Is Kevin Myers Antisemitic?

The furore over Kevin Myers’ article in the Irish edition of the ‘Sunday Times’ on 30 July 2017 (Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned) has split the UK Jewish community in half.

Because so many people found it objectionable the Sunday Times has withdrawn it from their website. It achieved the twin goals of being insulting to both women and Jews: but from a Jewish perspective this was the salient passage:

“I note that two of the best paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.”

Lest there be any doubt that Myers likes to sail as close to the wind as possible in his remarks about Jews, he wrote a deliberately provocative clever-silly piece about the Holocaust for the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ on 6 March 2009. This too has been pulled, but fortunately captured by another website:

http://archive.is/2017.07.30-135449/http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/there-was-no-holocaust-kevin-myers-28473646.html

The salient extracts:

“There was no holocaust…six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich…For efficient though the Nazis were, they were not so clinically precise as to kill six million Jews — not a Jew more, or not a Jew less…Moreover, there certainly was no holocaust. For if the word is to have any literal validity at all, it must be related to its actual meaning, which comes from the Greek words holos, ‘whole’, and caust, ‘fire’…Any one of us should be able to declare any old counter-factual and even offensive nonsense, without being sent to jail, provided we preach hatred for no one…[but] imams regularly preach hatred for Jews, and where the holocaust is routinely denied. Which member-state of the EU will pursue such conveyors of hate, or seek the extradition of an imam who says that the holocaust was a Zionist hoax? None of them…If Bishop [Richard] Williamson has an agenda, it is so bonkers as to rank alongside that of The Lunar Cheese Society.”

Vanessa Feltz has said on BBC Radio London that the Sunday Times article was “so obviously racist it’s surprisingly hurtful”. The Sunday Times responded by sacking Kevin Myers, who made a fashionably half-arsed apology: “I am issuing an apology for no other reason than contrition of the hurt I have caused them.” Jaw-droppingly, he continued: “I didn’t know Jews were living human beings. I thought they belonged to the Bible.”

One might have thought that this would be the end of it. But surprisingly, a number of Jews – three of whom, including a dear family member, I know to be among the bravest and staunchest supporters of Israel in Britain today, constantly putting themselves in real physical danger to counter antisemitic lies – have spoken out in defence of Myers. Here is what a past President of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland had to say:

“It is an awful pity that you all had to jump in without first consulting the Irish-Jewish community. The Jewish Representative of Council of Ireland are well able to look after our own local affairs without the interference of the so-called “do-gooders” from the UK and elsewhere….I know Kevin Myers, and I, among others, have personally offered him support. He is suffering from what he wrote. He has never been anything other than supportive to Judaism and Israel…” Another senior figure: “Try being a leader of a small community in a hostile environment.” “In the Irish media there were only about six writers sympathetic to Jews and Israel. Now there are only five.”

We have been here before. The ten thousand or so Jews of Iran have one seat in the Majlis reserved for their representative. Siamak Morsadegh has held that seat since 2008, and last year said in an interview with ‘The Independent’:  “The fact is, Iran is a place where Jews feel secure and we are happy to be here…no one forces the Jews to stay here…the actions of Netanyahu and his government, the way they behave towards the Palestinians, cause problems for Jews everywhere.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/irans-jews-on-life-inside-israels-enemy-state-we-feel-secure-and-happy-a6934931.html

Are you really saying that Ireland is as anti-Zionist – even as antisemitic – as Iran? If so, isn’t it about time you got the hell out and made aliya while you still can?

So how are we to judge Kevin Myers – for judge him we must? As so often, to my mind the most useful parallel is with the Black community. People make the mistake of thinking that being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion. It is not. It is most particularly nothing like being Muslim. Are there atheist Muslims? There are not. Atheist ex-Muslims, many under sentence of death – yes indeed. But rid our synagogues of the atheist Jews and you’d never get a minyan. Being Jewish is something you’re stuck with, no matter what you believe in. Like your skin colour.

