War Horse writer (& CiF contributor) Michael Morpurgo: Israel shoots Palestinian children ‘like a video game’

This is cross posted by Richard Millett

War Horse writer Michael Morpurgo:

The film of War Horse, adapted from the novel by Michael Morpurgo (Contributor to ‘Comment is Free’), has just been released in the UK.  

But as well as horses being killed on screen there is something else for filmgoers to cry into their popcorn over. Morpurgo is happy to repeat vicious lies about Israel without seeming to bother checking facts.

Last February Morpurgo was given the honour of reciting the Richard Dimbleby lecture, which has been delivered by an influential figure every year since 1972, and he chose to speak on the lack of childrens’ rights around the world. He pointed out that 8 million children a year die before the age of 5. As he said, “that’s a holocaust of children every year”. He also mentioned that “69 million children never go to school” and that “3.5 million children in our own country are still mired in poverty”.

Most of those 8 million children die from AIDS, war, malaria, malnutrition and other diseases in Africa. But Morpurgo failed to say anything about that instead choosing to spend a large portion of this high profile speech on the darlings of the left, the Palestinians, and invoking the modern day version of the anti-Semitic blood libel. He relied on statements of those with an anti-Israel agenda.

He said he went to Jordan 10 years ago and met Jordanian children “about eighty per cent of whom are Palestinian refugees”. They are not refugees by any normal definition, but are simply born and bred Jordanians.

He mentioned a teenage girl who said:

“I want to tell you something real and true. My family lives here in Jordan, but I do not belong here. I belong in Palestine. It is my home but I can’t live there because it is occupied.”

Obviously, her “Palestine” means Israel and this was a call for the destruction of the Jewish state with its hidden aspiration for all Palestinians to head for Israel and turn it into another Arab state.

Morpurgo soon mentioned Gaza and repeated Israel-hating Amnesty International’s figure that 300 children were killed during Operation Cast Lead. But Amnesty and the United Nations class a child as being “under 18″. So a 17-year-old Hamas fighter pointing a gun at an Israeli soldier being shot dead in self-defence is classed as “a child”.

Morpurgo also gave the impression that from the moment he entered Gaza to the moment he exited it two days later that the Israelis were hell-bent on killing Palestinian children.

No sooner did he enter Gaza when:

“Halfway down I heard the sound of a shot being fired – it sounded to a country boy like me as if someone was shooting rabbits. All around young Palestinian boys were racing around on their donkeys and carts whooping and shrieking. I had no idea what they were doing at the time. I was in another world. I didn’t know who was doing the shooting. In this other world I went the next day to visit a hospital for malnourished babies and then on to a project for blind children.”

On his way out of Gaza he described how “earlier that morning, before I got there it seems, some of the scavengers had ventured too close to the wall and had been fired at and wounded”, and while he was waiting to leave:

“It was then I heard shots, then screaming, saw the kids running to help their wounded friends. Now I really was outside the comfort zone of fiction. A doctor from Medicins sans Frontieres, waiting there with me, told me that the shots were probably not fired by marksmen from the watchtowers on the wall, but that these scavengers were sometimes targeted, remotely, electronically from Tel Aviv, which was miles away – ‘Spot and Strike,’ they call it. Like a video game – a virtual shooting. I don’t know if these claims are true but I do know the shots were real, there was blood, the boy’s trousers were soaked in it, the bullets were real. I saw him close to, saw his agony as the cart rushed by me.”

So there you have it, the modern day reincarnation of the anti-Semitic blood libel. In the old days this involved the accusation that Jews abducted and slaughtered non-Jewish children and used their blood in religious rituals. Nowadays it is Israelis, or Jewish Israelis to be more precise, who, allegedly, just kill them “like a video game”.

Morpurgo admitted that he didn’t know if the claims by a doctor from Medicins sans Frontieres that the shots came remotely from Tel Aviv were true, but he made them anyway. For Morpurgo it doesn’t matter because it sounds like a wonderfully sad story, which he is in the business of telling.

Morpurgo did make a weak attempt at partiality with the following:

“I know Hamas rockets had been landing in Israel for a very long time and that Israeli children have been dying there too. And I know it is absolutely the right of every nation to defend itself.So most certainly the Israelis have had their reasons. But I’m sure that most of them believe as we all do that a child’s life in particular is precious, any child’s life. Yet Palestinian children died. Collateral damage, some might call it.”

He mentioned his visit to a village where “Arab and Jewish children play together and learn together”, but this mention of “Jewish children” should raise alarm bells. Why were the Israeli children described by him in terms of their religion and not their nationality, unlike the Arab children?

But if Morpurgo was really concerned about the rights of Palestinian children he would have highlighted the child abuse prevalent in Palestinian society where children are used as human shields by Hamas, where Hamas destroys childrens’ summer camps in Gaza and where television programmes are regularly aired by the Palestinian Authority on which children claim a desire to grow up to become martyrs.

Instead he chose to believe the propaganda of those who have their own financial interests in spreading lies about Israel and his words should have been prefaced with the following announcement:

“No facts were checked in the making of this speech”.

What a waste of an important speech last February. Instead of bravely speaking up for Palestinian children like he could have, Michael Morpurgo probably only succeeded in adding a little more hatred of Jews into the world.

