Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg may be surging in the U.K. election polls, but as Nile Gardner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, argues below, his eagerness to demonize Israel while encouraging her enemies deserves closer scrutiny.
After Thursday night’s UK party leaders’ foreign policy debate, it’s important to take a look at Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg’s willingness to vilify Israel, and his inclination towards bashing the Israelis over the head. I’ve written about Clegg’s distinctly anti-American views and his complete disregard for the NATO alliance, but his policies towards Israel deserve attention as well.
Israel is a close ally of both Great Britain and the United States, the only full democracy in the Middle East along with Iraq, and is under constant fire from Iranian and Syrian-backed terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah. Its very existence is threatened by the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran, which has malevolently warned of another Holocaust. Yet, the leader of the Liberal Democrats still thinks it’s necessary to demonise Israel, one of our only friends in the region. He’s doing everything but directly calling Gaza an Israeli-administered concentration camp.
In his statements, Clegg has drawn a dangerous and false parallel between the Israelis and Islamist terrorist groups. For example he wrote a piece for The Guardian in January 2009 entitled “We Must Stop Arming Israel” condemning Israel’s response to Hamas attacks, and in effect calling for the EU to isolate and even sanction Israel:
Brown must stop sitting on his hands. He must condemn unambiguously Israel’s tactics, just as he has rightly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks. Then he must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage in the region to broker peace. The EU is by far Israel’s biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza, and apply tough conditions on any long-term assistance to the Palestinian community.
In December 2009, Clegg was the lead signatory to an Observer letter by a group of MPs which made sensational claims about Israel “imprisoning” millions of Palestinians:
One year on from Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government continues to imprison 1.5 million Palestinians and prevent the rebuilding of its shattered infrastructure. Israel’s blockade of Gaza, described by the UN fact-finding mission as “collective punishment”, stops reconstruction materials and humanitarian aid from reaching those who so desperately require it… The confinement and punishment of an entire population is no way to bring about peace for all the people of the Middle East.
Also in December 2009, Nick Clegg penned another piece for The Guardian entitled “Lift the Gaza Blockade: The Suffering is Shocking”, which in parts reads like an anti-Israeli propaganda document drawn up by the Palestinian Authority:
The legacy of Operation Cast Lead is a living nightmare for one and a half million Palestinians squeezed into one of the most overcrowded and wretched stretches of land on the planet. How is the peace process served by sickness, mortality rates, mental trauma and malnutrition increasing in Gaza? Is it not in Israel’s enlightened self-interest to relieve the humanitarian suffering? … No peaceful coexistence of any kind is possible as long as this act of collective confinement continues.
While Nick Clegg has made it a personal mission to publicly whip the Israelis for defending their own country, he has remained remarkably silent in the media about Iranian backing for terrorist groups, Tehran’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, and the massive levels of hatred directed at Israel from within the United Nations, not least the UN’s Human Rights Council. I don’t recall any op-eds by Clegg warning against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or calling for an end to the persecution of Israel by Islamist states. Nor has he written pieces in support of the democracy protestors in Iran, many of whom have been brutally beaten, raped, and in some cases murdered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.
As a former EU bureaucrat, Clegg brings with him to Westminster the sneering condescension towards Israel which is so pervasive in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is a destructive approach that undermines a close British ally while encouraging Israel’s enemies. There is an important distinction between a free, democratic society like Israel, acting in self-defence, and brutal terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah. Clegg’s drawing of moral equivalence between the two sides is both sickening and offensive.
Originally published by Nile Gardner at Telegraph.co.uk.