In recent days, with a small group of friends and colleagues, I have helped to set up British Friends of Israel and raised support for the October Declaration. Signatories include Sir Tom Stoppard, Dame Maureen Lipman, Sir Tim Rice, Vanessa Feltz, former British intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove, Countdown’s Rachel Riley and broadcasting titan Andrew Neil; They are all part of a group of 200 people that includes members of the House of Lords, MPs, famous historians, professors and journalists like me.
We all support British Jews and their right to live their lives in this country without fear. We unequivocally condemn the horrendous terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel on October 7 and the suffering that Hamas has caused to the Palestinian people. We deplore the subsequent rise in anti-Semitism, call on the media, members of all political parties and the general public to call Hamas what it is: a terrorist organization, and demand that the police use the full force of the Law against Terrorism against its supporters. .
None of us imagined that something like this would be necessary in this country in the 21st century but, unfortunately, here we are. As TV presenter Rachel Riley says in an emotional statement supporting the statement: “What has been so painful here at home has been the denial of atrocities, the tearing down of posters of kidnapped children and the willingness of so many people to stand up. on the side of Hamas. – from football heroes to “peace activists” who have nothing to say about what Hamas did. It feels like a layer of society has been peeled away; “We are seeing how little some people care about Jewish lives.”
The idea of the British Friends of Israel first came from Laura Dodsworth, author of A State of Fear. Laura was shocked by the scenes she was witnessing on television. “Within hours of the terrorist attacks there were marches around the world with chants of ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Gas the Jews’ before the bodies had even been counted. Anti-Semitism soared here in Britain, which has been a safe home for Jews for hundreds of years. The children were too afraid to go to school. What have we become? Frankly, it disgusted me. I thought: this has to be the time to stand in solidarity with British Jews.”
Like Laura, I was disgusted by the speed with which the media narrative moved from shock at the savagery with which Hamas thugs massacred 1,400 Israelis, many of them young and old, to concern about the destruction in Loop. The latter is horrible, no doubt, but it is not in the same league of depravity as entering a kibbutz, tying the children’s hands behind their backs, throwing them on a pile and setting them on fire.
An open letter from Artists for Palestine UK, signed by Steve Coogan, Maxine Peake and almost 4,000 other artists who polished the halo somehow managed not to mention any of the atrocities or, indeed, the name of Hamas. In Israel, pathologists were still struggling to identify the young festival-goers from dental records and DNA samples because their bodies had been horribly burned and butchered, but the celebrities decided to quickly change the subject.
“Shame on those bloody heartless liberals,” roared Dame Maureen Lipman, another name who signed our statement, in a scathing attack on the moral vapidity of many in their craft. “If there were a letter signed by a terrorist group promising to kill all Protestants and throw all English institutions into the sea, kidnapping two hundred men, women and children in Oxford Street (on Christmas Day), including pensioners from Chelsea and Nadiya Hussain and Mary Berry – and tortured and raped their sons and daughters – if that happened, gentlemen Social Conscience, tell me, please tell me, in your opinion, what would be a PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE?
Magnificently thunderous, Maureen! And, as she points out, Hamas has done nothing for the Palestinians except steal the millions donated in aid money while he keeps them in penury.
Like the celebrities, the BBC and other left-wing broadcasters clearly felt that Israelis had had enough sympathy. Journalists began parroting “Palestinian” statements, as if the word of mass murderers could be trusted, with the blood of babies on their hands.
Hamas apologists were given airtime and explained that the group “had not killed any civilians.” The Israelis argued that the denial of the October 7 massacre and its rapid downplaying by the media amounted to “real-time Holocaust denial.”
On Monday, Israel will take the extraordinary step of showing foreign journalists raw, unedited footage of Hamas atrocities captured by death squads’ body cameras. I’ve seen one of those videos in which a family home turns into a slaughterhouse, a spectacle so pitiful that you will never be able to unsee it. The images are so viscerally horrifying, so revealing of the attackers’ bestial inhumanity, that even the BBC might finally agree to call Hamas terrorists.
Either way, it is a sign that Israel flatly refuses to let Hamas win the bloody propaganda war. He will allow his dead and dying to have the last word and win hearts and minds beyond the grave. It is a controversial but devastating tactic, leaving pro-Palestinian media with no choice but to report it.
