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Jerusalem Post’s Letter from London 10th January 2015 19 Tevet 5775

I’m finding it strangely difficult to bring myself to write when the sights and sounds of this week are still so resonant. This may seem odd, given that it was fellow writers, putting their opinions into the public domain that apparently sparked these events of evil. Words seem so futile. And there are so many words that have been written and spoken regarding the events in Paris it seems that everything has been said. So I will talk of that which was not written.

In London, as we journeyed forward to New Year’s Eve, there was a sense that 2014 was a year we were all going to be glad to see the back of. Amongst my friends we talked of the relief at seeing out an awful year for Jews (as Queen Elizabeth once declared, an “annus horribilis”). We saw antisemitism reaching new highs, the conflict in Israel and Gaza in the summer and the attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv later in the year. The fireworks over the Thames at midnight and the strains of Auld Lang Syne seemed to offer new hope and comfort for 2015. Also, for many of us here in the UK, it would also be an opportunity for us to look back at 2014 and say, “we made a difference”; “we made a stand”; “we found our voice”; “we changed for the better”. But whilst we felt we made a change, the calendar rolled over into the first days of January, we sadly discovered that the world hadn’t. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (the more things change, the more things stay the same).

The First, Unwritten…..

Just before New Year, I wrote to HarperCollins about a World Atlas that they produced for their Arabic market. This atlas was designed in English for Arabic students as a reference book. In it one reference that was not apparent was Israel. Israel had been removed. The land mass was there, Gaza was there, Jordan was there, but no Israel. Once I had informed the CEO of the situation, HarperCollins, within a couple of hours, confirmed to me that they would be removing the product from sale and all remaining stock would be pulped. HarperCollins made a full apology. But the reasoning behind the original strategy revealed a sinister message. Their reasoning for the removal of the State of Israel was, according to the company’s representatives, that their customers would have found the inclusion of Israel “unacceptable” so the Atlas was amended for “local preferences”.

Missing Israel

Missing Israel

The Second, Unpublished…..

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, many journalists and publishers in the UK immediately stood up and said that they would not kowtow to the terrorist threats of extremists. Free speech was everything. There was a certain sense of righteousness that the media would now not fear delivering the story with any censorship. We would all see what the commotion was about, why 12 people had been murdered for free speech. We would not see OUR press cower in fear. Yet the morning after the murders of these cartoonists, exactly as their editor, Stephane Charbonier had predicted but had hoped would not be the case, the press stood down. Stephane himself had said he would rather “die standing”. Not one British newspaper, not one TV channel was prepared to publish or show these cartoons. Some spoke bravely (such as Andrew Neill and David Aaronovich), but otherwise they all hid behind the “insensitivity” of publishing those satirical cartoons. This fear of offence has become a wider topic now here in the UK, yet we are still no closer to addressing it. It feels for many that the extremists have won. Jonathan Glass epitomized the feeling of many when he wrote imploring The Independent, an ambitious and usually brave broadsheet, to do the right thing. He said “all organs of the media must resist the assault on free speech”. And further, “If only our journalistic elite had the same concern about standing up for what is right”. But no….

The Third, Unmentioned…..

During these awful events, one fact is rarely being uttered. You see, if it were, it might cause us to think the worst. The French exodus. Here’s a very brief letter summarising the situation which I sent to The Independent, as a reminder of the situation the French Jews find themselves in.

Regular attacks on religious establishments and amenities, physical attacks on those going about their daily lives, terror, threat and murder. Jews are victims in France daily. And the perpetrators are always the same.

Jews in France are leaving in their droves. 20% of French Jews have fled France in the last 2 years (100,000 emigrated from France to Britain, US and Israel).

France will be Judenfrei before 2020 thanks to the Islamic terror campaign and the inertia of successive governments. This campaign achieving what even the Nazis failed to do, rid France of Jews.

In Europe, we are sleepwalking into a catastrophe. Wake up Europe before it’s too late.

It remained unmentioned in most of the reporting, that Islamic terror and the inertia of successive French governments is leading to the eradication of Jews in France. It is a powerful message, yet one the media are frightened to mention as only one conclusion can be drawn. Again, through fear of terrorists and extremists, it is easier to accept the victimisation of Jews rather than offend others with the truth. However, yesterday, Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle did speak out saying “Every single French Jew I know has either left or is actively working out how to leave”. And tonight as I prepared to publish this very article the BBC and ITV news did finally carry interviews with concerned French Jews. The message was “when are we leaving?” or “where will we go?”
The Fourth, Unspoken…..

“Not in my name”. This is the rhetoric spoken by many Muslim leaders. These leaders seem to be decent and caring people. They are genuinely concerned and as outraged as the next man. Yet, “not in my name” doesn’t help. It distances Islam from the extremists and hopes that they’ll go away by denying they exist within the boundaries of the faith. These radicals, these terrorists, these extremists are doing these egregious acts in the name of Islam. And rather than saying “not in my name”, Muslims need to come out and say what their name is. When I see tens of thousands of Muslims protesting against their brothers, marching on Westminster saying “Muslims against Jihad”, “Muslims against apostasy”, “Muslims want freedom of speech” and “Muslims for British values” and so on then I will start to believe. This is what is not spoken.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Paris this weekend, the only time we witness the outpouring of emotion is when global brothers are offended and not when others outside of their faith are. Where are the Keffiyeh clad protest marches for the Christians of Yazidi, the Israelis murdered in Jerusalem, the children of Nigeria, the slaughtered refugees of Sudan and even the victims of genocidal war of Syria? Muslim leaders must be brave. They must take ownership of Islamic terror. They must put their arms around it and smother it with love and saturate it with good not evil. Start this in the schools, continue it in the mosques and send it out into the world. Prove that Islam is a religion of love not war. Shunning the terror, ignoring it, excusing it, will just make it breed and prosper.


