Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Watching the BBC's excellent dramatisation of Anne Frank's diary last week, I was struck by the family relationships depicted. They reminded me strongly of another family. Otto Frank, Anne's father, was the dominant and admired figure in the household. He ran a small business supplying pectin for jam-making, but his intelligence fitted him for greater things which circumstances prevented. He had two daughters, and no sons, and was very ambitious for his younger, livelier daughter, Anne. His wife, Edith, was much more withdrawn, and Anne felt that her mother did not understand her. Anne, though she loved her family, had the self-absorption of the clever teenager. She longed for a different, wider sphere of life, and dreamed of fame as a writer. At much the same time as the Frank girls were growing up in Amsterdam, the Roberts girls in Grantham were doing the same. Alfred Roberts was a small grocer, who had had to leave school at 14, but was highly self-educated. He had no sons, and he poured his intellectual and political ambition into his younger daughter, Margaret. His wife, Beatrice, was a rather disregarded figure in young Margaret's life, and the two were not close. Though feeling natural piety towards her family, Margaret was determined to look beyond the life of the grocer's shop, and dreamed of political success in the wider world. The difference in the two stories consisted in the outcome.

Margaret Thatcher became the first woman prime minister of Britain. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Why that difference? Surely it boils down to the difference between a good and a bad political order. If Anne Frank, who was Jewish, had been born in Golders Green, she might now be a distinguished elderly novelist. Perhaps, to coincide with her 80th birthday this year, she would be made Dame Anne Frank by the Queen, whose picture, as a young Princess, Anne pinned on the wall of her hidden attic.

Obviously the juxtaposition of the Anne Frank programme with the Israeli attacks on Gaza made one 'read across'.

Unlike most British journalists, I feel more pro-Israel because of these events. It relates to the point above about good and bad political orders. Israel is a country with a rule of law and parliamentary democracy and a free press. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005 because it knew its presence there was, in anything but the short term, illegitimate and unsustainable.

The Hamas regime which then arose in Gaza is a bad political order -- a fanatical entity which shows no concern for the welfare of its own people. Indeed, it actively advocates that they kill themselves. Under the guise of divine inspiration, it claims the right to destroy Israel (and, by the same token, persecutes Christians and those Muslims who do not agree with it). It makes hate-filled and conspiratorial claims against Jews which, if spoken by white men, the pro-Hamas BBC or Guardian would execrate. I am not, in the exact sense, a Zionist: I do not think that any people have a God-given or historic right to a homeland previously inhabited mainly by others. But a good political order has grown up in Israel over 60 years, and those who wish to destroy it have the same motives as those who took the Frank family away to their deaths. Next year, Iran, which leads the Islamist death-cult of which Hamas is a part, may get the Bomb. …

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