Pride and Prejudice

January 28, 2013

Jane Austen’s literary classic was first published 200 years ago today. It became an instant best seller and has never been out of print. It is a book I have read several times and each time I do so, I find myself loving it even more. “But hang on a minute” I hear you say. “You are a bloke. You like football and golf. You watch Top Gear. You can’t read Jane Austen. She’s for girls!”

Well sorry chaps, but that is a misconception that needs to be changed, and changed quickly. After all, what is not to like?

Elizabeth Bennet is without doubt the most gorgeous girl ever created in fiction. She may not be quite as pretty as her sister Jane, but with her quick wit, her lively and playful disposition and her very fine pair of eyes, she makes me fall madly in love with her, every time I meet her. The girls can swoon all they want to at Mr. Darcy but I would climb mountains, swim seas and fight dragons for Elizabeth Bennet.

Then there is the writing. I love the English language, its poetry, its rich vocabulary, its expressiveness. All of those qualities are in abundance in Pride and Prejudice. I cannot pretend to have read all of the great works of English literature; that is an ongoing project. I can say however that I have yet to read one that for me better demonstrates why English is the greatest language on the planet.

So on this historic anniversary, I say to all the ladies out there, Pride and Prejudice is not just for you, it is a book that should be enjoyed universally. So share it with your husband or boyfriend. And guys – get out there and meet Lizzie Bennet. I guarantee you too will fall in love with her. Just remember however, I saw her first.

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The Inevitability of David Ward

January 26, 2013

The deeply distasteful comments made on his blog by Liberal MP David Ward are the inevitable consequence of the never-ending anti Israel narrative promoted by significant sections of the UK Media.

And not just the media. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement singles out Israel, the Jewish state alone as the one evil country in the world worthy of its attention.

Hate preachers regularly visit our universities meaning Jewish students frequently have to endure a climate of antiSemitism. So bad has this situation become that last year at Edinburgh University, Daniel Taub the Israeli ambassador was shouted down and prevented from speaking amid cries of “From the river(Jordan) to the sea, Palestine will be free” and describing the ambassador as “a propagandist for an apartheid state.” Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Other pro-Israel speakers have had talks interrupted or cancelled, always with cries describing Israel as a racist and/or apartheid state.

Such casual misuse of language, particularly when it is repeated often enough, soon adds legitimacy to the lie, as the Nazis themselves well knew.

It matters not that across the Middle east, muslims kill each other almost on a daily basis. More than 60,000 have been killed in Syria in the last few months alone – more than have died in the entire Israel/Palestine conflict since 1948 – and the world barely bats an eyelid. But, should a single Palestinian die when Israel takes action to defend itself, then the world condemns, and Israel stands accused of using disproportionate force and countless other crimes.

It is hardly surprising therefore that in this frenzy of anti Israel hatred, anti-Semitism should flourish. Not that I believe there is any distinction between the two. Of course it is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli government policy and I often do so myself. But what is happening today goes way beyond that. No sane person would deny that there are far, far worse regimes around than Israel, regimes with histories of violence and human rights abuse that greatly exceed what is alleged to happen in Israel. Yet these regimes receive but a fraction of the criticism that Israel does. There are no BDS movements for them. Their representatives can visit our universities without fear of protest and their artists can perform in our theatres without interruption. There is no attempt to delegitimize these states or calls for them to be abolished. Only Israel is singled out for this treatment. So why the distinction? It can only be because Israel is the Jewish State.

And because of this poisonous atmosphere where Israel is concerned, newspapers feel free to publish tasteless cartoons that would not have been out-of-place in Der Sturmer; Otherwise respectable middle class English people feel free to disrupt concerts or theatre performances whenever Israelis come here to perform. References to the “Jewish Lobby” one of the oldest of anti-Semitic tropes, are common place. And MPs like David Ward, conscious of his large Muslim constituency see nothing wrong in equating the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz with Israeli actions taken to defend itself against enemies who deny its right to exist. To say such moral equivalence is vile is to understate the case by a mile.

But make no mistake. Ward’s comments are nothing new. The only reason they have attracted such wide attention is because of the timing, coinciding as they do, with Holocaust Memorial Day. Otherwise, in the current climate, they probably would have passed un-noticed or indeed would have attracted silent nods of agreement from those who subscribe to the distorted view of Israel so prevalent today.