So first let's look at what Peres actually said, because everyone in the British press from the Daily Mail to the Telegraph, are paraphrasing what he said, rather quoting or than linking to the original interview.
Peres: Our next big problem is England. There are several million Muslim voters. And for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected. And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment. They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution, despite [issuing the pro-Zionist] Balfour Declaration [in 1917]. They maintained an arms embargo against us [in the 1950s]; they had a defense treaty with Jordan; they always worked against us.
Morris: But England changed after the 1940s and 1950s. They supported us in 1967, there was Harold Brown and Mrs. Thatcher [who were pro-Israeli].
Peres: There is also support for Israel today [on the British right].
There's more to it, but aside from Peres' quip about anti-semitism, this is the significant part. Yet there's absolutely nothing here that can be factually denied. MP's do cater to Muslim voters, even at the expense of Englishmen. If the British political establishment sells out its own people for Muslim favor, is it any surprise that it does the same to Israel?
The same British press that constantly bashes Israel has predictably tried to spin this as the President of Israel attacking England, as opposed to the England's political establishment. What Peres actually said, is that England panders to Muslims because of a large Muslim population, and that it has a history of opposing Israel. Again, both are unarguably true, and Peres' statements are a mild version of the story.
"Facing (Ernest) Bevin across the broad table, I had to tell myself that this was not Hitler seated before me, but His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs... By this time he was in full swing and turned his attack upon the Jews. What extraordinary demagoguery! Banging his fist on the table, at times almost shouting, he charged that the Jews were ungrateful for what Britain had done for them in Palestine..."
From the Diary of James G. McDonald, My Mission to Israel, Page 25
Mind you, this is an American diplomat comparing the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Adolf Hitler... in 1948. It was not a compliment, and the language was far harsher than anything that Peres has said.
That sort of comparison seems outrageous, until you actually delve into the ugliness of British policy toward Israel at the time. Despite the Palestine Mandate, the goal of British foreign policy had become to prevent Israel from being created by any means necessary. That included reversing prior commitments, inciting Muslim massacres of Jews, blocking Jewish refugees from the Holocaust from escaping to Israel, arming and organizing Arab armies to invade Israel.
During Israel's War of Independence, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb (aka Glubb Pasha) and Brigadier Norman Lash commanded the Jordanian Legion. During the war it was Glubb who cabled Lash with the message, "I have decided to intervene in force in Jerusalem".
This is how the scene was described in "O Jerusalem" by Larry Collins and Dominique Lappiere.
A few minutes later, Colonel Bill Newman, the Australian commander of the Legion's Third Regiment, and Major Bob Slade, his Scottish deputy appointed to lead the task force, assembled their Arab officers... Spreading his maps in the white glare of a storm lantern, Newman stabbed his finger at Jerusalem. "That's where we're going," he said. An explosion of joy and shrieks of delight drowned his words.
Once the Arab Legion helped ethnically cleans the half of Jerusalem they captured of its Jewish inhabitants, England was the only country to recognize the Jordanian annexation of the city.
After the war British forces conducted aerial provocations and attempted to use those to stage an invasion. Jordan's King Hussein had a piece of paper handed to him, a request for British troops. Only when it was clearly evident that there was no support back home for renewed hostilities, was further violence averted.
To summarize, during and before the War of Independence, England played much the same role in regard to Israel and the Arabs, that the Soviet Union would later play. Both direct and indirect hostilities took place between British and Israel forces. British commanders oversaw the ethnic cleansing and annexation of East Jerusalem, the Kfar Etzion massacre and many more. There is a great deal of history here, and too much of it to go into.
Considering the hostility of the English political and cultural establishment to Israel in the present day, when unions and academic groups call for boycotts of Israel, when judges allow vandalism on the ground that Israel was the target, and when Baroness Jenny Tonge claims that Jews harvested organs in Haiti-- Peres' remarks are if anything an understatement.
There are reasons for this behavior. Cynical and cruel ones, but reasons.
In the 30's and 40's, the British political establishment decided that the way to secure their control over the region was through a series of backward Arab Muslim client states. So it decided to bar Jews from Israel to keep the Muslims happy and avoid any independent State of Israel. There were many in England who disagreed with that policy and spoke out against it. And the aftermath of that policy was disastrous. Israel was reborn regardless, and the Arab client states were overthrown and turned into Arab Socialist dictatorships, who made common cause with the USSR.
England protected Egyptian forces in the Sinai, despite the fact that Egypt had already demonstrated its hostility to their presence. A few years later, England would be describing Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser as another Hitler, and covertly trying to work together with Israel to reclaim the Suez Canal.
Iraq and Syria became Baathist dictatorships. Today both have fallen under the shadow of Iran, which carried out attacks on British troops in Basra, took British sailors prisoner, paraded them around, and then sent them back home. Jordan exists only because Israel and the US took over, where Britain left off. One day, it will also fall. Egypt is on its last legs of the Mubarak dynasty, which is likely to be succeeded by the Muslim Brotherhood.
England may be the next step for a Muslim Brotherhood take over. But rather than stimulating rational behavior, it has only stimulated more anti-Semitism, as if bashing Israel can somehow avert the inevitable. Of course it cannot. And will not. Pandering to Muslims will not preserve England. It will only put the very people who want to destroy England in positions where they can better control the political process. Meanwhile Cameron rushes ahead to demand that Turkey be allowed into the EU, because the disaster won't be complete until 30 million more Muslims flood European cities.
In the 30's and 40's, the British policy was to pander to Muslims and bash the Jews in the hopes of controlling the territory of the Palestine Mandate. Today it is still policy to do the same... in the hopes of controlling England itself.
It is easy enough to see how a policy that at least held some hope of useful gain has now become nothing short of desperate appeasement, masked by outbursts of frenzied hatred, that all involved pretend are completely normal. Attacks on Jews have hit a new high, much of that no doubt the work of Muslims. But the dialogue being carried on by the cultural and political leaders is nearly as bad.
I am no friend of Peres. I am actually a fierce critic of his, but he did not say anything that is not plain knowledge, or that can't be verified by numerous polls and articles. The response of the British press to run headlines such as "Fury as Israel president claims English are 'anti-semitic'" only demonstrates the level of bias, in the British press particularly in an article which does not actually manage to quote a single "furious" person.
As Cameron's latest visit to Turkey has shown, the political establishment continues to feel that pandering to Muslims and bashing Israel is in their interest. That is their unfortunate choice. There is plenty of history between Israel and England, both good and bad. And which is which has often depended on its leaders. The lack of leadership means that the behavior of a Brown or a Cameron are not surprising. But that same political establishment should ask themselves, what exactly have 80 years of pandering to Muslims brought them, except war on their own soil? And all the plays of Caryl Churchill and the films of Michael Winterbottom will not change that.
It is past time, that this very same establishment was forced to confront the bitter truth that its policies on the Middle East have backfired badly, that pandering to Muslims has turned its cities into war zones, and that worse is yet to come. England is coming into the same boat as Israel. Only as it has done before with Rhodesia, it is trying to sink the boat, rather than help bail it out. If England could work together with Israel when the Suez Canal was endangered, yet cannot when its own cities are endangered, one wonders exactly where its priorities are, and whether that is not exactly the same kind of misplaced priorities that has placed it in such peril today.