- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 13, 2009
The top USA Jewish leadership is keeping well out of the almost subterranean controversy over President-elect Obama's choice of the Rev Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration on January 20. You knew it, of course, that the invocation is a prayer essentially calling down God's blessing on the incoming President, a major part of the inaugural ceremony and something I have always found curious in a nation which separates between Church and State. The Rev Rick is an amazing man. The US media identify him as head of an “evangelistic megachurch” in California. Mega it certainly is: 87,000 members, 22,000 at Sunday services, 300 full-time staff and 9,000 volunteers .
What nobody seems yet to have decided to their own satisfaction is whether Rick Warren is too Christian or not Christian enough. There is one wing of the evangelistic movement which is absolutely delighted that Mr Warren has been quoted on numerous websites – without firm confirmation – as telling a Jewish woman that she would “burn in hell” because she did not accept Jesus as her Lord. But then the Rev Warren delivered a Friday night sermon at a major conference of Reform Jews just a year or so ago in which he counselled them on how to grow their communities (essentially, “Smile and be nice to everybody”). This brought down the wrath of died-in-the-wool evangelicals who felt he should have stood up there before a couple of thousand Jews and told them not how to grow their communities but to accept Jesus as their Messiah.
Some of the stuff I have been reading on fundamentalist Christian websites has been rather nasty and I will not point you there. But - now for the good news about the inauguration – one of the performers at the ceremony is our very own Itzhak Perlman who, with Yo-yo Ma, will perform a new piece specially written by John Williams (let's hope it keeps warm for them all). God bless democracy, or, as a United Synagogue website would say “G-d bless democracy.” But that's for another time....
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 11, 2009
Over the next few days, we are going to read many interpretations of what President-elect Obama said on Sunday, January 11, about the Middle East. For those who would like to read his own words for themselves, this is what he said in his ABC television interview with George Stephanopulous:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on to national security and foreign policy. We're now in the second week of the conflict in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians. I know you've been reluctant to speak out too much on this. Let me show everyone what you said when you were in Israel last July.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 10, 2009
My blog recalling the German rocket attacks on London toward the end of the Second World War reminded one correspondent that the very last V2 rocket on London struck Hughes Mansions in Bethnal Green on March 27, 1945, killing 134 people, 120 of them Jewish. Fifty years later, when Jews gathered to recall that dreadful episode, they were assaulted with whatever weapons were to hand by what the media described as “Asian youths.” It is interesting now to read what Jonathan Freedland , one of the best journalists of which our community can boast, had to say in The Guardian at that time. Read it at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/16/religion.britishidentity
- Gideon Schneider
Jan 8, 2009
Healthy people are a fascinating species, I observed, as the euphoric crowd on Waterloo Bridge raised its collective voice, counting down from 10, willing on the approach of 2009. Untainted by illness, their unquestioning reliance on the infallibility of their bodies gives them an enviable innocence. For me, the cancer cat was out the bag and I doubted I would ever take my health for granted again.
I stood on the bridge jostling for space with a group of teetering teenagers who, swigging the dregs of their Carlsberg bottles, swayed and fell into each other (and a few startled bystanders), giddy grins slapped across their flushed faces.
Next to them, a group of thirtysomethings, up from Croydon, festooned in fuchsia feather boas and glittery cowboy hats, were displaying more flesh than a butcher’s window and murdering the chorus of Rihanna’s Umbrella.
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 8, 2009
A lot of people are going to lose out financially if the Gaza tunnel business is closed down. Unlike the BBC, I have a friend on the other side of the Israel/Gaza border and he tells me that the whole economy of the region will suffer if Hamas can no longer collect $2,500 for building a tunnel, plus the “tax” extracted for the goods which pass through those tunnels on the way from Egypt to Gaza. The goods – they can be anything from rockets to nappies – are assessed by Hamas tax collectors on their way through the system, the going rate being more for cigarettes than, say, for fruit or vegetables (rockets, of course, are tax free). Then there is a fee due to those who own the land close to the Egyptian border who allow tunnels to be built under their properties . The highest payment is demanded for passing a human being through from one side to the other. I have not seen them and therefore cannot vouch for the claim that there could be – or could have been – as many as 600 tunnels running from the Egyptian side of the border to the Gazan exits. Certainly, some of the tunnels exposed by the IDF have been fitted with sophisticated electronic travelators (you know the moving belts you hop on to get to your departure gate at Heathrow). I am not a bit surprised by the assessment that the value of goods smuggled through the tunnels during the past two years have approximated $600 million a year. Who will compensate the Hamas “tax collectors” for their loss of revenue (not to mention their colleagues on the Egyptian side who have waved the contraband assignments on their way) ? Most delighted of all if the tunnels go will be the two or three Beduin families which used to have a monopoly on cross-border smuggling in the Egypt-Gaza area using the celebrated “ships of the desert”, known less poetically as camels.
