This article was first published in ‘Israel and the World’ April 2013
Two recent cases in the UK and Ireland have highlighted the obsessive anti-Zionism that has seeped into the fabric of academic discourse.
Those who obsess about Israel, characterising that state in in the most pejorative of terms, are part of a broader left wing coalition for whom Israel is the new South Africa; a country which, by shedding Apartheid without shedding blood, inconsiderately deprived the Left of something to gather in Trafalgar Square about; the cause célèbre that makes them feel good about their Socialist credentials once again.
This troupe of Israel-obsessed, Zionist-loathing, self-righteous self-delusionists find support and common cause with the even more obsessive Muslim and Islamist ‘Greens’, thus forming what has been called ‘The Red Green Alliance’.
Even though the views of the ‘Greens’ are about as unpalatable as a side order of Brussel sprouts, when it comes to their views on Israel, and even though their anti-Israelism and pro-Palestinianism is often, if not invariably thinly veiled anti-Semitism, the Reds are happy to embrace and find common cause with their green brothers and sisters.
Why the Left should find common cause against a pluralist, thriving, innovative democracy and side with those who support and give succour to some of the most obscene regimes in the world is a mystery for which I have little explanation.
In an article by Joshua Muravchik titled “Enough Said: The False Scholarship of Edward Said” there is, perhaps, an explanation:
Said rolled American racism and European colonialism into one mélange of white oppression of darker-skinned peoples. He was not the only thinker to have forged this amalgam, but his unique further contribution was to represent “Orientals” as the epitome of the dark-skinned; Muslims as the modal Orientals; Arabs as the essential Muslims; and, finally, Palestinians as the ultimate Arabs. Abracadabra—Israel was transformed from a redemptive refuge from two thousand years of persecution to the very embodiment of white supremacy.
This is the background against which two absurdities were recently consecrated by academe.
The first case was in Ireland, a cold-bed of anti-Israel activity and sentiment, and perpetrated by those who clearly believe that the Palestinians are the new Fenians.
The Teachers Union of Ireland agreed an academic boycott of Israel and, thus, aligned themselves with the BDS (Boycott, Sanction, Disinvestment) movement which comprises a motley assortment of groups and individuals who ‘BDS’ no other country, nor who are interested in so doing. This alliance’s rhetoric is often laced with helpful suggestions to the Israeli people to take part in negotiations with themselves (as the other party continues to absent itself) to bring about the end of their own country in order to allow yet another Islamist, anti-Semitic terror state to replace it, all in the name of Human Rights and natural justice, not to mention International Law.
When this group is challenged to explain why they have chosen Israel and not, for example, Sudan or China or Syria or North Korea or Burma as the cynosure of their moral indignation-cum-compass, they can come out with absurdities such as this, reported in the Jewish Chronicle (12 April 2013):
The academic boycott of Israel imposed by the Teachers Union of Ireland is a “backhanded compliment”, the union’s general secretary has claimed.
John MacGabhann said the TUI “expected more” of Israel than it did of other countries and felt a “sense of disappointment” in the actions of successive Israeli governments.
“To a very significant degree, our union and members expect more of the Israeli government, precisely because we would anticipate that Israeli governments would act in all instances and ways to better uphold the rights of others,” he said.
I would bring Mr MacGabhann’s attention to one of the clauses of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism’s working definition of anti-Semitism:
Applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
So, don’t take my word for it, the TUI decision is antisemitic. Apart from that, it’s downright stupid, which makes me worry about the future of Irish education if it is in the hands of those who try to find enough wriggle-room to excuse the enormity of their prejudices.
What is the corollary of expecting Israel to behave better than other countries? Why, it means the TUI expects less of other, unspecified countries. But don’t these inspirational academics, in the glory of their self-righteousness, realise that not only gives a free (moral) pass to Israel’s enemies, but it is profoundly racist. It also contradicts what, I would guess, is one of their own cherished principles; namely, international laws, norms of behaviour and the adherence to the principles of human rights - which are not negotiable on the basis of ‘well, you know, we’re only Arabs, whadya expect?’ or ‘Come on, we are brown-skinned and clearly of inferior moral fibre, give us a break’.
If they can’t see how repugnant it is to expect more of Israel, and less of others, (and how pathetic an excuse for their own bigotry that is), then how can we possibly trust them to make a proper moral judgement on the rightness of BDS?
The second case was Jewish, Zionist Mathematics lecturer, Ronnie Fraser versus the University College Union.
Fraser accused the Union of harassment due to a number of incidents over the years where he felt that his support for Israel had led to his being bullied and victimised.
This is the same UCU which found that the Working Definition of antisemitism quoted above was not to their liking because it married Israel-bashing with antisemitsm and, although to be antisemitic is taboo even for a UCU academic, to be anti-Zionist is not. In other words, the definition got in the way of their attempts to fig-leaf their own prejudices. Here’s the bit where they felt an index finger pointing rather too close for comfort at their academic sang-froid:
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
‘Could include’, indeed. Context is all. Yet, in a judgement for this same UCU Fraser lost the case before an employment tribunal. He not only lost it, but one of the reasons he lost it was because the judge found that Jews do not understand their own Jewishness:
“..an attachment to Israel… is not intrinsically part of Jewishness”
So what is? An attachment to money and Christian blood?
As Prof. Geoffrey Alderman wrote in the Jewish Chronicle also on the 12th April:
“..I had only to consult my daily prayer book to reassure myself on this point”
Anyone who can make that statement with a straight face is either obscenely badly-educated (maybe they attended University College?) or they are malign in the extreme. Such a judgement is so ignorant that it smacks of the antisemitic form of anti-Zionism that the case was about in the first place.
So, it seems, Jews turned up in Israel because they though mosquito-infested swamps, 40°C, noisy neighbours, pitiless soil and desert conditions were a worthwhile colonial enterprise. As opposed to, say, the bounty of Uganda or the forests of Madagascar, both thought, at one time, to be suitable dumping-grounds for Europe’s Jews.
The problem, you see, is the whole idea of ‘Jewishness’ and how the outside world cannot, at times, and often for its own ideological convenience, come to terms with the idea that for Jews the Land of Israel is not fundamental to their religion and culture – IT IS their religion and culture. It is as indivisible for Jews as the Trinity for Catholics or the Five Pillars for Islam.
To deny that connection, to divorce Jew from Judaism and The Land, is just another line of attack on Jews and Jewishness and which leads to assaults on shechita (ritual slaughter) and brit milah (circumcision); and all in the name of animal welfare or human rights.
