‘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!

Trains from the East

I’ve been looking at those trains passing through Hungary, carrying refugees from further east, and seeing the Hungarian police offer them food and water, which they throw on the ground in contempt. And I’m reminded of other trains travelling the same route, 72 years ago, also en route to a place that in those days was in Germany. Those passengers, when the train stopped at a station, offered gold and jewellery for the privilege of a mug of water. But this was denied them. They arrived in a Germany, all right, but there were no lines of happy faces carrying placards saying ‘Welcome’. Just soldiers, dogs and whips. And a chimney.