Never Again: Jews don’t need lessons in morality from John Prescott

Last year David Ward MP decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day by grossly debasing Holocaust memory. He published a post on his website which included the following passage:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Though he later issued a pseudo apology, subsequent statements and Tweets by the Liberal Democrat from Bradford East suggest that his imperious lecturing to Jews about their myriad deficiencies represents his true views.

Now, just a few days ago, the British tabloid The Daily Mirror published an op-ed by former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott titled, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is a war crime and it should end.

prescott

John Prescott

His op-ed included the following charges.

Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.

Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these ­primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.

Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were ­civilians, mostly women and children.

But who is to say some of the other 20 per cent weren’t ­innocent too? Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and ­executioner in the ­concentration camp that is Gaza.

And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it.

As if the grotesque and appallingly misinformed accusation that Israel is keeping Palestinians in a “concentration camp” isn’t bad enough, Prescott then doubles down on his Holocaust inversion, and asserts the following:

What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.

While his concentration camp comparison is contemptible, the “they-of-all-people” argument – the suggestion that Jews, having faced unimaginable persecution during the Holocaust, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors – is arguably much, much worse.

As Howard Jacobson argued about critics who lecture Jews on their sub-par post-Shoah moral performance:

“[For such people] the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.” 

But, I think the most eloquent refutation of such criticism leveled at Jews was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, who argued that those who employ the “they of all people” argument are essentially saying that, following the systematic extermination of six million, it is Jews, and not the antisemites, who have lessons to learn – that it is Jews, not the antisemites, who need to clean up their act.

One thing is certain: Jews do not need lessons in morality from John Prescott.

Finally, at at time when Israel is fighting a war with an extremist movement which openly calls for a new genocide; when synagogues are being attacked and the chant of ‘Death to Jews’ can be heard in ‘enlightened’ capitals in Europe; and when Jews are again fleeing the continent in fear of persecution, perhaps non-Jews who have previously mouthed the words ‘never again’ should think seriously about what precisely this ethical imperative demands.

The wolf is real. Don’t let it eat you: A reply to the charge that Jews ‘cry antisemitism’ too readily

Written by Chas Newkey-Burden at the blog OyVaGoy. (This originally appeared at The Jewish Chronicle)

 “No gentile – and certainly no antisemite – should ever dictate to Jews how to guard against [antisemitism]”. – Chas Newkey-Burden

I think most of us will have heard the allegation that Jewish people “cry antisemitism” too readily. Or the implication that you are over-vigilant against another great flare-up of this ancient, ever-present hatred.

It is basically a suggestion that you cry wolf. And it is ridiculous for so many reasons.

Most fundamentally, I would personally dispute that Jewish people tend to cry wolf.

Although I’m a goy from a very goyish Berkshire village, I have a lot of contact with Jewish people, because of my interest in Israel and Jewish mysticism.

What is ‘just vigilant enough’? Who says so?

Most of that contact centres on food and chat. Talk usually drifts on to political matters. Along with our shawarma and hummus we chew over issues such as anti-Israel prejudice and antisemitism, and the increasing tendency of the two to merge.

As an outsider who has regular contact with the community, I’ve never personally known a Jewish person whom I would describe as over-vigilant regarding antisemitism or tending to cry wolf on it.

Such people probably exist somewhere but I’ve never met them. If anything, the opposite is often the case.

Which makes it all the more galling that it is the Jewish community as a whole that, of all minority groups, is most often accused of crying wolf.

Certain individuals from, say, the gay, black or Muslim communities are sometimes similarly accused. Occasionally with good reason; every community has its members who have lost themselves in an eternal quest for self-righteousness.

Their shrieking drown out the many sincere voices in those communities, who are able to distinguish between real and imagined prejudice.

Yet no other community faces the “crying wolf” accusation en masse as regularly as the Jews. This, despite the fact that the Jews are surely the least homogenous of people. The “two Jews, three opinions” gag did not emerge from nowhere.

But, you know what? I am not sure that “crying wolf” is the worst thing you could do. Here’s why.

If you are not to be over-vigilant against antisemitism, then you are left with only two options: to be less than vigilant, or to be just vigilant enough.

The idea that you would be seriously expected forever to be just vigilant enough, never to miss the mark by even a metaphorical millimetre, is ridiculous.

It would be just as ludicrous to expect such precision in other contexts. Do we genuinely expect a parent forever to be precisely vigilant enough over their children? We would hope they would be, but would not seriously expect it.

What even is “just vigilant enough”? What does it look like, and who decides where it rests? It would be no less bizarre to request of a widow that she grieves just the right amount.

So if we agree that getting it right every time is unrealistic, it means you have to be either over- or under-vigilant.

Well, as history shows, the price to be paid for being under-vigilant against Jew-hatred can be colossal.

That price dwarfs the price to be paid for being over-vigilant. Because it is unlikely that anyone making the “crying wolf” accusation would be doing so out of good faith.

No, the “crying wolf” allegation is almost exclusively made by those who do not take antisemitism seriously – or by those who take it so seriously that they to some degree endorse it.

After all, it is easy to criticise the manner in which someone is guarding a community against a wolf if you either don’t believe the wolf exists, or if you want it to devour the members of that community. The wolf is real. Arguably no gentile – and certainly no antisemite – should ever dictate to Jews how to guard against it.

Why Chas loves Israel

The following is an extract from Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy by Chas Newkey-Burden and Julie Burchill.  

(This chapter was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, who blogs at OyVaGoy)

Chas Newkey-Burden

Chas Newkey-Burden

‘When my father was a little boy in Poland, the streets of Europe were covered with graffiti, “Jews, go back to Palestine,” or sometimes worse: “Dirty Yids, piss off to Palestine.” When my father revisited Europe fifty years later, the walls were covered with new graffiti, “Jews, get out of Palestine.”’  - Israeli author Amos Oz

Everyone knows the proverb of the three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. As shown throughout this book, the modern hypocrite can be very skilled indeed at seeing and hearing no evil. When women are stoned to death in Arab states, when gay men are brutalised in Caribbean countries, the hypocrites’ ability to cover their ears and look the other way is remarkable.

However, the triumvirate cannot be completed for when it comes to the state of Israel the modern hypocrite just cannot stop speaking evil. They will fail to condemn – and sometimes actually support – terrorists who blow up school buses and pizza parlours. They will march hand in hand with people who – quite literally – fundamentally disagree with every basic political principle they claim to hold dear. They will openly question whether Israel even has the right to exist.

And all along the way, they will show themselves to be devastating hypocrites.

The anti-Israel brigade would have us believe that the motivation for this vitriolic hatred of Israel is a genuine, compassionate concern for the fate of the Palestinian people. But do they really care about the Palestinians, or is their compassion somewhat selective, to put it politely? In reality, are they only interested in Palestinian suffering for as long as it gives them an opportunity to bash Israel?

