Thursday, March 18, 2010

ORFTORFU: the deafening silence of Israel's "friends"

As part of the USA's shrill and undiplomatic response to Israel's decision to keep building in "East" Jerusalem (take a look at the map, the area of contention is actually North Jerusalem, contiguous to Jewish neighbourhoods, and not in any area of significance to Palestinians), Middle East envoy George Mitchell found a convenient excuse not to attend a planned conference in Israel, giving a public and humiliating slap on the wrist to Netanyahu. As Lieberman pointed out in his usual direct style, imagine the reaction if Israel banned Arabs from buying or building in West Jerusalem (go on lefties, try and claim they do - yawn).

Meanwhile today, the world's reaction to Hamas launching a deadly rocket attack was to allow the EU's senior foreign minister to still make a visit to Gaza the very next day.

Israel builds houses in an uncontentious area, under a policy that had previously received PRAISE from the US government, and is hauled over the coals in the most embarrassing way possible. Hamas murders civilians and is rewarded with a senior diplomatic mission.


I worry for the future of Europe and America with this kind of moral judgment.
In the US, where I am currently on a flying visit, it is clear from the discussions I have with random non-Jews everywhere from Oklahoma to Minnesota to New York that the Obama regime is hopelessly out of step with the American public on his views and treatment of Israel. I am thankful that grassroots support remains in place, and will try and post something more detailed on the conversations I have had with folks over here in the last few days on this subject, and why I believe this bond will outlast the current President. 

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

ORFTORFU: Not In My Name

As the originator of the acronym "ORFTORFU", I am proud to post this fantastic extract from Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy. It sums up most of the ORFTORFUs in one elegant piece, and I will be adding a permanent link to it. This chapter was written by Chas Newkey-Burden.

‘When my father was a little boy in Poland, the streets of Europe were covered with graffiti, “Jews, go back to Palestine,” or sometimes worse: “Dirty Yids, piss off to Palestine.” When my father revisited Europe fifty years later, the walls were covered with new graffiti, “Jews, get out of Palestine.”’
-  Israeli author Amos Oz

Everyone knows the proverb of the three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. As shown throughout this book, the modern hypocrite can be very skilled indeed at seeing and hearing no evil. When women are stoned to death in Arab states, when gay men are brutalised in Caribbean countries, the hypocrites’ ability to cover their ears and look the other way is remarkable.

However, the triumvirate cannot be completed for when it comes to the state of Israel the modern hypocrite just cannot stop speaking evil. They will fail to condemn – and sometimes actually support – terrorists who blow up school buses and pizza parlours. They will march hand in hand with people who – quite literally – fundamentally disagree with every basic political principle they claim to hold dear. They will openly question whether Israel even has the right to exist.

And all along the way, they will show themselves to be devastating hypocrites.

The anti-Israel brigade would have us believe that the motivation for this vitriolic hatred of Israel is a genuine, compassionate concern for the fate of the Palestinian people. But do they really care about the Palestinians, or is their compassion somewhat selective, to put it politely? In reality, are they only interested in Palestinian suffering for as long as it gives them an opportunity to bash Israel?

This hypocrisy is not entirely modern. When the West Bank and the Gaza strip were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, those occupations of ‘Palestinian land’ drew not a whimper of protest from the people who spat blood at the ‘occupation’ of those territories by Israel. When Jordan killed thousands of Palestinians and drove just as many of them from their refugee camps into Lebanon, Israel-bashers saw nothing wrong with that at all. 

Neither did they take issue with Kuwait when it deported Palestinians in the aftermath of the 1991 Iraq war. Why were they silent in all these cases? Because none of them gave them a chance to bash Israel, of course.

Well established as this hypocrisy is, in the 21st century it has well and truly taken root as ‘supporting’ the Palestinians had become achingly fashionable. So when Hamas-sparked violence led to Palestinian students at a West Bank university being brutally beaten and shot by their own people, the Westerners who claim to support the Palestinians raised not a single word of protest or concern. Likewise, when Palestinian women are stabbed to death in “honour killings” across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no anti-Israel Westerners lose a single moment’s sleep on their behalf.

Likewise, when Palestinian children are hospitalised after being caught in the crossfire of fighting between rival Palestinian factions, there is not a word of condemnation from the West. When Palestinian children are deliberately forced into the line of fire by their own people, where is the concern from those in the West who claim to be their biggest supporters? When terrorists are found to be hiding hand grenades in the cradles where Palestinian babies sleep, where is the outrage?

If Israel is accused of torturing Palestinian terror suspects, the hypocrite is indignantly up-in-arms in protest without establishing a single fact but when Palestinians suspected of collaborating are proven to be brutally tortured – sometimes to death – by members of Islamic Jihad, again the silence is deafening.

Similarly, if these people are truly concerned about the Palestinians, then where are their words of praise for Israel when it flings open its hospital doors to them? Just one example: in May 2007 an eight-day-old baby from the Gaza Strip that was suffering with congenital heart complications was treated in a hospital in Israel. An Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance drove into the Gaza Strip, dodging Qassam rockets that were headed for Israel and collected the child for treatment at the Sheba Medical Center in Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Such cases are far from rare. But I’ve never heard a word of praise for these treatments from any of those in the West who claim to be concerned over the fate of the Palestinians.

It’s the same with the refugee question. The heartbreak that the hypocrite feels for Palestinian refugees is only expressed in the context of slamming Israel. When it’s pointed out to them that the Arab world has done precious little to help the refugees, their interest dwindles. And what of the hundreds and thousands of Jewish refugees who were deported from Arab states? They’ve never received any compensation – as Palestinian refugees have from Israel – and no Westerner has ever cried them self to sleep on their behalf.

Any action taken by Israel to deal with Palestinian terrorists is met with abuse and distortion. The case of Jenin was typical. Following scores of suicide bombings organised from within the Jenin refugee camp, Israel entered the camp in search of the terrorists. As the fighting ended the media leapt into action to demonise Israel’s action. The Guardian described Israel’s actions as “every bit as repellent” as the 9/11 attacks. The Evening Standard cried: “We are talking here of massacre, and a cover-up, of genocide.” The Independent spoke of a “war crime” and The Times claimed there were “mass graves”. 

The head of the United Nations Refugee Agency was quickly out of the traps to describe the affair as a “human rights catastrophe that has few parallels in recent history”. The EU was nor far behind in its condemnation.

Let’s examine the facts of this massacre, this genocide. In total 75 people died at Jenin. 23 of these were Israeli soldiers and 52 were Palestinians, almost all of them combatants. By even the most hysterical, loaded standards of language this does not constitute genocide, nor anything of the sort. Indeed, the Palestinian death toll would have been much higher – and the Israeli death toll non-existent – had Israel simply bombed the camp from the air. Instead, to avoid civilian casualties, Israel put their own soldiers at risk, sending them in on foot to search through booby-trapped homes.