I’ll finish with words of author Howard Jacobson writing in The Independent about the reaction to Cast Lead (Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008/9) which typifies the level and tenor of attacks on Israel, which, I will remind you, is the homeland of the Jewish people:
“…the air has been charred not with devastation but with hatred…
A discriminatory, over-and-above hatred, inexplicable in its hysteria and virulence whatever justification is adduced for it; an unreasoning, deranged and as far as I can see irreversible revulsion that is poisoning everything we are supposed to believe in here – the free exchange of opinions, the clear-headedness of thinkers and teachers, the fine tracery of social interdependence we call community relations, modernity of outlook, tolerance, truth.”
Normally, by now, I am relaxing after a brisk walk to the local shops and reading my Sunday Times.
Recently, I was reading some old diaries and discovered that I was doing the Sunday Times crossword in 1969. I remember well when my association with that newspaper begun. They ran a series on the Kennedy assassination, something that has fascinated me all my life, and it began with that Sunday Times series of articles.
So for more than 40 years, on and off, I have read the Sunday Tomes. I like the News Review where, religiously, I do the crosswords, puzzles, chess problem and even try the bridge problem. It’s what Sundays are about.
Every week in the main paper there is a Gerald Scarfe cartoon. These are usually hard-hitting critiques of a political nature.
So before I recall all the reaction to this cartoon, let may say that I am only now writing about it because such incidents are sometimes best contemplated once the response and counter-response has taken place because it can be very instructive where Israel and the Jews are concerned.
It took about one second for my first gut reaction. This was not a considered analysis of the politics or the fairness of the cartoon, my initial reaction was: “I think this may be anti-Semitic”. I did not say those words to myself. I felt it in my gut. All I could see was the world’s most prominent Jew with an evil expression and a sharp implement dripping blood and Palestinians dead or dying. My gut and my Jewish radar told me: “Blood Libel”.
Then this was followed by disbelief. Just a minute. This is Gerald Scarfe. He’s not anti-Semitic. The Sunday Times is not anti-Semitic. Am I reading this wrong? Am I too sensitive?
Then I read the words at the bottom. “Will cementing peace continue?”. I didn’t understand. What was he saying? Is this the separation barrier? Is it a settlement being built? Then my gut reaction to the clear similarity with Nazi Jew-hate propaganda as seen the Der Stuermer, in 19th century Russian images and, sadly, today in the Arab and Iranian press, was reinforced by the unfairness of the cartoon. if this was the separation barrier, then it has saved thousands of lives. If it is a settlement then why show Palestinians being bricked up in it.
Then I realised that this cartoon followed on immediately from David Ward MP’s remarks equating Israel with Nazis on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day. This image, echoing the blood libel and depicting Netanyahu as a murderous demonic figure was a further kick in the gut.
An immediate farrago ensued. What I had not even considered was that last Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This was irrelevant to me. Didn’t enter my head when I looked at this cartoon, but, I guess, it was there in the background creating a feeling of general antipathy to Israel which was spilling over into casual and unthinking anti-Semitism.
So, Rupert Murdoch weighed in with an apology. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council met with Martin Ivens, the acting editor of the newspaper and, before very long, an abject apology was issued.
The apology, although I am convinced was genuine, was a little ambiguous:
“I’m grateful so many community leaders could come together at such short notice. You will know that the Sunday Times abhors anti-Semitism and would never set out to cause offence to the Jewish people – or any other ethnic or religious group. That was not the intention last Sunday. Everyone knows that Gerald Scarfe is consistently brutal and bloody in his depictions, but last weekend – by his own admission – he crossed a line. The timing – on Holocaust Memorial Day – was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque and on behalf of the paper I’d like to apologise unreservedly for the offence we clearly caused. This was a terrible mistake.”
He appears to be apologising for the timing of the cartoon. He believes this is what gave offence. This is, perhaps, even worse because it is saying: “Sorry for depicting Jews as murderous Nazis on Holocaust Memorial Day, we should have waited a week and depicted them as murderous Nazis next week”.
Of course, it is not ‘the Jews’ being depicted, but Binyamin Netanyahu. Scarfe aimed his venom at him, not Jews generally. However, when you depict a Jew using anti-Semitic imagery, then your political point has gone beyond the person and extends to a whole people.
Scarfe also apologised saying he was unaware of the date the cartoon would appear and that he was ignorant of the Blood Libel. Never heard of it, he said.
This is what I wrote to local community leaders in an email last week which I have edited here to avoid repetition:
Scarfe’s response is interesting. Although I find it hard to believe that he is unaware of the blood libel I am inclined to believe him. I’ve never seen Scarfe as an anti-Semite or even anti Israel.
The interesting bit is that he is a well-educated man in his 70’s and he has never seen anything about the blood libel or understands Jewish sensitivity to blood (his apology was for the timing not content. Perhaps prompted by Ivens).
Yet his image so closely recalls and even references images from the 30’s and 40’s that he must, somehow, have subliminally stored away these images and inadvertently reproduced their tone right down to the demonic look and the dripping sharp instrument.
There must have been studies of how the Jew in European culture plugs in to folk memory. Many German cartoons were folklorish in nature. The Jew as a character from Grimm’s fairytales. This is how, I believe, someone like Scarfe can blithely reproduce anti-Semitic imagery whilst remaining, apparently, un-anti-Semitic.
I think we were right to object and the apology, although missing the point a little, is well-received. I shall be buying the ST again, but maybe not this weekend – maybe I’ll check the Scarfe cartoon first.
I should also note that there was much debate in the Jewish community in the UK and in Israel, Ha’aretz reporter Anshel Pfeffer denied it was anti-Semitic.
The reaction from Israel haters and an assembly of pro-Palestinian groups was also instructive. They generally missed the point accusing the Jewish Lobby of playing the anti-Semitism card to close down debate. They supported Scarfe and David Ward saying they were brave or righteous to point out Israel’s ethnic cleansing, genocide etc.
Others could not see the relation to Nazi imagery. Usually these people were not Jewish and did not have Jewish sensitivities. They not only could not experience my gut feeling – and I trust my gut when it comes to anti-Semitism – but they also missed the important point that not one member of the Jewish community said the cartoon should not be published or that criticism of Israel or its politicians in political cartoons was inadmissible.
