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Readers respond to recent articles published in The Spectator

24 May 2003

12:00 AM

24 May 2003

12:00 AM

Comment on The reek of injustice by Emma Williams (17/05/2003)

Whilst I commend Emma Williams’ for painting a graphic picture of the hardships endured by the Palestinian population, she is wrong to suggest that Israelis are deluded over this fact. Unlike that of its neighbours, Israel’s media is diverse and objective allowing a clear perspective of the conflict. I myself have watched numerous documentaries on Israeli television chronicling the suffering of the Palestinians.

Far from being deluded, Israelis view the current quagmire in terms of a trade-off, for as harsh as the reality is, the IDF’s tactics have (to a measure) succeeded in bringing the Intifada under control. Therefore whilst Israelis realise that the peace process can only gather steam once the Palestinians return to some semblance of ‘normal life’, they are naturally reluctant to compromise their own fragile security to meet this end. As much as Israel’s detractors would argue otherwise, the one and only exogenous factor that could mitigate the terms of this trade-off is the quelling of terrorism.

Ms Williams’ account would also command more credibility had she refrained from delivering virulent and unsubstantiated postulations (such as that of the IDF soldier taunting Palestinian youths before murdering them). This reflects an over-willingness to digest implausible tales, invariably gotten at second hand and with scant foundation (which has become the hall-mark of Intifada reporting). When a Palestinian child is killed amongst adults, international outrage rightly ensues. Surely a massacre of children of such barbaric proportions, in the absence of any adult deaths would have at least made the news somewhere? Forgive me if I view the veracity of this with profound scepticism. By the PA’s own statistics, deaths of Palestinian women and children have constituted 5% of the Intifada death toll. If the Israeli killing is as indiscriminate as Emma Williams suggests, surely it follows that this percentage would be somewhere closer fifty? Furthermore, as much as the death of one innocent child is one too many, it is the inevitable consequence of fighting a battle in which children are shamelessly placed in the front line. Ms Williams has every right to disagree with Israeli government policy and voice her concern for the plight of the Palestinians, but her implicit vilification of Israel’s liberal, tolerant, and democratic society is misplaced and insulting.
Alan Someck

It would take too much space to clarify all the half-truths and lies in Ms. Williams’ article on Israel so we will suffice with the first. We Israelis don’t make the Palestinians “suffer” because we “fear” going out for a cup of coffee. Rather, it is to protect ourselves from those who DO kill us when we do go out for coffee.

There is a world of difference between locking people in “ghettos” because of some irrational fear of them, and keeping terrorist murderers out of our neighbourhoods.
Ira Slomowitz

I must congratulate The Spectator on firstly having the courage to print this article, particularly considering this publication is owned by the ‘perceived’ (by various moderate Muslim groups) vocal pro-Israeli Lord Conrad Black and secondly, by not appearing to censor it, giving some indication of what is occurring in Israel/Palestine.

The situation in the region is reaching a critical stage, and whilst many around me feel that peace will never be achieved with Ariel Sharon in power, I can’t subscribe to some extremist views that killing innocent Israeli civilians is going to achieve anything either – apart from fuel the cycle of hate and destruction. I hope that we can have peace, though I doubt this can be achieved with the present leadership on both sides.

Whilst I doubt the likes of Mark Steyn and Melanie Phillips (amongst others), would feel that the actions carried out the Israeli military are justified, and hence this type of article should not be published, I would urge you consider you publish more articles like this to give the view from both sides.
Tariq Hussein

The blood of every decent civilized person can not but boil in anger and revolt at reading Mrs. William’s chilling and eloquent description of the daily crimes and human rights abuses committed with arrogance and impunity by the State of Israel. This is made possible thanks to numerous US vetoes of any initiative by the International Community to stop such criminal actions by Israel against millions of Palestinians who have been living under an illegal/brutal military occupation for the last 35 years.

