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Yes, pro-Israel Jews lobby the Government — and like all UK citizens they have every right to do so

Whether you agree with them or not, this freedom is enshrined in our democracy

Adam Levick
Tuesday 02 September 2014 14:38 BST
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People hold placards and Israeli and Union flags outide the Royal Courts of Justice as Jewish groups rally in London on August 31, 2014, calling for 'Zero Tolerance for Anti-Semitism'.
People hold placards and Israeli and Union flags outide the Royal Courts of Justice as Jewish groups rally in London on August 31, 2014, calling for 'Zero Tolerance for Anti-Semitism'. (AFP)

They were seeking equality.

Though Mira-Bar-Hillel's op-ed imputes to Israel’s supporters an exaggerated degree of power (much like the broader attack on the pro-Israel lobby in the US and Europe), it also implicitly accepts the following logical fallacy: 1) pro-Israel groups support a particular British government stance towards Israel. 2) The British government adopts policies consistent with this stance. 3) Therefore, British government policy towards Israel must have been caused by pro-Israel groups.

Alternative explanations for Britain's pro-Israel policies, such as shared democratic values and mutual interests in the war against Islamist extremism, are not considered.

Indeed, much of Bar-Hillel's argument rests upon the fact that the British government, despite expressing some criticism of Israel during the war, continues to sell arms to that country. She further suggests that this hesitation by British officials to censure Israel is inspired by the “guiding hand behind the strategy of making people so afraid of being accused of anti-Semitism.”

Firstly, Bar-Hillel's unsubstantiated accusation that there is a “strategy” employed by pro-Israel Jews to stifle criticism of the Jewish state with false accusations of anti-Semitism represents a very troubling ad hominem attack on British Jews, essentially charging the community with attempting to morally blackmail their own government.

Moreover, it is quite curious to suggest that Israel, a country with the best record on human rights in the region according to Freedom House, continues to receive arms due to pressure from the Israel lobby when one considers that Britain sends billions of pounds in arms to countries which are among the worst human rights violators in the Middle East, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Are we to assume, per Bar-Hillel’s logic, that arms continue to be sent to these nations because of the influence of Iranian, Saudi, and Egyptian lobbies?

Bar-Hillel also finds evidence of the lobby's power in a speech given by David Cameron in 2009 in front of Conservative Friends of Israel in which the prime minister evidently did not castigate Israel for putatively violating human rights during the 2008-09 Gaza war.

This omission, according to Bar-Hillel, evidently “shocked” fellow journalist Peter Oborne — the producer of the 2009 Dispatches programme on the dangerous power of pro-Israel lobby — who explained that “The Israel lobby has enjoyed superb contacts at the very top of British politics, and never hesitated to use them.” Oborne’s charge relating to Jews using their supposed “political influence” is a staple within the rhetorical arsenal of Israel lobby fundamentalists, to which British Jews should actually consider replying with a mere shrug and the casual retort: ‘Yeah, so what’?’

The Israel lobby (and Jewish groups as such) do of course leverage their friends, “contacts” and associations to promote what they see as their best interests as British citizens — just like all other citizens in the UK and other enlightened Western democracies. Pro-Israel Jews, just like all other Britons, have full citizenship, and enjoy all the freedoms that status bestows, including the right to lobby their government for change.

True equality means that Jews should no longer have to prove their patriotism; that Jews’ citizenship is axiomatic and unreserved and that Jews’ political and civil rights are not precariously suspended in mid-air, contingent upon the approval of polite, liberal society.

Those marching peacefully on the Court of Justice on Sunday were dedicated to the modest proposition that 358 years after their re-admission into England, Jews should be afforded the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as every other full citizen: nothing more, nothing less.

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