It’s not the first time Israel supporters have cried ‘anti-Semitic’. Steve Bell of the Guardian also came in for heavy criticism.
Yes, cartoonists have the right to offend. Often that offence is deliberate and aimed at politicians at home and abroad. Judging the fairness of the image depends on your politics. It also depends on your experience. If you inhabit my world where Israel is being vilified disproportionately, where Israel is subject to obsessive UN criticism, where Jews and Judaism are under attack daily across Europe, then your skin’s thickness is subject to a thinning process to the point where if you prick us, we certainly do bleed.
The best thing I can say about this cartoon was the reaction of the Jewish community. It was in part over the top hysterical, as is often the case with certain elements of the community who will jump in and on anything vaguely anti-Semitic that moves. The leadership, though, did the right thing; they expressed dismay whilst expressing the right to publish and to free speech.
No-one died as a result of this cartoon. There were no demos across London or the world calling for Scarfe to be killed. No-one burned down the Sunday Times offices. Scarfe can sleep safe in his bed at night. He does not have to skulk from safe house to safe house with a police armed guard. No embassies were attacked or diplomats killed.
Cartoonists and journalists should be aware of the sensitivities of all communities. This does not change their right to say and depict as they wish within the law.
I’ll be buying the Sunday Times next week. This week, I’ll register my own personal protest and deprive them of my £2.50.
David Ward MP is in a spot of bother with the Liberal Democrats.
On the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK he chose to make the following slanderous comparison between Israeli Jews and Nazi Germany:
” [he was] ”saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza”.
Even to rebut this piece of trash is like trying to respond to a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ question, but here goes.
There are about a hundred things wrong with this statement so let’s dissect it.
Firstly he makes the telling conflation of Jews and Israelis. Is he really saying that, given his statement that ‘atrocities’ are and have been visited upon Palestinians that the Jews are responsible wherever they are in the world? Israel may be the nation state of the Jews but not all Jews live there or even identify with it.
Second: he uses that trick which others have used before; to be ever so sorry about the Holocaust and to tell us how awfully the Jews were treated and then go on to accuse them of ‘not learning the lesson’ of the Holocaust as if it’s the victims who have a lesson to learn and not the perpetrators. it also conveniently avoids the fact that it is Israel’s and the Jews’ enemies who daily proclaim their wish to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people: Hamas, Hizbollah and the Iranian regime.
Third: He says ‘within a few years’ of the lesson that the world taught the Jews, they were themselves perpetrating atrocities. Oh, really. In the 19 years between the declaration of the State of Israel when it was attacked by armies of the Arab League intending to finish Hitler’s work, until 1967 when the same Arab League lost a war in 6 days and had to concede territory after attacking Israel once again, all the ‘atrocities’ were against the Jews.
Fourth: He says that these atrocities were perpetrated IN the new State of Israel. Is he referring to the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who fled or were forced out as a result of the attack on Israel by the Arab League? Did atrocities occur? Of course they did; war always produces atrocities whether it be in Afghanistan, World War II or Vietnam. Israeli atrocities as regrettable as they were were certainly no greater than those of their enemies and, in my view, considerably less. However, an atrocity is an atrocity. But is Mr Ward, therefore, holding Israeli Jews to a higher standard than the rest of the world? If so, than this is actually a marker for anti-Semitism – not that I would accuser Mr Ward of that, that would be too simple. it’s far deeper than a irrational hatred, it’s a pathology.
Fifth: ‘continue to do so on a daily basis’. So Mr Ward is saying that Jews (presumably those in Israel) are daily committing atrocities. Like what? No doubt there is much Israel can be criticised for. No doubt that innocents die. But there is a context for this, whether you agree with Israel being in the West Bank, for example, or not what atrocities are here? Maybe he means settlers allegedly taking Palestinian land? Or, maybe some settlers have shot and even killed Palestinians. Is he referring to the awful ‘Price Tag’ actions which target Mosques and farmers’ crops. These may all be crimes, but are they atrocities like the Nazis committed atrocities? Do they deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence? If so, half the countries of the world should have learned these lessons – why pick on Israel, of all countries, or rather ‘Jews’ as examples of atrocity perpetrators when he could have mentioned: Cambodia, Rwanda, Tibet, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Congo. This is not an exhaustive list. Every one of those conflicts exhibit truly awful atrocities on a large scale of both genocide, and ethnic-cleansing as well as internecine and tribal warfare.
Even the USA and the UK have not been atrocity free in recent years. And this is to say nothing of Islamist atrocities, including those against Israel, which have been a part of everyday life for over a decade.
He also mentioned Gaza which was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the, er, Israelis eight years ago, since which time its inhabitants have set a course of suicide bombings and rocket fire against Israel. Its government, Hamas, has a charter which clearly sets out its mission to destroy Israel and the Jews. Nice. Clearly THEY didn’t learn the lesson of the Holocaust; or maybe they did, and the lesson was that if you threaten to wipe out the Jews no-one will believe you. Meanwhile Israel continues to provide them with water, electricity, hundreds of truckloads of goods daily and treats thousands of Gazans every year for free in Israeli hospitals.
So Mr Ward, the British provided the Germans with all that was necessary to sustain life whilst the Luftwaffe blitzed England, is that right, Mr Ward?
Yet it is Israel who has to learn the lesson of its own intended destruction.
Sixth: Mr Ward’s words imply strongly, and please read them very carefully, that Israel’s actions are, somehow, comparable to the actions of the Nazis. This is in itself actually an anti-Semitic marker, but let’s again exonerate Mr Ward from that accusation; I’m sure many of his constituents in Bradford would never countenance, let alone elect anyone with such views.
So let’s look at what characterised the Nazi’s atrocities against Jews (and here I also have to mention Roma, Gays and the mentally ill etc. who, it is presumed, have indeed learned the lessons of their experiences in the Holocaust and would never commit a single atrocity against anyone, ever again, as a result, their all being very special super-human people who inherited the no-atrocity gene from their forbears, whereas the benighted Jews did not).
Please, Mr Ward, show me the death camps, the labour camps; show me the ghettos (and, no, Gaza is not a ghetto, it’s a political entity which happens to be an outclave of the Palestinian Authority thanks to Egypt cutting it loose some time ago). Show me the starving millions; the cattle trucks; the gas chambers; the denial of paid work; the laws. Show me the death pits, the disease, the torture, the summary executions of innocents – show me the genocide, Mr Ward.
