Britain’s Arab apologists, by Julie Burchill

It's almost as if Israel is too much like the UK to appeal to exotica seekers.

redgrave bafta (photo credit: .)
redgrave bafta
(photo credit: .)
The first time I went to Israel, seven years ago, my present husband cried and my ex-mother-in-law (a Jewish atheist) informed me solemnly that she would pray each day for my safe return. When I went last year, returning with a gorgeous suntan the week before Christmas, my response to enquiries about where my pulchritudinous pigmentation had come from evoked such reactions as “Wow, you are brave!”
Yes, it certainly took a lot of guts to eat pizza in Jerusalem, drink cocktails in Tel Aviv and sit on a beach in Eilat – I should get a medal. And now I’m going back to Eilat next month – truly, my bravery knows no bounds!
ON THE other hand, I can’t claim to be anywhere near as heroic as those heaving hordes of Brits who risk their freedom every day by visiting Dubai, the allegedly liberal Emirates state where a kiss on the cheek is not, à la Marilyn, quite continental but rather an offense punishable by a month in jail. “Dubai Kiss” sounds like a particularly evil cocktail of the kind that British tourists visit this theoretically dry Muslim paradise to consume by the bucketful. That encouraging notoriously drunken and sexually generous British holiday-makers to let their hair down in a teetotal, prudish dictatorship was always going to be a bit of a paradox doesn’t seem to have occurred to either the Dubai Ministry of Tourism or the tourists themselves.
But we chilly mortals will overlook a multitude of sins – including hypocrisy – for a bit of winter sun. Winter in Britain lasts the best part of six months anyway and the one just leaving has been the coldest in 30 years.
Here is Sally Emerson coming over positively purple about Oman in The Sunday Times last year: “The country’s tribal customs and its domination by Islam have helped to preserve its toughness… You seldom see a woman in the streets and shops of Oman; if you do, she is swathed in black, like a shadow.”
And Molly Watson, writing in the Spectator, having the ab-dabs over Abu Dhabi; “At street level, there is something far more alluring about the veiled women of Abu Dhabi, in their beautifully cut abaya gowns accessorised with designer heels and handbags, than the scantily-clad Westerners…”
Treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen, eh ladies? But can’t you keep your tired old Turkish Delight fantasies in the bedroom where they belong, instead of projecting them onto the abused bodies of Muslim women?
It is almost that Israel is too much like us – democratic, with equal rights for women, gays and immigrants – to be appealing to the seeker after sunny exotica.
And this inverted snobbishness carries right the way over into politics. My father, a working-class man of impeccable left-wing instincts who nevertheless gloried in calling a spade a spade when faced with “sensitive” issues, put it well, if not wisely, when as a child I asked him why the feudal/fascistic Arab nations seemed to get away with shockingly shabby behavior, both at home and abroad, while tiny democratic Israel was criticized for everything it did. “They’m white,’ he explained patiently, “and because they’m white, people expects more of ’em. They don’t expect nothing of the Arabs.”
Though modern sensibilities would shudder at this sentiment, it’s amazing how many alleged Lefties over here put it into practice. “Oh, it’s their culture,” they shrug at the latest stoning for adultery/amputation for theft/jailing for kissing. But let the Israelis forge a few passports and it’s a crime against humanity!
This syndrome (a close relation of Stockholm, wherein captives come to excuse their tormentors; a big element in British-Arab relations) is an interesting inversion of the accepted wisdom that those who prefer Israel to its neighbors are in some way “racist.”
On the contrary, it is those who oppose Israel and excuse Islamism who are racist in the extreme as they do not appear to believe that the Arabs deserve the same democratic and civil rights as the Israelis do. Votes? Women’s rights? Gay rights? Trades union rights? Johnny Arab wouldn’t know what to do with them! With friends like that...
TALKING OF Arabist apologists, what fun we Zionist thugs back here in Blighty had recently laughing at Vanessa Redgrave’s extraordinary curtsey to the House of Windsor. For the benefit of Israelis with better things to do than swot up on the nasty habits of stuck-up thespians with shady mates, I’ll explain that Redgrave is an alleged socialist and feminist with a strange attraction to all things Muslim, be they of the Palestinian or Chechen variety – the most oppressive, anti-socialist, anti-feminist, anti-freedom system of belief and government that the world has ever known, with the arguable exception of the Nazis.
When she was awarded an Oscar in 1977 for her portrayal of a real-life anti-Nazi activist in the film Julia, she told the audience at the Academy Awards that she would not be intimidated by a “bunch of Zionist thugs.”
Said thugs being a few lively Jews outside objecting to a woman who had, in a Palestinian propaganda film, performed what was incredibly, incredulously described as “a sensuous dance wielding a PLO machine gun,” now accepting an honor for imitating a real person who sought to prevent Hitler from starting what Redgrave’s Islamist mates appear to be dead set on finishing.
All through the 1970s, Redgrave gave a good deal of her time and money to the laughably-named Workers Revolutionary Party, a cult-like organization that, to quote the Observer, “even among the far left was out-on-its-own wacko. Run by a thug and serial abuser of women named Gerry Healy, the WRP was said to be financed by the Redgraves, Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein... in the end, the WRP’s struggle amounted to little more than some spying on dissidents for Libya and Iraq and Healy’s alleged sexual assault of 26 female party workers.”
So considering her long history of sucking up to thugs and bullies, Ican’t say I’m totally surprised at Redgrave’s late-floweringmonarchism. What on earth possessed this firebrand thespian to sink solow towards the floor when faced with Prince William that it appearedshe might never rise again unaided? Simple; as I’ve always pointed out,the Royals get along so much better with the Arab countries than theydo with Britain’s fellow democracy Israel because so many Arabcountries have Royals who have things exactly the way the Windsors wishthey still were here.
That being so, the brown-nosing Redgrave was being perfectly logical. For once.
The writer has been a journalistsince the age of 17 and an admirer of Israel since the age of 12. Thetelevision adaptation of her teenage novel Sugar Rush won an International Emmy in 2006.