Bigotry feeds on ignorance when it comes to the hatred of Israel, says Ruth Dudley Edwards
Celtic fans waving Palestine flags during a match in Israel
Last week I wrote critically about Celtic fans responsible for a pro-Palestinian flag display at a match against an Israeli team. I would have been equally critical had Rangers flown Israeli flags during a match against Palestinians.
Apart from anything else, it’s atrociously bad manners.
Football is supposed to bring people together, not tear them apart, which is why Uefa bans “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message of an ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”.
The twitter abuse from Celtic fanatics and Israel-haters was predictably vicious, and there were the usual crazy allegations against Israel from ignoramuses, anti-Zionists and anti-semites.
I’m a critical friend of Israel (and don’t get me started on the Ultra-Orthodox Jews whose political attitudes are deplored by the vast majority of Israelis), but I passionately believe in its right to exist.
In other words, I’m a Zionist.
Israel is a fine country which contributes mightily to the world, culturally, scientifically, technologically and in many other ways, while being in the Middle East a model of democracy and religious tolerance where women and gays can live like free people.
I’m desperately sorry for most Palestinians, but their miserable plight is mainly the fault of bigoted and callous leaders who at every turn have blocked a two-state solution with a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine living side by side in peace.
Twitter will scream that Jews have no right to settle in the Middle East, yet they’ve been there for over 3,000 years.
The land they presently occupy, as well as the West Bank, was mainly occupied by Jews until sequential persecution from the first century AD by Romans, Christians and — from the seventh century — Muslims, forced most of the survivors to flee.
As a people, they have never ceased to yearn for their ancient homeland which provided a refuge for many tens of thousands at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century from Russian pogroms and the rising anti-semitism in Europe.
The aim of the Zionist Organisation set up in 1897 was to establish a home for the Jewish people in (very underpopulated) Palestine, “secured under public law”.
After the Great War, when the British controlled what came to be called Palestine, it would be Arab leaders who in 1937 and 1947 (and up to the present day), rejected proposals for independent Arab and Jewish states.
After the United Nations’ endorsement of partition in 1947, Jews fought for their land and displaced many Arabs, while the Arab Higher Committee instructed Arabs to flee.
In 1948, after an attempt by Palestinian Arabs and surrounding Arab countries to exterminate Jews, those outside Israel either fled to it or were killed.
In 1946 the territory known as Palestine comprised today’s Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and contained 600,000 Jews and 130,000 Arabs.
By 1950, Gaza and the West Bank had been so thoroughly ethnically cleansed that their 1,000,000 population were exclusively Arab.
Israel, however, had 160,000 Arabs and over one million Jews — all of whom would be given full citizenship.
Palestinian Arab refugees from Israel ended up effectively prisoners in camps in surrounding Arab countries, with few rights and no opportunity to assimilate in wider society.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was supposed to help them escape their refugee status, but like so many institutions which — consciously or unconsciously — make their own survival a priority, it preferred to grant that status forever to anyone descended from a Palestine refugee.
It suits most Arab countries to encourage generation after generation to think themselves helpless victims of Israel, leave them to rot in camps mainly supported by the West and feed them anti-Jewish hate.
There are some tens of thousands of refugees still alive, but UNRWA lists five million. All these unfortunate people — most of whom never to have set foot in Israel — are encouraged to believe that some day they will be “repatriated” through what is known as the “right of return”, and overnight will destroy Israel.
How many of Celtic’s politically-activist flag-waving Green Brigade have a clue about any of this?