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Archive for the ‘Jewish News column’ Category

This is my latest column for Jewish News:

As a vocal supporter of Israel and an active blogger in defence of the Jewish state I long ago realised that some critics of Israel are so consumed with blind hatred that they might never emerge from the darkness of their self-imposed intellectual dungeons. However, I fought to remain optimistic that such cases formed only a small number of Israel’s critics. In the last few weeks this optimism has been truly shaken.

I’d always hesitated to jump to extreme conclusions about what motivates people to be so strongly, ignorantly and uniquely hostile to Israel. I told myself that they were usually not motivated by antisemitism or any other evil inclination, they were simply a little bit misguided and very ill-informed. If only they could be shown a more balanced picture, I hoped, they might quickly begin to develop a more sensible approach.

But people around the world saw the videos and photographs of what the Israeli commandos faced on those boats and still many refuse to accept what happened. When they were shown videos filmed by the flotilla passengers themselves proving that at least some on the fateful boat were proudly determined to provoke a violent confrontation and become ‘martyrs’ they still saw no evil and heard no evil. Even when relatives and friends of some of the dead confirmed what their motivation had been their words were broadly overlooked.

Then at the weekend we had photographs of the passengers’ brutality which they took and published themselves, but still it was not enough. It’s as if a suspect is in court pleading guilty to a crime and producing compelling evidence to prove his  guilt and yet people are sitting shaking their heads in the jury box and saying: “No, he doesn’t mean it, he’s not really guilty”. Israel, meanwhile, faced a different but sadly familiar standard of treatment in the court of public opinion: guilty until proven guilty.

In attempting to defend Israel one becomes accustomed to struggling through an obstacle course of double standards. These include that, unlike any of the world’s other conflicts or disputes, Israel is the one on which people who know little nonetheless speak lots. One rarely hears people commenting about, say, Sri Lanka’s war with the Tamil Tigers, the nomadic hostilities in Sudan or India’s battle with the Maoists unless they have a decent grasp of the issues involved. But people who know almost nothing about what is going on in the Middle East nonetheless feel not just permitted to comment on the matter but absolutely compelled to.

These ill-informed comments are nearly always hostile to Israel, but it is not just the ignorant who are making such disturbing noises. Politicians from all parties joined in the dishonest flotilla narrative and they should hang their heads in shame for their cowardice. It is because of their chorus of hatred that the solidarity demonstration arranged by the Zionist Federation last week was so important. In an upsetting week it proved comforting and inspiring to be among 700 other supporters of Israel, making our voices heard and proudly waving our Israeli flags.

We are a movement of wonderful people but let’s be honest, our level of activity and noise is generally put to shame by the other side. The more shows of strength we make the less inclined our politicians will feel to turn their backs on Israel as they did last week. We need to get our message spot on. Language is vital, so although it is perfectly true that Israel has a right to defend herself I feel this is too meek a statement, because the truth goes a lot deeper than that. Israel has an absolute duty to defend herself.

For the way it so morally and courageously does just that, the IDF has my wide-eyed respect.

You can read Jewish News online here.

Next week Amnesty International is staging two events in London to demonise Israel’s security barrier: an art exhibition and the launch of a book which collects images of graffiti sprayed on the barrier. Between them these two events will bring together some of the worst elements of Britain’s Israel-bashers: ghastly self-indulgence, wilful dishonesty and a shameless contempt for the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Lets deal with the self-indulgence first. It is so easy for your Amnesty type to be a fan of graffiti because few of them live in areas that are decimated by vandalism and therefore they rarely understand that it is the ordinary man and woman who pays – via increased council tax -  to have it cleaned up. It’s not so easy to marvel at ‘groovy’ graffiti when it’s on your own doorstep.

Even the Palestinians have taken issue with it.  When the childish graffiti guru ‘Banksy’ first travelled to paint on the security barrier  he set off full of enthusiasm, describing his trip to the West Bank as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”. But the wind got taken out of his sails when a furious Palestinian approached him at the barrier. “You’ve made it look beautiful,” the man told him. “Oh, thanks,” replied Banksy. Angrily, the Palestinian explained: “We don’t want it to look beautiful. We hate it. Go home!”