This hypocrisy is not entirely modern. When the West Bank and the Gaza strip were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, those occupations of ‘Palestinian land’ drew not a whimper of protest from the people who spat blood at the ‘occupation’ of those territories by Israel. When Jordan killed thousands of Palestinians and drove just as many of them from their refugee camps into Lebanon, Israel-bashers saw nothing wrong with that at all. Neither did they take issue with Kuwait when it deported Palestinians in the aftermath of the 1991 Iraq war. Why were they silent in all these cases? Because none of them gave them a chance to bash Israel, of course.

Well established as this hypocrisy is, in the 21st century it has well and truly taken root as ‘supporting’ the Palestinians had become achingly fashionable. So when Hamas-sparked violence led to Palestinian students at a West Bank university being brutally beaten and shot by their own people, the Westerners who claim to support the Palestinians raised not a single word of protest or concern. Likewise, when Palestinian women are stabbed to death in “honour killings” across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no anti-Israel Westerners lose a single moment’s sleep on their behalf.

Likewise, when Palestinian children are hospitalised after being caught in the crossfire of fighting between rival Palestinian factions, there is not a word of condemnation from the West. When Palestinian children are deliberately forced into the line of fire by their own people, where is the concern from those in the West who claim to be their biggest supporters? When terrorists are found to be hiding hand grenades in the cradles where Palestinian babies sleep, where is the outrage?

If Israel is accused of torturing Palestinian terror suspects, the hypocrite is indignantly up-in-arms in protest without establishing a single fact but when Palestinians suspected of collaborating are proven to be brutally tortured – sometimes to death – by members of Islamic Jihad, again the silence is deafening.

Similarly, if these people are truly concerned about the Palestinians, then where are their words of praise for Israel when it flings open its hospital doors to them? Just one example: in May 2007 an eight-day-old baby from the Gaza Strip that was suffering with congenital heart complications was treated in a hospital in Israel. An Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance drove into the Gaza Strip, dodging Qassam rockets that were headed for Israel and collected the child for treatment at the Sheba Medical Center in Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Such cases are far from rare. But I’ve never heard a word of praise for these treatments from any of those in the West who claim to be concerned over the fate of the Palestinians.

It’s the same with the refugee question. The heartbreak that the hypocrite feels for Palestinian refugees is only expressed in the context of slamming Israel. When it’s pointed out to them that the Arab world has done precious little to help the refugees, their interest dwindles. And what of the hundreds and thousands of Jewish refugees who were deported from Arab states? They’ve never received any compensation – as Palestinian refugees have from Israel – and no Westerner has ever cried them self to sleep on their behalf.

Any action taken by Israel to deal with Palestinian terrorists is met with abuse and distortion. The case of Jenin was typical. Following scores of suicide bombings organised from within the Jenin refugee camp, Israel entered the camp in search of the terrorists. As the fighting ended the media leapt into action to demonise Israel’s action. The Guardian described Israel’s actions as “every bit as repellent” as the 9/11 attacks. The Evening Standard cried: “We are talking here of massacre, and a cover-up, of genocide.” The Independent spoke of a “war crime” and The Times claimed there were “mass graves”. The head of the United Nations Refugee Agency was quickly out of the traps to describe the affair as a “human rights catastrophe that has few parallels in recent history”. The EU was nor far behind in its condemnation.

Let’s examine the facts of this massacre, this genocide. In total 75 people died at Jenin. 23 of these were Israeli soldiers and 52 were Palestinians, almost all of them combatants. By even the most hysterical, loaded standards of language this does not constitute genocide, nor anything of the sort. Indeed, the Palestinian death toll would have been much higher – and the Israeli death toll non-existent – had Israel simply bombed the camp from the air. Instead, to avoid civilian casualties, Israel put their own soldiers at risk, sending them in on foot to search through booby-trapped homes.

When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next visited Israeli troops, one of them asked him: “Why didn’t we bomb the terrorists from the air? That operation cost the lives of more than 20 of our comrades!” Sharon replied: “That is the painful and inevitable price that those who refuse to abandon their humanity have to pay.” In return for paying the painful price of eschewing air attacks, Sharon and the brave Israeli soldiers who entered a terrorist camp on foot were accused of genocide and massacre and spoken of in the same terms as the 9/11 terrorists.

However, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. In 2007, another Palestinian camp, which had become swamped with suicide bombers, was attacked. This time, the gloves came off. The camp was surrounded by tanks and artillery that fired indiscriminately at the inhabitants. Snipers backed up this fire. The camp’s water and electricity supplies were cut off. Thousands of innocent Palestinians were forced to flee but not before at least 18 had been killed and dozens injured. The camp itself was reduced to rubble. Ultimately, the fighting killed more than 300 people and forced nearly 40,000 Palestinian refugees to flee.

This time, there was next to no coverage in the British media. There was no talk of genocide or massacre. Rather than condemning the attack, the EU and UN were quick to express their support to the army. Even the Arab League came out in support. So what had changed? You guessed it, this time the army dealing with the camp was not the Israeli army but the Lebanese army. How terrifyingly revealing this is of the hypocrisy of those who claim to care about fate of the Palestinians.

During the fighting, tanks and artillery had also fired at residential areas of Lebanon and civilians were inevitably caught in the crossfire. Just months earlier, the anti-war brigade has been marching through the streets of London to express their concern for the people of Lebanon who were caught in the crossfire of Israel’s fighting with Hezbollah. Strangely, the marchers couldn’t get off their self-righteous backsides when Lebanese civilians were being shot at by Islamic groups: this time, the people of Lebanon could go to hell as far as they were concerned.

How different it had been in the summer of 2006. “We are all Hezbollah now,” the modern hypocrites had chanted as they marched in fury against Israel’s latest battle for survival, as the rockets of that terror group were raining down on its cities and kibbutzim. If “Not In My Name” was an embarrassing slogan, then “We are all Hezbollah now” was little short of insane. How could these marchers, who say they oppose misogyny, tyranny, homophobia and genocide, march in support of an organisation which fanatically and brutally promotes all those things? Because they’re hypocrites, of course, and because their frenzied hatred of Israel has utterly stupefied them. It was embarrassing for them, therefore, when Hezbollah’s leader Hasan Nasrallah told them: “We don’t want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you.” As Martin Amis neatly put it, these demonstrators were “up the arse of the people that want them dead”.

But what were they doing up there? Many no doubt believed that during the war they were backing the little guy of Hezbollah against the big guy of Israel. The truth was somewhat different, though. Hezbollah was no little guy, it was backed by millions of pounds of Iranian and Syrian money. Neither were the two sides of the conflict as clear-cut as they believed. The Israeli Arabs of Haifa spent much of the summer sitting in bunkers to avoid being killed by Hezbollah rockets. Many of these Arabs cheered on the Israeli army throughout the campaign.

Similarly, Ethiopian Jews who Israel had previously bravely airlifted from oppression and starvation were particularly badly hit in Tiberias. How incredible that back in England, many of the groups whose members wear white Make Poverty History wristbands and campaign on Third World debt were willing to cheer as Ethiopians were bombed by Hezbollah.

So no, Israel was not necessarily the Goliath of the conflict. How could a nation the size of Wales, surrounded by millions who want it wiped off the map be a Goliath? However, the courage shown by its soldiers was immense. Lt Colonel Roe Klein was marching at the head of a unit of troops when a Hezbollah man threw a hand grenade at them. Lt Klein jumped on top of the grenade to save his troops, losing his life in the process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah were employing the standard cowardly tactic of hiding among women and children, with wheelchair-bound people a particular favourite.

