The Corner

Re: Oxford Union disgrace

Mona, you’re right that Oxford’s debate on the “existence” of Israel shames Oxford. You’re right, too, to note that the sovereignty of every state in the region – Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq – is pretty much of the same vintage: the 1940s (Iraq’s a little older – 1932). But, in the transnational equivalent to those European laws that forbade Jews full property rights, only Israel’s sovereignty is regarded as eternally conditional.

It’s also odd to me that people are always banging on about going back to the “1967 borders” or the “1949 armistice”. Why stop there? Why not go back to the 1922 partition of British Palestine, when a couple of colonial officials decided to give 78 per cent of the land to what’s now Jordan? If you propose reopening that one, people think you’re crazy. But in the scheme of things why should 40- and 60-year old lines on the map be considered as temporary features but an 80-year line be regarded as seared into the landscape for all time?

Still, that’s the only advantage of the Oxford debate. It reminds us that it’s not a border dispute or a territorial dispute but, for one party, an existence dispute. It’s a telling comment on the state of affairs that more and more Europeans are growing more and more comfortable with more and more open support for the absolutist position of Hamas and the PLO charter. I’d disagree with you only on one point, when you write that “anti-Semitism has made a roaring comeback in Great Britain”. As these things go, and by the standards of the Continent, Britain has a more or less honorable record. That’s what makes the current virulence – from the BBC’s institutional anti-Israelism to the increasing number of cemetery desecrations to the security guards required by more and more synagogues – a mark of shame in a traditionally tolerant society. The British dishonor themselves and their history in adopting the grubbiest of Continental pathologies. These days Britain is more European than it knows, if only when it comes to anti-Semitism.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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