ISN'T there so much that is relevant omitted from Graeme Eddie’s long letter (August 2) about the very real concern around the latest of “Israel’s Basic laws”, which clearly serves to place its political sword in the sand and issue a challenge to all those who oppose what it is doing, and has done in defence of its nationhood?

It’s now 70 years since the formation of the Israeli State. That’s 70 years where it has had every opportunity to seek a peaceful solution to the plight of the Palestinians. And 70 years for the rest of the world to suffer from its intransigent failure through protracted abuse of the Palestinians, and the Middle East conflicts between Israel and Palestinians, Lebanon, attributable associated terrorism and the conflicts that emanated from all of this in Iran, Iraq and Syria, all of which served as a recruiting ground for the rise of the scourge of Daesh; and still no lesson learned.

What disappoints me is that even after the suffering of the Jewish people from progroms throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, the abuse of the 1930s in Germany and the ultimate appalling horror of the Holocaust, the Israeli state appears to have learned little about seeking accommodation and living in peace with other peoples, particularly those around them. 

Rather than work diligently to seek accommodation with the Palestinians, hasn't Israel’s history proved a belligerence born of the flawed policy to place land buffer zones between it and its “enemies”, no matter at whose expense, when living in peace and harmony would certainly have worked better?

Hence the seven-day war with Egypt where it annexed vast areas including Sinai. Hence the provocative, deliberate settlement of the West Bank, and its annexation. Hence the internationally sanctioned herding of Palestinians into the Gaza Strip and outrageous blockade of it, leading to the dehumanisation and plight of these dispossessed people.

Let’s be clear, Israel survives as a nation because it is the focal point of influence in the Middle East for the Western powers, principally the US, which has tempered opposition from the Arab world through its power.

But hasn’t the price paid been perpetual unrest which has caused wars, terrorism and now encouraged the unsustainable mass migration of refugees to Europe?

The latest “Basic Laws” suggest that nothing is intended to change in any reasonable term. Israeli policy is fixed, at least for as long as Israel has the patronage of Western powers exercising their own interests in the Middle East at the expense of the Palestinians, and bolstered by the international definition of anti-Semitism that improperly conflates Jews and the Jewish religion with the interests and actions of the Israeli state.

Isn’t Jeremy Corbyn’s weakness that he is now realising his support for the Palestinians as a backbencher becomes less tenable when the party depends on the votes of those who are pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian to gain power, and him not having the courage to articulate in leadership his own, and vast tracts of his party’s, views frankly and publicly from a position of principle?   

Hasn’t Israel been allowed to operate for 70 years without boundaries. Isn’t it time for it to learn to live in peace with its neighbours?

Or is peace in the Middle East just a pipedream?

Jim Taylor

READ MORE: Letters: Why the faux outrage about Israel’s Basic Laws?

IT has been cogently argued by several writers in The National recently that it is legitimate to criticise the Israeli Government without intending anti-Semitism and this point is well made. In the majority of nations, unfortunately, the actions of the government in power do not generally reflect the attitudes of the people – witness the current Westminster Government, for example.

However, I believe the fact that criticism of a nation does not imply hatred of its communities also applies in the case of religion. This means that I may make legitimate criticisms of extreme versions of Islam as enacted by its adherents, without suggesting that all Muslims hold these views. In other words, when nations or communities behave in ways which are unacceptable to most right-thinking people, it is right to call them out, regardless of their history or culture.

On the extreme right there has been a danger that all Muslims are dangerous and a threat to national cultures – witness the "Tommy Robinson" case – while on the extreme left there has developed a view that all Palestinians are innocent victims and all Israelis are fanatical killers. Clearly The National journalists would not support either belief but there is still a danger that more nuanced views sometimes get lost in the crossfire, and as David Pratt points out in Thursday's edition, attitudes on both sides become polarised, more extreme, and more dangerous.

I believe there are several reasons for the apparent rise in anti-Semitism on the left of the Labour party. Because of Jewish success in the world of finance (originally because in mediaeval times Christians were not allowed to lend money) it has been easy to conflate being Jewish with being an "evil banker". It is always easier to stereotype than examine the case of individuals.

However, it is hard to deny that another reason for the rise in anti-Jewish attitudes within Labour is the number of Muslim Labour voters who have used the party to voice these anti-Jewish views. Although the majority of party members do not share them, it appears they are reluctant to challenge the belief, for example, that all Muslims (and specifically those in Palestine) are victims, and that therefore all Jewish people are the aggressors, presumably as they wish to retain the votes of Muslim communities.

This is not to support the conspiracy-theory belief that regards Muslims as all attempting to turn Britain into a part of the caliphate – there may be those who hold this view, but it is clear that adherents of moderate Islam are keen to stress their support for Western values of democracy and freedom of speech.

However, there appears to be a belief among many liberal thinkers that the best way to neutralise militant Islam is to ignore it and hope that its adherents will eventually assimilate. Thus, issues like the mass "grooming" of vulnerable young women by Asian Muslim men went unchallenged in the belief that to challenge these actions was indicative of racism – and it appears that belief is still to some extent ongoing.

As a feminist and a religious believer, albeit of a liberal sort, I have found the rise of militant Islam particularly disturbing. In my previous life as an academic I saw young women students begin to adopt extreme versions of Islamic dress, apparently on the basis that covering the whole body would prevent aggressive male sexual attention. I believe such attitudes are insulting both to women – in that they are responsible for male sexual aggression – and to men, as no man of my acquaintance would dream of attacking women in this way.  I believe I and others (including moderate Muslim women) have a right to challenge these attitudes.

In a wider context I believe it is right to challenge the desire of some Islamic groups to live what amount to parallel lives within Britain, failing to integrate into the wider community despite being welcomed there. In the past, Jewish communities have been particularly successful at retaining their cultural identity yet playing a constructive role in wider society. Sadly, many of these communities are now genuinely afraid of their future in Europe – in France, for example, where there is a significant number of immigrants from former French North Africa, there have been several well-publicised murders of Jews by Muslim extremists. Thankfully, this has not happened here, but it is understandable after the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish race that many still live in fear.

It is reasonable to make the point that the Holocaust may explain some of the aggressive actions of the Israeli state, but it does not excuse them. However, the same point applies to extreme Islam – we may understand the historical and cultural problems that have produced it, but that does not mean we should let its excesses go unchecked. Let us move away from seeing particular communities as victims or aggressors, and focus on challenging attitudes which are antipathetic to our accepted liberal values of democracy and respect for individual human rights wherever we find them.

Dr Mary Brown

READ MORE: Criticism of the Israeli state should not be outlawed

READ MORE: Behind street thugs like Tommy Robinson lies an extreme-right threat​