When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next visited Israeli troops, one of them asked him: “Why didn’t we bomb the terrorists from the air? That operation cost the lives of more than 20 of our comrades!” Sharon replied: “That is the painful and inevitable price that those who refuse to abandon their humanity have to pay.” In return for paying the painful price of eschewing air attacks, Sharon and the brave Israeli soldiers who entered a terrorist camp on foot were accused of genocide and massacre and spoken of in the same terms as the 9/11 terrorists.

However, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. In 2007, another Palestinian camp, which had become swamped with suicide bombers, was attacked. This time, the gloves came off. The camp was surrounded by tanks and artillery that fired indiscriminately at the inhabitants. Snipers backed up this fire. The camp’s water and electricity supplies were cut off. Thousands of innocent Palestinians were forced to flee but not before at least 18 had been killed and dozens injured. The camp itself was reduced to rubble. Ultimately, the fighting killed more than 300 people and forced nearly 40,000 Palestinian refugees to flee.

This time, there was next to no coverage in the British media. There was no talk of genocide or massacre. Rather than condemning the attack, the EU and UN were quick to express their support to the army. Even the Arab League came out in support. So what had changed? You guessed it, this time the army dealing with the camp was not the Israeli army but the Lebanese army. How terrifyingly revealing this is of the hypocrisy of those who claim to care about fate of the Palestinians.

During the fighting, tanks and artillery had also fired at residential areas of Lebanon and civilians were inevitably caught in the crossfire. Just months earlier, the anti-war brigade has been marching through the streets of London to express their concern for the people of Lebanon who were caught in the crossfire of Israel’s fighting with Hezbollah. Strangely, the marchers couldn’t get off their self-righteous backsides when Lebanese civilians were being shot at by Islamic groups: this time, the people of Lebanon could go to hell as far as they were concerned.

How different it had been in the summer of 2006. “We are all Hezbollah now,” the modern hypocrites had chanted as they marched in fury against Israel’s latest battle for survival, as the rockets of that terror group were raining down on its cities and kibbutzim. If “Not In My Name” was an embarrassing slogan, then “We are all Hezbollah now” was little short of insane. How could these marchers, who say they oppose misogyny, tyranny, homophobia and genocide, march in support of an organisation which fanatically and brutally promotes all those things? Because they’re hypocrites, of course, and because their frenzied hatred of Israel has utterly stupefied them. It was embarrassing for them, therefore, when Hezbollah’s leader Hasan Nasrallah told them: “We don’t want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you.” As Martin Amis neatly put it, these demonstrators were “up the arse of the people that want them dead”.

But what were they doing up there? Many no doubt believed that during the war they were backing the little guy of Hezbollah against the big guy of Israel. The truth was somewhat different, though. Hezbollah was no little guy, it was backed by millions of pounds of Iranian and Syrian money. Neither were the two sides of the conflict as clear-cut as they believed. The Israeli Arabs of Haifa spent much of the summer sitting in bunkers to avoid being killed by Hezbollah rockets. Many of these Arabs cheered on the Israeli army throughout the campaign.

Similarly, Ethiopian Jews who Israel had previously bravely airlifted from oppression and starvation were particularly badly hit in Tiberias. How incredible that back in England, many of the groups whose members wear white Make Poverty History wristbands and campaign on Third World debt were willing to cheer as Ethiopians were bombed by Hezbollah.

So no, Israel was not necessarily the Goliath of the conflict. How could a nation the size of Wales, surrounded by millions who want it wiped off the map be a Goliath? However, the courage shown by its soldiers was immense. Lt Colonel Roe Klein was marching at the head of a unit of troops when a Hezbollah man threw a hand grenade at them. Lt Klein jumped on top of the grenade to save his troops, losing his life in the process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah were employing the standard cowardly tactic of hiding among women and children, with wheelchair-bound people a particular favourite.

Throughout Israel, the population showed itself to be as brave and humanitarian as ever. Newspapers were full of classified advertisements in which families offered to house those from the north of the country who were under Hezbollah fire. Ultra-Orthodox Jews took in secular Jews, people living in small flats flung open their doors to large families with pets. The blitz spirit also saw youngsters from the big cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv organise treats for Arab children from Galilee. The government arranged for celebrities to visit the bunker-ridden population of the north and even flew in a gay porn star to cheer up gay Israeli troops. As Hezbollah’s rockets rained down over northern Israel, weddings in the region had to be cancelled. So cinema producer Eliman Bardugo organised for those affected to have the chance to be married en masse on the beach in Tel Aviv. Some 50 couples took him up on the offer.

Meanwhile, in London, left-wing people took to the streets to cheer on Hezbollah as it butchered Israeli people. As, for instance, a Hezbollah rocket hit a kibbutz and killed 12 people including an ultra-orthodox Jew who was sitting next to a hippy with pierced ears. The more of these incidents happened, the further the marchers climbed up the arses of the people who wanted them dead.

It would have been familiar territory for many of them. When I went to see the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie in London’s West End, I had sat in an audience littered with white English men and women wearing keffiyeh scarves and some wearing Hamas badges. I see these people – and the marching Hezbollah-wannabes – as terror groupies, a sort of left-wing equivalent of the little boys who play army in playgrounds across England. But these are adults so they really should know better.

I’m not sure the terror groupies look the other way on the topic of Palestinian terrorism. They seem – sorry to say – almost turned-on by it. You surely can’t, after all, overlook something as big as the blowing up of buses or pizza parlours. There is no ‘bigger picture’ regarding people who do that. And why would you appropriate the uniform of the man who backed all that terrorism unless you actively had, well, a bit of a thing for him? For much of the audience, the play about Rachel Corrie must have been a gleefully pornographic experience. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes a picture can be worth far more than that. There are more than a thousand words in the play, about Corrie, the young US activist who accidentally died during an anti-Israel protest in Gaza in 2003. But none of them shed light on the now-canonised Corrie as much as a photograph taken of her by the Associated Press a month before her death. She was snapped burning an American flag and whipping up the crowd at a pro-Hamas rally.

Naturally, there is no mention of this photograph in the play. Neither is it mentioned that thanks in part to demonstrations of the International Solidarity Movement with who Corrie travelled to the Middle East, the Israel Defence Force was prevented from blocking the passage of weapons which were later shown to have been used to kill Israeli children in southern Israel.

Instead, the play is full of naïve anti-Israel propaganda from the mouth of Corrie. “The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance,” she wrote in 2003 as Palestinian suicide bombs were slaughtering Israelis. Lest we forget who the real star of the story is, towards the end of the play Corrie writes: “When I come back from Palestine I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work.” We’re back in self-indulgence territory, aren’t we? Not in my name. My name is Rachel Corrie. We’re all Hezbollah now. Thousands are dying but it’s all about me. The hypocrisy of the audience was depressing. I wonder if any of were even aware that Hamas had danced over Corrie’s grave when she died? To the Palestinians, a dead young American girl was a wonderful publicity coup. Had any of the audience travelled to the Middle East in a Corriesque trip of self-indulgence, the Palestinians would have crossed their fingers in the hope they too died.

