Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Hamas March of Return and the Palestinian Pesach story

A quick lesson in oppression, occupation and disproportion.
1. Hamas runs a pseudo-dictatorship in Gaza, an area that Israel disengaged from over a decade ago.
2. Hamas publicly proclaims its intention to break the border with Israel and does so repeatedly with tunnels, rockets, mortars and direct incursions through the fence.
3. Israel and Egypt therefore keep the land and sea borders under their control, allowing most goods to pass in and out, but blocking anything nefarious and tightly restricting "dual-use" products. This does not amount to a blockade and is permitted under international law.
4. Israel actively supports the civilian reconstruction of Gaza and promotes infrastructure projects there, even assisting states who don't even recognise Israel, but wish to participate.
5. Nonetheless Hamas and many people who support and genuinely believe they are helping the Palestinians (the PA, Jeremy Corbyn, most of the liberal intelligentsia) perpetuate the myth that Gaza is a giant open-air prison camp of Israel's making. When you have a look at the pictures of the protest marches, you will notice green fields behind the protesters, stretching to the horizon. Gaza is small but it has open spaces for agriculture and would be producing much more if it weren't for the destruction of the many facilities (some political and some just looting) after Israel disengaged. There would be even more land if the PA were willing to engage seriously in talks about creating a state and ending the status quo that they perpetuate on the backs of ordinary Palestinians for their own ends - Egypt has offered to allow Gaza to annex a huge swathe of the Sinai and Israel has the technology to make the land bloom.
6. Even in English, Hamas is not interested in making anything other than a temporary truce of convenience with Israel and says so publicly - no recognition, no peace, but a hudna or tahdiyah for a period of time along broadly the Green Line. In Arabic it remains totally irredentist, perpetuates anti-Semitic canards, and denies any legitimate Jewish presence in the Holy Land except possibly as a subjugated minority under the "rightful" sovereignty of the Palestinians, whose "return" is paramount.
7. With all this in mind, Hamas has fomented the mass movement of 30,000 Gazans to the border fence, a dangerous place at the best of times, in what could never be maintained as a simple peaceful protest. What they tell the Western media is simply not borne out by either their actions or the incitement to try and storm the fence (or them testing the IDF security measures with a series of breaches last week). The whole thing is clearly premeditated.
8. Hamas and their friends and the useful idiots who shill for them have already started to talk about Israel's heavy handedness. There are 30,000 people including women and children at the border. 400 (1.3%) are alleged by Gaza NGOs to have received gunshot wounds. Few to none are women and children - if they were, we would have plenty of noise about it. 16 (4% of the casualties, 0.05% of the protesters) are dead. All are men aged 16-30. At least 10 have been identified and named as known terrorists - Hamas has even confirmed most of this. All of them died at, over or within feet of the security fence and the IDF has corroborating footage of most of this.
If Israel were trying to perpetrate a massacre, they are not doing the best job of it. In fact they appear to be operating under incredible restraint in the face of the worst provocation in years and possibly the most complex threat to the border it has ever faced.
The eyes of the world are upon us. We need to provide the context and the realities surrounding these events, and get ahead of the simplistic oppressor/victim narrative that is emerging as usual. The Palestinians ARE victims - of the PA, Hamas and the international "friends" of Palestine who are actually doing more damage than good through their myopic approach to the issue.
Some are making very clever and dangerous inversions of the Pesach story - Israel has hardened its heart to the Palestinian slaves who merely want their freedom, etc. I would like to suggest a different interpretation. The Palestinians have been enslaved by their own leadership and before that by Egypt and Jordan. The Children of Israel had to wander for 40 years in the Wilderness, while the younger generation learned the lessons required to be responsible enough to found a nation, and awaited the passing of the old leaders who were revered but too flawed to switch from running a liberation movement to running a sovereign state.
So too, the Palestinians must recognise that they are also as liberated from the yoke of Israeli rule as they make themselves. Gaza is not occupied and 95% of West Bank Palestinians live under PA rule. The rest is determined by the balance of Israel's security needs and their livelihoods in the short term, and by negotiation between two parties who recognise and respect the rights of the other to be there in the long term.
Bibi and the settlements and the Gaza border (none of which I am particularly enamoured with but that I do understand are part of our neighbourhood realpolitik) are just excuses to avoid the responsibilities that come with statehood. The real pro-Palestinians are those who get this and are genuinely seeking to engage with Israel in making daily life better for Palestinians as well as creating the long-term platform for them to take the last step of their liberation, which is fundamentally in their minds, not in the "return" to any particular inch of land between the River and the Sea.
Herzl was the Moses and Ben Gurion was the Joshua of our modern Exodus story. Both of them understood that liberation was a separate idea or ideal to the realities of forming a state. It's why we compromised at every step in terms of accepting a Partition Plan that put most of our historical places outside our sovereignty. It's why we didn't annex the West Bank in 1967. It's why we withdrew from Sinai, Lebanon, Gaza - and we will do so again from other places when the time is right.
Because we are already free, we understand from a place of great conviction where is the line of "dayenu", even when it pains us. I wish for our Palestinian neighbours that one day they too can say "next year in Jerusalem" without it needing to be at our expense.
One thing we can all agree on is that it will probably take 40 years to build the train line to carry them there...

