Britain has become the world center for boycotts of Israeli goods and of academic exchange. It is rare to pass a day without an email from a supporter of the Jewish state bringing to my attention yet another boycott campaign. Whether it is grassroots campaigns to label oranges and avocados in supermarkets or universities stopping academic cross-fertilization of brainpower, the many forces at work in Britain seem never to run out of momentum.
It is therefore all the more lamentable that British soldiers are suffering losses every month in Afghanistan, yet the country does not promote good relations with Israel, the world expert on defusing IEDs (improvised explosive devices). On December 13 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited troops in Kandahar, the first British head of state to visit servicemen in a war zone since Winston Churchill in the Second World War. Brown told the media during his visit that soldiers “were discovering improvised explosive devices every two hours.”
On television in the months leading up to the prime ministerial visit to the war zone, bereaved British mothers, sisters, and widows lamented the shortage of bomb disposal experts and the apparent lack of appropriate equipment and protective gear available to their sons, brothers, and husbands. On BBC television’s Question Time on Thursday, December 10, recorded in Wootton Bassett, a town hit particularly hard by recent war losses, anguished women asked panelist Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the armed forces, for better care of the fighting men.
In the meantime Israeli bomb disposal experts are available for consultation, but if the word “Israel” so much as appears in any public discourse, those same studio audiences erupt in rage at the “apartheid” state that engages in “ethnic cleansing,” and they refuse to see the connection between Israel’s sixty-year defensive battle against terror and the war their menfolk are facing in Taliban-land.
Researching this article I came upon a compelling screed, “Countering Improvised Explosive Devices” by Colonel David Eshel of the IDF, or Israeli Defense Forces. What is intriguing is that the piece was published in the Royal Tank Regiment Journal, Volume 771, way back in March 2005.
Eshel recounts the events after cessation of initial hostilities in Iraq in 2003, when insurgent attacks began to dominate the landscape, but coalition leaders seemed uninterested in briefings on IEDs. He asserts: “It seems therefore strange, and possibly inexcusable, that the coalition forces failed to take notice of the vast combat experience that could have become willingly available from its Israeli allies, in order to at least try and reduce the heavy loss of life sustained mainly by U.S. forces from IED and suicide attacks.”
Eshel’s article makes it clear that the range and lethality of IEDs are staggering: In the early days of the Iraqi insurgency, attackers pulled out the firing pins of hand grenades and kept them from detonating by holding down the “spoon” and covering it with ducting tape. By dropping it into a canister filled with gasoline, the tape would dissolve in a few hours and cause a terrific explosion. Terrorists would place an obstruction on the road, causing vehicles to stop and investigate; the results were catastrophic.
Eshel enumerates the vast array of other methods used by insurgents to disable tanks and kill servicemen and women, and comments: “Only the Israelis have been waging a relentless anti-IED campaign against such elements, lately with growing success.” He describes the lethality of terrorist tactics derived from combined advice from Chechen rebels and al-Qaeda and former Taliban, corroborated by an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence officer at the 3rd Corps Support Command in north Baghdad.
The Israeli Defense Forces endured “camouflaged IEDs” in south Lebanon, weapons that have caused grief to coalition forces. Eshel asserts that Israel has unparalleled expertise combating IEDs after painful encounters during the Second Intifada and in south Lebanon.
That brings me to December 2009, when to the utter astonishment of the Anglo-Jewish community and to the truly incandescent rage of the Israeli government and embassy, Israeli Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni canceled a visit to Britain to appear at a Jewish National Fund conference in the wake of the issuance of an arrest warrant charging her with war crimes. It beggars belief that Britain is now in the position of forcing one of its valued allies to keep its officials from its shores; in recent years other Israeli dignitaries have refrained from getting off flights because of threats from the British courts. Had an injunction sought by sixteen Palestinians been successful, Defense Minister Ehud Barak would not have been able to visit Britain in October, although former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon did cancel a journey to London. The Livni affair has brought the issue of obsessive Israel-bashing to a head.
In the bulk of this article I outline the threat that exists to coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring in the factor of Israeli expertise in reducing fatalities. Instead, Britain, recently obsessed with Zionist-bashing (see my article about the UK media’s blitz on Anglo-Jewry), ramps up its efforts to prevent Israeli experts from entering the country. This is insane and self-destructive. Martin Bright comments in the Spectator: “War crimes should be punished and Israeli politicians cannot be exempt. But is this really the best way of going about this? I worry that we are making a special case of Israeli politicians and that Britain has become associated with a particularly virulent form of anti-Zionism.”
What is even more alarming is that in the week of December 21, several television news reports claimed that Hamas was responsible for securing the warrant against Tzipi Livni. The implication of this is that a terrorist group proscribed by the United States and European Union can operate freely with the British justice system. The Israeli government went so far as to say the warrant for Livni’s arrest was issued “at the behest of radical elements.” Israel has now said its officials simply cannot visit the United Kingdom.
In the holiday season even the Ahava shop in Covent Garden is the target of hate-Israel groups. Stephanie Brickman wrote in May from Edinburgh about the boycotts and kosher foods getting harder to find, noting that one of the earliest Nazi tactics was to ban such goods.
While dictators and rogues travel the world and speak at the United Nations General Assembly, a valued military ally is now unable to offer its advice in person to the British government. British soldiers die and could be saved by Israeli expertise, but thousands of union members, supermarket customers, and academicians rally to boycott anything and everything Israeli.
It beggars belief.