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Thinking of Israel Whilst at Sea
Last uploaded : Monday 24th Jul 2006 at 01:58
Contributed by : The Editor


There is something truly surreal about sailing across the foggy, cold North Atlantic during Israel’s darkest hour since the Yom Kippur War.

When I last crossed on the QE2 my thoughts turned to the ordeal of my antecedents, whose arduous voyage from Eastern Europe to ‘The Land Paved mit Gold’ was an ordeal in which many passengers died or fell ill. On a luxury liner one is still felled by seasickness and malaise, so the misery of those immigrants, packed like cattle on a filthy steamer must have been unimaginable.

Nearing New York and the Statue of Liberty my thoughts once again turn to the journey of my family and of the thoughtless things said to me in Southampton Docks this past Tuesday, when an elderly British holidaymaker thought he would make my departure enjoyable by haranguing me about the Jews, America and Israel.

I get a few pieces of hate mail per year and it is always from Jihadists or white Britons. Yes, I do lay into Britain from time to time but the fact is that many expatriates with even the slightest trace of a North American accent are on the receiving end of vicious verbal artillery on a daily basis. So, if it seems I complain at length about verbal attacks from Britons that go way beyond the polite editorial comment, it is because the content is disturbing and extraordinarily hurtful and needs to be brought into a public forum.

At the QM2 Departure Docks, an elderly British WWII serviceman boarding alongside me made an astounding observation: he said that the Israelis will never triumph because they have yet to learn how to steer a tank or aim a gun. Doh? How did Israel triumph over six mighty Arab nations buoyed by the Soviet Union in 1967? How did Israel escape annihilation at its very birth or in the Yom Kippur War? This truly outdid the standard commentary one hears from British veterans: Israelis are rotten soldiers because they are ‘yellow like the Yanks. ‘ ‘Yanks are always the first to run in battle.’ (Tell that to the widows of the men of Omaha Beach.)

The fellow passenger's miserable barbs about the Jews and Israel were so appalling that I counted to ten, not wishing to start a full-blown argument or cause his demise at the start of a glorious holiday on the Atlantic, and as he was getting more and more peuce I could see the mere subject itself of Jews and Israel made his blood pressure rise. He barked that the Haganah lured British sailors off ships with scantily-clad prostitutes at the docks, only to shoot them as they came ashore. One of his comments, that the Jews started terrorism and should never have been allowed into Palestine, resonated with me long after I boarded the ship. Why is it that so many Britons not only fail to see what Israel means to post-Holocaust Jewry but that they feel it is open season when insulting supporters of Israel in such a degrading manner?

The foul words of the man, which really did shake me and cause my first hours on the QM2 to be ruined, set me thinking: what exactly did he want? Had Germany won the war he would have rejoiced at the sight of British Jewry and our then-small population of black citizens being marched off to crematoria. He would have had no Israel to detest. What would have been his fate? I imagine he would have risen high in the ranks of the German Occupation’s Home Guard force. Then America would have come along to liberate Britain and he would have been hanged as a collaborator. There is a moral to this story, but let us turn to Israel.

It transpired that on the Cunard liner for this crossing were 1,400 Germans who had boarded at Hamburg. On the first night of dining I reported to my designated table and found I was placed with a large table of Germans. This did not worry me in the slightest, as I have German friends and find them infinitely more gracious about Israel and America than are my fellow Britons. However, I was in for a rude awakening because the men at the table said ‘NO!’ and would not let me sit at the table. (Please note that Cunard is stringent about passengers taking their designated table allotment and not moving, so I was in a dilemma. Do I sit anyway, and incur their wrath?) I went to the Restaurant Manager’s desk to find a long line of Americans and Britons who ranged from forlorn to upset to furious. They, too, had been banned from German tables.