Monday, August 28, 2017

Take a memo...

I felt it was time to make a more detailed response to the James Damore (JD) memo and the increasingly long thread on my Facebook page. Please excuse the insane length of this posting (3x the original memo!) and its potentially repetitive nature; I wrote it over several sessions and wanted to address JD's entire memo and all the rebuttals properly.

For those who don't have time for 10,000 words, here is a TL;DR, or summary, as we used to call it ITDBABSP (in the days before acronyms became so popular):

1. There is credible evidence to support Damore's most controversial assertion that there are some fundamental differences between men and women, but I think he did himself no favours by making these such a core of his argument, when even he accepts they are not extreme, don't apply universally, and can be reduced through nurture and opportunity.

2. This whole episode raises wider concerns about the direction of much of Western society in terms of in-built bias to a particular ("progressive") way of thinking, which he highlighted as being a problem in Google, and had his point well proven by being fired for it.

3. A core reason for my having debated this so vociferously and for writing this long response is because this is a free speech issue. Even Damore's most contentious and unproven assertion is well within the bounds of reasonable discourse that can be taken apart in a grown-up manner by people who disagree. Efforts to simply silence him, smear him, and compare him to the extreme right are very distasteful.

4. I'm interested in genuine equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome. I get that there is a cascade effect of lack/bias of opportunity in society, ie girls don't get toys that guide them to engineering as kids, aren't encouraged to study it at uni, don't fancy applying to Google as it seems so bro-ey, or whatever. But forcing a 50-50 outcome despite this is not the right solution. Ensuring equal opportunity at each level is.

I think that covers about 90% of it. Now, here is my original posting, which linked to his WSJ op-ed, "Why I Was Fired By Google":
I've been following this story very carefully. Please read the full original version of Damore's document (not the Gizmodo redacted one) and its links to supporting evidence of some of his more contentious statements before passing comment. I'm not in agreement with every word but certainly most of it, and I definitely believe it's a cop-out of Google to fire him and most of his detractors to criticise him without properly rebutting his arguments, which to date I've not seen anyone do - just lots of repetitive knee-jerking and shrill virtue signalling.

What I'm going to do here is try to clarify, per the above, what I'm in agreement with, and what I'm not. It's unfortunate that - exactly as people have done with JD himself - many responses to my posting the above have been knee-jerk and shrill, even though I don't agree with much of what he has said (or how and perhaps even where he has said it). The message from one particular party has been clear - if you agree with ANY of it, you are a wicked, misogynist bigot, and woe betide you for even trying to have a discussion about the finer points.

As luck would have it, JD has been obliged to add a top-line response to his detractors, which neatly sums up my own position:
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can't have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.

If you don't believe him or his motives, that's up to you, although having seen several interviews with him, I happen to think he is sincere, if not particularly brilliant in some regards. If you don't believe me or mine, this is the time to stop reading, and also please take the liberty of unfriending me now. I won't miss you. I'm used to being contrarian and outspoken, but I'm also used to being surrounded by intelligent, articulate people who may sincerely believe I am wrong and once in a while convince me of this. At the very least, they certainly temper my views. 

I actively seek to befriend and debate people with whom I disagree strongly, provided they are capable of reasonable, good-humoured dispute. Fortunately most of my friends have commented and debated in a civilised way, even though they may not agree entirely. This is the juncture at which I want to thank those of you who have disagreed respectfully and posted thoughtfully on the subject, especially where you have included links from credible sources that demonstrate a counterpoint to the basis of JD's arguments.


Firstly I think it is worth adding a little information on who JD is and what qualifies him to make the assertions he has, because he has been accused of writing a "screed" containing "pseudo-science". He seems to have been quite a child prodigy, a multiple youth chess champion, high-flying undergrad in molecular and cellular biology, and has a Masters from Harvard (PhD started but I guess he didn't have time to finish it until now!) in systems biology, as well has having done research at Princeton and MIT. So the guy is not a simpleton, has some background in biology, and knows a thing or two about research. I daresay he is more academically qualified than many of his detractors to discuss this particular topic; he is not a "pseudo-scientist".



Also it was raised by several people that he wrote and published this in a manner intended to provoke, but in fact it transpires that he had attended a diversity-related meeting within Google, and they had particularly asked for written responses. When his was ignored by the very people who had requested it, he put it on the internal blogging network of Google along with myriad other people's opinions, and from there it went viral, internally and then externally.

·         Background·         Google’s biases·         Possible non bias causes of the gender gap in techo    Personality differenceso    Men’s higher drive for status·         Non discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap·         The harm of Google’s biases·         Why we’re blind·         Suggestions
  • The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism; 
  • The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rebooting the Start-Up Nation

The now-legendary tent protestors of Rothschild and other boulevards of Tel Aviv purport to represent a broad sweep of Israeli middle-class society.

But although they count among them many economists, strategic consultants and philosophers, they have yet to coalesce around many coherent and practical solutions.

