Sunday, August 1, 2010

Peres accuses England of being anti-Semitic, "deeply pro-Arab and anti-Israeli"

Israel's President Shimon Peres said that England's attitude towards Jews was Israel's "next big problem," saying the UK was "deeply pro-Arab ... and anti-Israeli", adding: "They always worked against us." He quipped that "There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary."

Peres' comments, made on July 26, were buried deep in a lengthy interview with historian Benny Morris for Tablet magazine. But they were eventually picked up by the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph, which reported that the president had angered both Jews and non-Jews in the U.K.

In the interview, Peres apparently accused British parliamentarians of pandering to the country's Muslim voters.

"Our next big problem is England," Peres said. "There are several million Muslim voters. And for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected. And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment."

Britain had a history of anti-Israeli policy, Peres said.

"They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution, despite [issuing the pro-Zionist] Balfour Declaration [in 1917]. They maintained an arms embargo against us [in the 1950s]; they had a defense treaty with Jordan; they always worked against us."

He added: "[T]hey think the Palestinians are the underdog. In their eyes the Arabs are the underdog. Even though this is irrational. Take the Gaza Strip. We unilaterally evacuated the Gaza. We evacuated 8,000 settlers and it was very difficult…Why did they fire rockets at us, for years they fired rockets at us. Why?"

The U.K. had stood by as Israel had faced violence from Hamas Peres said.

"For eight years they fired and we refrained from retaliating. When they fired at us, the British didn’t say a word."

In making his feeling on Britain known, Peres was widely seen as responding to remarks made last week by U.K. Prime Minister David, who during a trip to Turkey accused Israel of turning Gaza into a "prison camp".