uploaded : Sunday 29th Jun 2003 at 23:51
by : The Editors
During the past fortnight a number of extraordinary statements in various newspapers has passed by without notice. Perhaps one reason has been the media frenzy around the unprecedented grilling of Prime Minister Tony Blair?s ?Doctor of Spin? Alistair Campbell (officially he is Downing Street?s Director of Communications) before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. The debate about who ?sexed up? documents relating to the existence of weapons of mass destruction prior to the Iraq War has reached such a crescendo that Mr Campbell stormed into the studios of Channel Four London this week and ?forced? anchorman Jon Snow to conduct an impromptu interview with him on-air live. Now, the BBC has had to enter the fray because accusations have been flying back and forth from Parliamentary committee room to newspapers to Broadcasting House that the BBC?s Andrew Gilligan accused Campbell of ?sexing up? documents justifying the invasion.
If you go to any UK newspaper website you may read reams on this current story:
etc etc etc
Meanwhile, London's newspapers have been making statements that have dumbfounded many of us, but these pronouncements have not by any means reached the level of national debate. In an article in ?The Guardian? entitled ?There will be no Middle East peace without Hamas? Martin Woollacott on 13th June made this astonishing observation that this generation of Hamas leaders will have to content themselves with the Palestinian state as outlined by the Road Map, but that it will be up to the next generation to ?decide what to do about the rest of Palestine ot, to put it another way, about Israel.?
Mr Woollacott was NOT saying ?Israel must be vigilant in future generations, as the desire amongst a large number of Palestinian factions to eliminate Israel will not dissipate any time soon? nor did he say ?The tiny state of Israel will always be endangered by massive numbers of neighbours intent on her annihilation.?
No, he said that Hamas, an organisation responsible for the death and maiming of thousands of Jews over decades, should bide its time and then when the time is right go forward with its original goal: (his words) ?securing all of historic Palestine.?
If I had written this in the United States about al Qaeda I would have been deemed a lunatic. The article is written to explain Mr Woollacott?s view that a ?Palestinian leader [Abu Mazen] seen to be in collusion with Israel could not last for long.? His assessment is that Hamas is a powerful and viable force that will eventually deal with Israel. This reminds me of an elderly Scotsman who screamed out at an American panellist at a Channel Four recording I attended ,?Next time there is another September 11th I hope they finish you lot off.? Gee, thanks. And as a Jew, I say gee thanks, Mr Woollacott for your generous assessment of the Jewish State?s future.
In ?The Evening Standard,? the former US Deputy Secretary of State James Rubin, in an editorial entitled ?What Bush Must Say to Sharon? makes the astonishing assertion that in the Oslo period terrorist attacks were stopped by mutual security operations.
Much as I loved what Yitzhak Rabin was trying to do, and much as I admired the efforts of the Oslo negotiators over those many years spearheaded by President Clinton, never were there more suicide attacks than during Oslo. During Oslo Nachson Waschsman was kidnapped and murdered. In fact, Mr Rubin, Hamas, Hezbollah and Jihad -- as well as Yigal Amir?s followers -- were enraged by the idea of a peace deal between the two peoples and perpetrated unprecedented violence inside Israel when Oslo was being engineered and Nobel Peace Prizes distributed. When Shimon Peres was Prime Minister after the Rabin assassination, so many bombs went off, and so many Katyusha rockets rained in to greater Israel that his popularity plummeted and he lost the election to Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.
Moving on to other papers, the exemplary Camilla Cavendish has taken up the cudgel in ?The Times? for the retention of Kashrut and Halal in Great Britain. She refers to the anti shechita campaigners as ?The Politically Correct Brigade? and condemns them for using their alleged anguish over animal suffering as a thinly-veiled excuse to infringe Muslim and Jewish religious traditions. She even goes so far as to say ? Are we to become a nation of Jains, crossing the road to avoid stepping on a beetle?? Cavendish quotes the late Bertrand Russell, who said animal rights taken to their logical conclusion meant votes for oysters. She says it is more important to get along with Jewish and Muslim friends than to worry about the last thirty seconds of the life of Phoenix the calf. As JewishComment has mentioned in the article below, the art critic Brian Sewell wrote a poisonous article about ritual slaughter in the London ?Evening Standard? in which he extols the gentle nature of the Anglo-Saxon. My response was as follows:
Letters to the Editor,
The Evening Standard
18th June 2003
Brian Sewell insults Muslims and Jews with his specious belly-aching about an ancient custom sacred to both faiths.