Not only that, but many are questioning how much this protest has led to true introspection on what society has become, and what it could be, as a result of our individual behaviour, whether as ordinary citizens on a daily basis, tycoons, small business owners, state employees or politicians.

Odd as it may seem, perhaps there is a direct link between the cause of the problems being protested, the lack of solutions, and the way people treat each other on a day-to-day basis. It also leads to a radical socio-economic solution involving those same groups; the state, large and small business, and we the public.

Israelis use the Yiddish word “freier” to define society’s sucker, the guy who spends a few shekels more than he absolutely needs to on shopping, the girl who didn’t negotiate on her rent, the fool who lets someone else into the traffic instead of shaving four more seconds off his own journey.

More pertinent to the many professionals among the protestors, who find themselves qualified as accountants and lawyers but still unable to do better than just cover their living expenses each month, nobody wants to be the “freier” who retained the best available legal advice when he could have just googled the answer, got some free help from his brother-in-law, or hired a cheap suit for the odd hour of really necessary work (and still haggled on the price).

Meanwhile, there is a well-reported concentration of wealth, with a handful of families unwilling to let go of their oligopolies, lest they too become “freierim”. And yet they may find that an efficient, streamlined business holding 40% of a competitive and growing marketplace, makes them more money than the unwieldy conglomerates they currently have controlling 80% of a marketplace half the size.

These factors are shown in economic statistics; whilst Israel is known as the “Start-Up Nation”, only 10% of its workforce are actually engaged in high-tech, and only 62% are employed in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the driving force of a high-value, sustainable middle-class economy. In the other OECD countries, the proportion is between 2/3 and over 3/4.

As SMEs are generally more efficient and therefore potentially more rewarding than public sector or conglomerate employers, this 5%-15% gap may well account for the almost total exclusion from the modern Israeli economy of Orthodox and Arab Israelis, and the poor ratio of earnings to outgoings of those middle class protestors.
                    
However, even those who currently run SMEs are not immune to the “freier” syndrome. It is common for example to see restaurant staff whose minimum wage is paid out of the tip jar. This leads to bad staff retention, poor customer service, higher levels of dishonesty, and overall a negative effect on profits. But the restaurateur does not want to be the “freier” who pays wages up-front when his competitors are not, and when he can see the extra few thousand shekels in his pocket now. The idea of speculating to accumulate is reserved for one’s investment portfolio after exiting the business, not while running it.

The short-term mentality of Israel’s entrepreneurs and venture capital investors presents a vicious circle; funding is targeted at those seeking a quick exit, by those seeking a quick return. At the other end of the spectrum, the handful of powerful families who own the major institutions as well as the largest companies, protect their asset base judiciously and invest in only conservative assets outside their own empires.

Furthermore, when most Israeli funds do invest, they usually do not choose to do so collaboratively – they hope to exclude so-called competitors from the best deals, rather than risk-sharing for the common good, and often take an adversarial approach to the investee.

This leads to a shortage of genuine long-term growth capital, entrenching further the exit-orientated atmosphere, and failing to create stable Israeli-domiciled businesses with the solid employment that they bring.

So the “freier” mentality, cumulatively, clearly has a huge effect on our whole economy, not to mention our values. In a nutshell, we have no real sense of “paying it forward”, but instead retain a defensive, survivalistic approach to most daily interactions with each other.

The funny thing is that as soon as anyone is really in trouble here, and crosses that threshold of not wanting to appear the “freier” by asking for help, everyone gathers round and supports them unconditionally – the cliché of Israelis as “sabras” – hard and prickly on the outside, soft and sweet in the middle.

This is the legacy we have hard-wired into us from the pioneers, kibbutzniks and fighters that built and defended our state. They are our parents, grandparents, teachers and guides, and they still live among us.

Ponder how Israel will change the day Shimon Peres finally passes on. He embodies this link to the founding fathers, and transcends the political sphere. In fact he is the moral and constitutional link between the protestors and the government, and he holds enormous sway with the tycoons who are perceived to be part of the problem. His role in what happens next will be critical.

Somehow then, we have to translate the spirit of the protest, which are ultimately triggered by understandably inward-looking concerns such as paying the rent or affording child-care, into the New Society that Herzl envisaged for us.

How do we, in modern, built-up Tel Aviv, take the wave of unity and passion back from Rothschild to our apartments when this protest finally ends, and use it to become the urban pioneers and kibbutzniks?

How will those fortunate dozen families who have such wealth and power, be persuaded to step up and become the new Rothschilds and Montefiores that modern Zion needs, to make this transformation and be a part of the solution and not the problem?

This idea that the “oligarchs” are just (a large) part of the problem and not part of the solution, that economic growth is somehow bad, and that a redistribution of wealth is required, smacks much more of socialism than of social justice, the banner which is used by the protestors.

Social justice is about ensuring that growth is inclusive, that all levels of society are moving up, and that if gaps between them are growing, that somehow social cohesion is maintained. In economic terms, the measure is that we have a market where the playing field is transparently level for all participants.

Here are but a few suggestions on what can be done.

