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Archive for July, 2011

I’m stopping blogging, for a while at least. Thanks for all the support over the years.

This is a guest post by Joel Weiner, responding to Jonathan Hoffman’s comment about the boycott bill

Jonathan, much as I usually have respect for your unreserved and unending support for the State of Israel, which is so lacking in many other people who should have it, I simply can’t agree with you here. I’ll show you what I wrote in a recent email to a friend:

‘The boycott law is terrible. It’s shocking, it disgusts me, and I’m deeply uncomfortable with the way it sits in a society that usually I’m very proud to call myself a part of. Israel has until now been not only the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, but also a shining example to all of what a proper democracy would look like – even amid the hardships of having a sometimes hostile minority within the State. And yet these beacons of democratic freedoms are being hacked away at by a stupid Government which doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, about the importance of democratic freedoms, and also doesn’t appreciate the work we’re trying to do in the diaspora on Israel’s behalf – every time we talk about Israel being the only liberal democracy and so on.

‘How can we say that now? How can we defend a country whose Parliament passes a law to make it illegal to oppose Government policy? Of course boycotts are harmful and unhelpful and do nothing for the cause of peace or justice; but how can the proponents of this bill claim to be helping the situation when they’re just cutting down on the people’s right to protest?’

So I’d like to highlight again- I do not support any kind of boycott against Israel. I hate the BDS-ers, who in my opinion are insulting the good people of South Africa who had to live under a genuine apartheid regime. My support for Israel, like yours Jonathan, is unreserved.

But I think our support can be more credible if we’re not constantly allowing ourselves to be used as Netanyahu’s (or Lieberman’s) mouthpiece. We should look at this law objectively and say that, no, it doesn’t help our cause against the boycotters. By making them illegal it only helps their campaign to portray Israel as a totalitarian State. Their boycotts may frustrate us no end, but the answer isn’t just to deem them illegal.

I find it very difficult to agree with your comparison between the ‘existential threat’ to Israel of the boycotts, and the ‘existential threat’ to Britain of IRA terrorists. Israel can deal with the boycotts. The Government should stop sitting on the fence and start to take a stand: either show that it’s willing to compromise on the settlements by making real concessions; or present Israel’s case for the strategic, cultural and historical justification for settlements (as opposed to just making lame public statements of support for concerts in the Ariel cultural centre).

And finally: we can’t constantly rely on the Supreme Court for its common sense as a last beacon of democracy; we should expect our politicians to do that in the first place.

(PS – It goes without saying that Roger Waters is a total muppet.)

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd has a track-record of embarrassing himself when he makes posturing statements against Israel. He recently posted a short video, in which he attempts to speak about the boycott bill issue. It takes him to new depths.

Waters says the issue will ‘probably not be reported anywhere else in the world for various reasons’. He doesn’t explain what these reasons are, nor how these thousands of mainstream news stories about the issue from around the world have slipped through the net.

He describes BDS as ‘a loving political tool’. Well absolutely, what could be more loving than singling out Jewish businesses within the Jewish state, and trying to drive them out of business? That’s the very definition of love.

He quotes MK Zahava Gal-On, but refers to her as a ‘he’.

Attempting to declare his fulsome support to the campaign against the boycott bill, he says: ‘So I fully and entirely endorse…erm…what are they called?’

PS – To end on a happier note, check this video of Robbie Williams kissing and waving an Israeli flag at Wembley Stadium the other day. I’ve always adored Robbie and his music. Good on you, Rob!

This is not a book review. It’s more a thank-you note to Michael Plosker, who reads this blog. Michael recently suggested that I try the novel Eleven, written by the comedian Mark Watson. I think it might be the best literary recommendation I’ve ever received. How I’ve loved my mornings reading it in the sun, outside Costa on Eton High Street.

I’ve always enjoyed Watson’s stand-up slots and contributions on television panel shows. His observations are funny and his tone charming. I love comedians who, though sharp as a knife, do not use their wit to be relentlessly cruel to weak targets. They are the gentle-giants of oratory, and very admirable, I think. I’d put Watson very much in that category. (There’s something rather cute about him too, and he lives in the south-west of England, as so many cool people do.)

His novel Eleven is written around the chain of consequences that can be sparked by a simple action, or lack of action, in one moment. The novel’s hero is radio presenter who unwittingly creates just such a chain that profoundly effects the lives of him, and 10 other Londoners. It’s engrossing to follow the unravelling of it all.

I’ve actually always believed, on a more mystical level, that every decision each of us makes has a bearing on the whole world. But in Eleven, Watson is tackling a more literal process, from a six-degrees-of-separation perspective. The plot is so cleverly woven, the style so adorable, and the characters so realistic, that the book and its premise really get under your skin.

In the time I was reading Eleven, I kept feeling like I was looking at the world a bit differently. Yesterday morning, when a shop worker accidentally dropped several bottles of balsamic vinegar, sending them smashing to the floor, covering my beloved white cotton trainers in stains, I resisted the urge to ask her what she planned to do to get my shoes clean for me. Instead I took them home to deal with it myself. Because I wondered what chains of events might have been sparked had I have caused a scene in the shop. (There are two dramatic moments involving people unintentionally dropping things in the story.)

Equally, had a chain of events led to her dropping the bottles in the first place? If so, the next stage in the chain hit me hard. When I got home, I was in such a rush to clean my shoes that I banged my head really hard against an unexpectedly open door in my kitchen. It was so painful – I assumed I’d been clubbed over the head at first.

