Britain’s moral failure

By Richard Mather…

It is bitterly ironic that the UK will not take part in any military action against the Assad regime. For months British Prime Minister David Cameron has led the charge against the Syrian despot while President Obama stayed in the shadows and dithered. But now, following a devastating defeat in the House of Commons, Cameron’s plan to take military action in Syria has been halted.

A total of 285 MPs voted a government motion to join US strikes against the Syrian regime. Not surprisingly, Russia, which is a close ally of the Assad government, welcomed the result. Much of the blame for Cameron’s defeat can be attributed to the Labour Party, which withdrew its support at the last minute. Labour leader Ed Miliband had previously signaled he would support military intervention in Syria but then changed his mind despite assurances from the prime minister. This is embarrassing for Cameron. The last time Labour failed to support Conservative plans for a deployment of the armed forces was the Suez crisis of 1956.

Blame should also be apportioned to the 30 Conservative MPs who defied their leader by voting against military action. Some of the Conservative rebels put forward the argument that the West was better off with Assad than the revolutionaries. Others cited the mistakes of the Iraq War.

And there is also the question of why the US withheld important evidence from the UK government. We now know that the chemical attack in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus killed 1,429 people. We also have American assurances that the rockets came from regime-controlled areas and landed only in opposition-held areas. For some unexplained reason, the US did not share this information with Britain before the crucial vote in the House of Commons.

So Britain, which is usually an erstwhile ally of the Americans, is now out of the picture. Instead, France looks set to play the junior partner in an American-led attack on Syria. France famously opposed the Iraq war but in recent months it has toughened its stance – first against the Islamists insurgents in Mali, then in Libya and now in Syria. In a televised speech, John Kerry referred to France as “our oldest ally.” He made no mention of Britain. How things have changed since 2003.

Yes, Britain is bruised by the Iraq experience. But the failure to unite behind the prime minister at such a crucial time will only embolden rogue regimes to use weapons of mass destruction against their own people and against the citizens of neighboring countries. Britain’s failure to act sends a clear message to Iran and Hezbollah that the use of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear or chemical) is permissible.

And if British politicians can’t muster the enthusiasm to help the Arabs, they are less likely to come to the aid of the Jews in the event of an Iranian attack on Israel. Judging by the anti-Israel comments made by some left-wing MPs before and during the Syria debate, I suspect a few British politicians would be quite glad if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.

The defeat in the Commons is not just a political failure, it is a moral failure. Protecting innocent people from brutal oppression should be the “first commandment of a moral politics” (Jonathan Powell, former aide to Tony Blair). British MPs like to talk about human rights (especially when it involves the Palestinians) but when it comes to helping the women and children of Syria, who are genuine victims of violence, the same politicians retreat into isolationism or hide behind the niceties of international law.

I cannot agree with Labour leader Ed Miliband when he says that “’Britain is learning the lessons of our past, including the lessons of Iraq.” This is rhetorical posturing. Learning lessons of the past is an ongoing process. There is no cut-off point when we can finally say we have learnt all the lessons of the past. Besides, politicians are not historians but are paid to respond to events as they happen and construct policies accordingly. Miliband, like so many politicians in Britain, is stuck in the past, obsessed with Iraq and convinced that a UN resolution will fix Syria. But this is reactionary and naïve. It is the kind of thinking that enables Assad, as well as Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, to act with impunity. In short, nothing ever gets done.

Judging from the headlines of newspapers across the globe, Britain’s moral failure has shocked the world (and provided succor to Assad). But Cameron insists that Britain can still play its part. “There are a series of things we will continue to do,” he said after the vote. “We will continue to take a case to the United Nations, we will continue to work in all the organizations we are members of – whether the EU, or NATO, or the G8 or the G20 – to condemn what’s happened in Syria. It’s important we uphold the international taboo on the use of chemical weapons.”

But without a mandate from the British parliament and with staunch opposition from anti-interventionists in the political establishment, the prime minister’s words are hollow. Britain hasn’t been a major player on the world stage since the Suez crisis, although it has succeeded in punching above its weight thanks to close ties with the US. But despite Cameron’s best efforts, the pretense is over. The UK is a second-rate power that cannot even muster the strength or the enthusiasm to help the victims of a vicious regime that gases its own citizens.

