Britain seems baffled. That’s the impression I received during a brief visit to
London, courtesy of British Airways, at the end of last month. It seems to be
searching for an identity during a time of crisis. Although I’d expected the
media to be full of stories about the upcoming royal wedding, during my trip –
which coincided with the Academy Awards ceremony – the British seemed more
concerned with the life and luck of George VI, or at least of Colin Firth, who
portrayed him in the brilliant movie The King’s Speech. Here was a reason for
national pride, a countrywide feelgood moment that was obviously sorely
The rest of the news was grim. The front pages, and most of those
that followed, were devoted to the situation in the Middle East, in particular
to the Libyan crisis.
The turmoil in Libya caught much of the world by
surprise, but the British more than most. The UK, determined to improve its
fiscal situation, has been entrenched in Libya, and the Foreign Office, under
instructions from David Cameron’s cabinet, had evidently been hoping to start
concentrating on business ties rather than becoming tied up in another conflict
far from home.
Worse than that: The British public suddenly woke up to
the realization that this battle wasn’t as far from home as they had thought. In
an embarrassing incident that resulted in the resignation of director Sir Howard
Davies, the link between the prestigious London School of Economics and Saif
al-Islam Gaddafi – son of the Libyan leader – was revealed to be, indeed, more a
matter of economics than further education.
There was much
breast-beating, but somehow the main point – the camel in the room, as it were –
was overlooked. The heir-apparent of Lockerbie bomber-sponsor Muammar Gaddafi
was not alone.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad, son of the late but
unlamented Hafez Assad, had also been a student in London, though his
ophthalmology studies in the British capital did not broaden his vision, as can
be seen from his continued support for Tehran’s terrorism.
princes and heirs related to totalitarian Arab regimes have also benefited from
the best British education their money could buy.
Their funding is now
determining the shape of Middle East studies in some of the country’s oldest and
I MENTION the situation on campus because it
is again the time of year when the world’s institutes of higher education become
openly unbalanced and host Israel Apartheid Week. This is when the one democracy
in the Middle East is blasted for perceived systematic discrimination à la old
As I have pointed out before, Apartheid Week is not
academic. It is the Big Lie technique in action among future opinion leaders
(although it seems to become increasingly hard for even welleducated British
graduates to find decent employment; no wonder the sons of Middle Eastern rulers
tend to opt for the family business).
Apartheid Week is part of the
greater push for divestment, boycotts, sanctions and everything else that goes
with delegitimization – the way that moneygrubbing goes with the stereotype of a
Israel Apartheid Week is about many things – but not human rights,
peace or freedom of speech.
Israel, after all, not only put its former
president on trial (for rape and sexual assault) but appointed a Christian Arab
as head of the panel of judges which tried and convicted him. (Anybody notice
that the Christians in Egypt continue to be slaughtered while the world’s
attention is distracted?) International Women’s Day last week did point out the
still-existent discrepancies between the genders (which is also a factor in the
poor pay of the striking social workers, the majority of whom are women), but
leader of the opposition and Kadima head Tzipi Livni was nonetheless named one
of the top 150 “women who shake the world,” according to Newsweek and the
website Daily Beast.
In another absurdity, while Livni was praised as a
leading advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and
as a former foreign minister, her term in this position means she can’t even set
foot in Britain without fear of arrest – at least, not until the UK changes its
universal jurisdiction legislation. This allows British courts to order the
arrest of Livni, who is accused of crimes against humanity by pro-Palestinian
groups making the most of what has been called “lawfare.”
And while an
Israeli diplomat was expelled from London over the alleged use of a British
passport in ridding the world of arch-terrorist Mahmoud al- Mabhouh last year,
the six British soldiers and two Foreign Office officials detained for two days
by rebels in Libya were discovered to be carrying several different passports
(although presumably not Israeli ones, as an astute Jerusalem Post letter writer
According to a BBC report, Foreign Secretary William Hague
said the men were withdrawn after a “serious misunderstanding” over their
Ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor, newly appointed to the equally
demanding UN post, probably has one or two things he could say about that, but
unfortunately for him his job requires him to be
Incidentally, although the British are famed for their sense
of humo(u)r, they apparently failed to see the irony in Iran’s Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad scolding Gaddafi for “opening fire on his own people.”
fact, a lot has been missed – and not only moments that could raise a smirk.
Leaders of democratic countries – where election results aren’t announced until
all the votes have been counted – focused on getting Gaddafi off the UN’s Human
Rights Council, but few were asking out loud what he had been doing there in the
first place. Libya actually chaired the body meant to symbolize tolerance and
democracy. Even Iran, whose candidacy as a member of the UN’s Commission on the
Status of Women was revoked just before the vote last year, is again just a
stone’s throw away from acceptance. If elected, it could sit alongside such
luminaries of women’s welfare as Saudi Arabia and Congo.
meanwhile, Dana International – arguably the world’s greatest transsexual
celebrity – has been chosen to represent the country again at this year’s
Eurovision Song Contest. She’s probably best known for winning the 1998 contest
in Birmingham with the song Diva.
I can’t vouch for her chances in the
contest taking place this year in Düsseldorf, Germany, but she wouldn’t even
stand a chance of survival in the rapidly Islamizing Arab world. And I wouldn’t
recommend her strutting down London’s Edgware Road proclaiming her patriotic
support of Israel, either.
Iran, of course, is threatening to boycott the
London Olympics next year because, it claims, the logo resembles the word
World peace doesn’t stand a sporting chance.
The writer is
The International Jerusalem Post.