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.
"I want to feel proud of Israel, I want to be proud of my people, but I am ashamed", Sayle duped reporters yesterday. Rather than touting his wares for "weddings and bar mitzvahs" (like less celebrated Jewish artists), Sayle – who has never been known to show even the slightest interest in Judaism or his Jewishness – hires, or rather sells, himself out as an "Israel basher".
In fact, the Jewishness of Sayle, Pinter and their ilk would appear to be defined purely by a pathological hatred of Israel, and a willingness to be used by the enemies of both Jews and Israel (very often one and the same). (For the distinction I draw between a self-hating Jew and a Jew-hater, see my earlier post on the Death of Harold Pinter.)
Sayle should know that he has sunk to the very lowest depths when even many Arab states, hardly lovers of Israel, have expressed their understanding of (if not support for) Israel's actions against Hamas.
The possible causes of such self-loathing are worthy of a dedicated post, but Sayle's parents were ardent Communists, beliefs that probably alienated them from, and perhaps turned them against, Liverpool's Jewish community. Alexei, too, joined the Communist Party. But where does a Jew in name alone get the arrogance, presumption and self-importance to state, as Sayle did yesterday, that "it's important that Jewish people who have a public profile . . . speak out to say that this is not being done in our name"?
Whether or not "Israel has an idea of itself as being noble" or "the good guy", as Sayle claims, the fact remains that it is (especially when compared to every single Islamic or Arab regime) – even in the midst of a hugely complicated and dangerous operation, Israel is permitting humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and warning civilians to evacuate targets of impending attacks. It is unimaginable that any Palestinian faction (never mind Hamas) would have done the same, if the roles had been reversed.
Sayle then embarked on a course in kindergarten psychology: "what you do is you blame the people that you've killed and you hear all the time from Israeli spokespeople that they are angry with the people they have murdered for making them murder them . . . it is the psychology of the murderer, it is the psychology of the rapist, it is the psychology of the bully. That's what Israel is in this situation."
A few questions, Mr. Sayle . . .
In the eight years since they began, have you even once spoken out against the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, and said that they had to stop? And what about the suicide bombings before them?
Why do you, especially as a Jew, appear to view Israeli blood as cheaper than Palestinian?
Have you ever once, as the left-wing intellectual that you appear to consider yourself, criticised, inter alia, the homophobic or sexist policies of Hamas, or those of other Islamic or Arab regimes?
And have you ever been to Israel, the country that you claim you "want to feel proud of"?
Should you have the integrity and courage to examine the self-loathing, Muslim-pandering bed that you have made for yourself, I invite you to visit Israel as my guest. I will take you down to Sderot and Ashkelon, to meet some of "[your] people", who have been living in a continual state of fear during eight years of Palestinian rocket attacks. I will also take you to meet some of the thousands of victims of Palestinian terror, and to some of the families of the thousands more who are no longer here to tell their stories.
It would certainly make for an interesting BBC documentary.
Perhaps, then, Mr. Sayle, you would no longer be "ashamed". On second thoughts, you probably still would . . . but only because you have been such a fool.