As I say, the modern hypocrite is delighted to overlook misogyny, homophobia and brutal clampdowns on all manner of person freedoms in Arab states and the other side of this coin of hypocritical currency is the way they simultaneously overlook the extraordinarily positive record Israel has on such issues. Take the case of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister who took the top job in 1969, just 21 years into the country’s existence and a full decade before England had our first female Prime Minister. In some Arab states, women are not allowed to go to school. In Israel they can become the most powerful person in the country.

Meir herself was well aware of this spectacular contrast. In 1948, when she was a negotiator with the Jewish Agency, she set off on a secret mission to meet King Abdullah of Transjordan. The meeting was secret so she travelled with the Agency’s Arab expert Ezra Danin and posed as his wife. She recalled: “I would travel in the traditional dark and voluminous robes of an Arab woman. I spoke no Arabic at all but as a Moslem wife accompanying her husband it was most unlikely that I would be called upon to say anything to anyone.” How hypocritical it is of those left-wingers in the West that they can hate a country with tales such as these throughout its history.

It’s just the same with gay issues. Left-wingers who say they passionately believe in gay rights manage to put that passion aside when it comes to their view of the only country in the Middle East with a positive record on the issue. A wonderfully positive record, in fact. In 2006, within days of the country’s fighting with Hezbollah ending, I flew to Israel to research a feature on gay life in the Holy Land. Before leaving, I’d been warned by anti-Israel Westerners to expect to find a very homophobic country. Had any of them bothered to visit Israel, they’d have discovered it’s nothing of the sort. Workplace discrimination against gay people is outlawed; the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has openly gay members; in schools, teenagers learn about the difficulties of being gay and the importance of treating all sexualities equally. The Israel Defence Force has dozens of openly gay officers who, like all gay soldiers in its ranks, are treated equally by order of the government.

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples are eligible for spousal and widower benefits. The country has gay football teams. Most mainstream television dramas in Israel regularly feature gay storylines. When transsexual Dana International won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest as Israel’s representative, 80 per cent of polled Israelis called her “an appropriate representative of Israel”.

These facts are there for all to see but it is only on visiting Israel that you discover how happily the different sections of the society coexist. I interviewed a gay Israeli man on Tel Aviv’s “Hilton beach” – it is opposite the Hilton hotel – which is also known as the “gay beach”, where men openly check each other out and pick each other up. It is neighboured by the city’s religious beach which has separate bathing days for men and women. And all this is just yards from Tel Aviv’s Independence Park, which is the main gay cruising area in Tel Aviv. The cruising park in Jerusalem has the same name.

Elsewhere in Tel Aviv is the House of Freedom. Opened in the late 1990s, this is a shelter for gay, lesbian and transgender youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been thrown out of home after coming out to their parents. At the House they are counselled by social workers who then visit the parents and attempt to bring about reconciliation. Those attempts are often successful, each year hundreds of gay youngsters return to a better home thanks to this remarkable institution.

And everywhere you go in the city, gay men walk hand in hand more openly that they even would in London’s Soho. It is staggering that Western left-wingers who claim to believe in gay rights can be so furiously opposed to tolerant Israel. The tolerance is not confined to Tel Aviv, either. When some in Jerusalem opposed the staging of the gay pride parade in the capital in 2007, the media presented a city on the brink of civil war. I happened to be in Jerusalem that week – though I didn’t attend the parade – and I witnessed no unrest. Perhaps the strongest opposition I witnessed to the parade came from a taxi driver. I asked him what he thought about the parade and he sighed deeply before saying: “Oh it was terrible for the traffic.” He was right, too!

By hating Israel, the pro-gay-rights left are not just proving to be hypocritical, they are also endangering the one hope that gay Palestinians have. The leading gay rights organisation in Israel organises Arabic gay evenings where gay Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza strip are invited to come and party with Israelis – and many take up the invitation. “We are their only hope,” says one of the organisers. “If they came out where they live, they would be killed but they can come and party with us in Israel.” As has been documented by human rights groups, gay Palestinians are routinely tortured and murdered by their own people. They often flee to the safety of Israel.

The attraction that Israel should hold for believers in the rainbow alliance doesn’t end with its record on women and gay men. I remember on a road trip from the Dead Sea to Tel Aviv marvelling at a quartet of an ultra-orthodox Jew, an Arab, a uniformed Israeli soldier and a mini-skirt wearing girl in her late teens all engaging in friendly chit-chat as they waited for some traffic lights to change. Such sights are far from uncommon as Israel is home to one of the planet’s most diverse people: dreadlocked Ethiopians, and their fellow Africans from Yemen, Egypt and Morocco exist alongside people from Iraq, Iran, Russian and Latin America. Then there are Asians from the Far East and Israeli Arabs, the latter group enjoying more personal freedoms in Israel than they would in any Arab state.

My experiences in Israel might seem surprising to the reader who hasn’t been there – particularly given the predominance of reports casting the country as a villainous, apartheid state. There exists a peculiar unwillingness to accept good news from Israel, which contrasts with the way that paradigm-shifting reports on ‘The hidden modernity of Tehran’ are welcomed with open arms. When I attempted to include the scene that I had witnessed at the traffic lights in a magazine feature I wrote about the research trip to Israel, I had to go through an exasperating discussion with the commissioning editor. He didn’t seem to know that Israeli Arabs exist and insisted that the scene I described couldn’t have occurred. He’d never been to Israel but was quite sure that he was right and I was wrong.

He was in good company in his blissful ignorance. Within hours of my return from the trip, I received a call from a journalist acquaintance who asked me with genuine shock: “What’s all this about you going to Israel?” He said that a mutual journalist acquaintance of ours was “absolutely disgusted” with me for going there and that he hoped I was “going to put the boot in” when I wrote my articles. These were not close acquaintances, I hadn’t even spoken to one of them for nearly nine years and it must have taken them some digging around to find my new telephone number. They obviously thought it was worth the trouble to have a dig at a writer who was friendly to Israel. Apparently the “absolutely disgusted” man – a weekly columnist on a high-profile magazine – has since tried to get an article published that claims that Tony Blair murdered Yasser Arafat.

The editor of another magazine once told me I was not allowed to write that Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David in 2000. I asked why and he replied “because of a need for balance.” I pointed out that nobody, including Arafat, has ever disputed that he rejected Barak’s offer and the editor replied: “Well, I don’t know about that but you still can’t write it.” The article in question was an “opinion” piece and taking sides was the order of the day each week in that column. Not if the article was about Israel, it seemed. Get this for hypocrisy, though: the same magazine had happily published articles accusing Israel of “war crimes” and carried advertising accusing Israel of apartheid policies. Clearly, the need for balance is relative.

Not that there was much balance in the motion the National Union Of Journalists passed in 2007 to boycott Israel. As a writer I felt shame and despair at this motion. Those emotions of shame and despair were not joined by shock, though, because much of the British media has long been absorbed by a blind hatred of Israel.

