Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

carol gould

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'The Road to Armageddon'
Last uploaded : Sunday 8th Jun 2003 at 00:32
Contributed by : The Editor


Editor's Note:
No sooner had this article gone to press with JewishComment than a soldier was killed at the Cave of the Machpelah. He could be one of the congenial young men who was so obliging to the BBC's Mr Cruickshank. Here is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post's report:

'Israeli killed in Hebron identified as soldier'
The Jerusalem Post Internet Staff Jun. 9, 2003

'The Israeli national who was killed in Hebron's Hamachpela Cave Sunday afternoon was identified at night as an IDF soldier.

'He was killed when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on him near the Machpela Cave in the West Bank city of Hebron. The Palestinians were themselves killed a short while later by return fire from soldiers in the area. The gunmen shot at the Israeli from the area of Hebron's Kasbah (old city).

'Some areas in Hebron, including the old city, have been placed under curfew by the IDF. The IDF's Hebron commander said that a decision had been made to stop all Muslim prayer at the Machpela Cave due to the fact that the two Palestinian terrorists who shot a Border Police officer earlier Sunday morning had blended in with the stream of Palestinian worshippers and had carried out their attack disguised as beggars.

'The IDF commander, Lt.-Col. Doron from the Nahal Brigades, said that the decision to stop Muslims from praying at the site was a necessary one in order to stop attacks.'
Here now is JewishComment's report on the BBC special:

Carol Gould

Britain has just been treated to yet another prime-time documentary about Israel, this time from religious and sociological commentator Dan Cruickshank, in his ?The Road to Armageddon.? For once, this was not an angry polemic about the terrible Jews and Americans repressing the rest of the poor, cowering Middle East. However, we did pick up on a healthy load of ?bad Israelis? observations by Mr Cruickshank.

He toured the most significant places for the three monotheistic religions, starting in Hebron. He noted ?settler houses towering over? the pitiful Palestinian dwellings and boarded up shops. (I did not notice anything resembling superior housing for Jews in Hebron when I was last there. ) Cruickshank was permitted by a group of good-natured Israeli soldiers to enter the Cave of the Machpelah, and this vignette spoke volumes. The IDF men looked young and as friendly as boys just hanging out on a city street on a summer?s afternoon, and throughout Cruickshank?s tour they were obliging. He was even allowed to visit the Mosque, but of course had to get in a breathless, ?Muslims can?t pray because of the twenty-four hour curfew.? He repeated this observation and seemed agitated at the idea of Muslims being unable to pray. Never mind the number of sacred places in Israel -- including the Cave of the Patriarchs -- too dangerous for Jews, or the fact that Jews could not safely pray at the Western Wall until the 1967 War.

Cruickshank?s visit with an Ethiopian monk whose small enclave has suffered decades of torment form Egyptian Coptic Monks in an enclave one floor above was a welcome change from the constant images of sullen Jews and Palestinians. The Ethiopian showed an extraordinary sacred text bound in the shape of a cross containing in inscrutable text an ancient scripture, but as he was holding it up to the camera Israeli police arrived to warn them that the Egyptians were enraged that the BBC interview was taking place. By the time Cruickshank went out into the courtyard a near mini-revolt was unfolding. Christian sects were at each other?s throats -- an absurdity that carries on today not just in the Holy Land but across the world, 2,000 years after Jesus walked those very stones.

In his journey to Nablus, Cruickshank never once mentioned the significance of this place to Jews and to our Torah narrative. He homed in on an ancient Roman-era building in Nablus partially destroyed by the IDF. He made the audacious assertion that the Israeli view is that they are rooting out terrorists but could it be that the Israelis want to wreck the links of the Palestinians with their ancient history? The idea that the Jewish state wishes to wipe out anyone?s link with their history is insulting and untrue. Again, people like myself who have not been in network television for a long time lament the fact that the BBC can allow a script to go out in primetime that suggests such an iniquity by Jews.

