Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

carol gould

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Shame on our Media
Last uploaded : Thursday 6th Dec 2001 at 15:24
Contributed by : The Editor


News This past year has seen a festering sore become a proliferating plague. It is a form of journalism that condemns Israel with such ferocity as to generate fear amongst Jews of a new era of pogroms.

Secular Jews have suggested to me that ‘skinheads don’t read ‘The Independent.’ They further posit that ‘Arabs read only Arabic newspapers,’ hence the absurdity of my assertion that continuous floods of inflammatory journalism engender anti-Jewish attacks.

Having been involved with the world of television Drama for many years, I was miles away from political involvement until the advent of Oslo. In fact, had anyone said ten years ago that I would be editor of a website devoted to Jewish commentary, I would have thought them certifiable.

I became alarmed three years ago when writers who are not political commentators began publishing vitriolic attacks on Israel and on Jewish aspirations. Specifically, a poisonous article by Brian Sewell, the eminent art critic of the London ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper berated the people of Manchester for harbouring a desire for a Holocaust Museum. Using words like ‘greedy’ to describe the visions of the museum’s planners, he condemned the project in a lengthy discourse that to me amounted to an anti-Semitic diatribe. At that time I first experienced the patois that has now, in 2001, become de rigeur for non-Jewish critics of the Jews: ‘..When someone dares criticise you people, you immediately label them as anti-Semites.’.’

Well, yes I do believe that after the destruction of European Jewry by non-Jewish Europe over ten years of methodical genocide, the aspirations of the Manchester community should be respected and that Christians should send a few pennies to help build the memorial museum. Referring to the Jewish need to commemorate history’s greatest atrocity as ‘greedy’ is anti-Semitism.

In the past fortnight, I have received a letter from Max Hastings, Editor of ‘The Evening Standard,’ curtly informing me that I am ‘intemperate’ by having reminded him of the Blood Libel, the York Massacre and the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. In a letter I had written in response to AN Wilson’s ‘Israel has no right to continue to exist’ piece, I had also reminded Hastings of the less-than-admirable behaviour of the British in Palestine during the dark days of attempted exodus from the Hell of the European Shoah.

Earlier this year the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, whom as far as I know is not an eminent historian, wrote an article for The Independent newspaper suggesting that in 1967 the giant military hordes of Israel mercilessly ‘invaded’ Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Jordan and other neighbours, resulting in massacres that continue to occur to this day. Indeed, the Six-Day War was a pre-emptive operation and the result a military miracle, considering by what margins Israel was outnumbered. What Livingstone fails to explain is that President Nasser of Egypt had been broadcasting for months his intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, exhorting other Arab states to join the melee.

In February, after the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister of Israel, Robert Fisk was given the best part of the broadsheet-sized special feature section of The Independent, to spew out venomous hatred of Sharon. It must be acknowledged that the ‘butcher of Beirut’ was condemned by an Israeli tribunal after the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres, but as a professional journalist the Editor of this website deplores the personal hatred that Fisk was allowed to purvey in the pages of a respected national newspaper. He is, after all, a reporter and commentator. The article he wrote is illustrated by a large photograph of slain Palestinians, with a giant-font caption describing ‘a place of bestiality...’ for which, of course, the Jews of Israel are squarely blamed. Readers of this site will argue that the massacre in Beirut was inexcusable and a black mark on Israeli history. Anyone with a modicum of conscience would acknowledge that such atrocities are contrary to Jewish belief and ethics. (British Rabbi David J Goldberg wrote from Beirut at the time of the massacre with great passion, despair and shame; his despatches were, one must admit, a prophecy of today’s continuing troubles.)

However, the journalism of Fisk reminds every Jew, be they right or left-wing, of suddenly being at the receiving end of a temper tantrum by an enraged gentile at an otherwise polite dinner party. In the car going home, said Jewish person will say to spouse, ‘My God, we’ve known Giles all these years and now this outburst :did you ever have any inkling he hated us so much?’

E-mails will be received by this site suggesting the Editor wishes to see journalists censored or restricted. This is not the view of this site: what alarms us is the hateful tone that continually pours forth from respected newspapers and television presenters. Where is this hateful tone when Saudi Arabia or Iran buries a young woman up to her neck in sand and is stoned to death for acting in an amateur movie? Where is the hateful tone when Saddam Hussein parades convicts – his own countrymen --in front of his dinner guests to be slowly tortured to death as ‘post-prandial entertainment?’