Broadsheet newspapers print editorials that are so biased and distorted that Osama Bin Laden would probably blush at them and say: “Steady on! We can’t print that!” The BBC refuses to describe suicide bombers who blow up buses full of Israeli schoolchildren as “terrorists” even though it has used that term to describe bombers in London, Iraq and Indonesia. One of its correspondents told a Hamas rally that he and his colleagues were “waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian people”.

Why did the NUJ choose Israel for a boycott? The country has an entirely free press. If the NUJ wanted to boycott a country, then Russia, China, Zimbabwe and Pakistan would have been more sensible options, given their record on press freedom. The timing, too, was ridiculous. Shortly before the motion was passed, BBC journalist Alan Johnston was kidnapped by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. So why did the NUJ respond to this by boycotting Israel?

The coverage of the Alan Johnston case was riddled with hypocrisy. Every day, the BBC devoted acres of space to the story. Yet the BBC largely ignored the plight of young Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped by Palestinians. Indeed, the BBC refuses to even use the term “kidnap” in relation to the snatching of teenager Corporal Gilad Shalit, preferring to say he was “captured”. I was in Israel during Johnston’s captivity and had a conversation about his case with an Arab from the West Bank. He said: “I’m surprised that they took someone from the BBC. Everyone knows the BBC is totally biased for the Palestinians. I bet they’re not so for the Palestinians now, though!” When I told him that the BBC was just as pro-Palestinian as ever, he raised his eyes to the heavens. “That’s strange,” he said.

True. But then Auntie Beeb has long shown its true colours on the conflict. A 2007 leaked internal BBC memo written by Bowen blamed Israel for all the woes of the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that Israel had withdrawn two years earlier from Gaza!

Hmm, what we need is a man who can effortlessly show these BBC buffoons just how hypocritical they are. Step forward and take a bow Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel and all-round hero of both myself and my co-author. He was interviewed on the BBC during the 2006 Hezbollah conflict and made mince meat of his quizzer:

Interviewer: “How come so many more Lebanese have been killed in this conflict than Israelis?”
Netanyahu: “Are you sure that you want to start asking in that direction?”
Interviewer: “Why not?”
Netanyahu: “Because in World War II more Germans were killed than British and Americans combined, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the war was caused by Germany’s aggression. And in response to the German blitz on London, the British wiped out the entire city of Dresden, burning to death more German civilians than the number of people killed in Hiroshima.
“Moreover, I could remind you that in 1944, when the RAF tried to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, some of the bombs missed their target and fell on a Danish children’s hospital, killing 83 little children.
“Perhaps you have another question?”

Perhaps indeed! Perhaps the academics who chose to boycott Israel at the same time as the NUJ might have asked themselves some questions too. In 2007, they voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions in a protest supposedly on behalf of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, back in the real world a young Jordanian-Palestinian woman, was graduating with a Masters degree from Ben Gurion University in Israel. Dana Rassas was trained by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev, and then went on to study the Israeli water desalination program at the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies at Ben Gurion University. As a result of her studies in Israel, Rassas is now helping to solve Jordan’s water problems. If they boycotters had their way, she’d never have had any of these chances.

To take a wider view, why is it that so many people who cling to the notion of human rights when considering the plight of the Palestinians couldn’t give a hoot about other groups around the world like the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Armenians and the Chechens? Is it because these groups didn’t have the fortune of being in dispute with Jewish people? Either way, it is indisputable that the incessant focus of the human rights movement on the actions of Israel has allowed genuinely horrific human rights abuses in other parts of the world to go unnoticed.
As we keep seeing, whatever it does Israel cannot win and so we end up returning to the graffiti seen by Amos Oz’s father in Poland. First: go back to Palestine, then: get out of Palestine. Anti-semitism has always been dominated by contradictions. The Jews have been attacked for being both communist schemers and capitalists plotting to take over the world. They can’t stop sticking their noses into others’ business yet they also must be attacked for keeping themselves to themselves. They were taunted for being too weak when the Germans tried to eliminate them from the face of the earth and are now slammed for being too strong when the Arabs try the same trick.

Ironically, for all the attention and criticism that Western hypocrites throw at Israel, the biggest questioners of the state and its actions are Israelis themselves. Israel’s Supreme Court is a thorn in the side of the government and army and frequently overrules both. It regularly examines petitions brought by Palestinian people and rules in their favour. Many of its judgements have restricted the options open to the army and in passing them, the Court has acknowledged that its rulings will cause Israeli loss of life but insisted that such steps are needed in the interests of humanity.

When terrorist leaders who have arranged the slaughter of Israeli people are killed by the Israel Defence Force, there is no cheering in the street as is seen among Palestinians when another school bus is blown up by a suicide bomber, a favourite tactic of theirs as seen in November 2000. Instead, commissions of inquiry are set up to examine whether the elimination of these men who wanted to blow murder their children was ethical and correct. On and on it goes, this relentless self-examination by a country that has faced abuse, distortion and calls for its destruction since the very minute it was established in 1948.

But then that’s the thing about Israel: strong, plucky, moral, deeply self-critical yet determinedly happy and upbeat, it is everything the modern hypocrite is not. I love it.

Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy, written by Chas Newkey-Burden and Julie Burchill, is published by Virgin Books.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pavlov's sheep

This is an excerpt from an article in the Jerusalem Post today. I have highlighted certain passages for the morally impaired (these people are identified by the grating sound of repetitive bleating, usually a noise like "paaaaaaasport, paaaaaaasport"), as certain media and individuals still don't seem to have their priorities straight on what are the important things to take away from this story...

Arab countries may be complicit in the January 19 assassination of Hamas terror chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Hamas sources said on Tuesday, according to various reports.

Citing a report by Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Reuters quoted Hamas official Mahmoud Nasser as saying that Jordanian and Egyptian intelligence agencies had probably tracked Mabhouh prior to his assassination.

Nasser told the newspaper that there was evidence showing that Mabhouh had been targeted by moderate Arab countries because he had handled sensitive information concerning the activities of Hamas and other Islamist elements. He added that that assassination may have been carried out earlier than planned.

According to the newspaper, Nasser is in charge of Iran's ties with Hamas and had worked closely with Mabhouh prior to the latter's death.

Additionally, in an interview with Hamas's Al Aksa radio station from Damascus, Nasser confirmed Israeli claims that his boss had supplied weapons to Palestinian terrorists.

Nassar said Mabhouh "never stopped thinking about how to fight the [Israeli] occupation by supplying quality weapons to the Palestinian fighters. "

The aide also described how al-Mabhouh celebrated killing two Israeli soldiers in the mid-1980s by standing on one of the corpses.

Nonetheless, you bleaters will no doubt carry on with your Pavlovian reaction to the mention of the dirty word Is***l. Paaaaaaasport! Paaaaaaasport!