 

There is a tradition at midnight on New Year’s Eve of singing an old poem by the Scottish bard, Rabbie Burns (not to be confused with the Rabbi Burns). We sing “For the sake of Auld Lang Syne”, it means “for the sake of old times”. We sing it to reminisce for the good old times and we wish for more of the same. This year let us hope, despite the dreadful start, that we can put the bad times behind us and enjoy more of the good ones.

#JeSuisCharlie #JesSuisJuif

#JeSuisCharlie
#JeSuisJuif

Jerusalem Post’s Letter from London 25th Dec 14 and 3 Tevet 5775

Christmas is a funny time of year for London’s Jews. For many children who are not in Jewish schools the experience post-Chanukah is of hearing your friends get increasingly excited about Christmas and what Santa will bring. Whether it be snow filled vistas, the sound of Christmas songs (from Phil Spector to Slade to traditional Christmas carols), the Queens Speech or the presents waiting to be opened at the crack of dawn by kids in pyjamas; these remain some of the most endearing images of British society at Christmas. For those children not party to this, for whatever reason, these images can cause envious gazes. Now many Jewish (and other non-Christian) parents feel pressured into creating the full Christmas experience for their children. Santa and his sleigh no longer pass over the muzuzah’ed houses and only drop down the chimneys of the good little Christian boys and girls. And you are as likely to see Rachel or Rupal or Ahmed or Asher sitting on Santa’s knee in his grotto discussing whether they have been good this year! Santa now reassures all children that he will visit them, no matter in what language they pray for their presents!

But as the season is about giving, and with this spare time on our hands, what better time to turn our minds to the needs of others. There is no better time for us Jews to give up our time and resources.

With that in mind, it was with joy that a few mensches gave up their seasonal break (all 4 days and nights of it) to provide warmth and comfort, love and friendship to some in their community who are less fortunate; a homeless shelter with “all the Christmas trimmings” over the festive period in a synagogue! Surely, this is the true meaning of the giving season. And in giving, there is the privilege of feeling appreciation and the glow of gratitude. This is what is missing in the commercial experience in British society’s festive spirit. Giving should not be restricted to Christmas, or restricted to Christians at this time. In North London, the remarkable work of the same synagogue has set a wonderful precedent. This summer, during Ramadan, the synagogue converted nightly into a mosque for prayers and the breaking of the fast and Iftar celebrations. Every night for the duration of Ramadan, over 50 Muslims came to pray and eat. The Imam’s call to prayer, from the Bimah, echoed throughout the halls. Finally, on one special night, 150 locals from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Sikh communities came together to sing ‘Salaam, Shalom, Peace’. An unforgettable image of people of all faiths and ages peering over the scrolls on the Bimah in wonder will serve many of us well in the darker days of hatred, bigotry and religious restriction that are becoming ever more frequent in today’s world.

Sadly, some of those darker days have been described by the inspiring Canon Andrew White. He told of a far more sinister tale of the ability and freedom to rejoice. In Nineveh, in this past week, the celebration of birth of Jesus has been an altogether different affair. This vast plain, once the hub of Christianity for Iraq and across Persia, and where Jesus’s mother tongue (Aramaic) is still the language of choice for prayer; the voices have fallen silent and been replaced by the sound of gunfire. Fear has replaced joy. Tragically, for the first time in 2 millennia, the prayers of Christians will be a covert occasion risking lives rather than the overt celebrations venerating life.

Canon Andrew White with the last cross to be made in Nineveh

Canon Andrew White with the last cross to be made in Nineveh

Andrew is also a great mensch in case you didn’t know. And I’m sure that even at such a busy time for most Christians (especially the clergy) Andrew will still have taken time out to tilt his hat to Chanukah. Somewhere in Israel, Andrew will have been lighting the menorah with as much gusto as any of his more customary duties.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, did his very best to show that he is a mensch too. My wife and I listened to his Chanukah speech, made whilst lighting the menorah candles at No 10. He remarked that there are 26 different ways to spell Chanukah, but there is only one meaning: Dedication. He then made 3 wonderful dedications. These assured and unequivocal dedications he gave to Jews across the globe:

Firstly: to Jewish community in its role in the UK. He went on record to recognise the vast contribution that UK Jewry makes to the wider community plus their extraordinary contribution to the country as a whole.

Secondly: to the State and people of Israel. Britain remains a good and candid friend to our state and people. He has pledged that as long as he is Prime Minister this will remain so.

Thirdly: to the memory of the Holocaust. Soon there will be survivors of the Holocaust left, so David Cameron (inspired in part by his visit to Auschwitz), dedicated part of his legacy to ensuring that the messages and lessons are never forgotten.

Whilst other leaders in the UK made positive noises at this time too, David Cameron’s speech was inspiring and his unswerving admiration of Jews and Israel quite moving. His sincerity, at a time when many UK Jews are feeling less safe than ever before, is hugely appreciated and cannot be underestimated. You can read the full speech here, David Cameron’s Chanukah 2014 message

Finally, when it comes to dedication, there are none more dedicated than those at the UN. Their dedication to undermining world politics, congratulating the unworthy and generally making a mockery of justice is unparalleled. Whisper it quietly in the UN’s corridors of power, but they “don’t seem to like us Jews or Israel much” tends to be the general feeling. Whilst that might sound somewhat cynical, the amazing work of UNWatch published (via Buzzfeed if you’d like to read, here UNWatch Top 10 Worst UN decisions) some amazing acts of ignorance by the first global organisation in 2014. Amongst its most stunning proclamations:

  • Electing Iran to Women’s Rights Commission
  • Electing China, Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia to the New Human Rights Commission

That’s just the numbers 10 and 9. Even the UNRWA handing back weapons to the terrorists of Gaza didn’t make No.1 on the “mis-hit parade”. No, No 1 in the Top of the Flops was this:

UN adopts 20 Resolutions on Israel versus 4 on the Rest of the World combined. Despite the gross and systematic abuses committed by China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Rwanda etc., the only other countries who received condemnations were Iran, North Korea, Ukraine and Syria (and only one for each of them). Is Israel really 5 times as bad as the rest of the world put together? Well seems like the UN think so.

