Archive for December, 2009

As some of you already know, I now have a fortnightly column in Jewish News. Here is the latest…

I see that acid attack survivor Katie Piper is delivering this year’s ‘alternative’ Christmas message on Channel 4, but I wonder who else was on the network’s shortlist? I will always remember my horror when I learned of last year’s choice: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4′s head of news and current affairs, spent months convincing him to do it. I wonder if she entertained any doubts during those months of courting.

Did she consider the millions of people brutalised and murdered during the Nazi holocaust, which Ahmadinejad denies even happened? Did she think about the women and children killed by Hamas rockets and suicide bombings, which are bankrolled by his regime? What of the women, gay people or peaceful protestors that have been slaughtered on the orders of Ahmadinejad?

Did she chase the Iranian bad boy despite his views and track record…or because of them? It’s a fair question because as we keep seeing, for every nasty Middle Eastern tyrant there are  plenty of Western softies who get a thrill from being associated with them.

Channel 4 is a strange network when it comes to Israel. Its news anchor Jon Snow suggested a disdain for Israeli lives when he claimed “nobody gets injured” by the rockets that have murdered, maimed and terrorised the people of southern Israel. I discussed this with Mr Snow over email recently. Fair play to him for answering emails, but it was a revealing exchange. At first he was polite and chatty, explaining that unfortunately he couldn’t comment as he was unable to check what he had said on the broadcast.

So I sent him a link to a video of what he had said and provided references to the Israeli civilians who have been injured and killed by the rockets. He dropped the friendliness and told me: “Stop wasting my time”. Has there ever been a crime against the Jewish people that someone, somewhere will not deny happened? I shouldn’t have been surprised: anyone who has seen Snow’s ‘interviews’ with Israel’s Mark Regev can see where he stands. ‘Twas ever thus with Israel: comment is free, facts are sacrificed.

The same is true of Peter Oborne, whose Dispatches programme Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby was astonishing. If a journalism student had presented that show as an assignment they would have been thrown out of campus. He failed to find anything remotely controversial or improper but was still given an hour on primetime: a bit of innuendo here, a conspiratorially-whispered piece to camera there, and clever conflations of the blood of Palestinians with Jews eating dinner in London. Disgraceful. Just days later Channel 4 was sneering at the Haredim of Israel in Unreported World.

The is the sort of obsession we have come to expect of the Iranian-regime-sponsored Press TV. George Galloway’s shows there are strangely compelling, in part because – hateful as his views often are – he oozes charisma. Which is more than you can say about those who call his Comment show on the network. One, for instance, rang Galloway to tell him that Coronation Street is a Zionist plot. The Rovers Return will never seem the same again. Welcome to your fan-base, George. You deserve each other.

The concept of a season of goodwill seems to be lost on Israel-bashers. Last year we had Annie Lennox whining to the press that Operation Cast Lead ruined her festivities. Yes, because it’s all about you isn’t it Annie? This year we’ve had two Israel-bashing Christmas carol services in recent weeks in London. I attended a counter demonstration outside the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s service at Bloomsbury Baptist Church. I was surprised by some of the things the PSC supporters shouted at us. “I wish Hitler had killed you,” screamed one lady. “Jews are cannibals,” shouted another. Channel 4 is probably on the phone to them as we speak…

If you are not in the newspaper’s catchment area you can read it in full online here.

Do you remember Annie Lennox’s self-indulgent outbursts against Israel during Operation Cast Lead? She complained that events in Gaza ruined her Xmas “as a mother” as she watched them from the safety of her Western home. Yes, because it’s all about you and your Xmas isn’t it Annie?

Over on Second Draft, Richard Landes of Second Draft takes her to task brilliantly.

And here’s hoping nobody in the world defends themselves from terrorism this week, thus ruining Annie Lennox’s Xmas for a second successive year. That would be unbearable.

A bit of tongue-in-cheek fun in this festive time. Happy holidays dear readers!

Here is Benjamin Netanyahu on the arrest warrant controversy: “We refuse to see a situation in which Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, and Tzipi Livni are summoned to trial. We will not agree to have IDF soldiers and commanders, who defended their country and its citizens so bravely and ethically from a nefarious enemy, called war criminals. We reject this absurdity.”

Well said Bibi. There are conflicts taking place all round the world so why do these activists always single out the state that does “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare” as it defends itself from unparalleled threat? Why, more pertinently, do they single out the Jewish state?

It is a question that answers itself.

Meanwhile, to counter the latest efforts by these hypocrites, please consider buying Ahava in this festive period. Keep the ‘buycott’ going!

Work began on a new wall along the border of the Gaza Strip this week. American army engineers are involved in the construction.

I’m amazed there hasn’t been noisy outrage about this from the ‘pro-Palestinian’ movement who so tirelessly complain about the West Bank security barrier which has saved so many Israeli lives.

I wonder why they are not also angry about this one? Oh, I see….

As some of you already know, I now have a fortnightly column in Jewish News. Here is the latest…

It’s that time of year again: X Factor Final week. Seven sensational days when we can forget about the real world and focus our attention on the excitement of the build-up, working ourselves into a sleepless lather of anticipation. A seven-day orgy of clock-watching as we dry-retchingly countdown to the big night. Or is that just me?