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

UN consistency - more holes than a Swiss cheese

In one of the biggest and most glaring cases of ORFTORFU ever, a senior spokesman of the UN has immediately and in the strongest terms, quite rightly condemned the outrageous statements of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, which included such morsels as "Let us wage jihad against Switzerland, Zionism and foreign aggression"and "Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against Muhammad, God and the Koran."

What makes this a nailed-on ORFTORFU is that it took a split second for the UN to come to the defence of Switzerland, which didn't even bother to be a member of the UN until 2002, whilst at the same time:
- continuing to exhibit frightening institutional bias against Israel, which the UN actually CREATED through its vote in 1947
- keeping silent about the outrageous statements made by Muslim and Arab leaders as well as numerous other people of influence
- failing to rebut Gaddafi's simultaneous mention of Zionism and its obvious implication to mean Israel (and perhaps Jews everywhere), despite the revocation by the UN, under duress, of their Zionism = Racism policy in 1990
- electing Libya to chair the ruddy UN Human Rights Commission!
- actively promoting the same agenda as Gaddafi via UNRWA, an organisation that  inculcates Palestinian children to wage a similar jihad against the "Zionist Entity" (we don't sully our tongues by saying the word Israel)

Absolute, rank hypocrisy. As usual. And people wonder why Israel couldn't give a shit what the UN thinks.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Fatah fairy tale

A fascinating article by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post:

Israel's is the only government that can force the rest of the world to recognize that Abbas is not an ally.

Fahmi Shabaneh is an odd candidate for dissident status. Shabaneh is a Jerusalemite who joined the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service in 1994.

Working for PA head Mahmoud Abbas and GIS commander Tawfik Tirawi, Shabaneh was tasked with investigating Arab Jerusalemites suspected of selling land to Jews. Such sales are a capital offense in the PA. Since 1994 scores of Arabs have been the victims of extrajudicial executions after having been fingered by the likes of Shabaneh.

A few years ago, Abbas and Tirawi gave Shabaneh a new assignment. They put him in charge of a unit responsible for investigating corrupt activities carried out by PA officials. They probably assumed a team player like Shabaneh understood what he was supposed to do.

Just as Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, reportedly had full dossiers on all of his underlings and used damning information to keep them loyal to him, so Abbas probably believed that Shabaneh’s information was his to use or ignore as he saw fit.

For a while, Abbas’s faith was well-placed. Shabaneh collected massive amounts of information on senior PA officials detailing their illegal activities. These activities included the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid; illegal seizure of land and homes; and monetary and sexual extortion of their fellow Palestinians.

Over time, Shabaneh became disillusioned with his boss. Abbas appointed him to his job around the time he was elected PA head in 2005. Abbas ran on an anti-corruption platform. Shabaneh’s information demonstrated that Abbas presided over a criminal syndicate posing as a government. And yet rather than arrest his corrupt, criminal associates, Abbas promoted them.

Abbas continued promoting his corrupt colleagues even after Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory. That win owed to a significant degree to the widespread public revulsion with Fatah’s rampant corruption.

With Israel and the US lining up to support him after the Hamas victory, Abbas sat on his hands. Enjoying his new status as the irreplaceable “moderate,” he allowed his advisers and colleagues to continue enriching themselves with the international donor funds that skyrocketed after Hamas’s victory.

Since 2006, despite the billions of dollars in international aid showered on Fatah, Hamas has consistently led Fatah in opinion polls. Rather than clean up their act, Abbas and his Fatah colleagues have sought to ingratiate themselves with their public by ratcheting up their incitement against Israel. And since Abbas has been deemed irreplaceable, the same West that turns a blind eye to his corruption, refuses to criticize his encouragement of terrorism. And this makes sense. How can the West question the only thing standing in the way of a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria?

Recently, Shabaneh decided he had had enough. The time had come to expose what he knows. But he ran into an unanticipated difficulty. No one wanted to know. As he put it, Arab and Western journalists wouldn’t touch his story for fear of being “punished” by the PA.

In his words, Western journalists “don’t want to hear negative things about Fatah and Abbas.”

Lacking other options, Shabaneh brought his information to The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh.

On January 29, the Post published Abu Toameh’s interview with Shabaneh on our front page. Among other impressive scoops, Shabaneh related that Abbas’s associates purloined $3.2 million in cash that the US gave Abbas ahead of the 2006 elections. He told Abu Toameh how PA officials who were almost penniless in 1994 now have tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars in their private accounts. He related how he watched in horror as Abbas promoted the very officials he reported on. And he showed Abu Toameh a video of Abbas’s chief of staff Rafik Husseini naked in the bedroom of a Christian woman who sought employment with the PA.

If Shabaneh’s stories were about Israeli or Western officials, there is no doubt that they would have been picked up by every self-respecting news organization in the world. If he had been talking about Israelis, officials from Washington to Brussels to the UN would be loudly calling for official investigations. But since he was talking about the Palestinians, no one cared.

The State Department had nothing to say. The EU had nothing to say. The New York Times acted as if his revelations were about nothing more than a sex scandal.

As for Abbas and his cronies, they were quick to blame the Jews. They accused Shabaneh – their trusted henchman when it came to land sales to Jews – of being an Israeli agent. And when Channel 10 announced it was broadcasting Husseini’s romp in the sack, Abbas demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bar the broadcast, (apparently forgetting that unlike his PA-controlled media, Israel’s media organs are free).

SHABANEH’S ODYSSEY from PA regime loyalist to dissident is an interesting tale. But what is more noteworthy than his personal journey is the world’s indifference to his revelations.

Just as the mountains of evidence that Fatah officials – including Shabaneh’s boss Tirawi – have been actively involved in terrorist attacks against Israel have been systematically ignored by successive US administrations, Israeli governments and EU foreign policy chiefs, so no one wants to think about the fact that Fatah is a criminal syndicate. The implications are too devastating.

Since at least 1994, successive US administrations goaded by the EU have made supporting Fatah and the PA the centerpiece of their Middle East policy. They want to receive proof that Fatah is a terrorist organization that operates like a criminal organization like they want – in the immortal words of former EU Middle East envoy Christopher Patten – “a hole in [their] head.”

As for the Western media, their lack of interest in Shabaneh’s revelation serves as a reminder of just how mendacious much of the reportage about the Palestinians and Israel is. For 16 years, the American and European media have turned blind eyes to Palestinian misbehavior while expansively reporting every allegation against Israel – no matter how flimsy or obviously false. When the history of the media’s coverage of the Middle East is written it will constitute one of the darkest chapters in Western media history.

But while the American and European allegiance to the fable of Fatah as the anchor of the two-state solution accounts for the indifference of both to Shabaneh’s disclosures, what accounts for the Netanyahu government’s behavior in this matter?

Shortly after the Post first published Shabaneh’s story, the PA issued an arrest warrant against him. He was charged among other things with “harming the national interests” of the Palestinians.

But Abbas’s henchmen couldn’t put their hands on him.

Israel had already arrested him.

Shabaneh was booked for among other things, illegally working for the PA. It is illegal for Israeli residents to work for the PA. But oddly, although Israeli authorities have known whom he worked for since 1994, until his disclosures were made public, they never saw any pressing need to arrest or prosecute him.

