Sir Mick Davis: The Left Has Toxic Attitudes Towards Israel

This article written by JLC Chairman Sir Mick Davis was first published in the Telegraph at

am a proud Zionist, I am a passionate supporter of the state of Israel, and I am not alone. More than 90 per cent of British Jews see Israel as part of their Jewish identity. Attacks on her legitimacy are an affront to our consciousness, an assault on our religious, cultural and moral heritage. As anti-Semitism rises, demands to boycott, sanction and isolate Israel grow, and revelations of anti-Zionist rhetoric dominate British media, many question whether anti-Zionist and anti-Israel statements and actions have become the new anti-Semitism?

Sadly, British Jews can answer this question so unambiguously that it boggles the mind. At this year’s National Union of Students conference, delegates applauded opposition to a motion reaffirming the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. That such a debate even takes place is shameful enough, but to witness speakers arguing passionately against it, while others goad them on, is a disgrace.

Malia Bouattia, the newly elected NUS president, seems obsessed with Zionists and Zionism. She has spoken of “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets”; of the University of Birmingham’s Jewish society as “dominated by Zionist activists”; of the university itself as a “Zionist outpost”.

She has company. The odious comments of Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, about transferring Jews, hearken back to humanity’s darkest hours. Ms Shah has apologised, yet some have tried to contextualise her outrageous rhetoric as merely “historic social media posts”, while Ken Livingstone’s shocking intervention in her defence only proves the brazen nature of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism and the extent of the crisis we face.

Shah claims she spoke out of ignorance and understands the deep offence she caused. Her suspension from Labour, with Livingstone, and the party’s proposed “action plan on tackling anti-Semitism” are welcomed. But they are not nearly enough. We must see concrete, uncompromising measures enacted to confront and completely eradicate anti-Semitism.

The recent survey of British Muslims’ attitudes towards their fellow Jewish citizens is very troubling. One cannot but feel that the failure over time to combat modern-day anti-Semitism by some on the Left has contributed to a climate where it is possible for more than 40 per cent of British Muslims believing Jews have too much power.

When it comes to Israel, I have never hidden my own criticisms. Israel’s government can do more to realise a two-state solution. At times, her Arab citizens face discrimination and, occasionally, her parliamentary debate wades into murky waters. But let me be clear: Jews have a right to self-determination in their own country. Israel’s legitimacy is unassailable and its democracy vibrant. It rests on solid religious, historical and legal foundations, and the rule of law and minority rights are enshrined in its ethos.

Moreover, while Israel is chastised, there is a deafening silence regarding Palestinian culpability for the status quo. The Palestinian Authority has squandered numerous opportunities to achieve peace and sows the seeds of perpetual conflict by tolerating and at times fomenting incitement to hatred and violence.

There is the compulsive focus by Left-wing activists, NGOs, supranational bodies and the media on Israel and its “failings”. These same groups that constantly condemn Israel wilfully ignore the inequities and abuses in many far more troubled countries.

It is no surprise that Jews are alarmed, and smell more than a whiff of prejudice. It is perverse to condemn Israel for unintentional civilian casualties as it defends its citizens from indiscriminate missile and terror attacks, while sitting idly by as thousands of Syrians are murdered by Assad. It is perverse for trade unions to boycott Israel but ignore maltreated workers across the developing world. It is perverse that students stage “Israel Apartheid Week”, vote to boycott Israel, and violently prevent Israelis from speaking on campus – all while Israeli universities are centres of debate, protest and academic freedom. Criticising the Israeli government’s actions or policies is legitimate – I do so myself. However, categorising Israel as a racist state guilty of genocide and war crimes is reprehensible.

The wholesale condemnation of Israel and the revived fashion of demonising Zionism and Zionists are offensive and harmful to Jews. They are done with that intent in mind and we must be bold in calling out those who use a façade of anti-Zionism for what they mostly are: bigots and anti-Semites. They must be defeated and the time is now. If not, I fear the echoes of Maurice Ogden’s The Hangman will soon be felt by us all: “First the alien and then the Jew… I did no more than you let me do”.