Whilst the white Anglo-Saxons of Christian Europe, whom Sewell seems to feel were such gentle folk, were subjecting fellow humans to the rack; burning at the stake; flaying and other unspeakable atrocities in the name of Christianity, Maimonides and other non-Christian scholars from ancient lands were writing their enduring commentaries.
Christian Europe perpetrated the Crusades, in which hordes of Muslims were annihilated Non-Muslim and non-Jewish Europe also invented the Inquisition; pogroms, the Gulags and the Holocaust. Sewell also makes a disturbing aside about how concern over shechita was not so much in the spotlight when there were only 50,000 Jews here. Would he like to return to the days after 1290 when the Jews were expelled from England (those who did not convert were burned alive) and not allowed to return until Cromwell reversed the one-way edict? Britain has the dubious distinction of being the first European nation to expel its Jews in perpetuity.
Before condemning minority faiths for their attitudes towards animal slaughter, non-Jews and non-Muslims should look to their own 2,000-year blood-curdling relationship with other human beings and leave minority cultures in peace.
Just when I thought I had seen the most bizarre of the daily press, an essay entitled ?Apocalypse Soon? by Revd Dr Giles Fraser appeared in ?The Guardian? asserting that 45 million Evangelical Christians in the United States represent a crucial ?block vote? for President Bush. The article follows the usual path of ?terrible Bush linking up with even more terrible Zionists? by describing the problems the Palestinian Bishop of Jerusalem has trying to see Ariel Sharon, whilst ?Happy to have any friends it can get, the Israeli government has long since exploited its connections with far-right US Christian groups.?
This is such balderdash! The most significant financial and emotional support Israel has received for generations has been from the United States and Canadian Jewish community, 85% of whom are Progressives-- Reform and Conservative. This support has gone into educational and scientific research institutions as well as welfare for the near-million Jews expelled from Arab nations since the 1930s.
Revd Dr Fraser also provides the usual mantra about boycotting the terrible Israelis. He informs readers that Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem has persuaded the World Council of Churches to call for sanctions on all products from the occupied territories. What about sanctions against Mugabe whilst we are at it, vicar?
Along with ?Prospect? Magazine this month, Revd Fraser reminds us that the real agenda of the Evangelicals is the conversion of the Jews and the inevitable massacre from Haifa to Eilat that will accompany the Next Coming. The idea that Americans support Israel because of this belief is a mischievous simplification of the warm connection Americans feel toward a nation full of the same race that has given the USA Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, Irving Berlin, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand, not to mention the pioneer heritage both young nations share.
Revd Fraser is vicar of Putney and teaches philosophy at Oxford. I suggest he spend a year amongst Americans. In my lifetime I have never met a Yank who thinks Israel is great because Jesus will be welcomed next time around. The Americans I meet love Israel because of the bravery of its people; their hard work and enterprise and their ability to carry on despite being attacked over and over again since the birth of their tiny nation out of the ashes of Christian Europe.
John Sutherland in ?The Guardian,? like Revd Fraser, examines the enormous success of the apocalyptic books sweeping mainland America and its troops around the world. A string of ?Left Behind? books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins along with Dan Brown?s ?The Da Vinci Code? concentrate on the Armageddon scenario (defeat of the anti-Christ) and cryptography. I cannot do the article justice by synopsising it here :
Nonetheless I have to observe that Sutherland?s cynical attitude reflects a general trend towards secularism in Britain that has left churches nearly empty even on Good Friday. He says that if the secrets hidden in the Da Vinci Code were revealed ?orthodox Christianity and the Bible would be exploded for the hoaxes they are.? (Imagine how long John Sutherland would last writing that in an American paper.) He ends his critique by informing us that ?Old Europe? has not been taken in by these books and that a handful of copies have sold over here.
Well, considering that Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Stalin and Mao all thought the Bible was an evil hoax I?ll take the Torah for bedtime reading any time.