This is a guest post by Pontipine
While eating my muesli yesterday and seeking refuge from the Daily Mail website, as it busily obsessed about the latest Health and Safety scandals and Britain’s “Bloodbath Budget”, I made a rare foray into the Comment is Free section of the Guardian website to be met by the headline “Why this obsession with Israel and the Palestinians?”.
At last. The Guardian had come to its senses and was about to redress the balance in its regular Israel-unfriendly biased reporting. It was going to focus on the 2,000 dead in Kyrgyzstan instead of a few knife-wielding Islamists on a boat. It was going to focus on the tens of thousands Kurds being killed on the Iraq-Turkey border. I thought that Richard Fowke was going to put the Israel-Palestinian conflict into perspective. Fowke talks about the way “we pick at the conflict like a giant scab”. Does he mean that it will clear up if we leave it alone? I started reading full of hope and expectation.
Sadly, the reality sets in when you read his first sentence
“I think of myself as an average sort of Englishman, a little to the left of centre politically but within the moderate middle ground. I like good beer and country walks. My tastes are boringly average.”
Immediately you know where you are heading. Is the average sort of Englishman left of centre and a lover of country walks? For Fowke’s average Englishman, read Guardianista. Fowkes continues
“Where does my disproportionate interest come from, considering that other conflicts around the world are equal or worse in their unpleasantness?”
I am looking forward to this one. How will Fowke, a writer of children’s books on science answer his question? It certainly wouldn’t be anti-Semitism, as Fowke explains that encouragingly he
“cannot honestly say that I am more hostile to Jews than I am towards Scotsmen and Welshmen”
I am reassured that I have equality with the Celts in the honest world of Richard Fowke. All it needs now is for Fowke to prove his honest credentials that he is not an anti-semite by uttering the classic “Some of my best friends are Jewish” at which point I will probably start crying into my cereal. Here goes. Fowke continues
“I have many Jewish friends, I went to school with boys from Jewish backgrounds and consequently I do not think of Jews as being foreign”
Nice to know I am not a foreigner in my own land. Fowke draws his hypothesis together by pointing out that as the State of Israel is a Jewish State and as some his friends are Jewish, therefore Israel is somehow less “emotionally foreign” than other countries. Israel is “an English country planted on the Mediterranean shores”. The usher at my wedding was from Bangladesh, yet I have never been remotely tempted to tell the Government in Dhaka what they should be doing.
After that, Fowke just resorts to bog standard anti Zionism / Semitism alluding to ‘Jewish’ bullying and controlling. Conservative Friends of Israel control 80% of Conservative MPs and so Israel is not only an “English Country” but it is controlling the UK Parliament. Israeli Politicians are “burglars and con-men” and Israel is a “product of remorseless expropriation of some (sic) else’s land”
Fowke’s conclusion that Israel is effectively English and therefore Israel must follow good old English standards. I wonder what these English standards would be if England was attacked daily by its neighbours in Scotland. What would the English reaction be to the IRA seizing control of Belfast?
Fowke may be genuine in his belief that Israel should attain higher moral standards than others but his article contains no shades of grey. He just dismisses Israel’s argument as lies and deception yet he doesn’t once mention Hamas.
Maybe Fowke is applying the English standard of putting people on a pedestal before knocking them down again a la Tim Henman. We English love the persistent loser as long as they don’t ever come close to winning. Once they start to succeed, we try and destroy them. Fowke does the same.
“I can remember a time back in the 1960s when I accepted a view of Israel as a plucky little state full of kibitzes (sic) busily taming the desert”
A strong Israel doesn’t suit the English psyche. It isn’t quintessentially English enough for Fowke.