When I was a child one of the most popular TV programmes was ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’. Fifty years ago, it was quite normal – though already a bit dated – for white people to black up. Fifty years before that, they were unashamedly called ‘Nigger Minstrels’ and at the heart of popular culture. Now if you asked any of the people who blacked up whether they were bigots, they would have been horrified. They would have said that they liked black people, they loved their culture, and they admired their musical and athletic talents. Are you getting echoes of anything here, Kevin Myers?

Before WWII, before the establishment of the State of Israel, there was a sound argument to be made for Jews not to make a fuss about gentiles who pointed out the supposed Jewish qualities of being good with money, musical and endowed with a native shrewdness. At least, so the argument went, they weren’t accusing us of murdering Jesus and baking matzohs with Christian children’s blood, and anyway those comments were a small price to pay for them not siding with Hitler. In Romain Gary’s ‘The Oldest Story Ever Told’  (1965) a Jew helps and conceals the Nazi who tortured him in the camps, because “He’s promised to treat me better the next time!”

It is long past time for Jews to stop being careful and precious about charges of antisemitism. That should have ended in 1945. We are no longer trembling Israelites. On the contrary, it is the Kevin Myers of this world who should be nervous about singling out Jews for special attention. The gentile world – and Europe in particular – has over two millennia of arrears of apologies due to the Jewish people. We Jews, of all people, have a right – even, I would argue, a duty to our children – to stand tall and proud and apologise to no-one. Arrogant? Try saying that to a brigade of the IDF.

Two Meditations

(1) We are all lunatics. One primary function of society, like a well-run asylum, should be to stop the dangerous lunatics from hurting the harmless ones. Unfortunately, human nature is such that the reverse usually applies: the dangerous lunatics are running the joint, and most of the harmless ones seem enthusiastically to support their tyranny.

 
(2) Planet Earth can be likened to a jug of custard with a thick skin on top, but suspended in space so the custard forms a sphere with the skin entirely surrounding it. This skin is in fact in several sheets, like ice floes, butting up against each other and constantly in motion. That skin is what we think of as the world. It is dotted with myriad pinpricks through which the custard wells up: we call these volcanoes. Every 10 million years or so we have a basalt flood, where the skin tears open and molten rock floods a sizeable portion of the world, rendering many species extinct. All the anthropogenic climate change that mankind has every caused or is ever likely to cause is trivial in comparison.

Farewell, Sylvester

We lost Sylvester today. Sylvester is a semi-feral tom cat who first appeared about 3 years ago. Initially he would just dart in through the cat-flap late at night and scarf down the food we’d left for Tigger and other visitors. You couldn’t touch him, but he seemed to like me sitting about six feet away and singing quietly to him. After two years or so of this I thought I’d try to tame him. I started getting closer to him and about six months ago stroked him for the first time. He liked it. After a few weeks of tentative handling he started to follow me & butt his head against my hand. One day I heard a rusty rumble: Sylvester, after perhaps a decade in the wild, had remembered from his kittenhood how to purr.

But all was not well. Toms get into fights: and about two years ago he lost an ear. After he had become tame – and he was a very affectionate cat, spending a long time each day stretched out with his face pushed into the palm of my hand or rolling over to have his tummy rubbed – Mum & I took turns trying to clean up the remains of his torn-off ear with warm salt water. But it just kept being re-infected. Unlike most cats he couldn’t jump up anywhere – I thought perhaps one back leg, held awkwardly, had broken and healed years ago. Then, a few weeks ago, a swelling started to appear beside the remains of the ear, and his back legs became very doddery. A visit to the vet was called for.

The news was very grim. Sylvester had diabetes. That would have needed two injections a day and an enforced restricted diet – very difficult when Smudge, our little ginger, is so fussy and needs to be coaxed with food. But for better or worse the decision was taken away from us when further investigation revealed a massively swollen kidney and at least one tumour.

