First of all, I’m sorry this column is a day or so late, but I didn’t think it appropriate to post something as frivolous as this while I had friends in Moscow scared out of their wits by the suicide bombings that happened on the Metro on Monday morning. We have to draw some perspective sometimes. My thoughts are with anyone involved in those terrible events, whether as victims, their families or just because they were caught up in them. I can only repeat what I wrote on Monday, I am astonished sometimes at just how inhuman human beings can be. Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I am.
After a national day of mourning in Russia on Tuesday I suppose, for a lot of people, things slowly get back to normal, life goes on and it is only right that we defy events like these and don’t let inhumanity win.
It is purely coincidental that, to a certain extent, what I planned to write has a tenuous link with what happened in Moscow on Monday. However tenuous it might be, the link is there, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
To explain my title I will tell you a little story I heard recently.
It goes back in time. Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of this country a couple of times. Most notably it was as the wartime leader, but he did come back into office after that. Every morning he would be woken by one of his staff who would bring him his breakfast and that morning’s copy of The Times. Occasionally, the member of staff would have to break bad news in the newspaper to the Prime Minister gently. On one particular morning, as he was handing the folded ‘paper to Mr Churchill, the member of staff said, ‘It seems, Prime Minister, that one of your junior backbench MPs was caught carrying out an indecent act last night with a guardsman on Hampstead Heath.’
Churchill thought for a moment and then said, ‘Last night?’
‘Yes, Prime Minister’
‘Was very cold last night’.
‘It was indeed, Prime Minister’.
‘Hmm’, said the Prime Minister, ‘Makes you proud to be British.’
Right now, I’m proud to be British too. And I don’t think I’ve ever written those words in that context before. It’s not because I have dropped my kecks in cold weather recently, been caught in a compromising position or anything else that’s relevant to that story. It’s more to do with the way my country’s government has reacted recently to the activities of the government of another country. For once they’ve stood up for themselves and kept their ground.
You see, a few days ago Britain expelled a ‘diplomat’ from the Israeli embassy in London. On the face of it this might seem strange. After all, Israel is supposed to be a ‘friendly’ power, though, there again, I have views on that. I’m sure my views are not reflected universally but I see Israel as a hostile power, as a pariah state that Britain has no place considering to be an ally. I see Israel as its region’s Billy No-mates, a bully and a hypocrite. Why? Well, I believe Israel to be a truly racist state, an antagonist in world affairs, and an obstacle to any stability in the Middle East. I have no problem with most of the people of that country, but I do have a problem with the state itself and the way it treats ordinary, hard working people who just want to get on with their lives but who just happen to be from a different racial and religious background.
Why, I hear you ask, did Britain expel this ‘diplomat’? Well, in a nutshell, a while ago the Israeli secret service wanted to bump off someone they saw as an enemy. This person was in Dubai and the only way they could get to him was to get into Dubai using false passports; Israeli passports would spark just a little suspicion. The way they did that was to steal the identity of several British passport holders living in Israel, falsify their passports and then use them to travel to Dubai to do the deed.
Fortunately their subterfuge was discovered, sadly after the deed had been done, and a bit of an incident ensued. This culminated in Britain expelling the ‘diplomat’ last week. The perpetrators of the killing have, of course, since disappeared.
Israel was outraged, just as outraged, I’m sure, as if the boot had been on the other foot. On the radio I heard an Israeli politician ranting about how bad Britain was to do this. Didn’t we know, he suggested, that Israel was our ally in the ‘war against terror’? Happily, the radio interviewer countered this with the observation that, perhaps if Israel wasn’t Britain’s ally in the so-called ‘war against terror’ Britain might just not be a target for terrorists. The politician, mysteriously, didn’t have an answer for this and changed the subject.
There was a similar incident in New Zealand a few years ago. Happily, the agents were caught in the act of falsifying the passports and, after the due process of the law, were locked up in New Zealand prisons. Israel tried to do a deal to get them released but New Zealand stood firm and the prisoners, quite rightly, stayed where they were.
So, I’m proud to be British when the government of my country stands up to one of the world’s racist bullies. I’m proud to be able to say that I boycott Israeli goods – though as that amounts to many tonnes of potatoes, something we are not bad at growing ourselves, I’m sure I’m not really hitting them as hard as I would like with my stance. But at least I’m doing it. And proud to, too.