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Will Tony live to see his dream come about?

31 January, 2019 — By John Gulliver

Dr Tony Klug

I WARMED towards Tony Klug, a Camden man, the moment he revealed he had a fine sense of his own mortality.

He had been taking questions on Sunday evening at the JW3 Centre in Finchley Road after his one-hour talk on the 71-year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians when, in a resigned voice, he said the solution would “see him out”!

When he first began his research in the early 1970s – he wrote papers, sometimes for the leftish Fabian Society, became recognised as a sound Amnesty International man, lectured in the UK, Washington and Israel – he believed he’d live long enough to see some kind of a solution.

He could claim, in fact, that it was he who in 1973 gave birth to the “plausible” concept of a two-state solution – an idea that was taken up by various authorities.

For decades, in effect, he became a one-man crusade for the idea.

“The heartbreaking conflict between Israelis and Palestinians should have been – and I believe could have been – ended years ago, within the turbulent century that gave rise to it,” he told the packed hall.

The conflict had gone on for so long that – and here he repeated himself – it would “see him out”.

He’s the kind of public intellectual I like. A pure thinking man, and a philosopher to boot!

He emphasised to a questioner that the “Two State solution” – the Palestinians and Israelis living side by side – was only the “framework” for a solution. First things first, he reasoned.

It wasn’t a matter of semantics. It would all take time. But eventually, he hoped, they’d get there.

But by then, he implied, he would have gone.

After a prologue on the history of the conflict beginning in 1948 he revealed that he had been attracted to human rights causes by the rabbis of the orthodox Jewish school he had attended in Hendon. They had taught him passages from the Bible that had clearly shaped him – “Seek peace and pursue it”; “Love thy neighbour as thyself”, he had learned. And then he quoted Rabbi Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another. This is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary.”

But the present Israeli government, whose leaders often claim to act in the name of Jews worldwide, is “gearing itself – in total defiance of quintessential Jewish principles – to withholding fundamental human rights from millions of people indefinitely”, he went on.

He accused the Israeli government of “aligning itself with some of the most repugnant right-wing regimes and causes on the planet”.

Jews around the world will be forced to choose, he said, between “tribal loyalty to contemporary Israeli policies and enduring loyalty to existential Jewish values”.

He worried about “far-right elements … cashing in on the poisonous atmosphere,” a development partly obscured by the “real but over obsessive focus on the rise of anti-semitism on the left”.

If only the Tony Klugs of this world had the influence – and, perhaps, power – to get conflicting sides together, how things would work out differ­ent­ly, I believe. Instead, the Machiavellian politicians who come and go remain in charge, and look where that has got us?

The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis seems of little consequence to life on these shores but over the decades, it could be argued, it has caused a “blowback” that has been felt in Manchester, Westminster Bridge, and here in Tavistock Square where flowers are still laid for those who died when a bus was blown up just a few years ago.

• The meeting was organised by Meretz UK, a left-of-centre body whose local HQ is in West Hampstead. Its director is Lawrence Joffe, whose book Abandoned Sacred Places is due to be published later this year.


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