Britain should move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and have the Queen open the new premises in a show of solidarity with the Jewish state, senior Conservative Michael Gove has said.
The former Education and Justice secretary has called for the move as a marker in opposing the rising tide of antisemitism, which he says is being dressed up as antizionism.
The gesture would prove that Britain was “not going to be intimidated by those who want to treat Israel as a second-class state,” Gove said.
Israel is the only country in which the British embassy is not located in the nation’s capital, and the only British ally which the Foreign Office has steadfastly refused to let the Queen visit.
Gove’s call comes days after Prime Minister Theresa May announced the British government would be adopting an official definition of antisemitism formulated in May by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), reading:
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
But Gove has gone further, explicitly denouncing antizionism – opposition to the Jewish nation-state of Israel – as antisemitism.
“No other democracy is on the receiving end of a campaign calling for its people to be shunned and their labour to be blacklisted,” Gove wrote in an article for The Times.
“This is antisemitism, impure and simple. It is the latest recrudescence of the age-old demand that the Jew can only live on terms set by others. Once Jews had to live in the ghetto, now they cannot live in their historic home.”
Whereas the official definition has been adopted as a means to stamp out hate crimes against Jewish people in Britain, Gove has chosen to highlight a wider problem with antisemitism on the political left in general, from the National Union of Students all the way up to the leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.
Answering the perennial question: ‘Why hatred against the Jews?’ Gove wrote: “For those on the left addicted to guilt-tripping and grievance-mongering, who believe that poverty is a consequence of western exploitation and that bourgeois ethics lead to oppression, the existence of a political entity that is a runaway success precisely because it is a bourgeois-minded, capitalist-fuelled, western-oriented nation state is just too much to bear. Their ideological prejudices have collided with a stubborn, undeniable, fact.
“So what do they do? Keep the prejudices, of course, and try to get rid of the fact. Try to undermine, delegitimise and reduce support for Israel. Make it the only country in the world whose right to exist is called continually into question. Make the belief in that state’s survival, Zionism, a dirty word.
“Denounce, as the NUS president has, a British university for being a ‘Zionist outpost’. And instead call organisations pledged to eliminate Israel such as Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’, as Jeremy Corbyn has.”
At a lunch of the Conservative Friends of Israel in London this week, Mrs May said it was “unacceptable that there is anti-Semitism in this country”.
“It is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics,” she said, adding: “Of course, I am talking mainly about the Labour Party and their hard-left allies.”