I wish somebody else had written this because it’s about the usual, and believe me, I don’t want to be repetitive. But needs must.
Anyone who heard R4’s Saturday Live this morning will know what I mean. The studio guest was ‘comedian’ Mark Thomas who has walked the length of the separation barrier in Israel /Palestine. Saturday Live’s genial host, exceedingly left wing Reverend Richard Coles, was all ears.
Not wishing to appear one-sided, Mr. Thomas took a moment to explain that the Second Intifada was very bloody, before lapsing into a melodramatic chronicle of the Palestinian suffering caused by checkpoints and the wall. Meanwhile, Stockholm Syndrome sufferer John McCarthy chimed in with a trail for Excess Baggage, the following programme, which he hosts. McCarthy regularly devotes much of ‘Excess Baggage’ to recommending idyllic holiday destinations such as Damascus, and eulogising over Arab hospitality. Which they duly demonstrated by holding him hostage for several years.
While Mr. Thomas was underlining the unnecessary suffering caused by checkpoints and the barrier, McCarthy interjected with his twopence-worth – “Deliberately so.”
Much as Mark Thomas’s ‘comedian’s cockerney’ portended a preconceived political agenda, I still hoped this might have been tempered by his eye-opening adventure. But his eyes had remained blinkered. Barriers are bad, and must come down, he surmised. Bombs still go off, proving the wall doesn’t protect Israelis as they claim. Here I’m assuming that I’m preaching to the converted, much as the BBC consistently does from the opposite perspective. Please, if you’re not sure what I mean, you need go no further with this.
Mark Thomas is anxious to tell us that his escapade was solely motivated by a devilish, naughty-boy, ‘ooh I am awful’ spirit, and a genuine, healthy curiosity.
But, same as anyone else – you knew it all along – he was merely exploiting ‘our’ hatred of Israel to make a few bucks out of his book, Extreme Rambling. Upcoming gigs seem to be doing rather well.
Funnily enough, he’s written an article for the paper that laps up, with gusto, any morsel of anti Israel rhetoric that comes along. It features an account of a rather moralistic encounter with the late Juliano Mer-Kamis, whose Jenin based inspirational theatre project purportedly channelled would-be suicide bombers’ hatred into the performing arts. Mr. Thomas didn’t disclose that their success rate was dubious. Nor that poor Mr. Mer-Karmis was thenceforth summarily dispatched by some raving Salafist murderers.
On his journey Mark Thomas spoke to Israelis as well as Palestinians, but predictably the list he provides on his website comprises only Israeli pro Palestinian organisations such as ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’. There is a deep well of such bodies in Israel. Sadly, not so on the other side.
Also on the programme was an interview with ex Guantanamo Bay guard Brandon Neely who is enduring severe pangs of guilt and regret about the inhumane treatment he unthinkingly meted out to former inmates. The Rev’s introduction alluded to the WikiLeaks revelations about innocent detainees, with nary a whisper about the accompanying revelations that explained why we were involved in the war on terror in the first place.
I have a great deal of sympathy with innocent people caught up in wars. Unfortunates who are in the wrong place at the wrong time do suffer unfairly and unjustly. If inhumane treatment is a tacitly approved practice, that should stop. Should our sympathy for those who are inconvenienced, ill treated, or who suffer loss and pain obscure our sympathy for the intentional victims of Jihad who are never coming back to tell the tale? No it should not.
Ultimately such people are victims of the same terrible thing; the collateral damage that stems from a wicked ideological fanaticism that sets out to overpower and subjugate, or dispose of, unbelievers and those who don’t belong. Deliberately so.