This spring, Theresa May informed the British people that the centenary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 would be "celebrated with pride".

It was the deed signed by our government giving full support to the setting up of a Jewish homeland in what was Palestine. Muslims, Christians and Jews had lived there for centuries.

Robert Fisk, the incisive, veteran Middle East journalist describes the document as "the most mendacious, deceitful and hypocritical document in modern British history".

Two years ago, Boris Johnson described the Declaration as "tragicomically incoherent".

Now, he believes it was a fine thing "that reflected the great tide of history". In that tide of history, five million inhabitants were displaced - and the suffering of the Palestinians only got worse. So, just maybe, a celebration would be a tad discourteous, vulgar even.

After the Second World War, the case for a Jewish state was absolute. I read Anne Frank as a teenager and understood why Israel had to exist. I even believed the appealing myth that Israelis made the desert bloom. I support the right of this state to exist, and yes, bloom. But I do not, cannot, on humanitarian grounds, back all Israeli actions since they settled on their promised land.

Yes, it is a small country and its people have been through the most tragic of histories. However, it has more military and diplomatic might than any of the Arab states.

According to Dr Douglas Reilly, an expert on nuclear safeguards, Israel has a massive arsenal of these lethal weapons which can be delivered anywhere in the world.

Propped up by its western allies, Israel ignores international laws and obligations and does what it wants. I think the country has been harmed more by its unwavering friends than by its unforgiving enemies. The US, UK and EU should have tempered Israel's excesses which at times befit a rogue state.

This year is also the 50<sup>th anniversary of the Six-Day War. Tensions had been building up between Israel and its neighbours – Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Arabs were thrashed by the well-armed, well- trained Israelis, who took over Gaza, the Sinai peninsula, West Bank and the Arab part of East Jerusalem.

Six Day War Arab Israeli 1967
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War GPO/Reuters

The victors will, for sure, be celebrating this massive takeover. People around the world witnessed this expansion with shock and awe – and did nothing. Today, a number of influential Zionist politicians dream of a greater Israel.

Only the most naïve would believe these are pipedreams. Illegal settlements are not stopped, the rights of non-Jewish people are not protected by the state which sees itself as an exemplary democracy. Even Bethlehem, birthplace of Christianity, is beleaguered.

Which brings me to the third anniversary – the 10<sup>th year of blockades and Israeli domination of Gaza, known now as the biggest outdoor prison in the world.

This began after Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel, won the Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas terrorises Israeli civilians and in retaliation, Israel collectively punishes everyone living in Gaza.

Look at numbers of casualties and deaths on both sides and it is clear who is David and who Goliath. This month, Israel slashed electricity supplies.

Here is what Amnesty said in a statement: "For ten years the siege has unlawfully deprived Palestinians in Gaza of their most basic rights and necessities... the economy has declined and humanitarian conditions have deteriorated severely. Sewage is everywhere, hospitals can't function, children are ill. Concerned Jewish campaigners here and in Israel are appalled."

This column, which I have penned with some trepidation, officially "proves" me an anti-Semite. Why? Because last December the British Government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHLA) definition whereby disagreement with or condemnation of Israeli policies and actions are now assumed to be anti-Semitic.

This May, this definition was challenged by Hugh Tomlinson QC and Sir Geoffrey Bindman. Their legal opinion concluded that freedom of speech was sacrosanct and that proper criticism of Israel could not be banned in a free, democratic country. But nervousness had, by then, spread, with much damage done.

The media has become overly conscious of the anti-Semite slur as have other institutions. Universities and charities are now exceedingly nervous of discussing or debating Israel/Palestine issues.

Only human rights agencies and some activists now, it seems, dare to expose and question what Israel does to Palestinians.

This is unacceptable and will prove counterproductive. Our politicians and those who tacitly support these measures need to know that young, violent terrorists proliferate when there is social disintegration, suffering and injustice without redress.

Israel could decide to forsake aggression and its policies of perpetual punishment and, instead, diminish Hamas's status by renewing, educating, respecting and uplifting the people of Palestine.

What returns there would be on such ethical investments. This year would then be remembered forever as the year when the Middle East took a step away from hate and into hope.