Wednesday, 11 September 2013

My Middle East Part 6: Should Jewish People Have A Sovereign State In The Middle East?





Near Tel Aviv, April 2013

My answer to this Question is: "Definitely Yes!"  And there are two main reasons why I say this:

The actual conflict in the Middle East has been referred to as the Arab - Israeli war since long before I got interested in what was going on there, and continues today under this title. So, I will take up this title, and make a point which I think is important about the fate of the Middle East. I note that the conflict is between a single country, Israel, and a widespread people, Arabs. The conflict is not, that is,  Egypt v Israel ; Israel v Syria; Jordan v Israel. The conflict has long been presented, and generally executed, as The Arab People v  Israel.  And there are people of many other persuasions choosing one side or the other all the time.

But it is also necessary to acknowledge that most conflicts in the world are actually put into action by very few people, and for various reasons. Very often, a large majority of the people in a religion, or in a country don't actually see any need to start fighting with someone with different philosophies on life. They just want to be left alone to get on with enjoying their lives or, at worst, have a bit of a serious discussion in order to find reasonable, honest  solutions to problems.

When 'religion' or 'politics' is brought into the argument, perspectives can tend to become more muddied. But, if we are patient, the muddy waters begin to clear up. Here is my first argument in favour of Jewish people having a sovereign state exactly where it exists today:  Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, Jesus, are all Jewish people, spanning 2000 years BC, and for me these amazing and enduring humans are the most convincing reasons why Jewish people should have a country in the Middle East; why it should be where it is now; and why it should be called Israel, The Holy Land.

All of these world renowned Jewish people, and they are only to mention a few of the famous men and women, were either born in The Holy Land; or, like Abraham, they made it their home (1900BC) or like Moses led the original Israelites back there from Egypt (1300 BC).

If you take the first two of these people mentioned above: Abraham and Moses, you have the main founders of Judaism. From Moses there followed, as often happens in all great societies, a series of leaders, originally Judges and Kings - Joshua ( 1300BC)  David (1000BC) Solomon (970BC) who eventually fail to live up to the original idea, for example King Ahab (circa 870BC).

And what the spiritual giants, mentioned above, do is to remind the population - and perhaps the rulers- of the original aims upon which a culture has been founded, and how it has slipped.

For 2000 years BC, then, a considerable number of Jewish people living and working in a stretch of land land roughly 50 - 100 miles wide, and  150 miles to the north and south of Jerusalem became, and have remained, some of the most inspirational people who have ever walked the earth.

Whilst many a tyrant has sought to overrun and oppress the people of the earth through mundane physical strategies such as brute force, manipulation, or sheer population growth; these Jewish giants along with other inspirational human beings from all corners of the globe, and all eras, have guarded and strengthened the spirits of us ordinary souls.

While places of worship are routinely built on legendary sites, and often usurp them, the remarkable thing is that the attraction of the Jewish Holy Land remains palpable, largely because, for the heroes and heroines mentioned, the land itself was their sphere of operation. Hill, and tree, desert, river, sea and sky. Thus, knowing the stories of these people; to simply walk in the land, to breathe the air is to connect with these people who walked and performed on the same earth.

And naturally, the very existence of so many world famous Jews originating from the land under discussion means that there must have been a supporting cast of millions of ordinary Jewish folk in the area down through the millennia. Jews, that is, lived here for a very long time.

Generally speaking, Christians accept that The Holy Land is first and foremost the home of the Jews. After all, Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist, and the Disciples were all Jewish, and they only sought to strengthen or refresh the Jewish religion, much like the prophets before them.

This is one of the best things about Judaism as far as I am concerned: people such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jesus, Jeremiah were all in the position where we might find artists, singers, poets, writers today - they attempted to enlighten us and to strengthen the things that remain. And yet, all of these people were originally seen, depending on the degree of corruption of the times, as anything from rebels to outright criminals. Yet now, Elijah is given pride of place at the Jewish Passover Seder. Jesus, John and many saints are celebrated throughout the year. Why? Because these people possessed as Herman Melville once put it "The great art of telling the truth." And we are ultimately glad of that, if not always at first. It's something like the story of The Rolling Stones, times about a hundred and fifty.

When you consider the number of great Jews who have lived and worked in and around Jerusalem, and The Holy Land in general, the claim of Islam upon Jerusalem as a holy place associated with Mohammed while valid falls into perspective.

That Mohammed ascended to Heaven for a night from Jerusalem is impressive, but it must be remembered that he is in incredible company here. We are also talking about Jews who have gone up to Heaven in a whirlwind from Jordan; have parted the River Jordan with a smite of their mantle; drawn water from rocks, made serpents of staffs, been fed by birds, called fire down from Heaven, walked on water, come back from the dead, raised the dead, and appeared to many saints over the years. King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. There is a city of David beside Mount Zion. Jesus overturned the tables here, made the blind see and the deaf hear. The ratio of miraculous events which occurred in what is now present day Israel would appear to be at least fifty to one in favour of the Jews, over any other peoples of the world.