The dishonesty of Amnesty’s criticism is fulsome. It begins with the very word they use to describe it – the “wall”. Only around three per cent of it could sensibly be described as a wall. This is around the same percentage of the English population that is between the ages of five and seven years old. So in reality the barrier is as much a ‘wall’ as England is a country populated by five-to-seven year olds. But, as so often happens, when it comes to criticism of Israel any slur will do.

Just as they lie, so do they ignore obvious facts: that most of the barrier conforms to the ‘green line’; that many Palestinian farmers have successfully petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to have parts of it moved; that almost every country in the world has borders and many have walls too, from Saudi Arabia to America. What is it about this ‘wall’ that uniquely offends them? That it has so effectively saved Jewish lives?

I hope that’s not it, of course. But until any of the barrier’s bitter opponents manage an even half-sensible suggestion as how to stop suicide attacks on Israel in its absence, we will have to wonder.  Before it was constructed there was regular bloodshed in Israel. Over a thousand Israelis were murdered or severely injured in suicide attacks in the six years leading to its completion. There has been a reduction of over 90 per cent in such deaths as a result of the barrier.  If the barrier were torn down then not only would deaths of Israeli civilians rise, so too would deaths of Palestinians because there would be inevitable responses to any new terror attacks.

When I’ve seen Palestinians being detained as they cross the barrier and other checkpoints I’ve felt sad for them. When I’ve seen Israeli school-buses ripped to pieces along with the bodies of the children they once contained, I’ve felt absolutely sickened. I have nothing but contempt for the people who are so bitterly opposed to the temporary measure that has effectively and peacefully stopped this sort of thing from happening.

It is no coincidence that efforts to delegitimize  Israel have been stepped up since the construction of the barrier. Starved of the ability to destroy Israel with bombs, its enemies are now determined to destroy it with lies. We need to respond to this tactic here just as Israel responded to the suicide bombings over there: with zero tolerance.

The above is my latest column for Jewish News. You can read the paper online here. Please note Jonathan Hoffman’s comment below about how you can help defend Israel from Amnesty’s distortions.

This is my latest column for Jewish News:

You always remember your first time. It was my Dad who introduced me to the joy of shawarma. I was a teenager when he  took me to  a west London take-away and bought me my first one. We stood guzzling them on a street corner, trying to not spill all the contents over the pavement. The lamb was juicy, the salad crisp and the chilli sauce vehement. I knew right then my life would never be the same again. We returned throughout that summer, sometimes twice in one evening.

I have since become obsessed with shawarma and have eaten them in locations as diverse as Jerusalem, Manhattan, Slough, Paros, Amsterdam, and Golders Green. It is in good old Golders that my most serious shawarma action has occurred. Oh those heady summer evenings sitting out the front of Solly’s with friends. This was my promised land, or so I thought. Then White House Express opened up the road….

At first I sneered at this new tahina-temptress and snorted at the very thought of me ever playing away from my beloved Solly’s. Then I began to hear glowing reviews of the new place and was eventually persuaded to try it. I arrived full of scepticism, more or less pushed through the door by my good friend Jonathan. But then they had me at the first mouthful. Now when friends ask me when I last ate in Solly’s I reply: “When I last ate where?” It’s a cruel world.

Speaking of that neighbourhood, if you saw two forlorn-looking fellows on Golders Green Road just after Pesach ended this year that was Jonathan and me. We had stupidly convinced ourselves that at least one of White House Express or Solly’s would throw open their doors the moment the festival ended. We ignored all the evidence to the contrary including the vocal derision of our loved ones and the unanswered phone-calls at both establishments. Of course neither place opened that night and we ended up having to settle for a curry. We told each other: “This is just as good as shawarma” but we knew we lying. When a shawarma is what you want nothing else will do.

I remember back in my teenage years my father amply demonstrated this one evening when he and my mother arrived home late from a drinks party across the road. My Dad was passionately craving a shawarma but was unable to drive to the aforementioned take-away as he’d supped a few too many Martinis. He sat with his head in his hands begging my mother to drive him there. Only when it looked like he might start crying did my mother relent. As I saw how seriously he took it I thought: “That’s the sort of man I want to grow up to be”.

