Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Friday 3 December 2010

Positively Moore-ish – Charles Moore on Israel, its Foes, and the Battle for Public Opinion

There are two observations that some historians make about post-Reformation Britain. The first is that the sixteenth-century abolition of Romanish superstitions and of medieval cults such as that of “Little St Hugh”, the boy allegedly ritually murdered by Jews at Lincoln and venerated as a martyr, and that century’s introduction of the Bible in the vernacular into parish churches, prepared the way for the philosemitism that underlay Cromwell’s decision formally to admit Jews to England in 1656. The second is that antipathy to the Church of Rome and its adherents has always been far stronger in modern Britain than antipathy to Jews; in other words, that anti-Catholicism has been the British equivalent of continental antisemitism.

I believe this interpretation of British history to be broadly true, and we might perhaps cite the so-called 1904 Limerick “pogrom” (an exaggeration, to be sure, since it lacked bloodshed), which entailed rioting and a mass boycott of Jewish shopkeepers following a local priest’s ranting that Jews were usurious “leeches”, as an example of Catholic prejudice in the non-Protestant component of the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, since Pope John XXIII’s Nostra Aetete document of 1961, which absolved Jews from the “deicide” calumny and asserted that Jews “should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God”, there have been Roman Catholics – such as the late Irish-born Father William Smith, who headed Australia’s Institute of Social Order, and the Sisters of Sion – who have worked tirelessly to forge robust links with Jewry.

This photograph shows the non-Catholic judeophile Margaret Thatcher (remember her attachment to the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits, and to the Conservative Party intellectual Sir Keith Joseph, and how her Cabinet was jocularly said – by a former prime minister, Harold Macmillan – to contain “more Old Estonians than Old Etonians”?) in Rome last year; flanking her are two notable judeophile British Catholics – on her right, former New Statesman editor Paul Johnson, an acclaimed historian of Jewry, and on her left, former Daily Telegraph and Spectator editor Charles Moore.

