Israeli settlements are not the real barrier to peace

Whenever the world’s only Jewish-majority state affronts their sense of morality tens of thousands of Britons march through London. But, revealingly, they’ve turned a blind eye to Syria’s barrel-bombing of civilians and its illegal use of chemical weapons.

The moral failure of many Britons is multiplied at the United Nations, supposedly the world’s home of human rights. Over the past decade the UN has condemned Syria eight times but has 223 times attacked the nation in which, if you are Christian, homosexual or other minority, you are probably safer than anywhere in the Middle East. In his final speech as secretary-general even Ban Ki Moon admitted this imbalance was “absurd”. “Monstrous” would be my description.

The UN’s one-sided approach was on display again with a motion demanding an end to settlement-building by Israelis. Thanks to the UK and, more surprisingly, the US, it was allowed to pass. While construction in disputed territories does undermine peace prospects the focus on the issue has been engineered by Palestinians and diverts attention from their failings.

Bigger barriers to peace include polling that finds at least one million Palestinians view Islamic State positively. Then there’s Hamas, the proscribed group that runs Gaza, and its charter’s genocidal call to kill Jews. Or, if the UN is really looking for root causes, how about the antisemitic “educational” materials circulating in schools in Gaza and the West Bank?

When you are surrounded by people who want you dead, Israelis can’t be blamed for not rushing to repeat what happened after their 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Vacated settlements became launchpads for missile attacks. I’ve visited the bomb shelters that Israeli schoolchildren scurry to when alarms sound.

What those who deserted Israel at the UN miss, including Barack Obama and Theresa May, is that today’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be understood within the context of the radicalisation of the region. Israel is in the front line against radical Islam and, in the words of the author Sam Harris: “We are all living in Israel, it’s just some of us haven’t realised it yet.” And the “we” includes the majority of peace-loving Muslims and other victims of Islamist terror. Israel is far from perfect but the world’s democracies should do more to understand that it has always been located in a tough neighbourhood — and never as tough or as besieged as today.