Never once did Cruickshank visit the remarkable places excavated for the first time in thousands of years by the Israelis. I can think of countless places he could have visited -- Caesarea; Yigal Allon?s kibbutz and the restored mosaics of the Galilee; endless archaeological renovations around the country -- but no, like every British and European broadcaster he chose to home in on the West Bank, as if to show how Israel just shoots and destroys.

He went on to the Church of the Nativity, and in relating the story of last year?s forty-day siege he observed that according to the Israelis this place was full of terrorists; according to the Palestinians they were cowering in terror of the Israeli army shooting them. He referred to the gang who had barricaded themselves in the holy Christian shrine as ?gunmen,? not terrorists. What always amazes me about British television visits to Israel is the perpetuation of the concept of the bad Israelis turning the previously-tranquil little Holy Land into a place of misery for everyone. Not once does he mention the perpetual misery into which a prospering and friendly Israel had been plunged with the shocking new Intifadah of 2000. Yes --- Israel had been trying as hard as it could to be friendly and welcoming to its Arab neighbours since Oslo and her reward was the Intifadah. The world?s media has tried with relentless vitriol to make it look as if Israel led the world into the latest cycle of violence. Not one British documentary has depicted this in its correct context.

Cruickshank related Israeli history in a nutshell by explaining that after the 1948 war the ?land grab ? -- yes, the ?land grab!? that followed resulted in the dispossession of Palestinians from their land. Never on British television do we see the relentless desire of the Arab world to annihilate the tiny state partitioned by the UN and the carnage caused by the perpetual attacks by Arab armies determined to wipe out the fledgling Jewish nation. (I have commented before in these columns that it would have been so nice if the Arab world had welcomed the industrious Jews, and ,as Pierre van Paassen, a Christian commentator observed in ?Days of Our Years,? had nurtured their relationship with a people whose scientific knowledge and commercial acumen would have brought their countries out of the Middle Ages.) That Cruickshank can refer to a ?land grab? is absurd: the tiny Jewish population was fighting for its very survival against unbelievable odds in 1948 and the meagre geographical advances were a far cry from a ?land grab.?

Travelling the Judaean hills, Cruickshank remarked, ?They just cannot co-exist.? I resent this: your average Israeli, be he my 95-year-old friend who emigrated to Palestine in 1932, a peace campaigner in Tel Aviv or a tough businessman in Herzliya, has every desire to live in harmony with the Arab world. It is not the Jews of Israel who cannot co-exist (if they couldn?t, Mr Cruickshank, how is it that a million Arabs live inside Israel?) , it is the hostile nations who have for decades agitated against the Jews and created generations of terrorists intent on killing Jews, Jews and more Jews. How many Jewish suicide bombers have you met recently, Mr Cruickshank?

The breathless style of Cruickshank was at times endearing -- I rather loved his mortal fear of the IDF troops -- but he observed at various points in his journey, ?The settlers will shoot .? Except for Baruch Goldstein, I do not see hordes of Palestinian and Arabs lying in the roads slaughtered by roving bands of Jewish civilians.

Compared to the other programmes transmitted on British television (see our articles about ?The Killing Zone? and ?Behind the Fence?) Cruickshank?s had a generous amount of charm and made one want to get on the next flight to Israel. His chagrin at the terrible damage done to, and vulnerability of Joseph?s and Rachel? Tomb respectively seemed sincere.

Nonetheless, one watches these programmes and wonders if this is the same Israel that one has lived in or visited for fifty-four years. Like the British dinner companions who scream at me about the bombing of the King David Hotel and the lynching of British soldiers in 1946-48 -- as if time had stood still -- so do these programmes depict a squalid, war-torn nation of belligerent Jews swaggering with their machine guns and tanks , without any view of the great cultural, agricultural, scientific and literary Mecca that is Greater Israel.

As long as I live in Britain I will never understand the hatred and ignorance of the true face of beautiful Israel that bubbles up in every person I meet from Penzance to John?o?Groats. Perhaps it is the secular nature of British society that engenders this contempt for the Jewish State, but it is a disturbing and repulsive hate that the BBC is not helping to dispel.

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