Throughout Israel, the population showed itself to be as brave and humanitarian as ever. Newspapers were full of classified advertisements in which families offered to house those from the north of the country who were under Hezbollah fire. Ultra-Orthodox Jews took in secular Jews, people living in small flats flung open their doors to large families with pets. The blitz spirit also saw youngsters from the big cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv organise treats for Arab children from Galilee. The government arranged for celebrities to visit the bunker-ridden population of the north and even flew in a gay porn star to cheer up gay Israeli troops. As Hezbollah’s rockets rained down over northern Israel, weddings in the region had to be cancelled. So cinema producer Eliman Bardugo organised for those affected to have the chance to be married en masse on the beach in Tel Aviv. Some 50 couples took him up on the offer.

Meanwhile, in London, left-wing people took to the streets to cheer on Hezbollah as it butchered Israeli people. As, for instance, a Hezbollah rocket hit a kibbutz and killed 12 people including an ultra-orthodox Jew who was sitting next to a hippy with pierced ears. The more of these incidents happened, the further the marchers climbed up the arses of the people who wanted them dead.

It would have been familiar territory for many of them. When I went to see the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie in London’s West End, I had sat in an audience littered with white English men and women wearing keffiyeh scarves and some wearing Hamas badges. I see these people – and the marching Hezbollah-wannabes – as terror groupies, a sort of left-wing equivalent of the little boys who play army in playgrounds across England. But these are adults so they really should know better.

I’m not sure the terror groupies look the other way on the topic of Palestinian terrorism. They seem – sorry to say – almost turned-on by it. You surely can’t, after all, overlook something as big as the blowing up of buses or pizza parlours. There is no ‘bigger picture’ regarding people who do that. And why would you appropriate the uniform of the man who backed all that terrorism unless you actively had, well, a bit of a thing for him? For much of the audience, the play about Rachel Corrie must have been a gleefully pornographic experience. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes a picture can be worth far more than that. There are more than a thousand words in the play, about Corrie, the young US activist who accidentally died during an anti-Israel protest in Gaza in 2003. But none of them shed light on the now-canonised Corrie as much as a photograph taken of her by the Associated Press a month before her death. She was snapped burning an American flag and whipping up the crowd at a pro-Hamas rally.

Naturally, there is no mention of this photograph in the play. Neither is it mentioned that thanks in part to demonstrations of the International Solidarity Movement with who Corrie travelled to the Middle East, the Israel Defence Force was prevented from blocking the passage of weapons which were later shown to have been used to kill Israeli children in southern Israel.

Instead, the play is full of naïve anti-Israel propaganda from the mouth of Corrie. “The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance,” she wrote in 2003 as Palestinian suicide bombs were slaughtering Israelis. Lest we forget who the real star of the story is, towards the end of the play Corrie writes: “When I come back from Palestine I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work.” We’re back in self-indulgence territory, aren’t we? Not in my name. My name is Rachel Corrie. We’re all Hezbollah now. Thousands are dying but it’s all about me. The hypocrisy of the audience was depressing. I wonder if any of were even aware that Hamas had danced over Corrie’s grave when she died? To the Palestinians, a dead young American girl was a wonderful publicity coup. Had any of the audience travelled to the Middle East in a Corriesque trip of self-indulgence, the Palestinians would have crossed their fingers in the hope they too died.

As I say, the modern hypocrite is delighted to overlook misogyny, homophobia and brutal clampdowns on all manner of person freedoms in Arab states and the other side of this coin of hypocritical currency is the way they simultaneously overlook the extraordinarily positive record Israel has on such issues. Take the case of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister who took the top job in 1969, just 21 years into the country’s existence and a full decade before England had our first female Prime Minister. In some Arab states, women are not allowed to go to school. In Israel they can become the most powerful person in the country.

Meir herself was well aware of this spectacular contrast. In 1948, when she was a negotiator with the Jewish Agency, she set off on a secret mission to meet King Abdullah of Transjordan. The meeting was secret so she travelled with the Agency’s Arab expert Ezra Danin and posed as his wife. She recalled: “I would travel in the traditional dark and voluminous robes of an Arab woman. I spoke no Arabic at all but as a Moslem wife accompanying her husband it was most unlikely that I would be called upon to say anything to anyone.” How hypocritical it is of those left-wingers in the West that they can hate a country with tales such as these throughout its history.

It’s just the same with gay issues. Left-wingers who say they passionately believe in gay rights manage to put that passion aside when it comes to their view of the only country in the Middle East with a positive record on the issue. A wonderfully positive record, in fact. In 2006, within days of the country’s fighting with Hezbollah ending, I flew to Israel to research a feature on gay life in the Holy Land. Before leaving, I’d been warned by anti-Israel Westerners to expect to find a very homophobic country. Had any of them bothered to visit Israel, they’d have discovered it’s nothing of the sort. Workplace discrimination against gay people is outlawed; the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has openly gay members; in schools, teenagers learn about the difficulties of being gay and the importance of treating all sexualities equally. The Israel Defence Force has dozens of openly gay officers who, like all gay soldiers in its ranks, are treated equally by order of the government.

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples are eligible for spousal and widower benefits. The country has gay football teams. Most mainstream television dramas in Israel regularly feature gay storylines. When transsexual Dana International won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest as Israel’s representative, 80 per cent of polled Israelis called her “an appropriate representative of Israel”.

These facts are there for all to see but it is only on visiting Israel that you discover how happily the different sections of the society coexist. I interviewed a gay Israeli man on Tel Aviv’s “Hilton beach” – it is opposite the Hilton hotel – which is also known as the “gay beach”, where men openly check each other out and pick each other up. It is neighboured by the city’s religious beach which has separate bathing days for men and women. And all this is just yards from Tel Aviv’s Independence Park, which is the main gay cruising area in Tel Aviv. The cruising park in Jerusalem has the same name.

Elsewhere in Tel Aviv is the House of Freedom. Opened in the late 1990s, this is a shelter for gay, lesbian and transgender youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been thrown out of home after coming out to their parents. At the House they are counselled by social workers who then visit the parents and attempt to bring about reconciliation. Those attempts are often successful, each year hundreds of gay youngsters return to a better home thanks to this remarkable institution.

And everywhere you go in the city, gay men walk hand in hand more openly that they even would in London’s Soho. It is staggering that Western left-wingers who claim to believe in gay rights can be so furiously opposed to tolerant Israel. The tolerance is not confined to Tel Aviv, either. When some in Jerusalem opposed the staging of the gay pride parade in the capital in 2007, the media presented a city on the brink of civil war. I happened to be in Jerusalem that week – though I didn’t attend the parade – and I witnessed no unrest. Perhaps the strongest opposition I witnessed to the parade came from a taxi driver. I asked him what he thought about the parade and he sighed deeply before saying: “Oh it was terrible for the traffic.” He was right, too!