So, Mr Ward has knee-jerked his anti-Semitic trope, inspired as he was by Holocaust Remembrance Day which sticks in the throat of certain people on the Left in British political classes, because their favourite victims, the Palestinians, engineers of their own fate, and themselves as anti-Semitic as they come, don’t figure in this national breast-beating for the wrongs done to the Jews and others. They cannot abide that the Jews should garner a single drop of sympathy or that maybe some people might just begin to figure out why the Jews need their own country and justify defending it against those who are themselves inspired not by Holocaust Remembrance Day but by the perpetrators of the Shoah, the Nazis, to whom Mr Ward so egregiously compares the Jews.
Some have said that Mr Ward is playing to his Muslim constituents gallery. If this were true it would be a calumnious attitude towards them in that it implies that Muslims in his constituency would be more likely to vote for him because he accuses Jews of behaving like Nazis. After all, Mr Ward is not George Galloway.
All this goes to show that, in the UK today, you can get away with (give or take a reprimand) slandering Israel – even on the eve of a day intended to remind us what such attitudes can lead to. Such views are now mainstream because the public has bought into the anti-Israel narrative to such a degree that they will even believe that Israelis behave like Nazis thus demonstrating not only ignorance of Nazis but also Israelis.
In response to the recent vote in the General Synod of the Church of England to support closer ties with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel), I was involved in writing this response on behalf of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region which was subsequently sent to Christian magazines as an open letter:
The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region expresses its great disappointment at the result of the vote in the General Synod to support EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).
Whereas it is perfectly legitimate for any Church or religious body to question or criticise the actions of the UK government or any foreign government for that matter, as a question of conscience, it is alarming in the extreme to see the established Church of England support an organisation which itself associates with individuals and organisations whose motivation is not that of human rights or religious conscience, but of demonization and deligitimisation of the State of Israel.
This was reflected in the tone and content of some of the speeches made at the Synod. The debate at Synod was littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’.
This is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind the motion.
The content of the EAPPI website itself is rife with uncontextualised allegations, witness and declaration whilst giving but lip service to balance, historical perspectives and disputed legalities.
The Church of England would do well, if not better, to concentrate its efforts, and lead on the parlous situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian Arab Territories and throughout the Middle East where they are subject to attack, abuse, dispossession, forced conversions, expulsion and murder not at the hands of Jews but of Muslims.
It should be noted that Israel is the only country in the Middle East whose Christian community is growing.
Our Council which only last week joined in the celebrations connected with the establishment of the Council of Christians and Jews 70 years ago will continue its interfaith work with the Church of England in Manchester with whom it has strong and highly valued ties; but this relationship has been severely damaged by this vote.
We especially thank the Bishop of Manchester Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch for his opposition to the motion and for his deep understanding of the real issues.
I have emphasised the area under discussion but I believe this topic merits more than one blog post.
I read today in YnetNews
The Orthodox Christian Church in the Gaza Strip is claiming that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped five Christian Palestinians, a young man and a mother and her three daughters, to force them to convert to Islam.
In a statement, the church said that “the dangerous Islamist movement is trying to convince Christian men and women to convert to Islam, destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip.”
The church refused to divulge the name of the Islamist group it accused of these attempts.
The head of the Gaza church claimed that one of the Christians was abducted on Saturday after he had been heavily pressured to convert to Islam and had been prevented from seeing his family. According to the leader, the young man’s parents filed a police complaint, but the police did nothing after learning that the person behind the alleged kidnappers was a senior cleric identified with Hamas.
This reinforces my emphasised text above written before this story. All over the Arab world and within the Palestinian Authority Christians are under attack. In Bethlehem they are leaving or being forced out not by Israelis but by Muslims who intimidate them and appropriate property; in Egypt the Copts have been under attack. In Syria; in Iraq the Christian population is all but gone after centuries. Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post reviewed the situation last year.
So where is the EAPPI equivalent in these countries? Where are the Synod resolutions? What is the Church doing about it? Which governments are they protesting to? Which NGO’s have they set up to investigate?
As usual, it’s only Israel and the Jews who are subject to a level of scrutiny Israel alone in the Middle East would tolerate.
Meanwhile the in Israel the Christian community is the only one in the Middle East that is growing and the only one that feels safe and whose religious rights and practices are protected not just by law but in fact.
For months now a particular pro-Palestinian website has directly linked to an image on my website.
The image was of a UK and an Israeli flag and used to illustrate an article, on this other website, about the decision of the UK government to tighten up the universal jurisdiction rules which were being abused to issue arrests for Israeli lawmakers and military visiting the UK.
I just deleted the image so that a blank space would replace the flag image.
Then, after so many months, still linking to my site, I decided to strike a blow for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab lands who were expelled over a decade for no other reason than they were Jews in a spiteful ‘revenge’ for the creation of the State of Israel.
Of course, where would these refugees go? Many to Israel. Thus the Arab countries were hoist by their own petard, as it were and now it was my time to do a little hoisting of my own.
So I recreated the image I had deleted but this time it carried a message: “Between 1947 and 1958 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries because they were Jews”; beneath is the Israeli flag.
So far, it’s still there.
I wonder how long it will remain.
I guess you might call it self-hacking on their part.
But then, those uprooted Palestinians are the only refugees in history whose numbers have increased over time and who are granted that status in perpetuity and uniquely.
Meanwhile the 900,000 Jews have settled and got on with their lives building a future for their families having left behind their property, memories and dead relatives who lived in their former host countries for centuries.
Nothing speaks more eloquently of the need for a Jewish homeland than those who would deprive us of one.
I predict that within 5 years the World Snooker Championship will move to China.
There are already several snooker tournaments in China and this year there were four Chinese qualifying for the World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield. This is a record.
So where are the Human Rights demonstrators? Did anyone see anyone with placards outside the Crucible? Did anyone deliberately interrupt a match by standing up and decrying China’s abysmal Human Rights record?
Are players who go off frequently to play in China for several thousand pounds vilified on their return?
Do hundreds of people try to fly to Lhasa airport in Tibet to show solidarity with the Tibetan people whose culture is being destroyed?
Will the Chinese athletes require special protection at this year’s Olympics in London?
You know the answer to all these questions is ‘no’.
I might remind you that the 2008 Olympics actually took place in China and the entire world turned up.
I will also remind you that the USA and others boycotted the 1980 Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan! You couldn’t make it up, really. In 1984 the Soviets reciprocated and the Warsaw Pact countries didn’t show up for Los Angeles.
