Worrying Times

February 23, 2013

If you are Jewish it is hard to comprehend all that has occurred in the past few days.

First of all there was the report that Israel’s deputy ambassador had to be evacuated from Essex University, unable to give the lecture he was supposed to give because of disruption from students. There was all the usual talk from the PSC and SWP students about “war crimes” and Israel being an “apartheid state.” It is neither surprising nor unprecedented for the extreme left to stifle the voices of those with whom they disagree; nor is it surprising that this should have happened at Essex, a university with a long history of extreme left politics. None the less, this is one more in a long list of examples of the extreme hostility that those who dare to support Israel face on our campuses.

If that wasn’t enough for one night, we then had the case of George Galloway who walked out of a debate at Christ Church, Oxford on the subject “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank”. On learning that his opponent was an Israeli, he simply marched out of the door saying that he does not recognise Israel and does not debate with Israelis.

What a way for a Member of the British Parliament to behave.

And whilst all that was happening over here, across the channel in a pub in Lyon, a group of Spurs supporters, in France to see their team play in a Europa League cup match, were attacked by a bunch of Neo Nazis. The reason? Tottenham Hotspur has a large number of Jewish supporters and therefore is known as a “Jewish” club.

Any one of these incidents should give rise for concern. That all three should occur within a matter of hours is to me very worrying. It is reported in the Jewish Chronicle this week that French Jews are fleeing to London in large numbers to escape growing anti-Semitism in that country. Given what is happening here in the UK one wonders if they are not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Remember too, only a couple of weeks ago there was David Ward MP making deeply offensive anti-Semitic comments and the equally offensive Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times.

Jews in France are caught in a vice. On one side is a far right movement much more prominent there than here. On the other side is a large North African population that in some areas the authorities can barely control.

Here, in spite of a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, thanks to the superb work of the Community Security Trust (CST) who monitor all such incidents and work very closely with the authorities, Jews still consider themselves relatively safe. However, this is no time for complacency.

I have no doubt that as long as the demonization of Israel continues, so will the rise in anti-Semitism. I have said before, I have no problem when people criticize actions taken by the government of Israel in a manner they would use to criticise actions taken by their own or any other government. Unfortunately, that is not what we are seeing. The incidents at two universities this week are just the latest examples of an irrational, bitter hatred for, and obsession with Israel alone that so far as I am aware is unprecedented in history. And as long as that continues, Jews cannot feel totally safe anywhere. Less than seventy years after the horrors of the second World war, that is a shocking state of affairs.

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The Nonsensical Mansion Tax

February 17, 2013

A friend of mine who sadly passed away a few years ago proudly boasted that he never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I am reminded of this today as I see the Labour Party’s latest piece of populism. I am referring of course to the proposed mansion tax.

The stated purpose of this latest wheeze is to fund a re-introduction of the 10% tax rate. It is to be introduced on homes worth £2 million or more. It is a very silly idea and I will tell you why.

First of all, it is a basic principle of taxation that it should be fair. One of the reasons that the recent child benefit changes have been so unpopular is the obvious lack of fairness in a system where a family with one member earning £90,000 loses out whilst another family with two members each earning £45,000 does not.

The proposed mansion tax is equally unfair because one family can be living in a single property now worth £2 million and will have to pay the tax, whilst another family which has built up a portfolio of say four £500,000 properties will not.

What makes it even worse is the fact that it will not even come close to achieving its stated purpose.

At the level suggested it is estimated by the Treasury that the tax will bring in £2 billion. To bring back the 10p tax rate, again according to Treasury estimates, will cost £7 billion. You do not have to be a brilliant mathematician to see that leaves a £5 billion shortfall about which there has been a suspicious silence. No doubt at some stage, in a replay of their scorched earth policies when Gordon Brown was in charge, the Milliband/Balls duo will seek yet more ways to tax the wealth creators and to mortgage our children’s future with still more borrowing. Forget the inconvenient and incontrovertible truth that higher tax rates destroy the economy and actually produce less revenue for the exchequer. That will not stop Labour who never, ever learn the lessons of history.


The Sunday Times and the BBC

February 3, 2013

Last week the Sunday Times published a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe that showed a grotesque image of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu building a wall using a bloodied trowel and mortar and with agonised Palestinians trapped between the bricks. I took one look at it and thought I had picked up a 1930’s edition of Der Sturmer by mistake.

The cartoon was as vile a piece of anti-Semitism as I have seen drawing as it did on the old trope of the blood libel. That it was published on Holocaust Memorial Day mad it immeasurably worse. After my initial shock, I at once took to Twitter to announce that I was going to cancel my subscription.

But then two things happened. First of all, Rupert Murdoch the owner of the Sunday Times stepped in immediately to apologise on Twitter for what he described as ” a grotesque, offensive cartoon.” This was followed by a further apology from the acting editor of the paper, Martin Ivens. Now in today’s leading articles there is a further, fulsome apology.

The Sunday Times made a mistake. It has owned up and has apologised. I am happy to forgive and am very glad that I can continue to read it.

And that is the point I want to make in this post. Had there been no apology I was free to cancel my subscription. I believe that I and indeed everyone should have the same freedom of choice when it comes to all media, print or broadcast. I am thinking particularly of the BBC which offends me almost daily with its left-wing political viewpoint and even more so with its anti- Israel bias that sometimes itself comes very close to anti-Semitism.

I find it absurd that in this day and age, we are forced by law to fund an organisation that all too often causes as much offense as did the Scarfe cartoon.

The BBC has become a huge, unmanageable organisation that considers itself to be beyond reproach. The time has come to level the playing field and to make it subject to the same commercial realities as all other media organisations. The time has come too, to give the public the right to choose to subscribe to it or not.