- As the protestors are calling for social justice and inclusion, the manpower to implement change has to be found, and the idea of “paying it forward” should be inculcated across all parts of society at a formative age. The single biggest expense in civic projects tends to be human capital rather than buildings or machinery. To address these issues, the state should make some form of National Service compulsory for all, be it the IDF, Magen David Adom, as a lifeguard or helper at a care centre. This has a huge effect on social cohesion, slows the rate of entry into the housing and job markets, and its cost is spread across the government and private sectors.

- Alongside this, introduce “social reserve duty” for those who did National Service, just as “miluim” already exists for the army, to maintain and reinforce the new connection between the state and its citizens. Using these two to four weeks of paid time away from work goes a long way to resolve some of the pinch-points highlighted by the protestors, and again spread the burden across the private sector who pay the salaries, the state who must organise the structure, and the people, who one would hope might actually commit time over and above the minimum, without considering themselves the “freier” for doing so.

Direct involvement in one’s own causes should be encouraged where possible. For example the pushchair protestors complain at the high cost of day care. The single biggest line item is staffing; but if the parents of twenty children in the class each had a fortnight a year acting as a classroom auxiliary, only one teacher per classroom would be needed alongside two different parents. This also might tackle a known issue of the lack of decorum and respect in Israeli classrooms, enhanced by parental behaviour in regard to their children and the teachers.

- Liberalise the banking system to encourage more credit for SMEs, and also open up the professional services markets to competition, so SMEs have some real choice on the support they need, and money to exercise it with.

SMEs lie at the heart of the economic revolution that is needed to make growth inclusive, provide jobs to the fringes of society, and increase disposable income for the middle classes. Tax legislation should also be amended to incentivise Israelis to grow their businesses beyond start-ups and into businesses which remain local at heart, even as they expand abroad. At the moment, the short-term mentality leads to early exits and no long-term value creation except for the handful at the top.

- Introduce legislation that includes carrots and sticks for the tycoons to streamline their conglomerates. There are genuine reasons for how they came to own so many disparate companies; in a developing country, especially one with low access to external capital and supplies due to the Arab boycott, it is common to see vertically and horizontally integrated businesses in this way. But those days are over and a whole string of SMEs could be spun off, to the benefit of the original owners in terms of gained capital and efficiency.

- Involve internationally-orientated, outward-looking Israeli investors and Diaspora Jewish donors who could be investors in the economy, by creating funds that give them appropriate tax benefits and protections and can be domiciled in Israel. The current situation actively encourages new immigrants and the wealthiest Israelis to keep their investments and earnings passive and offshore, instead of active and onshore where the best effect can be felt on the whole economy.

- We should finish the master-plan for Tel Aviv that Geddes started a hundred years ago, by beautifying the buildings and creating air passages to circulate the sea and mountain breezes better, whilst tackling the protestors’ single biggest issue of the cost of housing.

By allowing all buildings on the main east-west thoroughfares to extend to five floors, then the row behind to six, and behind that seven, then descending again, we would recreate the effect of mountains and valleys on air circulation, remove the hastily built concrete monstrosities of the 50s and 60s, refurbish the Bauhaus buildings, and add perhaps 30% to the housing stock, without affecting the street view or needing to add great infrastructure.

- Complete an overhaul of the municipalities of central Israel to allow much greater cohesion and efficiency on issues such as transport policy, town planning and service provision. It is farcical to have ten city councils for one metropolis. If Kiryat Ono, just 5km from Tel Aviv, was a more desirable place to live and was accessible from downtown in 10 minutes, 7 days a week (like the Shabbat lift, we would need unmanned trams and a free ride on Shabbat to make this work without offending the Orthodox, but it can be done), this alone would reduce pressure on housing costs.

- Finally, there should be a campaign to reclaim the word “freier”. As it stands, nobody wants to be one, because they know everyone else will take advantage of them. Such is the nature of a society where for so long it was enough to survive. Now we live in one where people can see the possibility to thrive, and the frustration we see on the streets is that some of us clearly are thriving whilst others are left behind.

If we all decided to be the “freier” at once, let people out at junctions, started sentences with “please may I have” instead of “bring me”, cleaned up dog mess, stopped littering on the beach, painted the outside of our apartments and boxed in the wires and aircon tubing, paid our staff a wage that motivated them, hired professional advisors as an insurance policy instead of a breakdown service, then we would have a society that started paying things forward, investing in its future, and moving from the mentality of survival to that of thriving.

Asking the government to hand us the solutions on a plate, by forcing a change from on high, so we can go back to our ordinary lives as before, is the language of survival; if we are to thrive, we have to change our own behaviour and be a part of the solution ourselves.

And of course this brings us full-circle. The protestors sit on Rothschild Boulevard, named after the most famous family of Zionist philanthropic tycoons, opposite Independence Hall, where the State was declared, and in the city that is named after an ancient mound (“tel”) and the season of renewal (“aviv”), the poetic translation by Nachum Sokolov of Herzl’s “Old-New Land”.

What better place could there be for the beginning of a new social compact between the public, the private sector and the state? In Herzl’s words, if we will it, it is no dream.