Two days at the vet’s without me had turned Sylvester feral again: they said they could barely handle him. This morning I went down there and had a consultation with the vet. He took me into the kennels to see Sylvester. When the cage door was opened he hissed, cringed and spat, but within three minutes some Dreamies, some crooning and a few gentle strokes had reminded him of who I was, and once again he butted up to my hand and purred like a firehouse. I was crying and telling him how good and brave he was.

Andy the vet was very calm and sympathetic as I picked Sylvester up and cradled him in my arms. Sylvester is a big, muscular tom: the sedative took several minutes to take effect, but finally he lay still. Then came the second, lethal injection.

I am glad I had the courage to be with my Sylvester every moment of his final journey. No months of agony in a body resistant to all painkillers; no weeks of agony as nutrition is withdrawn; no days of agony while hydration is withdrawn. I hope to God someone does the same for me when my time comes.

Sylvester 1Sylvester 2Sylvester 3Sylvester 4

‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ by Amos Oz

I have just finished reading ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ by Amos Oz (a bit late in the day, I know – the English translation came out in 2004). What a read! Ostensibly it is the autobiography of the author’s first sixteen years, but it is so much more than that. It chronicles the history of his family from his grandparents’ childhood in the 1880s, and at times flashes forwards to 2001 when the author was writing. Through his family’s eyes, Oz describes the entire Zionist project from Herzl to Netanyahu – a true roman fleuve.

I must admit I embarked on this book out of a sense of duty, thinking that for somebody interested in Jewish thought and Israeli politics it was a worthy-but-dull must-read. But within a couple of chapters I was as lost in the book as the young Amos Klausner (he changed his surname to Oz after going to the kibbutz) was in the books of his childhood. Great credit must go to Prof. Nicholas de Lange’s limpid and fluid translation.

I have often asked myself why so many Israelis, particularly in Jerusalem, when presented with the glorious sunshine, freedom and physical and mental health of Eretz Yisrael, dafka insist on retaining the neurotic, fearful, shrivelled lifestyle of Eastern Europe. My late father used to say: “It was terrible there, and you should thank God your grandfather got out!”. Amos Oz’s family did not thank God they got out. They brought their Eastern European culture with them to Jerusalem, the intellectual pyrotechnics and crippling fears intertwined, and wrapped it around them like a Dementor comfort blanket, branding all those it touched.

But the book makes you sympathise with these people and understand how and why they were this way. Not just (just!) the Shoah, which casts its shadow over every Jew and will continue to do so for who knows how long, but before that, centuries of persecution, of having our feebleness, compared to the majority population, so embedded in our psyche that we believed it ourselves.

The sabras shook this off, and did it so effectively that they forgot how to empathise with their neurotic mishpoche – thus compounding their neurosis.

This book is so compelling that it even dares – to those that have ears to hear – to propose an answer to the question that most of us dare not ask: Why did we go like sheep to the slaughter between 1941 and 1944?

David Cameron is Inspired by My Speech (Allegedly)

On Sunday 18th October I asked a written question of the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He gave a written response, to which I replied from the floor in clarification:

My Question: How would it damage British Jewry to concentrate exclusively on working with Muslim groups and individuals who are not anti-Zionist – maybe Ahmadiyya, Sufis and Ismailis, – together with (say) DCLG, Eric Pickles and Quilliam, to encourage a peaceful, integrated, British kind of Islam to empower neutral, tolerant Muslims?

Answer from the President: The Board has a policy of co-operating with a variety of Muslim groups both to foster good relations between the communities and to work on issues of mutual interest – for example shechitah and brit milah. While we may not agree on all matters, it is far better to engage the Muslim communities rather than refuse to talk to anyone who does not agree with all of our views on Israel.

