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Invoking Margaret Thatcher as an Israel critic is an insult to her strong sense of justice


IT IS always tempting to take our great political heroes’ names in vain – to write that a Churchill or a Thatcher, for example, would be turning in their graves. But in the case of a recent opinion piece by Aris Roussinos asserting what Margaret Thatcher ‘can teach the pro-Israel right’ I think it’s justified.

It was a ‘click bait’ headline that certainly grabbed my attention but with each paragraph I read, my ire was stoked. First up was the writer’s blithely uncritical stance on the facts, and his black and white perspective of Hamas good, Israel bad. Second, his sources and naive belief in the Gaza Health Ministry’s casualty claims which any serious commentator on the conflict should be wary of referencing as reliable. Surely he cannot have missed how Palestinian death toll figures in all its wars against Israel are faked? British mathematician Professor Norman Fenton and Sir Michael Ellis KC, the former attorney general,  have both called the numbers seriously into question, while the fact that Hamas repeatedly refuses to disclose how many of the dead are combatants or civilians makes analysis impossible.

Roussinos goes further and claims that the Israel intelligence services have ‘accepted’ the Hamas figure of 33,000 dead, though its plausibility is equally dubious, sourced as it is from a Vice article, itself based on propaganda from an obscure far-left website called Mekomit.

Roussinos and his publisher UnHerd may not be aware that Mekomit is published by two notoriously anti-Israel organisations called +972 Magazine and Just Vision+972 Magazine is partly funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) and the New Israel Fund (NIF), the latter financed by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF). Just Vision is funded by the RBF and USAID. The editor of Mekomit, Orli Noy, is also chair of B’Tselem, a malignant NGO with a long history of disseminating lies and tropes about Israel. B’Tselem is partly financed by the EU, UNICEF and NIF. Roussinos has links to another NGO funded by OSF and RBF, the International Crisis Group. None of these virulently anti-Israel groups are reputable sources of unbiased information while quoting anecdotal evidence from one anonymous official, as Vice has done, means little. Israel isn’t a monolithic society, and as in any democracy will always have ‘internal’ critics.

Then we come to Margaret Thatcher’s ‘critical’ stance on the Jewish state. Well, it is complex. The Israeli academic Azriel Bermant has described how Mrs Thatcher was pressured by a historically pro-Arabist Foreign Office and struggled with a personality clash with Menachem Begin, and how this gradually soured her generally favourable outlook on Israel. She certainly made a grievous error in comparing Israel’s reactive invasion of Lebanon to that of Argentina’s aggressive invasion of the Falklands Islands. 

However Roussinos’s emphasis on Thatcher’s support more than 30 years ago for the Two State Solution is spurious. This was dead in the water the moment it was produced, with the Soviet-backed Yasser Arafat unleashing a second intifada on Israel shortly after the Camp David Summit in 2000. The geopolitics of the Middle East have greatly altered since Thatcher was in office. The rise of the Iranian regime has created a far more radicalised and polarised Middle East, and a global Islamist threat, facts unreported by Roussinos. 

Thatcher’s idea that the ‘cure’ for terrorism in the Middle East would be for Israel to swap ‘land for peace’ and ‘strengthen moderate Palestinians’ has not stood the test of time or history which, if she were still alive, she would almost undoubtedly acknowledge. It was after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 that Hamas turned it into an Islamist terror enclave, a base from which to launch almost continuous attacks, including the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust on 7/10. 

As a devout Christian, and a ferocious critic of terrorists, she would have been horrified by the pogrom. Nor would she have tolerated Hamas, the Iranian-backed genocidal death cult which sacrifices its own people in a jihadist pursuit against Israel; and would have sharply called for the unconditional release of Israeli and foreign hostages taken by Hamas, their plight appallingly ignored by Roussinos. 

Furthermore she would have lambasted the capitulation to Iran and Hamas by senior Tory Party members such as David Cameron and Alicia Kearns who advocate halting arms sales to Israel, a tacit nod of approval to Islamists to carry on their plans to inflict another genocide on the Jews. This is hardly a ‘moderate position’. 

Inferring that Thatcher supported Israel only as a way to ‘placate’ her Jewish constituents in Finchley is simply insulting to her memory. Anyone with any real knowledge of Mrs Thatcher knows that placating people – ministers or constituents – was never her playbook. She was forthright to a point. Far from disapproving of those few Tories like Suella Braverman who show some vestiges of real conservatism by unconditionally defending Israel, and recognising the dangers posed by Islamism, it is far more likely she would be backing them. 

Referencing other journalists and politicians to justify a critique of Israel also falls far from the tree. President Biden is hardly a moral arbiter on Israel. And neither is the New York Times, since it hounded out journalist Bari Weiss for the ‘crime’ of being Jewish and wrongthink.

Has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘dramatically worsened Israel’s strategic position’, as Roussinos postulates? If Netanyahu doesn’t always get everything right, the fact is that Israel’s vulnerable position, which it is his first duty to defend, is largely caused by the constant Islamist jihadist war against it, their treacherous supporters in the West and supranational organisations like the United Nations.  Not by Israel’s actions. Israel has been a firm ally of the West and a last bastion of defence against Islamist terrorism in the Middle East. Advocating for Britain to stay out of the conflict is as short-sighted as it is reckless.

It looks increasingly apparent that Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War will be remembered by history as a diplomatic and strategic error of historic proportions,’ Roussinos finally asserts. I wonder. My deep anxiety is that it will rather be remembered as a time when the West abandoned its ally, financed the Iranian terror regime, endorsed Hamas propaganda, paved the way for a global caliphate, and imperilled the lives of Jews in Israel and the diaspora. If we are ever allowed to remember at all.

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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