It is also worthwhile considering that Mohammed revered the people responsible for the deeds mentioned above: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jesus. And as we know, Abraham began Judaism, Moses pulled it back together, while the other two sought to remind people of the original intentions. It seems logical then that both Christianity and Islam are actually based upon the original tenets of Judaism. Given the reforming intentions of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed; Jews, Christians, and Muslims would logically all see themselves as adhering to the original Judaism.

And yet, judging by the situation in 2013, it seems that most religions, especially the main three - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are divided within themselves as to the true message of their founders. There are several kinds of Judaism, Christianity and Islam today, and many of them are at war within and without their particular interpretations.  It is significant that the prophet Jeremiah declared, as far back as 650 BC that in the future man's relationship with God would be personal.

To sum up my first point: Proportionately, if we are talking about rights for Israel to exist on a Religious basis, it seems reasonable that Jews should have at least 90% of the land known as The Holy Land, including 90% of Jerusalem in the custodial sense. Muslims and Christians should also be there as custodians, preserving their specific and communal sites, and welcoming and guiding visitors from all over the world.


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Not everyone is a believer. Some people just don't believe that someone like Jesus ever actually lived, for example. Elijah and all the prophets are probably fictional characters. The story about Abraham and the creation of Judaism are myths. Mohammed ascending to Heaven on his horse is pure fantasy. Jesus appearing at the supper at Emmaus is a ridiculous fairy tale!

Everything I have written so far in this article means nothing to them.

But to take just one example: if Jesus never actually really existed, then whoever wrote that story, I mean whoever conceived of all these characters, the events, the plot and the theme of that story, as well as weaving it in and out of a previous 'fiction' [the Old Testament] was more than inspirational enough for me to understand that God does exist in some form or another. That Karma is a fact of life. In short, whether Jeremiah existed or not, the words he said certainly ring true today.


However, the Arab - Israeli conflict still exists. If not on religion, what is it based on then? 

Unless the dates in the history books, and the list of Kings and Rulers in the world such as Hezekiah, Josiah, Cyrus, Xerxes and Esther, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, Herod are also fiction (as distinct from the actual, and often biased, content of history books) Jewish people actually dwelt in Eretz Israel for at least several hundred years up until 70AD.

And why did they not live here longer, continuously until the present day? It seems that Jewish people lived here until the Romans came and expelled them (circa 70AD).  [This idea begs an interesting question which it may or may not be possible to answer accurately from records: were there any other people - non Jews - living in what is now Israel circa 70AD? And were they too expelled by the Romans? If yes, who were they? Where did they go? How did they return? If they stayed, why were they not killed, but allowed by the Roman to stay? ]

I think it can be said without question that for several hundred years BC Jewish people did live in the area now known as Israel, until they were expelled or exterminated by the Romans because they refused to give up their way of life. And because so much of their religious and cultural history took place right in this countryside, and now they effectively had no country of their own on the face of the Earth,  they have always yearned to return. They did not choose to go, and then changed their minds. Surely they, having no other country, have a right to return as soon as humanly possible to their homeland?

But when they did start to re-settle, we had the beginnings of the Arab - Israeli conflict. This conflict is caused because the Jews, who I think I have shown have a right to a country of their own in the Middle East by virtue of either their religion, their culture, their history, or all three, want to live in the land they used to live in - having no other homeland on the face of the Earth.

In the present era, the Jewish state is located in roughly the same area as the Jews lived up until 70AD. This area is now called Israel, and it includes areas known as Judea and Samaria. It is a 26,000 sq. km country. Israel exists amid several Arabic Middle East countries, which together total well over one million sq. km of land.

Simple demographic research on Google shows that, at the moment, within the arena known as the Arab - Israeli conflict with which I began my personal investigation, Arab nations have roughly 38 times more land than Israel. Or, the Jews have 1/38th of the land of the Middle East. I think I have shown that the Jewish people have lived in Israel for many hundreds of years. And in the lands surrounding Jerusalem, the Jews' historical and religious claims outnumber the Arab claims by about fifty to one.  The core area of the Jewish culture lies exactly where Israel, including Judea and Samaria, is situated today.

As mentioned in earlier articles, the so called 'West Bank' and 'Gaza' are the result of the failure of everyone to be able to sit down and hammer out the truth from all aspects. The situations in both of these places far from deserving to be called 'religious' matters, they hardly deserve to be called even 'political' matters. They are however always human matters. They are currently mean tempered, stubborn, attritional human matters which cannot be solved except by honest discussion.

I know that many do not consider history or religion important, and prefer to pick a moment in history, such as 1948 and begin the discussion there. To me, this seems to be the real crux of the actual Arab - Israeli conflict today. A territorial battle with no route to solving it, and which may or may not be fuelled by some form of religious thought. Certainly, looking at the present situation throughout much of the Middle East, conflicting religious persuasions, or interpretations, do seem to be fuelling several conflicts, quite apart from the Arab-Israeli war.

Whatever fuels the Arab-Israeli conflict, it certainly seems that the main weapons these days are propaganda, emotional fervour, and ignorance. And failing that, violence and death. The desired end is the same. At the least, that there should be a new Arab state called Palestine, with a lessening of the territory of Israel; and at worst the non-existence of Israel.

