Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

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Counting the Jewish Dead
Last uploaded : Wednesday 4th Jun 2003 at 01:43
Contributed by : The Editor



I was doing my usual check of the Israeli press tonight, a ritual I perform three or four times a day with that perpetual feeling of dread: will there be a ?Breaking News? headline about a ?large explosion??

Tonight there was a one-line note in one of the Israeli newspapers: the security services had thwarted or received leads on sixty-three -- SIXTY THREE! -- potential terror attacks in the past twenty-four hour period. This made my mind race back to an observation made by Sir Max Hastings at a lecture he delivered last week at the Liberal Synagogue in London. Sir Max, whose fierce criticisms of Israel have, in recent years, inspired many angry letters to ?The Evening Standard? newspaper, asserted that he lamented the fact that so many more Palestinian have been killed in this Intifadah than Israelis. This is a standard complaint from every non-Jew I meet. Eminent British dignitaries and Cabinet members have moaned and groaned about ?three times as many Palestinians being killed as Jews? since September 2000.

Unfortunately those of us who wonder why six million Jews died in the Holocaust feel somewhat uncomfortable being harangued by our educated friends about the ?disproportionate death rate? in the Holy Land. Had I not known that Sir Max Hastings is a devoted non-Jewish member-by-marriage of the Liberal Synagogue and an erudite scholar of Middle East history, I would feel considerable dismay that he too laments the dearth of dead Jews. More worrying is the visceral anger one encounters when this subject is discussed in company.

It is impossible to explain to the plaintiffs that Israel has a superb security force that has been on duty seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day since the birth of the State and that one breakdown of security results in carnage. Were Israel not so expert at protecting its citizens and visitors, the ratio of deaths inside Israel to those inside the Palestinians territories would make the moaners very, very happy.
I try to explain that Israel?s economy would be far less vulnerable were so much money not spent on massive security requirements and military necessities.

In previous columns I have been lamenting the current obsession on British television with the rogue state Israel and its evil people. Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook MP has told Newsweek -- in the context of the American invasion of Iraq -- that he deplores the lack of attention paid to other regions of the world. Though one will never hear Cook -- or any British dignitary from any party -- praise Israel, he is right in his assessment that other regions of the world are in urgent need of attention. How much time is the BBC devoting to the arrest this week of Aun Sang Suu Kyi, the dissident of Myanmar? Barely a hair?s breadth-worth compared to saturation coverage of Israel?s ?brutal occupation? and ?apartheid.? (Incidentally, it is a fact that in twenty-seven years I have resided in Britain I have never heard any British figure in public life sing the praises of Israel. Winston Churchill, the former MP, was on Fox News some months ago lauding Israel and I was nonplussed. )

One aspect of the talks being held by President Bush as I write this that will be a blessing will be the possibility that a real peace will mean the departure of obsessive British television teams from the West Bank. They will, of course, be bored. Zimbabwe and Myanmar are just not as sexy as those ?bad Israeli soldiers in their tanks.? If the Intifadah has taught me anything it is the deep resentment and lack of understanding a large proportion of the non-Jewish population outside the USA holds for the tiny Jewish State. The hatred and anger that has spewed from the mouths of people I have counted amongst my inner circle -- ?We should have hanged those terrorists Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Dayan and the whole lot of you when we still were in charge of Palestine?? -- has awakened in me an awareness of the difference I carry within me that sets me apart from non-Jews. I have never walked about thinking I am One of The Persecuted. However, being a member of the post-Holocaust generation I have a scar on my psyche that is ineluctable. When people rage that ?so few Jews have been killed in the Intifadah? I am beyond anger. There is a sinister agenda afoot when non-Jews are so irritated that Jews seem to be surviving a tough siege. Yes, Israel has tanks and the Palestinians do not. But Israel has hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens and workers, and when a Palestinians who can roam freely in Jerusalem dresses as a religious Jew and kills a young couple by blowing himself up, Israel is equally vulnerable as those under the eye of a tank.

May this Shavuot bring peace to the region. May the non-Jews whose hidden hatred that burst upon me this past two years be praised for opening my eyes to their true colours and making me feel all the more ?Jewishly inclined? this Yom Tov.

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