I’d like to share with you extracts from some of the superb articles that Mr Moore, who writes an occasional op-ed piece for the Telegraph, has written – they are magnificent in the case they make for traduced and beleaguered Israel, and deserve to be more widely known.  Please note especially Moore's observations on Israel's poor PR efforts, which I quote at the end.
‘As a boy ... I cheered as Israeli courage swept away the outnumbering Arabs who tried to destroy it again and again. I bought books about the Six-Day War, many of which carried pictures of glamorous female Israeli soldiers.
But then a different narrative supervened. People called "the Palestinians" began to be mentioned. Once upon a time, the word "Palestinian" had no national meaning; it was simply the description on any passport of a person living in British-mandated Palestine. During the 19 years to 1967 when Jordan governed the West Bank, the people there had no self-rule, and no real name. UN Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to leave territories it occupied in 1967, does not mention Palestinians; it speaks only of "Arab refugees". Palestinian nationality came along, as it were, after the fact, a nationality largely based on grievance.
Since then, the story has grown and grown. Israel, which was attacked, has come to be seen as the aggressor. Israel, which has elections that throw governments out and independent commissions that investigate people ... became regarded as the oppressive monster. In a rhetoric that tried to play back upon Jews their own experience of suffering, supporters of the Palestinian cause began to call Israelis Nazis. Holocaust Memorial Day is disapproved of by many Muslims because it ignores the supposedly comparable "genocide" of the Palestinians.
Western children of the Sixties like this sort of talk. They look for a narrative based on the American civil rights movement or the struggle against apartheid. They care little for economic achievement or political pluralism. They are suspicious of any society with a Western appearance...They buy into the idea, now promoted by all Arab regimes and by Muslim firebrands with a permanent interest in deflecting attention from their own societies' problems, that Israel is the greatest problem of all.
...All I want to ask my fellow Europeans is this: are you happy to help direct the world's fury at the only country in the Middle East whose civilisation even remotely resembles yours? And are you sure that the fate of Israel has no bearing on your own? In Iran, the new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes the link. The battle over Palestine, he says, is "the prelude of the battle of Islam with the world of arrogance", the world of the West. He is busy building his country's nuclear bomb.
In 2006, when Tory backbencher Sir Peter Tapsell claimed that Israel’s attacks on residential districts of Beirut during operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon were "a war crime grimly reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter in Warsaw", Moore responded, inter alia:
‘Here is a man who has been in public life for more than 50 years (he was an assistant to Anthony Eden in the general election of 1955), and yet he compared Israel's attack to the most famous genocide of the 20th century. What possessed him?
I ask the question, not because I am interested in Sir Peter ... I ask, rather, because his remark seems to me a symptom of a wider unreality about the Middle East, one that now dominates. It tinged the recent Commons speech by William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary[now foreign secretary in the Cameron-Clegg coalition]. It permeates every report by the BBC.
.... European discourse on the subject seems to have been overwhelmed by something else - a narrative, told most powerfully by the way television pictures are selected, that makes Israel out as a senseless, imperialist, mass-murdering, racist bully.
.... It is as if, having relinquished power, we Europeans now wish our own powerlessness upon the rest of the world. We make vaporous and offensive Nazi comparisons. We preach that unilateral action is always wrong. That position can be maintained only by people who do not have to make life-and-death decisions. It is cheap and immoral.’
Regarding the abduction of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, held in Gaza for 114 days on 2007, and forced to make two propagandistic videos by his captors, Moore mused:
‘I found myself asking what it would have been like had he been kidnapped by Israelis, and made to do the same thing the other way round.
The first point is that it would never happen. There are no Israeli organisations - governmental or freelance - that would contemplate such a thing. That fact is itself significant.
But just suppose that some fanatical Jews had grabbed Mr Johnston and forced him to spout their message, abusing his own country as he did so. What would the world have said?
There would have been none of the caution which has characterised the response of the BBC and of the Government... The Israeli government would immediately have been condemned for its readiness to harbour terrorists or its failure to track them down.
Loud would have been the denunciations of the extremist doctrines of Zionism which had given rise to this vile act. The world isolation of Israel, if it failed to get Mr Johnston freed, would have been complete.
If Mr Johnston had been forced to broadcast saying, for example, that Israel was entitled to all the territories held since the Six-Day War, and calling on the release of all Israeli soldiers held by Arab powers in return for his own release, his words would have been scorned. The cause of Israel in the world would have been irreparably damaged by thus torturing him on television. No one would have been shy of saying so.
But of course in real life it is Arabs holding Mr Johnston, and so everyone treads on tip-toe...
Throughout Mr Johnston's captivity, the BBC ... continually emphasised that he gave "a voice" to the Palestinian people, the implication being that he supported their cause, and should therefore be let out. One cannot imagine the equivalent being said if he had been held by Israelis.
...what he says [in the videos] is not all that different from what the BBC says every day through the mouths of reporters who are not kidnapped and threatened, but are merely collecting their wages.
... Alan Johnston, under terrorist orders, spoke of the "absolute despair" of the Palestinians and attributed it to 40 years of Israeli occupation, "supported by the West". That is how it is presented, night after night, by the BBC....
You get precious little investigation of the networks and mentalities of Islamist extremism - the methods and money of Hamas or Hizbollah and comparable groups - which produce acts of pure evil like that in which Mr Johnston is involuntarily complicit.
The spotlight is not shone on how the "militants" (the BBC does not even permit the word "terrorist" in the Middle East context) and the warlords maintain their corruption and rule of fear, persecuting, among others, the Palestinians.
... The doctrine is that Israel practises "apartheid" and that it must therefore be boycotted.
All this is moral madness...How can we have got ourselves into a situation in which we half-excuse turbaned torturers for kidnapping our fellow-citizens while trying to exclude Jewish biochemists from lecturing to our students?
....[Israel] is morally serious in a way that we are not, because it has to has to work out each morning how it can survive.’

