Benny Morris recently published an interview here with Shimon Peres. The interview is in a relatively new magazine called Tablet – we have linked to it on the right. Worth a read!
Benny Morris’ interview of Shimon Peres is a wide-ranging interview that covers a variety of historical and current topics.
Here is one excerpt, the latter part of which was picked up by a “shocked” British press:
How do you explain the rise in the delegitimization of Israel in the world in recent years? Do you agree that this is happening?
Let me give you a contrary picture: Israel is the most popular country in the world. [Peres’s media aide giggles. “Benny, you won’t leave here depressed,” she says.] For 2,000 years there was friction between the Vatican and the Jews. There are, what is it, 1.3 billion Christians? Now we have excellent relations with the Vatican. This is no small thing. And we have good relations with India, also hit by Muslim terrorists. And that’s together 3 billion. And [we now have] excellent relations with China.
Right. But why the delegitimization, especially in the West?
Firstly, there is a problem in the Scandinavian countries. They always want to appear like yefei nefesh [the Hebraism roughly translates as “bleeding hearts,” with an undertone of hypocrisy]. And I don’t expect them to understand us. Sweden doesn’t understand why we are at war. For 150 years they have not had a war. There were even Hitler and Stalin, but they kept out of the picture. As did Switzerland. So, they don’t understand why we are “for war,” as if we really like wars. It’s like Marie Antoinette didn’t understand why the people didn’t bake cakes. The same logic.
But it goes a bit beyond [Sweden and Switzerland]?
Our next big problem is England. 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. 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.
But England changed after the 1940s and 1950s. They supported us in 1967, there was Harold Brown and Mrs. Thatcher [who were pro-Israeli].
There is also support for Israel today [on the British right].
But in Labor there was always a deep pro-Israeli current.
But [the late 1940s prime minister and Labor leader Clement] Attlee was [anti-Israel].
Anyway, this [pro-Israeli current] vanished because they 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 Strip [in 2005]. We evacuated 8,000 settlers and it was very difficult, after mobilizing 47,000 policemen [and soldiers]. It cost us $2.5 billion in compensation. We left the Gaza Strip completely. Why did they fire rockets at us, for years they fired rockets at us. Why?
Maybe because they don’t like us?
Peres: You fire rockets at everyone you don’t like? For eight years they fired and we refrained from retaliating. When they fired at us, the British didn’t say a word.
Maybe it is anti-Semitism?
Yes, there is also anti-Semitism. There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary. But with Germany relations are pretty good, as with Italy and France.
But there is erosion of public pro-Israel sentiment—at the universities, in the press. I’m not talking about the governments.
I’ll tell you why. On television there is an asymmetry that can’t be corrected. What the terrorists do is never broadcast. Only the response is broadcast. And then critics charge: “This is disproportionate.” You don’t see the terrorist act. When a lawful nation fights a lawless nation there is a problem in the media. When an open regime fights a secret regime there is a problem.