Saturday, January 31, 2009

Where are the doves?

Paul Kaye 'A dark fog has enveloped us'

When a rocket killed his mother-in-law in Israel, actor Paul Kaye was appalled by the celebrations in Gaza. Six months on, he feels a different kind of despair

At Shuli's funeral last May, her son Jonathon, my brother-in-law, gave a speech. "Where are the doves?" he asked. "What is this land worth without someone with a vision? Nothing. Without doves it wasn't worth the struggle." Jonny is 34. He's an army reservist who is studying to be a neurologist and has a two-year-old son called Boaz. He didn't scream for blood at his mother's graveside, he screamed for peace.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Light relief

Interesting to see how an impressionist goes about his work.

When we lived in England, Rory Bremner was king of the impressionists. Here's John Culshaw - new to me, but he's been around since the good old days of Spitting Image.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Something to be going on with

Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44th US president. Here is his inauguration speech in full.

My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

Serious challenges
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.
They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Nation of 'risk-takers'
We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and ploughed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

'Remaking America'
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Restoring trust

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

'Ready to lead'
As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

'Era of peace'
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honour them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

'Gift of freedom'
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have travelled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

For what it's worth

Long, long ago, the Semites lived in the not-yet-Middle-East.

And then Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren....... Oh, and, by the way, Isaac also begat Esau.

In fact Esau and Jacob were twins, and Esau, as the elder, should have inherited all Dad's (and Grandad's) worldly goods, prestige, divine approval, and some really good footnotes in Genesis, Mathew, etc. - but apparently sold his birthright to his brother for .......... wait for it............ 'a mess of pottage'. (Hence the oft-misquoted adage: The way to a man's hearth is through his stomach.)

The upshot was that the descendants of one bro - Jacob -became the Jewish people (aka God's Chosen People); while the descendants of Esau (All together now, "loooozuurrrrrrrr") became .... the Arabs! Interesting huh? Family Drama B.C.

Anyway, the Arabs were of no further interest to the writers of the Old Testament, while the Jews basked in God's love, which must indeed have been lovely. Unfortunately, it would appear that no-one had explained this to the Romans, who presumably thought that the Promised Land had in fact been promised to them - subjectivity can be such a problem between neighbours.....

So the Romans moved in, and waited for the locals to recognise that they were now a conquered people, keep their heads down and their noses clean, pay their taxes, and be good little subjects of Rome. Got that one wrong, didn't you, boys?

(Pop quiz: name one Arab people in the last couple of millennia which has knuckled under to an invader.................. take your time......... see?)

So after a while, the Romans got a little fed up with being constantly dragged away from their banquets and orgies, and never seeing the end of the circuses, all because the bloody locals kept mounting rebellions and holing up in mountain fortresses (where they'd stashed all the best weed too, damn their eyes) and even going so far as to set up some smooth-tongued, appallingly dressed Holly Roller hick from the sticks as their leader - a hippy Peace&LoveMan weirdo who wouldn't know a barber if he bumped into him in downtown Jerusalem on a Thursday night ...... Of course, they sorted him out in the end; with a bit of help from the local Chamber of Commerce (Those guys knew which side their bagel was loxed on.) But the locals were still revolting, so the Romans came up with a Final Solution.
Destroy their Temple and encourage them to LEAVE.
All of them.
Declare their country a non-country.
End of story.

I blame the Romans.

And the 'Wandering Jew' became part of European (eh? Where? Sorry, wrong century.) Christendom's world view. Ah, Christendom (i.e. Amost Everywhere.) named after that Peace&LoveMan man that................ the Jews killed. Hmm. Some people have baggage.

Landless people scatter, assimilate, intermarry........blend. Or just die out. Generations later, their artefacts are dug out of burial chambers and displayed in museums for others to marvel at. Scientists do DNA searches. Curious individuals trace their genealogy, and perhaps discover that Abraham XX begat Isaac LV, begat Jacob CIX, begat Mike, begat Brian, begat Jack - and look! Here's the scan of little Jack! Ah!

On the other hand, expats will often cling to the comfort of traditional ways, celebrate the richness of their own songs, recipes, stories, and festivals. They will send their children to expat or international schools - maybe even boarding schools 'back home'. They will make friends among their own community, creating a base of familiarity and mutual recognition - a microcosm of their old world - from which to step out into the wonderful strangeness of their new home from home - and where they can recharge their sense of a shared identity from time to time. Ex-pats often go 'home' once a year if they can afford it - and while they might complain about the travelling, the endless unpacking and repacking, and the long round of visiting and catching up; in the end, this constant maintenance of the lines between old and new lives and relationships also frees many to get more involved in the culture and experiences that their 'foreign' base has to offer. Many will in fact choose to retire and stay 'abroad'. Most, I think, go 'home' in the end, carrying the memories and influences of their experiences with them.