Official Israel has nothing to say about Shabaneh’s information. Instead, in the wake of his disclosures, everyone from Netanyahu to Defense Minister Ehud Barak has continued to daily proclaim their dedication to reaching a peace accord with Abbas. This even as Abbas and his cronies accuse Israel of using the “traitorous” Shabaneh to pressure Abbas into negotiating with Israel.

There are two explanations for Israel’s behavior. First, there is the fact the presence of Barak and his Labor Party in the government makes it impossible for Netanyahu and his Likud Party to abandon the failed two-state paradigm of dealing the PA. If Netanyahu and his colleagues were to point out that the PA is a kleptocracy and its senior officials enable terror and escalate incitement to deflect their public’s attention away from their criminality, (as well as because they want to destroy Israel), then Labor may bolt the coalition.

Beyond that, there is no doubt that an Israeli denunciation of Abbas and his mafia would enrage the US and EU. Apparently, Netanyahu – who to please President Barack Obama accepted the two-state paradigm in spite of the fact that he opposes it, and suspended Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria despite the fact that knows doing this is wrong – is loath to pick a fight by pointing out the obvious fact that the PA is a corrupt band of oppressive thieves.

Shabaneh argues that due to PA corruption, Hamas remains the preferred alternative for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. In his view, the only reason Hamas has yet to take over Judea and Samaria is the IDF presence in the areas.

The strategic implications of his statement are clear. Far from being a bulwark against Hamas, Abbas empowers the Iranian-backed jihadist force. The only bulwark against Hamas is Israel.

WHAT THIS means is that Israel must end its support for Abbas. Every day he remains in power, he perpetuates a myth of Palestinian moderation. As a supposed moderate, he claims that Israel should curtail its counterterror operations and let his own “moderate” forces take over.

To strengthen Abbas, the US pressures Israel to curtail its counterterror operations in Judea and Samaria. To please the US, Israel in turn cuts back its operations.

Abbas’s men fight Hamas, but they also terrorize journalists, merchants and plain civilians who fall in their path, and so strengthen Hamas. To ratchet up public support for Fatah, Abbas escalates PA incitement against Israel. This then encourages his own forces to attack Israelis – as happened last week when one of his security officers murdered IDF St.-Sgt. Maj. Ihab Khatib. And so it goes.

It is clear that Barak will threaten to bolt the coalition if Netanyahu decides to cut off Abbas. But if he left, where would he go? Barak has nowhere to go. He will not be reelected to lead his party. And if Labor leaves the coalition, Netanyahu would still be far from losing his majority in Knesset.

As for angering the White House, the fact of the matter is that by pointing out that Abbas is not a credible leader, Israel will make it more difficult for Obama and his advisers to coerce Israel into making further concessions that will only further empower Hamas.

Shabaneh told the Post that he fully expects the PA to try to kill him. But in a way, the yawns that greeted his story are his best life insurance policy. Until the world stops believing that Fatah is indispensable, no one will listen to the Shabanehs of the world and so the PA has no reason to kill him.

Just as the Post was the only media organ that would publish his story, so the Israeli government is the only government that can force the rest of the world to recognize that Abbas is not an ally. But to do that, the government itself must finally break with the fairy tale of Fatah moderation.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Should've gone to Specsavers

Genius. Hat tip to Mr Sacerdoti.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The strong horse has bolted

Thought this article was interesting in the light of the Dubai incident. It occurs to me that Israel wants to make it quite clear that it still has the odds-on favourites in its stable, and that its opponents are lame. Clichés and puns dispensed with, my point is that many of us have been trying to explain the thesis of Israel toughing it out in a rough neighbourhood for some time, to our well-meaning but naive and wet liberal Western friends. This piece explains it pretty succinctly.

In the Mideast, bet on a strong horse 
16/02/2010 22:01

Lee Smith presents pan-Arab nationalism as an effort to transform mini-horses of national states into single super-horse.

The violence and cruelty of Arabs often perplexes Westerners. Not only does the leader of Hizbullah proclaim “We love death,” but so too does, for example, a 24-year-old man who last month yelled “We love death more than you love life” as he crashed his car on the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in New York City. As parents in St. Louis honor-killed their teenage daughter with 13 stabs of a butcher’s knife, the Palestinian father shouted “Die! Die quickly! Die quickly! ... Quiet, little one! Die, my daughter, die!” – and the local Arab community supported them against murder charges.

A prince from Abu Dhabi recently tortured a grain dealer whom he accused of fraud; despite a video of the atrocity appearing on television internationally, the prince was acquitted while his accusers were convicted.

On a larger scale, one accounting finds 15,000 terrorist attacks since 9/11. Governments throughout the Arabic-speaking countries rely more on brutality than on the rule of law. The drive to eliminate Israel still persists even as new insurrections take hold; the latest one has flared up in Yemen.

Several excellent attempts to explain the pathology of Arab politics exist; my personal favorites include studies by David Pryce-Jones and Philip Salzman. Now add to these The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations (Doubleday, $26), an entertaining yet deep and important analysis by Lee Smith, Middle East correspondent for the Weekly Standard.

Smith takes as his proof text Osama bin Laden’s comment in 2001, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” What Smith calls the strong-horse principle contains two banal elements: Seize power and then maintain it. This principle predominates because Arab public life has “no mechanism for peaceful transitions of authority or power sharing, and therefore [it] sees political conflict as a fight to the death between strong horses.” Violence, Smith observes, is “central to the politics, society, and culture of the Arabic-speaking Middle East.” It also, more subtly, implies keeping a wary eye on the next strong horse, triangulating and hedging bets.

Smith argues that the strong-horse principle, not Western imperialism or Zionism, “has determined the fundamental character of the Arabic-speaking Middle East.” The Islamic religion itself both fits into the ancient pattern of strong-horse assertiveness and then promulgates it. Muhammad, the Islamic prophet, was a strongman as well as a religious figure. Sunni Muslims have ruled over the centuries “by violence, repression, and coercion.”

Ibn Khaldun’s famous theory of history amounts to a cycle of violence in which strong horses replace weak ones. The humiliation of dhimmis daily reminds non-Muslims who rules.

Smith’s prism offers insights into modern Middle East history. He presents Pan-Arab nationalism as an effort to transform the mini-horses of the national states into a single super-horse and Islamism as an effort to make Muslims powerful again. Israel serves as “a proxy strong horse” for both the US and for the Saudi-Egyptian bloc in the latter’s cold-war rivalry with Iran’s bloc. In a strong-horse environment, militias appeal more than do elections. Lacking a strong horse, Arab liberals make little headway. The US being the most powerful non-Arab and non-Muslim state makes anti-Americanism both inevitable and endemic.

