The Times online hits my inbox at various times of the morning - I’m not complaining - but it’s interesting (to me) that this morning, at about 6:45 am the number of comments below Hugo Rifkind’s piece (£) about Boris Johnson and Donald Trump had already reached three-figures, yet there were none at all below Melanie Phillips’s excellent article (£) about a sensitive topic - the siting of the proposed Holocaust memorial and learning centre near the Houses of Parliament.
I’m about to make a superficial kind of statement, but here goes: I live hundreds of miles away from the capital and won’t experience the feeling of being visually assaulted by a grim-looking structure in the way that perhaps regular passers-by might - according to their architectural preferences. Nor will I be dismayed at the thought of a dramatic and unwanted change to my personal environment in the way I was when I first saw the hideous and incongruous plans for a carbuncle of a supermarket in my patch, yet I have to admit that now it’s real and it’s there, in yer face, I’m used to it and I have been known to pop in for a few bits of shopping without giving it a second thought. (I do have some second thoughts, but they are fleeting and getting fleetinger by the week)
What’s the point I was about to make? Oh yes, it was that the Times must have held back before publishing the comments - weeding out the virulently antisemitic ones presumably - but now they’re here. And largely supportive I’m pleased to see.
I think Melanie has nailed it again. Like her splendid analysis of President Trump’s remarks about US Jews who vote Democrat (loyalty and antisemitism) her sensitive response to the Holocaust Museum debacle is spot on.
At the risk of feeding people who like to complain that any negative thoughts about Jews, Israel or anything remotely connected has become unsayable (because ‘antisemitism’) and that the whole antisemitism business has had a chilling effect on free speech, or that ‘you can’t say anything these days” - all of that - I can see that there is an element of truth in there.
I can also see that it’s a lot easier to dismiss all negativity as prejudice at a time when it takes a huge effort to clarify any subtle and nuanced position, especially in consideration of the battle against intransigence and ideological resistance that comes with the territory.
However, handing ammunition to the enemy works both ways. The chilling effect is totally reversible like a coat you can wear inside out if you want. Now you can’t say anything is antisemitic just as you can’t say anything isn’t, without causing offence. It’s a shame that some commenters felt the need to call Melanie Phillips ‘brave’ for saying it what she said.
There was one little segment that touches on an unpalatable truth, which loyalty to this country makes it hard to acknowledge.
“Even fewer are prepared to acknowledge that, despite having stood alone against Hitler in 1940 and accepting 10,000 Jewish child refugees in the 1938 Kindertransport, Britain during the Holocaust barred Jews from pre-Israel Palestine. This flagrant denial of its legal undertaking to settle the Jews in the land caused untold numbers trapped in Europe to perish.
The very mention of this tends to provoke frenzied outbursts about Jewish anti-British terrorism at that time, as if that negates the shocking British record.
The King David Hotel affair is something that sets off an internal conflict in many supporters or defenders of Israel who aren’t fully aware of the historical and political context in which it took place. To somehow reconcile the contradictions within their consciences they settle for supporting Israel’s right to exist ‘despite the King David Hotel affair’.
This is about clarification, not about justifying violence or terrorism - and already we’re deep into the kind of mire you can see thrashed out everywhere and anywhere that Israel-related controversies crop up.
I thought I’d recommend a comment I just read on Harry’s Place. I’m so jealous. I wish Anton Deque would notice ITBB. But never mind.
My reaction to John Wall’s article was exactly the same, but it’s AD’s remarks about the BBC that gives his comment a good bit of relevance to this blog. If reproducing this transgresses blogging etiquette I apologise most sincerely.
“Another curious piece about Brexit on Harry's Place. Having read it I cannot decide what Mr Wall's point is apart from explaining the obvious long after it entered the realm of last weeks chip's wrapper.
"I suggest anyone goes and looks at the quartet that the B.B.C., never neutral, put up on its web page this morning to show the 'party leaders' coming together to discuss how to avoid a 'no deal'. Look at these mediocrities and ask not why but how. How do such figures become the political leadership anywhere? I have thrown away brighter light bulbs.
"Brexit was not about a deal. There was no mention of a deal at the time of the vote and no party has a mandate for any such deal. There was no mention of 'hard' or 'soft'. The tensile strength became an issue only when the side that lost insisted on a deal. Each and every variant of this deal, regardless, has been to devise a way in which the U.K. does not shake itself self free – not from Europe, but this apparatchik United States of Europe.
"The likelihood is that Johnson will fudge and cobble something together to save his party – pro tem. We shall then see a swarming to Farage and his far right (©B.B.C. passim) Brexit Party. It is even possible the U.K. will then have a very strange Parliament indeed, Rump Tories, Brexit, Liberal-Labour and Nationalists.
"I watched Johnson give us his "Hugh Grant in mop wig' from the G7 press conference. Having beautifully yorked* the truly appalling Robert Peston over an invented remark Peston attributed to Trump, Johnson was asked in passing to make a comment about England's latest 'Great Escape' from the jaws of an Aussie shark; Johnson made a joke about Ben Stokes' performance being worthy of a dukedom. The B.B.C. gave this obvious joke 'Breaking News' status on its strapline. There's a certain uniformity about that dying corporations reporting of all things Brexit.
I know this has already been promoted on GF’s blog, but this piece by Douglas Murray resonates. It’s all about Channel 4, which is a good deal more biased than the BBC and getting worse with every passing moment. In this piece, he asks why Boris should trust Channel 4 in response to Dorothy Byrne’s MacTaggart lecture in which she criticises the PM and the leader of the opposition for avoiding being interviewed by the likes of Jon Snow and Cathy Newman. They’re frit, she thinks, of being held to account.
If you listen to Dorothy Byrne - her speech is all over the interweb - you might wonder how she got to where she is today, as Reginald Perrin used to say. The comments below the YouTube version of it are a mixed bag - it seems you either love her or loathe her, but the lack of self-awareness in her guff about honesty, integrity and ‘good faith’ is staggering.
As Douglas Murray says: (and this equally applies, across the board, to the Beeb)
“Boris Johnson may or may not be correct in choosing to avoid being interviewed by Cathy Newman or Jon Snow on a regular basis. But he is certainly right if he presumes that such an interview would not be conducted in good faith. It would be conducted by an interviewer who is known to have particular political biases.
“It is almost certainly fair to say that ‘holding Boris Johnson to account’ would consist of haranguing him constantly, rarely allowing him to get more than a sentence out uninterrupted, accusing him of terrible things to his face, trying to embarrass him and – dream of dreams – getting him to say something embarrassing or wrong which could subsequently be reported across the world’s press as ‘Boris Johnson exposed as liar in Channel 4 News interview’. That is the story they want, and there is ever-less effort at Channel 4 and other channels to disguise that fact.