Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Littlejohn takes on the Jews

Richard Littlejohn hosted a documentary on Channel Four last night called The War on Britain's Jews?. Superfluous question mark aside, I was actually rather pleasantly surprised. It didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know, or at least suspect, but what I appreciated about the programme was its bluntness, its candid stating of a series of uncomfortable truths to an audience reluctant to hear them. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Britain. In at least one Jewish school, the threat of violence is so bad that children need high fences, bomb-proof windows and security escorts for the school run. It's not just neo-nazis anymore, its Islamic fundamentalists as well. And large sections of the British Left, with a tradition of solidarity with the Jews going back to Cable Street, thought nothing of marching under banners saying "We Are All Hezbollah Now" in protest at Israeli action in Lebanon.

For me, the real crux of the matter was the argument put forward by some Muslims and fewer Jews that "if Britain's Jewish leaders were to be more critical of the policies of Israel, it would significantly lessen the hostility towards Jews in the UK." Er, pardon? Racism towards the Jews has been going down in this country and just about everywhere else since before Israel was even created, so to suggest that verbally distancing themselves from it is really going to have any placating effect on anti-Semites is not only ludicrous but downright dishonest.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Alan Johnston released

What a fantastic start to the day: switching on the computer at work, hitting the BBC website only to discover that - yes - Alan Johnston has at last been released after a marathon 114 days in captivity at the hands of the Army of Islam. The sense of relief and joy he must be experiencing can only be imagined by those who have been in a similar situation and survived.

Is it wrong of me to hope that he puts in for a transfer to a safer desk than Gaza? In fact, he may well have no choice, given that his future coverage of Hamas risks being tainted by the fact that they secured his release. That fact aside, the journalist in me still feels that either Johnston or someone else from the BBC should remain based in Gaza, simply because there's no one else there to report what's happening to the outside world. Reporting is one of the riskiest jobs on earth, but that doesn't mean it should be shied away from. Rather, better measures should be used by news organisations to ensure that their journalists are as well-protected as possible in conflict zones.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 2006 saw:

  • 81 journalists and 32 media assistants killed;
  • 871 arrested;
  • 1,472 physically attacked or threatened; and
  • 56 kidnapped.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A long time in politics

What a week. In the space of just a few days, we've had Tony Blair stepping down to make room for El Gordo, an unexploded car bomb outside Tiger Tiger, a fiery Jeep ramming into the side of Glasgow airport, the launch of the smoking ban in England... er, er... the Concert for Diana [That's enough. Ed.]. At least it prevented Paris Hilton's (second) release from jail becoming a bigger story than it deserved.

The theory that the attacks were timed to coincide with the government handover from Blair to Brown seems pretty convincing, if unproven. With a cabinet full of ministers new to their roles and little long-term experience of coping with terrorism, what better way to send out a message that these attacks will continue no matter who's living at Number 10? Maybe the "BLIAR" crowd will now recognise that Blair's departure isn't necessarily the magical solution to solving all the world's problems...

Meanwhile, it's emerged that most of the people arrested in connection with the London and Glasgow incidents are either doctors or other medical workers. Without wishing to segue into an endless class debate, the fact that the majority of suspects for these two cases are presumably highly educated people would suggest that parameters used to describe Europe's extremist Muslim terrorists are now expanding beyond the prototypical unemployed, alienated, disaffected-youth type images that we formerly recognised. What can we do about it? Surely no one is naive enough now to think that pulling the troops out of Iraq will be enough to satisfy these people.