Tzipi Hotovely becoming Israel’s ambassador to the UK shows the true face of Israel
With the appointment of the new Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely, British Jewish institutions and the wider pro-Israel establishment face an impossible task. The mask has come off, and those still committed to a two state solution will need to somehow square the circle as the state of Israel increasingly slides off a cliff edge into formalised apartheid.
Hotovely’s appointment has come as a sharp departure from the previous ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. Regev initially started his career as the spokesperson for the Israeli government before his appointment as ambassador. During the many Israeli onslaughts on Gaza, Regev appeared on our screens to function as a soothing balm to defenders of Israel. He was an affable, smooth talker, who was often extremely deferential to his interviewers. “No I disagree totally”, “Criticism of Israel is totally unfair” Regev would say on our televisions when talking about the 2014 Gaza conflict that left over 2000 Gazans dead. While Israeli military figures would speak of these onslaughts as casually as “mowing the lawn“.
Before his departure, Regev went on a virtual speaking tour that seems to have been designed to prepare the ground for a potential annexation: “Mark Regev in conversation with liberal Judaism“, “Yachad In Conversation with Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev“. These events plastered my Facebook feed close to his departure. Regev, a man whose career has come from defending Israeli war crimes to the United Kingdom, will be a dovish moderate when compared to the new ambassador Hotovely. Perhaps that is why there were so many mournful pieces written about his sad departure from the UK in the Jewish Press. The departure of Regev seems to be the moment where even the staunchest, pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC and the ADL are having to deal with allowing criticism of Israeli annexation.
This is the moment where a fuzzy kind of nostalgic liberal Zionism that never existed is being seriously confronted. It is why the letter opposing annexation from prominent British Jews spoke of annexation as posing a “threat to my type of Zionism” and the image in their minds of an Israel that ever cared about human rights. Their primary concern is annexation causing the diaspora to be less enthusiastic about an Israel that only existed in their heads. It is why the chair of Labour Friends of Israel seems to oppose the upcoming annexation not because it would be a human rights disaster, but because it strengthens the BDS movement.
Hotovely began her career in politics after being handpicked by Netanyahu after appearing on an Israeli chatshow. Hotovely, a fervent religious Zionist, who after the annexation of the West Bank will probably be clamouring for the annexation of the east bank and a wider, greater Eretz Yisrael. She has made genocidal statements about the Palestinian people since starting her political career. She has called Palestinians “thieves of Jewish history” while waving a book that denies their existence. It is not enough for colonialists to subjugate the native population; they must also claim that the history of the land and it’s people started with the arrival of settlers. In their minds, “Israel is a land without a people for a people without a land“, which is actually closer to a prescriptive statement about what much of the early Zionist movement was about. Leaving ruined Palestinian villages to dot the landscape and erasing their history by planting trees over their land. This is what Hotovely represents.
While her arrival was met with a petition circulated by the anti-occupation movement Na’amod rejecting her nomination, she was welcomed by other circles. This is perplexing given her hatred for diaspora Jewry, as evidenced by her endorsement of anti-miscegenation group Lehava, her attack on US Jews for not serving in the army and the Board of Deputies itself for supporting a two state solution. This makes the comments that the Board president Marie van der Zyl made even more confusing when she said she “We will be delighted to work with the next Israeli ambassador to sustain and advance the relationship between Israel and the UK Jewish community“. The only purpose of the Jewish diaspora according to Hotovely is to provide a bulwark against Palestinians should they ever be granted citizenship.
Although I signed the petition, I have come to agree with calls for Hotovely to be welcomed into her appointment rather than rejected. Hotovely represents the true face of Israel, the one that has occupied Palestine since its creation. It would be a mistake to argue that her appointment will cause a serious reckoning with Israel. Although a potential annexation has been condemned by Johnson and many other figures, Israel becoming a formalised apartheid nation won’t be enough to completely sever the ties that the UK and the diaspora has with it. Annexation will, however, make the cost of fence sitting increasingly more expensive and highlight the absurdity of a viable two state solution ever existing given the lack of contiguous territory available to a future Palestinian state.
Image credit: Arielinson – Creative Commons
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I would like to put the problems of what we imperiously call the “Near East” into the context of a longer historical perspective than is usually given.
Zionism, the left-wing 19th century messianic vision of the return of jewry to the promised land of biblical times was a reaction to anti-semitic legal discrimination and and often officially inspired or ignored pogroms of the Russian Empire. The jewish population of Eastern Europe in turn originated from the expelled or fleeing jews from mediaeval western Europe, subject to confinement to certain areas, and various legal exclusions. The flow reversed in the late C19th century, was met by revived anti-semitism in Europe, and less so in the USA. The famous Balfour Declaration, when the British Foreign Minister, promised a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, his motive being to get the USA into the 1stWW. Such was the arrogance of Imperialism which seems so astonishing from our perspective, but European powers, Britain the foremost, had been settling, shifting and massacring populations around the world for long enough for it to feel normal to most, perpetrators and victims alike.