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BOYCOTTERS PLAY POLITICS WITH WATER

In a world where millions of people face chronic water shortages, you think some people would be grateful that at least one country is a pioneer in the art of water purification. Israel is a world leader in desalinization and irrigation technologies and has improved the lives of millions of people around the world. Take, for example, Israel’s most-exported environmental technology: the refined drip irrigation system. This allows farmers to produce greater crop yields while using less water. This technology is used in Africa, Australia and the Americas.

In Britain, however, there are a handful of philistines who reject Israel’s water expertise because of their support for the Palestinianist cause. A branch of the Palestinian solidarity movement in England is protesting against the installation of eco-friendly water meters in thousands of homes for the simple reason that the technology comes from Israel. Three years ago, Israeli company Arad signed a contract with British water provider Southern Water. The latter faces the challenge of providing water to the driest part of the UK while at the same time reducing the cost of water consumption. Around 300,000 homes in north London now boast a state-of-the-art water meter, with a further 200,000 expected by 2015.

But as usual the Palestinian issue has got in the way of progress. In July, an anti-Israel activist publicly protested against the installation of an Arad meter in their home. Why? Because Arad supplies equipment to Jews in Judea and Samaria! Arad also employs Arabs in Israel but that’s irrelevant to Israel’s critics, who are willing to decimate the Palestinian job market if its suits their anti-Zionist agenda.

Not surprisingly, the protest was reported in the national newspapers, thus raising the profile of the otherwise unknown Brighton Palestine Campaign. Activists, buoyed by the coverage in the media, are now leafleting homes in the south-east of England in an attempt to deter consumers from accepting Arad-made meters. The cause is being led by Caroline Lucas, who is an MP and the leader of the Green Party. Her concern for “Palestinian human rights” has trumped her green credentials and she continues to pressure Southern Water into rescinding its deal with Arad.

But there is evidence that the malicious boycott of Israeli water technology is a damp squib for the simple reason that people want clean water that doesn’t cost the earth. Luckily, this has always been the case. Even as early as 1937, a British report observed that the Jewish National Home’s improvement of water supply and sanitation had resulted in a Palestinian Arab population explosion during the 1930s – partly because Arabs were living longer and partly because Arabswanted to live among Jews.

The campaign against Southern Water and Arad will probably result in a few letters of complaint from the odd anti-Semite and/or politically correct fellow traveler. But on the whole, I doubt that Southern Water is going to be engulfed by letters of complaints from outraged Brits, many of whom are probably sick of being bullied by the Palestinian lobby and are more concerned about how to pay for efficient and environmentally-friendly water and sanitation. As philosopher Roger Scruton says, “Activist campaigns, which tend to be conducted in the name of the people as a whole, neither consult the people nor show much interest in noticing them.”

Whether you agree with it or not, water is now a commodity like everything else, which is why the UK government and individual companies are defying the boycotters and turning to Israel. For several years, British trade ministers have been forging links with Israeli companies in the areas of innovation, hi-tech and science. Very recently, UK environment minister Richard Benyon welcomed more than a dozen Israeli water company delegates to a trade meeting, which was also attended by investors from India, Europe and the US. This (and the fact that Israeli exports to Britain were up 55 per cent in the first quarter of 2013) must really irritate boycotters whose anti-Semitic campaign to damage Israel’s economy and reputation is floundering.

Indeed, a number of commercial enterprises in the UK have resisted the boycotters by investing in – or selling – Israeli water technology. Virgin, owned by the immensely successful British entrepreneur Richard Branson, has formed a partnership with Israeli corporation Strauss Group. The collaboration has resulted in a water purifying machine called Virgin Pure, which is now on sale to the British consumer for £300.

Haifa-based Mapal Green Energy has just launched an innovative waste water treatment system in north London. The system, which harnesses the power of bubbles to separate waste particles from water, saves a fortune in energy and has reduced maintenance costs by 80 per cent. Mapal has received over £3 million of investment from a London-based private equity firm and is in talks with various water companies in the hope that the system will be rolled out across the rest of London and the UK. (The company has also been aided by the UK-Israel Tech Hub program, which is sponsored by the British Embassy in Israel.)

