By Azriel Bermant, published in Haaretz, 2 December 2019
It's hardly controversial to note that Jeremy Corbyn has been a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause, and that he has never sympathized with the right of Jews to national self-determination.
But these well-known facts are, for many Corbyn supporters, proof that accusations of anti-Semitism within the party are really overhyped criticisms of Corbyn’s policy on Israel-Palestine, "framed" in the language of anti-Semitism.
When Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, felt compelled to make an unprecedented election-time intervention to criticize Corbyn, because he could no longer ignore the fear and alarm within his community, many of the Labour leader’s supporters pushed the line that the Chief Rabbi’s attack was wholly motivated by Labour’s support for a tough position against Israel’s occupation, recognition of a Palestinian state and an embargo on arms sales to Israel.
By Azriel Bermant, Published in Haaretz, 3 August 2019
On 28 July, Israel and the United States announced with great fanfare that they had carried out a successful series of tests of the advanced Arrow 3 missile defense system in Alaska.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the tests "were successful beyond any imagination…Today Israel has the ability to act against ballistic missiles that could be launched against us from Iran or anywhere else."
Boaz Levy, a senior official in Israel’s aerospace industries, went even further, claiming that the successful tests would mean that Israelis "would now be able to sleep better at night."
This should be good news.
By Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant, Published in Haaretz, 1 July 2019
The United States and Europe find themselves in a growing crisis with Iran. Tehran has just announced it has breached the threshold on nuclear enrichment imposed by the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The U.S. is funnelling military assets to the region following a series of incidents that have caused damage to oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Although Iran has denied involvement, many suspect that Tehran was the instigator of these attacks.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has indicated that he does not want war - but others in his administration see things differently, and in any case crises have the potential to escalate inadvertently beyond the designs of rational policymaking.
As well as being a dangerous geopolitical moment, the crisis throws light on the growing divergences in transatlantic relations.
Dr. Wyn Rees and I submitted written evidence to the UK Parliamentary's Defence Committee inquiry into the implications of the United States withdrawal from the INF Treaty. The House of Commons Defence Committee report is attached here.
Published in Haaretz, 26 September 2018
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s longheld antipathy towards Israel and his pro-Palestinian activism is hardly unprecedented in Western politics. Why is it, then, that his stance, and how he expresses it through word and deed, attracts so much controversy?
Are his views the problematic issue, or the dogmatism they expose? What is it about how he speaks and acts concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict that leads many to conclude he is acting in bad faith?
One way of interrogating this issue is to compare Corbyn with the intriguing precedent of another British politician known for his overt criticism of Israel and sympathy for Palestinian statehood: a politician who also attracted condemnation and was accused of anti-Semitism, but managed to move past a rigid Manichean view of the conflict to become a potential mediator between the sides, and extolled as a statesman of integrity and honor – a role that seems far away, indeed, from Corbyn’s current position. READ MORE
Published in Haaretz, 4 July 2018
In mid-July, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will host the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for a state visit. The leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, has been among those calling on Netanyahu to cancel the visit because of Orban’s anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish philanthropist George Soros during his recent election campaign. READ MORE
Published in Haaretz on 9 May 2018
As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets once again with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, it is remarkable that his government’s policy towards Moscow continues to go unchallenged in Israel.
Netanyahu has visited Russia on numerous occasions to secure understandings with Putin over Israel’s red lines in Syria, amid the growing Iranian presence in the country and to minimize the risk of misunderstandings and miscalculations.
Until recently, the Netanyahu government has viewed Russia as a strategic ally in the Middle East, but there is an oversized element of wishful thinking here. READ MORE.
Published in Standpoint Magazine, March 2018
When Mrs Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Foreign Office concerns over her position on Israel were summed up by Michael Tait of the British embassy in Amman: “It is presumably in the national interest to do what we can to counter Arab fears and suspicions that the leader of HM opposition is already a prisoner of the Zionists.” In 1979, Thatcher resisted the initiative of her Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, to support Palestinian self-determination and closer ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. During a visit to Kuwait in 1981, Thatcher told her hosts that she would not authorise ministerial meetings with the PLO because of its involvement in terrorism. She added that the PLO’s “real objective is to drive Israel into the sea and wipe it off the face of the globe”. MORE...
Published in Prospect Magazine on December 7, 2017
The president's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is a propaganda gift to Turkey, Iran—and Hamas
After the Reagan administration took a soft line on Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, Margaret Thatcher scrawled in pen on a diplomatic cable received from Washington: “The US just does not realise the resentment she is causing in the Middle East.” Thatcher feared that extremist forces such as the Soviet Union would make maximum gains in the Arab world from the missteps of the Israelis and Americans. MORE
Published in The Guardian on 10 November 2017
The UK politicians who ignore the Foreign Office to practise independent Middle East policy are usually prime ministers in a position to follow through
The controversy over Priti Patel’s private diplomacy, which led to her resignation, has highlighted public concern over a lack of transparency and the tendency of some politicians to play fast and loose with official procedures. Yet what has really upset many of Patel’s critics has been her policy of cosying up to Israel. MORE
Dr Azriel Bermant
Foreign Policy and International Security Analyst, Historian, Lecturer, Author