When President Trump this month stepped up and declared that the USA would move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, he honoured a campaign promise that was likewise made by Presidents Clinton, G. W. Bush, and Obama (though in all their cases they dishonoured it). Logic has it that he should have been praised. Instead there was histrionic clutching of pearls not so much by that trinity but by too many of the world’s current senior politicians and mainstream media, all of whom should be ashamed of themselves. The BBC, with characteristic disingenuousness, said that Trump had overturned “decades of official US policy“, carefully overlooking that US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 and has had it on the books with bipartisan support ever since.
I was immediately put in mind of this speech from Mordechai Kedar in which he explained how though Jerusalem was historically Israel’s capital it has never been the capital of any muslim potentate. I also recalled seeing a speech which was made in a debate in 2015 at the Oxford Union by Denis Prager. I nearly covered it then, but for some reason didn’t. Perhaps this timing is better.
The debate’s motion was This House Believes that Hamas is a Greater Obstacle to Peace Than Israel. In passing, I think this Learned Institution actually meant “…greater obstacle than Israel to peace” though their wording is unintentionally just as true.
Regular readers will know that I love it when speakers speak their minds, whether or not I agree with them. There is no mealy-mouthed fannying-about here: Prager goes straight for the jugular.
This speech is so important for what he says that, rather than criticise how he says it, I shall merely point out a few things. For instance…
Prager describes how President Reagan was greeted by howls of anguish and condemnation when he called the Soviet Union an evil empire. Reagan was right, of course. The body count alone is witness.
He discusses how that highlights the extraordinary way that academics, for whom unfashionable opinions are worse than wrong ones, still pay lip service to the bizarre notion that no culture may be deemed superior to any other even though the societies they create are manifestly so. (Bureaucrats, prelates, and other classes of self-regarding citizenry tend to be just as bad.)
We get a little comic relief in the shape of some female on the opposing side who is desperate to interject and displays body language like a spoilt primary school pupil. Eventually he allows her to voice her ‘killer question’ and proceeds ruthlessly to crush it.
One reason this speech is so relevant today two years after being delivered is that President Trump’s declaration caused Hamas to claim that he had “opened the gates of hell”. If that meant they would lob missiles into Israel, then what’s new? Trump evidently doesn’t give a rat’s grayling what Hamas says, and already the carefully choreographed flag burnings, lovingly broadcast on TV, have largely fizzled out. Claims that this would impede the peace process are risible as it hasn’t been going anywhere for years. There are plausible reasons to suppose it will accelerate it. Back to Prager …
He opened with cries of incredulity that this motion was even up for debate. It’s difficult to disagree, though for those of us passionately devoted to freedom of speech it’s encouraging to watch as a preposterous notion is destroyed, not by diktat but by reasoned argument.