This splendid article by your honourable journalist will hopefully make a contribution to the efforts of those believe in a minimum of morality in international relations and who want the real truth to be known i.e. that the real terrorist in this 50 year old conflict is the State of Israel. The Israelis who have mastered the art of playing victims and pretending to be threatened by the Palestinians are in reality aggressors and oppressors in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Adding insult to injury President Bush has again shown his shocking double standards and how selective his so called war on terror is: reportedly, he called the new Palestinian PM, whose power base is almost nil to order him to do more to stop suicide bombings, although in a blatant effort to torpedo any peace chances of this deceitful Roadmap, Sharon and his army of thugs have not stopped killing/maiming scores of Palestinians every day most of them civilians and many children whilst continuing with the wanton destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure.

Ramsey Clark is so right in bravely denouncing the US for truly threatening not only the rule of law and civilized behaviour in the world but also the destiny of Humanity by its arrogant double standards, predatory policies and blatant support for similar behaviour by its protégé in the Middle East.
Anthony Joseph Geha Yuja
Florence, Italy

Emma Williams’ years is Israel should have been extended by a few more weeks to learn more about the trauma of Israelis. Her vision of the Middle Eastern reality appears to be myopic to say the least. She has chosen to ignore that the Jews in European ghettos posed no threat to the Germans and other oppressors, whereas the wall built by Israel is designed to stop human time-bombs from their intended carnage in discotheques and shopping malls. There is one culprit and one culprit alone for the many civilian casualties in Gaza and the West Bank: the Palestinian terrorists who use their brethren’s homes as fortresses thereby inviting Israeli retaliations. Emma Williams has failed to see that Israel in now subjected to a nouveau pogrom a la Islam. 5 million Jews are not surrounding 500 million Muslims.
A Soudry

Like Emma Williams I have been to Israel and the West Bank. I could not have imagined the horror that I witnessed there. It was exhausting to see the daily humiliation, oppression, and hatred expressed by the Israeli troops against the Palestinians.

I commend Emma Williams for speaking out on what has to be one of the great crimes of these times: the insidious genocide of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

I also commend The Spectator for the courage to print the article.
Louis Schmittroth

The views of this writer are emotive, but lack any real insight or wider understanding of events there. The very fact that, as usual, in the same week of a conference designed to come to a peaceful solution, there are numerous terrorist attacks in Israel, shows why it has no choice but to continue its campaign to crack down on these militant groups.

How much longer will you continue to provide a forum for those wishing to present Israel being responsible for Palestinian suffering, instead of the Palestinian Authority? It is their decisions, policies, and incitement which created it, and which depends on swaying worldwide public opinion to serve their cause. The comments addressed by Emma Williams don’t prevent these occurrences; they increase the likelihood they will continue.
Ted Berra

I read this article with interest. I do find many aspects of it upsetting from a personal perspective. However it does not adhere to reality. The reality is that no country has agreed to make peace whilst terrorism has continued because such a peace agreement would not be worth the paper it’s written on. For example the UK government has still not agreed to a peace agreement with the IRA, until the aforementioned group puts its weapons beyond use. The government of Israel has every right to call for a cessation of violence and terrorism because such factors are the biggest cause of the conflict and if like us durable peace is what you are looking for, then the cessation of terrorism as a first step would be one of the biggest contributors towards the achievement of that goal.

As a point its is also worth noting that the terrorist groups which Israel is fighting call for her complete destruction and do not agree to the peace process at all. Therefore the war against them not only enhances the chances for peace, it also improves the chances of two sides negotiating for peace (ie. Palestinian and Israeli) and not one side standing over the ashes of the other (ie. Palestinian Islamic extremism over Israeli), which is what the charter of Hamas and Islamic Jihad call for.
Jason Douglas

According to Emma Williams “Most stories of the daily brutality against Palestinians are not reported by international witnesses” and only a tiny few “slip through” due, she implies, to some conspiracy of silence in the international press.

Funny that, because I seem to have heard and read stories of brutality by Israelis against Palestinians almost every day for the last few years. Who can count the number of times they have been shown on TV the shooting of the young Palestinian boy, Mohammed, shielded by his father on the television? Has a week gone by in the last 2-3 years in which the Guardian, the Independent and the BBC have not featured some highly critical piece about Israeli brutality in the territories?

