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)

Thursday 20 January 2011

On the Wings of Ignorance about Israel

“Symbolic of the political problems that impact the environment is that when Israel sought to designate the Palestine sunbird (Cinnyris osea) as its national bird, it had to be pointed out that it was already the official bird of Palestine,” opines a travel writer on her blog (which I’m not going to link to on principle!).  “Both have issued stamps depicting this lovely little bird. It seems that Israel wants everything that would be Palestine’s: as much of its land as it can pepper with settlements, control of its water, control of the Palestinian people to move about their land  –  and now, their national bird.”

 The bird’s not flightless – its habitat is not confined to “Palestine”. In fact, it gets as far as Africa. Yet big bad Israel has stolen it. Go figure!

For me, that claim in the top paragraph is symbolic of the widespread ignorance about the history of the land the Romans dubbed “Palestine”, an ignorance that informs and propels the present-day trend towards the delegitimisation of Israel.

This was brought home to me yesterday morning, when a neighbour of mine – who is certainly not in the delegitimiser camp, but confesses to “sitting on the fence” owing to lack of knowledge about “who’s right and who’s wrong, Israel or the Palestinians” – told me that although she’d regularly attended Christian Sunday School, and had studied “Religious Instruction” for her A levels and remembered that there had been two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, she’s none too familiar with the history of the area after biblical times. She hadn’t realized, until I mentioned it, that the name Palestine came from Philistia, and was imposed on Judea by the Romans as a way of emphasizing to the Jews that their land was well and truly conquered.

If a person like that confesses to being confused and ignorant, I thought to myself, what hope for those who have hardly if ever opened a Bible in their lives.

Once upon a time, owing first to King Henry VIII’s policy of placing the Bible in English translation in every parish in England, and the Bible in Welsh in every parish in Wales, Englishmen and Welshmen grew up with a close acquaintanceship with the travails and triumphs of biblical Israel. This process intensified after the publication – 400 years ago this year – of the King James version, with the glorious inspirational language that has become part of Britain’s literary inheritance.

Foreign travellers and settlers – among them the Bohemian scholar Dr Abraham Benisch, an important figure in the nineteenth-century Jewish press in England, marvelled at the Bible’s centrality in the minds of ordinary English folk. I’ve said it before, and most likely I’ll say it again – the impact of the Bible influenced a philosemitic strand among the British, one that was not invariably tied up with missionary activity. We see it in the decision of Cromwell and the Puritans formally to admit Jews to England in 1656. We see it in the decision of Lloyd George and his Cabinet to promulgate the Balfour Declaration.

Today, the Christian faith is in crisis. School assemblies (compulsory for all children whose families adhered, at least nominally, to the Established Church) at which Christian hymns were sung and biblical passages read are a thing of Britain’s past. Many children have absolutely no knowledge of the history of the “Holy Land” whatsoever

Indeed, they have almost no knowledge of the history of their own country, without which they can hardly be expected to make informed decisions.  But their EU masters prefer things that way.

 And so, they’re ripe for indoctrination, learning as they do from dodgy media reports that (thanks to the infiltration of West-hating lefties imbued with pro-PLO propaganda) control the agenda, and in the post-Apartheid area in South Africa peddle Israel (that bastion of the Western values they so despise) as the world’s number one baddie.

Thus we have shrill-voiced youths barely out of short trousers chanting the obscenity that begins “From the River to the Sea ...” ignorant of the facts of the region and the conflict, screaming their support for genocidal antisemitic Hamas, and holding signs that they seem to think depict a once-sovereign country called Palestine that was snatched by those pesky "Zionists", but which were in reality designed by Jews in the Yishuv, not by the so-called “Palestinians” who back then were known, like their brethren outside the Mandate, as Arabs.

 And thus we have ads like this one that’s appeared in the London Daily Mail (a rightwing populist newspaper but no true friend to Israel), touting a tour of the “Holyland” it’s arranged, managing to omit the dread word “Israel” altogether, and using as the symbol of the land’s sanctity, not a Jewish or a Christian symbol but a Muslim one.

(Hat tip:

Cowardice? Malice? Ignorance? Who, in today’s climate, can know for sure?


  1. As a former RE teacher, Preacher and committed Christian Zionist since Sunday School (How could I not love the land where Jesus walked?), I wish I could answer your question definitively. I can only offer you the insight I offered the Jewish-Anerican talk-show host Barry Farber, to wit; When the consequences of incompetence (ignorance,cowardice et al) become indistinguishable from the consequences of malice, it is wiser and safer to assume malice.

    One could weep.

  2. Thanks, Ian.
    I think the tendency to sideline Jewish and Christian holy places is particularly rich.
    In an online site for the same tour there are a number of photos that pop up - as far as I can tell, none of specifically Jewish sites.


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