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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tony Blair on the Delegitimization of Israel

On Tuesday at a symposium held at the IDC Herzliya Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy concerning “The De-legitimization of Israel, Threats, Challenges and Responses,” the keynote address was delivered by Rt. Hon. Tony Blair. Mr. Blair, who now serves as Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, made an impassioned speech, whose content deserves wide circulation. Below are highlights from his address:

There are two forms of de-legitimisation. One is traditional, obvious and from the quarters it emanates, expected. It is easier to deal with. This is attack from those who openly question Israel’s right to exist. It is easier to deal with, because it is so clear. When the President of Iran says he wants Israel wiped off the face of the map, we all know where we are. This is not to minimise the threat of course. It remains and is profound. It is just to say that were this the only form of de-legitimisation, it wouldn’t warrant a conference of analysis; simply a course of action.

The other form is more insidious, harder to spot, harder to anticipate and harder to deal with, because many of those engaging in it, will fiercely deny they are doing so. It is this form that is in danger of growing, and whose impact is potentially highly threatening, in part because it isn’t obvious.

I would define in it this way: it is a conscious or often unconscious resistance, sometimes bordering on refusal, to accept Israel has a legitimate point of view. Note that I say refusal to accept Israel has a legitimate point of view. I’m not saying refusal to agree with it. People are perfectly entitled to agree or not; but rather an unwillingness to listen to the other side, to acknowledge that Israel has a point, to embrace the notion that this is a complex matter that requires understanding of the other way of looking at it.

The challenge is that this often does not come from ill-intentioned people; but well-intentioned. They would dispute vigorously such a characterisation of their mindset. They would point to the injustice of Palestinian suffering, acts of the Israeli Government or army which are unjustifiable and they would say, rightly, that you cannot say that to criticise Israel is to de-legitimise it. Such minds are often to be found in the west. They will say they advocate a two state solution and they will point to that as proof positive that they accept Israel’s existence fully.

. . .

So, for example, on Gaza they won’t accept that Israel might have a right to search vessels bringing cargo into Gaza, given that even this year over 100 rockets have been fired from that territory into Israel. Leave aside the multiple investigations relating to the flotilla, upon which there will naturally be heated debate. I mean a refusal to accept that, however handled, no Israeli government could be indifferent to the possibility of weapons and missiles being brought into Gaza.

I often have a conversation about the West Bank which goes like this. Someone says: Israel must lift the occupation. I reply: I agree but it has to be sure that when it does so, there will be security and a Palestinian force capable of preventing terrorism. They say: so you’re supporting occupation. I say: I’m not. I’m simply pointing out that if Hamas, with an unchanged position on Israel, were running the West Bank, Israel would have a perfectly legitimate right to be concerned about it’s security.

A constant conversation I have with some, by no means all, of my European colleagues is to argue to them: don’t apply rules to the Government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country. In any of our nations, if there were people firing rockets, committing acts of terrorism and living next door to us, our public opinion would go crazy.

. . . .

Let me tell you why I am a passionate believer in Israel. This is a democracy. It’s Parliament is vibrant. Its politics is, well, not notably restrained, let’s say. Its press is free. Its people have rights and they are enforced. I had an argument with a friend about Israel. I said to them: ‘ok let’s assume you are charged with a crime you didn’t commit and the penalty is 20 years in prison. And you’re a critic of the Government. Tell me: under which country’s legal system, in this region, would you prefer to be tried?’ He struggled for a bit and then said: ‘that’s not the point.’ ‘But it is’ I replied.

Look around the world about what we admire about the Jewish people: their contribution to art, culture, literature, music, business and philanthropy. It’s a spirit that is identifiable, open and rather wonderful. Whatever bigotry is, it is the opposite of it. It is a free spirit. On holiday I read the new biography of Einstein. Having in early life taken not much interest in the issue, he became an ardent supporter of Israel. But look at the character of the Israel he supported: like Einstein himself – a free thinker, a rebellious thinker even, but one supremely attuned to the future.

That is the Israel people like me support. So guard it; keep it. I am a religious person myself. But the society I want to live in, is one that treats me no better as a result; makes my view one amongst many; and pursues science, technology and progress with vigour and without prejudice. The best answer to the de-legitimisation of Israel lies in the character of Israel itself and in the openness, fair-mindedness and creativity of ordinary Israelis. That character and those people built the State of Israel. They remain it’s guardians. They are why to de-legitimise Israel is not only an affront to Israelis but to all who share the values of a free human spirit.

The entirety of Mr. Blair's address can be seen at:

A pity that the "liberal" (there is nothing liberal about them) columnists at The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, not to mention those writing for news organizations in Blair's home country, will never consider these remarks. Participants in a blind, frenzied orgy of hatred, they are too deep in self-denial.


  1. Blair quotes his private discussions with friends. Did he publish something like this? Did he say something like this in England publicly? Or is it just a diplomatic half-truth reserved for the speech in Israel?

    How does he understand why "well-intentional" people deny right of Israel for self-defense? He does not say. I, personally, would not call these people "well-intentional". Was Hitler well-intentional, when he put interests of one people (his own in his case) above all others?

  2. Hi Marina,

    Although I certainly agree that much of the criticism comes from persons who are not well intentioned, i.e. in self-denial with respect to their anti-Semitism, Blair does not hide his friendship for Israel.

    Compare his remarks with Catherine Ashton's most recent obsessive outburst:

  3. Hi, Jeffrey

    I followed your link.
    The whole BBC story is a pearl of refined European anti-Semitism. I like this fragment the most "...mostly peaceful demonstrations. Some demonstrations have been attended by stone-throwing Palestinian youths." This is what they consider "peaceful", when it concerns Palestinians!

    As for Blair, you are right: he was on the side of Israel against British opposition sometimes.

  4. a complex matter that requires understanding of the other way of looking at it

    complex? not really. unlike the allegations about the President of Iran's (still debated interpretations) of 'wiping israel off the map' statement, my goal is not to end israel's existence. it is to bring israel up to an acceptable standard of democracy. either they have to let go of controlling that other 1/2 of the population (millions of people) or accept responsibility and allow them citizenship. so yes, i do prefer 2 states because i honor the zionist will and desire of a jewish state, but not at the expense of millions of people living w/no representation.

    it's tricky but not complex. there are extremists on both sides for sure. but the majority of people both israelis and palestinians just want peace. so what to do!!!??

    i admit, i refuse to accept the status quo as legitimate, because it isn't. clearly. it is not a matter of willingness because i've listened til i'm blue in the face and everyone in this 'has a point' but embracing 'the notion that this is a complex matter that requires understanding of the other way of looking at it' gets us no where. no amount of other way of looking at it will justify millions (generations) of palestinians being citizenless, rightless, representationless, voteless..wrt to the government that ultimately rules over them .. is ok.

    you can dress it up any which way you want. the situation delegitimizes israel. my job, our job, is exposing the truth. and if that hurts israel so be it. somethings gotta give and i'm afraid expecting it from palestinians is expecting to squeeze blood out of a turnip cuz baby hey aint got nuthin but pain. it's hard to give up nothing.

  5. To anonymous....Palestinians' pain is of their own making. If they have no representation, it is because they are not a legitimate, singular entity. They are a product of history with no legitimate claim to a land given by Divine decree. The fact that they could have a good life in the state of Israel should suffice them. But, no. Their claims, their strategy, their entire position, is a fluke, a con, and a murderous ploy.

  6. Divine decree? til armegeddon no doubt. meanwhile, out here in the real world grown ups are talking.