One of the most egregious examples of media bias was the BBC’s report on the explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital. An excited journalist informed us that the explosion had killed five hundred people. How could anyone know, so soon after the event, exactly how many victims there were? They could not.
But the BBC man, an embarrassment to journalism and a useful idiot for the Hamas propaganda machine, took the invented figure of the terrorists as gospel. “It’s hard to see what else this could be, given the magnitude of the explosion, other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes,” he said. This rush to judgment (it now appears that the hospital was not destroyed at all and the victims were much smaller) was probably partly responsible for an outbreak of anti-Semitic violence around the world.
Those who hate Israel and those who wave the flag of Palestine were crazy. The bombing of a hospital, although imaginary, was a victory for his side because it reflected very poorly on the enemy. It would be convenient to forget the massacres of October 7, recover moral superiority and return Israel to where it likes: in error.
Here in the UK, a forceful response would have been expected to reassure our Jewish community, with their “minds full of pain”, as one devastated friend put it. Well, you would have been disappointed. Government members make reassuring noises, but unfortunately there were few arrests. As Lord Frost, another signatory of the October Declaration, says: “We have seen shocking acts of antisemitism on the streets of Britain in recent days and the authorities have not always reacted firmly.”
You can say that again. On Saturday, 100,000 protesters, many of them shouting the genocidal chant “From the river to the sea/Palestine will be free,” were allowed to advance unimpeded because, in a new rule apparently invented by the police, “the route does not go near a synagogue or Jewish school.” Then it’s okay.
The same day, in response to Hizb-ut-Tahrir protest activists chanting “Jihad,” the Metropolitan Police issued a statement suggesting an unlikely scenario: the London police officer has become an Islamic scholar.
“The word jihad has several meanings, but we know that the public will most commonly associate it with terrorism,” the Met statement cautiously begins. “Here we have specialist counter-terrorism officers who have particular knowledge in this area. “They have evaluated this video, filmed during the protest, and have not identified any crimes arising from the specific clip.”
I can guarantee that if someone had been using language that upset Muslims, the police would have attacked. But since it was anti-Semitic language chanted by a large group of Muslims, no one dared.
As Hizb ut-Tahir is an Islamic fundamentalist organization with the stated goal of reestablishing a caliphate to implement sharia law globally, chances are that the London brothers were using “Jihad” in the sense of “wanting a good cup of tea and chat” instead of “let’s wage holy war against the infidels” is really quite remote. Hizb-ut-Tahir is a banned organization in most Muslim countries, which says something, and only a cavalier approach to public safety (and fear of the “community” setting in) keeps it legal here .
How are British Jews supposed to react to this institutional pusillanimity? A friend who had to ride the subway over the weekend took off the delicate Star of David necklace she always wears. Proud to be British, proud to be Jewish, Liz feels intimidated. It is not surprising. There has been a huge increase in anti-Semitic incidents compared to the same period last year.
The lack of visible support for Israel is demoralizing. The Government must not give ground to the mafia, but can we trust it to stand firm? Some Jews are deeply upset; others, resigned, talk about packing their bags.
As lawyer Francis Hoar, one of my fellow organisers, says: “The British reaction to the horrific massacres in Israel should worry us all. Unconditional celebration of behavior equivalent to that of the Einsatzgruppen on our streets; the lack of unreserved condemnation of indiscriminate murder; and the failure of our police forces to control protesters, arrest those who glorify terrorism, and protect our Jewish community.”
“Perhaps worst of all was the juxtaposition of a small number of people, mostly Jewish, commemorating the dead and calling for the return of the hostages, with tens of thousands marching alongside banners glorifying their killers. Now more than ever the British people must stand up for our Jewish community who have made such an incomparable contribution to all aspects of our history and our society. We are with you, now and always.”
I agree with every word of that. If you think this is not your fight, heed the words of our greatest living writer, an incomparable chronicler of the Jewish experience, Sir Tom Stoppard: “Before taking a position on what is happening now, we should consider whether this is a fight for territory or a fight between civilization and barbarism.”
If you would like to show your support for our Jewish brothers and sisters, for whom this country, your country, our country, is no longer a safe place, please go to britishfriendsofisrael.org and sign the October Declaration.
Too often, statements like this are moral posturing, empty words from the great and the good, I know. But if it helps Jews feel less alone, it will be worth it.