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 7, 2009
None of those older Londoners who lived through Hitler's bombardment of the capital with pilot-less V1 and V2 rockets in the closing stages of the Second World War can have forgotten the terror sewn by those horrendous weapons lobbed indiscriminately against the civilian population. They will have had a sharp reminder of it lately with events in Israel. Wartime historians noted the huge drop in the morale of Londoners under this kind of bombardment compared with the unity of purpose displayed during the Blitz. Even though preparations were well advanced for the Allied invasion of Europe, Churchill ordered the RAF to hit the rocket sites and the Americans joined in, with many thousands of tons of far from accurate bombs being poured into northern France and never mind who got killed in the process. Tragically the victims also included hundreds of forced labourers brought from the concentration camps to build the launch sites. But despite the almost ceaseless bombardment, the rocketing was never stopped completely until Allied forces liberated those parts of France and Holland from which they were being launched. Australian science writer Karl S. Kruszelnick has commented that the lesson from the V-2 rocket attack was that a relatively small number of attacks by missiles could have major military, strategic and psychological effects on the country being attacked - even if the missiles were primitive, unreliable and inaccurate. The folks in Sderot know all about that.
- Melchett Mike
Jan 6, 2009
I generally don’t “do” awe (it entails reverence). But seeing Israel’s young men (many still in their teens) leaving their loved ones, these past few days, and going off to battle, has filled me with the damn thing.
As a result of my late Aliyah (immigration), my service in the IDF was both short and depressingly pointless – at one stage, I was spending entire weeks in a warehouse, counting nuts and bolts for tanks – and, to quote Woody Allen (yes, I know, again), “In the event of war, I’m a hostage.”
I just cannot begin to fathom how it must feel to enter Gaza – never mind in pitch-darkness (as IDF soldiers did on Saturday evening) – in the full knowledge that it is teeming with deadly enemies, operating in a labyrinth of underground tunnels (a captured IDF soldier is worth far more to Hamas than a dead one, and one was almost dragged into a tunnel yesterday).
- Melchett Mike
Jan 3, 2009
Harold Pinter's body may only just have stiffened, but an unsavoury tussle is already underway for his ignoble position, as The UK's Number One Self-Hating Jew. At a news conference in London, yesterday – calling for an end to Israel's right to defend itself – author and comedian Alexei Sayle staked his claim for the much coveted crown, branding Israel a "murderer", "rapist" and "bully".
Other participants in the conference, George "saluter of Saddam" Galloway and Ken "you are just like a concentration camp guard" Livingstone, might also have had good claims for the title . . . if only they had been Jewish (let's be thankful for small mercies). Ex-Eurythmics (now fading) star, Annie Lennox, meanwhile, can perhaps be excused for her anti-Israeli stance, having been married to one; while listening to Bianca Jagger's platitudes made it clear why it was so important for her to keep her ex-husband's name. What an odd gathering of rogues and lightweights!
In 1995, I saw Alexei Sayle in a stand-up performance in his home city of Liverpool. It was one of the funniest evenings of my life. I also enjoy his absurd, surreal writing. But when it comes to Israel, the 56-year old does all Jews, but especially those in the UK, a grave disservice.
- Melchett Mike
Dec 29, 2008
For many in Israel, Gideon Levy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gideon_Levy) is Public Enemy Number One. The journalist, and editorial board member, at the left-wing Haaretz newspaper never ceases to sicken and appall with his anti-"everything Zionist" writing.
His article, yesterday, "The neighborhood bully [perverting the title of a pro-Israel Dylan song] strikes again" (http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050459.html) - responding to the first day of Operation Cast Iron - was an excellent case in point.
I haven’t got the energy, or inclination, to dissect his unprofessionally one-sided and fallacious arguments (I won’t let melchett mike deteriorate into one of those tedious and dreary "mediawatch"-type blogs), but this man – of, at best, questionable, and, at worst, traitorous, motives – is a wonderful testament to the impressive democracy that has evolved in this country over a mere sixty years.
- Melchett Mike
Dec 28, 2008
Here we go again.
On returning home from my jog on Tel Aviv beach, this morning, I turned on Sky News, only to be greeted by the sound of sirens and a hysterical (understandably) Palestinian giving an eyewitness account of events in Gaza. Israel had responded, finally, to the months of provocation from Hamas and its proxies, to the daily barrage of rockets fired at its civilian population. Eighty hit on Wednesday alone.
The sadly predictable emphasis of Sky's reporting was on the "fact" that the airstrikes came as Gaza's children were leaving school (I would have liked school days finishing around 11 in the morning). I didn't see any such intensive "Breaking News" flashes on Sky (or other networks) covering the daily barrages on Sderot or Ashkelon, or emphasizing the fact that, for months, Israeli children in the worst-affected areas have hardly seen the light of day, being forced to remain in shelters and reinforced rooms. Sadly, we have become accustomed to such uneven coverage, and most of us expect little more.