(JNi.media) Recently, I spoke with British Member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer who was in Israel to take part in the international Jerusalem Leaders Summit/Public Policy Summit in Jerusalem. Mr. Helmer represents the East Midlands region, and is head of delegation for the UK Independence Party.
In Contrast to Medieval Theocracies “I’m here because I chose to be here; nobody sent me,” he declared “Our political group in the European Parliament is keen to be supportive of Israel’s position because we recognize Israel as being an oasis of stability and of the values we hold dear: democracy, freedom, free-market enterprise, and the rule of law. And in enormous contrast to medieval theocracies that surround and threaten Israel, Israel is doing a great job and deserves our support.”
EU’s “Dodgy” Labeling Policy I asked Mr. Helmer to explain why the English public and the EU in general favor the discriminatory practice of labeling exported products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights as if they are not part of Israel.
“It’s absolutely wrong,” said Mr. Helmer. “Europe should be helping to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem by supporting these enterprises which provide employment to large numbers of Palestinians. It’s also wrong because if you look around the world at countries where we have concerns about human rights, where do we start? Russia? China? Saudi Arabia? Are we going to apply sanctions to all those countries? Are we going to stop buying Saudi Arabian oil? Of course we won’t.
“So to single out Israel on these very dodgy grounds as one country of many countries where we might have questions seems to me outrageous, and it is typical of the European institutions’ knee-jerk emotional reaction. They don’t think things through, and then they impose their solution on the member states. The democratically accountable governments of the member states, including Britain, have no say in this matter. We are simply told by the lords and masters in Brussels what we have to do. That is why we in Britain want to get out of the European Union.”
Israel’s PR Problem MP Helmer stressed that Israel must address its public-relations problem, especially given that “the bad guys are particularly good at getting their propaganda out there. There is a job to do with mainstream media and also with social media. You [Israel] need to have a very serious communications strategy. The other side has a very easy story – ‘the people in Gaza are suffering dreadfully, Israel has been heavy-handed and is blocking their development, Israel has settled in places it has no right to be according to the UN agreement’ – but there is an Israeli side of the story which is not coming through, and maybe we can help a little bit.”
Jihadism Is No Longer a Middle East Problem I asked Mr. Helmer to comment about how the Jihadism that Israel has faced is now becoming a European problem with the mass influx of refugees from Muslim countries.
“It is a problem on an epic scale,” Mr. Helmer agreed. “I question the word ‘refugees.’ Some, of course, are fleeing disastrous situations, but many are economic migrants some from Syria and other countries. What we are facing is numbers on a scale we can’t cope with, and a completely different culture with completely different values, people who are not prepared to adopt our values and integrate into our society. Some have even declared themselves in opposition to our values and are keen to change our society. We are prepared to help people who are in desperate straits and claim asylum, but we do not want tens or hundreds of thousands of economic migrants determined to overthrow our way of life.”
As the British Parliament prepares for a referendum next year on reconsidering its membership in the European Union, Mr. Helmer said he is concerned that the EU demonstrates “absolute chaos, in policy terms. The British people are seeing more and more that Europe is simply incapable of responding to crisis, whether involving the euro or immigration. Take Angela Merkel. She started out saying, ‘All Syrians are in a war zone, they’re all entitled to refugee status, let them all come. Europe will welcome them.’ Within weeks, that high-flown rhetoric turned into razor-wire concentration camps – ‘holding centers,’ I think they call them. We are now hearing stories of outrageous behavior in those camps as people demand more than Europe is able immediately to provide. I think European citizens see this.” The British prime minister, he continued, “has held the line against European requests that we should accept a prorated share of migrants. He’s said in clear terms what we are prepared to do and not to do. The British people simply won’t accept very large-scale immigration in addition to the large-scale immigration that we already have.”
Britain and Israel – a Complex Relationship I noted that in many ways we owe the rebirth of the Jewish state to England, starting with the significant Balfour Declaration of 1917, and yet England seems to have turned against Israel.
“That’s perhaps a little overstated,” he responded. “We used to be an empire and controlled large parts of the world and we could therefore make promises and expect to keep them. The geopolitical situation changed, we ceased to be the top nation, and the responsibility for carrying forward the promises made went first to the League of Nations and then to the United Nations, and now to some extent to the United States. So when people write to me and say, as they do, ‘Israel is behaving in a bad way and you should oppose the Free Trade Agreement between Europe and Israel,’ I write back, ‘Hey, guys, think who is responsible for the present situation.’
And the answer is, first of all, Britain. We were involved in setting up the state of Israel. Secondly, the Arab states around Israel, who have failed to take in the Palestinian refugees for many decades. Thirdly, Israel — and we do criticize some of the things Israel has done — and fourthly, the terrorist groups and countries around Israel that fire rockets into Israel. There are many people involved in the problem and let’s not blame Israel for everything when this is a multi-factorial problem.”
Finally, I asked Mr. Helmer to comment on the future of the Israel-UK relationship.
“I hope they’ll be very good,” he answered me. “We were hearing yesterday about the enormous Israeli commitment to the high-technology industries. If you want to boycott Israel, you’ve virtually got to boycott the Internet, because so much of the hardware and software that goes into running the Internet is actually coming out of Israel. There are commercial imperatives. Yes, there are negative attitudes toward Israel in Britain, but there are many positive ones too. There are friends of Israel in Britain, so I wouldn’t give up hope. We need to be more outspoken and argue the case for Israel.”