WHICH BRINGS us to policies by non-Arab actors: unless they are forceful and show true staying power, Smith stresses, they lose. Being nice – say, withdrawing unilaterally from southern Lebanon and Gaza – leads to inevitable failure. The Bush administration rightly initiated a democratization project, raising high hopes, but then betrayed Arab liberals by not carrying through. In Iraq, the administration ignored advice to install a democratically minded strongman.

More broadly, when the US government flinches, others (e.g., the Iranian leadership) have an opportunity to “force their own order on the region.” Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese leader, has half-seriously suggested that Washington “send car bombs to Damascus” to get its message across and signal its understanding of Arab ways.

Smith’s simple and near-universal principle provides a tool to comprehend the Arabs’ cult of death, honor killings, terrorist attacks, despotism, warfare and much else. He acknowledges that the strong-horse principle may strike Westerners as ineffably crude, but he correctly insists on its being a cold reality that outsiders must recognize, take into account, and respond to.

The writer ( is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

What I don't buy in Dubai

Let's get this straight. A Hamas terrorist is in Dubai to buy weapons and ship them to Gaza. Hamas admit this. Dubai admit this. He has blood on his hands. Hamas admit this. Dubai admit this. The guy winds up dead in strange circumstances, and arrest warrants are issued for 11 foreigners (British, Irish, French and German apparently), while 2 Palestinians are arrested in Dubai.

Immediately, everyone blames Mossad; even the police chief in Dubai has "no doubts that it was 11 people holding these passports, and we regret that they used the travel documents of friendly countries." So what he clearly means by this odd "regret" is that naughty old Mossad have gone and abused the passports of these nice friendly countries as part of their nefarious plot.

Now perhaps I missed something here. The guy was a known Hamas terrorist, in Dubai to buy arms. Hamas is a terrorist organisation proscribed by all those European countries, and selling them arms is completely prohibited. How is it that this police chief has found it so easy to trace the 11 foreigners and arrest the 2 Palestinians, and blame Mossad for the guy's death, but had no idea that a known terrorist was in his country shopping for guns?

This was a man wanted for the deaths of 2 Israelis, in the middle of an act of war against Israel through the purchase of weaponry to use against it from Gaza. This was also a man who had many other enemies (including Palestinian "brothers" willing to help kill him, it seems).

Let's assume for a minute that Mossad did pull this off (kol hakavod boys!). 

We can glean from the press reports that the hit squad were in "hot pursuit" from Syria, that the chap was not planning a beach vacation, and that the Dubai security forces were either blissfully unaware of his presence and intentions, or more likely, turning a blind eye. We can also surmise that showing their Israeli passports at the border might have delayed their "hot pursuit" by say, 10 or 20 years. 

Perhaps we can also assume that nobody much in British, Irish, French or German circles gives a crap if the Israelis do their dirty work for them, using naughty fake or stolen passports, or even ones supplied by said countries on a nod and a wink. They get to have their cake and eat it; dead Hamas terrorist prevented from buying arms in breach of EU embargo, AND blame the sneaky Israelis to boot!

But for the moment we don't know if it has anything to do with Mossad (pa'am acher, boys!). Notwithstanding this, the world's media are mainly interested in this story because that is the direction it's going in.

What I find just incredible is that the world's media have not picked up on the enormous irony of Hamas continuing to play the victim of Israeli "sieges" and "massacres", whilst having the time and resource to send operatives to Dubai (and apparently he was en route to Iran next) to buy and smuggle weapons. THAT is the real story here - the exposé on Hamas's priorities.

And somehow the world just keeps on buying the Hamas sob-story, even though it is, like Dubai, totally bankrupt and built on sand.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tonge wronge - a letter to Nick Clegg

Dear Mr Clegg

I note with considerable distress that your erstwhile former MP and current Lib Dem life peer in the House of Lords, Baroness Tonge, has once again gone on an excursion far beyond the bounds of UK politics into the contentious area of Middle Eastern affairs. Whilst I do not agree with her general opinion on Israel/Palestine, I do in that most British liberal way tend to support her right to it, however consistently misinformed it is. However, on this occasion, she has crossed even her own incredibly high water mark for civilized, informed debate on this matter, and possibly into the realm of anti-Semitism. I do not use this term lightly.

In her recent statement she made on an article published in the Palestine Telegraph, of which she is a patron, Baroness Tonge has knowingly perpetuated a classic blood libel against Israel, the Jewish state. The article was based on outlandish allegations, that in turn were predicated on an earlier error-strewn story, which dredged up and manipulated a case many years ago in Israel that was similar to the Alder Hey scandal in the UK, with similar enquiries and changes of policy to reduce the chances of a repetition. This earlier story was dressed up as “Israelis harvesting Palestinian organs”, and the article in the Palestine Telegraph relayed a similarly sinister message about the Israeli involvement in Haiti.

Baroness Tonge gives herself a derisory get-out clause by claiming that “To prevent allegations such as these — which have already been posted on YouTube — going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.”

Your spokesman claims that neither you nor she actually give credence to these claims, but this is totally disingenuous. The mere fact that she makes such a statement shows her underlying views on the subject to be absolutely clear.

As Monroe Palmer, chair of the Lib Dem Friends of Israel, pointed out: “On this basis, there could be calls for an investigation to discover the ‘truth’ in the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Baroness Tonge is not just an independent writer. She was an MP in your party, and has had a title bestowed upon her with your party’s support. Her views carry more weight, as they can be seen to represent the Lib Dems, particularly as she perversely holds the title of Lib Dem Spokeswoman for Health in the House of Lords, and are more widely read, especially as she gave the above statement to the British Jewish Chronicle, surely knowing it would reach a UK audience.

Her despicable attacks against Israel, carefully veiled by her faint praise of the IDF’s field teams in Haiti and her attempt via your spokesman at a belated disclaimer of her personal opinion, cross the boundaries of decency and are on the borderline of anti-Semitism as they echo the classic blood libel against Jews going back millennia. It would be naive to suggest that she is not aware of this connection in the Jewish consciousness, if not most ordinary people’s – and that of the anti-Semites looking for mainstream respectability for their despicable views.

I urge you to finally draw a line under her continued participation in your party by withdrawing the whip from her with immediate effect. She clearly will not apologise on any genuine basis for her libel, and she will be a liability to your party at the forthcoming general elections, once the decent people of Lib Dem constituencies understand that she is far more interested in making underhand attacks on the first and best equipped group of doctors to get to Haiti than she is in UK politics and her own particular portfolio.

This is a case of the public looking to your moral judgement on who speaks for your party in either house.

Incidentally I think the Palestine Telegraph itself is less at fault for publishing an op-ed of this nature, although perhaps a little misguided. It does in fact make a good effort to publish a full range of opinion, including some that I am quite sure outrage its largely Palestinian and international pro-Palestinian readership, such as this article, the core concept of which perhaps the Lib Dems ought to consider working into their own policy on the Middle East:

Meanwhile I look forward to your early response explaining what form of action will be taken against Baroness Tonge by your party.