Anti-Israel sentiment has been gaining a dangerous momentum in Britain, and the causes can be attributed to many aspects of British society and education. In the United States, the harrowing Alain Resnais Holocaust film ‘Night and Fog’ was a recommended part of the High School curriculum in the 1970s in the USA. During my years in network television, the lack of knowledge of Jewish history amongst my colleagues was breathtaking. One memorable comment came from an otherwise charming young secretary who had joined the London office of Anglia TV from Norwich. She announced, with a sprightly smile, ‘It is so nice to see Jews in the flesh! My family goes back a thousand years in Norfolk and I’d never set eyes on a Jew until John Rosenberg [our Head of Drama] came to Norwich. I am so relieved to see you people do not have horns growing out of your heads!’

Imagine explaining the intricacies of Maimonides, Zionism, the Shoah and Jewish assimilation to that human template!

A phenomenon curious to Britain is the comment, ‘Oh, you people do so go on about the Holocaust.’ This is a form of rebuke not often encountered in mainland Europe, and indeed takes us back to the topic at the top of this article: otherwise eminent scholars like Brian Sewell regarding a holocaust Museum as some form of ‘greed.’ In fairness to this breed of curmudgeon, a person brought up in a Christian home could not possibly be expected to have the visceral attachment to the collective Jewish experience that runs in the blood of every Jewish child. One may argue that a child is an empty vessel and that the input of historical narrative shapes that person’s later emotional life, be that narrative a Christian heritage or a Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu one. However, the astonishing, blood-curdling calamities that have befallen the Jews for the past three millennia comprise a narrative that has to have an effect on the young recipient.

The Editor is a post-Holocaust baby, born nearly ten years after the last concentration camp was liberated. Nevertheless, this event, and the most sadistic episodes thereof, were drummed into my little head from young childhood. Considering that Jews in North and South America, Europe and Africa had throughout the early part of the twentieth century been almost universally peaceful and hard-working citizens, it is of note from a sociological point of view that my generation did not grow up hating Christians and wishing to commit violence against Germans. Conversely, the hatred of Israel and the increasingly venomous attacks on Jewish aspirations in the British media are indicative of a pent-up anger that has never abated since the earliest days of Christianity. Coupled with this hostility is the absence of any understanding of recent Jewish suffering at the hands of – let’s face it --- not Eskimos or Mayan Indians but European Christians who attended Strauss concerts at night and hung Jews on meat hooks in their day jobs.

As this article goes to press, the British attitude towards Israel has taken a dismaying twist with the statement by the distinguished politician and novelist Douglas Hurd on Sky News’ ‘PMQ’ programme that the ‘it must be understood’ that the Israelis are behaving like the Germans in the 1930s. He suggested that the Palestinian terrorists’ aspirations are akin to the European countries being overrun by Hitler and that their acts must be appreciated as the equivalent of brave Resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Europe.

This increasingly- promulgated comparison is iniquitous and is not worthy of a statesman of the calibre of Douglas Hurd. It is also indicative of the lack of understanding of the situation Israelis find themselves: every time closure is eased, a bombing follows.

I was in Israel for most of 1996. Despite the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, it was a hopeful time for all. Yasser Arafat had endeared himself to Israelis with his (I still think sincere) affection for his late partner in ‘the peace of the brave.’ Notwithstanding this, Israel was gripped by a string of bloody suicide bombings that destroyed Shimon Peres’ Premiership and brought in the Netanyahu regime. The fierce criticism of Israel in the British media fails to take into account the events of the Oslo era, when Israel was prepared to bow to international pressure and retreat with dignity from the lands she had conquered in the terrible wars perpetrated by hostile Arab neighbours.

The Editor implores the British media – and British politicians -- to do their homework and to understand that the birth of Israel came about after centuries of brutality in Christian Europe that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust. When shaking the accusatory finger at Israel, British commentators should look to their own dismal legacy of torture and racism and spend a few minutes taking a deep, humble breath to reflect. One will not go so far as to instruct these commentators to ‘reflect and repent,’ but sending a contribution to a Jewish relief charity might just be a starting point.

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