The following article, by Barabra Amiel, recently appeared in the British press. It is reproduced here, along with a reaction by Tom Gross.
Islamists overplay their hand but London salons don’t see it
By Barbara Amiel
In a column in last week’s Spectator, Petronella Wyatt noted that “since September 11 anti-Semitism and its open expression has become respectable at London dinner tables.”
This is an accurate observation and cannot be avoided by simply staying at home.
Recently, the ambassador of a major EU country politely told a gathering at my home that the current troubles in the world were all because of “that shitty little country Israel”.
“Why,” he asked, “should the world be in danger of World War Three because of those people?”
At a private lunch last month, the hostess – doyenne of London’s political salon scene – made a remark to the effect that she couldn’t stand Jews and everything happening to them was their own fault.
When this was greeted with a shocked silence, she chided her guests on what she assumed was their hypocrisy. “Oh come on,” she said, “you all feel like that.”
Once that remark would have cost her licence as a serious political hostess, but clearly she believes the zeitgeist is blowing her way.
The editor of a major British newspaper came to our home, and I can tell Petronella Wyatt that it can be just as awkward with good friends at lunch as it is with strangers at dinner.
The editor is a decent man but his paper habitually blames Israel’s “opposition to peace” for the problems in the Middle East and lectures them to negotiate. “But, look,” he was asked, “Arafat does not believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state. How can the Israelis negotiate in that situation?”
The editor replied with disarming honesty: “You have put your finger on the weak point in our argument.”
All this is not as bad as it seems. True, these remarks are exceptionally painful for some British Jews who feel beleaguered aliens in their own land. For myself, it merits only a shrug.
One is irritated when, as last October, the community hall of a north London synagogue burnt down in what police labelled a racist arson attack and the matter barely rated a mention except in the Jewish press.
The Monday after the triple suicide bombings in Israel that killed 26 and injured around 200, the Evening Standard turned to Charles Glass, an old anti-Israel hand. Glass wrote: “Palestinians kill Israelis. Israelis kill Palestinians. Who killed first? No one remembers and it does not matter.”
For the past 25 years, I’ve watched sad-faced Israeli activists trudge around Western capitals with heavy hearts beating under ill-fitting suits. They carry folders of transcripts and videotapes to document the misrepresentations in the press and the moral hypocrisy of the world towards Israel.
They want to win the war of ideas on its merits. Their attention to detail in translating the hate literature of the Middle East and the hate-filled speeches of its leaders is commendable.
It’s enlightening to read, for example, their studies of Syrian and Palestinian Authority school textbooks that explain to young schoolchildren that the Jews are a people made up of rapists, murderers and thieves.
It is sad to learn that such PA textbooks are used by the UN in its schools for Palestinian refugees. But something new is “blowin’ in the wind”.
Today, after years in the media desert, Israel’s experts and front-line activists are slowly finding some media doors opening to them. They may think it is their own perseverance. But I think it is the daisy cutter effect.
For years, I said that Jews were out of fashion and I understood why. The world was sick of the Middle East problem: why should it be inconvenienced by the cost and the ripple effect of terrorism?
The West defeated the Third Reich and we Jews were no longer in need of a lifeboat: indeed, today we would probably be safer just about anywhere rather than the Middle East. But events in the past year or so changed the equation and our rehabilitation has begun. The Arab/ Muslim world overplayed its hand.
Their first wrong move was the rejection of prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer in 2000. Even if you looked at that proposal from an Arab point of view and believed that a Palestinian state comprising 95 per cent of the West Bank and a shared Jerusalem was not sufficient, you couldn’t possibly argue that such a deal should be rejected out of hand.
The second mistake was launching the Al-Aqsa intifada after rejecting that deal. Eventually, the world saw that it was not Ariel Sharon’s walk on the Temple Mount that caused the new intifada (a walk pre-cleared with the Muslim authorities) but Arafat’s decision to escalate violence for tactical reasons.
The greatest error of all was when bin Laden, acting in the name of the Arab/Muslim world, decided – with a total incomprehension of what this would entail – to blow up Lower Manhattan and blow it up at a time when the American administration was in the hands of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and not Clinton and Gore.
The Arab street remained silent at best or cheered the WTC bombing even as some of their leaders made ritual condemnations of it. Almost overnight, a blindfold fell off America’s eyes. Appeasement didn’t work.
The problem was not Israel’s intransigence, nor even the conflict that comes from Israel’s existence: the problem is Islamism.
Islam itself is split between Islam as a religion that can be essentially peaceful – endorsing the qualities of charity and mercy – and militant Islam (Islamism), which is intolerant and expansionist. Islam periodically goes into this expansionary phase and is now in one.