I will be in the UK, USA and Canada on our Asquith Israel Merchant Bank roadshow from this weekend onwards, and would be delighted to give talks on the subjects of "Beyond the Start-Up Nation", looking at the general economic structure in Israel, and "Rebooting the Start-Up Nation", looking at the specifics of the current protests and some potential solutions. Please contact me by email for a full itinerary and to schedule a talk if of interest to any community or business groups.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

You are also capitalist pigs

This is a translation of an op-ed by Ziv Tidhar, from Ynet today - the original in Hebrew can be found here, along with hundreds of comments. My own views will probably follow this week...


Talking down to your children's teacher because you earn more than her, not tipping the delivery boy, not saying hello to the guard at the mall. You're right, it's just the state that's at fault.

Everyone is talking these days of beastly capitalism, but what is this concept? It's throwing the trash bag out of the door, for the Arab who comes tomorrow to clean the stairwell to have to take. It's talking to your children's teacher like dirt, just because you earn more than her. Beastly capitalism is getting hundreds of thousands of shekels from your wedding, with cold calculation that the cheques of your friends, who can barely get through to the end of the month, will cover it and leave a surplus for a luxurious honeymoon.

It's clearing the furniture from your rented apartment right into the middle of the pavement and entrance to the building, because with such municipal taxes, they deserve it. It's throwing the old newspapers at the bin rather than into it, so the Arab (from before) can practice clearing them up. Beastly capitalism is agreeing a price with the electrician, plumber or air-conditioning technician and then reneging, denying, and chipping away at the cost. It's not visiting your grandmother for six months, just because you work hard and you do not have time to breathe, only to find the time to visit her just when you need some money.
 
It's dodging the va'ad bayit because you're not a sucker, and anyway in a few years you'll sell the apartment to go up another rung. Beastly capitalism is to tell everyone at work about your amazing last holiday in Berlin - and anyone who hasn't been just doesn't know what they are missing. It's parking the car in the disabled space, on a crossing, a pavement, double-parked, or plain and simple, merely because you are in a hurry, in the bus lane.
 
It's beeping at the world with elegance and also smoking where it is forbidden, because for the money you paid for the beer, no one has the right to tell you how and what to do. It's not giving a tip to the delivery guy who brought your shopping, because the prices are high. It's loudly and visibly humiliating the public service clerk and saying she should be fired, because she's just the random clerk who came to work yesterday and doesn't understand much in life. It's insisting on employing a foreign worker to clean the house just because she takes a few bucks less than the market price, and not paying her Social Security. Why? She'd never sue.

It's not me

It's not bothering to write the occasional thank-you note when the service was good or ex-gratia, but on the other hand hastening to send vicious letters from your lawyers. Beastly capitalism is agreeing to buy two or three or four books for 100 shekels without even blinking; so what if the writer gets screwed and crushed.

It's asking to transfer your child to a school across town, where there are fewer Ethiopian kids. It's failing to tell your child what conditions his grandparents lived in when they came to Israel, and to tell the truth: they were happier than both of you put together.

It's the way you enclose the mirpeset however you like, even if it's an eyesore for the neighbours - there is no law against it, and anyhow everybody is doing it. It's not explaining to your 4 year old child not to load up the plate, but to take a few small portions. It's not saying hello or good morning to the guards at the mall. It's begining a sentence directed to the supermarket cashier or the shop assistant in the booming "BRING ME". It's dreaming all the time about living in a better place. It's burning or downloading music files without paying royalties. Insisting on using all efforts and every trick in the book, to pay less than the asking price for a show or a concert. Anything but pay the normal price.

It's running around the shops on erev yom tov like a maniac in search of a gift, rather than sitting down to write a greeting. It's finishing reading this list and asking, so what does he really want? Of course everyone is corrupted. Then I'm alright, it's all the state's fault.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The challenge of public diplomacy vis-a-vis the delegitimisation of Israel

Melanie Phillips's address to Ariel Conference on Law and Mass Media, 30 December 2010
 
As we all know by now, Israel has lost the battle for public opinion in the west. Even the Israel government is now acknowledging this fact. Israel and its defenders have been outclassed and outmanoeuvred in a war of the mind being waged on a battleground it never even acknowledged it was on.

Calls for more and better hasbara, however, are meaningless if the message or narrative promoted by Israel and its defenders misses the point of the attack being waged upon it. And it does miss that point, by a mile. 

You cannot resist or overcome a threat unless you first understand its nature.

The first thing to say is that this phenomenon is characteristic not just of the media animosity or economic or academic boycotts. It goes across the intelligentsia and political class, spreading well beyond the normal suspects on the left into the mainstream middle-classes.

In Britain, the universities, the established church, the theatrical and publishing worlds, the voluntary sector, significant elements within the Foreign Office, members of Parliament across the political spectrum, as well as the media have overwhelmingly signed up to the demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel. 

The scale of this phenomenon is nothing short of a multi-layered civilisational crisis.

The west is experiencing a total inversion of truth evidence and reason. A society’s thinking class has overwhelmingly subscribed to an immoral, patently false and in many cases demonstrably absurd account of the Middle East, past and present, which it has uncritically absorbed and assumes to be true.