Here are some facts about China:
Press freedom? Nah
Can you move freely around China? That’s a ‘no’.
Can you access any website you wish in China? Nope.
How about religious freedom? Ask the Catholics, the Falun Gong and the Buddhists. So, uh, uh.
How about political freedom? You are kidding me!
So you can have as many children as you like, at least? Ah, sorry, just one per family. Get pregnant with number two and it’s the abortion clinic for Mum, and they are not too particular about how many weeks of your pregnancy have passed.
But the judicial system is up to modern standards? Well, not quite – no less than 68 crimes are punishable by death. Torture is also rife.
I could go on. But it is self-evident that China is not alone. Some of its neighbours are pretty awful, including Russia. And then there are the old favourites: Sudan, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Syria, yada yada.
Now let’s look at Israel. Yep, you knew I would get there in the end.
Press freedom? Absolutely.
Can you move freely around Israel (I said Israel, not the ‘Territories’) Yes. Once you enter Israel you can go anywhere without hindrance.
Can you access any website? You sure can.
Religious freedom? Guaranteed by law. Try building a church in Egypt or a synagogue in Saudi Arabia.
Political freedom – pretty much. You can even create a party whose purpose is to destroy the state which gives it the political freedom to try to do so and to advocate replacing it with another state which doesn’t.
Can you have as many children as you like? – sure, and it’s compulsory if you are religious.
Death penalty? In theory, but only one person has ever been executed – Adolf Eichmann in 1962 and that was probably a mistake.
Ok, so Israel is not perfect. I agree. But is this country of 7 million people such an egregious state that a group of actors and theatre people decide that the Israeli theatre group, Habima, should be banned from contributing to the World Shakespeare Festival at the Globe in London? Why? Because they perform in ‘settlements’. Wow – crime of the century.
Now if these worthy luvvies were consistent they would wish to ban other companies which may well be sponsored by governments or be involved with some unsavoury people and institutions. Of course. They surely would.
Did they check all the other theatre groups? What about the ones from South Africa, Serbia, Belarus, Afghanistan, the United States (yes, don’t forget Guantanamo and special rendition etc.), Iraq!
Plenty there for the luvvy boycotters to get their intolerant, hypocritical, salonfaehig teeth into.
Now let us turn to Brazil. That caught you by surprise, I bet.
A beacon of western democracy in South America? Sure. No-one would want to boycott Brazil or its produce? Would they?
Well, yes, they would. That is, if they were consistent with their targets of demonisation.
Heard of the rainforest? I’m sure you have seen Sir David Attenborough and others cavorting through, under and up it for years, decades, in fact.
Did you know it’s being destroyed? Yes? Did you know that such behaviour, much of it illegal in Brazil, directly affects your climate and the world’s most important ecosystem? Don’t care? Rather declare ‘We are all Hamas’ and sit outside a cosmetics shop in Covent Garden? Your choice, but your children’s future and your grandchildren’s is at stake.
Not a ‘Human Rights’ issue, you say? Wrong!
Have you heard of indigenous people? Do you care that their way of life, their environment and, too often, they themselves are being destroyed? If not, why not? Do you only care about ‘indigenous’ people in a few thousand square kilometres of the Middle East?
Take a look at this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17827072
Yeah, I know it’s the BBC but it’s not all bad – as long as it’s kept away from the Middle East desk it can be quite reliable, sometimes.
The Awa are experiencing genocide and extinction. They are not the only rainforest dwellers thus endangered and not the only species, either.
So the Awa live a long way from civilisation (so-called) and do not have the UN and the US pumping in billions of dollars, or UN agencies to protect them in perpetuity. They are ‘primitive’. They do not contribute anything to the modern world – no arms dealing (though they may swap the occasional blowpipe), no insider trading, no suicide bombers, no desire to spread perverted ideologies across he world.
So who cares? Apart from Sting (and kol haKavod to him – I am not scoffing).
Hardly anyone speaks up for them, challenges the Brazilians, protests outside embassies, boycotts coffee shops for using Brazilian beans (or beauty parlours for providing ‘Brazilians’). Nothing. Nada.
Environmentalists may get a bit hot under the anorak on occasion but these people and this environment have few people willing to protect it. Effectively, that is.
So I think you get my drift.
If you want to criticise one country for a particular reason and this is your ’cause’ of choice and you want to ignore far more important issues, then that is your right. Just be a little more subtle about WHY.
Yom HaAtazmaut sameach. Happy Birthday Israel. Shame you don’t have any rainforests.
On Thursday this week I had the great privilege in attending the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day) commemoration in Manchester.
There were 500 people present including several dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Manchester, the Bishop of Manchester and the Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy.
Most honoured of all were the handful of survivors who settled in Manchester and were fit enough to attend.
Sadly, as the years pass, the survivors become fewer. This is why Second Generation, an organisation headed by the indefatigable Tania Nelson, representing children of survivors, is so important. There is now a Third Generation for grandchildren.
My esteemed cousins in Israel, when I first met them six years ago (and that could be the subject of another blog) told me that I, too, am a survivor. I baulked at this. “How can I be a survivor? How can I merit that distinguished and honorific title? My parents were born in England and my grandparents came here a hundred years ago.” “You are a survivor, don’t argue. Every Jew who is still around after the Shoah is a survivor. You come from a family of survivors. We are so pleased to have found another part of our family surviving.”
This was a profoundly moving and proud moment for me. Ever since, I have taken their word for it. I may not be as worthy of the soubriquet as they are, but I look at the world as a survivor. A survivor who has a bounden duty to remember, to commemorate and, yes, even celebrate.
The theme of this year’s commemoration was The Righteous.
I have for many years had a special interest in Holocaust history and a very special interest in those Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews.
I have previously written about a dear friend (and “landsman”) of mine, Mayer Hersh, who has dedicated his life to Holocaust education.
Sir Martin Gilbert’s book The Righteous, which deals extensively with this subject, is a must-read for anyone with an interest in this moving subject. If you don’t have an interest, you should.
The presentation I attended dealt initially with those celebrated Righteous Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg
We heard again the story, now so familiar, of Schindler and the scene near the end of the Spielberg film where he wondered if he could have saved even more Jews if he had tried harder.
We also heard about Raoul Wallenberg, considered the greatest saviour of Jews, who used similar techniques to others in face of the Nazis: deceit, swagger and chutzpah.