Meanwhile, EcoStream, an Israeli-owned shop in the English seaside town of Brighton, has reported a 38 per cent increase in trade, despite weekly pickets by anti-Israel activists. The company, which sells SodaStream recyclable bottles made in Maaleh Adumim in Judea and Samaria, opened for trade last August and has already expanded its range and launched a website. In contrast, the BDS people are behaving appallingly. Despite the fact that many of these SodaStream bottles are made by Arabs living under Palestinian rule, the boycotters continue to cause trouble for the employees of EcoStream, who are denounced as “Nazis.” In February, one female protestor was arrested and charged with “racially or religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.”  This is illustrative of the boycott mentality.

It is highly likely that water will continue to play an important role in British commerce and UK trade agreements for the foreseeable future. Boycotters will try to sabotage these efforts but I suspect they will fail in their objectives. Too many people need clean water and effective sanitation. And at a time when people are concerned about drought and climate change, the excellence of Israeli water technology is likely to become more attractive. Basically, Britain must choose between eco-friendly water technology and the crude ideology of the Palestinianists, who favor a regressive boycott that echoes the anti-Jewish policies promulgated by the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

EURO IMPERIALISM THREATENS ISRAEL’S INTEGRITY

Since the announcement of the John Kerry peace talks, a number of left-wing pundits in Israel and abroad are promulgating the view that the existence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria poses an existential threat to the State of Israel. In the same vein, other left-wing commentators say the building of homes and business beyond the Green Line is a severe blow to Israeli-EU relations.

All of this is nonsense and it feeds the tired narrative that the Jewish settlements are the main obstacle to peace with the Arab world. But there is something to be said about the way the Jewish settlements are perceived by the international community. In other words, it is perception and not reality that is the real existential threat to Israel.

Despite a major petition bearing the signatures of more than 1,000 lawyers, scholars, jurists and diplomats from around the world – all of whom agree the Jewish settlements are legal and that the concept of “1967 lines” does not exist in international law – the European Union remains stubbornly committed to the delegitimization of Israeli communities beyond the Green Line. A spokesperson for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (who was the recipient of the petition) has proclaimed that EU policy towards Israel remains unaltered.

This misperception of Israel’s legal position in the so-called occupied territories is the reason why Catherine Ashton is lobbying EU commissioners with the express aim of issuing guidelines on the labeling of Jewish settlement products that would apply to 28 European countries. The EU has also issued guidelines advising member states not to give grants, awards or loans to Israeli entities operating over the Green Line.

One of the byproducts of this European embargo is Palestinian job losses. The economic destruction of Israeli businesses could result in thousands of Palestinians losing their livelihoods. Needless to say, these Palestinians are not happy with the prospect of an embargo. Apart from the unfairness, there is a real security issue. Unemployed men with families to feed are likely to become restless and resentful. Resentment breeds violence – and violence in the “West Bank” usually results in Israeli casualties.

The EU’s position vis-à-vis grants and loans also damages Israel’s higher education and research sectors. As things stand, Ariel University (where five per cent of students are Palestinians) is ineligible to participate in the lucrative Horizon 2020 research and development program. But worst of all is the fact that the EU –in tandem with Obama administration – is using the threat of boycotts to force Israel into making painful and potentially lethal concessions, such as the release of 104 Palestinian terrorists.

Why is the EU so hung up about Jews living and working beyond the Green Line? After all, the existence of the Jewish settlements in the so-called West Bank is not particularly contentious. A two-state solution (should it ever happen) would allow for land swaps, thereby “legitimizing” many of these Jewish communities. It is the final status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian myth of the “right to return” which are the issues most likely to derail John Kerry’s peace talks.

Perhaps Europe’s obsession with the location of Jewish homes and businesses is a hangover from those dark days (or centuries) when a litany of princes, popes and priests (and ultimately the Nazis) all decreed where Jews were allowed to live and work. Fast forward to the 21st century and we have a situation where Jews are being ostracized because they dare to build houses, schools and yeshivas – not in central or eastern Europe but in Israel’s biblical heartland.

