How Shindler Missed: The CarCrash Limmud Interview with Ambassador Hotovely

Limmud has posted the video of this session.

Colin Shindler is a former Professor at SOAS.  His questions to the Ambassador of Israel Tzipi Hotovely were simply rude, crass and asinine; they did nothing except to signal his virtue as a Leftist and to reveal his own prejudices. Ambassador Hotovely dealt with them brilliantly, making him look thoroughly bovine. Do watch – it’s a Master Class.

Shindler began by asking whether the fact that 75% of Jews don’t vote for Trump  – despite his warmth towards Israel – signifies a rift between the “illiberal” Israeli government and the “liberal” diaspora! Subtlety and nuance are a foreign language to this guy it seems.

He then asked whether in view of the fact that US evangelicals heavily support Trump , does PM Netanyahu “prefer Jesus over Moses”!

Come on, are you serious? Apart from anything else, you think an Israel Ambassador is going to comment on US elections?

Shindler then misrepresented what Ambassador Hotovely said to the Board of Deputies: “You recently told British Jews that the Naqba was all lies”. She never said that, why can’t he get his facts right?

Here is what she said:

I think the importance of bringing this story up is also to fight a very, very strong and very popular Arab lie. And the lie is the Nakba. We just mentioned this week the UN resolution, the partition plan, the fact that the Palestinians, the Arab neighbours had the chance to have, again, I think throughout history this is the most shameful moment where they choose to deny the right of the Jewish state to exist, they choose to fight and then they made up a story that is called the Nakba.  

It is clear from the context that the Ambassador’s reference to the “lie” was to the genocidal falsehoods that followed the Arab failure to accept UN Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan): namely, the lies that European Jews were imposters in Israel; that there should be no Jewish State in the Middle East; that Zionism is racism; and that there was moral equivalence between the events of 1948 and the Holocaust. How refreshing to have an Israel Ambassador unafraid to court controversy in the interest of truth.

At 10:55 you can see Shindler claim that Israel ignores the ‘expulsion of Arabs in 1948’. Ambassador Hotovely gives that ridiculous suggestion short shrift: Many Israeli historians (eg Benny Morris, Efraim Karsh) have written about the events of 1948.

At 16.15 Shindler said that Trump Peace Plan (‘Peace to Prosperity’) mandated a Palestinian State four years after ‘annexation’, if that were to happen. It’s simply a lie, no other word for it. Not only is it a lie: the Plan stipulates what must happen before the US will support a Palestinian State: Palestinian leaders must recognise Israel as the Jewish state; must reject terrorism; must allow for special arrangements that address Israel’s and the region’s vital security needs; must build effective institutions and must choose pragmatic solutions. Also Israel is to maintain security responsibility and control of the airspace west of the Jordan River.

Shindler’s interview becomes still more bizarre. He suggests that if Israel rejects a ‘two state solution’ (which it hasn’t and won’t) that would violate the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Why? There is no connection whatsoever.

Ambassador Hotovely’s response is suitably dismissive: “Do you want to see progress or do you just want to say things that sound good?”

The Ambassador’s comment at 24:28 is worth documenting.  The most expansive peace offer to the Palestinians was made by Ehud Olmert. He even offered to give up the Western Wall. But (as reported by Raviv Drucker) Mahmoud Abbas walked away. The Ambassador said that Condoleeza Rice reports in her book  why Abbas rejected the offer. Here is what he said: “I’m 80 years old. This is about the Right of Return. I want 5 million Palestinians back in Israel”.

Shindler claims that the Israeli Democracy Index found that only 24% of Israelis favoured extension of sovereignty into Judea and Samaria.  No idea where that figure comes from: The truth is double that number, at around 50%.

It’s hard to choose the crassest Shindler interview question but a strong contender comes at 30:00.  Speaking about the fight against antisemitism, he noted how easy it was to access things that Corbyn had said in the past.   So – he suggests – it’s a mistake appointing a politician as Israel’s Ambassador rather than a diplomat, because a politician has history which the ‘enemies of Zionism’ can access and publicise.

Quite frankly this was grossly insulting to the Ambassador. If she was not so charming and diplomatic she would have said so. May the day never come when Israel chooses its Ambassadors according to their acceptability to antisemites!

Finally at 42:00 Shindler chooses a question from ‘Joe of Dulwich’ (Joe Millis?) accusing Ambassador Hotovely of ‘welcoming’ Lehava into the Knesset. Come on – we know she didn’t. She responds robustly, calling Lehava ‘extreme’. She didn’t invite them, the Knesset did as part of a factfinding excercise. But since when did facts ever bother the Ambassador’s Leftist detractors?

Tzipi Hotovely is proving to be a fantastic Ambassador for Israel. Limmud’s choice of interviewer was completely inappropriate. I can think of at least seven people who would have done a way better job: Jonathan Sacerdoti, Jonny Gould, James Marlow, Professor Daniel Hochhauser and Simon Barrett.  Or how about a woman? Emily Schrader, Melanie Phillips?

Limmud programmers please note! Your Pavlovian devotion to the Left severely backfired!

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Update: Watch how Tzipi Hotovely as Deputy Foreign Minister responded brilliantly to Mehdi Hasan’s hostile Al Jazeera interview (February 2016)