‘England can make the dubious boast of being the first country to have expelled the Jews en masse, in 1290. It also invented one of the strangest types of anti-Semitism, the blood libel. In the Middle Ages, Jews were massacred in York, Lincoln and elsewhere because of claims that they had kidnapped and killed Christian children for the blood of ritual sacrifice. This image of horror is still used against Jews. Modern newspaper cartoons – it is often in cartoons that the underlying visceral feeling appears most clearly – quite often depict Israeli leaders as deliberately killing children, and sometimes as vampiric. By a peculiar twist in our politics, such cartoons are now much more likely to appear in grand Leftish papers – such as the Guardian and the Independent – than in Right-wing popular ones.
 ...In our time, the more important anti-Semitic lie is the denial of the Holocaust....In this country, the Muslim Council of Britain, while not actually denying the events of the Second World War, objects to what it sees as the privileged status the words "the Holocaust" confer on Jews. It will only mark the Holocaust if other genocides are commemorated too, and many extreme Muslims pretend that Israel is itself genocidal.
....Polls suggest that large minorities of Muslims believe that "the Jews" blew up the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Such madness is not confined to ignorant Muslim masses stirred up by fanatics: I have heard it seriously advanced by non-Muslims at a respectable dinner party....
In the psycho-drama of Muslim dispossession, Israel fills a central role. In a weird ideological alliance with Islamism, the secular Left now tries to argue that Israel is an "apartheid" state. There are many criticisms that can justly be made of Israeli policy, but criticism of Israel is often quite different from that of other countries involved in violent political conflict. It is existential criticism. It is against the Jews – seeing them, yet again, as the problem. This is anti-Semitic, and it is growing here, like litter, as Julius puts it, on our English lawns.’

And regarding the world condemnation of Israel’s actions towards the Mavi Marmara:
‘Things could have been so different if Israel had set the stage. These convoys, after all, are not new. Their propaganda for extremism is well known, but Israeli intelligence, so expert at tracing the networks of actual violence, seems strangely weak in following their wider ideological background, so the world was not told nearly enough about the people on board. Weeks ago, Israel could have been warning about the flotilla. It could have lobbied populations and governments about the unholy alliance between human rights groups and Islamist fanatics.
 .... The failure, above all, is in what is now called ... “the battle of the narratives”. I am grateful to the latest Joint Doctrine Publication promulgated by our Chiefs of Staff (Security and Stabilisation: The Military Contribution) for two telling quotations. One is from the Principles of War, drawn up by Hezbollah, Hamas’s murderous cousins in the Lebanon. One principle states: ''The media has innumerable guns whose hits are like bullets. Use them in battle.’’ The other is from General Keightley, who commanded the ill-fated British operation in the Suez crisis in 1956. ''The one overriding lesson of the Suez operation,’’ he said, ''is that world opinion is now an absolute principle… and must be treated as such.’’
Israel has fought so long, and usually so well, in real battles, but it seems to have forgotten how to fight in verbal ones. On the day of the flotilla incident, all the outraged governments were on the airwaves almost before anything had happened. But it took five and a half hours before the Israeli Ambassador in America appeared in public. Quite a lot of articulate people spoke up in Israel’s support – it really will be a black day when there are no articulate people to be found to defend the Jewish state – but they had no clear, coordinated, Israeli government message, and so their ''innumerable guns’’ were pointing in different directions.
By contrast, the ''humanitarian’’ narrative was constantly repeated with all the efficient dishonesty that terrorists, when they use that word, deploy so well.
What has gone wrong? Experts tell me that there is no proper co-ordination, that no one person is in charge of shaping and communicating Israel’s message to the world, and that no one is sacked. It is most odd that the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to fame 20 years ago during the first Gulf war precisely because he knew the importance of talking to the outside world, is so quiet. He seems trapped in the government machine. Somewhere down the years, Israel allowed itself to forget that its greatest weapon is the story it can tell about itself.
Israel is understandably obsessed with security, but its greatest security lies ultimately not in the Israeli Defence Forces, but in political warfare. In the Six Day War of 1967, what swept all before it was the combination of military might and a story the world wanted to hear, that of David beating Goliath. Most of the world is not deeply interested in what happens in Israel, and probably does not want to be deluged with legalistic defences of particular actions. What it wants is a clear, calm, repeated case. It is a case – aimed more at public opinion than at foreign ministries – about freedom, democracy, a Western way of life and the need for the whole of the free world to fight terrorism.
Sometimes you hear Israelis say: “It doesn’t matter what we say. The whole world is against us.” You can see why they say it, for they are indeed unfairly treated. But when they say it, they are uttering a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they won’t say what needs saying, no one else will say it for them.' // world-opinion.html
More please, Mr Moore!


