Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

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A Hideous Summer
Last uploaded : Friday 5th Sep 2003 at 20:18
Contributed by : The Editor


The past few weeks have been peppered with news items ranging from painful to absurd. The California Recall race (the effort to remove incumbent Governor Democrat Gray Davis) and the associated rise to political aspirations of the main contender, Arnold Schwarzenegger, lives in the category of the absurd. If one is to take this matter seriously, one may observe that the original effort to remove Davis was masterminded by one Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican who is reported to have been promptly ordered out of the gubernatorial race by the White House.

Amidst such folly are stories that the French envoy to London was reported to have been heard making disparaging, if not unrepeatable comments about Ariel Sharon and the Israeli way of doing things, whilst another report was received in my Inbox that another French official proclaimed last week that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not proven terrorist entities.

For more on this please read:

Into this brew comes the deeply disturbing Hutton Inquiry investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly on 17th July. The most chilling aspect of the proceedings, which have filled the pages of every British tabloid and broadsheet for weeks, was the revelation that Dr Kelly told a colleague as long ago as February that he ?would be found in a wood.? Every day the media?s assessment of the daily proceedings at the High Court of Justice brings a different villain: one day the BBC is Beelzebub and then twenty-four hours later it is Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

Against the tableau of the depressing Hutton Inquiry is the reality of the violence in Israel and Iraq. Whilst Donald Rumsfeld says ?we will catch them or we will kill them? when asked about the United States government's pursuit of ruthless terrorists, Israel is condemned for targeting some of the worst terror leaders in the West Bank. Although I have been known in these columns to condemn Israeli retaliatory actions I am deeply saddened that young Arabs living nextdoor to Israel have no leaders to take them on the journey from violence to hope. What was the point of Arafat returning from Camp David (the eighth year of tireless efforts by Bill Clinton, at American taxpayers? expense, to broker peace) and inciting the al Aqsa Intifadah? Though I am in a tiny minority I do not see Ariel Sharon?s visit to the Temple Mount as sufficiently provocative to have triggered such rivers of blood. To me it is indicative of the poverty of spirit and leadership of much of the Arab world that the situation in the Middle East has not had a resolution resulting in a state as prosperous , creative and life-affirming as the little democracy in its midst known as Israel.

In Iraq, in a series of atrocities that chillingly echo the events in Israel for fifty-four years we have lost a UN leader of the eminence of Sergio Viera di Mello and the revered Shi?ite leader Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim. Iraqi, American and British lives are lost every day whilst lives continue to be lost in Israel.

But for me, the most telling aspect of this summer has been that my life has become bereft of human contact from the British side of my social circle. In today?s ?Jewish Chronicle,? two brilliant editorials, one by Melanie Phillips and the other by Alex Brummer, touch on issues that have most profoundly affected me this summer. Ms Phillips speaks of the Hutton Inquiry and, like me, sees the affair as a conundrum of blame-swapping. At the end of her article she confronts the issue that simmers under every parlour conversation in Britain: that many people think the war to liberate Iraq from Saddam was conducted to make life easier for Israel, and that Israel is at the root of all the world?s terror problems. What is so remarkable about her article is that she ends it by mentioning a subject with which I have bored readers of this site for years: the Englishman of a certain age group who asserts that he was ?stationed in Palestine in 1947 and if I had had any influence on my superiors Israel would never have been created.?

I was pleased that Melanie Phillips has had the same experience that I have had since coming to these shores in 1976. In fact, every Briton I meet over the age of 65 has told me ?I served in Palestine and could have shot Rabin, Dayan and Begin through the head if my CO had let me? or ?I served in Palestine in 1947 and your lot invented terrorism -- Israel will eventually be destroyed by terrorists and not too soon, either.? I have worked out that if every Briton I meet ?served in Palestine? it is a wonder any children were fathered here in the 1940s.

Alex Brummer discusses the demise of the BBC in the public?s esteem and provides the astonishing statistic that in the past month Sky has sold seven million new satellite subscriptions in Great Britain. It was reported during the Iraq War that HMS Ark Royal asked the Ministry of Defence to replace BBC with another news provider as it was perceived as anti-coalition in its reporting, resulting in a decline in morale onboard ship.

So, in conclusion I must explain my comment about my social circle. Throughout this year I have lost about 80% of my friends because 1) they discovered that I run a Jewish website; 2) I was for the Iraq War and 3) I am American. This has made life darned lonely for me in a big city like London. Throughout my life and career here I have accumulated a circle who read the best newspapers and go to the best cultural events. Unfortunately British intellectuals -- let alone French and German ones -- are not necessarily warm and woolly towards Americans and Jews who admire Israel, and I am both. Even as I waver on the issue of the Iraq War -- one would have to live in a parallel universe to deny that the situation is worrying -- I remember the hate-filled faces of ordinary middle class folk out on anti-war marches in February, whose wrath was focussed not so much on the American adventure but on Israel.

It has made for a lonely summer for me and for many like me. Who will ever know what drove David Kelly to his death? Reading about his desolation has been particularly painful for those of us who have been depressed this summer.

Hopefully Rosh Hashanah 5764 will bring better things to Israel and to that tormented corner of God?s earth.

Please read Carol Gould's article about the historic East End Princelet Street synagogue in London:

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