Sorry, but whatever else it may be, the plight of the Palestinians can hardly be said to be under-reported. This is particularly so, when the conflict is compared to other equivalent conflicts, in Kashmir, or Tibet or Chechnya, where hundreds are killed and it scarcely makes teletext.

In fact, the brutal events reported, sometimes over-reported, in excruciating detail by the massive international media presence in the territories. What is under-reported, by contrast, is any context for the Israeli actions, any explanation of why the Israelis have been imposing curfews, building walls, killing militants. These are not motiveless acts of brutality. Nor are they gratuitous collective punishment. Rather, they are understandable, if sometimes disproportionate attempts, to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks. The intifada has caused the occupation, not the reverse. Any other country, facing the same terrorist onslaught of hundreds of suicide bombers and other terrorist attacks, would have done much the same. This leads to tragedy for both sides.
Bryan Simons

Comment on Road-map to Hell by Melanie Phillips (17/05/2003)

How did Melanie Phillips manage to miss the fact the Palestinians HAVE repeatedly acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, despite that fact Israel has never reciprocated?


How did she ignore that fact that last year’s Saudi peace proposal, which offered full recognition to Israel, was endorsed by the entire Arab world? That proposal called Sharon’s bluff, and he responded by sending the IDF rampaging through the Occupied Territories, demonstrating to all but the wilfully blind that Israel, not the Arab nations, is the primary obstacle to peace.

The proposed peace plan is indeed a “Road-map to Hell” since Israel will never implement any such plan in good faith. It is refreshing to see Israel admitting this time around that its racist, colonial project will no longer masquerade as a “peace process.”

Apologists like Melanie Phillips who persist in attempting to obscure the obvious and put the blame on the hapless Palestinians have their work cut out for them. Such spin will get ever more challenging, as even their pro-Israel allies dispense with the “peace process” ruse in favour or outright conquest.
Cheryl Hutchinson
Columbus, Ohio

Melanie Philips writes with so much anger and hatred of Arabs and Palestinians in her piece on ‘Road- Map to Hell’. She belittles Palestinian suffering which has included millions of them living either under a brutal occupation or being forced from their homeland.

I hope Melanie can one day understand that the slow genocide against the Palestinians and their culture is what is fuelling much of the anger and hatred towards Israel. Israel is a country whose policies are so against the values we hold dear in the ‘West’, yet these policies still have much support from pro-Zionists living in the ‘West’. This results in a biased approach, in favour of Israel, to so-called peace making efforts e.g. Israel has never been penalised for continuous settlement building.

The ‘West’ appears to be the only force capable of halting the suffering, by imposing peace. Thus, Western pro-Zionists, like Melanie need to realise this and get on the peace bandwagon. Otherwise we are in danger of maintaining the status quo, where pro-Zionists visions – driven by those thousands of miles away in the safety of the ‘West’ – are creating not more, but less security for those in the thick of it.
Zaheer Ahmed

Melanie Phillips omits to mention that Israel is the occupying power, and the Palestinians are the occupied population. By measuring the actions of both parties by the same yardstick, she ignores that history usually does not draw symmetries between the actions of slaves and masters.

She is right in saying that the conflict is not only about the occupation. It is certainly also about the Israeli flagrant injustice towards Palestinians through the ethnic cleansing, before and during the war of 1948, of 85% of the Arab population of what is now Israel. This has been finally admitted to by Israeli historians, such as Ilan Pappé, Benny Morris and Tom Segev, to name a few. A Palestinian struggle against Israel, including its insistence on the Palestinian right of return, is a claim for rectification of these injustices, rather than a fight to “exterminate” Israel. I wonder if the IRA bombings of the London underground, no matter how despicable, would ever be interpreted as a threat to eliminate England from existence?

As for “agendas”, Phillips should read “a strategy for Israel in the 1980’s” of Oded Yinon, published originally in “Kivunim”, by the Department of Publicity of the World Zionist Organisation (Issue No.14–February 1982), in order to understand why there is so much Arab scepticism of Israeli plans in the Middle East. One should also question why Israeli correspondents living and covering events in the Occupied Territories, end up reporting an Israeli apartheid and a struggle of an occupied population rather than schemes for the “extermination” of Israel (Amira Haas, Gideon Levy of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz). Could it be that correspondents who are “on site” are closer to reality than columnists defending Israel blindly and writing far away from their ivory towers?