Expats may feel like exiles at times but, unlike exiles, most know that they can go home eventually.
Exiles. Refugees. Diaspora.
Armenians. Jews. Palestinians.
These can never go home. Sometimes, home no longer exists.

The Armenian diaspora - descendants of the refugees of 1915 - outnumber their cousins 'back home', where the Soviet Union expanded into the space left by the Ottomans.

There are Armenian communities, with their own schools and churches, in the Middle East, Europe and the US. These communities nurture a sense of identity and heritage, and continue to act as pressure groups for a review of the events of 1915 - which Hitler would later acknowledge as, if not his inspiration for the Holocaust, at least an example of what a sufficiently powerful invader - conqueror, to use an old term - could get away with under the disapproving noses of other nations - with ruthless will and watertight organisation.

Yet Armenians also marry outside their own communities, even if this may at times resemble the plot - if not the script - of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.... Life goes on. Cultures mix. Sometimes people are happy, and sometimes not. The usual sort of thing. Perhaps two hundred years from now, people will be tracing their family trees back to a plot of land in Yerevan, as Americans now make pilgrimages to small villages in Ireland.

Yet if Armenians have achieved this balance within a century, it begs the question of why - or how - Jewish culture has managed to not merely survive, but flourish, for two thousand years, in a world where Jews have routinely been reviled and persecuted at every change in the political wind. As with Armenians, and more fortunate Palestinians, Jews have contributed to the communities in which they have settled: some of the most celebrated artists, composers, songwriters, actors, directors, writers......... businessmen.......... surgeons............... intellectuals........... stand-up comedians..................(I'm sorry, but I draw the line at Seinfeld) are Jewish. As in identity, not as in amateur genealogist who discovered an ancestor who might have been a night cleaner in the Temple back in 12 A.D.

I come back to the expats. Not military or relief workers, but teachers, oil engineers, insurance and banking personnel. Life is made easier because most foreign postings are on well-trodden routes which have the infrastructure and cosmopolitan character to accommodate expats. And you've got an Embassy, a passport and a contract. You may be concerned, if you're on a longterm, or open-ended contract, that your circumstances may deprive your children of a central plank of their sense of themselves and their place in the world - not to mention alienating them from cousins and grandparents back home. To avoid this, you are perhaps more careful than you would be back home to preserve habits and traditions that will nurture roots, and enable your 'third culture kids' to grow straight and strong in this exotic environment - and cope with seasonal repotting. Still, you're probably in a safe environment, so you settle, and so do the kids.

There are places where you would not be welcome on political, social or religious grounds, but as a rule of thumb, most international companies are cautious about setting up shop in countries where foreign leaders are burnt in effigy twice a week, and there is a grey area regarding the legality of lynching Customer Service personnel in the absence of a money-back guarantee on electrical goods.


American Bible Belters and Iranian clerics do an equally good job of stirring up resentment, fear and anger among their own, and proselytising their unfortunate point of view, but if your beliefs make you a target for their rhetoric or invective, there are still plenty of places where you and your way of life will be accepted and respected, if not necessarily understood or shared.

Unfortunately for medieval Jews, the sermons and writings of some very influential Christian clerics in the first five centuries A.D. accused Jews of all manner of appalling vices, and made it clear that the Jewish nation were forever culpable, and to be punished for their torture and murder of Jesus Christ.

I blame the Christians.

There are numerous examples, spread across territory and time, of Jews, Christians and Muslims - the People of the Book (i.e. the Bible) - basically agreeing to differ, and co-existing as peacefully as human beings ever can. Yet, writing or preaching to their own Christian congregations, the Church Fathers warned in the most hideous rhetoric against anything that smacked of participating in, watching or enjoying Jewish traditions.The fact that such extreme rhetoric was deemed necessary in order to discourage fraternisation or judaising suggests that the early Christians were entirely too comfortable with their Jewish neighbours for the Christian priests' peace of mind. This was the language of war - for the hearts and minds of their own congregations.

However, as these sermons were published, circulated and debated over the centuries, they came to be treated as justification for making life as difficult as possible for these Christkillers. As inflammatory labels go, that has to be right up there with The Great Satan.