In my opinion, given the huge imbalance in territory already existing between the Arabs and the Israelis, apart from it being simply unfair, it would be a very unwise military strategy for Israel to hand over those areas known as Judea, Samaria and Gaza to an Arab people whose leaders often vow to destroy them. Surely they would be inviting their enemies right into their heart? Israel would be a mere ten miles wide at its narrowest point, overlooked by the hills of Samaria. With the best will in the world, and the firmest of promises, giving up almost half of their already tiny country would seem simply unnecessary from any angle.  For the Arab people of this Arab - Israeli conflict, who already have such a huge proportion of land in the Middle East, to be asking for such a large proportion of Israel seems a cynical request. The actual creation and histories of 'the west bank' and Gaza need to be thoroughly investigated, discussed and made definitively public. My own reading and research is included in previous articles.


Meanwhile, Semitic people have lived in what we now call The Middle East for many thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are Semitic people first, but now they have different religions, beliefs, and different cultures. This does not mean that they cannot live happily side by side, if the situation is correctly understood and truthfully expressed.  If you have an opinion, I think you are duty bound to check it out and verify it for yourself. And that's my Middle East.

And to play us out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qRJIBtbc2c


Thursday, 23 May 2013

THE TWO SIDES OF THE STORY:



An important thing I have noticed in my personal interest in the Arab - Israeli conflict, and it has taken about two years to get to it, is that the two sides of the story are kept very separate. It is almost as if neither side is interested in the other side's tale of woe, or victory. [One very obvious example is the way that the British are portrayed as picking on one side, and favouring the other; whereas I have come to the conclusion that the Europeans as a whole were equally fickle, and basically out of their depth, all the way through their involvement in the Middle East. But that has been dealt with elsewhere.]

In My Middle East, the two side sides of the story, which I think can be represented to a considerable extent by the two books pictured above, are needed to get a complete story.

If you confine yourself to one side or the other, then it seems that you will fill yourself with a story of bravery, defiance, and above all, justified violence and killing, no matter which side you choose.

Reading the stories of Leon Uris [Exodus, and The Haj] I have been inspired by the tenacity, resolve, and brilliance of the Jewish men, women, and children often escaping from deadly situations in Europe and Asia, and trying to set up what seems a rightful place to dwell in a land to which, over the centuries, they contributed many of the people who make it today The Holy Land; with all the connotations of great human concerns the term conjures up.

And all the while, in these stories, these Jewish refugees, are returning to the land in which they belong; but they are rejected, harassed, murdered, and defiled by a technologically vulnerable people who claim eternal rights to the same plot of land, and their own ancient way of life.

But reading Ilan Pappe's book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, I get the picture of a cold-hearted Jewish invader, dominant in military strength, financial aid, with an instinct for almost gratuitous cruelty. In short, a sadistic and heartless bully who is picking on, and taking gross advantage of, a gentle, welcoming people.

Surely if one were exposed only to one or other of these views, you could not help but, at the very least, feel a certain distaste for one side or the other. And so the virus would perpetuate, from generation to generation.

Reading from both sides however, I am left with what you always get when both sides of a war are exposed - a story of horror, and above all the depths of behaviour to which people on both sides can be driven when they lack the motivation, the opportunity, or the ability to work out the truth of a situation. [There are also individual tales of great bravery, empathy, kindness which emerge from this and most other wars].

At the top of this page are pictures of two books which, when taken together, I think, provide a picture which renders all bias misleading and irrelevant in terms of history; yet they provide huge insight into the Middle East conflict.

Here is an example of what happens when we get one side or the other, and then what happens when we look at both sides together:

In The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe mentions the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, seven times in the index. Besides being the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Husseini was also the leader of the Arab Higher Committee, and head of the Supreme Muslim Council. He was also the proposed leader of the planned Palestinian government. He was probably the most powerful man in Palestine, and he had followers in most villages. In none of these seven times however, does Ilan mention the idea that Haj Amin Al Husseini studied with Hitler and other Nazis, and, having been exiled from Palestine by the British, helped out with the Nazi cause against the Jews in Europe. Below is a picture from Wikipedia, which also contains a history of Haj Amin al Husseini, showing a meeting between Hitler and Husseini.



There are other sites which tell of Husseini, and there are books, and other photos, plus some film on You Tube which also seem to confirm quite strongly that Husseini was friendly with the Nazis. There was a saying at the time - popular but dubious logic:  The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Among these other books is O Jerusalem! pictured above. An impressive thing about O Jerusalem! for me is the very detailed listing of sources used in researching for the book. In more than one chapter, including Chapter 3 on the life of Haj Amin al Husseini, one source is 'the Mufti himself'. The writers interviewed Haj Amin al Husseini on several subjects, and he was pleased to talk with them.

There are many other sources listed throughout O Jerusalem!, including the man who hosted Husseini's last lunch in Berlin. There are many people interviewed who played major roles in the events around and leading up to and beyond 1948, plus references to many books and some government papers, several concerning the actions, philosophy and whereabouts of Haj Amin al Husseini from 1937 onwards. Ilan Pappe mentions that Husseini had been exiled from Palestine by the British, in 1937, and had lived in Cairo since then.

