August 12, 2006
By Julie Burchill
A few weeks back it was my birthday, and my equally non-Jewish journalist friend Chas Newkey-Burden took his life in his hands and presented me with a cuddly toy. Now, normally I feel that people who bother with cuddly toys over the age of eight are either mad and/or prostitutes, but this little sweetie stole my heart. A honey-brown camel with a heart-melting smile and a jaunty cap, he proudly wore an Israeli Army uniform with a fetching hole cut out for his hump. “I’ve named him Bibi,” Chas told me, obviously in honor of our mutual crush.
Later that night Chas and I were watching a TV news report of the beginnings of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. To say we were amazed when a news presenter solemnly intoned that there had been “two militants wounded” with all the grieving gravitas of Richard Dimbleby reporting on the state funeral of the late Winston Churchill is to employ English understatement to an almost surreal degree. But it’s been that way ever since – and more than one night has seen me screaming at the TV/my husband “You don’t understand! None of you English bastards understands!” before running into the bedroom, slamming the door and collapsing in a tearful heap with only Bibi to comfort me.
One of the most grotesque examples of the almost brainwashed level of bias can be seen on the official BBC Religions Web site, where that “peace be upon him” eyewash is going on like crazy, while other religions are coolly commented on in a strictly “objective” way.
The conflict has sent this tendency into overdrive, with not just the usual Masochist Hacks For Mohammed such as Robert Fisk (beaten up by Islamists, says they were right to do it) and Yvonne Ridley (kidnapped by Islamists, then became one) getting their chadors in a twist about big swarthy men with tea-towels on their heads treating the West mean and keeping it – in their case at least – keen.
Even the women’s magazines have gotten in on the act, with lots of first-person eye-witness accounts of British citizens fleeing the Jewish jackboot. Then turn the page and you’ll often find a shocked article about honor-killing or forced marriage, Muslim-style. That Israel is fighting the frontline war, on behalf of the freedom and civilization of all of us, against the very real evils of shari’a law never seems to occur to these bleeding-heart ignoramuses.
Over at Channel 4, Jon Snow interviewed an Israeli diplomat with all the finesse and objectivity of a neo-Nazi spraying a six-foot swastika on a wall. Of the rockets which murdered Israeli civilians in the town of Sderot, he said “Rockets, pretty pathetic things – nobody gets injured.” This was gleefully picked up and proclaimed by The Guardian, the newspaper I left some years ago in protest at what I saw as its vile anti-Semitism.
All across the board, Lebanese civilians are referred to as “civilians” where Israeli civilians are referred to as “Israelis” – an eerie and sinister difference pointed out by the non-Jewish stand-up comic genius Natalie Haynes, and one which very few people appear to have noticed – even me, until then.
In fact the tone in papers as diverse as the “liberal” Guardian to the right-wing Daily Mail has been repulsively similar; look, look, the Israelis are as bad as the terrorists! Worse, in fact, because they’ve got America behind them! Even the normally sensible Matthew Parris in the normally sensible Times wrote: “The past 40 years have been a catastrophe, gradual and incremental, for world Jewry. Seldom in history have the name and reputation of a human grouping lost so vast a store of support and sympathy so fast.”
The catastrophe he refers to is the State of Israel itself; you’d really think, reading this, that the years leading up to the creation of the Jewish state were, in fact, a right royal romp in the park. Instead of the Holocaust.
A surprising number of British people – especially the super-creepy British Jews who recently signed a treacherous letter to the press distancing themselves from Israel’s actions – seem to think Israel should exist not as a real, imperfect country full of real, imperfect people led by real, imperfect leaders, but as some sort of collective kosher Mater Dolorosa, there to provide a selfless, suffering example to the rest of us.
Fight back, and the outside world reacts with the revulsion of a man seeing his sainted grandmother drunk and offering sailors outside. Even (especially?) anti-Semites and enemies of Israel are shameless in recycling the legends of “brave little Israel” – I’m thinking of David and Goliath here – and basically believe that each IDF member should go into battle against the assembled hordes of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah armed with nothing but a slingshot apiece. Failing that, this tiny country must embark on a suicidal act of self-sacrifice in the face of murderous, genocidal hatred, as Matthew Parris astoundingly suggests:
“The settlement has to be a return to its pre-1967 boundaries. Precisely because Israel is by no means forced to make so generous a move, the international support (even love) this would generate would secure its future permanently. It would bring it back within the pale.”
Personally, I’d far prefer the Jews to be angry, aggressive and alive than meek, mild and dead – and that’s what makes me and a minority like me feel so much like strangers in our own country, now more than ever. I’ve always loved being a hack, but now even that feels weird, as though I’m living among a bunch of snatched-body zombies who look like journalists but believe and say the most inhuman, evil things.
When Mel Gibson was picked up for drunk-driving recently, he was reported to have screamed at the police officer, whom he believed to be Jewish, “Fucking Jews! The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” His subsequent excuse was that he has “battled the disease of alcoholism for all my adult life.” The British media are notorious for our love of the hard stuff; is that going to be our excuse too, I wonder, when large numbers of us are finally bang to rights for peddling the same loathsome lie?