And I think I have – I’ll do anything for a shawarma. I sometimes visit a Lebanese outlet near me and once had a tricky moment while paying. “My friend, would you like to donate your change to Viva Palestina?” asked the owner, and the entire venue fell silent in anticipation of my response. “I’ll sleep on it,” was the best I could muster. I now make sure I have the correct change.

During my most recent visit to Israel I managed to eat shawarma for all but one of my main meals during my stay. How my Israeli friends laughed as I came over all English, politely asking for a simple combination of fillings, while they gave detailed, demanding instructions for theirs. Oh man the shawarma was nice, though. My four-day feast of it brought with it predictable calorific and meteorological consequences but it was worth both. Naturally, one of the first things I did when I got back was text Jonathan and ask: “When can we meet in Golders Green?”

You can read Jewish News online here.

This is my latest column for Jewish News:

With the election campaign underway, we have to hope the BNP does not follow its two seats in the European Parliament with any in our Parliament. I’m encouraged by the Jewish community’s anti-BNP efforts through Hope Not Hate and also by the news that the CST was consulted by interfaith leader Fiyaz Mughal as part of his quest to stop Nick Griffin. I’ve long admired the CST and its brave, invaluable work in countering the multi-faceted brutality that is increasingly surrounding Britain’s Jewish community. Indeed, even though I am not Jewish I have my own personal cause to be thankful to The CST.

In January 2009, as Israel was finally responding to years of rocket attacks from Gaza,  I attended a vigil of solidarity with Israel in London. Even before I arrived at the vigil outside the Israeli Embassy I realised that it was going to be an unpleasant evening.  Pro-Hamas demonstrators were lurking on the walk from High Street Kensington tube to the Embassy and hurling abuse at anyone they perceived to be headed to the vigil, including a group of elderly Jews.

When I arrived I was asked to give an interview to a television crew. As I was speaking, two pro-Hamas demonstrators literally barged into me and started shouting angry slogans about “Israeli murderers” and then started demanding that Israel withdraw from Gaza. “They already did – in 2005,” I reminded them and they eventually waddled off.  Throughout our vigil, pro-Hamas demonstrators hurled abuse and objects in our direction. Some of them tried to break through the barrier to get to us. Thankfully the police had searched a cross-section of people as they arrived because as they quickly discovered, some of the Hamas supporters had turned up with bricks and knives hidden in their coats.

The pro-Hamas demonstrators then took to driving right past our vigil shouting insults, waving Hamas flags and – in one case – spitting at a shy young Jewish boy. Meanwhile, we remained calm and dignified. We sang about peace, and also sang the Israeli and English national anthems. It was after the demonstration finished that the CST came into its own. As we walked to the tube station, the atmosphere was uneasy. Although the police had tried to ensure the two sets of demonstrators walked to different stations, some of the pro-Hamas bunch were lurking on our route in a threatening manner. Were it not for the CST bravely lining the route, I’m almost certain my two female friends and I would not have made it to the station unharmed. Indeed, one orthodox Jew was attacked that evening as he visited some friends who lived not far from the Embassy.

So it astounded me when, in the wake of Yoav Shamir’s  flawed film Defamation which questioned the work of the Anti Defamation League,  I read people suggesting that all is well for Britain’s Jewish community and questioning whether there is a need for the CST. How can the safety of Jewish children as they walk to school in the morning be in question? Or the safety of people walking to synagogue on a Friday night? Also, has it not occurred to the CST’s critics that where antisemitism has been successfully challenged that this will often be precisely because of the efforts of groups like the CST?

Returning to the forthcoming election I would say that another key target must be a bad night for the Liberal Democrats. They are a small party, which makes their high number of Israel-bashers and other creeps disproportionate and unacceptable. Their production in north London of starkly contrasting leaflets to push through the respective doors of Jewish and Muslim voters is horrific, as is the prospect of Nick Clegg having influence in the Foreign Office of any coalition government. That cannot be allowed to happen so we must use our votes wisely.

You can read Jewish News online here. Please rate this post at Jblog here.