In routine, everyday discourse history is turned on its head; logic is suspended; and an entirely false narrative of the conflict is now widely accepted as unchallengeable fact, from which fundamental error has been spun a global web of potentially catastrophic false conclusions.

This has led to a kind of dialogue of the demented in which rational discussion is simply not possible because there is no shared understanding of the meaning of language. So victim and victimiser, truth and lies, justice and injustice turn into their precise opposite.

This madness is being promulgated through a global alliance between state and non-state actors – diplomats and journalists, politicians and NGOs and websites. Many of these are waging war not just against Israel but against the west.

There are two preconditions for an effective fightback. First is to form effective structures of resistance. Those structures, however, depend in turn on a correct understanding of the nature and scale of what we are up against. 

So far, the structures are not in place, and more important still, what Israel is up against is grossly — and fatally — underestimated and misunderstood.

The problem is that we are dealing with a pathology — to which we nevertheless respond as if it were rational behaviour. 

What’s happened is a pattern of thinking in the west which turns reality upside down. Remarkably, this in turn echoes a very similar inversion of reality within the Islamic world, where such inversion has a theological base.

Because Islam is considered perfect, its adherents can never do wrong. All their aggression is therefore represented as self-defence, while western/Israeli self-defence is said to be aggression. 

So in this Orwellian universe the enslavement of Muslim women is said to represent their liberation; democracy is a means of enslavement from which the west must be freed; and the murder of Israelis is the purest form of justice.

Furthermore, this is overlaid by the phenomenon of ‘psychological projection’ in which the Islamic world not only denies its own misdeeds but ascribes them instead to its victims.
So while Muslims deny the Holocaust, they claim that Israel is carrying out a holocaust in Gaza. Antisemitism is central to Jewish experience in Europe; Muslims claim that ‘Islamophobia’ is rife throughout Europe. 

Israel gives all Jews the ‘right of return’ to Israel on account of the unique reality of global Jewish persecution; the Muslims claim a ‘right of return’ – not to their own putative state of Palestine, but to Israel. They even claim that the Palestinians are the world’s ‘new Jews’. 

These and many other examples are used within the Islamic world to negate Jewish experience and appropriate it for itself to obtain what Muslims want in terms of status, power and conquest.

What is remarkable is that instead of treating this as a pathological deformity of thinking, the western progressive intelligentsia has largely embraced it as rational and true. And to a large extent this is because that same western intelligentsia has itself supplanted rationality by ideology – or the dogma of a particular idea.

Objectivity, evidence and truth have been ditched for ideologies such as moral and cultural relativism, multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism, anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, transnationalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism.

Across a wide range of such issues, it’s no longer possible to have a rational discussion with the progressive intelligentsia, as on each issue there’s only one story for them which brooks no dissent.

This is because, rather than arriving at a conclusion from the evidence, ideology inescapably wrenches the evidence to fit a prior idea. So ideology of any kind is fundamentally anti-reason and truth. And if there’s no truth, there can be no lies either; truth and lies become merely ‘alternative narratives’. 

Moral and cultural relativism – the belief that subjective experience trumps moral authority and any notion of objectivity or truth – has turned right and wrong on their heads. 

Because of the dominant belief in multiculturalism, victim culture and minority rights, self-designated victim groups — those without power — can never do wrong while majority groups can never do right. And Jews are not considered a minority because – in the hateful discourse of today – Jews are held to be all-powerful as they ‘control’ the media, Wall Street and America.

So the Muslim world cannot be held responsible for blowing people up as they are the third world victims of the west; so any atrocities they commit must be the fault of their victims; and so the US had it coming to it on 9/11. And in similar fashion, Israel can never be the victim of the Arab world; the murder of Israelis by the Arab world must be Israel’s own fault.

So the way has been opened for mass credulity towards propaganda and fabrication. The custodians of reason have thus turned into destroyers of reason – centred in the crucible of reason, the university.

All these different ideologies are utopian; in their different ways, they all posit the creation of the perfect society. That is why they are considered ‘progressive’, and people on the progressive wing of politics sign up to them. That helps explain the distressing fact that so many Jews on the left also sign up to Israel-hatred, since they too sign up to such utopian ideologies. 

But when utopias fail, as they always do, their adherents invariably select scapegoats on whom they turn to express their rage over the thwarting of the establishment of that perfect society. And since utopia is all about realising the perfect society, these scapegoats become enemies of humanity. 

For Greens, such enemies of humanity are capitalists; for anti imperialists, America; for militant atheists, religious believers. Anti-Zionists turn on Israel for thwarting the end to the ‘Jewish question’: the redemption of western guilt for the persecution of the Jews — a guilt which can never be redeemed as long as the wretched Jews continue to make themselves the targets of attack.

In short, therefore, the west cannot defend itself against the Islamic jihad because it can’t itself even think straight any more.

But this lethal muddle in the minds of the intelligentsia must be viewed in turn in the context of a global diplomatic process which itself embodies upside-down thinking, which fans the flames of bigotry and defeatism – and in which Israel itself has been tragically, and suicidally, complicit.

