Magazine article The Spectator

If It's Good That Harry Was Fighting the Taleban, Why Are We Queasy When Israel Fights Hamas?

Magazine article The Spectator

If It's Good That Harry Was Fighting the Taleban, Why Are We Queasy When Israel Fights Hamas?

Article excerpt

Do you reckon they told all the royals? Seriously? All of them? Even the flaky minor ones, like Fergie? Or has she been gossiping with the Countess of Wessex and the bafflingly female Princess Michael of Kent, these past three months, wondering where Harry was, and whether this time he'd done something really bad? 'Has he eloped with a butler?' 'Is he in a Thai jail?' 'Is he doing that Winehouse girl, do you think?' Hey, they didn't tell everybody. They certainly didn't tell me. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they didn't tell Jon Snow, either. That would explain a lot. Hell hath no fury like the media stalwart ignored. Imagine him reading about it on Drudge, like the rest of us, and thinking back to all those cancelled dinner parties and those evasive colleagues who kept insisting they were just off skiing, again. Only a totalitarian state could keep a newsreader in the dark, eh Jon? We might as well be living in China.

My reaction, I think, was pretty typical.

'Gaw!' I felt inclined to say, as the hairs rose slightly on the back of my neck. 'Brave little tyke!' Did you get that, too? That weird sensation where you feel yourself momentarily turning into Barbara Windsor? It is the hardwired British response to the notion of royalty in peril, even if he is behind a sandbag and firing a machine gun. Maybe Snow was brave to challenge it. Maybe he was simply too cross to notice it was there.

I don't mean to challenge it, a week on, but it has been bothering me. Please forgive this column lurching in what may appear to be a new direction, but it has been bothering me, mainly, because of Israel's latest onslaught in Gaza. I'm pretty sure I've got a hardwired response to that sort of thing, too. It's a sick, tumbling sensation of despair, in the pit of the stomach. I can feel moral equivocation coming on. I can feel the intellectual faculties shutting down.

I'm not very comfortable writing about Israel. Prince Harry, Jon Snow, skiing holidays, I'm your man. Israel, hmm, rather not. A few years ago, I remember Richard Ingrams saying that he ignored people writing in support of Israel if they had Jewishsounding names. It was a vile thing to say, with a vile motivation behind it, but it was particularly vile because it wasn't entirely unreasonable. I'd know. I'm Jewish, and I tend to ignore my own thoughts about Israel. I don't particularly trust them. I'm too conscious of my wiring.

Deeply weird country, Israel. I've only been there once. Jerusalem, I thought, was a total basketcase of a place. The Old City sums it up, chopped into ill-conceived factions like the execution of a badly drafted will, with hundreds of little cliques that have essentially just been being wildly unreasonable to each other for at least a thousand years. Take every Big Brother contestant that ever was, pack them into a city, and leave them there. Go back in a few millennia, and that's Jerusalem. Bonkers.

Tel Aviv, by contrast, seemed a lot of fun. It's a proper Mediterranean city, going about its business. The mad mullahs who want to push the Jews into the sea, the academics who debate Israel's 'right to exist', they can't have been there. …

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