Here is my latest column for Jewish News…

I think it was probably when I was encouraged to bang my neighbour on the head with a spring onion that I decided Pesach is my favourite Jewish festival. I’ve been part of some tense family get-togethers down the years, but I had never previously considered the pros and cons of using a root vegetable as a dinner-table weapon during any of them. But there, at my first ever Seder at a London synagogue some years ago, I quickly fell for the charms of the Sephardic tradition as I assaulted my neighbour (the wonderful author Carol Gould) with a spring onion. My philosemitic side purred with admiration and I began to wish that Easter or Christmas featured a similar moment of playful vegetable violence.

Actually, I do have to suppress a giggle when I hear my fellow gentiles moan throughout December about ‘what a nightmare’ it is to prepare Christmas dinner. I’ve nothing but admiration for the women (it’s still nearly always women) who cook the Turkey and stuffing, but Christmas comes only once a year while feast-based festivals are regular occurrences in the Jewish calendar and  there is Shabbat to prepare for every week. It makes our knicker-twisting about getting the stuffing and crackers ready seem a bit silly, really.

I love a Jewish feast so I feel blessed that I am sometimes asked to Shabbat meals with Jewish friends and that I’ve just been invited for the second successive year to Seder with the wonderful Schogger family. For me the Seder is a powerful experience as it involves the re-telling of a story from the Torah that particularly moves me. Furthermore, I could sing along to Dayenu and Let My People Go all day and night given the chance. Not sure my fellow diners would be so keen to hear my less-than-dulcet tones though – oy, talk about suffering.

Thankfully, when the food arrives it is absolutely glorious, but then I am lucky enough to attend the Seder at the home of the very best cook in London. What a treat she serves up for us. All in all, my only issue with the Seder is that it’s all over so soon. Just five hours at the dinner table – what’s with the rush? The following morning we had Matzo pancakes for breakfast and they were so lovely they took me to the brink of tears of pure joy. As soon as I got home I tried to make some myself. So hideously did I fail at this task that I barely spoke for three weeks after and – to robust consensus – haven’t attempted to cook anything since.

Honestly, I still dry wretch just thinking about the sorry, soggy excuses for pancakes that I created. I would have been lucky to get one out of 10 for them on Come Dine With Me. Actually, as a fan of that Channel 4 reality series I think they should produce a Pesach-special called Come Lean With Me. These would be epic programmes that would take over the entire evening schedule for a week and it would be great fun watching the competitiveness build, particularly if the contestants included the spring onion moment. Channel 4 should commission it at once: it might even begin to balance out all those vile anti-Israel programmes they have churned out of late.

Back at the real Seder table I love the climactic declaration: ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ as the proceedings finally come to an end. What a moving statement to conclude a meal with. As a festive feast finale it really beats ‘Right, who’s washing, who’s drying?” or  a belched “What time’s the Queen’s Speech on?’ Who knows where I’ll be next year but this year I shall be in Borehamwood, and gleefully so. Wherever you are I wish you a Chag Sameach.

You can read Jewish News online here.

Please rate this post at Jblog here.

Here is my latest column for Jewish News:

I first visited Israel in 2006 and on my return I wrote in these very hallowed pages about how tearfully thrilling it had been for me, a gentile philosemite, to finally meet my heroes. I went again in 2007 and then made my third visit to Israel last week. Here are some highlights…

1 As he had driven me through the sleet of east Berkshire to reach Heathrow Airport my taxi driver had spluttered on at me about Ashley Cole. The taxi driver who took me to my hotel in Tel Aviv put a beautiful classical music CD on as we cruised down Menachem Begin Road and we both played air piano. When I told him the name of my blog – Oy Va Goy – he nearly crashed the car laughing.

2 The following day I took the bus to Jerusalem and walked through the Kotel tunnels with my good friend Tal (pictured with me below). I really recommend a walk through the tunnels, though they are cramped. At one point we were followed down a very claustrophobia-inducing section by a large gang of young Israeli soldiers. I thought for a moment I was about to cop it for the British Mandate.