  1. Isn't it funny how, when someone who isn't Jewish states what is obvious it has more force than when said by someone who is Jewish or pro-Zionist etc.

  2. Hi, Ray!
    To use an australianism - You're not wrong, mate!
    I'm glad that, despite the departure of the regular Barbara Amiel and Mark Steyn columns from the Daily Telegraph after Lord Black relinquished control, there's still Charles Moore to highlight Israel's case.

  3. Just as a point of historical accuracy, but England did not invent the Blood Libel. This might be the first recorded instance of it being applied to Jews but the Libel is older than that.

    In the first and second centuries AD, the pagan populace of the Roman Empire accused Christians of assorted immoralities including incest, murder of infants and subsequent cannibalism. These turned out to be Brotherly Love and Holy Communion.

    This does not justify what happened in England, but, under Cromwell, we repented. Is there no forgiveness? Our failure to carry out the Mandate is a more serious charge and one that has not been repented of at national level.

    If we are to end the centuries of pain between the Church and Israel, it is imperative to have accurate history and then when things are repnted of and, if possible, put right they should be forgiven and forgotten.

    It is also imperative for an accurate story to be told to ordinary people. I can still remember the outrage of an older generation, who not understanding the responsibilties and failures of the British Government over the Mandate, were appalled and puzzled by the actions of Irgun against ordinary British soldiers. I'm quite sure that the story, as seen in Israel, was very different to the story as it was seen in the UK.

    Perhaps, at this time of Dedication we can all ask God for a miracle or several amd let the Light that enlightens every one enlighten us again.

    PS. Did you know that Chanukah is specifically mentioned in John's Gospel? John 10:22

  4. Thank you for re-introducing me to Charles Moore. I confess to have always thought of him as just another English toff. I was wrong.

  5. Thanks, Ian.
    I believe the blood libel against Jews was present in the ancient world as well - at any rate in Ancient Greece on at least one occasion, though the William of Norwich case of 1144 was the first of medieval times.

    Bella, me too - I thought he was the embodiment of "Lord Snooty" until I read the last of the articles I've quoted from here, regarding the Mavi Marmara aftermath, and decided to "revisit" his writings. I don't know how I missed them, even though I'm a "Telegraph" reader - perhaps some were only online. I don't often look at the Telegraph website.

  6. "English toff"? "Lord Snooty"? I'm sorry but I think you both sound as prejudiced as the people you are (quite rightly) criticising!

    Charles Moore has been writing like this for years. I don't think you are much of a Telegraph reader, DA, if you've been missing it. I certainly haven't and all his writings have been in the printed edition.

    All that said I am delighted to see his work being brought to a wider audience.

  7. Thanks for this excellent post. Great to see another pro-Israeli blog launched. I've done my best at my place but gave up over a year ago.

  8. Slightly OT - but I highly recommend this article in Tablet by Benny Morris (who seems to have come a long way from his revisionist days).

  9. Many thanks, gentlemen!

    Francis, I take your points. I don't know how I missed his articles, unless I was away. Am a huge admirer now.

    Rob, it's a shame you gave up. Thanks for the link.

  10. A radical US-based Islamic website shut down last month after allegedly helping to inspire the stabbing of a Labour MP has resurfaced with a new name.


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