Eventually I was placed at a table of five charming Americans, who though all non-Jewish, were worried about Israel in the present crisis. What a relief it was to be away from the thoughtless driver, and to be amongst the gentlest of North Americans genuinely worrying about the fate of the Jewish State. The journey to New York is nearly over, and every night that we have assembled everyone asks the same question: ‘Any news on Israel, folks?’ My answer to the readers who take the trouble to sit down and write angry letters saying ‘Stop writing about bloody Israel’ is that this group of Americans, hailing from five different states and of varying ages and backgrounds, cares deeply about the Jewish State without being ‘bullied by Zionists’ as the British and European media and, sadly, Harvard’s Drs Walt and Mearscheimer like to imagine is happening every day to defenceless White Anglo Saxons across the globe.

Reading Ha’aretz last night on the limited Internet service available in mid-North-Atlantic the faces of the Israeli soldiers killed this week are those of so many Jewish families. They are blonde, red-haired or dark, and all are the descendants of Jews who chose to be Israelis because it was a tiny oasis away from the ugly bilge to which I had to listen in the car journey to Southampton. Onboard the QM2 during this hour of Israel’s need it is painful to be out of reach of communication with friends and colleagues in that eternally beleaguered little country. However it has been possible to pick up a report that a London newspaper has had to apologise to its readers and to the Anglo-Jewish community about a cartoon showing a Star of David as a fist destroying all in its midst.

It always astonishes me how obdurate many Europeans and Britons are when challenged to find a bit of sympathy in their veins for Israel’s predicament. The widely-disseminated notion that President Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Tony Blair are somehow under the cudgel of a wave of Zionist agitators is shared by the Harvard Dons mentioned herewith, but this calumny is a sham. Seeing the genuine anguish of my rural-American table companions about the fate of Israel is gratifying evidence enough for me to believe that the Jewish State is supported by many without any need for Zionist lobbying.

When I was in Israel in 1996 the peace process was at its height but suicide bombers were running rampant and in the space of a month Hezbollah had launched 500 Katyusha rockets into the Northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shimona. Ordinary citizens were being evacuated to other towns and cities, and at one stage some 40,000 individuals were housed in hotels, unable to go to work or lead normal lives. As mentioned in recent editorials of ours, when Prime Minister Peres attacked what was thought to be an Hezbollah stronghold in Cana, one-hundred civilians were killed, including eight members of one family. Peres was promptly labelled a war criminal and abandoned by the Left. The media are reporting on the present Lebanese conflict with saturation coverage but paying very little attention to Israel. How many networks have reported the proliferation of Hezbollah rockets into all-civilian areas? How many networks are reporting that Israel is giving expert medical care to Lebanese victims?

Understanding what Israel means to much of world Jewry and the peril the country faces is perhaps an impossible task for people out of the Jewish gene pool to grasp. As the ship on which I sail approaches New York my thoughts once more wander to the hopes and dreams of my ancestors who sought a better life in America, a nation so many would like to see destroyed. Those who made aliyah to Israel, as well as Sabras whose families can be traced back to Biblical times have as much a divine right to live in the Holy Land as do other faiths and races. Let it be recorded here that if Israel simply has no right to exist -- a title in a ‘Guardian’ article in 2001 -- its destruction will not bring peace.

Before leaving London I was in line buying last-minute goodies to take to family in America and the shopper next to me said, ‘How I wish Israel would be obliterated and then we will finally have world peace.’ Jewish history -- and Passover Hagaddah -- has shown that the stiff-necked Israelites always survive. The President of Iran, the Jihadists proliferating across the Internet and other worldwide hate-mongers may not like that prospect, but the loss of yet another connubation of six millions Jews could indeed, to those who believe in such things, provoke divine retribution. Those who would rejoice will not have ‘peace at last.’ The worldwide Jihad will continue and there will be no Israel to be a regional bulwark.

When John F Kennedy was assassinated a journalist said, ‘He is missed. Things will be different.’ Fools can pray for the destruction of Israel but if this were to happen, things will indeed be different. And not for the better.

At sea
22 July 2006


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