Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

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Why should any Muslim be a Refugee?
Last uploaded : Thursday 19th Jul 2007 at 01:25
Contributed by : The Associate Editor

 


14 July 2007

London


Tonight, 14 July, Channel Four Television hosted a ninety-minute special reviewing the findings of the Iraq Commission. Not to be confused with the 2006 Iraq Report chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton in the United States, this was a 2007 review of the conflict by a committee in the United Kingdom that has now submitted its findings and recommendations to Her Majesty’s Government.

What was jaw-dropping about the programme was one thread that persisted throughout the proceedings, chaired by journalist Jon Snow. The idea that the Iraq War has inspired radical Jihadists in Britain was repeated too often for comfort. Asif Sidiqui, who runs a forum in London for young Muslim professionals, was drawn into this discussion and appeared to acknowledge that this was the case. It beggars belief that after the events of the past fortnight in Britain, and the anger expressed by Muslim leaders about the knighthood for Salman Rushdie, that Iraq can be wheeled out as en excuse for violence on the British mainland.

I often wonder what a place the world would have been had every Jew across the globe, from Rio to Toronto to Philadelphia to Paris and London, had waged a decades-long campaign of terror to avenge the genocide of six million of their co-religionists in the ovens, torture chambers and gas chambers of Auschwitz, Belsen, Treblinka, et al? If every time a synagogue is attacked or a rabbi coming out of a service in North London is attacked young Jews decide to blow up a bus ?

Then came the true moment of the night for me: in a discussion about the displacement of Iraqi refugees Margaret Jay actually said it would benefit Britain if more trained professionals from Iraq could be allowed into Britain. Well, right now, Baroness Jay, methinks not a lot of ordinary Sun and News of the World-reading Brits are jumping up and down waiting for the next shipment of Middle Eastern doctors and aeronautical engineers, who seem to have a penchant for driving bomb-laden cars into British airports and discos.

In the discussion about two million Iraqi refugees pouring into Jordan and Syria, one Maeve Sherlock said this was the worst refugee crisis since 1948. Her ‘fact’ was never queried; if she is doing what every Briton does to me at dinner parties and other social occasions, she means ‘those nasty Zionists drove out two million Palestinians to steal those lands from them in a violent, genocidal war of Independence. ‘

One has to chuckle at the possibility of her actually having meant that two million Jews were displaced in 1948 when the Arab league expelled them from lands in which they had lived for centuries because of the collective fury about the ’Zionist entity’ being established after the Nazi Holocaust. Needless to say this is not what I think Miss Sherlock meant. God forbid the Arab countries might have welcomed the Jewish State in 1948, shown warmth and succour to those arriving from the death camps, and collaborated with the thousands of Jews already in the Holy Land for generations on issues of agriculture, irrigation, sanitation, medicine and science. But no, they declared war on Israel. They wanted to annihilate the Jews, but the only memory modern Britain seems to have is the displacement of Palestinians.

The panel tonight devoted a considerable amount of time to the vexed issue of Iraqi refugees living elsewhere in harsh conditions. I wonder how many Britons know how resourceful Jewish charities are in placing their own refugees and families in hardship into care homes? World Jewish Relief has been doing staggering work in Rwanda and Sudan. Yes -- helping Muslims! Why is the immensely wealthy Arab world not capable of helping its own in this way? Why should one Iraqi be living in squalor? And where is the Arab League, or worldwide Muslim charities, when they should be helping get Iraq back into some semblance of order?

The overriding conclusion of the panel was that the sudden departure of coalition troops would create a disastrous scenario and chaos. The Americans seem incapable of comprehending this and are bitter at the ingratitude shown by Iraq, including what is perceived as a lazy government constantly taking time off for leisure whilst the nation descends into a cauldron of violence. Around the world the majority view is that Americans are not all that bright about things foreign. In my view, the hard-working, forward-looking, compartmentalised American psyche simply cannot comprehend a nation of people descending into internecine turmoil and blowing each other, including children, to kingdom come after a tyrant has been toppled. And before I am bombarded with emails from the UK about the bloody American Civil War, it must be noted that it was fought to free the slaves, a noble cause. Americans did not go out and blow each other up because of tribal religious fanaticism.

In the wake of the multiple boycotts of Israel being perpetrated by various British trade unions and organisations this summer, it never ceases to amaze me the way the British establishment, personified in this Iraq committee headed up by Tom King and Paddy Ashdown, always has some lame excuse for chaos and carnage in Arab lands. Yet the same establishment is quick to publicly vilify the immensely cultured and democratic Jewish state stuck in the midst of 500 million mostly turbulent Muslims.

Listening tonight to the pontifications of the committee I could not help but wonder why the tooth-gnashing participants had not thought of asking Israel how it is that it maintains stability, has never had a civil war, offers absolute equality to women and homosexuals, and sustains a perpetually-besieged populace without one ounce of internal violence? Yes, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist was a hideous day in the history of Israel, but was one further ounce of blood expelled after the event? Did the assassin not survive to be tried and sentenced? He has even been allowed to marry and has just fathered a child! If that is not a peaceful democracy I do not know what is.

Yes, there are 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. But there is a joke that some want to stay indefinitely in preference to life in their corrupt, violent and chaotically-run territories. As this article goes to press numerous victims of Hamas-Fatah sectarian violence are being treated with care and generosity in Israeli hospitals.

This is the point: as the Iraq Committee members deliberated tonight I thought of the many contributions Israel could make to showing Iraqis how to pull a country together and develop wonderful symphony orchestras, art galleries, architectural projects, scientific institutions and other endeavours. If the survivors of the death camps could create magnificent agricultural achievements, including the award-winning Yarden wines, then why can the Iraqis not create a nation filled with creativity and dynamism as is found in tiny Israel?

On tonight’s programme mention was made of the benefits of involving Syria and Iran in the development of the region ; never once was mention made of the threat Iran has made time and again to wipe Israel off the map. But then again, looking at this committee, one felt that the survival of Israel and the contributions it could indeed make to the development of that desperately backward region filled with dictators and despots was of little consequence.

One hopes that in the great scheme of things the one true democracy in the region is not hung out to dry. At the very end of the programme Stephen Twigg MP said he hoped the sensibilities of the British Muslim community would be taken into consideration in future foreign policy discourse. Has anyone ever asked our large Chinese or Indian populations whether we should go to war or not? Frankly I find it reprehensible that any religious or ethnic group should hold sway over British foreign policy.

I fear for the sanity of the committee, and having just heard that the teaching of Hitler, Churchill and Stalin are to be excised from some curricula in the United Kingdom, I fear for the future of this nation.

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