Does this mean that Ilan Pappe's well supported history about Ben Gurion's soldiers evicting Arabs from their villages, and sometimes killing civilians is worthless? No. Although in my own personal understanding of the situation, as I have mentioned previously, I do not see Ben Gurion's perceived need to get all Arabs out of Israel as - the yet (in 1948) to be coined - Ethnic Cleansing; I do see it as an understandable response to the perception of clear and present danger that he was fighting a people, led by a man, who fully backed what had only recently happened in Germany. That is, the Holocaust. The Holocaust, which was about Genocide, is generally regarded as the most inhumane act of one people against another in the history of the world.  And of course this was a catastrophe from which the survivors were still reeling about in a world at large, which seemed bent on rejecting them.

Leading up to the 1948 war, Husseini's cousin Abdul Khader Husseini had proclaimed that he would "strangle Jerusalem", while others promised to 'drive the Jews into the sea'. Both of these ideas carry the threat of what is today called Ethnic Cleansing, and/or Genocide very clearly. Haj Amin is quoted as calling for people to 'kill Jews wherever you find them' in a radio broadcast in Berlin.

Surely, coming so quickly on the heels of the Holocaust, the presence of another man comparable to Hitler, if only in his desire to get rid of Jewish men, women and children, it is understandable that Ben Gurion would be terribly concerned at what the Arab people, led by the Husseini family, might be persuaded to do to Jewish people in Palestine.

If Ilan Pappe had given us a bit more about Husseini in his book, I feel that the claim about Ethnic Cleansing upon which his book rests would seem hollow. Basically, I think the book is just the one side of the story. It seems to me like saying that Muhammad Ali was a vicious bully the way he punched and taunted Sonny Liston, without mentioning that Liston was at the same time trying to annihilate Ali.

The very term Ethnic Cleansing suggests the complete domination of one race over another. If The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine was to represent the sum total of a person's reading and research into the subject of the Arab - Israeli conflict, then, just as reading Exodus or The Haj, I think a person would end up with an incomplete and perhaps dangerous view of the situation. Often, when I read, or hear contemporary views on the subject of  the Arab - Israeli conflict the lack of, and even the desire for, a balanced view is very clear.

Fortunately, alongside The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, the book O Jerusalem! exists.

O Jerusalem! when read on its own, the reader will still find out about Jewish people blowing up Arab men, women and children in the middle of Jerusalem; alongside Arabs doing exactly the same thing to Jews. You will hear about Deir Yassin and Kfar Ezion. Heroes and villains on either side. There is also mention about the deal made with Jordan. From this I feel sure that had all the government papers been available to the authors, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, they would have included all that Ilan Pappe has in his book. But the reality is that Ilan Pappe's book is essential in order to debunk lingering myths about Israel fighting a war while being blameless and free of atrocious acts. Paradoxically, Ilan Pappe's book could, if read in isolation, create exactly the same myth about the Arab side of the story. Certainly currently, it seems fashionable to accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, and even genocide, depending on the gullibility of the audience and their succesptibility to, or even eagerness for extreme language. I heard this taking place in a youth hostel in Jerusalem last year.

The lesson is not who was the nicer, the more blameless: The horror of war is not only what it can 'make' people do, but also how people might use, or even create war to satisfy a need for violence and cruelty, or gain, in thought or in deed, quite separate from the actual realities of a situation. When both sides of a war are out in the open in all their horror, the need for a determined effort to get at the real truth of a situation, and to achieve fairness, no matter how difficult it might seem to be at the outset becomes the only sane path to follow.

Perhaps because humans seem to be prone to choosing one side or the other in any conflict, the important findings by what are termed "the new historians" such as Ilan Pappe, are widely considered to be a re-writing of history. But to my mind, these new findings are more the completion of the history.

Next time: We must face the only real question that I can see at the bottom of all of all of this: Do the Jewish people actually have a right to live in the area of the earth presently called Israel?

"In war, truth is the first casualty."  Aeschylus. (525 - 456 BC) This is an old saying which gets quoted all the time. But there must be a second half to this saying implied by the first, which would go something like this: Only by finding, acknowledging, and publicising the whole truth can there be Peace. Or as a great citizen of the area once put it, more succinctly : "The Truth will make you free."


 
 
 
 

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Leveson Inquiry/The Public Interest

Another Hard Day At The Office.


I watched almost all of the inquiry, and admire the handling of it. The interviews have also inspired me to think about the problems regularly highlighted; one or two often prompting the response from witnesses to the effect that the perceived problems may be insoluble, in the "horse has bolted" and "genie out of the bottle" sense. And I can understand why people very close to these professions might fail to take the wider view that is needed, and which I think the inquiry has provided.
 
To use some of today's popular sporting imagery: The existence of the inquiry brings to mind the situation often seen in football matches, where a team must go 0-2 down with 10 minutes to go before they really start giving their best. The setting up of The Leveson Inquiry echoes the desperation of such a situation, and of course means that by having a public, in depth inquiry we are at last now giving it our best shot. We have heard before of the 'last chance saloon' with respect to people who abuse the system, but it seems to me that it is the ineffectiveness of previous 'regulators' that have in fact put all of us into the last chance saloon, as a society, with regard to these issues. In effect, a lack of regulation. Fortunately, the inquiry consistently shows that we do still have a grasp of common sense, and right and wrong.


