Forty-Two British Jews Against Israel’s Annexation Plans (Part 1)


Forty-two British Jews have signed a letter urging Israel not to annex any parts of the West Bank. They are apparently convinced that such a move would irreparably damage Israel, posing what they called an “existential threat.”

The story is at the Guardian.

Some of the most prominent and respected names in British Jewry have raised alarm over the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, saying such a move would be an existential threat to Israel.

Among more than 40 signatories of an unprecedented letter to the Israeli ambassador to the UK are Sir Ben Helfgott, one of the best-known Holocaust survivors in Britain; the historians Sir Simon Schama and Simon Sebag Montefiore; the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; the lawyer Anthony Julius; the philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield; the scientist Lord Robert Winston; the former MP Luciana Berger; the Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein; and the author Howard Jacobson.

These are 42 of the Great and Good, and their reputations relieve them, apparently, of the responsibility of studying, in depth, the history of Israel and the Arab Jihad being conducted against the Jewish state. Before presuming to preach to the Israelis about what they should or must do, these forty-two pukka sahibs and grand panjandrums ought to study the Balfour Declaration (1917), the Treaty of San Remo (1920), and above all, the precise terms of, and territories included within, the Mandate for Palestine (1922). Then they should look at Article 80 (the “Jewish people’s article”) of the U.N. Charter, and should study the meaning of U.N. Resolution 242 (1967), as eloquently supplied by its British author and U.N. Ambassador, Lord Caradon.

After they have fulfilled those tasks, they should study the history of the Zionist pioneers and the Arab terrorism against them from the very beginning of their enterprise, including the Arab Revolt (1936-1939)and the malign effect in Mandatory Palestine of that enthusiast for the Final Solution, Hajj Amin El Husseini. Then they may proceed to studying the formal founding of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, and the Jewish hand held out in peace that same day to the Arabs, only to be rejected by them. They should reexamine the invasion by five Arab armies, intent on destroying the nascent state of Israel and convinced of their quick victory which, in the words of Egypt’s Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, would be a “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”

These 42 Deeply Concerned British Jews should then study the history of the three major wars Israel has had to fight for its survival (1948-1949, 1967, 1973), and the smaller wars too, that it has been forced to fight against the terrorists of the PLO and Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and against Hamas in Gaza. They ought to review the long and difficult history of Israel’s attempts to make peace with the Palestinian Arabs. Finally, they should consider the military significance of the Jordan Valley, and the legal, historical, and moral claim of Israel to Judea and Samaria (a/k/a “the West Bank”). All of that is a tall order, but the consequences of ignorance about such matters among Jews in the Diaspora could be a matter of life or death for Israel. Those who wish Israel well, before scolding that tiny state, have a duty to learn about all the matters I have listed just above

Their [the “42 British Jews”] letter to Mark Regev, conveying “concern and alarm” about the pledge by Israel’s new coalition government to extend its territory over swaths of the West Bank, is the latest indication of mounting disquiet among British Jews over the plan.

Why should they have any “concern and alarm” if Israel chooses to exercise its claim, according to the Mandate for Palestine, to extend its sovereignty over all or, if it so decides, over only part, of “the West Bank”?

Could their “concern or alarm” reflect their misunderstanding of Israel’s rights to the territory it proposes to annex? Those rights to “annex,” or more exactly, to extend Israel’s sovereignty, come from the legal claim based on the Mandate for Palestine. Let’s remember that after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, the mandates system was created by the League of Nations in formerly Ottoman lands. Several mandates were established on behalf of the Arab people; one was contemplated for the Kurds but never implemented; and one was the Mandate for Palestine, for the Jewish people, in order that there might be established a national home for the Jews in their ancient homeland that would in time become their state. Large swathes of formerly Ottoman territory in the Middle East were thus assigned by the League to various mandates. Aside from the Palestine Mandate, there were mandates as well for Iraq, and for Syria/Lebanon, while the Emirate of TransJordan was created out of territory east of the Jordan River “out to the desert,” that originally was to have been part of Mandatory Palestine.

The signatories [the 42 British Jews] say their concerns are “shared by large numbers of the British Jewish community, including many in its current leadership, even if they choose not to express them”.

The letter says: “We are yet to see an argument that convinces us, committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel, that the proposed annexation is a constructive step. Instead, it would in our view be a pyrrhic victory intensifying Israel’s political, diplomatic and economic challenges without yielding any tangible benefit.

“It would have grave consequences for the Palestinian people most obviously. Israel’s international standing would also suffer and it is incompatible with the notion of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.”

The unthinking acceptance by these 42 British Jews of the existence of the “Palestinian people” is worrisome. There are “Palestinian Arabs,” but not a separate “Palestinian people,” with a distinct religion, language, cuisine, fairy tales, customs, or anything else that would distinguish them from other Arabs in the same neighborhood. It would have been useful if they had instead referred to “Palestinian Arabs.”

They claim, too, not to have seen “an argument that convinces us…that the proposed annexation is a constructive step.” What about the argument that extending Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and many of the settlements signals to the Arabs that their salami-tactics will not work, that Israel is here to stay, and with borders it can defend, and no amount of pressure by the “international community” will cause Israel to retreat from lands to which it has a claim superior to all others? Would holding onto that territory not strengthen Israel’s power to deter its enemies, and thus make war less, not more, likely? And wouldn’t forcing Israel to essentially concede control of the West Bank, and to return to those 1949 armistice lines, whet rather than sate, Arab appetites, and make a future war more likely?

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