May 20, 2009
The BBC 1 show 'Big Questions', recently held a very broad debate on the following quetion: Is Israel a racist state or a nation under threat. I bet you can all guess what part of that question took the majority, no sorry - all, of the air time. This though didn't bother me. Nor did the fact that the hapless audience (filled with the usual JFJFP suspects) applauded loudly and veremently every time strongly anti-Israel sentiment was used. In fact, the end comment by the pro-Israel rabbi that the 'occupation' should end didn't even bother me. What did though, was the terms of the debate; the very framework of the question. For me, this raised some pretty big questions myself.
The fact that the BBC, and the big questions team, will argue their neutrality given how they slapped the 'nation under threat' part at the end of the question says it all. In this country, the terms of the debate actually is 'is Israel racist'. I was sat watching the TV thinking to myself: the UK (supposedly, of course) has equality of the sexes. Yet, women are paid 17% less than men for the same job. Does that make the UK a sexist state? Of course it doesn't. The fact that this was aired in the aftermath of the bloody conflict with Hamas in Gaza earlier this year no doubt hanged over the shoulders of poor old Jonathan Hoffman, who had to defend Israel on very much an individual platform and received very little praise for the job that he did.
I listened to panel guests delivering the same old slogainsed rubbish like 'the right of return is racist', 'Israel displaced Palestinians and discriminates against them' and found it increasingly hard not to scream at the TV in fustration. In fact, to be fair, i did; only once the idea of Israel being aparthied came up. I heard two people in particular, whose names I cannot (and would quite frankly rather not) remember, arguing that Israel is the modern S. Africa of the 21st century. Do these people not no anything about Israel (or S. Africa for that matter)? The Palestinian people have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, the right to pray, the right to practice religion (which is more than you can say for Jews in Arab countries but no-one labels them as racist), the right to an education, the right to protest, the right to strike...the list is endless. They enjoy the same democratic rights that Jews enjoy. In fact, they enjoy more rights in Israel than they do in Jordan-which is, lets not forget, the Palestinian state! In Arab countries, Palestinians REALLY do live in ghettoised conditions-put into camps and not allowed to be part of the normal day-to-day life of society. Not in Israel though. Everywhere you go, every street you take, every mosque you visit and quite rightly to. But howcome the terms of the debate are so skewed? How come the terms of the debate aren't to question the legitimacy of Hamas-a terrorist organisation. How come not ONE person managed to mention that the Palestinian government and Mahmoud Abbas only last month said that they categorically refuse to recognise Israel as a Jewish state? How come zionism is allowed to be seen as racist, when it is in fact about the wish of a people to end 2,000 years of racism and begin their right to govern over themselves?
Sadly, i've built up to a crescendo but don't have a great deal of answers. Why is this the case? Well, verment anti-zionists (which in my opinion breeds antisemitism as much as the other way around) like George Galloway don't help. I heard him on question time not long ago arguing the toss that Armadinejad didn't call for the destruction of Israel but for 'Zionism to be wiped from the pages of history', equating zionism to Russian communism to prove his point-saying that the UK's wish to destroy communism didn't mean they wanted to destroy Russia. He couldn't have demonstrated his ignorance more so. Commumism is a cross-border societal structure, Zionism is about the wish of a people to have the same right as everybody else (inc. Palestinians) to self determination. But that's the problem. Ignorance. People need a scapegoat and so they turn to those who they've always turned to: The Jews, except now it's covered up under the pretences of Israel and zionism.
I guess that all we can hope for, for now, is that the bigquestions programme raised some internal big questions in many people, about what the terms of the debate should be and why Israel should be respected for what it is; the truest democracy in the world; the only one in the middle east and the only country that stands between Islamofascism and the western world. Am Yisrael Chai.