If we want to be brought back to reality and develop a humane approach to the conflict, we would all do well to read Emma William’s heart-written article in the same edition, about daily life in the Occupied Territories. That would certainly help both the Israeli and the Palestinian people better than reading worn-out propaganda. In the meantime, we would do better not to reject peace attempts lightly, despite all due criticism thereto, be they major or minor.
Zina Nabulsi

“The road-map will fail because it assumes that the conflict is a territorial boundary dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not. It is rather a continuation of the 55-year-old Arab war of extermination against Israel”.

The usual sensationalist nonsense of Ms Phillips’ so-called ” journalism”. Over the last 55 yrs 4 major wars have been fought between the Arabs and Israelis. The wars in 1967 and 1956 were not initiated by the Arabs; since the war of 1973 Egypt and Jordan have established diplomatic and trade links with Israel, and Saudi Arabia has recently announced a ” Peace plan” whereby full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab countries would be established subject to Israel allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. Hardly the actions of those ” hell bent on destruction of Israel”. Perhaps Ms Phillips is allowing herself to believe that when it comes to Arabs and Arabs only, words can be taken more seriously than deeds.

“The Palestinians regard the whole of Israel as occupied territory to be liberated….”He says that he wants a Palestinian state; but he also wants the Palestinians to be given an absolute right to live in someone else’s country”.

Historically, the Jewish people had not been resident in the then state of Palestine (pre- 1948) for more than 1000 years, which under international law is tantamount to renouncing one’s claim on a territory.

Following the mass immigration of Jews to Palestine during the period between 1920-1948, the new immigrants attempted to wrest control of Palestine from the people who were already living there, via terrorist organisations such as Irgun and The Stern Gang, dubious economic practises as regards land ownership and the attempt to get the British to renounce control over Palestine via acts of terror such as the bombing of the King David hotel. Britain herself via the Balfour Declaration promised the Jewish people ‘a home’ in Palestine and NOT Palestine itself, something that legally they had no right to do given that the land was not theirs to divide up. Thus when the Jewish people later took over Palestine following the 1948 war and the mass Palestinian exodus (due totally to the terrorism of various Jewish terrorist groups) it could rightly be termed an occupation.

“Hundreds of thousands of Jews were driven out of Arab lands as a result of pogroms and persecution before and after Israel was created.”

More historical distortion. The Arabs and Jews lived peacefully side-by side in Muslim controlled Andalusia for hundreds of years. Indeed the Inquisition and forms of Christianity- inspired persecution of the Jews never took place under Arabs. Furthermore Jews in general to this day persist in living in Iraq, Egypt and Yemen, and I can assure you they have never been subjected to the kind of treatment that the Israelis daily inflict on the Palestinians.

Melanie Phillips I fear practises the kind of journalism more at home in a banana republic- controlled press than in a democratic one. Hers is based on ulterior motive and a total and utter ignorance and disregard for real historical facts. To date and with no exceptions all Ms Phillips articles on the Israel-Palestinian issue have been biased and have consistently ignored the real facts on the ground that would render her ultra pro-Israel stance meaningless.

With the world in the turmoil that it is in, one would have thought it responsible to deal with an emotive issue such as the Israeli- Palestinian issue from a detached and objective viewpoint. Not all Arabs hold enmity with the citizens of Israel and vice- versa. Surely it would be more responsible to try to strengthen this state of affairs than to weaken it?
Tarek S Arab MD

I am horrified by your publication of Melanie Phillips’ appalling article. It is ignorant, misleading and racist. You may reply that you do not necessarily share your writers’ views, but would you publish an overtly anti-Semitic article by the leader of the BNP? I suspect that you would not want to give his views the opportunity of an airing.