How is it that Europe, which is responsible for extermination of one-third of world Jewry, has the audacity to dictate policy to a tiny country that is home to the descendants of Holocaust survivors? I cannot be the only person in Europe who is repulsed by this hypocrisy. Or has Europe fallen so low that nobody even notices the EU’s selfish duplicity?

Antipathy towards Jewish self-determination may be one explanation for the EU’s attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But perhaps Europe’s unquestioned support for the Palestinians is also motivated by a desire to resurrect European influence in the Middle East. By coalescing into a single powerful unit, the once-great imperial powers of Britain, France and Germany are now in a position to flex their diplomatic muscles under the guise of pan-European unity.

The first project of this new Euro-imperialism is to build yet another Arab state and shrink the borders of the world’s only Jewish state. This seems like an unfortunate rerun of events that took place nearly a century ago. In 1921, Britain divided the Jewish national home into Palestine and Transjordan. And in 1937 the Peel Commission Partition Plan (another British initiative) recommended the division of the Jewish homeland in order to make way for another Arab state. This was rejected by the Arab Higher Committee on the grounds that Palestine belongs to the “whole Arab and Muslim worlds,” a belief that is shared by Hamas and some elements of the Palestinian Authority.

Whenever Europe is involved in the affairs of the Middle East, the Arabs get more territory and the Jews get less.  On the surface, this seems like a crude equation but it is nonetheless true. And if EU policymakers and their friends in the White House have their way, Israel will be driven from east Jerusalem, Hebron and the Jordan Valley, thereby robbing the Jewish people of their heritage and depriving them of their security. But then again, Europe has always rather enjoyed robbing the Jews of their rights.

Israel should not let itself be bullied by the bullies in Brussels and Washington. And on no account should Israel’s Foreign Ministry agree to Europe’s demand to surrender Israeli rights over east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the so-called West Bank. If this means relinquishing a research partnership worth hundreds of millions of dollars, then so be it. Israel needs to show Europe that it is no longer prepared to be pushed around by Catherine Ashton and her EU cronies.

GREENBELT FESTIVAL: A CHRISTIAN (AND JEWISH) BETRAYAL OF THE ISRAELI PEOPLE

What could possibly be harmful about a group of socially-engaged Christians gathering for a summer festival in Cheltenham, England? On the surface, it seems innocent enough. So what if I told you that this glorified summer camp – known as Greenbelt – is simply an excuse for self-righteous Christians to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel under the umbrella of human rights? Would you be shocked? No, probably not – but you might be more surprised to learn that one of the main attractions at the festival is a prominent Israel-hating American Jew.

The Greenbelt festival – “where faith, arts and justice meet” – is an annual gathering of Christians, many of whom are young people enticed by the prospect of worshipping Jesus, having fun in the sun and engaging in social activism. Greenbelt has been doing this for four decades. But critics of the organization point out that the festival is now a staunch critic of Israel and a purveyor of pro-Palestinian propaganda.

Christians who attend the festival in the third week of August will be bombarded with anti-Israel messages. On offer will be the opportunity to sign up to a trip to “Palestine” in order to “rebuild a demolished home” in Bethlehem. (Sorry, there are no offers of help to rebuild demolished homes in Sderot.) Apparently, rebuilding a Palestinian house is a “practical way to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people” and “experience first-hand life under occupation.” Solidarity with the Israeli people is obviously out of the question.

Such trips to the fictional country of Palestine are (according to the colorful Greenbelt website) acts of “creative resistance.” This is the kind of left-wing nonsense that really excites self-righteous liberal Christians who can’t think of anything better to do than to rally to the side of Jew-hating terrorists. What is “creative resistance” anyway? It sounds like they intend to paint a scary picture on Israel’s security barrier.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Greenbelt is a boycotter of Israeli goods from the so-called occupied territories (which according to the Bible is the land promised to the Jews, but never mind). Christians are called “to make a stand” by boycotting produce from the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. To drive the point home, Greenbelt director Paul Northup compares Israel to South Africa:  “In the 1980s, Greenbelt joined people all over the world in championing the boycott of goods from South Africa as a form of protest against the unjust apartheid regime there.”

