Thursday, September 15, 2011

What hope for Israel if this is one of its ‘advocates’?

I went to the first in a series of what are billed ‘Israel Advocacy’ meetings at a Jewish community centre this evening. I understand the meeting was sponsored by BICOM (who I am sending a copy of this report). Indeed the speaker Dr Noam Leshem said at the start of his presentation that he was responsible for writing much of BICOM’s advocacy material. That is deeply troubling, because what we heard from Dr Leshem would not have been out of place at a Palestine Solidarity Committee meeting. The whole point of BICOM is that it is supposed to challenge the anti-Israel narrative that dominates the main stream media. If I had wanted to hear yet another hour about Palestinian victimhood I could have turned on the BBC or Al Jazeera. And while I consider myself knowledgeable enough  to have seen through the propaganda, there were many in the audience, who came there expecting to learn how to speak up for Israel, who would have gone away actually thinking there was no point.

Dr Leshem teaches Geography at Royal Holloway College and has a PhD about the conflicting histories of the Israel/Palestine conflict. He was born in Israel, but has presumably spent most of his academic life in the USA and the UK. He is typical of many left-wing Israelis who sees Israel as being the source of all problems in the Middle East, while Arabs have nothing to answer for.

So we certainly did not get any Israel advocacy but we did get plenty of revisionist history in which he essentially presented the Palestinian narrative of it, and he claimed that the conflict could be resolved if only the Israelis were more aware of Arab sensitivities. His central thesis (and he reminded us arrogantly several times that he had researched this for six years) was that the ‘conflict’ was simply a ‘labour’ struggle in which the Jews forced out Arab labourers from working the scarce agricultural land that was available. He even argued that land bought legally by Jews from Arab owners really belonged to the other Arabs (i.e. the non-owners) who lived on that land.

He claimed that the conflict officially started with the Arab revolt in 1935 (he conveniently ignored the many previous pogroms committed by Arabs against Jews in the 1920s including the massacre of most of the Jewish population of Hebron in 1929, but in his view of the world there was no such thing as Arab terrorism). He claimed the 1935 Arab revolt was evidence that the Arabs – and not the Jews – were the first to assert a national Palestinian identify. To support his argument he actually quoted a claim by Rashid Khalidi that the Palestinian Arabs asserted their national Palestinian identity in the early nineteenth century (failing to inform the audience that Khalidi is an extreme Palestinian propagandist who funded the Gaza flotilla ship that sailed from America). Even more outrageously (and ignoring all the evidence that the British gave the Arabs free reign to murder Jews) he claimed that the British crushed the 1935 Arab revolt with such force that it wiped out the entire (Arab) Palestinian leadership as well as all their infrastucture and funding; and that it was this act by the British which enabled the Jews to establish themselves more effectively and was the reason why the Jews were able to win the War on Independence in 1948.

Leshem spoke a lot about the need to accommodate the Palestinian 'refugees', which prompted one member of the audience to raise the issue of the 800,000 Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab lands.  He  was asked specifically about why the Israeli government did not make more political capital from the Jewish 'naqba'. His response was abrupt and rude. He said something like 'that is a dead subject - there is absolutely nothing to be gained from raising it and I advise people never to bring it up as it can only make the situation worse'.
According to Noam Leshem the Arabs and not the Jews were the first to assert a Palestinian identity. So how would he explain these posters from the 1940s?

In response to a question about why he failed to mention the religious aspect of the conflict (such as Muslim intolerance of Jews) his response was that there were fanatics in every religion and that the biggest threat to Israel came from the Jewish West Bank settlers (he gave the example of his car being petrol bombed in the West Bank while on Army reserve duty).

Most worrying of all is that, if he is telling the truth about his current activities, he has the ear of Israeli and Arab politicians at the highest level and appears to be discussing with them the forthcoming UN vote.

Whoever he is advising it should certainly not be BICOM, but it is indicative of the spinelessness of British Jewry that they can use a guy like this as one of their prominent spokesman on behalf of Israel.


Daphne Anson said...

What an utterly bewildering and depressing state of affairs, Edgar.
It's as if the constant drip drip drip of demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel is eroding the good sense of Israel-supporters - if they don't snap out of this malaise, soon they'll be conceding that Israel was "born in sin".
Anglo-Jewry needs more bulldogs.

Elder of Ziyon said...


Someone fly me out there; I need to give more lectures.

Babs said...

Same old same old isn't it? That "we" (ie Jews, Christians and others) must be more sensitive to Muslims and once again the Islamists' lack of respect, threats of violence and otherwise egregious behaviour gets a free pass or is ignored or otherwise excused. THIS infantilisation of Muslim behaviour, where they are not expected to attain the same standards of behaviour as everyone else, is the real racism.

Arafat himself said that "Palestine" and "Palestinians" were a notional construct, formed in order to wage war against Jews in dar-ul Islam. In spite of the rubbish published by Shlomo Sands and otherwise, there is a Jewish people whose lineage can be traced back for thousands of years.

Daphne, I agree with you that Ango-Jewry needs more bulldogs. The most vociferous of Anglo-Jewish leaders have been mesermised/fascinated by the allegedly peaceable nature of Islam for far too long. It is high time that they broke that spell and named the double standards and the dangers everyone faces from these attitudes precisely for what they are.

Mark Wright said...


You said

>if they don't snap out of this malaise, soon they'll be conceding that Israel was "born in sin".

Well, the speaker was already trying to convince the audience that Israel was indeed 'born in sin'. Indeed his main thesis was that Israel's existence was due to 3 things:

1 Taking away from the Arabs all the jobs in farming.

2. 'Illegal' land purchases ('illegal in brackets because he accepted they were technically legal but were not 'legal' in the eyes of Arabs not involved in the deals).

3. The British army(as opposed to the Hagganah etc) crushing the Arabs militarily, politically, and financially.

Mark Wright said...


This is a very good suggestion. I will suggest it in a follow-up message to BICOM (who have not yet replied).

Mark Wright said...


What was especially depressing is that most of the audience (who remember had come there expecting find out about how to argue Israel's case) gave the speaker a very warm reception. That's because he never once said explicitly that he was a revisionist or that he was not a Zionist. Nor did he ever say that he was disputing previously assumed facts. The audience simply accepted that this was the 'correct' narrative.

Mark Gold said...

message to Edgar:

I linked to your site on my blog, and invite you to reciprocate.


Mark Gold