By hating Israel, the pro-gay-rights left are not just proving to be hypocritical, they are also endangering the one hope that gay Palestinians have. The leading gay rights organisation in Israel organises Arabic gay evenings where gay Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza strip are invited to come and party with Israelis – and many take up the invitation. “We are their only hope,” says one of the organisers. “If they came out where they live, they would be killed but they can come and party with us in Israel.” As has been documented by human rights groups, gay Palestinians are routinely tortured and murdered by their own people. They often flee to the safety of Israel.

The attraction that Israel should hold for believers in the rainbow alliance doesn’t end with its record on women and gay men. I remember on a road trip from the Dead Sea to Tel Aviv marvelling at a quartet of an ultra-orthodox Jew, an Arab, a uniformed Israeli soldier and a mini-skirt wearing girl in her late teens all engaging in friendly chit-chat as they waited for some traffic lights to change. Such sights are far from uncommon as Israel is home to one of the planet’s most diverse people: dreadlocked Ethiopians, and their fellow Africans from Yemen, Egypt and Morocco exist alongside people from Iraq, Iran, Russian and Latin America. Then there are Asians from the Far East and Israeli Arabs, the latter group enjoying more personal freedoms in Israel than they would in any Arab state.

My experiences in Israel might seem surprising to the reader who hasn’t been there – particularly given the predominance of reports casting the country as a villainous, apartheid state. There exists a peculiar unwillingness to accept good news from Israel, which contrasts with the way that paradigm-shifting reports on ‘The hidden modernity of Tehran’ are welcomed with open arms. When I attempted to include the scene that I had witnessed at the traffic lights in a magazine feature I wrote about the research trip to Israel, I had to go through an exasperating discussion with the commissioning editor. He didn’t seem to know that Israeli Arabs exist and insisted that the scene I described couldn’t have occurred. He’d never been to Israel but was quite sure that he was right and I was wrong.

He was in good company in his blissful ignorance. Within hours of my return from the trip, I received a call from a journalist acquaintance who asked me with genuine shock: “What’s all this about you going to Israel?” He said that a mutual journalist acquaintance of ours was “absolutely disgusted” with me for going there and that he hoped I was “going to put the boot in” when I wrote my articles. These were not close acquaintances, I hadn’t even spoken to one of them for nearly nine years and it must have taken them some digging around to find my new telephone number. They obviously thought it was worth the trouble to have a dig at a writer who was friendly to Israel. Apparently the “absolutely disgusted” man – a weekly columnist on a high-profile magazine – has since tried to get an article published that claims that Tony Blair murdered Yasser Arafat.

The editor of another magazine once told me I was not allowed to write that Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David in 2000. I asked why and he replied “because of a need for balance.” I pointed out that nobody, including Arafat, has ever disputed that he rejected Barak’s offer and the editor replied: “Well, I don’t know about that but you still can’t write it.” The article in question was an “opinion” piece and taking sides was the order of the day each week in that column. Not if the article was about Israel, it seemed. Get this for hypocrisy, though: the same magazine had happily published articles accusing Israel of “war crimes” and carried advertising accusing Israel of apartheid policies. Clearly, the need for balance is relative.

Not that there was much balance in the motion the National Union Of Journalists passed in 2007 to boycott Israel. As a writer I felt shame and despair at this motion. Those emotions of shame and despair were not joined by shock, though, because much of the British media has long been absorbed by a blind hatred of Israel.

Broadsheet newspapers print editorials that are so biased and distorted that Osama Bin Laden would probably blush at them and say: “Steady on! We can’t print that!” The BBC refuses to describe suicide bombers who blow up buses full of Israeli schoolchildren as “terrorists” even though it has used that term to describe bombers in London, Iraq and Indonesia. One of its correspondents told a Hamas rally that he and his colleagues were “waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian people”.

Why did the NUJ choose Israel for a boycott? The country has an entirely free press. If the NUJ wanted to boycott a country, then Russia, China, Zimbabwe and Pakistan would have been more sensible options, given their record on press freedom. The timing, too, was ridiculous. Shortly before the motion was passed, BBC journalist Alan Johnston was kidnapped by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. So why did the NUJ respond to this by boycotting Israel?

The coverage of the Alan Johnston case was riddled with hypocrisy. Every day, the BBC devoted acres of space to the story. Yet the BBC largely ignored the plight of young Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped by Palestinians. Indeed, the BBC refuses to even use the term “kidnap” in relation to the snatching of teenager Corporal Gilad Shalit, preferring to say he was “captured”. I was in Israel during Johnston’s captivity and had a conversation about his case with an Arab from the West Bank. He said: “I’m surprised that they took someone from the BBC. Everyone knows the BBC is totally biased for the Palestinians. I bet they’re not so for the Palestinians now, though!” When I told him that the BBC was just as pro-Palestinian as ever, he raised his eyes to the heavens. “That’s strange,” he said.

True. But then Auntie Beeb has long shown its true colours on the conflict. A 2007 a leaked internal BBC memo written by Bowen blamed Israel for all the woes of the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that Israel had withdrawn two years earlier from Gaza!

Hmm, what we need is a man who can effortlessly show these BBC buffoons just how hypocritical they are. Step forward and take a bow Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel and all-round hero of both myself and my co-author. He was interviewed on the BBC during the 2006 Hezbollah conflict and made mince meat of his quizzer:

Interviewer: “How come so many more Lebanese have been killed in this conflict than Israelis?”

Netanyahu: “Are you sure that you want to start asking in that direction?”

Interviewer: “Why not?”

Netanyahu: “Because in World War II more Germans were killed than British and Americans combined, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the war was caused by Germany’s aggression. And in response to the German blitz on London, the British wiped out the entire city of Dresden, burning to death more German civilians than the number of people killed in Hiroshima.

“Moreover, I could remind you that in 1944, when the RAF tried to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, some of the bombs missed their target and fell on a Danish children’s hospital, killing 83 little children.

“Perhaps you have another question?”

Perhaps indeed! Perhaps the academics who chose to boycott Israel at the same time as the NUJ might have asked themselves some questions too. In 2007, they voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions in a protest supposedly on behalf of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, back in the real world a young Jordanian-Palestinian woman, was graduating with a Master’s degree from Ben Gurion University in Israel. Dana Rassas was trained by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev, and then went on to study the Israeli water desalination program at the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies at Ben Gurion University. As a result of her studies in Israel, Rassas is now helping to solve Jordan’s water problems. If they boycotters had their way, she’d never have had any of these chances.

To take a wider view, why is it that so many people who cling to the notion of human rights when considering the plight of the Palestinians couldn’t give a hoot about other groups around the world like the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Armenians and the Chechens? Is it because these groups didn’t have the fortune of being in dispute with Jewish people? Either way, it is indisputable that the incessant focus of the human rights movement on the actions of Israel has allowed genuinely horrific human rights abuses in other parts of the world to go unnoticed.

As we keep seeing, whatever it does Israel cannot win and so we end up returning to the graffiti seen by Amos Oz’s father in Poland. First: go back to Palestine, then: get out of Palestine. antisemitism has always been dominated by contradictions. The Jews have been attacked for being both communist schemers and capitalists plotting to take over the world. They can’t stop sticking their noses into others’ business yet they also must be attacked for keeping themselves to themselves. They were taunted for being too weak when the Germans tried to eliminate them from the face of the earth and are now slammed for being too strong when the Arabs try the same trick.