Hitler's Holocaust was merely the most blatant and concentrated assault on Jews - amongst others. For centuries, in many places, Jews were restricted in what cloth their clothes could be made from (though other members of the population also lived with such restrictions in feudal times) in where they could live, how they could earn their living, what thy could own. They were the bogeymen of bedtime stories. If disease broke out or the land flooded or parched or split apart, then God was displeased that Christians were tolerating Jews in their midst. And that would have to be rectified. However easygoing a community might be, and however much business and trade might be done between the peoples of these different faiths, there was ultimately no security, because if a scapegoat or a distraction was needed, then the Jews were it. Round 'em up. Lock 'em up. Burn 'em.

Jewish culture - I would suggest - evolved from being permanent expats on a hardship posting. What doesn't kill you - or every member of your family - makes you strong, encourages self-reliance, co-operation and mutual support. You know who you are. You know what you care about. You know that while you're being harassed from one quarter, you will always be supported from another - by the people who have to deal with all this nonsense too. If you can find a way to make it feels better - music's good, and a sense of humour comes in handy - then so much the better. And if you can learn that it's what you do, not what you have, that matters - and combine that with some self-respect and a serious work ethic - then the world is your oyster, my dear. (And I may well be talking absolute rubbish, but at least I'm trying to work something out!)

Hitler may have pushed the envelope beyond anything previously imagined, but anti-semitism is ingrained in Christian attitudes and practice, and the Christian viewpoint (aggressively defensive) has underpinned the evolution of western philosophy and human society from Russia to the Americas for two thousand years.

However, I'm not bashing Christianity, though it probably appears that way. Human beings are a strange mix of cerebral and physical. At the base of the large upper, more recently evolved part of the human brain lies the hypothalamus, the most ancient and primitive part: anger and fear make this baby light up, and particularly at stages in our life when hormones are washing about, provide the drive that effectively overwhelms the rational higher brain.

Xenophobia - wariness of the unknown - an instinct to protect and justify what is ours - a need to feel justified, secure, part of something; and it's corollary, a need to identify the other (whatever that might be - haircut? religion? cooking smells? colour? generation?) as something to be ignored, converted, rejected, or removed. This is primitive, essential, survival stuff, however we dress it with words. And the words we use to rationalise such feelings and needs can be used to to appeal to those same feelings and needs in others.

Marketing sermons from fifteen hundred years ago are just this little lot in their Christian guise. If it hadn't been Christianity it would have been something else...... oh yes.... let's call it Islam. God may exist, and we may be looking at the same deity from different angles and calling it God, Jehovah, Yahweh or Allah. Or Buddha. Or Ra. But to insist that there is no God/Jehovah/Yahweh/ Allah/Buddha/Ra but God/Jehovah/Yahweh/ Allah/Buddha/Ra, and that if someone disagrees with you, then they are ignorant, wilful, backward, deluded and in need of being saved from themselves - for my money, that's the hypothalamus talking. And when they've got minerals, fossil fuels, aquifers or a virgin market for manufactured goods, then that 'ol hypothalamus is in evil alliance with the upper brain.

I do believe that the League of Nations was pursuing its avowed aim of working to prevent another world war when it decided in 1917 to establish a national home for the Jewish people, all but acknowledging that the Jews had had a very raw deal for a very long time - and it was time everyone made it up to them. I believe - though I'm not sure - that other options had been considered, including a large, unpopulated space in North America. However, we know which patch they chose - a patch of desert with no-one very important on it, who would of course understand that the Jews needed their country back. Colonialist attitudes prevailed.

The UN, which replaced the League of Nations in 1945 after World War II proved how ineffectual it was, seems to have been entirely blind to the needs and rights of the existing Palestinian population - as I say, colonialism, or paternalism perhaps. I don't think that people from highly developed European countries can appreciate what land means to settled people in the Middle East, a place which is still full of community traditions that go back a very long way. Your land is your part of your identity, your link to your grandparents, your gift to your children, the place where you live and are recognised. You don't just relocate. It was only after World War II, when Britain started clearing slums to build streets in the sky that they began to realise that the built environment has other dimensions beside its obvious physical solidity: realised that the physical and emotional connections that run through and between communities are partly shaped by the physical layout of buildings. Architects and townplanners are still working through the implications of this.

In 1947, disregarding the absolute opposition of the Arab League, and in line with best practice at the time (as demonstrated by the British)the UN redrew the map, intending to partition the land into three territories: a Jewish nation, an Arab nation, and a UN buffer zone. The thousands of Arabs who were displaced from land their families had held for generations were not happy. And the rest, of course, is bloodshed.