Kind regards


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


As most people know by now, my grandpa passed away a few weeks ago. For those who missed the levaya and shiva, and for posterity, here are a few thoughts and anecdotes about him. Firstly, the personal from the JC:

"MAISEL. Avrem. A kind, gentle, sharp-witted and principled man. Sadly passed away Saturday, October 31, aged 93. Much loved by all the family."

Having been a bit feeble for most of the week, but still lucid enough to recount some stories of his childhood to Mum and see his friends Michael B and Doreen, Grandpa took a very bad turn on the Saturday morning. At the time, my parents and cousin Claire were visiting Hilly and Al in Zurich, leaving only Helen back in the UK. The care home could see he was in his final hours, and managed to get hold of Julie in Zurich, who called me, and I got to Helen, just as she put her mobile on and got the awful news that it was too late. Julie sent Phillip down to shul to get Mum and Hilly, and as we all digested the news and booked planes home, Mum found some immediate comfort in the turn of events that saw us grandchildren deal with things first.

This was swiftly reduced by my inadvertent leaking of the news via Facebook before any other relatives had been informed. Oh well. Shows what a powerful medium it is, and Grandpa would have been chuffed to know he got his own status update - although he wasn't comfortable with t'internet, he understood it was something he had to learn, and had only recently got a computer and his own hotmail account.

When I got back to London, one of the first tasks was for me and Dad to go to the care home and sort out his possessions. I had been giving some thought to whether I wanted to see Grandpa "doing a Lenin" or not, given that my last contact with him had been back in the De'Ath Ward of Northwick Park (that's the ward on floors 1 to 16 for those who have not heard of it), and I was not sure if I wanted that to be my final image - a frail if stubborn man perched in a hospital bed.

In fact, staunch supporter of universal free healthcare that he was, even he was so underwhelmed with his experience there that at one point, he took a bit of a stand. When they had delayed a minor operation for the third time (the second being entirely the hospital's own fault, having fed him breakfast despite the surgeon requiring nil by mouth for 24 hours before the op), the orderlies told him he may as well go and have some lunch, as they wouldn't be able to fit him in until the following day. He said no thanks. They said whaaat? He said he was going to refuse all food just in case an opening came up for surgery and he missed it because he had eaten something. When they understood he was actually going on hunger strike - a 93 year old diabetic with a dodgy foot and a solid 15 years of mileage on a heart bypass - they miraculously found an operating theatre and a surgeon.

As it happens, the decision was rather abruptly taken out of my hands, when we went to Grandpa's room, the nurse pushed the door open - and there he was, still in bed! In fact it was strangely reassuring, once I got used to it. The cliché was definitely true - he was lying there looking so peaceful, as if he was finally getting some decent sleep. The sun was streaming in through the window, and his room was really very nice (I had not seen it before as he went from hospital to care home only after I moved to Tel Aviv), with his favourite paintings and family pictures around him, and a lovely garden view outside.

This was the first moment when I realised that there might be certain items of his that I might stake a unique claim to - I have inherited his round shoulders and barrel chest, and am a pretty good fit for a whole range of rather nice jumpers, shirts and coats. Special mention must go to the stunning sheepskin jacket - Motty eat your heart out. At the levaya on the Tuesday, it felt very right to be there wearing his fab Dunn and Co trilby, red and blue check scarf and very lush gloves with fur lining.

Over the course of the week, we shared some great anecdotes about him, and also had a look through the accumulations of his and Grandma's lifetimes in the flat on Harrow Hill. I was particularly thrilled to find his membership card for the Labour Party, and remembered him telling Mum he was only voting for Blair to get them in, then was hoping for "Real Labour" to emerge. How prophetic - and unfortunate for the rest of the family, who have not inherited his socialist tendencies!

We had many political debates over a Shabbat table, at their flat and at Eastglade, over the years. Grandpa always enjoyed the intellectual rigours of it, even though he knew I would not be persuaded. Right until the end, he was reading the Guardian or having someone read it for him, and although he was a proper leftie, he wrote to them when he felt they crossed too big a line on the Israel thing (or in fact, dictated to Grandma who wrote off in her lovely bubble handwriting).

I was sitting with him in early July 2005, having his usual lunch of Ryvita and crackers and listening to Radio 4, when they announced that London had won the right to stage the Olympics. He switched off the radio and said "well, that will be a disaster. Thank God I'll be dead by then!" I don't think he can have envisaged cutting it quite so fine...

He did manage to come to one sporting event though - the FA Cup Final, when Cardiff played Portsmouth:

Somehow he managed to still get in his traditional afternoon nap during most of the second half, despite 80,000 spectators cheering all around him.

One of our favourite moments with him was on a weekend in Christchurch, not long after Grandma died, when we had a lovely suite together at the Captain's Cabin. After dinner, he had got into bed, and Mum asked him if he had brushed his teeth. He said "not tonight". On further interrogation: "I'm 93 and I don't feel like it." What a geezer.

I also remember being on the Bessies' balcony in Zurich playing Scrabble with him at dusk. As it got darker, he was struggling to see the board, so he said "let's shed some light on this" and whipped out a pocket torch to shine at his letters.

He generally kept in good spirits and set himself new targets to live for. Not least of these was to see his first great-grandchild. When Yosi was born, he and Grandpa seemed to be taking it in turns to be ill, but Grandpa hung in there for long enough to meet him once, on a sunny afternoon in the garden of the home, just a week before the end.

Perhaps because of this final achievement, I don't think any of us were massively shocked by the timing of Grandpa's passing. Mum has been saying  to Dad for about 30 years that Grandpa was on his last legs, and this time might be the last she would see him, but after her visit to him last week, when he was so enfeebled but still felt the urge to tell her some of his life story, his early childhood memories (which Mum, in a homage to her day job, took thorough notes on), she really knew.

And I think so did he. A few days earlier, Dad had been visiting him to discuss some financial matters, and although Grandpa was really feeling under the weather, he wanted to hear my news. Dad read him my latest blog entry (luckily there was no autopsy so nobody can prove that this was what killed him), the one about my nascent love affair with Tel Aviv. Afterwards, Grandpa insisted on calling me, despite Dad feeling he was too weak and that I would be able to tell he was poorly.

Although he could hardly speak in more than a small, croaking voice, he managed to tell me he was so happy that I had "found love". Those were the last words he would ever say to me.

I cannot help but feel profoundly uplifted by his incredible dignity, knowing that he was in his final days, and that even when he was so tired in every way, he reached across thousands of miles to give a parting blessing. He must have guessed that my only real guilty feeling about leaving the UK was the sense of abandoning him, and I had felt, deep inside, however much I tried to repress it, that back then in the hospital in August, as I kissed his forehead and walked away, it would prove to be a final goodbye. I am sure he knew too, but - in a homage to the legendary stoicism of Grandma - he just gave me a classic Grandpa grin and wave.

As I return to my Altneuland, I have this strong sense that I am bringing his indomitable spirit with me. All I can hope for is to carry myself for even a fraction of my life with his humility, integrity and humour in the face of whatever adversity I am faced with.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. Even if Labour lose in May.

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