3 Ze’ev Jabotinsky is one of my heroes so I was excited to visit the Jabotinsky Museum. The cheerful guide took me to the presentation room and asked me to choose from two videos, explaining: “One is for your heart, one is for your brain.” I said “I have a very large brain so the brain one please.” He told me to sit in the third row for the best view. As I sat down he sighed: “No, that’s the fourth row. Not such a big brain, then…”

4 As it was a short trip I was only in the country for three lunches and three suppers. Of those six meals I ate shawarma in laffa for four of them. The physiological effects were far from ideal.

5 I lost count of how many iced coffees I bought from Aroma. Addictive – horribly unforgivably addictive.

6 A tip: if you want to pause for a moment in Mahane Yehuda Market to savour your halva-filled Hamantash then don’t worry about inconveniencing your fellows pedestrians – they’ll just barge straight through you. (cf Carmel Market the following day.)

7 The free internet wireless I discovered on the corner of Ben Yehuda and Frishman was handy for posting smug weather boasts on Twitter. I wasn’t the only one who regularly paused there for an iPhone session – I saw the same glamorous Jewess several times. I even got a smile out of her on the last day.

8 On my final evening in Tel Aviv I was punished for all my Twitter weather-boasts when there was what can only be described as a biblical rain storm. With the roads of the city having little drainage whole blocks turned into a river. So we took refuge in a great business just off Dizengoff Square which combines a cafe, a DVD store and a launderette. The rain was perfectly-timed – the heavens opened just after I had bought souvenirs for me and just as I was about to look for presents for friends. Not my fault I came back empty-handed, people – take it up with the big guy.

9 As I arrived at Ben Gurion for my return flight I remembered my first trip when I received a 150-minute questioning and search at the airport. I love Israelis and I love talking about myself so I was secretly hoping for more of the same this time. To my disappointment they whizzed me through check-in with barely a whimper. What am I – chopped liver?

10 As my flight home lifted off the land of Israel I was gripped by one thought. Come back. Come back soon.

You can read Jewish News online here.

This is my latest column for Jewish News…

BBC executives at a corporation seminar were once asked to rule on a theoretical broadcasting dilemma. They were asked how they would react if a guest on BBC2′s Room 101 show nominated the following items to consign to the dustbin of history: some kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Bible and the Koran. The response from the executives was that all the items would be allowed with the exception of the Koran, for fear of offending Muslims. This is ironic because their verdict is actually offensive to Muslims, suggesting as it does that Jews and Christians can take a joke but Muslims cannot.

Comedy is a funny world – and not always in the way it intends to be. I grew up as a wave of so-called ‘alternative comedians’ vowed to sweep away the old-school comics and truly shake up the establishment. Naturally, as their waistlines expanded their rebelliousness withered away. Many of them were soon parking their considerable behinds on the primetime television schedules and becoming fully paid-up members of the establishment. Fair enough. The only guaranteed way to avoid selling out is have something nobody wants to buy.

For the current comedy generation though the aim is often not to follow the ‘right-on’ humour of the 1980s, but rather to shock and offend. I’m not worried about offensive humour per se, but I’m sick of jokes about the Holocaust. It’s always wrong, all the more so given the younger generation’s regularly revealed ignorance of the issue (one in six British schoolchildren recently polled thought Auschwitz is a theme park). Jimmy Carr cracked an inappropriate joke about the Holocaust live on stage, prompting roars of laughter. But the memorable part was not the joke, nor the laughter itself but the round of applause that followed the laughter. It felt unsettling.

Not that Carr is alone in making such jokes. David Mitchell made one about Anne Frank, so too have Ricky Gervais and Russell Howard. Perhaps I’m a wimp but I don’t like it. And in my experience many of the comedians who like to push the boundaries of humour by making such quips prove less courageous when it comes to other sensitive areas, particularly extremist Islam. But then if you offend the Jewish community the worst that will happen to you is a few letters of complaint and perhaps a statement of condemnation from the Board Of Deputies. No bloodcurdling mobs, death threats or worse.

Not that I’m suggesting the latter response would be a good idea. But I do think that comedians should stop kidding themselves that they’re being brave by joking about the Holocaust or even Israel, when their comedic courage is so selective. The only comedian I can think of who will ‘go in studs-up’ consistently is Frankie Boyle. He’s made tasteless jokes at Israel’s expense but also at the expense of militant Islam and a range of other targets. You might think that being universally offensive is a bad thing, but at least he’s consistent and he’s actually very funny.