Ironically, for all the attention and criticism that Western hypocrites throw at Israel, the biggest questioners of the state and its actions are Israelis themselves. Israel’s Supreme Court is a thorn in the side of the government and army and frequently overrules both. It regularly examines petitions brought by Palestinian people and rules in their favour. Many of its judgements have restricted the options open to the army and in passing them, the Court has acknowledged that its rulings will cause Israeli loss of life but insisted that such steps are needed in the interests of humanity.

When terrorist leaders who have arranged the slaughter of Israeli people are killed by the Israel Defence Force, there is no cheering in the street as is seen among Palestinians when another school bus is blown up by a suicide bomber, a favourite tactic of there’s as seen in November 2000. Instead, commissions of inquiry are set up to examine whether the elimination of these men who wanted to blow murder their children was ethical and correct. On and on it goes, this relentless self-examination by a country that has faced abuse, distortion and calls for its destruction since the very minute it was established in 1948.

But then that’s the thing about Israel: strong, plucky, moral, deeply self-critical yet determinedly happy and upbeat, it is everything the modern hypocrite is not. I love it.

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Guardian frames Egypt ‘Spy Stork’ row as sign of increased xenophobia under military regime

In terms of entertainment value it’s hard to beat recent reports that Egyptian police placed a stork under arrest late Friday after a mysterious device was found attached to its feathers, fueling accusations that it might have been used for Zionist espionage.  Evidently, the stork was taken to a police station, and ‘interrogated’, but soon cleared of wrongdoing after veterinarians realized that the bird was bearing nothing but a wildlife tracker installed by French scientists.

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A migrating stork was held in an Egyptian police station after a man suspected it of being a spy. Photo, AP

However, the story doesn’t end there, at least not if you’re a blog which monitors the Guardian.  Almost as enjoyable as the story itself was the account of the episode by the Guardian Cairo correspondent, Patrick Kingsley.  

Though his story, Eyes on storks? Egyptian fishermen thought bird was a foreign spy, Sept. 2, was, in fairness, mostly light-hearted and cheeky, being the Guardianista he is, he naturally somehow failed to note reports that some thought the bird was spying for Israel, while imputing the following political significance:

But the stork’s treatment comes amid a wider rise in xenophobia in Egypt this summer. Since the army forced out ex-president Mohamed Morsi in a widely backed move on 3 July, the country has been consumed in a wave of pro-military nationalism.

One side-effect has been the blaming of the country’s ills on foreigners – from American diplomats, to Syrian refugees and western journalists.

Whilst blaming the stork’s apprehension on the current mood of jingoism – in contrast, presumably, to the ‘enlightened internationalism‘ under the Muslim Brotherhood – is itself quite comical, those of us who’ve ‘covered’ previous instances of spy animals can refute the reporter’s thesis by noting other examples of Egyptian ‘xenophobia’.

A couple of years ago there were reports that some Egyptians were blaming Israel for a shark attack that killed a German tourist in the Red Sea. Such suspicions were best articulated by the South Sinai Governor, Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha, who said the following:

What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark in the sea to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm”.

This all prompted Chas Newkey-Burden to illustrate the anti-Zionist paranoia the following way at his blog, (using a graphic by Jonathan Sacerdoti):

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Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water

Oh, and finally, contrary to the Guardian reporter’s theory on a military regime-inspired fear of migratory foreigners, the “Zionist shark attack” took place in 2010, before the military regime and before Morsi, undermining the suggestion that the stork arrest can be tied to societal fears stoked by the current ‘wave’ of militant nationalism.

(You can get up to speed on the complete list of Zionist Spy Animals here.)

Indy’s political editor misrepresents David Ward’s vile Holocaust remarks

We recently reported on a Tweet by David Ward MP, which read “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”, suggesting that the Bradford East MP was relishing the inevitable destruction of the “apartheid” Jewish state.  Ward’s Tweet, on top of comments he made on Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year, resulted in minor disciplinary action being taken against him by his party, the Lib Dems.

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David Ward, MP

Whilst the Guardian reported the most recent row somewhat fairly, a July 18 piece in The Independent, reporting on both Ward’s latest Tweet and his original Holocaust Day ‘reflection’ egregiously downplayed the latter. Nigel Morris, the Indy’s political editor, in a report titled “Liberal Democrats suspend MP David Ward over Israel comments on Holocaust Day“, wrote the following:

A Liberal Democrat MP who questioned the continued existence of Israel lost the party’s whip yesterday following a dressing-down from Nick Clegg.

David Ward, the MP for Bradford East, had previously been reprimanded by the party’s leadership over comments condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

The issue came to a head after a new post on Twitter in which Mr Ward wrote: “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”

Of course, it is grossly misleading to write that Ward had been reprimanded due to comments “condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians”. The quote which caused the row specifically referred to Jews, and not Israelis.  Here it is:

“Having visited Auschwitz twice– once with my family and once with local schools … I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza,” 

As the quote clearly indicates, Ward was castigating Jews as Jews for, a mere few years after liberation from the death camps in 1945, evidently not learning the correct moral lessons and thus beginning immediately to inflict atrocities on Palestinians.  

Jews, ‘of all people’, an exasperated Ward was in effect exclaiming, had visited upon the Palestinians a level of cruelty and violence which arguably evoke the crimes committed against their co-religionists in the death camps throughout Europe – a “they of all people” argument which Howard Jacobson aptly characterized as leaving the Jewish people doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to elevated moral scrutiny as a result of it.

 As Chas Newkey-Burden so eloquently wrote:

Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.

Contrary to the extremely misleading passage by Morris, Ward did not simply condemn Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, but criticized Jews for their alleged collective amnesia over the Shoah, and their resulting ‘inhumanity’ towards others.  Jewish victims, Ward’s logic implies, have “sadly” become the new victimizers.

Ward egregiously crossed the line between criticising Israel and collectively criticising Jews, a huge moral distinction which the Indy editor should have easily identified. 

Turn David Ward’s vile charge on its head

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As CST and others have reported, British MP David Ward (Liberal Democrat, Bradford East) recently decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, observed internationally on Jan. 27 (the day, in 1945, that Auschwitz was liberated), by grossly debasing Holocaust memory.

On his website, there is an entry with the following title: ‘Bradford MP condemns Israel for treatment of Palestinians on the day he signs the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment’.

It begins thus:

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

Then there is a quote from Ward himself:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

While some have rightfully focused on the morally obscene comparison between casualties as the result of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Nazi extermination of six million Jew, there’s an element of Ward’s quote which is even more disturbing. It is the “they-of-all-people” argument: the suggestion that Jews, having faced unimaginable persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.

As Howard Jacobson argued, the argument leaves the Jewish people doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to elevated moral scrutiny as a result of it.  By this logic, Jacobson argued, “the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.”