Of course, there is not a single word about the murder and maiming of Jews by Palestinians. Nothing about how Arabs regularly vandalize Jewish property and damage holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron. Also omitted is any mention of Palestinian-sponsored anti-Semitism in PA-authorized textbooks or the fact that the Arabs have repeatedly rejected a negotiated peace with Israel. As usual, it’s all Israel’s fault. And it’s such a boring cliché.

All of which is bad enough. But what really irritates me is the fact that the main attraction at this year’s Greenbelt festival is a Jewish American called Mark Braverman who was “transformed by witnessing the occupation of Palestine” (his words) on a trip to Israel in 2006. He now condemns Zionism as racism.

Braverman may be “reared in the Jewish tradition” (his words again) but he is no friend of the Jews. Braverman has thrown his weight behind a number of morally dubious Christian organizations, most notably the Friends of Sabeel North America and the Presbyterian Church, both of which promote a nasty ideology called Christian Palestinianism, which involves recasting Jesus the Galilean Jew as a Palestinian martyr and stripping the Bible of any Zionist overtones, thus neutralizing the prophetic significance of the Land of Israel.

Braverman hates Israel so much that he regularly endorses the anti-Semitic Kairos Palestine organization, which claims to speak on behalf of Christian and Muslim Arabs who share a “deeply rooted” history and a “natural right” to the land of “Palestine.” Some years ago Kairos Palestine produced a major document which branded Israel as evil and sinful. The text (which can be found on the World Council of Churches website) audaciously claims that the presence of a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria “distorts the image of God.” It is a depressing fact that Braverman was present at the unveiling of the Kairos Palestine document in Bethlehem in 2009. He also gave a speech celebrating its launch.

Despite his authorial ambitions (he has written books castigating Israel), Braverman is too stupid to realize that he is a pawn in somebody else’s game. In love with his own image as a human rights activist, he fails to see that he is a marketing tool in the hands of anti-Semites. Anti-Israel organizations like Greenbelt and Kairos Palestine are able to deflect accusations of anti-Semitism by obtaining the approval of a small handful of Jews, who are mainly from the Far Left.

So as far as Greenbelt is concerned, the presence of just one Jew is enough to legitimize its program of Israel demonization and delegitimization. This is the depths to which political discourse has sunk.

Luckily, a number of Christians are not convinced by Greenbelt’s Israelophobic agenda. Indeed, some are furious that Greenbelt has been hijacked by an anti-Israel contingent. Pastor Mike Fryer, the founder of a group called Christians for Zion, has expressed deep concern about the political trajectory of Greenbelt. And he is very worried that Christian children who attend the festival will be negatively influenced by Braverman and other anti-Israel speakers.

In an interview with The Jewish Telegraph, Pastor Fryer said that “one of the biggest problems with the [Greenbelt] camp is that there are a lot of kids in attendance.” He added: “We cannot allow them to grow up thinking Israel is evil.” It is a sobering thought that a new generation of Christians could grow up hating the Jewish state. It would also be an unfortunate throwback to a bygone age when Christian children were taught that Jews were Christ-killers. According to Greenbelt and co, Jews are now Palestinian killers.

Pastor Fryer (who visits Israel two or three times a year) aims to set the record straight. He is outraged by the lies perpetrated by Israel’s enemies. And he is particularly concerned that the people of Sderot and other victims of Palestinian terrorism are being ignored by the international Christian community. “The people living there are traumatized as a result of the constant rocket fire,” he told the newspaper.

The pastor plans to use his knowledge of Israel to oppose Braverman’s harmful message. He is arranging for a group of around 50 pro-Israel Christians to attend the Greenbelt festival in order to spread a pro-Israel message and to “pray for Israel.” I wish him luck.

Pastor Fryer’s persistent and generous support for Israel and the Jewish people is to be applauded. He stands in direct contrast to the cowardly Mark Braverman who has betrayed the Jews in order to sell a few badly-written books about the plight of the Palestinians and to ingratiate himself with anti-Semitic gentiles who care nothing for the security or human rights of the Israeli people.