This is why I think that "The Leveson Inquiry" itself, with all it includes, needs to now become the regulating body it seeks. It's modus operandi should be exactly what they are doing now, plus the ability to penalise, or in some cases recommend further investigations, appropriately. My ideas on suitable penalties derive from ideas already given to the inquiry, but I would like to highlight that in some cases the penalties seem to include a useful potential for rehabilitative effects, which in themselves will gradually lead to a clearer understanding of proper conduct, why it is proper, and therefore an improvement in the situation.
 
It is the gravitas and seriousness, leavened with wit, that the inquiry brings to the table that is very valuable. And this is entirely appropriate, for the press, politics, and the police are surely some of the most important, influential, and powerful aspects of our society. If they do not function properly, we are in trouble. All The Leveson Inquiry needs in addition is the authority to fit the punishment to the crime.
 
However the initial inquiry came about, luck seems to have played a part in highlighting what we might now be able to consider behaviour that needs to be investigated, and dealt with fairly. And also behaviour that seems to be much more ideal.
 
Looking at the draft criteria for a regulatory solution, they provide some useful guidelines. But I think that the fact that all of the inquiry is on the internet and is freely available for members of the public like myself to watch, see, and read is the most important element of the inquiry. Not only is it of natural interest for at least some of the public, but it must also, somehow, have a beneficial reflexive effect on those taking part in the court; to feel that you are quite in touch with the public on this. The transparency, particularly the opportunity for the public to witness proceedings in real time is one example of an ideal situation in all respects. I think you have a receptive and appreciative audience, in the main.
 
Thus, I would think that any future investigations of this kind, that is, the work of the regulatory body, should also be available on the internet, particularly because a very large issue within the inquiry continues to be "the public interest." Who better to be an audience, and perhaps contribute on this, than the public? By continuing the style of your inquiry as a more permanent regulatory body I think you would ensure that these important issues cannot be forgotten and fade away, which is also a concern I have heard Lord Leveson mention from time to time. And again, who better than him and his team to continue with it? The arena of the courtroom also seems to provide a training area for those who would follow in their footsteps.
 
By making everything available to the public, I think there is surely an element of 'goal-line technology' or even better Hawkeye involved. Here we have something which by including the eyes of the public "regulates the regulators" and "guards the guardians" at least to an extent. The Leveson Inquiry, when connected to the public, is Hawkeye. The inquiry certainly operates well, by virtue of the research and homework of the staff, in the essential stopping of the action, and slow-motion, looking at the different angles, and this lets us, the public, as well as the 'players' and the regulators/umpires, everyone concerned, see what has actually happened. This gives the best opportunity for fairness, and ensures transparency.
 
The inquiry is an example of officials being brave, wise, competent, and committed enough to embrace modern technology, and applying it for the benefit of all.
 
If one of the main issues concerning the press and media is 'the interests of the public' then there is no better way to keep this in mind that to make all investigations available to the interested public. I think that doing so in itself may go a long way towards reducing the number of transgressions. Perhaps within a very short time, a team of researchers linked to the ongoing inquiry would become adept at sifting the applications for investigations, or complaints. They would find many themselves by reading the papers and the internet publications. Some would be much more obvious cases than others. Quite quickly, I think, we could succeed in establishing more effective and agreeable benchmarks as to correct behaviour.
 
If this greater transparency has a chilling effect on what the press, police, and politicians might do or say, then we should discuss what exactly it is that they might be worried about.
 
For example: The case presented involving the photographs of the grieving little sister and the intrusion involved, seems to me to be a case which the inquiry, given the authority, might be able to rule on quite quickly and effectively. But, how should this be done?
 
The best regulatory device I have noted during the inquiry, which I think also has a rehabilitative quality to it, is the printing of apologies in detail on the front pages. That is, admitting wrong doing. Perhaps monetary compensation could also be given to victims according to a fairly simple audit of circulation figures for the day when the offending articles/pictures appeared and made money for the newspaper involved. It seems that financial and popularity concerns rate highly in the world of the press. The printing of apologies, and the forfeiting of revenue gained at the expense of unfortunate people, to the actual victims  might therefore be the most suitable punishment to fit the crime. A newspaper who repeatedly had to print apologies, for example, might well find its popularity and thus circulation and revenue dropping. This would likely be a spur to better behaviour.
 
Illegal gathering, or giving, of information is by definition already accounted for within the law. And the high profile, which would be maintained by "The Permanent Leveson Inquiry", presented on the internet and on TV should provide a spur to ensuring that justice was done, and constantly reviewed, in the presence of the public. That is, as has also been suggested during the inquiry, the law should be seen to be applied properly. Perhaps this is what reality TV was really invented for, as a welcome alternative to "Big Brother"?
 
