Simon Johnson: The Comparison of British Citizens Serving In The IDF and IS Jihadists

On the 12th September 2014 in the Jewish Chronicle, JLC Chief Executive Simon Johnson wrote the following, criticising the comparison of British Citizens serving in the IDF and the British Islamic State Jihadists.

Security commentators estimate that some 600 British citizens have travelled to the Middle East, via training camps in Turkey, to fight for Islamic State (IS). Meanwhile, Israel has been fighting a defensive war against Hamas in Gaza, an organisation whose aims and tactics share many similarities with IS.

The recent and widely reported beheadings of foreign journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff - believed to have been committed by a British man - bears testimony to the ruthlessness and brutality of IS.

Thankfully, the UK Government is seeking ways to address the threat fighters such as these pose on their return, with the Prime Minister calling for their passports to be restricted or rescinded before they leave the country. Those who are already fighting there have been threatened with having their citizenship withdrawn.

Astonishingly, during Operation Protective Edge, some within the ranks of British society determined that young British Jews fighting in the IDF should be treated in a similar way to British fighters in Iraq and Syria on their return to Britain.

Some have suggested that the Metropolitan Police should take a heavy stance on any returning British citizen who has worn the olive green of the IDF, suggesting how the IDF’s actions over the years could be considered to be acts of terror. It was the return of 250 IS fighters, not ex IDF soldiers which caused the government to raise the terror threat level to severe and that’s because the total number of ex IDF soldiers who have returned to the West and committed a terror attack remains zero.

The facts are clear - Israel is a democracy with an army that is accounted for by its government and has been fighting a terrorist organisation, proscribed by our own government. Britain and Israel are allies with shared interests in many fields, including combatting the very real threat of Islamist terrorism, much of which comes from the returning jihadists.

We have also seen this ludicrous comparison being made by members of parliament. Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East in an interview with Sky News explained that rebels in Syria are joining “to fight a cause that they think is the right cause” and that it is comparable to those enlisting in the IDF.

Qureshi has since denied making the comparison, following outrage over her comments. This is not the first time that the barrister has had to explain herself over comments made about Israel, with Qureshi previously apologising for comparing the Israeli treatment of Gaza to that of the holocaust earlier this year.

In the first House of Commons debate following summer recess, Grahame Morris, the Labour MP for Easington, asked the Prime Minister in response to his arguments for the withdrawal of UK passports, if British citizens fighting in the IDF would be treated in the same way as those returning from Syria and Iraq.

Despite the constant smearing from its opponents worldwide, the IDF continues to defend its citizens while ensuring civilian casualties are kept to an absolute minimum, a task that is near impossible due to the nature of Hamas’ warfare. The comparison between Brits serving in the IDF and Brits who have joined IS, is shameful, and only used by those who either wish to either absolve IS, to demonise Israel, or quite possibly, to do both. If any comparisons are to be made it should be with Hamas, not the IDF, with the former publicly executing suspected collaborators.

The Prime Minister’s response to Grahame Morris set the correct tone for this ‘debate’ when he said – “The Hon. Gentleman, when he looks at his words, will come to regret drawing a comparison between a soldier fighting in the Israel defense forces and a terrorist returning from Syria.”  It remains the simple fact that extreme Islamist terror poses the most significant threat to UK security and that, in turn, should consign the fatuous comparison of jihadists to IDF soldiers to the history of distortions in the Middle East debate.