I’ll nail my colours to the mast – my favourite contestant is Stacey Solomon. She’s got a cracking voice, a wonderful personality, she looks great and ticks my philosemite box. I also love the fact that she’s so obviously a very clever girl, however hard she pretends not to be. I adored her from the start – the fact she took her fellow contestants to my favourite north London restaurant (White House Express) just crowned the appeal. I dream of eating there with her myself one day. I would sit in shawarma-shovelling enraptured silence as Stacey chattered away at me, like only she knows how.

The X Factor has been especially exciting for me this year, because I am the author of a recently published biography of Simon Cowell and therefore regularly called on for my X-Factor thoughts by the media. A question I’m often asked is who could replace Cowell when he eventually retires as a judge. It would be a big ask of anyone: of all those who have tried to live up to his Mr Nasty benchmark perhaps the closest to get there was his Got-Talent sidekick Piers Morgan. But let’s be honest, Morgan could never really be another Cowell.

I think I know who could, though. The person best suited to the role would need to be slick, deadpan and dynamic on television, and also brimming with charisma, self confidence and glorious arrogance. There’s only one man for the job then: the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Can’t you just see it? Anyone who has watched Bibi make mincemeat of mealy-mouthed BBC and ITN interviewers knows that the man can be compellingly deadly on the small screen. I might be a tad biased – to say I am a fan of Bibi is an understatement – but I think in him we have our man to replace Cowell.

While we’re about it we might as well give the whole panel a political sweep, starting with Dannii Minogue (who I hear is something of a philosemite herself enjoying Shabbat dinners with her Jewish pals). Replacing her would be American politician Sarah Palin and in place of Cheryl Cole I really can’t see beyond Israel’s Tzipi Livni. This brings us to the question of who will be the next Louis Walsh. That’s not a job title I can see people fighting in the streets for, but what’s Neil Kinnock up to at the moment? To be the next Louis, all the ginger Welshman would need to do is learn how to play to regional constituencies of acts and insert dramatic pauses for emphasis. Thus: “Joe what can I say? I hope everyone in Newcastle picks up the phone and votes for you because I. Want. You. In. Da Foinal.”

And here we are, within touching distance of ‘da foinal’. To be honest, Joe really would be a fine winner. He sings very well and even as a gentile male I find it hard not to come over all Yiddishe Mumma when I watch him listening so sweetly and politely to the judge’s verdicts. But adorable and talented as Joe and his toothy smile can be, he is no Stacey Solomon. Few are, she is one in a million that girl. Here’s to you Stacey, you heron-like wonder. What can I say? I hope everyone in Britain picks up the phone and votes for you because I want you to win the final.

Simon Cowell: The Unauthorized Biography by Chas Newkey-Burden is out now. (£18.99, Michael O’Mara.)

If you are not in the newspaper’s catchment area you can read it in full online here.

This is a guest post by Israelinurse.

I don’t know about you, but after a cold, dark week riddled with nasty carols, boycotters and antisemites, I think we’re due a dose of comfort food. Seeing as I can’t send hot liquids over the internet, here’s some visual chicken soup in the form of one of my favourite places in Israel.
(Click on photos to enlarge them.)

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This is Nahal Samech in the Golan; one of many valleys which descend from the plateau down to the shores of lake Kinneret. In summer the streams are no more than a trickle, but in a good, wet winter you will see the locals out in their spare time ‘watching the flow’.

At the top of Nahal Samech lies Um el Kanatir, also known as Kshetot Rehavam; an ancient settlement which thrived by dealing in the bleaching of flax and growing olives.

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Their techniques must have been advanced because apparently cloth was brought from as far away as Egypt to be treated in these stone baths using the soft, mineral-rich water of the Golan which is prized even today. ‘Kanatir’ means arches and an impressive arched building once stood above this network of baths. So well did Um el Kanatir prosper that in the 5th century the villagers built themselves a new synagogue on the site of their old one, with exquisite decorative stonework.  This is one of the famous south-facing synagogues, several of which have been discovered in the Golan.

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In 749 CE the village was hit by a massive earthquake (this is, of course, the top of the Syrian-African Rift Valley) which devastated much of the area. Today the synagogue is being painstakingly excavated and reconstructed. Just above the site lies Moshav Natur – a thriving village of young couples, many born in the Golan. They are engaged in agriculture and raising a third generation in the beautiful wild landscape of the Golan, just as the villagers from Um el Kanatir did 1,700 years ago. Knowing that certainly gives me a nice warm feeling.

And that’s my answer to all the boycotters and haters.

1) I did another newspaper review slot on BBC Radio London this morning. Sting’s wife, David Cameron’s hypocrisy and the life-extending qualities of fried onions – it’s all here at 1hr47mins.

2) This blog got its first name-check in the Jewish Chronicle, in the brilliant Robyn Rosen’s report about the PSC demo.

3) Student Alex Dwek, who guest posts here sometimes, won the election to become Chair of the Union of Jewish Students. I’m delighted. Mazel tov, Alex!

© Copyright Chas Newkey-Burden. All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Chris Morris.