Finally, it has been made clear by several witnesses that, at the moment, the press and politicians see their existences as symbiotic. It has been said more than once during the inquiry, often wryly, that they actually rely upon each other. But what is not acknowledged is that mostly both sides get what they want for nothing - which encourages the idea of swapping favours instead. And yet, political press releases are in effect advertising. What has been discussed in the inquiry is the need for a little more distance, or less cosiness, between press and politicians.
 
 
I think that restoring a touch of business can achieve something here. If politicians, or political parties had to pay to have their ideas printed in the press, then this would supply some distance. That is, official statements by the politicians would by definition appear separately from the commentary. It could also be made a rule that all newspapers must publish all paid for political releases, plans, ideas, in the interests of the public. Leaks would become an effort to subvert payment. Leaks should be returned to the relevant party for confirmation, and payment. If a paper still decided to print them, as leaks, they must be printed as if paid for, and responsibility taken by the paper if they are in fact false. Meanwhile, newspapers of course are entitled to their own bias, and by separating political announcements from editorial opinions, the bias would be clear and understood as such. And really, in the interests of free speech there is nothing at all wrong with that.
 
Finally, I see absolutely no reason why important business should be carried out over dinners and drinks, rather than in the participants' places of work. Perhaps the questions should be asked as to why this seems to have become "the way of the world", and whether or not it should be changed. Most ordinary working people have no such luxury. Even the short-hand writer at the Inquiry only gets brief breaks.
 
Thinking about these issues has been made possible by the fact that The Leveson Inquiry has been made accessible to me an interested member of the public. I have learned from the inquiry that self-regulation almost by definition cannot work. Censorship is not the answer either. It is the public who need to be the witness, and thereby to fulfil the most common concept of the inquiry: "the public interest."
 
I thank the inquiry very much for that, because examining these issues in public is certainly a democratic practice.
 
 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

"But some women already ARE bastards!"










"But it seems to me," I was saying, as we were having our bacon sandwiches and tea, "that women have chosen the wrong men to be equal too. Do they think that being equal means they have to be bastards?"

"But some women already ARE bastards!" What a surprise it was to hear this from two young ladies that I have a chat with now and then. See, my experience with "Women's Lib" - and wherever it is supposed to be at today - dates from the late sixties.

That is, 'liberated women', as distinct from women who somehow have managed to be themselves all along - notwithstanding the pressures any of us humans living in the world at any given time are under to conform.

And back in the 70's, I remember writing in a lovelorn poem:  "Take your time, do what you want, be a bastard if you have to..."  And in my mind, as I wrote that, was firmly the idea that "Women's Lib" was all about women being equal to men, equal pay, the right to have affairs, and all the other dirty little secrets that men were heir to.

And also, not necessarily attempting to 'be' the women that men perhaps thought they should be. (I was already involved with not being the kind of man the woman I wrote the poem to wanted me to be.)

But, somehow in the context of the times and the perceived idea that women should be liberated, I - a naive kind of a guy - took it as a given that women were nice people. I had no idea they felt repressed, and needed to get free. Not the ones I knew.  And they were definitely not ever Bastards. Bastardism was the realm of men. Particularly business men. Although just what consummate stupid bastards businessmen often were was not half so well known, and accepted, as it is today.

And around the 90's, I guess it was, it became a little clearer, though incurable romantic that I was I still refused to really believe it, that it was in the business world precisely that the 'liberation of women' was being most forcefully played out. Padded shoulders first, and then outright suits, became the costume for this passionless play. Even though 'a suit' was fast becoming not a very cool thing to be. I remember an article somewhere in which it was mentioned a woman manager used to scream in her office that she had a bigger something or other than anyone else in the company. And she was held up as a great example.

And as the new millennium came around, and young girls grew up into a world where it was the law that women had the right to be as stupid, greedy, and ruthless as men if they thought fit, they started taking up positions, and learning the language. They have risen to the very top of their professions. They are hiring and firing, taking those difficult decisions and calling it rationalization, downsizing. Running the Eurozone. Setting up sweat shops and telling the people back home that lower pay is a reality if we want to compete abroad. And so on.

And now, today, these women who like to pore over their calculators and balance sheets, and summon workers to their offices and suggest cut backs, and maybe longer hours for less pay, and try to shave off a thousand pounds here, and a thousand pounds there, and add a thousand pounds to their salaries, and work 70 hours a week, and have a child to prove that they really, still, are, women, and put the child into day care to raise for them, and be back at work next week....

...Wow! And there was me thinking that if women, you know, lovely women, incarnations of the  feminine creative principle, Shakti, got into business, things would ease up, get more sane, be nicer and better, kinder, more positive. But like my two friends told me, straight out, not the blink of an eye: Some women really are bastards. Just like some men are bastards. And I realized, right, they just weren't allowed to be, and now they are.


 
 
 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012



MY MIDDLE EAST   Part Three


"Negotiations with the Arab leaders beyond Palestine were being carried out by T.E. Lawrence, who informed Churchill on 17 January [1921] that he had concluded an agreement with Hussein's eldest son, Emir Feisal, under which, in return for Arab sovereignty in Baghdad, Amman and Damascus, Feisal  'agreed to abandon all claims of his father on Palestine.'"

