High seas and high horses

Socialite columnist Taki tackles Israel from his yacht.

By
August 29, 2010 21:24
Liat Collins

liat collins 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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I hesitate to criticize Taki. The author of The Spectator’s “High Life” column, Petros (Taki) Theodoracopulos, is far wealthier than me, much better connected – and, from his writings, considerably meaner.

The anti-Israel hostility of the Greek expatriate, along with his hatred of “loathsome neocons” and Russian oligarchs, is an essential part of his musings.

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Probably I should have just dashed off a letter to the editor after his July 31 column (“Six of the best”). But another anti-Israeli column by Taki is not news and I let his ramblings against Israel and the Jews – written aboard his yacht – wash over me. And, as he confessed, his cruise with three friends and their wives was “extremely liquid.”


In general, Spectator contributors seem to be proud of the amount of booze they consume.

Maybe the party floating off the Greek coast was drinking to drown other people’s sorrows.

“...there was great cultural pessimism among us,” wrote Taki. “The world really seems to be going to hell.

America is a blundering giant, its foreign policy determined by neocons out to wage nonstop war. Israeli Fifth Columnists are calling the tune. After the colossal blunders of Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran is next on the line.



There are even religious nuts in Israel who speak openly of nuking Rome and Berlin if Uncle Sam does not take care of the Iranian case. And we think that crazed mullahs are the problem.”

So far, so bad.

Boozing aboard the Bushido, Taki took a week’s break from bashing Israel, but in the August 14 issue he was at it again – the literary equivalent of a pro-Gaza flotilla, basking in being provocative.

In a piece titled “Give and take” Taki wrote: “Ever since Shimon Peres accused the UK of anti-Semitism, I’ve been very careful to whom I offer help on the high seas. Peres, who once upon a time made some sense, recently claimed that the English were pro-Arab and anti-Israel. He was also rude about my new best friend, David Cameron, who referred to Gaza as a ‘prison camp.’” Then, offering to teach Peres about the history of the state the president helped found, the waves of indignation took such a hold that Taki mixed myth and fact until the the result was like looking at a beautiful blue sea with rotting flotsam floating on the surface.

AT FIRST I thought no editor’s hand had touched the work, but when I saw the version published in Taki’s own on-line magazine I realized that someone had deleted at least one of the more potentially libelous elements.

This is part of what made the Spectator’s pages: “When the Nazis began to go after the Jews in Germany in the early 1930s, Palestine became the glittering prize. Of the nearly 500,000 Jews who lived in Palestine, most had arrived during the late 1930s. With the help of the British. The Zionists know that, obviously Professor Taki knows it, but try to get some wild-eyed settler to believe it.

Once the film Exodus was made, with Peter Lawford playing an anti-Semitic English officer, the game was up... In the meantime, the poor Palestinians have become third- or fourth-class citizens in their own country while Jews the world over pour into Israel...

“B’Tselem is an Israeli human-rights organization which courageously points out the outrages perpetrated daily by (mostly) American zealot settlers against local Palestinians. The latter live wretched lives as water and other basic human needs are denied them by the settlers.”

Hebron, according to Taki, “is a verdant place where the settlers have decided to drive out the Palestinians through hardship... The settlers plant trees and gardens; the Palestinians don’t have enough water to drink while they tend their sheep and camels. Meanwhile the settlements continue to grow.”

Hebron might look green from aboard Taki’s yacht but it is far from it from close up. Not many camel herds there either. (To expect a mention of the 1929 Hebron Massacre against the Jewish residents would obviously be too much.

Ditto the bombing by British-backed operatives of this paper when it was still known as The Palestine Post. Menachem Begin and Deir Yassin did get a dishonorable mention, of course. ) I’m not sure how “courageous” B’Tselem’s work is. It’s fairly popular, after all, to focus on Israeli “outrages.”

It seems to me that Bassem Eid, director of Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, who publishes the hardships of the Gazans – under Hamas – is taking a greater risk.

“And it gets worse,” wrote Taki. Finally, a sentence with which I could agree – albeit from the opposite direction.

“An even larger share of the Israeli army’s officer corps now comes from the Orthodox or settler group. These are people who see the Palestinians as subhuman, however unpleasant the word may sound to a Jew...

“... I don’t think old Shimon will be visiting me on Bushido. I’m sure my old Etonian accent has painted me as an anti-Semite. Too bad. Israel had a chance once upon a time to be a legitimate democracy, unlike the rest of the Arab countries surrounding it. It failed miserably because of its mind-set. And that of rich American Jews who encourage unacceptable and brutal behavior against innocents.”

MAYBE I should have a glass of something alcoholic before trying to counter this.

Some of my best friends are Jews. (I admit I’ve never been friendly with an anti-Semite despite the ample opportunity when growing up in Britain.) Several of my friends are “settlers,” not necessarily American-born; definitely not zealots. Some of them, indeed, never thought of themselves as settlers until President Barack Obama redefined their identities in various Jerusalem neighborhoods; a few are suffering from the government settlement freeze which was meant as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians who failed to jump at the chance to make peace. And I know many English-speaking immigrants active in civil rights NGOs of the type which strike terror into the hearts of Im Tirtzu members.

As my (sabra) friends and I – none of us rich – camped on an Israeli beach while Taki wined and whined on the Bushido, we did not talk of nuking Teheran (let alone Berlin and Rome – what was he imbibing?); we didn’t demonize Palestinians; and we didn’t plan a world war.

We complained – almost British-style – about the weather (extremely hot), talked about the kids and discussed various midlife annoyances. Like normal people.

My friend from Sderot assured us that it would be safe to visit her (“there are hardly any rocket attacks at the moment”) and I briefly wondered how people would feel if a resident of Birmingham, for instance, were to say there’s no danger because missiles “hardly ever” fall there.

As former British PM and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, the keynote speaker at a conference on the delegitimization of Israel at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, unexpectedly pointed out last week: “The issue of delegitimization is not simply about an overt denial of Israel’s right to exist. It is the advocating of prejudice in not allowing that Israel has a point of view that should be listened to.”

Ahead of the peace talks this week it is essential that all participants realize that spouting a one-sided narrative and applying double standards will not bring the Israelis and Palestinians closer.

Taki will inevitably continue to attack Israel, as surely as the waves reach the shores. Next time, however, I might simply write that letter to the editor. There’s a limit to the amount of free publicity you want to give to a guy like this.

The writer is the editor of The International Jerusalem Post. liat@jpost.com

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