JEWISH SETTLEMENTS ARE LEGAL, EU IS TOLD

A petition, containing the signatures of over 1,000 respected diplomats and legal experts from around the world, has been delivered to the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

According to the text of the petition, the EU is wrong to believe that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are illegal, and that the term “1967 lines” does not exist in international law.

Legal scholars from South Africa, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Greece, Malta, Holland, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, have signed the petition.

The man responsible for the petition is British-born Alan Baker, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

It comes as the EU considers whether to introduce separate labeling for products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria, a policy that would apply to all 28 EU member states.

In an interview with Israeli news organization Arutz Sheva, Mr Baker explained why it is incorrect to distinguish between Israel and Judea and Samaria, saying there is “no such thing” as the 1967 lines.

“There never was such a thing. The matter of the borders is on the agenda of the negotiations. The EU cannot dictate a subject that is on the agenda of the negotiations. The pre-1967 lines are [1949] armistice lines. These are not recognized lines or security lines. In the Oslo process, it was agreed between us and the Palestinians that the matter of borders will be negotiated.”

He continued: “The term ‘1967 lines’ does not appear anywhere in our agreement with the Palestinians, therefore it is a legal and factual aberration to determine that these are our lines.”

Mr Baker also told Arutz Sheva that the settlements should be considered legal under international law because Jewish settlers have freely chosen to live in Judea and Samaria; they have not been forcibly transferred to the territory by the Israeli government.

Given the opportunity, I am sure Mr Baker would draw upon several other lines of argument to support the case for the Jewish settlements. In his stead, I shall attempt to outline the main legal underpinning of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

We have to go back nearly a hundred years to discover the origin of the settlements’ legality. Firstly, there was the 1920 San Remo conference, in which Britain (following the collapse of the Ottoman empire) was instructed to establish a Jewish national home on territory covering what would become Israel, Jordan and part of the Golan Heights.

Then came the British Mandate for Palestine, a legal commission established and confirmed by the League of Nations (an early version of the UN) in 1922, which formalized the creation of two states – a Jewish homeland in “Palestine” and an Arab homeland called Transjordan (now simply Jordan).

Significantly, the Mandate not only legalized the immigration of Jews to Palestine, it encouraged close settlement of all the land, including Judea and Samaria.

Two years after the Second World War, the British handed the Mandate to the UN, which recommended (rather than enforced) a partition of the nascent Jewish homeland. Despite already having Transjordan, the Arabs rejected the offer of partition and declared war on the Palestinian Jews. This resulted in the Jordanian annexation of Judea and Samaria (and renamed the West Bank). At the insistence of the Arabs, the 1949 armistice line was “not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary.”

In 1967, Israel won control of the West Bank after a war of self-defense. UN Security Council Resolution 242 recommended Israeli withdrawal from territories in return for the right “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” At a conference in Khartoum the Arabs refused to negotiate or make peace with Israel. In fact, they refused to recognize Israel at all.

Israel’s critics sometimes employ the Fourth Geneva Convention to argue that the settlements are illegal. But the Fourth Geneva Convention pertains only to cases of occupation of a sovereign entity. Because of the Arab refusal to reach an agreement in 1948, the West Bank never became the legal territory of any sovereign entity, not even Jordan.

A territory is only occupied if it is captured in war from an established and recognized sovereign. Jordan was never an established or recognized sovereign of the West Bank. Therefore, Israel is not an occupier and the West Bank is not occupied land.

As such, Judea and Samaria is unclaimed Mandate land and should therefore be referred to as “disputed” territory. Israel’s capture of the West Bank in 1967 merely restored the territory to its legal status under the Mandate of 1922, which has never been superseded in law, not even by the 1947 partition plan.

