My Word: The beat in Britain

The United Kingdom seems to be searching for an identity during a time of crisis.

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 needed.
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.
Many other 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 once-worthiest universities.
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 South Africa.
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 Jew.
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 pointed out).
According to a BBC report, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the men were withdrawn after a “serious misunderstanding” over their role.
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 diplomatic.
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.”
In 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.
In Israel, 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 “Zion.”
World peace doesn’t stand a sporting chance.

The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.
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