I would ask Ms Phillips this: if the Palestinians (all of them, according to her half-witted article) are the “mass murderers”, why is it that three times as many Palestinians as Israelis have been killed since September 2000? How many houses, how much water, how many farms have been taken from Israelis by Palestinians? It is obscene to portray the Israelis as the victims. Were I to read the Spectator again, I would not be surprised to see articles claiming that the French or Greek resistance were terrorists and “mass murderers” and the Nazi reprisals against their civilians more than justified. There would be no logical distinction between that and Ms Phillips’ article.
Alice Close

Once again Melanie Phillips manages to get to the bottom of the real issues of the Middle East.

The “Road Map” is undoubtedly well-intentioned but makes the false assumption that we have arrived at today’s situation by a descent into a “cycle of violence” – the implication being that the cycle can be unwound by a series of reciprocal steps backwards by parties of goodwill who need outside help to save face as they step away from the abyss.

The trouble is that that simply is not the reality. Israelis have long accepted the need for a two-state solution whilst the Arabs retain the goal of destroying the state of Israel.

Of course the hoped-for military annihilation has long since past into the history books. The Arabs are not stupid enough to repeat a mistake for a fourth time, having tried and failed to destroy the Jewish State by force in 1948, 1967 and 1973.

Much wiser to introduce the “right of return” as a means of removing the Jewish majority and turning Israel into a Judeo-Arab state. At Taba in 2000, Arafat was offered the only solution to this issue which any Israeli government could countenance and he rejected it – the right of return of all Palestinians to the new state offered to him on a plate.

Professor Efraim Karsh, head of Mediterranean Studies at King‘s College, wrote in a 2001 essay on the subject that the vast majority of refugees from the 1948 war were exhorted to leave by their Arab brethren, who urged them to make way for oncoming Arab armies intent on driving the Jews into the sea. Karsh estimates that only 5 to 10 percent were actively expelled by Israelis.

There is no post 2nd World War refugee group anywhere on the planet still in camps other than the Palestinians who are left there to rot as propaganda tools by their fellow Arabs. Their number has more than quadrupled since 1948 and they even have an entire UN bureaucracy dedicated to keeping them there.

Formed in 1949 as a temporary relief body, UNRWA still exists today and has an enormous budget mainly supplied directly by US, British and European taxpayers – Arab countries make only token contributions. UNRWA differs from the UN’s main body for refugees (UNHCR) in that its stated aim is to keep the Palestinians in camps rather than re-settle them. This simply adds legitimacy to the bogus right of return and explains why the road map is simply a much-trodden road to nowhere.
Barry Soraff

Comment on The New Labour party is over by Peter Oborne (17/05/2003)

Since Peter Oborne has tried to revise history and claim that all the risks that Tony Blair took in the run up to war were “exaggerated”, I can no longer take his analysis seriously.

That and his ridiculous attack on Blair’s interview for The Sun has lost him a serious amount of credibility, and has badly dented his reputation as a serious political commentator. Oborne lives a world where a politician is not allowed to try and restore his reputation after receiving one of the biggest assaults from his party and country in history, because that would be “spin”.

You stay in that world Peter.
Doug Gray

Comment on Referendum est (17/05/2003)

Parliamentary democracy as I once knew it seems to be on the wane, and mass demonstrations seem to be the only way in which the ordinary citizen can influence policy on single issues. If Blair won’t hold a referendum on the Euro constitution, may I suggest that the editors of the UK media co-ordinate with interested parties in organising the biggest series of demonstrations on one day that this country has ever known.

Citizens in former Communist aspirant members of the EU would probably be only too happy to join in
John Corbet-Milward

Comment on Pole position by Andrew Gimson (17/05/2003)

Finally an article that gives recognition to the struggling but determined “eastern” Europeans. I lived in Hungary through the first part of the last decade, and have seen there the kind of resolve the article describes about the Poles. The Hungarians protected Europe from the Turks for 150 years, not to take the credit from the Poles, but I wish to have that record straight. They have tolerated the Germans and Austrians to rule over them after they successfully defeated the Turks. In Versailles (1919) they have lost 75% of their territory (including Transylvania – abundant with natural resources) because of that German dependency. This bias treaty still haunts a lot of Hungarians. Followed by the cruel Russian communist rule.