Further, as Chas Newkey-Burden so eloquently argued, those who employ the “they of all people” argument are, in essence, saying that it is Jews, and not the antisemites, who have lessons to learn – that it is Jews, not the antisemites, who need to clean up their act. 

Newkey-Burden:

“The Holocaust followed centuries of slander, persecution, violence and murder committed by gentiles against Jews. So it is not you who have an increased responsibility to behave morally, but us.

For instance, something that we gentiles should know better than to do is lazily accuse Jewish people, or the Jewish state itself, of any misdemeanour. We have seen what centuries of slander against the Jewish people led to during the 1930s and ’40s. We see the hatred, heartbreak and bloodshed that such anti-Jewish libels continue to provoke, particularly in the Middle East.

Yet much of the world still continues to delight in damning Israel with indecent haste. From Al Dura (the false claim that Israeli forces murdered a boy in Gaza) to Jenin, from the Goldstone Report to the Gaza flotilla; time and again the world has found Israel guilty of a particular crime before all the evidence was available. When the full picture emerged and exonerated Israel it was too late to undo the damage. We gentiles, of all people, should know better.”

Newkey-Burden’s urgent moral plea to resist those who would so debase Holocaust memory ends thusly:

“Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.”

Turn David Ward’s vile charge on its head!

George Galloway Tweets for Israel

Chas Newkey-Burden had a simple request for George Galloway:  ‘Please retweet my post’.

Sure enough, the MP, and ‘Comment is Freestar, complied:

Galloway likely was too busy furiously Tweeting support for brutal dictators to bother reading Chas’s piece, because the post he actually retweeted wasn’t quite consistent with the ‘GazaUnderAttack’ hash tag.

Here’s the post written by Newkey-Burden (at his blog OyVaGoy!), titled ‘Then and Now‘, which 95,179 of George’s followers could see.

Poor George: duped by a passionately philo-Semitic, Zionist blogger into Tweeting support for Israel.  

Will his ‘street cred’ in Bradford West (or, at the Guardian) ever recover?

Unchosen: Memoirs of a Philosemite

Cross posted by our friend Chas Newkey-Burden who blogs at OyVaGoy!

I co-wrote a book with Julie Burchill a few years ago. It’s called Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy, and we had fine old time writing it. Read my chapter about Israel here, and find out more about the book here.

Now Julie is going to write a new book. Like me, she’s a gentile who loves Israel, and she’s going to write a memoir based on this theme, entitled Unchosen: Memoirs of a Philosemite. Given her deep and longstanding love of Israel and the Jewish people, together with her outrageous sense of humour and unrivalled literary dexterity, it won’t be anything less than a fascinating read.

She has chosen to publish it through Unbound, which is a new form of publishing whereby authors pitch their idea direct to the public, who can decide whether they want to support the idea or not.  We need more pro-Israel books, so pop over to the Unbound website and back Julie’s book!

Turn this vile claim on its head

The following essay was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, who blogs at OyVaGoy

As one who advocates formally and informally for Israel, I have heard the full gamut of misconceptions and slanders that are aired by those opposed to the Jewish state. Over time, my skin has thickened; people can throw whatever baloney they want my way.

Except… there is still one anti-Israel argument that makes my jaw drop. And it is one that is made with unfortunate frequency. It is the “they-of-all-people” argument: the suggestion that the Jews, having faced extraordinary persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.

Put aside for a moment that the “oppression” which proponents of this argument are accusing Israel of committing is usually imaginary. When directed by gentiles towards Jews, the “they-of-all-people” argument is in its very essence so fundamentally ill-judged and unjust, and voiced with such a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, that my spirit flags when I hear it.

Where to begin in response? The heroic Howard Jacobson made a fine start when he proposed that “they of all people” is the natural successor of Holocaust denial. He wrote that the argument leaves the Jewish people doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to elevated moral scrutiny as a result of it.

I agree, and I would go further. I contend that, as a result of the Holocaust and what preceded it, it is we gentiles who should know better. The Holocaust followed centuries of slander, persecution, violence and murder committed by gentiles against Jews. So it is not you who have an increased responsibility to behave morally, but us.

For instance, something that we gentiles should know better than to do is lazily accuse Jewish people, or the Jewish state itself, of any misdemeanour. We have seen what centuries of slander against the Jewish people led to during the 1930s and ’40s. We see the hatred, heartbreak and bloodshed that such anti-Jewish libels continue to provoke, particularly in the Middle East.

Yet much of the world still continues to delight in damning Israel with indecent haste. From Al Dura (the false claim that Israeli forces murdered a boy in Gaza) to Jenin, from the Goldstone Report to the Gaza flotilla; time and again the world has found Israel guilty of a particular crime before all the evidence was available. When the full picture emerged and exonerated Israel it was too late to undo the damage. We gentiles, of all people, should know better.

It is also us, of all people, who should know better than to expect Israel to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat alone.

The world’s ceremonies and gestures of regret over what happened in the Holocaust would carry an increased weight of sincerity were they to be matched with robust support for Israel as the countdown to a nuclear-armed Iran, whose leader denies the Holocaust while promising to commit a second one by wiping out the Jewish state, continues.

World leaders should be sincerely standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel’s government as it decides what to do, not dawdling on the sidelines, waiting to wag their collective, condescending finger yet again.

Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.

Chas Newkey-Burden reflects on his love of Israel & Judaism: “The missing part of the jigsaw”

The following essay was written by Chas Newkey-Burden and published at The Jewish Chronicle

I never told you the one about how a Christian/Hindu cult helped me love Israel and Judaism, did I? As a non-Jew who proudly supports Zionism and is fascinated by Judaism, particularly the mystical and Hasidic traditions, I am often asked how I came to feel this way. To me, the real question is why someone would not support Israel and admire Judaism, but of course I understand the curiosity.

The short answer – which I’ve blogged about and mentioned during speeches – is that I became fascinated by the Middle East after the September 11 attacks. To my surprise, having previously had a lazy, hazy perception that Israel were the villains of the conflict, I became more and more pro-Israel the more I learned about the issue. So I started visiting Israel and quickly fell in love with the place.

However, I’ve never written or spoken publicly about a challenging childhood experience that had a part to play in this. When I was nine, I joined a new school in London. I was so excited to be leaving primary school and joining a new, ‘grown-up’ establishment. What I didn’t realise until I got there was that 99 percent of the pupils and their families were members of bizarre religious cult, as were all the staff.

The cult, which dominated the school, combined Victorian sternness with less savoury elements of Christianity and Hinduism to create a cruel concoction. I was a member of the one percent of pupils with no connection to the cult. This meant that twice a day, as my classmates meditated and chanted Sanskrit, I had to go to a dark room in the basement and sit kicking my heels with the other odd ones out of the school.

It also meant I was pressured to join the cult. The more I resisted this pressure, the more I was targeted by the staff. It was astounding how quickly the teachers could turn a maths, English or science class into a free-for-all discussion of how I came from an “impure” family.

The staff strongly discouraged pupils from befriending me and at times some of the teachers were violent with me. At one point I was even-handed a year-long detention, which meant I couldn’t leave the school until 6.30pm on weekdays and not before mid-afternoon on Saturdays.

