uploaded : Thursday 14th Jul 2011 at 01:09
by : The Editors
'In seeking wisdom the first step is silence; the second: listening; the third: remembering; the fourth: practising; the fifth: teaching others.' Ibn Gabirol
I hope my Purcell Room anti-Boycott speech, to which I gave great care, taught something to those who had the wisdom to listen. Carol Gould
Here is my account of what happened at the South Bank on July 10th. Carol Gould
London July 14th, 2011
You may also read about the event from the pen of the excellent British journalist Marcus Dysch:
He also filed a report:
Carol Gould writes on 14 July:
I thought I would let the readers know how it went on Sunday July 10th at the South Bank Literature Festival at the Purcell Room with Jonathan Freedland on my side against Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti and Israel-boycotting poet Seni Seneviratne in a debate on the boycott movement.
May I point out here that on Saturday night, July 9th, I was taken to dinner by two dear friends and I asked one of them to take a photograph of me 'in one piece' because 'This is probably the last night of my life.' I was convinced I would be murdered at the South Bank centre by a radical, a la Theo van Gogh. It never occurred to me I would be set upon by a clutch of angry Jews. (I have enought trouble fending off the ire of right-wing international and Anglo- Jewry because I still have time for Barack Obama.)
The event on 10th July was chaired by Jonathan Heawood, the head of International PEN. The audience was comprised of what appeared to be about 150 members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Boycotting Israel and Just Peace UK, Writers for Palestine, PalFest as well as some venomous non-Jews. Jonathan Freedland was horrified by the heckling and shouting and by the shocking comments bellowed at us. At various stages he and I could not speak because of the loud hysteria of the crowd. Jonathan told one audience member that the abuse being voiced at the two of us was thinly-disguised, broader hostility to Israel itself and had nothing to do with cultural boycotting.
An Irishman made the vile observation that I was 'the sort of person who would love and encourage phone hackers and would probably revel in listening to the News of the World phone tapes.' No matter how hard I tried to keep my dignity I was laughed at, shouted down and generally abused to the point that I wondered if I might have a heart attack. Indeed all this week I have been experienceing shortness of breath. As I am still recovering from stage 3 cancer surgery and treatment it was even more of an ordeal than for a fit individual. I tried my best and hope I stood my ground as an opponent of cultural boycottds against this fiendish crowd of Gould-haters.
The real clincher was an elderly woman who was a Holocaust refugee who had emigrated to Palestine but had eventually left Israel because 'it is worse than the Nazi Germany I left -- it is a Nazi, racist state.' I did score points against Barghouti when he voiced the usual mantra about the concept of a Jewish State being a racist one; I reminded him that there are fifty-eight Muslim nations including the Islamic Republic of Iran and that the real racists are the Muslim conurbations that are intentionally Judenrein. I also reminded him that a few years ago Gaddafy was reported to have flown the last Jew to die in his country so she would not be buried in Libyan soil. (The number of world Muslim conurbations is a point of dispute: some regard the Maldives as separate mini-nations as well as the Malay Peninsula, added to which I include the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.)
One observation I would like to make is that over the years when I have done a lot of broadcasting for Press TV and al Kawthar including shows hosted by Nick Ferrari, Andrew Gilligan and Martin Bright there was always a large studio audience of young Muslims, mostly students from SOAS and members of MPACUK -- some angry young men and women. Though they disagreed with my views and those of Nick, Martin and Andrew these young activists were polite and never heckled or interrupted even though there were no rules at the studio about interrupting.
A woman came up to me after the Purcell Room event and said that though she disagreed with my views she was ashamed of this British audience. I knew perfectly well this would be a crowd comprised of Jewish and non-Jewish Israel-haters but did not expect that level of venom compounded by rotten manners. However it was heartwarming to be approached afterwards by a young woman wearing a 'Free Palestine' badge who told Jonathan Freedland and me she had changed her mind as a result of our presentations. It was also uplifting to be asked by Foyles to sign my book ’Spitfire Girls’ afterwards -- I needed my dignity restored, believe me !
We were also nonplussed by the fact that the SouthBank omitted Jonathan Freedland and me from the printed programme but had the two Israel-boycotters listed with short biographies. Many of my friends lean toward my view that this was deliberate. The South Bank Literature Festival could have inserted a slip with our pictures and biographies but there was nothing. When I produced the play 'The Song of Deborah' I had to wait until the withcing hour to finalise the glossy programme but I was determined to include every last name of anyone who had been involved in the production.
After the Boycott event I was escorted upstairs by the South Bank organisers for dinner in the ‘private dining room’ of the Queen Elizabeth Hall only to find about forty members of the audience eating there as well. I was nonplussed. I have asked for an explanation from the festival for this. How is it that hecklers and haters were given a free meal ? Was the Southbank Literature Festival complicit in papering the house and then rewarding my tormentors with a lavish meal?
Readers may also wish to go to Tony Greenstein’s blog to discover him congratulating one Naomi Foyle of British Writers in Support of Palestine for helping organise the event. The South Bank has insisted that they organised the event but it appears their invitation to PalFest prompted the attendance by at least 150 Israel-haters.
I’ve no idea how many people Jonathan Freedland invited but I must have invited 20,000 people on my various mailing lists and blogs, but only five friends came (two of them non-Jewish) as did Jonathan’s wife. That was it for supporters. Unbelievable. On every occasion when I am doing something to defend Israel or Jews I always get the excuse ‘It’s Shabbat!’ or ‘We have a simcha that day!’ but Sunday at the South Bank? Where was the Jewish community?
Anyway, I made my case for Israel to a supremely hostile audience, as did brave Jonathan Freedland. Had my small nest egg -- the payout from my critical illness insurance for my stage 3 cancer diagnosis -- not been stolen a few weeks ago by what appears to be a British Madoff, I would emigrate but as I am now rendered penniless I must stay. Whatever pennies I do have will be spent on buying Israeli goods.
Carol Gould appeared on 'The Agenda' hosted by Yvonne Ridley on Press TV (UK Sky channel 515) Saturday evening July 9th at 830PM, repeated Sunday afternoon 230PM debating the issue of American aid to Pakistan and beyond. You can watch at this link:
Carol will be appearing at the South Bank Literature Festival on Sunday 10 July at 7PM at the Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 in a debate on cultural boycotts with a focus on Israel.
The Festival writes:
Ian McEwan's acceptance of the Jerusalem Prize raised a storm of protest. We debate the motion 'Cultural boycott can be an effective, indeed morally imperative, political strategy'.
The debate features Omar Barghouti, human rights activist and author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions - The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, and poet Seni Seneviratne, author of Wild Cinammon and Winter Skin, both speaking for the motion. Speaking against the motion are Carol Gould, broadcaster and author of Don't Tread on Me - Anti-Americanism Abroad, and Jonathan Freedland, a columnist for the Guardian, and author of six books including Jacob's Gift.