My response from the floor: Mr President, when I said we should work exclusively with Muslim groups and individuals who are not anti-Zionist, I wasn’t suggesting we reject approaches from such groups.
No, what I meant was that we shouldn’t be forever running after self-styled Muslim ‘community leaders’ in the name of inter-faith.
A century ago Colonel Albert Goldsmid, founder of our wonderful Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade, enjoined our immigrant forefathers to “iron out the ghetto bend”. No more should we be ‘trembling Israelites’.
We should have the confidence to know that, as fully integrated, contributing citizens of this country, our Brit Milah is first class surgery and our Shechita minimizes animal suffering. We can help our Muslim fellow-citizens improve their practices if they ask us: but under no circumstances should we ‘check the privilege’ so hard-won by our forebears.
There are nearly 3 million Muslims in Britain: don’t tell me that there aren’t a few tens, even hundreds of thousands who are happy to live & let live, and are only stopped from expressing themselves by fear of opposition or worse from the majority leaders.
I see no reason we can’t unapologetically cultivate those minority groups and voices within the ummah that are neutral or tolerant towards Israel.

I think David Cameron must have heard me. This piece by him appeared in ‘The Times’ the following day:

Times Articles Inspired by My BoD Speech (2)

If there is any doubt, here is the text of an e-mail I wrote to a number of my right-thinking fellow Deputies on 4th October, which I later condensed into my question:

Dear Friends,

I thought I’d just fly a kite in the run-up to the next BoD meeting.

Have any of you, like me, been frustrated and irritated by our communal leadership’s predilection for endlessly running after Muslim ‘community leaders’ in this country in the name of inter-faith?

It seems that the more they condemn Israel and become entrenched in their opposition to it as a Jewish state, the more our leaders tie themselves in knots and bend over backwards to try to appease them.

They emphasise our shared commitment to ritual male circumcision and religious slaughter, as if that somehow outweighs the standard Muslim narrative of ‘Death to Israel’.

How about a different approach?

Instead of making up to the MCB and the self-styled mainstream majority spokesmen for British Muslims, why don’t we cultivate those minority groups and voices within the ummah that are neutral or tolerant towards Israel?

There are nearly 3 million Muslims in Britain: don’t tell me that there aren’t a few tens, even hundreds of thousands who are happy to live & let live, and are only stopped from expressing themselves by fear of opposition or worse from the majority leaders.

How difficult would it be for us to work with (say) DCLG, Eric Pickles and the Quilliam Foundation to empower these neutral voices at the expense of the Islamists?

I’m thinking in terms of Ahmadiyya, Sufis and Ismailis; many of you will know others.

Or am I on to a total loser here?

Beaten Slave Time Ends!

Don’t forget, at 02:00 on Sunday 25th October, Beaten Slave Time ends and God’s Mellow Time begins. BST was invented in 1907 by an evil slave-driver called William Willett. He always awoke at dawn, feeling bright and full of beans, as do all vile swine, and straight away started hatching plots to further oppress his wretched wage-slaves, bitterly regretting that serfdom had been abolished. One morning he was riding out at dawn – no servile labour for him! – and became enraged at seeing the shuttered windows behind which his employees were sleeping, possibly having enjoyed social activities or even – horror! – sexual intercourse with their spouse the night before. How dare they sleep when there was enough light in the sky for them to start making him more money!
So he published a pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight”, pushing for the clocks to be put back in the summer.
Fortunately his father the Devil haled him off to a suitably early grave in 1915 at the age of 58, so he was deprived of seeing his perverted scheme being written into English law the following year. Let us hope he is roasting for all eternity, having his foreskin constantly punched by a red-hot time clock!

Must Read

I’ve just finished reading ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’ by Jared Diamond. There are some books – and here I’m talking only about non-fiction – that, after you’ve read them, you see life from a completely fresh perspective. Nothing seems quite the same again: the book has raised you to the next level. This is one such book.
In the same category I would put:

‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ by Karl Popper
‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ by Richard Dawkins
‘The Holocaust’ by Martin Gilbert
‘The Whisperers’ by Orlando Figes
‘The Human Touch’ by Michael Frayn
‘Playpower’ by Richard Neville

What are your non-fiction choices?