That is why in the past few years some mosques in the West have seen violent incidents, including murders, as radical mullahs fight moderates for supremacy. Militant Islam wants to be the dominant force in the world.
Its crusade has Muslims fighting Christians in Indonesia, Sudan and Pakistan. Christians in Lebanon have largely fled. Muslim fights Muslim in Algeria. Islamism has been on the move all right, but it hasn’t a chance now, because it finally woke up America.
It took the blowing up of three planes on an airstrip outside Jordan by Palestinian terrorists in 1970 to turn the world’s attention to the Palestinian question. One regrets to say that it has taken a lot more violence to get the world to focus on the true nature of Islamism.
Powerful as the truth may be, it needs a nudge from 16,000lb daisy cutter bombs once in a while. The Arab/Muslim world’s intransigence comes into sharper focus when we see the Americans liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban in six weeks and a cornered Arafat unable to go to the bathroom without the risk of being blown into the next world.
Nothing succeeds like powerful bombs, as bin Laden explained in his latest video release. “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse,” he said.
“Some of the media said that in Holland, in one of the centres, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations [attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon] were more than the people who accepted Islam in the past 11 years.”
Bin Laden understands the power of a successful show of force all right, though he seems slow to grasp that America’s horses are stronger than his.
Don’t worry, Petronella. It is both sad and true that the consequences of super-liberalism led to suicide bombers and intifadas in Israel and to the attacks in America. But the US has shown it is no paper tiger.
All those people bad-mouthing the Jews and Israel will quieten down. You are looking at the tail end of the train but the engine has already turned a corner and is going in the opposite direction.
Nothing succeeds like success. America is driving this train and the world will get on board – though the last carriage may be those London dinner parties.
Note by Tom Gross – There has been a strong reaction in the UK to Barbara Amiel’s article I sent out on Monday. As a result there are calls for the French Ambassador to London to be recalled to Paris. (By way of example, below is an article from the Times of London.) Please note that the ambassador is a close confidante of President Chirac, and was previously France’s ambassador at the UN. There has also been a good deal of sympathy for the ambassador, including racist comments against Jews and Israelis, comments I am not at liberty to repeat here for reasons of libel.
Diplomatic gaffe puts Tory salon out of joint
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19 2001
BY ANDREW PIERCE
THE evening began as a party to honour a rising star of publishing and the Tory party. But by the time the last guest had left a diplomatic gaffe had been committed that threatens the career of France’s Ambassador to London.
Daniel Bernard was said to have made crude anti-Semitic remarks at the buffet party at the end of last week for Boris Johnson, Editor of The Spectator and successor to Michael Heseltine as Tory MP for Henley.
Worse still, the ambassador made the alleged comments in private to his host, Lord Black of Crossharbour, proprietor of The Daily Telegraph, whom he regarded as a close friend, at Lord Black’s home in Kensington. Unfortunately for M Bernard the conversation was conveyed by Lord Black to his journalist wife, Barbara Amiel, who hosted the “Boris Johnson Phenomenon” evening. She referred to the remark in her Daily Telegraph column. Ms Amiel was not at the table when the fateful conversation took place.
Ms Amiel wrote that the “ambassador of a major EU country told me” that the international security crisis had been triggered by “that shitty little country Israel”. The ambassador, according to Ms Amiel, added: “Why should we be in danger of world war three because of these people?” Ms Amiel, to protect the identity of her guest, did not name the ambassador.
There was no need to. Within 24 hours he had been identified as M Bernard, a man on close terms with President Chirac. Yesterday he was distraught about the breach of trust at a party where he thought he was among friends. The ensuing diplomatic fallout has led to calls from senior figures in the Jewish community in Britain for M Bernard to step down.
Yves Charpentier, Press Secretary at the French Embassy, confirmed that the ambassador Ms Amiel had referred to was M Bernard, who is a Roman Catholic. M Charpentier said: “The ambassador regarded it as a private dinner with friends. He was surprised to have his remarks reported in this way. He discussed a number of topics including the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.”
Challenged whether he used the phrase “that shitty little country Israel”, M Charpentier said: “The ambassador does not remember if he used those words.
“The ambassador said we were facing a geographically limited problem, a small area, which has disproportionately huge consequences for world peace. He is not anti-Semitic or anti Israel.”
The British Board of Deputies, representing the Jewish community in Britain, expressed concern at the ambassador’s apparent criticism. A spokesman said: “These remarks do not constitute the official view of the French Embassy as they were said in a personal capacity. But it does cause grave concern if that is the ambassador’s personal opinion, particularly as the country he is talking about is one his Government claims is our staunch friend.”
M Charpentier said: “We are sending a Christmas card to them (Lord and Lady Black) today.” Asked if the ambassador would return for dinner, he added: “That depends whether they invite him.”