In my comments on The seven Pillars of Wisdom, I noted how TE Lawrence felt similarly to Churchill, but most openly with regard to how the betrayal of the Balfour Declaration would adversely affect Arab aspirations for their own sovereign state in Syria. The regretful note upon which he ended his book.
After the end of WW1, T.E. Lawrence, became Churchill's adviser on Arab affairs. It's difficult to say how much Lawrence might have influenced Churchill, but this book is independently important to "My Middle East". I say this because both of these men had a great effect on the times, were friends, and yet it could be said that they were champions of what were fast becoming (but were not yet) opposite sides in a developing war.

How could such a thing be true, unless at the outset there was no conflict, but a common aim? It was simply the case that Lawrence happened to be defending the Arab interests, and Churchill the Jewish, but both under the terms of the Balfour Declaration, and both under threat from subsequent political interests and the deceitful Sykes - Picot agreement. Looking at the lives of the actual protagonists gives me an insight into the human realities of the situation which I find more informative and convincing than that which might be gained from one of many purely 'historical' points of view.

That is to say that, whatever different historians may agree or disagree on, or wish to promote; such things as the existence of the Balfour Declaration; the general agreement at the precise time that the Jewish and Arab people should each have a homeland in Palestine and Syria respectively after helping the allies in WW1; the agreements between Emir Feisal and Dr.Chaim Weizmann, and the personal efforts of T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill to fulfil such promises; these things are a matter of record from many different sources and angles, rather than opinions. And this is why the failure to honour these promises simply bothered the consciences of both of these men. And, having positions of responsibility and influence, and being generally honourable men, they made this situation part of their own lives, and tried to make things right.

Hence:   "Churchill's speech of July 4th. [1922] was a sustained defence of Britain's pledge to Jewish national aspirations. Dealing first with the Balfour Declaration, he pointed out that there had never been 'any serious challenge' in Parliament to that policy.  'Pledges and promises were made during the War, and they were made not only on the merits, though I think the merits are considerable. They were made because it was considered they [the Jewish people] would be of value to us in our struggle to win the war'."

(Churchill And The Jews  pp78-79)

And, although through history there had always been Arabs who were prejudiced against the arrival of Jewish people in the area; when the Arab people were denied Syria which had been promised to them, they began to resent the influx of Jewish people from around the world into Palestine, simply because it was unfair that Jewish people should get the promised recognized state while the Arab tribes united under Prince Feisal should not.

In relation to the possibility of the Arab tribes becoming united under Feisal, it should be noted that it had already been stipulated in the Balfour Declaration that those Arabs who wished to remain tribal, and maintain a more fluid existence would be allowed to do so within the emerging new states. And in this way, all eventualities had been foreseen and allowed for.

It is significant then that in 1922, three years after the initial promises had been discarded, Churchill was influential in creating from a sizeable portion of Palestine - 75% in fact - the Arab state of Trans Jordan, in an attempt to put right the deceit and disappointment felt so keenly by Prince Feisal, regarding Syria, and Damascus.

This left the remaining 25% of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean coast, for the nascent Jewish homeland. Originally, all of what was called Palestine, that is, including what became Trans Jordan, had been earmarked as the new Jewish homeland. However, the Jews decided that this partial fulfilment of the promise was better than nothing. The Arabs did not feel the same.

Therefore, there is really no doubt, if we pay attention to Churchill's and Lawrence's lives, their efforts, and their feelings about events at the time, that the betrayal of the Balfour Declaration in 1919 is the point at which the present so called Arab - Israeli conflict, or Middle East Crisis really began.

In the ensuing 90 years years, the massive development of propaganda facilities has brought increasing opportunity to shape the world-view of human beings. And on this fertile ground has been cultivated an Illusory Middle East, full of spectres and phantoms, at which a relatively small section of the population continue to hurl bombs, insults, threats and half-baked theories.
(This will become clearer when I begin to review the ideas of, for example, the Israeli historian/commentator Ilan Pappe, and others, in a future episodes.)

If you are interested, the following is the lecture by Ilan Pappe that I am referring to, and you can listen and form your own ideas about it.

Maybe even do your own research!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIWvcBzbqVc



Sunday, 20 May 2012

MY MIDDLE EAST Part Two: T E Lawrence


T.E. Lawrence speaks about the broken promises around the Balfour Declaration:



"Yet I cannot put down my acquiescence in the Arab fraud to weakness of character or native hypocrisy: though of course I must have had some tendency, some aptitude, for deceit, or I would not have deceived men so well, and persisted two years in bringing to success a deceit which others had framed and set afoot.  I had no concern with the Arab revolt in the beginning.  In the end I was responsible for it being an embarrassment to the inventors. Where exactly in the interim my guilt passed from accessory to principal, upon what headings I should be condemned, were not for me to say. Suffice it that since the march to Akaba I bitterly resented my entanglement in the movement, with a bitterness sufficient to corrode my inactive hours, but insufficient to make me cut myself clear of it. Hence the wobbling of my will, and endless, vapid complainings."

From TE Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom", Chapter C.

