Making Friends with Israel
By Gilad Atzmon
December 12, 2009
In case you want to learn how to appeal to the Jews, British diplomat Matthew Gould gives a free lesson. Haaretz reported yesterday that Gould, the newly appointed British Ambassador to Israel, wasn’t too connected to his Jewish roots until he served in Tehran. Seemingly, now he knows where he belongs.
“Being posted in Iran made me go to shul more regularly”, says the new Ambassador. “I did it to reach out to the Jewish community in Iran and to show that Western embassies were watching out for its welfare,” Gould explains. “I was determined to go to shul to show both the Jewish community and the Iranian authorities that I was Jewish and not embarrassed of it.”
Gould says that his two-year stint through 2005 in Tehran as deputy head of mission has given him “a real expertise in an issue of profound security importance to Israel.”
The religious process that began in Tehran continued in Britain. “I got more active [with Judaism] and over the last couple of years I’ve spent a lot more time and a lot more thought on my Jewish identity and what it means to be Jewish,” says Gould.
Haaretz reports that Gould and his wife go to shul every week at the West London Synagogue. As a child, Gould recalls going to Middlesex New Synagogue in Harrow with his parents, who still live in London as “proud but inactive” members of the Jewish community.
In Israel, Gould says he and his wife “will keep a Jewish household,” and “bring up their kids in the Jewish tradition, when those children are born.” Gould knows some parts of Israel, from his visits there as a child, when he would occasionally go to the Liberal Movement’s Kadima summer camps. He also has family – second and third cousins – in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. What can we say, he is not only a Jew but a product of a typical Zionist upbringing.
Considering Israel’s crimes against humanity in general and Palestinians in particular, one would expect Britain to send an impartial ambassador to the Jewish state. Judeo centric by admission and Zionist by education, Gould is certainly not the man for the job. As Gould himself admits, “the fact that I’m Jewish means I will come with a particular insight and sympathy and understanding, because the story of my family is in certain respects the story of the people of the State of Israel.”
A month ago British TV Channel 4 broadcasted an exposè of the UK Jewish Lobby. It revealed also that 50% of MPs in the shadow cabinet are Conservative Friends of Israel members. The Jews in Britain or at least their rich are drifting away from the Labour party. They gamble on the Tories. Consequently David Miliband, the foreign minister is doing whatever he can to bring the Jewish fund raisers back home to his Labour party.
At the end of October Miliband accused the Conservative Party over their new alliance with the far right in Europe and with a Polish Politician with an Antisemitic past. Some prominent British Jews were not impressed. They knew exactly what Miliband was up to, they realised that Miliband, himself a Jew, was attempting to destabilize the Jewish new alliance with the Conservatives.
Fatigue is not exactly one of Miliband’s characteristics. As we learn from Haaretz, he is now sending the Jewish State a kosher ambassador, one who ‘goes to the Shul every Sabbath’, one who vows to keep a “Jewish household”. One who understands and is ‘sensitive to Israeli security matters’.
Ambassador Gould maintains that he is going as “the British ambassador, to pursue British policies and advance British interests.” So here are two simple questions to the new British Ambassador to Israel. How are you going to act when the British interests and the Jewish ones oppose each other? How will you act when you notice a clear discrepancy between Israeli actions and humanism?