By Daniel Taub, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Last week, I was privileged to address the remarkable We Believe In Israel conference. The view from the podium was incredible: 1,500 impassioned friends, advocates and allies of Israel; people of different backgrounds, faiths, and politics, all standing together to show their commitment to the country’s future. Seeing the energy and dynamism of the crowd, it was hard not to feel optimistic.
But I was also struck by a quote from Golda Meir echoed by one of the other speakers: “Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never afford.”
The last year has not been easy for Israel or Jews in the Diaspora.
It has been difficult because we have been forced to confront not only physical threats to our existence, but more insidious threats as well. Physical attacks against Israel have been accompanied by a concerted campaign to deny Israel the legitimacy to defend itself.
These efforts have sadly become commonplace in some quarters of academia, the media, and the political landscape.
Sadder still is to see people who love Israel grow accustomed to this phenomenon, or even feel resigned to watching it grow worse in the years ahead. It is easy to forget, in this climate, the positive stories that continue to define Israel today.
In the face of a systematic campaign to boycott Israeli goods and services, it is easy to ignore that the Israeli economy has not only grown every year for the last decade, but year on year outstripped the average for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Amid all the heat generated in Israel’s recent election campaign, it is easy to miss the light: that more than 70 percent of the electorate turned out to cast not just a vote for their party of choice, but a vote of confidence in our state’s future. Facing the threat of terror on our borders, it is easy to overlook that the Israeli people are consistently ranked among the happiest nations in the world.
It is also easy for many people to forget, in the midst of the negative stories in this country, how strong and multifaceted the relationship between the UK and Israel truly is. Not just because bilateral trade reached a new peak in 2014, and continues to grow.
Nor because of the remarkable collaborations in science, medicine, and technology that propel both countries to the forefront of innovation and progress. Nor even because of the shared ideals, of liberty, democracy, and the rule of law, that underlie a deep mutual commitment to the welfare of the other, a commitment that Prime Minister David Cameron, described this month as “unbreakable.”
But, at root, because of the individual friendships with Israelis and the people of Israel that I encounter wherever I go in this country, from Bradford to Belfast, from churches to chambers of commerce, from members of the public to Members of Parliament.
It is important, moreover, to remember how dedicated our friends in this country are to our cause, and to making a positive contribution to the future of our entire region.
From the recent Commons debate proposed by Michael McCann MP and featuring speeches from both Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel to explore how the UK can constructively help to work towards long-term peace and prosperity, to the grassroots organisations that proudly carried Israel’s standard last summer, we are constantly made aware – if we ever needed reminding – that we do not stand alone. None of this is to understate the scale of the challenge ahead, or to excuse complacency.
On the contrary, the threat of extremism, whether in the form of attacks on Jews or an assault on the Jewish state, will spread unless all those who care about the future of our people take a vocal stand against it, and strip away the veneer of liberalism under which it hides. But there is no greater gift that we can give the extremists than our own, unwarranted despondency.
The relationship between Britain and Israel, and its future potential, is too precious to surrender to those who only have contempt for both countries.
As we commemorate the delivery of our ancestors from slavery this Pesach, this is the time to celebrate our freedom as a nation, and to remember that our destiny lies in our hands.