It cannot be stressed enough that the reason why those promoting genocidal bigotry are winning is that the western world has not sought to defeat them but instead has appeased them from the very start.

In Palestine under the British Mandate, when the Arabs used terrorist violence to frustrate the will of the League of Nations in restoring the Jewish home, Britain rewarded them by offering them part of the Jews’ legal and moral entitlement. When the Arabs started hijacking planes, the west’s response was to invite them to the UN to plead their cause. 

And despite the Arabs’ repeated refused to accept the two state solution, offered in the 1930s, in 2000 and under Ehud Olmert and their current refusal to negotiate at all, America punishes Israel for not making enough concessions to them — while giving a free pass to those who still refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist.

It is astonishing that the west expects Israel to make any concessions to such attackers at all. After all, forcing a country which has endured more than six decades of existential siege to give any ground to its attackers amounts to forcing such a victim to surrender. This is expected by the civilised world of no other country.

Yet we are repeatedly told even by certain supporters of Israel that the Palestinians have a right to a state. Why? In any other conflict, such aggression forfeits any rights at all. 

I am not saying that Israel should retain all the disputed territories; it may well be in its own interests to give some of them up. But the point is that Israel has made all the concessions over the years while the Arabs have made none – yet it is Israel, not the Arabs, that is under pressure from the west.

This is diplomacy as scripted by Franz Kafka.

The single greatest reason for the endless continuation of the Middle East impasse is that Britain, Europe and America have continuously rewarded the aggressor and either attacked the victim or left it twisting in the wind.

That’s what needs to be said by Israel and its defenders. But Israel and its defenders themselves have been crippled or cowed by the false analysis of the enemy’s narrative.

Even many of Israel’s friends spout the demonstrably absurd proposition that a Palestine state would solve the problem, that the impediment to a Palestine state is the ‘settlers’, but that Israel is not taking action to remove the ‘settlers’ — and so therefore they too inescapably agree that Israel is the problem.

Israel and its defenders have been fighting on the wrong battleground: the one that has been chosen by its enemies. The Arabs brilliantly reconfigured the Arab war of extermination against Israel as the oppression by Israel of the Palestinians. 

That has transformed Israel from victim to aggressor — the reversal of reality which lies at the very heart of the western obsession with the ‘settlements’ and the territories.

Yet since Oslo, Israel has meekly gone along with this mad pressure. It has never said it is totally unconscionable. It has never put the all-important argument from justice on its own account. So it has allowed its enemies to appropriate this argument mendaciously as their own. But if Israel doesn’t make the case properly on its own behalf, how can anyone else do so?

To which Israel says realpolitik dictates it has to go along with the diplomatic game being played. But diplomatic realpolitik is what brought us all to this position — the brink of a terrible war with Iran which is treated by America with kid gloves while Israel is put under the cosh. 

For the west to suck up to its enemies while bashing its friends like this is the diplomatic version of auto-immune disease. And eventually this disease will kill it.

What Israel has failed to recognise is that the battleground on which it is being forced to fight is not just military. It is also a battleground of the mind, and the strategy being used against it – and to which it needs to respond in kind — is psychological warfare. 

The Arab and Muslim world long ago realised if it set the narrative in its own image, it would recruit millions of fanatics to its cause and also confuse and demoralise its victims. In this it has wildly succeeded.

There is therefore an overwhelming need for Israel to alter its strategy. Indeed, it needs to have a strategy. 

And this brings us to perhaps the most difficult challenge in all of this – the fact that the role played by the Israel government is of critical importance. Unless it adopts the correct strategy, its defenders will remain crippled. 

Yet any promising initiatives seem to fall victim to Israel’s chaotic political structure, which appears to prevent the Prime Minister from being master in his own house. Good ideas are habitually destroyed by rampaging egos and turf wars between Israeli Cabinet ministers. 

This is no way to run a chip shop, let alone a country under existential siege. 

The fact remains that both Israel and diaspora Jews have to rethink. They have to realise they must start fighting on the battleground where the attack is actually being mounted against them. And the goal has to be to seize and retake the moral high ground. 

This strategy requires two different tactics: one for those who are capable of rational thought, and another for those who are not.

The first group comprises those who are not irrational but merely desperately ignorant. Much of the obsession with Israel’s behaviour is due to the widespread belief that its very existence is an aberration which, although understandable at the time it came into being, was a historic mistake. 

People believe that Israel was created as a way of redeeming Holocaust guilt. Accordingly, they believe that European Jews with no previous connection to Palestine — which they believe was the historic homeland of Palestinian Muslims who had lived there since time immemorial — were transplanted there as foreign invaders, from where they drove out the indigenous Arabs into the West Bank and Gaza. These are territories which Israel is now occupying illegally oppressing the Palestinians and frustrating the creation of a state of Palestine which would end the conflict.

Of course every one of those assumptions is false. But from those false assumptions proceeds the understandable belief not just that Israel’s behaviour is unjust, illegal and oppressive but that it is unjust and oppressive by virtue of its very existence.