For six years I resisted the pressure to join the cult and then at 16 I was finally able to leave the godforsaken place. Years later, in 2007, an inquiry found that “mistreatment” and “criminal assaults” had taken place when I was there. It is possible that one can never completely move on from such an experience – the question is how to create a positive legacy.

Which brings me to my love of Israel. I think that as result of what I faced at school I have developed a stronger empathy for anyone who is unfairly singled out. For instance, when Kofi Annan – then the Secretary General of the UN – was asked why the UN so disproportionately targets Israel, and replied: “Can the whole world be wrong?” he made my blood boil. As I knew from my schooling, sometimes yes, the whole world can be wrong.

Recently, while dining with a Jewish family I’m friendly with, I sensed a wider connection. I was telling them about my strange school, when the wise father of the household turned to me and said:

“You were like the Jew at school – that’s why you understand us.”

I had never thought of it that way, as I consider the story of the Jewish experience to be as much about the inspiration of your enormous achievements and inspiring example as it is the hatred you have faced.

But I can see his point – and within it is the positive legacy I sought. Perhaps if I had not been so tested as a child I would not have subsequently stood at the Kotel, nor watched the sunset in Tel Aviv, nor heard of the wondrous Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman, whose teachings now enrich my life.

Whatever took me here I am glad it did. After all, supporting Israel and admiring Judaism is the only sensible way to roll.

Holocaust Memorial Day, 2012

This was written by our friend Chas Newkey-Burden, and originally posted at his blog, OyVaGoy

It is Holocaust Memorial Day [today]. You can read more about this year’s theme here.

On days such as this I am reminded of the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who wrote the following:

‘What cannot help but astound us is that the Hasidim remained the Hasidim inside the ghetto walls, inside the death camps. In the shadow of the executioner, they celebrated life. Startled Germans whispered to each other of Jews dancing in the cattle cars rolling towards Birkenau; Hasidim ushering in Simchat Torah. And there were those who in Block 57 at Auschwitz tried to make me join in their fervent singing. Were these miracles?’

What a passage: it is haunting and inspiring, harrowing and uplifting all at once. Similar emotions are provoked by a recording made at Bergen-Belsen shortly after it was liberated in April 1945. It includes weary Jewish survivors singing Hativkah (The Hope), the song that became the national anthem of the state of Israel. You can find a link to the recording on the right-hand side of this page. (Or, see YouTube clip below)

‘Never despair! Never! It is forbidden to give up hope,’ wrote Rabbi Nachman, a century before any of these events took place. These are wise words, yet not always easy to live up to.

Yet consider the Hasidim who celebrated life in the death camps, and the survivors who sang of hope at Bergen-Belsen. Stories such as these remind me how even in the darkest moments it is possible, and essential, to maintain hope.

 

The Goy is back in town: The wonderful return of Chas Newkey-Burden!

Chas Newkey-Burden is back!

No, I’m not ashamed to say that I was moved beyond words when Chas emailed me with news that, after a thankfully short absence from the Zionist blogosphere, he is back and once again blogging at OyVaGoy.

Noted Chas in his most recent post:

I enjoyed taking a break. It’s always nice to remember what a big world there is out there. I have a brilliant and busy life as it is, so I was never naturally disposed to ‘activism’ anyway. But as I said, Israel is worth digging deep for. And to clarify, my break had nothing to do with any change of feelings about Israel; blog or no blog, you can bury me a Zionist.

Now I’m back, I’ll be posting on new topics including initiatives to counter cyber-bullying, and also the efforts to build a loving legacy for Amy Winehouse. However, my love and respect for Israel will probably always be at the heart of this blog. I might even find time to write about shawarma and the NaNachs from time to time. You know me.

I aim to keep this blog even more positive and upbeat going forward. There’s enough darkness and fear-mongering in our corner of the internet as it is. I’d rather keep things light. If that sounds a bit Christian happy-clappy then all I can say is that I’m neither Christian nor clappy, but I am happy.

I’m happy to be back.

Chas has no idea how happy WE are that he’s back.

Being an Israeli in a world increasingly hostile to the Jewish state’s very existence – and especially in the aftermath of last week’s brutal terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians – it is really comforting to know that we are not alone. 

No matter how serious the threats posed by state and non-state actors who openly seek our destruction, as well as the legitimization such reactionary forces receive from the Guardian, one thing is certain:

Chas Newkey-Burden has our back.

Chas Newkey-Burden’s essay in The JC. “Blogland: Here be dragons.”

This was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, and published today at The JC.

With revelations about phone-hacking and related press scandals, there is a renewed sense that the media is out of control and in need of further regulation. This tidal wave of opinion should be properly considered by those in power. However, the mainstream press is in many ways a beacon of order and restraint when compared with dangerously feral elements of the online media.

I know how nasty the internet can be. For the past three years I’ve been a devoted online advocate for Israel and against antisemitism. I’ve run a popular pro-Israel blog called OyVaGoy, and argued Israel’s case on online networks including Twitter and Facebook. Although I’m not Jewish, this issue is very important to me.

My experiences have been largely positive: many people told me I have changed their minds about the issue, others said my writing had encouraged them to visit Israel for the first time, and I’ve made dozens of new friends here and in Israel. I took part in a bloggers’ trip to Jerusalem last summer and I have even been nicknamed “my online ambassador” by the owner of my favourite shawarma joint in Golders Green.

But I also quickly discovered the cruelties of the web. Blogs, discussion forums and other online platforms allow for anonymous comments to be made. People hurl abuse and threats around, with negligible fear of being identified. They never see the faces of those they attack, nor are they aware of the hurt that is caused by their comments – hurt that can spread from the recipient to their loved ones too. Not that some of the attackers would care.

Last week, it got too much. With a heavy heart, I decided to stop blogging. Given how committed to Israel’s cause I am, and what a success I had made of blogging, people were surprised by my decision. I was a bit surprised myself, actually. But I just want to stop feeling sick when I log on to my computer. I’ve had enough of going to bed at night with abusive comments ringing in my ears, then waking up to a fresh load of unpleasantness, much of it left by anonymous, shadowy authors.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

In Praise of Chas Newkey-Burden

It’s unclear how long he’ll be away but, in a brief post, Chas Newkey-Burden noted that he’ll no longer be blogging at OyVaGoy, “at least for a while.”

Chas is one of those people I feel I’ve gotten to know despite the fact that, as with so many “virtual” professional relationships in the age of the internet, I’ve never had the pleasure of actually meeting him.

One thing is for sure, however.  Despite the fact that I don’t know him personally, to blog, as he’s done for years, as an unapologetic non-Jewish Zionist in the UK – where the word “Zionism” is typically used in the pejorative, home of the Guardian, and whose capital is one of the hubs within the network of delegitimization of the Jewish state – takes resolve, strength of character, and genuine courage.

For those who may not be familiar with Chas, and his blog, here’s his post from May of last year, explaining why he blogs about Israel:

A lot of people have asked me why I feel so passionately on the subjects of Israel and antisemitism to build a blog around them. As I’m not Jewish this is a very understandable question. I’ve never properly answered it before for several reasons. A lot of my motivation is instinctive and therefore unexplainable, some of it is personal and anyway there always seem more pressing issues to write about. But given the interest there is in the question, I’ll do my best in this post. I apologise in advance if what I write doesn’t satisfy everyone’s curiosity. As I say, a lot of it is instinctive.