As the Hungarian fascists, the Arrow Cross gleefully assisted the Germans in killing Jews by tying three together, killing the middle one and then pushing them into the freezing River Danube, Wallenberg organised doctors and heroic swimmers on the opposite bank to pull out as many as they could who had managed to get free. 50 souls out of many thousands were saved.
But the most moving story for me was that of the small Greek island of Zakynthos.
On September 9 1943 the Germans who were now occupying Greece and had deported to death camps the extensive Jewish populations of Thessaloniki, Rhodes and Athens turned on the small Jewish community of the idyllic island of Zakynthos.
The Nazis demanded that the mayor, Loukas Karrer, provide them immediately with a list of all the Jews on the island.
Karrer spoke to the metropolitan, Bishop Chrystosomos. The next day Karrer pleaded with Berenz, the German governor, to spare the Jews of the island. They had lived together with the Jews for many centuries. They were as Greek as everyone else.
Berenz (yimakh shemo ימח שמו – may his name be obliterated) insisted. Karrer then produced his list.
The list consisted of just two names – his own and that of Bishop Chrystosomos (zekher tzadik v’kadosh livrakha,
l’chayei ha’olam ha-ba זכר צדיק וקדוש לברכה לחיי העולם הבא – may the memory of the righteous and the saintly be a blessing in the world to come).
The Bishop had even written a letter to Hitler ימח שמו declaring the Jews of his island to be under his personal authority and, by implication, protection.
The governor sent the list and the letter to to Berlin to await orders. In the meantime Zakynthos’s 275 Jews were hidden across the island. The edict was later revoked and every Jew on the island survived the war.
I have known of this story for some time because I read an article in the Jerusalem Post just over two years ago. Leora Goldberg, an Israeli, was holidaying on Zakynthos when she stumbled upon its Jewish heritage. It was the following part of her story which I found extremely emotional:
A few days before I had planned to leave the island and return home, I went into a bank to convert some dollars into euros. But even in a simple place like a bank, I managed to add another piece to this Jewish puzzle.
A clerk who had been on the phone and eating a sandwich, called on me when my turn came. When I gave her my dollars to be changed, she handed me the converted money in an envelope without asking for any identification. Later on, when I opened it, I was surprised to see so much money. The money that had been put into the envelope had not been counted properly, and instead of changing $1,000, she had given me the equivalent of $10,000!
This was really no surprise to me, because the clerk hadn’t paid me any attention. Ultimately, however, once the bank realized that the money was missing, it would have no way of reaching me since no contact information was requested.
The following morning, I called the bank and asked to speak to the manager. I inquired to know if there was a problem with the previous night’s accounts. “You must be the woman with the dollars,” he said, immediately inviting me to his office.
An hour later, I was at the bank. When I walked into the office, the man sitting across from the manager moved to another chair and gave me his seat. I shared my bank experience with him, saying how easy it would have been for me to disappear with the money.
The manager himself was profusely apologetic about the unprofessional way I was treated and thanked me repeatedly for returning the money. To express his gratitude, he invited me and my family to dinner at an exclusive restaurant.
I explained that eating out was too complicated for us due to the fact that we were observant Jews. He asked for my address so he could send us a crate of wine. “That is a problem too,” I said. I told him I had come from Israel a week ago for a holiday, but had gotten sidetracked.
“A few days after I landed, I was surprised to discover the Jewish community that was here up to 25 years ago,” I said. “You don’t owe me anything. Indeed, you have given me and my people a lot. The least I can do as a Jew to show my appreciation for what you have done for the Jews of Zakynthos is to return this money that doesn’t belong to me and say, ‘Thank you!’”
There was silence for what appeared to be a long minute. The man who had given me his seat when I walked in and hadn’t said a word during the conversation, stood up with tears in his eyes, turned to me and said: “As the grandson of Mayor Karrer, I am extremely overwhelmed and want to thank you!”
Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrystosomos were honoured as Righteous among the Nations at Yad Vashem in 1978.
Where are our Schindlers and Wallenbergs today? Where our mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrystosomos whose memory is a blessing and inspiration? They do exist: Pilar Rahola, José María Aznar are two notables but Europe is abandoning the Jewish people for a second time it seems.
Back at the Yom HaShoah service we thanked the UK for being a haven from persecution when the Jews needed somewhere to run to.
But it wasn’t the Nazis most of our families were running from, it was the Russian pogroms and before them we have been deported from almost every country in Europe and massacred by the cossacks and the crusaders, Christians and Muslims.
When Jews arrived in British Mandate Palestine they were often turned back, and when the Nazi threat was a clear and present danger Jews were prevented from entering Palestine because of the sensitivities of the locals and to maintain the demographic balance even though thousands of Arabs flooded in unchecked from neighbouring areas.
Our gratitude to our host country is tempered by the memory of its broken promises and its craven concessions to Arab pressure, its abstention at the UN vote to recognise the State of Israel and the institutional anti-Semitism of many of its government departments.
Yet, throughout history, we have always had to be grateful for the smallest of mercies.
When Jews were given full citizenship and equal rights in the Enlightenment, that was to be the end of persecution. Liberté, égalité, fraternité were corrupted to their complete opposites: oppression, disenfranchisement and hatred.
Why do we so love and revere our saviours and supporters?.
Schindler’s grave is on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and those he saved and their descendants still go annually to pay their respects. His gravestone is permanently covered with the small stones placed as a sign of respect and gratitude by visitors from around the world, most of them Jews.
Schindler’s reward in Germany after the war was eventual poverty, somewhat self-inflicted. Jewish organisations kept him solvent at one time. When he died at the age of 66 his body was brought to Israel.
Wallenberg’s reward was to end up in some gulag and a likely early death.
How many countries other than Israel have honoured their great humanitarians who saved Jews?
In the UK Sir Nicholas Winton, sometimes referred to as the British Schindler, was only recognised years later thanks to Esther Rantzen.
Where will their monuments be? in Yad Vashem, in the Avenue of the Righteous, in the hearts of every Jew.
Why do we so value our saviours? Because we know from our history that we have so often been the victim and that gentile saviours are so rare that we embrace and thank them like brothers and sisters.
In Hebron in 1929 Muslims saved more than 400 Jews whilst 67 were slaughtered and all of the Jews were taken to safety by the British.
Wherever and whenever Jews were under attack from their neighbours in Europe or in the Muslim world there were always those who truly loved their neighbours, and if they didn’t love them, at least they had the nobility of spirit and the fire of justice which made them stand up against the iniquities of their own people and stand with the Jews.