Israel is a fact. Creating it was an attempt to turn the clock back. Bad move. Trying to do it again? Yeah, that's really going to work.

However, the current map of Israel and Palestine is virtually a negative of the 1946 pre-Partition map (Where have we heard the word partition before? Always good for the locals.)

Israel had to defend itself against its neighbours, but the expansionists, or Zionists of the early years set about driving Palestinians off land that was designated as theirs. Sometimes they worked by stealth, through a blizzard of paperwork and the full weight of bureaucracy, where generations of people had lived in their houses and worked their land, back to a time when - - when - well no, actually there wasn't a formal written contract or bill of sale stating dimensions et. etc. etc., but my great-great-great grandfather bought this land from that family over there - just ask them, they'll tell you - and built this house and.....(Living in Spain, I can say that there are rural properties here that don't have proper boundary maps, but everyone knows that from that ridge there, to this boulder here is ours, and next door's place goes up the hill to that fence......). No papers, or the wrong stamp, or no stamp, or if the paper had your great-uncle's name on it, but he had died childless and given the deed and the place to your father on his deathbed, and your father hadn't got it changed because everyone knew how it was.

Or they built Israeli houses around Palestinian houses, cutting neighbours off.

Or they sent the bulldozers in - to clear out troublemakers. To teach people a lesson. To protect their people from Palestinian harassment and aggression.

Israel has appropriated more and more Palestinian land under the pretext of creating buffer zones to protect its citizens. It's been doing it for half a century. It has allowed the building and occupation of illegal settlements.

Then the Israeli government considers Palestinians unreasonable when they start throwing things? Start arming themselves? Start fighting back? Start thinking it's better to die a martyr and perhaps achieve something than live to be old and broken at 40 like your father?

Better build a fence. Better blockade routes in and out and make it impossible to move raw material or finished goods - impossible for someone to feed his family - impossible for someone to get to hospital when her pregnancy goes badly wrong - impossible to do anything.

Better push them into a life or death struggle, with no right to fight back. Better crowd them into the smallest possible space, so that there's nowhere safe for them to store or fire weapons, and then you can bomb them, and kill hundreds of them, and hold press conferences about these craven cynics who use their own children as shields. Better hit hospitals, UN food stores, schools. Better do it quickly - before January 20th.

And more and more people keep moving to Israel, a place that has been a warzone for decades. You have to wonder why. I expect they'll need houses.

Generations of Palestinians have lived and died in the camps. Other Arab countries won't give them passports, because this would undermine their claim to their land.

Non-Arab countries and international organisations stand in judgement, and when Palestinians elect Hamas to government in free and fair elections, partly in disgust at the bloated self-satisfaction of Yasser Arafat's old guard, and partly because, for years, Hamas has consistently done what no-one else seemed able to do: got food and medicine in to people who would otherwise have starved and died - when that happens, the Free World raises its pale, manicured hands in horror. Those foolish Palestinians, what are they playing at, electing a terrorist organisation? Better cut off their aid. Better let them starve, and succumb to every virus and infection. Better leave another generation of children to grow up physically stunted, uneducated and feral, wide open to the older guys, the heroes, who are doing something to make a difference, who could show them how to make a difference too, if they're brave enough.........
That will teach them.

It doesn't matter how many music programmes and theatre programmes etc. etc. these people manage to come up with to put some hope and colour in their children's lives. It doesn't matter how much parents love their children, or how much teachers can do with almost nothing, and with little or no income. It doesn't even matter how optimistic and enthusiastic the children may be, in the face of all odds. If Israel's intention is to push the Palestinians into a small space and annihilate them once and for all; and the rest of the world is prepared to let Israel do that because those bad Palestinians keep firing rockets into southern Israel, and only elected governments are allowed to fire rockets, because otherwise it's terrorism, and we don't approve of terrorism....................... well, I suppose they'll all be dead in the next 96 hours.

That'll teach 'em.

Everyone has to stop fighting, decide what moral and physical territory they're prepared to give up, and go talk to each other, listen to each other, and make it happen.

Northern Ireland seemed a lost cause to me as I grew up, but they've just about got themselves sorted. It can be done.

What is the point of any more people - Israelis or Palestinians - living in fear and suspicion - and then dying in a moment, and the whole nightmare constantly repeating and growing? I can't see it myself.

Does anyone else suspect a long game plan?

P.S. Quick! Let's wipe 'em out before January 20th......... Over to you, Jon.


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