I grew up in south west London in an area with few Jewish people. I had a couple of Jewish friends at school and some of my parents friends are Jewish, but I can’t say I was particularly exposed to Jewish people or to Israel as a topic. That said my grandmother visited Israel a number of times and my father did too, in the early days of the state. I only learned about these visits relatively recently though.

As I grew into an adult I did start to become quite interested in Jewish culture, history and even the cuisine. I’ve always instinctively liked symbols like the Magen David and the menorah, too. But these were really just background interests of mine. As far as the Middle East conflict goes I suppose I had a typically default feeling of ill-informed pity for the Palestinians and therefore a vague hostility to Israel. Then 9/11 happened and everything changed.

In the wake of those atrocities I became very interested in the Middle East conflict. I was working at a predominantly Jewish company at the time and I recall taking fascinating lunches with one member of staff during which he patiently and fairly answered my questions about Israel. I then began voraciously reading about the conflict, pouring through books that covered the issue from both sides of the argument from Edward Said to Alan Dershowitz and more. Many, many books and much thinking later I fell in firmly on Israel’s side.

In September 2006 I finally visited Israel and had a fascinating time. Everything I had hoped for about the people and the place came true. I had high, high hopes and they were exceeded by what I found. It was at that point that I became so passionate about trying to support Israel, a country that gets such an unfair hearing in the world. I’ve been back to Israel twice since and now have many dear friends there.

As well as wanting to support Israel I’m also disgusted by antisemitism in general, as I am by all bigotry from sexism to homophobia and Islamophobia. However, of all the bigotries that exist antisemitism seems the most universally held: from the numbskull skinhead to the sophisticated leftie to the aristocratic Brit and nearly everyone in between. I don’t mean to be flippant when I ask surely the bigger mystery is not why I oppose antisemitism but why more other people don’t? My hope is that this blog can help in some small way to work against anti-Israel bigotry and antisemitism in general, and perhaps bring some moments of comfort to those who suffer as a result of them.

So there we have it. I have no secret Jewish relatives and my support is not particularly based on religious feelings, though I am very interested in all aspects of Judaism, particularly the stories of the Baal Shem Tov and other parts of the Hasidic and Jewish mystical traditions. I have many other passions and interests including: the life and career of cancer-survivor cyclist Lance Armstrong; the fight to find a cure for Progeria; books; long-distance running; reality television and Arsenal Football Club.

It just so happens this is the topic I choose to blog about. I hope the above helps explain why.

Your unique, creative, and moral voice will be sorely missed, Chas, and we hope you come back soon. 

‘Freedom Flotilla 2′ – Staying Pointless.

As the erudite JE Dyer recently observed, the withdrawal last week of the Mavi Marmara from the so-called ‘Freedom Flotilla 2′ means that we are left with a largely North American and European project: a collection of far-Left Westerners volunteering their services to Hamas and its support network in order to try to enable unfettered access to Gaza for weapons sent by a totalitarian, theocratic state with the aim of destroying a liberal, democratic one by means of one of its religiously fanatical proxies. One might think that it doesn’t get much more surreal than that, but it does.   

The American boat in the upcoming flotilla – named ‘The Audacity of Hope‘  – will be carrying a cargo of letters from US citizens to the people in Gaza, some of which have already been sent to Gaza by e-mail so that a display can be made. A press release sent out by the organisers of the US boat to Gaza puts paid to any illusions the general public may still have about these flotillas having anything to do with humanitarian aid.

“In addition to 36 passengers, 4 crew, and 10 members of the press, our boat will carry thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the U.S. to the women, children and men of Gaza. There will be no weapons of any sort on board. We will carry no goods of any kind for delivery in Gaza.” (emphasis added)

Among the boat’s human cargo will be journalists from CNN and CBS News, along with two far-Left Israeli activists with whom CiF Watch readers are already familiar: Joseph Dana will be aboard reporting for ‘The Nation’ as well as Al Jazeera Stream and 972 magazine, and occasional ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Mya Guarnieri will be representing the Palestinian news agency Ma’an. Given the records of both these ‘journavists‘ and their clear and pre-stated political bias on the subject of the flotilla and its aims, we can presumably look forward to unlimited one-sided multi-media reporting on their parts.

Besides the United States, other countries represented in the flotilla appear to be Canada, with a boat called “Tahrir” also carrying activists from Australia, Denmark and Belgium, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Greece. There will be a joint Swedish/Norwegian contingent, a Swiss/German one and possibly one or two French boats. Presumably, Turkish and British activists who had been scheduled to sail on the Mavi Marmara will now be joining these other boats.

These flotillas have from the very beginning been what Chas Newkey-Burden recently described as “a vacuous project”. They never brought any significant aid to the people of Gaza or contributed to making their lives better. Their entire aim has been high-profile anti-Israel agitprop with the goal of breaking a legal naval blockade put in place to prevent the escalation of armed conflict in the region – conflict which would bring further suffering to people on both sides.

In fact the only things that ‘Free Gaza’, ‘The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza and their various associates have achieved is some high-profile publicity for various waning celebs, self-serving smugness on the part of their ‘progressive’ supporters and a rise in the respective carbon footprints of the various members of the flotilla’s steering committee who, in the past year, have been jetting between Athens, Paris, Madrid and Strasbourg, among other places, for meetings.

Apparently, later this week and next we will once more be obliged to watch as Israeli soldiers are put needlessly in danger by self-righteous Westerners with extremist political agendas on a mission bound yet again for failure. We will also no doubt be treated to the usual inane squeals of ‘progressive’ indignation from ‘the world’s leading liberal voice‘ and dramatic descriptions of inhumane Israeli actions from the spoiled children of the extreme Left such as Guarnieri, and Dana – who is already speculating on his Twitter-feed about being ‘tazed’ and bragging about wearing “a full press flak jacket and helmet”.

And for what? None of this floating circus will of course do anything to bring peace in the Middle East even one step closer. None of these ‘human rights activists’ seems to have uttered a word on the subject of Gilad Shalit who will be commencing his sixth year of imprisonment by Hamas with no Red Cross visits and total denial of all his human rights on the very weekend that these ships of fools will set sail. None of them will be bringing him his first letters from his family after sixty months of incarceration. Instead, they chose to support his captors – human rights violators of the first order, as the ordinary people of Gaza know only too well.

Members of the general public can, however, make their opinions of this useless exercise known to its participants via their social media sites.

Canadian boat – “Tahrir” – Twitter, Facebook.

US boat –”The Audacity of Hope” – Twitter , Facebook.

Spanish boat – Twitter , Facebook

Italian boat – “Stefano Chiarini” – Twitter , Facebook   

Swedish boat – Facebook

Irish boat – “MV Saoirse” – Twitter

Swiss boat – Twitter

Greek boat – Twitter  , Facebook

French boat – apparently not versed in social media!