21 replies »

    • Can the nine (!) people thumbing down my post explain where they disagree?
      Are you all Morpurgo fans taking issue?

    • That system operates on the border where there was a war going on. Perhaps you could explain what they were doing there?

      • Erm … pehaps you have me confused with someone else. I was merely asking for confirmation.

        That system operates on the border

        Yes – exactly what I was suggesting!

        Would any of the 11 (!) people taking issue with my post care to explain why they did so?

  1. The film of War Horse, adapted from the novel by Michael Morpurgo (Contributor to ‘Comment is Free’), has just been released in the UK.

    I was going to go watch this film.

    Now I’m not.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  2. So thousands of missiles shot into Israel willy-nilly as forms of resistance– that landed in open fields when they weren’t landing ontop of homes of blowing away school yards and yellows buses– aren’t part of a game? Pro-Palestinian = anti-Israel, as well as anti-intellecutalism, pro-hypocrisy, pro-racism, anti-co-existence with the Jewish menace….. It’s so simple to decipher the Middle East when your mind is already made up, but I won’t ever call Michael Morpurgo an anti-Semite. That’s just hitting below the belt.

  3. I think Richard Millett has been less than fair to Morpurgo. Yes, the passages quoted above irritate pro-Israel sensibilities but reading the entire lecture, one is taken by Morpurgo’s evident concern for all children and by his hopes for a fulfilment of the story he wrote about an Arab boy sending kites with messages of peace written on them that are picked up by an Israeli girl in a wheelchair.

    As he himself puts it “Sentimental clap-trap, I hear you thinking. Maybe, or rather a hope that a new generation will one day rise above the prejudice and suspicion, hurt and hatred – as has happened in Europe, in South Africa, in Ireland, and now only days ago in Egypt. Each a process of reconciliation that’s still ongoing, of course. It is the children of today, yesterday and tomorrow who will do this also in Israel and Palestine, given half a chance.”

    He may be naive, he may have little or no knowledge of and only the most superficial understanding of the Israel- Palestinian conflict, but he is not the enemy and his lecture does not warrant Millett’s attack on it.

  4. Perhaps the author can explain their accusation of “invoking the modern day version of the anti-Semitic blood libel”.

  5. It is his notion that Israelis just willy nilly shoot children without cause. They used to say a similar thing in the old days about Jews killing chilren didn’t they? If it is true give us evidence otherwise it is similar to a blood libel in my humble opinion.

    • It is his notion that Israelis just willy nilly shoot children without cause.

      Where does he say such a thing?

      From the article:

      Nowadays it is Israelis, or Jewish Israelis to be more precise, who, allegedly, just kill them “like a video game”.

      You have taken those last four words completely out of context!

      And do you complain when American or British troops really are accused of approaching combat “like in a video game”? What’s that, then? Some other form of libel?

      You are cheapening the legacy of the original blood libel against Jews.

      • But his thesis is that Israelis seem hell-bent on killing children, no? If there is no proof then that is a libel, no? And it evokes the traditional blood libel of Jews killing children, no?

        • But his thesis is that Israelis seem hell-bent on killing children, no?

          Erm … no. Where does he say that??

        • Perhaps some of the 18 (!!) people claiming that Morpurgo says “Israelis seem hell-bent on killing children” would care to back that up?

          There is no proof, Richard – therefore cut the crap about “libel”.

          • “So most certainly the Israelis have had their reasons. But I’m sure that most of them believe as we all do that a child’s life in particular is precious, any child’s life. Yet Palestinian children died. Collateral damage, some might call it.”

            My reading of this is that Operation Cast Lead killed Palestinian children. Not the missiles that led to Operation Cast Lead. Not the terrorists shooting missiles into Israel from school yards and apartment building rooftops. But Operation Cast Lead as fought by the State of Israel.

            I hope this makes you feel better.

  6. This news is ancient.

    Spot and strike exists because Israel is a small nation with many enemies, so has to rely on remotely operated weapons. And it’s not just a case of Hamas rockets, it’s a case of what Hamas threatens and stands for i.e. Israel’s utter extinction.

  7. Two lines from William Blake,
    ‘A robin redbreast in a cage
    Puts all heaven in a rage’

    That introduces Morpurgo’s comparison of a British camp for asylum-seekers and Gaza.

    No thought for the poor British who really would like to be assured that we aren’t importing more jihad, whether the jihadis bring their children or not. Those convicted of terrorist offences often have a multiplicity of identities and nationalities.

    And what about the Jonathan Sacerdoti piece in the New Statesman, picked up recently by the Elder of Ziyon?

    I don’t see any mention in Morpurgo’s piece that parents have responsibility for their own children. How much more vulnerable Israel is than Britain. Morpurgo does not mention that either. There is no mention of the steps Israel takes to save Israelis during Gazan attacks. For a supporter of children he is not distinguishing abuse from protection.

    Morpurgo is in a jihadi vacuum with blinkers on. And that shows in a reading of a few paragraphs.

  8. Steinberg on SCF:

    • SCF runs a number of projects in Gaza and involving Palestinians that include political dimensions, including a very biased version of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. SCF has also failed to condemn the Palestinian exploitation of children for use in suicide terror attacks, and is conducting a major campaign to distort and demonize Israeli defenses against terrorism, including a presentation at the Geneva based session of the UNHCR in 2004.