Even today we have truly inspiring Muslims; Kaz Hafeez, Hasan Afzal and Khaled Abu Toameh who, in different ways stand up against Islamist injustice and seek truth, justice and, above all, feel compelled to express their fraternal human feelings for Jews inside and outside Israel.
Today there is a hideous conflation – anti-Israelism is a cover for anti-semitism; Zionist means Jew. Israel and its supporters are accused of behaving like Nazis, the most vile accusation possible to throw against Jews who stand up against lies and distortions – like the noble and brave Richard Millett who was recently vilified for daring to record and challenge the vile hypocrisy of a recent event at the SOAS.
This conflation confuses Jews who find that the policies of the Israeli government and the behaviour of some of its citizens problematical.
Good. Be outraged. Speak out against injustice, but don’t stand with those scientific anti-Semites with their high-powered electron microscopes poised over the Land of Israel, subjecting its every act and deed to a level of scrutiny no other country suffers, and then, when they find an alleged injustice, use it as testimony in pursuit of Israel’s destruction.
These critics of Israel and its supporters decide first that Israel must be destroyed. They insist that it is a misbegotten country, born in sin as an atonement for European Holocaust guilt. This is historically inaccurate and also ignores the role of ‘Palestinian’ Arabs who encouraged Hitler with promises of eradicating Jews from Palestine and even organised militia in Europe. I speak of Haj Amin al-Husseini.
They can never bring themselves to believe or recognise a single good thing about Israel or Israelis.
If the truth is too painful for them, if anything shows Israel in an unbearably good light, their cognitive dissonance gene kicks in and they obscenely invert the good and convert it to criticism to be used as a weapon to further their presumption of guilt and illegitimacy.
And if you are guilty you are barred from defending yourself militarily or legally. Every response to an attack is a provocation and every death of a terrorist a massacre.
Every act of international aid, like being the first to build a field hospital in Haiti after the earthquake or sending specialist equipment to Japan after its tsunami disaster, are seen as a cover-up for all its evil deeds at home.
A bastion of Gay Rights? Yeah, sure, just ‘pinkwashing’ to be used to cover up Human Rights abuses.
Even a theatre company should not perform in London because, uniquely, Israelis are worthy of boycott for complicity in the crime of ‘occupation’ which is not legally an occupation despite the accepted cosy narrative which so defines it.
Such narratives are essentially anti-Semitic. They abjure fair criticism and replace it with demonisation, delegitimisation, lies, distortions and hypocrisy. Some even want to create a second Holocaust (Hamas, Hizbollah, Ahmadinejad).
Others want to destroy Israel and create a state of Palestine from the River to the Sea without considering the fate of the Jews, not caring, or simply wanting to ‘send them back’. These narratives, too, are essentially anti-Semitic, denying Jews self-determination and wishing to replace a democracy (albeit a flawed one) with another Islamist state. These people are surely the spawn of the Nazis. Nazism has never disappeared, its spores had merely been hibernating waiting for an opportunity such as the new religion of Human Rights provides them.
Yom HaShoah tells us to learn the lessons of intolerance, it tells us that if we are not for ourselves then who is for us?
The Righteous gave us that answer; they stood up proud and firm and they spat squarely in the eyes of the Nazi oppressors.
Maybe they hated Nazis more than they loved Jews; maybe saving Jews was an act of resistance to the Nazis more than an act of love toward Jews.
I don’t care because the motivation led to the act and the act was often at the risk of the life of those who acted.
They may not always have had noble motivations but they achieved nobility and they sanctified the very meaning of what it is to be human.
At the lowest point in the history of mankind, and in the midst of the worst evil, in the face of the depraved officers of the Waffen SS or the Hungarian Arrow Cross, the Einsatzgruppen and the Kapos or confronting their own ancient prejudices and indifference, envy or jealousy, a few thousand stood up and said “NO”.
We the Jewish people will never forget you, and we will perpetuate your memory with love and gratitude.
H/T Barry Shaw
I don’t read the Guardian. I used to when it was a decent newspaper.
when I was alerted to this letter
(no, I am not going to give them the benefit of a link even from my modest website – on principal)
I was outraged at the list of people, who claim to be artists, that are objecting to the appearance of Israeli theatre group Habima at the Globe.
The reason is that this company has performed at and co-operated with ‘halls of culture’ in Israeli ‘settlements’.
Here are these morally outraged Thespian signatories so YOU know who to boycott in the future:
David Aukin producer
Poppy Burton-Morgan artistic director, Metta Theatre
Leo Butler playwright
Niall Buggy actor
David Calder actor
Jonathan Chadwick director
Caryl Churchill playwright
Michael Darlow writer, director
John Graham Davies actor, writer
Trevor Griffiths playwright
Annie Firbank actor
Paul Freeman actor
Matyelok Gibbs actor
Tony Graham director
Janet Henfrey actor
James Ivens artistic director, Flood Theatre
Andrew Jarvis actor, director, teacher
Neville Jason actor
Ursula Jones actor
Professor Adah Kay academic, playwright
Mike Leigh film-maker, dramatist
Sonja Linden playwright, iceandfire theatre
Roger Lloyd Pack actor
Cherie Lunghi actor
Miriam Margolyes actor
Kika Markham actor
Jonathan Miller director, author and broadcaster
Frances Rifkin director
Mark Rylance actor
Alexei Sayle comedian, writer
Farhana Sheikh writer
Emma Thompson actor, screenwriter
Andy de la Tour actor, director
Harriet Walter actor
Hilary Westlake director
Richard Wilson actor, director
Susan Wooldridge actor, writer
I’m sure, like me, you have admired many of these names for years.
I would hazard a guess that very few of them know the history of the conflict and have accepted the narrative of ‘Occupation’ and ‘colonialism’.
How many of them have ever protested about anything else?
How many of them know that although settlements are illegal under certain interpretations of international law there is no ‘Occupation’ in any legal sense and there has never been any legal ruling that Israel is an occupier. And before you knee-jerk, just check. Here’s a useful link for the sceptics
Maybe American actors should be boycotted and made pariahs because of Guantanamo or Iraq?
It’s only ever Israel and the ‘Occupation’ which gets these people frothing at the mouth and hearts bleeding.
But, you see, this is the Left’s favourite cause. The Lord forfend that they should be tainted by association with Israeli actors who have committed the terrible crime of setting foot in a ‘settlement’.
