It was a match made in ‘progressive’ heaven: the Guardian’s gushing Harriet Sherwood covering a visit to the politically correct parts of the disputed territories by renowned one-stater and occasional Jew Miriam Margolyes.
Why ‘occasional’? Well, it’s just that those of the Margolyes ilk never seem to remember their roots when the rockets are raining down on Sderot or Nahariya, when the buses are exploding in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or when pregnant Israeli women are shot in drive by shootings. Strangely, they’re nowhere to be seen then. No letters to the Guardian. No marches with video links through London’s streets. No outrage, no indignation, no ‘Jewish heart’ or ‘Jewish conscience’ working overtime then.
That, of course, doesn’t prevent them from waxing lyrical about ‘human rights’ at every available photo-op, or complaining about being ‘victimised’ for their views.
“It’s very hard to talk about Palestine to Jewish people – they see me as a betrayer.”
Obviously, Margolyes needs some assistance in understanding why that is. I suppose we could begin with her well documented advocacy of the one-state ‘solution’: a concept which, as Margolyes herself admits, would put an end to Jewish self-determination. Some of us see that as an anti-Semitic desire to deny Jews the same rights as afforded to any other nation: a step backwards into a past laden with brutal collective memories of pogroms, ethnic cleansing from Arab lands, Holocaust and survival as second-class citizens. Some of us also see it as an opening for even worse violence in the Middle East than already takes place here. Yes, to advocate such a step is a betrayal of a people who have only had their own safe refuge for less than Miriam Margolyes’ lifetime.
Then, of course, there are the various groups with which Margolyes chooses to associate and lends her name. There’s Independent Jewish Voices which has no qualms about supporting the odious Goldstone Report. There’s Actionaid – with whom she is currently touring – a member of the DEC coalition and a charity which calls for the immediate lifting of the blockade on Gaza without any recognition or appreciation of why it is there in the first place, without any mention of Hamas terror attacks against Israeli civilians and apparently without any concern for the welfare of those who would be on the receiving end of missiles and mortars transported into Gaza should the blockade be lifted under the current circumstances.
There’s the fact that Margolyes was prepared to ply her trade in Australia playing in the disgustingly anti-Semitic polemic ‘Seven Jewish Children’ by Caryl Churchill as a fundraiser for ‘Australians for Palestine’. Yes, some of us do see the promotion of such a production which resurrects and promotes the old anti-Semitic trope of the blood libel as something of a betrayal. Whilst we’re on the subject of ‘culture’, there’s also Margolyes’ recent signing of the letter of support for a cultural boycott of the Ariel theatre which is surely a betrayal of the rights of the tax-paying residents of Ariel to enjoy state-subsidised theatre just as much as the next person. Incidentally, one cannot but wonder how Margolyes’ conscience squares the circle of building a home of her own in Australia: how does she feel about ‘stolen land’ in that context?
Last but not least, there’s Margolyes’ decision to become a figurehead for the ‘Enough! coalition’ in 2007, which involved chairing the parliamentary launch and making a video speech.
That video speech was one of several speeches at the rally in London in 2007 at which Margolyes apparently had no problem about sharing a stage with Hamas operative Azam Tamimi, Hamas funder George Galloway, disgraced peer Jenny Tonge, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Ismael Patel of ‘Friends of Al Aqsa’ and many other supporters of a proscribed terrorist organization. The ‘Enough! coalition’ includes such organizations as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – well known harasser of shopkeepers, the blockade-running ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’, the charity ‘War on Want’ which promotes anti-Semite Ben White, ‘Pax Christi’ with its leader Bruce Kent and the Muslim Brotherhood hugging ‘Muslim Council of Britain’.
At that rally, clear anti-Semitic messages were put across, along with downright lies and incitement to anti-Israeli violence.
Ismail Haniyeh, Palestinian Prime Minister
“The Zionist leadership sought through wars to conclude the conflict by completing the occupation of Palestine under process of ethnic cleansing which they started in 1948. All this took place while the world paid no attention to the apartheid regime with its systematic destruction of Palestinian lives.”
Bruce Kent, Pax Christi
“The people who I have no time for are the Zionists. They read the bible in an absolute bizarre way. God has no favourites!”
Moshe Machover, Israeli socialist dissident, Professor at Kings College London (Philosophy)
“The occupation can only end when pressure is applied from outside. Who is going to apply this pressure? The United States is not going to apply the pressure because Israel is its rotwiller (sic), Israel is its local enforcement – a junior partner in the Middle-East, it is a special relationship – Israel is the US rotwiller (sic). The British government is not going to stop it because the British government is the poodle of the United States”
George Galloway, Respect Party MP
“First we must demand unequivocally the release of the hero prisoner Marwan Barghouti, and all of the Palestinian political prisoners. They are not terrorists; we do not equate the violence of the occupier and the aggressor with the violence of the resister to Israeli occupation and violence.”
Were you OK with that Miriam? Was that blatant display of racism and bigotry excusable in your eyes as being ‘for the sake of the cause’? Can you not see what a betrayal of anti-racist principles and common human decency that is?
In truth, and contrary to Margolyes’ assertions, it is not in the least bit difficult ‘to talk about Palestine to Jewish people’. The majority of us do it all the time, but we do so in a manner which aims to find a fair and viable solution to the problems for both sides; not in a fashion which has exclusive starry-eyed concern for the miseries of one people and condemns the other as intrinsically unjust – due, merely, to its existence – and advocates for a return to the homelessness which was the catalyst for the historic oppression they’ve suffered. A ‘Jewish (or any other) heart’ which can only see one side of the conflict and is quite at ease with the idea of revoking the statehood of one nation as a solution to the non-statehood of another is not motivated by conscience or concern for human rights.
The EUMC working definition states that one manifestation of anti-Semitism is “[d]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”. How does the Guardian get away with promoting racism in the mainstream media by providing a platform for those like Margolyes who wish to revoke that right?