London, January 16th, 2018 – British government support for Israel cannot be taken for granted but needs to be renewed time and time again. It is not the enemies of Israel that pose the greatest threat to this support but rather the passivity of many pro-Israel Christians.
This was the overall message at a one-day European Coalition for Israel seminar in London on Saturday, 13th January, on the theme “Britain, Europe and Israel – after Brexit.”
While many friends of Israel had hoped for a new golden age in the support by Britain for Israel as the British government prepares to leave the European Union, many have been disappointed that British foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel has not aligned itself with the pro-Israel stance of the new US administration but rather remained consistent with the policies of the EU. Earlier in the week, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson joined other EU-Foreign Ministers in Brussels in pleading with US President Donald Trump to keep to the Iran deal. Furthermore, on 21st December in the UN General Assembly, Britain was not to be counted as one of the 65 nations which refused to support the resolution that the UN rejects the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. On Friday, President Trump finally cancelled his planned visit to London next month, a further indication of the fact that the special relationship between the US and the UK is strained at the moment.
At the seminar, TV journalist Simon Barrett criticized the UK government for not standing up for the US President and his pro-Israel policies but instead giving in to media slander.
Former Labour MP Michael McCann said that “the UK cannot afford to jeopardise the special relationship with Washington at the same time as we are trying to get out of the EU”.
While there is discontent with the current government, according to McCann and Barrett, the alternative to the Conservative government is even worse.
Michael McCann called his former colleague Jeremy Corbyn, who is now chairman of the Labour party, “an anti-Semite who openly supports terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah”.
McCann is currently leading a British campaign to ban Hezbollah from the UK. He also criticized Prime Minister Theresa May for not being consistent in her fight against terrorism. “When Britain was struck by a terror attack last year, she promised to decisively crack down on terrorism, but when supporters of the terrorist group Hezbollah demonstrated openly on the streets of London just a few weeks later, she did not intervene”, he commented.
The one-day ECI seminar encouraged Christian believers to be more pro-active in their support for Israel by calling their political leaders to account when they act contrary to their election promises.
“Our support for Israel is just as important outside of the four walls of the church as inside them. But in order to win the battle for the minds and hearts of people we need to know the history of Israel and its legal foundations”, said ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell.
During the one-day seminar the participants were also able to hear ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker explain how a systematic twisting of international law today is being used by the enemies of Israel to discredit the Jewish state.
But despite the on-going international lawfare against Israel, ECI Director for UN Affairs Dr. Gregory Lafitte presented evidence on how international support for Israel is growing at the United Nations. When the Palestinians were given “non-member observer state status” at the United Nations in November 2012, 55 states objected to the decision by abstaining, or voting against, or by not being present during the vote. When the UN General Assembly voted to condemn the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel by the US on 21st December last year, ten more nations chose to oppose the resolution.
ECI Brussels Representative Ruth Isaac reminded the audience that “it is not our enemies that we need to worry about but rather the passivity and fear among many Christians who support Israel in their hearts but do not dare to express this support publicly”.
While many pro-Israel events in London have been hijacked by pro-Palestinian activists in recent years, security has become a major issue. Nevertheless, ECI decided to openly publicise the address of the venue last Saturday. According to some, this was a breach of security, but Sandell defended the decision by saying that “when we start to give in to fear in an open democracy and hide from the public we have lost the battle”.
The message from the seminar was well received by the Christian leaders who participated. British pastor and ECI-coordinator in the UK Alistair Scott concluded the seminar by stating that “although the UK is preparing for Brexit, the commitment to stand with Israel together with Christians from other parts of Europe remains rock solid”.