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Brexit and Balfour
December 2017 / January 2018


What, though, are these values? Scruton rightly identifies the Bible as the primary source, though he is under no illusions about British religiosity. But he does not explain how a post-Christian, largely secular nation is to restore the best of biblical values to the central place they once held in public and private life. One example of how secularism may not be a barrier to national renewal is to be found in the place and the people whose story is told in the Bible.

Israel celebrates just 70 years of independence in 2018, but its values are of course much older. On a visit there in November I found that wherever I went this young nation knows how to treasure the land and its history. In Jerusalem, for example, I visited the excavations outside the Western Wall, where astonishing discoveries are revealing the city of David in all its glory. One may now follow the route that pilgrims took up to the Temple from the Pool of Shiloah. Such reminders of this continuous presence over several thousand years strengthen the unique bond between the Jewish people and the Holy Land.

In Britain, the Priti Patel affair revealed profound ignorance about this bond, with much nonsense talked about Israel’s “occupied territories”.  A century ago, the Balfour Declaration, backed by the League of Nations, gave Jews the right to settle throughout Palestine. UN Resolution 181, the basis for the claim that Israel is not entitled to have its capital in Jerusalem because the city is under a “special international regime”, was already a dead letter when it was passed 70 years ago. It is high time that the UK recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Golan Heights were annexed from Syria after the 1967 Six Day War for strategic reasons that remain valid today. The West Bank has not been annexed and might yet become a Palestinian state, but Israel will never deny the right of Jewish settlers to live in the biblical Judea and Samaria.

Ms Patel may have been naive, but she was trying to shift British policy towards Israel in a more realistic direction. She believed that such a shift was long overdue and she hoped to facilitate humanitarian cooperation in Syria, where Israel has saved many lives.

Not for the first time, the Foreign Office seems to have sabotaged any official abandonment of a failed interpretation of history first diagnosed by the late Elie Kedourie in 1970. According to the “Chatham House Version”, the Judaeo-Christian West was to blame for the violence of the Arabs, who, like the rest of the Muslim world, deserved our support. “The Balfour Declaration was both impolitic and immoral, and . . . the Palestine problem was the key issue in the Middle East.” The Foreign Office is still in thrall to this amalgam of self-hatred and self-deception. Yet there is a certain irony in the fact that, a century after Balfour inspired the early Zionists, whose nascent Jewish state followed the British rather than the German or Russian example, the roles are partly reversed. It is Israel that can teach Britain much about how to thrive as an independent nation state in the 21st century.
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amcdonald
December 8th, 2017
3:12 PM
Because of the deal announced today Mrs May was able to state that there would now be extra resources for priorities at home. IDS can now get specific about the `staggering amounts` and how many council houses and flats are to be built. A Labour government is perfectly capable of sorting it.

Lawrence James
December 5th, 2017
8:12 AM
The Balfour declaration confirmed the Ottoman policy of allowing Jewish settlements in Palestine, which then and later were on lands sold to them by local landlords.

amcdonald
December 1st, 2017
9:12 PM
IDS said there will be staggering amounts of money for the UK when the Brexit deal is done (BBC). So no more austerity crap from the Tory party ? IDS also criticised George Osborne three times. So it`s Brexit Bardot ( metaphorically) for us and gruel-propaganda/anarchy in the EU. Nobody from Aristotle to Zizek is as famous philosophically and materialistically as Brexit . Happy Christmas.

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