LISTEN: Interview with Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain

Paul from Bethlehem Voice interviewed Mark Regev, Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain.

Listen to the interview here and read the transcribed interview below:

I’m with Mark Regev who is the new ambassador for Britain from Israel. Now Mark what is it like for you being the ambassador for Israel?

It’s an honour and a privilege to represent the new state of Israel, only 68 years old, here in the United Kingdom, Britain and Israel share a long history together but ultimately what unites us today is that we are two free peoples, two democratic peoples, two countries that cherish pluralism and tolerance freedom and this is a very strong bond.

Now you’re representing Israel, what are some of the biggest threats Israel faces today?

Obviously the middle east is going through a very very violent and tumultuous period, we are seeing countries virtually disintegrate before our eyes, Iraq,Libya, Syria, Countries torn apart, falling apart and we are seeing radical extremists move in to the cracks and they are not good for anyone, they are an enemy of all free peoples and so in this turbulent environment of the middle east Israel has many challenges, I’m confident that we will be strong enough to meet those challenges.

Is Isis a threat to Israel and the Palestinians as well?

Isis, this sort of militancy, this sort of extremism is a threat to everyone, I mean let’s be clear, they target Jews and Christians and other non Muslims, they also target Muslims themselves who don’t accept their very extreme brand of Islamism and it’s actually interesting because of the threat posed by these extremists who threaten us all we are seeing Israel working closely with Arab governments to fight this common threat and it’s actually helping not in an evident way, it’s bringing people together in this common struggle against this nealism.

Now Israel has been facing many lone wolf attacks, we’ve had stabbings, shootings and car ramming attacks into bus stops, how can the nation deal with something like this when it’s a lone wolf?

It’s a problem, there is no simple answer, but let’s be clear, it’s Israel’s problem but it’s not only Israel’s problem, we’ve seen these sort of knifing attacks across Europe, we’ve seen these drive by attacks deliberately ramming civilians we’ve seen it in Israel but we’ve seen it in France, this phenomena of extremist Islamist terrorism is a threat to us all. Now I wish I could tell you that I have a magic solution, I don’t have a magic solution, we must be strong, one of the most important things in dealing in what is called lone wolf terrorism is to deal with the incitement because people are being radicalized, they are being poisoned by a message of hate that is there on the internet and I think we have to deal with this issue of incitement, people are not born to hate, they are being taught to hate and we have to deal with the preachers of hate.

Now you have represented Israel in the media, why is the media so biased against Israel?

The media is critical, I accept that as a fact, some people would even argue that their job is to be critical, it’s my job to make the best case I can for my country and I hope I am doing that.

Does it make you angry sometimes when they twist the story to denigrate Israel?

I’m a human being so obviously at times I get angry but I always try to be professional, I always thing I’ve got to say my truth, I’ve got to make the case for my country and that case is a good case.

I mean ultimately in the vast middle east from North Africa to central Asia in the whole greater middle east there is only one true democracy, only one country where governments are elected in elections, there is only one country with a free press, with a free trade union movement which gives freedom of religion, there is only one country with free universities, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, those freedoms are enshrined in Israeli behaviour, I have a lot as an Israeli, I have a lot to be proud of.

Now we hear a lot about Zionism, it seems that Zionism has become the new anti Semitism, is that the case.

I think it’s true, I think people sometimes disguise hatred for Jewish people saying no we only hate the Jewish state. But I think it is anti Semitism to say that the Jewish people alone on this planet are the only people not entitled to national self determination, look if you say that you believe in the principle of peoples having the right to national self expression, to independence and sovereignty, out of all peoples on this planet you say Jews don’t have that right, What’s that all about?

So it’s OK to criticise Israel but it’s when it’s a heart of hatred?

Look Israelis are self critical, you just have to read Israeli newspapers watch the debates in our Knesset in our parliament, Israelis are self critical, everything the Prime Minister says in my country is open to very vibrant public debate, it’s not about legitimate criticism, it’s about there are those out there who are demonising the Jewish people and the Jewish state, there are people who are preaching hatred and unfortunately that is anti Semitism.

How can Christians support Israel today?

I think it’s important that all Israel’s friends in the Christian community speak up, I’ve just spoken today and I’ve said it’s important for people to stand up for Israel, to make sure that their voices are heard, especially Christians who live in democratic countries where governments respond to public opinion, from members of parliament who respond to letters from their constituents. People who support Israel, People who want to show solidarity with Israel, it’s important that they make their voices heard because they can say something that is obvious, Israel’s detractors are not embarrassed about making their voices heard so it’s crucial Israel’s Christian friends also stand up and be counted.

Why do you do what you do?

I believe in what I do, I couldn’t do it if I didn’t believe in it, My father was born in 1931 in Magdeburg Germany, it was the wrong place and the wrong time to be born a Jew, That his family survived the holocaust when many other Jewish families from the city where he was born didn’t, that is something I don’t take for granted and I often think had there been an Israel in 1938 instead of 10 years later in 1948 in other words if Israel had been in existence before the second world war, how many innocent lives could we have saved, there would have been a refuge, there would have been a place for all those people who wanted to flee Nazi Europe, there would have been a place for them to go, and I have that very strong conviction that Israel’s cause is ultimately a just cause a righteous cause and it is my honour and I say that very sincerely it is my honour to represent my country.

What is your prayer finally for the nation of Israel?

I want to see peace, I want to see peace between Israel and our neighbours, peace based on security, peace based on justice, peace based on recognition, mutual recognition I’d like us to be able to build a middle east not on a middle east on conflict and hatred but a middle east of cooperation a middle east of reconciliation, I hope that is possible.

Ambassador Mark Regev, thank you very much.

Thanks for having me I appreciate it.