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A Rare Pro-Israel Brit? Officer Defends Israel’s Gaza Tactics

October 19, 2009

In the wake of the UN Human Rights Council’s reopening of discussion on the Goldstone Report — criticizing Israel and Hamas for “war crimes” — a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan defended Israel’s actions in Gaza early this year. (Video below.) Colonel Richard Kemp, who also commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia and served during two wars in Iraq, told the Council that, when it comes to debate on Operation Cast Lead, Jerusalem’s name for the Gaza incursion, the Israeli Defense Forces can’t get a break. Hamas fighters’ hiding behind civilians served p.r. tactics as well as military ones, he claims. Meanwhile, beyond the Middle East, the Israel Defense Forces are up against:

the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas.

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Kemp, now a private defense consultant, has been defending IDF actions since January, when Gaza was still hot. Does his agenda on Israel go beyond personal opinion? I don’t know. But you wonder in any case how his remarks will play in the complex British discourse on Israel.

The question is not so much, how are they reacting down at the pub, but rather, what are they saying on campuses and in the posher clubs?

It was British educators and researchers, after all, who launched the ongoing campaign to boycott Israeli academics. And former Israeli ambassador Zvi Shtauber, reflecting on British attitudes during his stint at the Court of St. James, detected mixed views on both Israel and Jews in general. (Neither he nor I equate “anti-Israel” with “anti-semitic,” but that doesn’t mean the two don’t overlap.) While acknowledging Jews’ many successes and overall acceptance in British society, Shtauber said anti-Semitism persists among many elites, including some of the lesser Royals. (And probably Prince Philip, but he’s kind of an equal oppportunity bigot.) An apt example of the dichotomy:

When Liberal Democrat Jenny Tonge, “justified Palestinian suicide bombings,” Shtauber recalled, “I asked her in a television discussion whether she only supported terrorist attacks when the victims were Jews.” In the end, he acknowledged, Tonge was disciplined by her party.

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