Israel 20 v The Rest of the World 4

Israel 20 v The Rest of the World 4

At the UN, Christmas is a time for giving, and the UN has certainly given more generously than ever before to the State of Israel. Unfortunately the receiving has not been greeted with the same enthusiasm as the giving.

Stinging Criticism

Matthew Parris, a venerable writer in The Times and former Conservative MP, made the assertion in the aforementioned paper that we are all just a bit over anxious and losing perspective about the egregious attacks (in Australia, Pakistan and France) of the past week. He feels that the public and the media unfairly play the racial card on this and, especially in the US, overreact to the events. Matthew’s research led him to the intriguing fact that there are more Americans dying from wasp stings than from religiously driven beheadings, by a factor of 11 to 1. The numbers are undeniable. 55 US citizens died as a result of a sting or stings from an insect last year, whilst during the same period 5 US citizens were murdered by barbaric extremists. There are so many ways to dissect this but none of them support Matthew Parris’s rationale. Furthermore, this ongoing apologist view of race-based hatred and murder seems to be gathering far more pace than it should.
So I posed these simple points to Matthew:

a) 5 American citizens “only” are killed a year because the US has to spend billions of dollars to prevent daily massacres of biblical proportions by terrorists mainly driven by Islamic narratives.

b) Trivialising murders by terrorists by comparing to attacks by wasps is massively disrespectful to those who are victims of terror attacks. A friend of mine is, at this time, remembering the 4th anniversary of being the victim of a Palestinian terrorist kidnapping, being stabbed 14 times, being left for dead whilst witnessing her friend being brutally murdered.

The still far too frequent terrorist events such as these are, I suggest, not the same as being stung by a wasp.

A wasp is an insect. It attacks as a basic reaction to an imminent threat. That is NATURE. Humans rarely die from a wasp sting as it we have enough body mass and protection to render the sting a mere irritation. Beheadings are the result of a specific philosophy and upbringing. That is NUTURE. Humans rarely survive a blow with a knife to the neck.

One criticism levelled by all sides is that there are numerous tracts within religious books of many faiths that speak of violent and belligerent acts. Unquestionably these tracts exist. They are not obscure but relatively clear. However, responsible society has learnt to moderate and interpret these stories for what they are; stories not instructions. They represent a different time when barbarism and violence went unchecked and the moral compass had no direction. In Christianity and Judaism no one is using these violent tracts as “just cause” for murder or punishment. The Old Testament talks of stoning, an eye for an eye, ritual slaughter, yet I have never heard a rabbi or a vicar demand that we implement these actions or encourage such behaviour (nor, I am sure will I ever). Actually, the contrary is usually the case when I listen to rabbis sermons of such events. These stories act as a reminder of how not to behave. There lies the fundamental difference with fundamentalists.

The liberals seem all too keen to excuse the Sydney café murders as a one off “lone wolf attack” (despite three vehicular terror attacks in France this week done with similar intent and intonations). This was just a madman. The Islamic flag, the screams of “allah akbah” were just a fashion not an extolling of intent. In Pakistan, when there is no denying that religion was the justification to murder innocents in their classrooms, everyone appeased the notion that religion was involved by denying it was their religion.

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, at his residence for Chanukah candle lighting this week said:

“I know that it happened on the other side of the world, but I think the appalling events in Peshawar…. are a reminder, whether we needed it, that there aren’t bad terrorists and less bad terrorists – there are terrorists. They kill. They maim.”

So, to the crux of the matter. Within religion, there are all manner of aspects of humanity. It does depravity as well as beauty. That is our nature. But only the evil in mankind has the ability to nurture the horrors. Stop that nurture. Rather than trying to excuse it, we need to be brave and confront it. Matthew Parris feels that ISIS, Islamic Jihad and the like are trying to draw us into a holy war by trying to associate murders with religion. If we keep on denying it, it will continue and proliferate.


 

David Cameron, PM, lighting the Menorah candles

David Cameron, PM, lighting the Menorah candles

Read David Cameron’s full speech here:  https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&sqi=2&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gov.uk%2Fgovernment%2Fnews%2Fchanukah-2014-david-camerons-speech-at-reception&ei=vjeZVLbYGfCu7AbMqYGYDg&usg=AFQjCNE6P2Kgs2Hz319lt0JeC19W9rm8OA&sig2=hDPJ1qT1QaMIb-Y3_S-XHQ

Jerusalem Post’s Letter from London 8th Dec 14 and 16 Kislev 5775

The weather in London is getting a little colder, the nights are drawing in, and thoughts on the BBC turn to the Christmas season’s entertainment. Time was we couldn’t wait for the TV Times. But enough of the British sentimentality. And moving on to, British sentimentality.

 

 

TV Times

This week, the Bishop of Oxford, Bishop Harries decided it would be in the best spirit of inclusion and welcome to incorporate tracts from the Quran into the next royal coronation ceremony. It is a charming thought. And one not at all meant to curry favour with Britain’s ever growing Muslim community. Yet to be really inclusive, we shouldn’t forget those in Britain who are already well integrated into the British way of life. The Sikhs, the Hindus, the Buddhists and, of course, the Jews. And then there are those more traditional British spiritual faiths that we mustn’t forget like Quakers, Druids and, well, atheists. I think the TV Times Coronation Celebration Special Issue will be featuring a Coronato-thon of a show with hours of tracts from every faith.

In a further complication, how does Bishop Harries see this working out for the inclusion aspect? In the synagogues around Britain Jews say prayers of wellbeing for the Royal Family, the British government and the British Armed Forces every Shabbat. This is integration and respect for ones adopted community at its best. In other examples, Hindus and Sikhs have long shown their loyalties at their temples to their environment and the nation where they are free to practice their faith without trepidation or threat. Yet on several occasions the suggestion of putting such patriotic narratives into the mosques has been firmly batted back. This lack of reciprocation suggests that Bishop Harries welcome and inclusion is not a two way street.

But back to our fascination with the weather and as it gets decidedly chillier in London, David Cameron took the opportunity to go somewhere even colder. The PM went off to a very frosty Poland. He went to visit Auschwitz. Unquestionably, any man or woman who visits there is compelled to reassess their values and to address their perspectives of humanity. David Cameron didn’t need words to justify his visit. His actions spoke for him. He wanted to reflect and be touched by horror. At a time when we see the heinous cruelty with ISIS, (as Canon Andrew White points out, this is an organisation which is driven without any notion of negotiation towards the destruction of all that disagree or do not meet with their philosophy, nihilists or new age Nazis if you like) maybe the PM wanted to come face to face with the evil so as to understand it better. A chill wind that might blow some good.

He promised to assess how the Holocaust is taught here in the UK and ensure it remains prominent and relevant in our educational curriculum. But also, it was apparent he reached out to the Jewish community here in the UK to remind us that he stands by us. Anti Semitism is rife and his actions reaffirm his real determination to address this. It is not some vote grabbing headline or antic; it is the continued reinforcement of David Cameron’s moral belief. If he wanted to grab votes he might simply take the left’s tactic of appealing to the masses and joining the Miliband-wagon of anti Israel rhetoric to ensure he curries favour with the pro Palestinian lobby. It is a sentiment not lost on the Jewish voting public which is pulling away from its Labour roots in droves.

Finally, the ever erudite Daniel Finklestein got a rather cold reception in some quarters for daring to go all “Jewish humour” on us in The Times. A pity that some couldn’t enjoy some good ol’ fashion Yiddisher self deprecation. Fantastic and very old school.

“30 Reasons why I like being a Jew”. Amongst his amusing musings were:

2 Jews, 3 opinions and 4 cars. We’re never short of a lift home.

Chickensoup with matzo balls. One way to tell a Jew from a gentile. For all Jews chickensoup is one word.

What’s the difference between a Jew and a non Jew. A non Jew pays retail.

But numbers 29 and 30 were, I would suggest, on a level with Richard Pryor’s re-appropriation of the N-word. The last two reasons why Daniel (and I) like being a Jew

29. Control of the media

30. And Control of the international banking system

Bravo!

If there has been a 31st, it might have been “Being a Zionist”. But unfortunately here in the UK, the Z-word is still a little tougher to sell. Even to Jews.

Flags of Convenience

It might be a small thing, it might be trivial and not even noticed by many of the millions of light entertainment viewers and sport fanatics around the world. But I observed three small images that made disturbing viewing for their sentiment. All three are within the context of the celebration of man’s / woman’s ability to entertain and strive for athletic and graceful perfection.

Strictly Come Dancing, the doyen of the BBC’s weekend evening light entertainment schedule, is a programme which my wife and many of my friends are gripped by. On the menu last Saturday was the fantastically themed concept of “dance from around the world”. Behind one of the judges, Len, were flags from all the countries. Every one of the states were draped behind the judges, with one odd addition. A Palestinian flag. Curiously, there were no other unofficial states. I wrote to the BBC to ask if the precedent they had set would be continued using other unofficial state flags such as Islamic State? After all they are an unofficial state, just like Palestine. I now eagerly await a reply. And just to advise, when complaining through the BBC’s circuitous web complaint form, don’t hold your breath for a response. They are never quick and often you have to pursue them.

Len's Lens missed this little gem

Len’s Lens missed this little gem

Next to Qatar. Qatar has become a centre for athletic excellence. Despite having almost no history in any form of athletic endeavour, this tiny state will host the World Athletics Championships, the Top World Tennis Tournament outside the big four majors, an annual World Golf Open and most notably the 2022 Football World Cup. On top of that, it is currently hosting the World Swimming Championships. Israel has had a notable success at the swimming championships, a Gold Medal for the Israeli Guy Marcos Barnea. The Qatari broadcast of the Championships put a banner up on the screen with a curious omission. The Winner, the winner’s name, the winner’s time, the winner’s 3 letter abbreviated country name were all up there. But next to that a new and unrecognised flag. A white flag, with two blue horizontal bands, one near the top and one near the bottom of the flag. Nothing else. Of course, missing was a blue Star of David.

Star of the pool?

Star of the pool?

Although this is not without precedent. In the third example of misappropriated references, Real Madrid‘s new UAE sponsors removed the Christian Cross from the top of their club crest. The Spanish (pro Madrid) newspaper, Marca, advised that the club removed it from their logo on the new £1bn Real Madrid Resort’s promotional materials (based resort in the UAE). Marca describes the change as a means “to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation” in relation to a project being built in a largely Muslim region. The cross in question is part of the Royal Family crest relating to the crown worn by the head of state (who’s name is part of the club of course, Real = Royal). Next for Real Madrid’s misinterpretation avoidance department? Well maybe replacing the “MCF” in the centre of the crest with a picture of the club president hugging a spouting oil derrick.

Real-ity bites the cross off

Real-ity bites the cross off

It will be intriguing to know, at the 2022 World Cup, whether there are plans to remove other country’s religious references. With that in mind, should we now expect the England flag to be a plain white flag with the removal of the Cross of Saint George. The idea of a “white flag” and England’s football team might be too obvious. But what about a Swiss Flag without a Cross, it is just a Red Flag. That would be like a red rag to a Swiss bull. The FIFA executives in Zurich may feel like this is a price worth paying though (and usually FIFA has no shame in considering the price of World Football’s soul).

Either way, these flags of convenience are a troubling trend. It smacks of eradicating other cultures and histories. In the case of the cross atop of the Real Madrid emblem, it is clearly a case of selling the soul of the football club. In the case of the missing Star of David it is denial of history and existence. And in the case of the BBC, well, it’s just the good ol’ Beeb showing its true colours.

Remembering the Jewish Refugees

Some 70 years ago, as the Jewish state of Israel was approaching its birth, many Arabic regimes through the Near and Middle East began wicked campaigns of intimidation and oppression against their own Jewish citizens. Jews from all over the region were systematically brutalised tortured and murdered, their businesses destroyed or stolen, their possessions and homes ramsacked and expropriated. 850,000 refugees in a matter of just a couple of years were left desolate, isolated, hated and abused; refugees and victims. It should be remembered, this brutal ethnic cleansing was taking place just months after the end of the Holocaust in Europe and whilst millions of European Jews were now refugees wandering through a desolate war torn landscape with nowhere else to go.

Displacement of Jews

Much less of the Arabic Jewish refugee situation was made than that of the circumstances in Europe. Israel and many of the refugees looked to Europe and thought to themselves “what happened in Europe was far far worse, so let’s just get on with it”.

Jewish refugees in Arabia

Despite the abominable circumstances, the nascent State of Israel, did what Israel was set up to do. It provided the only safe haven and security that these near 1 million could rely on. Jews relied on Jews. The world’s only Jewish State protected, saved and gave new life and purpose to these refugees. Jews had no UN to fund them, no wealthy oil money to provide for them, no parent global organisation to put care around them. Indeed quite the opposite, a world reeling from World War II had no capacity to help and a country barely borne and already accomodating refugees from Europe was already struggling both financially and psychologically.

It is not without irony that in the Near and Middle East today a global organisation with massive resources operates to assist refugees. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was created to support Palestinian refugees in Gaza, The West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Whilst these countries and many others in the region disposed of their Jewish citizens, robbed them of their wealth and lives, the UN resolved to set up a refugee status for those other than Jews. Jews had been systematically murdered and made refugees across the region yet those who continued this persecution were provided with funding and resources to sort their Palestinian refugee problem?

Stretching the irony yet further, the part of the UNRWA work that has by far the highest visibility is the work in Gaza and the West Bank. In Syria, Jordon, Egypt, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region the majority of the refugees exist that this organisation is aiding, yet the world and the UNRWA make much smaller investment and effort. Instead, the UNRWA’s multi billion budget and extraordinary large organisation make much of the need for Israel to be responsible for the refugee problem. This convenient association between Israel and Palestinian refugees makes for a convenience that suits much of the Arab world. It plays into the hands of anti semites who profess their hate against Jews through the accusation of role reversal in crimes against humanity.

And in one final paradox, this huge and high profile vehicle for Palestinian refugee aid (along with the extraordinary global donations from charities and Arabic States equating to small nation incomes) consumes much of the global efforts for refugees. 1 in 7 of our planets inhabitants (around 1 billion people) are classified as refugees. Yet the lions share of the support and effort for refugees goes to just 5 million or so people. And one country alone takes the brunt for the issue. That one country being the only country that has successfully resolved this without cost to others, without seeking funds from others and without fuss.

It is surely to Israel that the UN should come to address how to resolve the world’s refugee problem. Indeed countries like Somalia and Ethopia already have. And Israel has opened its doors and let those that need help in.

So just to repeat, with no support from the UN and incredibly limited resources, the lives of these 850,000 Jewish refugees were safeguarded as they were given safe haven in Israel. The UN, in 1947 resolved to set the UNRWA to help refugees in the Near and Middle East region. Yet not one cent of this was for Jews or Israel, but only for the region’s displaced Arabs. Billions upon billions and huge global resources continue to be invested in specifically supporting those Palestinian refugees whilst the only refugee problem that was resolved in the region was that of the Jews which ironically the UN’s agency did not address.

Israel may now seek some reparation for those Jewish refugees. But even that will be used to preserve the history of the Jews in the Middle East and to support the less than 5,000 Jews still in the Arabic diaspara. Retaining and protecting synagogues in places like Syria, Morocco and Tunisia and protecting tiny Jewish communities like the 6 remaining Jews of Bagdad (who are still able to practice due to the leadership, love and care of Canon Andrew White) is a more meaningful way to use reparations rather than the “blood money” provided by Egypt to residents kicked out of their homes on the Gazan borders.

So just who is making the refugee problem for Palestinians a problem…. Maybe the UNRWA, in existence since 1947 has forgotten that its objective should be to resolve the refugee problem not to create and maintain one to justify it’s own existence.

Peace ends here too.....

Peace ends here too…..

Israel, on the 30th November this year, remembered these 850,000 refugees amongst others and continues to help refugees from around the globe.  Maybe the UN could learn a thing or two.

Double Standards

What if…….

…. Jews stood outside a supermarket in Tower Hamlets handing out leaflets stating “Palestinians were murderers and boycott Gaza, the West Bank and Arab states that support them”?
…. Jewish Facebook groups blamed the death of a Palestinian on their faith, suggesting their practices included using the blood of Christian babies to make their bread at Ramadan”?
…. Israeli sympathisers marched on Westminster shouting for the eradication of Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank and proposed sending all of their residents back to Iran, Syria, Lebanon or other Muslim states?
…. Jewish schools taught that killing Muslims was a good thing and handed out sweets every time one such murder occurred?
…. British politicians tweeted that if they lived in Israel they’d probably target and kill civilians in Gaza or the West Bank or that not allowing people to pray is the same as slaughtering those at prayer.

And what if a country’s leaders and their political allies across the world venerated barbaric murder and encouraged and taught that it was just to eradicate another faith, another race.

This week I’ve experienced all of these sentiments and opinions against Jews and Israel.  The perpetrators have delivered these without fear of being ostracised, criticised or criminalised. If you’re in England all of these things meet with wide and hysterical approval if it’s targeted at Jews and Israel and disgust if employed against other nations or faiths.

In the dark shadow of the events in Jerusalem this week, I wrote to David Ward (MP for Bradford in Yorkshire) and Baroness Warsi (who recently resigned from government and was Minister for Faith and Communities) to ask some of these questions.

I wanted to know from David Ward why he said “If I lived in Gaza I’d launch rockets at Israel”. I asked whether using rockets or meat cleavers makes a difference. I wanted to know why he blamed Israel for the murders in Jerusalem as he suggested that Israel was the reason for these murderers actions. I believe that no human being can act like this out of nature, it is nurture. That nurture is the grooming of men and the incubation of terror before exploding that terror onto the streets. It is education demonising Jews and celebrating murder of rabbis in prayer with sweets. It is the promise of veneration and the tacit approval from Western politicians.

I asked Baroness Warsi why, when she said all lives are equal, she made a moral equivalence between the protests disturbing prayers at the Temple Mount and the murder of four rabbis at prayer. She didn’t have the courtesy to answer but left it to one of her staff. Her staff member didn’t answer the question but simply repeated how Baroness Warsi deplored the murders, but deplored the situation too.

To both I repeated that blaming Israel for these crimes is like blaming the rape of a woman on the way that she’s dressed. To both I repeated that Jews are facing unprecedented levels of hatred yet people stand idly by.  But like many, they are more concerned in maintaining this insincere duplicitous agenda against a tiny nation and tiny minority race.

Turning the victim into the victimised. Treating the human inhumanely. Praising the persecutor and justifying the persecution. It’s all too familiar. This week, Alan Johnson in the Daily Telegraph, gave the chilling warning “You ain’t seen nothing yet”, but many have seen it all before, and I have already seen enough.

Alan Johnson article from the Daily Telegraph:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/11243168/Blaming-Israel-for-Palestinian-violence-is-racist-it-denies-that-Arabs-are-moral-agents.html

Norway is no-way for Jews

It is perhaps the fact that I spent some enjoyable times working in Oslo that I have a bit of a soft spot for Norway. The generally easy going nature, the sophisticated culture and the sense of wellbeing amongst the residents of Oslo helped me feel right at home. Not to mention the finest smoked salmon and roll mop herring I have ever tasted. Back in the late ‘90s I knew much more about Norway’s financial industry and smorgasbords than about its relationship with Jews.

Jews and Norway do not have a good track record. In World War II many of its Jewish citizens were left unprotected from the 5 year Nazi occupation. Those who could escape fled the country to the safer borders of neighbouring Sweden or the UK, but the ease with which the SS Donau deported a third of Norway’s Jews to the concentration camps of central Europe remains a stain on Norway’s history books. There were of course exceptions, brave people who stood up and protected their fellow countrymen, but they were far fewer than in many other parts of Europe. That many Norwegians gave up their Jewish neighbours was perhaps symptomatic of a history of ambivalence and intolerance towards ‘others’.  Although post-war Norway has attempted to atone, an assertive shift to Liberalism and the Left and its apathy towards extremism has yet again allowed other forms of hatred to escalate unchecked.

Norwegian Jews wait to be transported to Nazi concentration camps on the SS Donau

Norwegian Jews wait to be transported to Nazi concentration camps on the SS Donau

This week there has been the usual internet storm regarding another ‘human rights’ offence by Israel. This time the issue has been in not allowing a Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert, back into Gaza where he has previously been working. This has vastly overshadowed two other Norwegian related news stories which have appeared predominantly in the Jewish / Israeli press. The first is the news that a Holocaust Memorial event was only permitted providing funds raised from the event went to a Norwegian ‘Gaza Appeal’. The second was a memorial event which to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallenacht. Several of the participating groups proposed the banning of Jewish representatives at the event.  With these in mind, I returned to my interest in Norway and research that I had previously uncovered about its relationship with its Jewish population.

At the end of the last millenium a thriving community of circa 2,500 practising Jews lived across the country. Recent statistics suggest there may have been more Jews who remained unaccounted for as they were not prepared to “come out” as Jewish, reasoning that anti Semitism threatened their welfare and safety. This continues to be the case today. Furthermore, a recent report by the CHS (Centre for Holocaust Studies) found a rise in anti Semitic views across the Norwegian gentile community with:
• Circa 25% stating that “Jews today exploit the memory of the Holocaust”
• Circa 13% stating that “Jews are to blame for their persecution”
• Circa 19% stating that “world Jewry works behind the scenes to promote Jewish interests”
• Circa 26% stating that “Jews consider themselves to be better than other people”

Unsurprisingly, the Jewish community in Norway is dwindling (now in the hundreds rather than thousands) and this small community of Jews is still suffering. Norway’s uneasy relationship with Jews is nothing new:
• By the country’s constitutional law, from 1814, Jews were not allowed within the Kingdom of Norway. Whilst this law was revoked, this was only ever done informally and not by statute.
• One third of all Jews were given up to the Nazi occupiers in WWII.
• To this day, anti Semitic hate crimes are not recorded by Norwegian authorities as the category does not exist in Norwegian law. This has allowed Norwegian authorities to suggest that anti Semitism is not a significant problem (which of course it isn’t if you don’t record it).
• An Oslo municipality survey in 2011 found that 60% of students had heard the use of the word “Jew” used as a negative expression or insult, and now it is common parlance.
• Oslo and Trondheim’s synagogues are amongst the most heavily fortified (non-military) buildings in the country as attacks (perceived, threatened and actual) are common place.

Despite the enlightened view of Holocaust awareness, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation reported that anti Semitic attitudes were prevalent in a number of schools. Teachers revealed that “Jew hate has been legitimatised” and prevention or disruption of teaching about the Holocaust is common place. Authorities have also recently recommended that wearing the Star of David should be resisted as it could be seen to be inflammatory.

And whilst people across Europe were rightly disgusted by a French comedian who regularly courts attention by espousing extremist and anti Semitic views, a popular Norwegian comedian (Otto Jespersen) was not censured for making “jokes” on national TV about the murder of Jews in concentration camps that I do not wish to repeat in print as the comments were far too disturbing.

The Mads Gilbert case is still somewhat unclear. Israel is refusing to explain their decision to ban him from Gaza. As his home town Tromsø is twinned with Gaza the Israeli government may not win any popularity contest in Norway. But ignoring Mads Gilbert’s record for saving lives in Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital is unwise and misguided, even if the his opinions on subjects such as boycotting Médecins Sans Frontières and America’s culpability in the terror attacks of 9/11 are unacceptable and sourced from deeply entrenched anti West narrative. Mads Gilbert is, as one of his countrymen put it, a “hopeless politician” but one, nonetheless with the goodwill of the majority possibly on his side. Wouldn’t it be better all round if he was offered the opportunity to work in one of Israel’s hospitals where trauma victims of the conflict are brought in and where other doctors could all learn from Mads Gilbert’s experience and skills? Would that not be positive outcome for all concerned?

The two decisions relating to the Holocaust memorial activities in Norway have been widely published in Jewish media circles but not outside. In fact it would appear that there is no story to report with respect to these two items in Norway. It is possible to “conflate” (a popular word in defence of anti semites) the issue of anti semitism and Gaza as well. Giving money from something which remembers anti semitism to some of those who would possibly engage in its latest incarnation seems conflation of the most cunning and pernicious type.  Meantime, Norway’s authorities and media stoutly defend themselves as wrongly accused of anti semitic values, whilst the Simon Wiesenthal Center has put Norway on its watch list and there are indications that the US State Department has privately expressed dissatisfaction to its Norwegian counterparts. Norway’s Foreign Ministry may have overlooked the irony, as they have complained to Israel over this accusation rather than addressing this within their own communities.

So, is it any wonder that the three news items concerning Israel, Jews and Norway are all related? Is it any wonder that Mads Gilbert should feel such loathing towards Israel? Is it any wonder that the news of Jewish conflation with Israel is taken in a purely negative and anti Semitic sense?
It is difficult for Israel that Norway, a country with such a good reputation, regarded as beacon of civility, is so comfortable in its demonisation of Israel. It will certainly do Israel’s reputation more harm than good as long as these anti Israel views emanate from country’s like Norway. Publicising Norway’s relationship with Jews will make little difference as the world will happily turn a blind eye to the attitude. Nonetheless, we must do at least that. It is no coincidence that the most renowned of the Middle Eastern “peace negotiations” is the Oslo Accord. It may have failed to achieve any lasting benefit to Israel and Jews (or the rest of the region), but its notoriety promotes and elevates Norway’s reputation with peace and links the Norwegians to something that belies their attitude to Israel and Jews and oversteps their influence in world politics.

As Norwegian Jews leave its shores once more, Norway may now be in the process of succeeding where the Nazis failed, in becoming the first European nation to be Judenfrei or Judenrein (the Nazi term for the ethnic cleansing of Jews). Never has the concept of the Oslo Accord, the organ for a peace between Israel and the Palestinian state, appeared to have been more paradoxical.

To B or not to B….DS

To B or not to B….DS.

In the UK, many people find the BDS particularly annoying. Counter campaigns are run against them, but often these are outweighed by the profile and publicity that that the BDS themselves generate. However, for entertainment, join the Sussex Friends of Israel (on Facebook) and watch their continued teasing, challenging and counter protesting down in Brighton. If you have not followed them, you are missing a treat.

It is difficult to fathom how an organisation such as the BDS is funded and manned. I have long maintained that without some sinister sponsor lurking in the shadows these organisations could not exist to this extent. The BDS are not a charity, they don’t sell a product, yet they have significant manpower and operate globally.

Some UN backed NGO’s clearly have much to gain from allegiances with the BDS and their anti zionist strategies. Organisations such as Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) who recently received funding from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) ($328,000) and from the PfP – Partnership for Peace ($470,000) which in turn could provide assistance to the BDS. NGO Monitor said in 2013 that CWP was a “leader in BDS and demonisation campaigns, and in sponsoring ‘Nakba Day’ activities that amplify the Palestinian narrative.”

When religious organisations turn their efforts towards the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be an excellent vehicle for targeting and promoting specific anti zionist agendas. Funds can be transferred to highly politicised NGOs. These NGOs, instead of acting as neutral third parties, often involve themselves directly as actors in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The BDS campaign views these religious organisations as a key target for cooptation and promotion of their agenda.

Finally, there is the alleged funding from benefactors such as George Soros. But now, in a perfect ironic twist, the BDS are demanding the boycott of Soros because, putting profit over principle, he invested in Israeli companies.

So with all of this backing, what could be nicer than putting the sizeable investment to good use here in the UK. Perhaps by standing outside shop fronts day in day out with your mates shouting, making funky banners and models, spending time planning campaigns with coalitions that are thousands of miles away for a people that they may never meet and constructing research to justify protests and actions. If I didn’t have a mortgage to pay and kids to put through school, a responsible full time job and so on, I’d want to do that too (though maybe for a more appropriate cause).

Surely those volunteers could put their time to other uses like a full time job, spending time with their loved ones, supporting the local needy such as the elderly or the homeless. And even if we ignore these more noble and selfless efforts, what about the more indulgent and traditional Great British pastimes such as going down the pub, watching football, DIY, taking the dog for a walk or discussing the weather?

One sector that the BDS have previously turned their attention to is the Israeli export of medical products. Many strange bedfellows are prepared to protest and demean Israel for its medical innovations, ensuring that the world is NOT a safer and healthier place. But the BDS may wish to focus their attention on the latest medical problem that Israel is offering to address.

The Ebola epidemic has caused a media frenzy that has even outstripped the usual interest in the UK about Israel’s continued battle with terror (or as the British media like to call it, Israel’s continued occupation and brutality towards Palestinians).

Shocking to the BDS and their cohorts comes the news that Israel is exporting state of the art Ebola Detection and Protection Equipment.

And worse still, whilst Israel is getting daily attacks from Palestinian terrorists, whilst mortars are still being fired in from Gaza, while Egypt has closed its borders and razed Gazan homes on those borders, it is Israel providing this technology to Gazan and West Bank authorities.

So BDS, what to do? Protest to the UK government, start a campaign? Yes, campaign against Israel for supplying state of the art Ebola detection and protection equipment throughout Gaza, the West Bank and other neighbouring countries. Yes, demand that citizens of Gaza suffer the terrifying pain of exposure to this virus rather than benefit from Israeli humanitarian aid and technology. Because permitting Israel to export any of its produce contravenes the BDS anti zionist boycott?

And now the sinister end game starts to emerge. The BDS does much to harm the prospects of the average Gazan or West Bank resident. It takes away health and security. It removes opportunities for prosperity and normality. It protests without intellect or care from thousands of miles away. Could it be that the real purpose being served is to keep the lot of the Palestinian low and to keep the agenda of the hate high. Well by intention or otherwise, they are succeeding in that, at least.

One final thought. What would Hamas do if the shoe was on the other foot. Would they provide aid to Israel if roles were reversed? Or would they venerate the Ebola virus as a “just killer”, as they have venerated those who murdered innocent men, women and children in Israel in the recent car and knife terror attacks?

 

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When I was younger foreign correspondents amazed me.  I was inspired by the brave men and women reporting from the field of conflict. I marvelled at the personal attributes required to be a non-combatant and yet be prepared to put your head above the parapet, in the name of justice and honesty. But that admiration has waned in recent times as most journalists now report with agendas, display their personal politics and have caught the bug of TV celebrity rather than public servant. Now I am much more used to my daily media diet coming from mean mouthed, self agrandising, self publicists.

I’ve watched Orla Guerin tell us that there is “no evidence” of Hamas using human shields. I’ve watched Jon Snow stepping between the rubble calling Israelis “child murderers”. I’ve watched interview after interview on the BBC with Daniel Taub where this man, a sovereign state’s ambassador to the UK, is not afforded a modicum of respect. At the same time a blood thirsty terror representative will be given a perfect platform on news channels to justify breaking International Law by launching rockets from a school or murdering their own without trial.

It is bewildering. People say their sense of injustice is palpable. And yet what to do? What CAN you do?

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The BALEN REPORT was written 10 years ago. Its purpose was to investigate and to establish whether or not the allegations of bias against Israel by the BBC were founded. The report was completed and ready to publish, but then nothing. The BBC hid behind a legality that said that it did not have to go public on any investigation that brought into question its journalistic ability or integrity. Thus, the BBC has spent nearly half a million pounds of tax payers money on covering up these findings for over ten years. When you cursed the News at Ten for reporting the “War in Gaza” as if only one side was suffering or being attacked, when you moaned at Jeremy Bowen telling you about Israel breaking another cease fire when Hamas had been lobbing their rockets non stop through said ceasefire, when you saw a BBC political commentator rolling out anti semitic tropes about “wealthy Jews” who won’t support Labour because they don’t like the mansion tax, just remember…… you were doing it at your literal expense.

There is a petition, so sign it, or write to the BBC, write to your MP, write to the Minister of State for Culture and Media but do something. 1,000 signatures on a petition will scare the BBC. 5,000 signatures will mean the BBC will have to act, lest it finds itself at the forefront of another cover up and media trial. 100 complaints to the BBC when next they use lazy reporting to roll out an anti semitic stereotype will make them think twice. And a question in the Houses of Parliament as a result of the 1,000 letters to an MP about factual errors and bias will make the BBC more cautious in the future.

The BBC trust has to ensure that the BBC provides accurate and impartial news. The remit of the Balen report was to examine the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East.  By covering up these findings it stops the Trust is not seen to be ensuring that the BBC is a purveyor of accurate and impartial news. The BBC must be accountable to the public it serves. The report should be released without delay. Otherwise, we can only assume that the BBC has something to hide.

The petition to Release the Balen Report: www.change.org/p/the-bbc-release-the-balen-report

The Director General of The BBC is Tony Hall.

The Minister for Culture and Media is Ed Vaizey.

The Campaign for Anti Semitism in the UK regularly posts on Facebook advising people to complain to the BBC. It tells you “why to complain”, “who to complain to”, “complaint details” and it all takes about 5 minutes on your electronic device!

Or do nothing, and continue to wonder how it would be if people could think for themselves rather than be told what to think.