In short, the settlers are simply enacting the Mandate and they should be allowed to continue with this enterprise without interference or condemnation. This legal truth should form a core part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ba’al T’qiah

Original publication: Poetica Magazine summer 2013 edition

By Richard Mather…

A storm wind comes from the hidden north
filling my mouth, my lungs,
with dust
and sand from Sinai.
Then a great cloud of black, a no-thingness
that deprives me of sense, of touch and taste,
of sight, smell and hearing.
Then a winding of burning.
No, not wind, but flame:
black fire on white skin.
Sparks engrave the Torah on the heart’s interior –
One long name of God,
a string of jewelled consonants.
Then a white glow around the fire,
a crown of white.
And there is God
laughing
like an exultant king
after the heat of battle.

Microcosm

Original publication: Poetica Magazine summer 2013 edition

By Richard Mather…

בְּרֵאשִׁית was the command
 
10 PRINT “Hello Universe”
20 GOTO 10
 
Unbelievable, breathless, demonic even,
how a singular point could yield space, time,
protons, neutrons, chemicals – a bunch of
ones and zeros, flashing on and off like
little bits of light.
 
But there it was: an actual
universum, infinite in volume,
brimming with dark energy and matter. And earth!
 
Circumference forty thousand kilometres;
composition iron, oxygen, silicon, magnesium;
a mean sidereal day of twenty-three hours,
fifty-six minutes and four seconds; complete
with magnetic dipole, one moon and
five co-orbital asteroids.
 
And at the centre of it all –
Adam – a large creature containing
multitudes.
 
Incredible how much energy was spent on
eyeballs and arteries and delicate nerve-endings
for an organism so prone to train wrecks and tumours;
 
or how time was wasted discussing the need for
volition and cognition, when every end-product was
destined to crack-breakdown-expire-decohere-liquefy-
atomise in a shallow grave six thousand kilometres out
from the core of a planet suspended in a cosmic sphere
radiating forty-six billion light years in every direction
back to the beginning of the bang.

 

THE BBC’S PRO-PALESTINIAN POSTURING

Newsnight – the BBC’s flagship nightly news program – has once again revealed itself to be nothing more than the propaganda outlet for the Palestinians.

To mark the 90th birthday of Israeli president Shimon Peres, Newsnight focused on his efforts to bring about a two-state solution. Unfortunately, the BBC made a number of schoolboy errors regarding the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.

The principle mistake was allowing a Palestinian spokesman to expound the ludicrous view that Jewish settlements are the obstacle to peace. The BBC (as usual) did not bother to explain why this narrative is false.

Between 1948 and 1967 there was not a single settlement on the West Bank or in Gaza. And yet the Arab states refused to make peace with Israel and made no attempt to establish a Palestinian state when they had the chance.

When the Israelis pulled out of Gaza, the Palestinians could have laid the foundations of a functioning state. Instead, Hamas came to power and launched a war of attrition against the Jewish people.

Nor did the BBC mention the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected a two-state solution – most notoriously when Arafat walked away from the Camp David summit in 2000.

There a myriad reasons why Jewish settlements are not an obstacle to peace and why the Palestinians are culpable for their own mess. But don’t expect the BBC to present the truth.

ALIYAH – FRANCE’S LOSS IS ISRAEL’S GAIN

France has a big problem. I am not talking about the dire economic conditions in the eurozone or the number of French troops fighting Islamists in Mali. I am talking about the ugly problem of anti-Semitism that has seen French Jews flee their native country for the safety of Israel and even the UK.

In the past few days, around 400 Jews have left France to live in Israel because of the unbearable anti-Semitism in their home country. Another 300 French Jews are expected to arrive in Israel over the next few weeks, rising to 2,500 by the end of the year. Many of those who make Aliyah cite Muslim anti-Semitism as the reason for leaving.

To illustrate the point, a recent report by the Service de Protection de la Communaute Juive (SPCJ) contains some unedifying figures. Physical and verbal attacks against Jews in France have increased by 82 per cent, rising from 171 cases in 2011 to 315 cases in 2012. Worryingly, a quarter of these incidents involved the use of a weapon.

The same report also contained the shocking observation that in the days following the Toulouse murders in March 2010, there was an average of nine anti-Semitic incidents every 24 hours. After the bombing of a kosher supermarket in Sarcelles, there were a further 28 incidents in the following week.

