Article by Dr Shimon Samuels published in The Times of Israel
12 September 2022
Born and bred in the United Kingdom and as Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, I feel concerned about the Jewish/Israel dimension of the three dramatic transitions that have occurred over the past three days:
1) Great Britain has a new Prime Minister;
2) The Loss of our Queen, whose 1953 Coronation we watched from an in-law’s window along the London route;
3) The United Kingdom has a new King.
1) The new PM Liz Truss, in one line, has said it all: “I would be open to moving the UK Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
And further: “I want to see the scourge of antisemitism eradicated. That means driving it out of our culture, starting with the schools.” This is resonant with the same emphasis on school textbooks – following our 2014 findings – taken seriously by then PM David Cameron.
Former Editor of the London-based Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard quotes PM Truss: “We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon.”... and, as a former Foreign Minister: “[We are] challenging the singling out of Israel at the UN... Britain has voted with Israel... Bodies like the Human Rights Council have been used to peddle a particular agenda, which frankly has strong elements of antisemitism.”
2) We mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth ll. She was beloved and close to the UK Jewish community, especially to Jonathan Sacks, the late Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth. She supported Holocaust commemorations and memorials within the UK, as also holding a great concern for Holocaust survivors.
As a young Princess, she drove a military ambulance under the German Blitz and, with her family, refused refuge in Canada until the end of the war.
In 2015, the Queen, while visiting Germany, was taken to a Holocaust site, Bergen Belsen, to mark the camp’s liberation by the British 11th Armoured Division, in April 1945.
Despite the pageantry of official royal visits, the Queen, under British Foreign Office policy, had never visited Israel, while Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE had been on the agenda.
Her late husband, the Prince Consort Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, made an unofficial visit to the tomb of his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, in the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.
As a nun, she had saved a Jewish family from the Nazi round up in Greece, thus receiving the Yad Vashem Memorial recognition as a “Righteous Gentile”.
3) In May of this year, Prince Charles took the place of his mother to read the annual Queen’s speech to open Parliament. On that occasion, it included a call for “legislation that would ban boycotts that undermine community cohesion.” This could be construed as a Bill against BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel.
Another example of a pro-Jewish/Israel stance came when Charles agreed to be a speaker at the Holocaust Forum in Yad Vashem in January 2020. Present on the occasion, I was captivated by the Prince’s warning to world leaders over “hatred and intolerance still lurking.” He then followed in the footsteps of his father Prince Philip and his son William, each individually, by visiting his grandmother’s grave in Jerusalem.
Prince Charles had ‘unofficially’ visited Israel on two other occasions: the 1995 funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, after his assassination, and the 2016 funeral of Shimon Peres.
Should the “up and down” status continue, we will urge the British Foreign Office – after the Coronation and in the spirit of the Abraham Accords – to remove its “unofficial ban,” so that the monarch and his family Royals, in future, be received as “official” visitors to Israel.
Long Live the King!