Israeli Ambassador addresses Norwich audience
As Israel approaches its 70th birthday celebrations in April, an invited Norwich audience of Jews and Christians recently heard the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, give three major reasons why Britain should still be proud of the Balfour Declaration of 100 years ago.
Speaking at the Norwich Hebrew Congregation’s Synagogue, the ambassador reminded listeners that the past year was one of significant anniversaries:
The year 2017 marked 70 years since the United Nations made its historic vote on November 29, 1947, for the establishment of the Jewish State which was declared by David Ben Gurion, head the Jewish Agency, on May 14, 1948.
It was 100 years since the signing of the Balfour Declaration in London in November 1917 - sometimes called ‘the birth certificate’ of Israel, which paved the way for the momentous UN vote, 30 years later.
June 10, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War when Israel ‘miraculously’ survived an attack by 456,000 soldiers of the combined Iraqi, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian armies. Arab forces also had more than double the amount of tanks, and close to four times the number of combat aircraft. But Israel survived and also recaptured the Western Wall and the Old City of Jerusalem.
Mr Regev said that some people who are hostile to Israel and the Balfour Declaration sometimes claim that “Britain gave the land (that wasn’t theirs) to the Jews.” This is certainly not true as it was the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, and to their historic, national home in the land of Israel.
“The importance of the Balfour Declaration is that it recognises that point. Britain, which was a pre-eminent world power in 1917, recognised the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.”
Today, he added, the official view of the UK Government is that it is still proud of the role that Britain played 100 years ago, for three reasons:
Britain did the right thing in supporting the persecuted and dispersed Jewish people in seeking a safe haven, and thus helped to correct centuries of injustice.
Britain and Israel are today friends and allies in trade, security and defence in a way that benefits both countries.
Another reason to be proud of the Balfour Declaration is that Israel today is the only country in the Middle East (a vast area of 17 countries with a total population of over 400 million people) that reflects and practices the democratic values of Britain, such as a flourishing free press, a free trade union movement, civil liberties and freedom to seriously speak out against their government - fundamental values that reflect King John’s Magna Carta of 1215.
Israel (population 8.7 million) is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. Every citizen has equal rights. Twenty per cent of its citizens are Arabs. Israel has a thriving multi-ethnic democracy: 77 per cent of Arab citizens living in Israel say they prefer living in Israel.
Members of the East Anglia Friends of Israel group were among those invited to hear Mr Regev on February 4. The group seeks to strengthen links with Israel as it celebrates its 70th birthday – the overall theme will be the “Heritage of Innovation,” drawing upon Israel’s successes as “the Start-Up Nation” and the cutting-edge technology developed locally, with more than 3,000 high-tech companies.
The UK is Israel's second largest trading partner - bilateral trade is worth £5 billion a year and has doubled in the past decade.
Pictured above is Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev.