them were civilians and soldiers; women, children and pensioners. And the hostages were not the only victims. Terrorists entered houses, murdering families. A woman’s half-naked body was paraded as crowds in Gaza shouted “Allahu akbar” and spat on her head.


At the time of writing, at least 700 Israelis are dead.


The atrocities came almost 50 years to the day that Israel was attacked by a coalition of Arab forces, led by Egypt and Syria, during Yom Kippur. Israel emerged victorious. An earlier conflict, the Six-Day War of 1967, followed a similar pattern. The Arab states attacked; Israel repelled them, and the result was the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.


This is the reality of Israel’s existence. Throughout its history it has been surrounded by states determined to wipe it from the face of the map. In the words of Golda Meir, Israel’s former prime minister, “if the Arabs put down their guns there would be no more fighting. If the Israelis put down theirs there would be no more Israel.”


Some openly say there should indeed be no more Israel. Hezbollah and Hamas are dedicated to its destruction. Iran, which funds and arms Hezbollah and even Hamas despite sectarian differences, promises to destroy what it calls “the Zionist entity”. When protesters march through the streets of London chanting “from the river to the sea”, they are demanding a Palestinian state from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. In other words: ethnic cleansing and the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.


Israel’s existence today feels more secure than in 1967 and 1973. Relations with Egypt and Jordan have been stable for years. Instability in Lebanon and the strength there of Hezbollah means there is danger to the north. The Abraham Accords of 2020, brokered by President Trump, led to the normalisation of ties between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. There had been an expectation that Saudi Arabia – concerned, like Israel, by the threat from Iran – might also come to friendlier terms.


This latest attack seems to have killed off such hopes. Saudi Arabia has blamed the atrocities on Israel itself, and Iran now has what it wanted. In attacking civilian and military targets within Israeli territory, and taking Israeli hostages it can use to seek the release of imprisoned terrorists, Hamas has achieved what it sees as a major victory. The worry inside Israel is that it might spark a new intifada and attacks from Hezbollah too.


Despite these existential dangers, the case for Israel – both its right to exist and to defend its people – has over time become more contentious here in the West. This might to some degree be about the fact that Israel is no longer seen as the underdog: older observers of opinion in Britain say the 1973 war changed that. It is undoubtedly also to do with Britain’s own changing demographics, as British Muslims hold greater electoral sway and, research shows, have more negative views towards Israel than other groups.


The uncompromising stance that Israel takes towards its own security might also be a factor. The barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank is a source of huge controversy, but there is no doubting its success in protecting Israeli civilians from attack. Unlike armchair critics in America and Europe, Israelis point out, they live in a tough neighbourhood. Some add that Western public opinion did not save Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, and they should judge what is necessary for themselves.


Changes in Israeli society and politics are also a factor. The old tacit deal – that orthodox communities could opt out of certain obligations such as military service if they left politics to the rest of society – has frayed. Israel is now governed by a coalition of parties including those representing religious nationalists. Partly as a result, Israel’s liberal credentials – its democracy, supreme court, equality before the law, gay rights, Arab representation and open economy – are easily forgotten.


And there is the Palestinian people, who could already have had their own state had it not been for their leaders. It is true that the growth in settlements in the West Bank makes a two-state solution harder to achieve. And true too that Israel should want to avoid reaching a stage where demographics mean it must choose between its Jewish and democratic identities.


But it is too often forgotten that Israel returned Sinai to Egypt after a peace treaty in 1979, offered a Palestinian state at Oslo, did the same under the Kadima-led government, and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza when that deal fell through. Whenever Israel has offered land for peace, the response has always been more war.


With anti-Semitism on the rise around the world – and made mainstream in Britain during Corbyn’s helm of the Labour Party – the need for Israel is as strong as ever. Yet many fashionable thinkers and important institutions queue to side not with the citizens of a democracy, but the terrorists who attack them.


Hamas throws gay people from rooftops, misappropriates aid money to spend on terrorism, and subjugates the Palestinians of Gaza. But even as the terrorists murdered civilians in cold blood, the BBC seemed to posit an equivalence between the actions of “both sides” and continued to insist the killers were “militants” not terrorists.


Hamas, the BBC knows, is proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Britain and across much of the West. Elsewhere, student groups at British universities celebrated the “heroic fight for al-Aqsa mosque” and activists marched in celebration. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign – whose events at Labour conference will likely be attended by MPs – responded to the barbarism by victim-blaming and organising a protest outside the Israeli embassy.


All of which is a sober reminder. The cowardly attacks and the miserable response by many here in Britain should convince us of the absolute necessity of the continued existence of the Jewish state, the democratic values it represents, and its ability to defend itself from genocidal enemies.



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Nick Timothy is a writer and political adviser, serving as Joint Downing Street Chief Of Staff under Theresa May.

Solidarity from Ukraine: The Israel flag projected in Kyiv today



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