Has Stephen Hawking Done Israel A Favour?

May 13, 2013

Much has been written over the past few days about Professor Stephen Hawking’s decision to withdraw from the President’s Conference in Israel. His decision to pull out was taken in response to a request from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) an organisation which deems Israel to be the sole perpetrator of all the evil in the world.

The BDS has been active in the UK for a long time, particularly in the world of academia and has tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to organise cultural boycotts when Israeli artistic companies have visited Britain. These activities, whilst they have generated some publicity have mostly gone unnoticed by the British public at large.

This time however, because of Stephen Hawking’s name and reputation, his decision to acquiesce to BDS demands has received massive publicity. BDS of course consider this a triumph, but is it?

Every article I have read and every comment I have heard has been highly critical, not just of Hawking but of BDS too. Just today there has been another article in The Times, this time by Daniel Johnson of Standpoint. Johnson notes that Hawking has spoken in Iran and China, those bastions of liberal democracy; and he makes no bones about the ultimate objective of BDS, which is nothing less than the elimination of the State of Israel. All of these articles have exposed the hypocrisy of the BDS movement in singling out Israel alone for such treatment and raised the probability that behind it is plain old-fashioned anti-Semitism. They all properly point out that Hawking relies on Israeli designed microchip to enable him to communicate which makes him a hypocrite too.

These have been the common threads throughout the week since Hawking’s announcement. I have been waiting a long time to read such widespread denunciations of BDS in the mainstream media and how welcome it is to see it now. My hope is that more people than ever before in this country are aware of BDS and see it for what it is. People who thought it was there to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians now will know better. They will have read and heard that it is a nasty bunch of left-wing, hate filled hypocrites whose sole aim is to wipe the only democracy in the Middle East off the face of the planet.

Maybe, just maybe, BDS’s “triumph” will blow up in its face.

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Laziness at the Telegraph

April 22, 2013

Sometimes we Jews are accused of being too sensitive and of seeing ant-Semitism where none exists. I readily admit that this might be just such a case but I was incensed this morning by an article in the Telegraph.

The article in question is entitled “Disillusionment comes home to la France profonde” and is by an English journalist and author called Michael Wright who lives in rural France. The article is about the effect that the economic crisis is having on the French people and about how disillusioned they are becoming with their own country and the way it is run.

Writing about the consequences of President Hollande demanding that ministers make public all their bank accounts, Wright makes this observation. “Even the ones who aren’t millionaires have been pilloried in the press for stashing their shekels in underperforming accounts.” (My highlights.)

Now I do not know if Wright harbours anti-Semitic feelings and I am not accusing him of so doing. But why oh why did he use the word “shekel”? The currency of France is the euro. The shekel is the currency of the modern State of Israel and was the currency of biblical Judea. Its association with Jews is a matter of fact. And when used with a pejorative verb such as “to stash” it conforms with one of the most common of anti-semitic tropes, that of the money grabbing Jew.

I hope that his use of the word “shekel” rather than “euro” represents nothing more than a piece of lazy writing (and editing) although it does make me wonder about the thought process that led to its use.

The fact that seemingly it did go through the Telegraph’s editorial process unchallenged also highlights the way that casual anti-Semitism is fast becoming the norm in Britain today, often flying under the radar in a way that does not apply to other minorities. Maybe I am being too sensitive but I hope the Telegraph is more careful in future.


Another Case of Anti-Semitism

March 14, 2013

There are many people who claim that we Jews are too quick to cry “anti-Semitism” whenever we see or hear something we do not like. Perhaps there is some validity in that claim, perhaps not. What is certain is that no-one can be accused of over reacting to the outrageous statements made by labour Peer, Lord Ahmed.

This is the man who in 2007 drove at speeds of up to seventy miles an hour on the M1 whilst simultaneously receiving and sending text messages, before driving into the back of a stationary vehicle killing the occupant. He was jailed for 12 weeks but served only 16 days on the ground that prison would hinder his work to promote conciliation between Muslims and non-Muslims.

All non-Muslims except Jews that it is. Because it now transpires that Lord Ahmed, a British parliamentarian has stated in a broadcast in Pakistan that HE was the victim of a Jewish conspiracy. Never mind that he killed a man; never mind that he put at risk the lives of countless others whilst texting on the motorway. No, his conviction and sentence was the result of a conspiracy by a cabal of those nasty Jews who control the press and the media.

When it comes to Jew hatred Lord Ahmed has form. In 2005 he hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for a man who calls himself Israel Shamir – who is also a Swedish-domiciled anti-Semite called Jöran Jermas.

There was a lot of unpleasant language used at that launch – this is just one piece. “In the Middle East we have just one reason for wars, terror and trouble — and that is Jewish supremacy drive.”

This is the company Lord Ahmed likes to keep. This is the kind of man he considers worthy of a platform in the Mother of Parliaments. The Labour Party suspended him then, but only for a short time. Today, to their credit, they have suspended him again. We shall see if this time it is permanent. If not it will be to their eternal shame.

The Liberal Democrats thus far have taken no effective action against their own anti-Semitic MP, David Ward after his disgusting comments on Holocaust Memorial Day, demonstrating once more how vastly different is the way outbursts against Jews are dealt with compared to those against other minorities, particularly Muslims. There is in this country a casual acceptance of anti-Semitism that I find difficult to understand and am loath to accept.

How long I wonder will this attitude be allowed to continue? Anti-Semitism is no less offensive and no less hurtful than Islamophobia and should be treated in exactly the same way and with the same degree of urgency. Perhaps it is partly our own fault. We have a tendency to like to keep our head down and to not want to rock the boat. If attitudes are to change we need to change as well and let people know that if you prick us, we do indeed bleed. We need to ensure that government, the media and everyone else know that if Britain wants to maintain its reputation as the most welcoming home to ALL minorities, it must understand that its Jewish citizens demand to be treated no less fairly than everyone elses.


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.


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.


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.