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Paul T Horgan: Councils boycotting Israel? Since when did they take over foreign policy?

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I have to tell of an awkward encounter which I had in the last year. A person I know approached me and demanded that I say whether or not I supported the State of Israel. I knew that this person decidedly did not. What was I to say?

This is a hot-button issue for some people. I did not want to start a never-ending argument with this person based on every development in the Middle East. The whole Israel-Palestinian imbroglio has been going on for decades, and there is no end in sight. I did not want to take a stance on this matter with this person, any more than I am taking a stance in this article.

My response was simple. I told this person I supported the State of Britain. I am British, after all, not Israeli or Palestinian. Fortunately this was enough for this person. I lived to see another day.

The intense dislike of the State of Israel is a remarkable phenomenon. Turn back the clock to the 1960s and 1970s and the public support for Israel in this country and elsewhere in Europe was overwhelming. It made sense to many people then that the co-religionists of the victims of 1940s genocide could set up a state for themselves where they could protect their people from future pogroms. It was a logical conclusion.

Israel’s victory in the Six-Day war can be objectively described as stunning and was widely applauded at the time. The public in this country were on Israel’s side when she was the victim in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where she was outnumbered, but still managed to decisively defeat all her opponents. Forty years later, Israel is widely seen as the baddy. But that may be the price of continued success and becoming a regional superpower. More victories mean more enemies.

The hatred for Israel by the Left in this country is ideologically consistent with their other hatreds. Since Israel is supported in one way or another by the capitalist USA and the neo-communist left really hate the USA, this is a way for them to manifest their hatred. It’s the old my enemy’s friend, etc. The problem for the Left is that there are few ways they are able to demonstrate their hatred of Israel as part of a general hatred of the West.

This is why the BDS movement was born. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions allows the soft-handed neo-communists, seeing that their marches had no effect, to ‘do their bit’ by causing possible economic and cultural harm to Israel. The most blatant example of this was the walkout from a debate by confirmed Israel-hater George Galloway when he discovered that his opponent was an Israeli citizen. Perhaps that saved Galloway from losing.

What is more disturbing is that taxpayer-funded bodies in this country are adopting BDS. Birmingham City Council made it clear to services firm Veolia that their contract would not be renewed unless they stopped doing certain business in Israel. The firm bowed to the pressure. Leicester City Council announced a boycott of goods and services as well.

Well, excuse me. I am sure that no-one knew that these local authorities had a foreign policy. The clue is in the name – local.

The people supporting BDS are highly likely to be the same type that objected to the wristbands-for-food and the red-doors-for-refugees affairs that they denounced as neo-Nazism. Curiously, they fail to recognise the parallels between this boycott of Israel and the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany after 1933. The English Socialists are selective with their National Socialist parallels when it suits them.

There may be some who state that the boycott is only directed against that part of the Israeli economy that operates in territories incorporated following victory in the Six-Day War. This is not so. When Galloway walked out from his debate, he did not care what part of Israeli territory his opponent came from. He saw an Israeli citizen and scarpered.

The government has now stepped in to put a stop to this nonsense. Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock is set to announce that taxpayer-funded bodies which operate a boycott will incur severe civil penalties.

Corbyn’s Labour has – surprise, surprise – opposed this. A Labour spokesman has told a newspaper that:

This government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa. Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice they’re imposing Conservative party policies on elected local councils across the board.”

First, This government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa. As far as I understand, ‘apartheid South Africa’ ceased to exist over two decades ago. It does not exist now. Attacking the government for a new measure, using a historic, but currently non-existent example is ridiculous. What next? Criticising a trade agreement with America because of the War of Independence? This measure is being enacted this year, not in the 1980s, when Nelson Mandela was in a cell on Robben Island. Labour is effectively accusing David Cameron of supporting South Africa’s National Party. He does not. It is a stupid argument. But then this does come from the party that gave us the EdStone.

Labour once again use the tired concept of comparing two distinct situations and stating they are equal. This is how Labour’s Jess Phillips could try to talk away the indecent assaults in Cologne by saying that Israel-boycotting Birmingham was just the same. Jess, some things are just not equal, no matter how much you want them to be.

Second, Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice they’re imposing Conservative party policies on elected local councils across the board. I would dearly love to see any election material produced by the Labour party that explicitly stated that they would at a national or local level be adopting a policy of sanctions against Israel, and inviting voters to elect candidates on that issue.  Just saying they would operate ‘ethically’ does not count. If there is anything Labour’s ideology teaches us it is that they view ethics as relative. In rock-solid-Labour Rotherham, the party saw it as ‘ethical’ to do nothing about the serial gang rapists for over a decade.

Certainly, while there was a much-derided mug produced by Labour last year which promised ‘controls on immigration’. I do not recall any medium, electronic, ceramic or paper-based, which promised any kind of action, economic or otherwise, against Israel. Ed Miliband did not include any hint of an anti-Israel policy being adopted by Labour at a national or local level. Corbyn has to date not made it party policy either, although the party itself is boycotting at least one business that operates in Israel, irrespective of where in Israel they operate.

The local councils were not elected to have a distinct foreign policy. They were elected to deliver efficiently local services, providing value for money. As soon as a local authority stops using value for money as the prime consideration, its citizens begin to lose out financially. This means council tax will be squandered on unnecessary posturing. That is why the Government is stepping in.

In their ham-fisted statement, Labour seems to be pursuing a policy of bogus equality aimed at the hard-of-thinking. Labour really does need to sanity-check what is says, but that may be assuming way too much.  Perhaps Labour hopes to reap the benefits of its covert policy of deliberately under-educating those in state education. Either that, or the talent pool surrounding Corbyn is disturbingly shallow. Considering that the only ability apparently necessary for working for Corbyn is to totally agree with him, it is probably the latter.

 

(Image: Takver, Flickr)

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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