For these people there is an urgent need for a proactive educational approach. No-one has ever told them that these beliefs are false – and when they are told, the effect is often transformative.

There is a desperate and urgent need to educate such people in Jewish and Middle East history; to enlighten them about the shameful role played by Britain in Palestine in tearing up its treaty obligations; to tell them that under international law Israel is entitled to the disputed territories – land within which Britain undertook to settle the Jews ‘from the river to the sea’ because of their historic and unique rights to that land.

That’s all necessary for those who are still rational. For bigots, however, there is no point arguing with them. They are, by definition, beyond all reason. Their influence simply has to be destroyed. They have to be held to account for their lies and bigotry which should be forensically exposed.

So Israel and its defenders should be demanding of the world why it expects Israel alone to make compromises with people who have tried for nine decades to wipe out the Jewish presence in the land and are still firing rockets at it. 

They should expose the pretence of Britain or European countries which claim to have Israel’s security needs at heart but forbid it from using military means to defend itself; and which – as did the British Government recently — turn Israeli self-defence against the jihadi lynch-mob on board the Turkish terror ship Mavi Marmara into an attack to be condemned, or demand the opening of the border with Gaza which would allow in arms to kill more Israelis.

Israel and its defenders should be asking why so-called friends in the west want a Palestine state, since once the IDF depart the disputed territories they will become in short order yet another Iranian-backed Islamic terrorist entity which will pose a further threat not just to Israel but to the west.

They should be asking why the EU is continuing to fund the genocidal incitement against Jews promoted by the Palestine Authority. 

They should be asking so-called ‘progressives’ – including Jewish ‘progressives’ — why they support the racist ethnic cleansing of every Jew from a future state of Palestine.

They should be asking them why they are not marching against Hamas on account of its tyrannical oppression of Palestinians in Gaza. Why they are ignoring Arab and Muslim persecution of women and homosexuals. 

Why they are not mounting a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Mahmoud Abbas’s PA and Hamas, on account of Abbas’s Holocaust denial and the clear evidence of continuation of Nazi Jew-hatred in a direct line of descent from predecessors who were Hitler’s supporters in Palestine. 

As for western Israel-bashers, Israel and its defenders should accuse them not of Jew-hating motives that cannot be proved but of absurdities and contradictions and untruths they cannot deny. They should ridicule them, humiliate them, destroy their reputations; boycott them, not invite them to social gatherings, show them disapproval and contempt. Treat them as pariahs. Turn their own weapons against them. 

They should be telling the Jews ‘own story of refugees and ethnic cleansing – the 800,000 Jews driven out of Arab lands after 1948, and who now make up more than half of Israel’s population. It’s good to see that at last Israel is beginning to bring this to the world’s attention. In Britain virtually no-one knows about it. At a stroke it takes the ground from under the feet of those demanding the ‘right of return’ for Arabs. 

They should be holding Arab and Islamic democracy weeks on campus, to expose the oppression and persecution within that world against women, homosexuals and others.

They should be singling out the Anglican church and the revival of ancient theological Jew-hatred being spread within the Anglican world by the Palestinian Christians of the Sabeel centre.

At the same time, they should be focusing on their true friends within the Christian world, not just in America but also in Africa and Asia where there is an enormous reservoir of goodwill towards Israel which could be mobilised into a global fighting force.

They should be campaigning against the UN and the hijacking of international law and human rights by anti-western, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian ideologues.

They should be confronting head-on the false claim that bigotry is confined to the right. They should be pointing the finger at the ‘progressive’ left to show how it is actually supporting the mortal enemies not just of Israel but the west.

And they should be making this case to Israelis themselves, to counter the delegitimisation and ignorance in Israeli universities and to educate the Israeli young in their own national history.

In other words, both Israel and diaspora Jews have to stop playing defence and go onto the offence. Israel has nothing to be defensive about or for which it needs to apologise. It is the enemies of Israel who are promoting injustice and the denial of international law and human rights. Playing defence intrinsically cedes ground to the enemy.

It is time for Israel and its defenders to stop conniving with that smokescreen for the war of annihilation being waged against Israel – the claim that the Middle East impasse would be solved by establishing a state of Palestine to which the settlements, and thus by extension Israel, are the obstacle. It is time for them to stop agreeing that the Jews are to blame for their own predicament.

Israel and its defenders need to make the argument from justice and reclaim that moral high ground from the enemies of Israel and the west, both at home — including within Israel — and abroad. It is those enemies who deny truth, justice and human rights. It is those enemies who should be in the dock. It is time to take the gloves off and put them there. 

In short, Israel and its defenders must understand that the tsunami of bigotry against Israel sweeping the west is intimately related to Israel’s seriously flawed diplomatic strategy. 

For years, Israel has been playing a defensive diplomatic game, which suggests inescapably that it has a case to answer. Such diplomatic cringing has badly undermined it and hugely strengthened its enemies, who are taking advantage of such weakness over and over again.
It’s time for Israel to realise that military campaigns against its enemies are not enough. It has to call time on its false friends too, and start fighting both these and its more obvious enemies on the battleground of the mind.