When one is dubious as to which historian to trust, it may be helpful to listen to those who experienced day to day events. TE Lawrence was ideally placed between the Arabs in the middle east, circa 1916 - 1918, and the British government who were glad of the help of the Arabs in overthrowing the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, who occupied such places as Palestine, Syria, and parts of Arabia at the time, and who were allied with Germany in World War 1.

Lawrence knew, and liaised between, the leaders of both the British and the Arab command. And, clearly, from the above extract, he also knew, before the end of the war, that the promise made to the Arabs - that they should get Syria for their trouble in helping England against Turkey - was not going to be fulfilled.

In seeking a satisfactory explanation in my own mind for the generally termed "Arab - Israeli Conflict" I made myself aware, last year, of what seem to be the broad brush strokes - the difficult to refute facts of the matter, such as the actuality - which is not to say the wisdom - of the Balfour Declaration, The Paris Peace Talks, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and Winston Churchill's ultimate decision to try and honour the earlier promises, in 1922. 

It is very clear above that Lawrence was becoming mentally and spiritually scarred by his being caught (Charlie Chaplin - like) in the brutal machinations of the politics of his time. He was caught between a soldiers patriotism and duty to his country; and his admiration for the Arab people he helped to organize into what he thought was a fighting force which would ultimately reward them with their independence. 

The psychological make-up of Lawrence makes the reading of his book very interesting, and was probably a strong factor in David Lean and Robert Bolt's decision to tell the story in film. Initially, "Lawrence of Arabia" does seem to be the study of a complex man against the background of events in the desert. But, after several viewings, I have found ample material within the film to justify the authors' gleeful claim in their retirement that they "...got away with it!" They in fact told the story of the fraud about which Lawrence speaks above, greatly helped by committed and excellent performances by Alec Guinness, Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, and the rarely acknowledged but very important Claude Rains.

In My Middle East therefore, if the Arab people should have been annoyed with anybody at the time, it should not have been the Jewish people. The Jewish people were grateful that a tract of land had been allotted to them by the strong powers of the world during this rare window of opportunity. While the Arabs "...should keep for their own, the territory they conquered from Turkey in the war. The glad news circulated over Syria." 

Judging by Lawrence's comments, germinated right on the scene, and written up only a few years later, the Arabs should have properly been annoyed with the English and French governments for the fraud Lawrence speaks about.

"Fortunately, I had early betrayed the treaty's [Sykes - Picot] existence to Feisal, and had convinced him that his escape was to help the British so much that after peace they would not be able, for shame, to shoot him down in its fulfilment: while, if the Arabs did as I intended, there would be no one-sided talk of shooting. I begged him to trust not in our promises, like his father, but in his own strong performance."

Another broad brush stroke of history makes it plain that Lawrence's optimism was misplaced, and honour did not prevail. And so -

"When Feisal had gone, I made to Allenby the last (and also I think the first) request I ever made him for myself - leave to go away. For a while he would  not have it; but I reasoned, reminding him of his year-old promise, and pointing out how much easier this New Law would be if my spur were absent from the people. In the end he agreed; and then at once I knew how much I was sorry."

A visit to Clouds Hill, Dorset where Lawrence found refuge to write his books, and to try and heal himself, evokes much of this narrative.

Maybe it is ironic that "Lawrence of Arabia" was shot extensively in Jordan, which did not exist as a country until 1922. But it is land over which Lawrence rode and fought for the Arab people.









Thursday, 15 December 2011

Creating Yourself.



I met two young ladies yesterday, and we got to talking. Amongst other things, catching up and so on, I trotted out an old favourite of mine. I asked about creative outlets. You know, I went on in my well-meaning manner: painting, writing, even gardening can be creative. Everybody has to have something! They smiled and assured me that they didn't feel in the least bit creative.

After a while we parted and I realized!

In all the mess and fighting over the years - centuries? - between the sexes, matriarchs and patriarchs the tearing down of ancient practices - which in some cases saw female children killed at birth for not being so useful - and male children's lives completely mapped out because they are so useful, and so on: the dubious practice of women donning mannish clothes and attitudes in an effort to emulate the wonderful kind of guy who creates world financial ruin and destitution, all in the name of equality; or that current favourite, the final almost despairing resort to the only truly feminine domain - the ability to give birth to new humans (whatever that actually means) - as long as we don't have to actually bring them up, and can continue emulating mediocre men - syndrome. 

Amid all of that,  it occurred to me that these two human beings were simply being who they are. They were happy and relaxed. One a gypsy travelling the world and earning a living at the same time, another drawn to help with charity work. Both things for now, for the time being, who knows what comes next? But forget Timothy Leary's acid fuelled incantations of: this time around you can be anyone you like; because that's not quite the same as Bob Dylan's contemporaneous observation: if you try to be anyone but who you are, you will always fail.

These two, like my own daughter, whom I realized a few years ago had taken her life by the scruff of the neck and from her earthly flesh fashioned a body which would serve her best in becoming who she really was, a dancer. There are countless other examples. These ladies are pretty content being their own creations, their own works of art. It just comes naturally.

They are what a few years ago were called Tomorrow's Girls. Now we await those ambitious Macbeth type guys to er...follow suit?

And to play us out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7BWlzGtvbk