“The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
As individuals they are entitled not to go to see Habima.
As indivduals we are entitled to never watch any film, play or documentary any of these people appear in.
Keep the list handy.
How often do we hear or read about how terrible Israel is preventing Palestinians in dire need of medical treatment getting through checkpoints and borders quickly enough?
How many reports have you read which characterise the massive humanitarian efforts of the Israeli medical community as somehow being part of the ‘occupation’?
I have written before about the extraordinary Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa.
I have no problem reproducing in full this story I received today which is just one example of hundreds, thousands, which are simply overlooked by the likes of the Guardian because it is a positive story which undermines all the negativity and false spin some of the media puts on anything positive which comes out of Israel.
So here is the report from the Rambam by David Ratner, Director:
Haifa, 5 February 2012
Just a Heartbeat Away…
When Aya Almasal, 12, left her Gaza home approximately one month ago and headed for Rambam, she didn’t know that this trip would save her life. For several years Aya had suffered from sudden bouts of unconsciousness, and her doctors couldn’t find the cause. About a month ago, Aya set out for Rambam to treat this problem, which had accompanied her since birth. Upon leaving Gaza, she felt ill and the situation steadily deteriorated. As the girl neared Rambam, in Haifa, her heart stopped working and she was, in effect, dead. After repeated attempts at resuscitation, the girl’s heart began to pump and she arrived at Rambam, artificially respirated and in serious danger. At the hospital, Aya was diagnosed as suffering from Long QT Syndrome, a disorder of the heart’s electrical system that causes irregular and rapid heart rate, and had prevented blood from reaching her brain. This had caused Aya to lose consciousness suddenly, and could have killed her.
Shortly after the diagnosis, Aya was hospitalized in Rambam’s Department of Pediatric Intensive Care, where she remained for a week. Doctors there stabilized her condition, and Dr Munder Bolus, director of the Unit of Electrophysiology implanted her with a defibrillator pacemaker. Accompanying drug treatment, the pacemaker supplies an electrical shock which ‘jump starts’ the heart during irregularities. After almost a month of hospitalization, Aya felt better, was discharged last Thursday, 2.2.12, and returned to her home in Gaza, standing on her own two feet.
According to Aya’s treating physician, Prof Avraham Lorber, who is head of Rambam’s Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Adult Congenital Heart Defects, Long QT Sydrome is a widespread heart defect that can be controlled with appropriate treatment. “Aya will need a pacemaker all her life,” said Prof Lorber. “She will be monitored to be sure the pacemaker and battery are working correctly.”
Fortunately, Aya had arrived at Rambam in time to receive life-saving treatment. But the girl did not have to die in order to live. Aya’s congenital defect should have been detected earlier. “Every year we treat a number of children with these types of problems,” says Prof Lorber. “Some patients are diagnosed when they seek treatment for their irregular heart rates, and others in regular check-ups. This early detection of life-threatening problems illustrates the far-ranging implications of preventive medicine.”
Rambam’s Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Congenital Heart Defects treats a wide range of disorders, like Aya’s. A large number of patients, some 650 children and youth, arrive from neighboring countries and are treated on a humanitarian basis. A number of Palestinian patients are currently at the department, among them a three-week old infant scheduled for heart surgery, and a 40-day old baby who needs a stent procedure. “Other Palestinian patients are now receiving treatment here or will soon be transferred to Rambam,” states Prof Lorber. Our experience in general medicine, and in cardiology, specifically, allows us to help most of these patients.”
I doubt we will see Guardian reporter Harriet Sherwood and all the others mentioning this any time soon. Unless they can find a way of making it an anti-Israel story.
Thus said Kasim “Kaz” Hafeez in the final session of the Politics thread at the Big Tent For Israel in Manchester on November 27th.
Kaz was part of a panel discussing “How to change the narrative in the Muslim community”.
He told an enraptured audience how he had very nearly ended up in a Jihadi training camp; how he was brought up to hate Israel and Jews.
Kaz, whose website theisraelcampaign.org, attempts to describe the current anti-Israel and antisemitic trends of Islam in the UK and abroad and put the record straight, made a huge impression on several hundred people, mostly Jewish, assembled in the International Suite of the Piccadilly Hotel in central Manchester.
Even though I knew his story, I was moved to simultaneous tears and laughter as Kaz told us how he is a Zionist and has the Israeli flag on his desk at work.
Tears, because the idea of any non-Jew, let alone a Muslim, proudly declaring himself a Zionist and lover of Israel is profoundly moving. We, the Jewish people, are so inured to hate and being despised that when we find we are not alone, that we have friends, that is worth a few tears of pride and relief.
Laughter, because the idea of a proud, practising Muslim displaying the Israeli flag at work is very amusing.
Then Kaz came out with the quote of the year: ”Life is a lot happier when you don’t hate as much”.
Everything is contained in that one phrase; life, love, happiness, toleration, respect.
This perfectly describes the solution to what troubles so much of the world today.
Hate. Unthinking, bigoted, hatred fuels the world’s ills.
Such is the hatred much of the Arab and Muslim world feels, especially for Jews. It is this hatred which drives Islamists to acts of violence, not just against Jews, but against other Muslims, Christians and Hindus.
Are they happy in their hate? I doubt it. How can you be happy to hate?
Hatred is not confined to Muslims. Yet it is Islamist terror and intolerance that characterises the beginning of the 21st century.
Kaz made me cry because he offers hope. He offers hope that Muslims and Jews, Israel and Palestine, can put aside hate and learn tolerance and respect.
It gives me the hope that, in this country, Kaz and those like him, such as Hasan Afzal, can have some influence in their community to stop the hate and lies and half-truths.
If Kaz can do a 180 degree turn, surely many more can manage 90?
How did Kaz learn to be happier? He read, he studied and he had the strength of character and moral courage to go see for himself. He had the honesty to see that everything he had been taught was wrong.
I said to another Muslim at the conference: “We don’t expect Muslims to be Zionists, we just want a fair hearing”. Not the most profound statement I’ve ever made, but it’s true.
Cut the hate and have an honest discussion. Criticise, don’t demonise. Tolerate don’t delegitmise.
It was a great conference and I heard many wonderful things, but Kaz’s simple, heartfelt, unprepared statement will always be the memory and the inspiration I carry from the conference. All the hours, all the hard work, all the arguments and stress were worth it to hear that one axiomatic utterance -
“Life is a lot happier when you don’t hate as much”