These countries on the new frontier of the EU are aching for credit from the powerful players in the west, as little children competing for their busy father’s attention, they want to be recognized for what they have done and endured in Europe for the last 1000 years. Whether they will be important allies or not, it is time to shake off the perception that these countries just trying to get a piece of the pie. History entitles them to their rightful place in European politics.
Justin Petrovay
Chorley, Lancashire

Comment on “We don’t do burglary” by Mark Palmer (17/05/2003)

I read Mark Palmer’s article about his stolen Vespa with some considerable interest. I live in Denton, Texas, USA. On the 5th of May, I caught a burglar, a person 16 years of age, known to me, exiting a window of my house. As he had nothing of mine in his possession, I ordered him to leave, which he did, and I then examined my goods to look for missing items. Many were missing – the offender had apparently made several trips that day. I called the police. My experience with them was not at all the disappointing one that Mr. Palmer had. A police officer came to my house and collected relevant information and evidence. The offender was quickly found, arrested, and my property was recovered.

This raises an interesting question in my mind: Who do the British police perceive as being their employer?

Where I live, local law enforcement is just exactly that – local. Areas outside city limits are the responsibility of the sheriff – an elected official who has no superior officer. The chief of police in the city of Denton works for the City of Denton, which is governed by locally elected officials. All who work for the police or the sheriff, as law-enforcement officers or civilian employees are paid from funds provided by local taxpayers. These people know who they work for – they perceive their employers to be, ultimately, the people of the community around them.

So, I have several questions about the funding and command structure of the British police.

Who employs the commanding officer of the police force that responded so badly to Mr. Palmer’s problem? What is the source of his income?

Who pays the salaries of the various officers and employees of the police?

I rather suspect that the only superior officer who could tell Mr. Palmer’s wretched police to mend their ways is so high in a bureaucratic hierarchy that he knows little and cares less about what happens at the level where people interact with their local police. I further suspect that this superior and his like are the ones that the police must keep happy, not the local people. Such superior officers do not exist here. They should not exist where Mr. Palmer lives.
David Gressett

Allegations of institutional racism pale beside the reality of institutional complacency that characterises the modern police in Britain. The myth of the jovial bobby on the beat was first dispelled for me in the mid-1990’s when some computers were stolen from my office in broad daylight by a delivery person. We knew who did it and the company they worked for but the police refused to do anything more than to phone the company and politely inquire if anyone there had nicked 10,000 pounds worth of goods that day. The insurance adjuster then explained that there was a tacit policy for the police in London to ignore crimes against business as it was assumed that the insurance companies would simply pay up and the business would blithely accept the commensurate rise in their rates to reflect the disappearance of police protection. The Conservative party should re-examine the notion that support for law and order automatically means blind support for the police. In considering the need for wide spread changes in the police they will need to consider the results of 30 or more years of deteriorating work practices meekly accepted by fearful politicians, the impact of “politically correct” police education initiatives at the expense of training in police work and a general British reluctance to develop new police methods and adapt to new technologies. Ironically the people most familiar with the increasing impotence have been the criminal classes who are able to exploit these failings so successfully. Hopefully your article contributes to the awakening of the vast majority of law abiding Britons that the police service needs a fundamental overhaul.
Richard Bassett

I have the misfortune to live in Lambeth, and inevitably I was mugged last year. What was interesting about this incident is that there were three undercover police officers watching.

I made an attempt to apprehend one of the individuals responsible, (There were youths involved) but the others made off with my property. The police bundled me into an unmarked car and we set off in hot pursuit.

Arrests were made. I made positive ID’s of 3 of the youths, including the ringleader, Andrew Charles, who was arrested.

The police were magnificent. The reason I suspect that they don’t bother to investigate burglary any more is what happened next.

Andrew Charles was released immediately, and following his failure to turn up to court, his case was dropped owing to “lack of evidence” (meaning too much trouble) I have still (10 months later) not received the explanation from the CPS despite having written to all parliamentarians, police officers and councillors that I thought could exert pressure.

Why should the police risk getting stabbed if it does no good? If an immediate arrest with 3 police officer witnesses is not a watertight case leading to a custodial sentence, then there is no crime worth investigating.
Malcolm Bracken


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