The long drawn out decline of formal imperialism left one problem which I want to talk about: settler populations. Leave aside all the rest for the moment. Think about South Africa, including “Rhodesia”, above all Algeria, where a costly bloody bitter war was fought between the settler population and the arisen original Arab population, when Franz Fanon popularised the concept of a war of national “liberation”, a word adopted by various struggles of minorities. It led to the near i00% expulsion of a large group of people, the French settlers.
Just before and contemperaneous with this, post 2nd World War Jewish migration to Palestine from Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust was going in the opposite direction, and the Jewish population of Palestine, ironically in the light of the general direction of imperial history, was planted. In this light, the Jewish population of Israel is the last of the European imperialist settler populations, although the original settlers felt like fleeing refugees rather than colonial exploiters, a view not shared by their victims. It is a European “problem” transplanted to Palestine, and it can only be solved in any reasonable way except by world intervention.
I suggest that the “problem” of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinian population is usefully viewed as one of the last legacies of formal Imperialism, before the USA became the overwhelming leader of the era of informal imperialism.
We are at the conclusion of a long era of informal imperialism dominated by the USA, which in 1945 produced 50% of world GDP. A small extra problem has been put on the world’s table since 1945: THE HUMAN POPULATION HAS TREBLED. Another complication is the rise of China, soon to replace the USA as the leading world power, and showing few signs that it will be more than anew version of the old.
The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved or mitigated outside this whole context. Neither can the Palestinian “problem”. However, we have to think big: the alternative is for all to retreat into trying to solve immediate perceived interests, which I cofidently predict will be fatal for most of us. Palestine-Israel is where many of these power-diplomatic currents meet.
All this is a long way from trying to get a local councillor elected, but through a long chain we must see the interconnection of all problems, as we do recognise in the sphere of ecology.
As long as we see no change in the driving forces of the economy and hence our ways of life and thinking, there is no hope.
We need a massive redistribution of wealth, and we have a tool to hand, Universal Basic Income. It is not just one to add to our long list of desirables which we are experts in discovering.
That must be our starting point to try to unravel the tangle that leads to the world order at the other end.
We can all agree that Israel is a shining star of freedom in a region, sadly, largely devoid of it.
Israel having dozens of laws that discriminate based on ethnicity, having dozens of different documents that Palestinians have to apply for in order to travel from A to B through checkpoints and having to state the reasons for their travel (education, visiting relatives, needing to see the dentist), the siege on Gaza and the continual harassment of Gazan fishermen and farmers trying to feed their families, Israel building a giant Berlin wall on Palestinian land and Palestinians being tortured, shot and held without trial merely for protesting, I guess your comment is meant to be ironic?
I totally agree that antisemitism must always be opposed and we all must be aware of the centuries of dreadful antisemitism endured by Jewish communities which culminated in the utter inhumanity of the holocaust.
In Europe, this long history of antisemitism inspired Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, to hold the First Zionist Congress in 1897. At the time, many Jewish people rose up in protest and accused the authorities of antisemitism because the Zionist proposition that Jews formed a separate nation implied they were aliens in their German home.
Just because it is possible that an anti-Zionist can also be antisemitic, it does not follow that an anti-Zionist is by definition an antisemitic racist;
* many Jewish individuals and Jewish organisations oppose Zionism,
* anti-Zionism is a political not a racial perspective,
* 90% of Zionists are Christian,
* anyone promoting the idea of a ‘Christian homeland’ giving Christians superior status would, quite rightly, be condemned.
Jewish people should feel safe (indeed celebrated!) wherever they live but Zionist racism MUST be resisted and doing so is not antisemitic despite what Israeli Zionists, the BoD and many other establishment organisations and individuals assert.
Yet, with the founding of Israel in 1948, racist Zionism became a matter of state policy supported by the west. Perhaps this support was partly motivated by antisemites who did not want thousands of Jewish refugees settling in the west.
On 10th November 1975, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 3379 by a vote of 72 to 35 which “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”.
Anyone who researches the 1948 Nakba should be horrified at the extreme anti-Palestinian racism involved. The systematic destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages, the creation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees let alone the bloody carnage ruthlessly meted out to Palestinian men, women and children. Palestinain Muslims, Christians as well as Palestinians of no faith were brutalised. Israel was thereby founded on racist violence and this racist violence has continued for over 70 years.
Many Jewish people had lived peaceably in Palestine for centuries and this should have been allowed to continue after the 2WW. It was not acceptable in 1948 for European antisemitic racism which Jewish people had endured to be used to justify anti-Palestinian racism.
I have Jewish heritage but cannot accept the UDI of 1948 which so violently established a racist state. Many other non-Jewish and Jewish individuals and organisations agree.
The 2-state solution is no alternative to Israel’s current path of creating a, so called, ‘Greater Israel’. The 2-state solution is a distraction which enables Israel to steal more and more land. It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish–Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish–Palestinian equality.
A single SECULAR state is the sole sustainable solution. Equal rights for all from the river (Jordan) to the (Mediterranean) sea!