Which is more than you can say for the likes of Jeremy Hardy, with his egotistical film ‘Jeremy Hardy vs The Israeli Army’. Plenty of comedians make repeated quips at Israel, Bush, Blair and the war on terror but rarely speak about Hamas, the Taliban or Saddam Hussein. It’s easy to sneer at Blair in a London television studio, would any of them would be brave enough to stand on a street corner in Kandahar or Baghdad and poke fun at the extremists that our troops are bravely fighting?

If comics want to carry on slamming Israel and sniggering at Anne Frank then they can prove how taboo-breaking they are by fearlessly tackling some other sensitive areas like Islamic extremism. Until they’re willing to do that their jokes about the Holocaust and Israel will be doubly contemptible.

You can visit the Jewish News website here.

This is my latest column for Jewish News…

I travelled to Amsterdam for New Year’s Eve to witness the city’s breathtaking celebrations as the sky is lit up with more fireworks than you can imagine. My trip came just days after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to pull off an even more spectacular explosion on the Detroit-bound plane that had started its journey from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. Consequently, I arrived early at Schipol for my journey home, expecting tighter security checks in the wake of the Detroit incident.

Surprisingly, the process was as laid back as usual. No wonder I felt a touch twitchy on the flight home. It always surprises me when people complain about heavy security at airports. It seems a reckless stance to take – and sometimes a hypocritical one. In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks people in England rolled their eyes about how “naive” Americans were about airport security, particularly for internal flights. “It’s scarcely tighter than it is for train journeys in England,” they complained. But when America tightened security many of the same people complained that they were being too rigorous.

You won’t catch me moaning about ‘over-zealous’ vigilance when it comes to air travel – the tighter the better, I say. Indeed, the only times I’ve felt truly safe on a flight is when I’ve flown to Israel on good old El Al. The airline’s stringent safety measures on the ground and in the air are legendary. They are enough to reassure the most neurotic of passengers and are stunningly effective. If the whole world flew El Al-style then the would-be terrorists would soon be hanging up their box-cutter knives, shoe bombs and explosive pants.

My first trip on El Al was great fun. I was sitting next to a stunning Jewess. On learning she was Scottish I attempted a bit of break-the-ice humour. “I suppose,” I said with a bashful smile, “that being Scottish you find it even easier to pronounce words like la’chaim”. Dear reader, never in the history of mankind has a joke fallen more flat. Luckily, we soon hit it off as we sat watching the usual El Al passenger behaviour. (Has the airline ever thought of adopting Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up as its anthem?)

My time in Israel was wonderful, it really is the best country in the world to holiday in. The journey home was fun, too. As I checked in at Ben Gurion, I received a fairly thorough questioning. “Don’t be offended,” they told me. Offended? I loved every moment. I had nothing to hide, and every holiday maker loves to find a captive audience to talk to about their trip. The work that El Al has done to keep its passengers safe is just wonderful. It’s time more airlines and airports looked to the El Al example.

The attempted Detroit attack has come as a shock to some. An Islamic terrorist attacking Obama’s America on Christmas Day: that’s a wake-up call and a half. Or is it? Malcolm Grant is the Provost of University College London, where Abdulmutallab studied and became President of the Islamic Society. In a painfully defensive article in the wake of the incident, Grant wrote of Abdulmutallab: “What induced this behaviour remains a mystery. He has not emerged from a background of deprivation and poverty. He came from one of Nigeria’s wealthiest families.”

This suggests spectacular naiveté about Islamic terrorism on the part of Professor Grant. Speaking of which, the  attempted bombing might also have come as something of a shock to President Barack Obama. You can imagine him shaking his head in despair as he tucked into his Christmas dinner: “What, so you mean prostrating myself in front of our enemies, blaming everything on Israeli settlements and chanting empty self-help slogans isn’t enough to stop terrorists?”

Yes, it’s quite a challenge to keep the skies over America safe, Mr President. If you want some help you could do worse than give El Al a call.

You can visit the Jewish News website here.

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.

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.

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