27 March '11
There she was, right on time, a hour before noon, when the supermarket was beginning to get busy for the day. From across the car park I recognised her instantly, a small elderly figure with grey pudding-basin hair. Rain or shine, she and a coven of offsiders (one of similar vintage) meet weekly in a local campus canteen, where they sit with coffee cups abutting a great wad of Palestine Solidarity Campaign and BDS literature (destined for saturating the tables when the place fills up with students), and confer in low conspiratorial tones.
Presumably they get together like that to plan their next anti-Israel initiative - a concert or three, Rod Cox's exhibition of propaganda from Gaza (at which, thanks to a series of tough questions that the wily bloke refused to answer, I was revealed as a supporter of the Zionist Entity and treated accordingly), a mock-up apartheid wall obstructing pedestrians, imitation IDF checkpoints in the town centre entailing the harassment of passers-by, twinning the town with Gaza ... these have all been tried.
This weekend (and all next week) it's back to the more routine business of trying to cajole shoppers into boycotting Israeli goods (not just "settlement goods"), and a press release to that effect was duly printed in the local paper, which happily gives this Israel-loathing coven publicity but rarely if ever has deigned to print letters in support of Israel.
Anyway, there she was, zippily starting off the Boycott Week, darting back and forth for all her 65-and-then-some years with the agility and appearance of a little grey bird, her eyes bright with misplaced zeal as she buttonholed shoppers (including me), thrust leaflets comparing Israel to "apartheid South Africa" into their hands, and demanded that they refrain from purchasing the potatoes and peppers from Israel.
I seldom shop in that particular supermarket (its prices are higher than its rivals in town) but as a result of her alerting me to the Zionist produce inside, in I strode, and out I soon came, to show her proudly my generous helping of Israeli red peppers (and sweet and delicious they've proved, too, even if they are nearly double the price of their admittedly shorter and thinner Spanish equivalents in the El Cheapo store).
Seeing her energised, almost youthful, with the lust of Israel-bashing made me snap. "This is my response to antisemites!" I told her as I passed, jabbing long peppers suggestively upwards into the air.
An innocent expression pervaded her worn features. "How can I be an antisemite? The Palestinians are semites" she responded sweetly in an obviously well-used answer. (Yeah, whatever.)
Some such women are naive pacifists. Yet like the local "Peace Network", led by an octogenarian who wears a funny floppy hat with a CND badge affixed to it, they obsess about one world troublespot to the exclusion of all others, and in their repeated calls for Israel to end the siege on Gaza they forget that Israel withdrew from Gaza only to be rewarded with rocketfire from the barbarians of Hamas.
Some, I have no doubt, are cloaking an innate antisemitism in the "respectable" mantle of anti-Zionism.
Some of them, like the "Raging Grannies" in Massachusetts or our local "peace choir" (whose repertoire consists almost entirely of songs and carols denouncing Israel) make fools of themselves, demonstrating in public with literal song and dance.
Others betray an ignorance of the history of "Palestine" that is staggering, and of course entirely to the detriment of the Jews.
As Professor Barry Rubin has warned regarding Helen Thomas, about whom I've posted twice in recent days, ridicule cannot deny the fact that their views are working their poison.
'It's amazing how bad the public discussion of issues is nowadays. Here's a tiny example. Helen Thomas was fired for her anti-Jewish statements and was recently interviewed in Playboy where she made more such remarks that are--correctly--being interpreted as antisemitic.
But why does Thomas hate Israel so much, a hatred that spills over into antisemitism? I haven't seen a single person who's gotten it right. She's no neo-Nazi or nut case. Thomas is of Lebanese descent, albeit Christian, and basically views herself on this issue at least as an Arab. The important factor is not her eccentricity but her typicality.
What Thomas is doing, then, and has done for many years, is to express ideas common in the Arabic-speaking world which are becoming increasingly common in the West. That's why she's significant and that's where she's coming from. Her blend of anti-Zionism and antisemitism--using traditional anti-Jewish themes, sometimes applied to Israel and at times to all Jews--is just like what exists in a high percentage of households in the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority worlds.
We're not talking about a funny old lady but about a worldview held by millions of people in a lot of countries, by revolutionary Islamists and terrorists, and by a growing number of people on Western college campuses and in elite circles. This is not some joke but rather a "craziness" that kills and shapes the fate of whole nations and continents.' http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2011/03/two-helen-thomas-farces-what-she-says.html
The pity of it is that this poison, helped, needless to say, by the prejudices of the mainstream media, which kindles the enmity towards Israel in some individuals and of course reinforces it in them and others, has spread even to Jewish youth. Blogger Edgar Davidson recently mentioned how it has infected the Orthodox school in London which his daughter attends (http://edgar1981.blogspot.com/2011/02/anti-israel-indoctrination-in-uk.html) and around the same time the Jewish Chronicle (25 February 2011) reported that many Jewish teenagers in Manchester had "begun to acknowledge arguments that questioned the moral validity of Israel's creation as a state".
It quoted a 17-year-old at Manchester Grammar School thus:
"I've always thought Israel has a right to exist. But it is hard when there is so much anti-Israel news and a lot of people I go to school with are quite strongly anti-Israel."
Said an 18-year-old at the city's Jewish day school, King David School:
"In my year there are quite a lot of us brought up in left-leaning families but they don't talk about their views because the school is completely Zionist."
This inculcation of anti-Israel prejudices among the young is the sobering reality which faces us today. And it's mainly because of what they've learned from their elders, who like many a "funny old lady" have been influenced by what the Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh characterised last year as ignorant international journalists:
“They don’t speak Arabic or Hebrew, they don’t know the history and they are often very biased. They don’t want to report the corruption and violence within Palestinian society because it doesn’t fit their narrative of good Palestinians and bad Israelis.” http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/journalist-says-only-truth-will-set-palestine-free/story-e6frg6z6-1225866997079
(He named no names, but I reckon that's as good a nutshell description of Al Beeb's Jeremy Bowen as any, any that are printable, that is, which we're likely to find!)
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