The report by the SPCJ makes it clear that the number of anti-Semitic attacks outweighs the number of other racist attacks. In fact, the increase in anti-Semitic acts in France in 2012 was more than 8 times higher than the increase of other racist and xenophobic acts. This clearly shows that France has a problem with anti-Semitism, rather than racism in general.

French Jews speak of a climate of fear in France. Most of the attacks take place on the street and on public transport. Many Jews say they are afraid to read Hebrew books on the trains or wear a Star of David in public. Paris is the worst place to live if you are Jewish. Indeed, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the capital vastly outstrips Judeophobic incidents in Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg.

But even in places where there are fewer anti-Semitic incidents (such as Marseille), the attacks are disturbing and are strangely reminiscent of fascist Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. The following is an excerpt from the SPCJ report:

A Jewish young man and his friend is yelled at by a group of individuals: “We are for Palestine; we don’t like Jews; we’re gonna kill you. We’re gonna exterminate you all.” The two men keep walking when about 10 individuals storm onto them. The victim is hit on the head, which makes him fall. He is then kicked all over the body while on the ground. They steal his gold Star of David. He suffers from a sprain neck, an internal hemorrhage and needs stitches near the eye.

This is shocking but typical of the wave of anti-Semitic attacks sweeping Europe. But the media is eerily silent on the issue. It’s as if newspapers and TV broadcasters don’t quite believe this is happening. Or perhaps they just don’t care.

While many French Jews have got on a plane to Israel to escape the violence, some have sought sanctuary in the UK, which is surprising given the level of British hostility towards Jews and Zionists. Even so, many French Jews have decided that London is a good place to be, with St John’s Wood and South Kensington being the most favored places of refuge.

In fact, St John’s Wood Synagogue in London has set up a separate French minyan, attended by 120 people every Shabbat. Rabbi Mordechai Fhima, who is from Paris, leads the growing congregation. “Every Shabbat there are new faces,” he says. “My congregants tell me that here they can practice as a Jew more openly.”

Britain’s outgoing chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, has spoken out against Judeophobia in Europe, saying that “the position of Jews in Europe today is very difficult.” He has expressed deep concern that the legal question marks over circumcision and shechita have left Jews wondering whether it is possible to remain in Europe.

The sad truth is that Europe has never looked after its Jewish communities. Even after the Holocaust, the political establishment prefers to demonize the Jewish people, particularly settlers in Judea and Samaria. And instead of spending money on tackling anti-Semitism, the EU donates millions of euros to the feckless Palestinians who spend the cash on anti-Semitic textbooks in order to indoctrinate Arab schoolchildren.

I sincerely hope that those Jews who have sought sanctuary in the UK find peace and quiet in the suburbs of St John’s Wood and Kensington. But anti-Semitism in Britain – often masquerading as anti-Zionism – is a real and growing problem. An unholy mix of left-wing Israelophobia, Islamic Jew-hatred and political apathy over the fate of Jews in Judea and Samaria has severely distorted political discourse in the UK. Indeed, there is not a single mainstream national newspaper that is friendly towards Israel. Nor is there a mainstream political party that has the guts to stand up to the Palestinian lobby.

So, I will not be too surprised if French Jews in England realize their mistake and decide to make Aliyah. Of course, Europe’s loss will be Israel’s gain. And here lies the paradox. Muslim anti-Semites long for the day when “Palestine” (i.e. Eretz Israel) is Judenrein. But their hatred of Jews is having the opposite effect. More and more Jews are going to Israel. The fact that Muslims and their anti-Zionist fellow travelers are responsible for Jews making Aliyah is a delicious irony.

It is possible that some Jews fleeing persecution in Europe will take up residence in Judea and Samaria. After all, Israel is a small country and there are a limited number of vacant houses within the Green Line. Therefore it is impractical for Catherine Ashton and her EU cohorts to call for the dismantling of Jewish settlements when so many Europeans Jews need a place to live.

If the exodus of Jews from France and the rest of Europe continues, then the building of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is both necessary and inevitable. Tzipi Livni may want to bear this in mind while she negotiates with the Palestinians.