Anyway, I loved Eleven. It’s warm, moving and thought-provoking, plus it’s got an important message about life. So thank you again to Michael for the recommendation – and to Mark Watson for writing it.

On the most recent edition of his Press TV phone-in show Comment, George Galloway made the following remark, while discussing Greece’s role in preventing the flotilla:

‘That’s true,’ agreed his caller. But it isn’t.

Israel makes regular humanitarian donations around the world, including to help refugees from Darfur and Chad, and to Aids victims in Ethiopia. Among the state of Israel’s many other donations have been to Haiti and Peru in the wake of earthquakes, to storm victims in several Central American countries. Israel has also given humanitarian donations to victims of a typhoon in the Philipines and bird flu in Nigeria.

During the 1990s it sent aid to victims of the Turkish earthquake, to Kosovan refugees, flood victims in Central America, Rwandan refugees in Zaire and others. In total, Israel’s humanitarian donations and assistance has helped countless individuals from over 140 countries around the world. You can read more about Israel’s aid and development work in the developing world here.

So, the flotilla and flytilla were both utter failures. Appropriate, really, given that the same can be said of the lives of many of those who devote their time to demonising Israel.

This raises a thought in my mind. I love the eccentricity of some collective nouns, such as a ‘business of ferrets’, a ‘labour of moles’ and a ‘shiver of sharks’. What should the collective term for Israel-haters be? An ‘envy of Israel-haters’? A ‘bigot of Israel-haters’? How about ‘an impotence’?

Any suggestions, or wider thoughts on the flotilla and flytilla, welcome…

As the flotilla flops in the Mediterranean, the flytilla gets underway. All this, hot on the heels of the border protests in May and June. A specific theme unites these new routes of anti-Israel hatred. The basic fact of national self-determination is to have borders and security, and  the common theme of these protests is a desire to breach this security. This shows what the underlying motivation is: anger at the fact that, in Israel, the Jewish people have self-determination.

Flotilla and flytilla indeed – they’d probably try and send in Godzilla if they could. Anything for a bit of attention. For most of these participants these ‘protests’ are vacuous gimmicks: bored, bigoted people yet again forcing Israel to be the moral adult, by visiting their childish whims on its hardworking security staff.

In taking-up these new tactics, the Israel-haters reveal more about themselves than they might have intended.

The very nature of these provocations show that those taking part in them do not believe their own hype. They can claim that Israeli policemen and soldiers are brutal monsters all they like, if they believed it they would not dare provoke them this way. So actually, in flocking to ‘protest’ this way they are paying a back-handed compliment to the morality and restraint of the IDF, police and other Israeli security staff.

Well, at least someone benefits from the venture; trying to breach Israel’s security does nothing to assist the Palestinian people. There are people who genuinely care about the Palestinians and work honestly to help them. Last month, the Miles Of Smiles aid convoy quietly and legally delivered genuine aid to the Gaza Strip. In its sincerity and modesty, this convoy constituted quite a contrast to the flotilla, and other related stunts.

For many other campaigners, the Palestinians are merely a people to use as a stick with which to beat Israel, a cause with which to promote themselves and a route to a feeling of self-righteousness. After all, they are silent about the oppression and brutality rained down on the Palestinians by Jordan, Lebanon, other Arab states and Hamas. In encouraging the Palestinians to blame Israel only for their woes, they patronise and misdirect them. After all, Israeli leaders – particularly Rabin and Barak – have made more honest efforts to give the Palestinians a state than any Arab has.

In a way, gimmicks like the flytilla and flotilla sadden me. It is upsetting that the agencies that work so hard protect Israel against so many threats should be forced to spend time dealing with stupid stunts. I also feel for any passengers who are making a genuine trip through Ben Gurion Airport this weekend.

But given what the fundamental motivation of these protests are, they are also a happy reminder of the self-determination Israel brings the Jewish people.  Let these fools turn-up with their chests puffed-up and their cameras in their hands. What they really oppose will never go away. Jewish self-determination will outlive every one of them. Am Yisrael Chai.

Regular readers might be aware of my love of the blended ice coffee sold by the Israeli chain Aroma. It was my good friend Jonathan Sacerdoti who introduced me to it. For that, I regard him with a mixture of gratitude and contempt. Gratitude, because it tastes divine. Contempt, because it’s hellishly ‘moreish’.

Indeed, during one visit to Israel I had four of them in one day. As a result, I practically floated around Tel Aviv all day. When I tried to sleep that night I couldn’t manage it, so I went for an extra late-night walk along the beach. A small price to pay, I’m sure you’ll agree.

For ages I have dreamt of the day when Aroma would open branches here in Britain. They’ve done so in New York, and a few European countries. In truth, I can understand why they’ve not come here. After all, Starbucks and its rivals have the market sewn-up. Plus, within minutes of Aroma opening here, swarms of impotent Israel-haters would arrive outside to scream about how disappointed they are with their own lives.

As a regular of Starbucks and Costa, I have been working my way through their growing ranges of ice coffees to try and find one that comes close to the Aroma one. This frappucino foray has finally yielded a result, in the form of a new drink that is very close in glory to the Aroma Ice Coffee, it is called the Costa Coffee Cooler.

Try it: just one sip and you feel like you’re in the Holy Land – in many senses.

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