Friday, September 19, 2014
Proud Zionist Simon Schama defends Israel’s action in Gaza
Simon Schama (Photo: BBC)
Historian Simon Schama has launched a stirring defence of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, strongly rejecting allegations that its forces were guilty of war crimes.
Speaking as guest of honour at the UJIA annual dinner, Mr Schama said: “We are not the killers of children. We grieve when the blood of innocent children is spilt because rockets are stored underneath or outside schools.
“One million Jewish children were killed in the Nazi slaughter. The point of the Shoah, the Final Solution was to kill children, wasn’t it? Children who would grow up to be Jews. We do not commit genocide. This is a disgusting corruption of the term, which would have George Orwell rolling in his tomb. Genocide was committed on us by the million.”
Mr Schama told the 1,000 guests at the dinner that he was proud to call himself a Zionist despite being a strong critic of the expansion of settlements and the annexation of territory in the West Bank.
“How could you not be a Zionist?” he said. “We need to reclaim the word Zionist. It is not a word to be ashamed of or to run away from. Israel, bless it, is a democracy, there are massive differences in opinion.
“I have fierce reservations about settlement policy. It was not a good idea to annex all that territory the other week. We need to encourage the Palestinians we can talk to, needless to say, not Hamas. But I’m not going to lecture the Israeli government on how this needs to happen.
Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub also delivered a powerful speech on the situation in Israel saying that British Jews had been fed “a relentless diet of media distortions”.
“When trade unions resolve to boycott the only country in the Middle East which has a free trade union. When the media chooses to exact a price on the only country in the region which permits journalists to travel freely, and to report without intimidation.
“When at the Edinburgh festival violent rioters prevent Israeli productions from performing for the first time. When supermarkets cave in to hooliganism by taking off Israeli and even non-Israeli kosher products off the shelves.
“In this environment, a new generation of the Jewish people is coming of age. Fed on a relentless diet of media distortions, they leave school and go to universities where voices for Israel are rare and often silenced.”
The dinner, held at Grosvenor House in central London, was the charity’s largest for 15 years. It raised £3.8 million, an increase on the £3.3 million raised last year.
The event was also attended by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner of the Reform movement, Britain’s senior Sephardi Rabbi Joseph Dweck and the Board of Deputies new chief executive Gillian Merron.
UJIA Chairman Bill Benjamin asked guests to increase donations by 20 per cent to fund the Zionist youth movements, programmes for Jewish children at non-Jewish schools and educational trips to Israel.
“Transformation cannot be done on a shoestring. In fact, we have to double UJIA’s level of investment over the next five years,” he said.
He pledged to double the funding of UJIA Birthright, for 20-26 year-olds, and in Israel, to rebuild the run down Darca Danciger High School in Kiryat Shmona, create a new educational facility at Kibbutz Eshbal for disadvantaged youth, and introduce funding for a science and technology initiative in schools across the Galil.
Annual Dinner Chair Keith Black said: “The atmosphere was genuinely electric. A thousand members of our community came together to stand firm and look to the future. We are clear about what we have to do in connecting our young people to Israel and we are clear about the need to continue to improve Israel’s poorest region, the Galil. This is how our supporters can make their mark on the Jewish story and continue that story long into the future.”