Monday, May 28, 2007

A Day in the Life of the Guardian

One day in the Guardian
Guardian readers (like myself) are curious folk. There's no doubt that they have decent liberal values: they sympathize with the poor, with the downtrodden, with the dispossessed. They hate bigotry. They hate racism. They are feminists of varying styles and persuasions. Their hearts are in all the right places. Except for three things: they hate complementary medicine with a loathing bordering on fanaticism. (I have my own prejudice here: I used to be President of the Natural Medicines Society, and my wife is a homeopath.) They hate Israel. And they can't find it in their hearts to call terrorists terrorists, unless they explode themselves on the British transport system. This won't come as a surprise to anyone likely to read this blog.

I don't want to take up your time analysing all this. I just want to draw your attention (especially if you are a Guardian reader) to today's (28 May 2007) edition.

On page 14, a report on the disgraceful neo-fascist attack on European MPs and others protesting a ban on a gay rights parade in Moscow. The mayor of Moscow dubbed gay rallies as 'satanic'.

Page 15 carries a full-page report on the coming Syrian referendum, in which Bashshar al-Asad is the only choice. This is dubbed in the headline: 'Democracy Damascus style'. 'There is no legal opposition. Tellingly, the event is described in Arabic as "renewing the pledge of allegiance" as if this young, British-educated ophthalmologist and computer buff were a medieval Calip'. I imagine the Arabic reads something like 'tajdid al-bay'a', which takes us back to the times of the Prophet and the very first caliphs. The seventh century, not the Middle Ages.

Page 17 heads witgh a piece on how 'Riot police on alert as anti-Chávez TV channel taken off air'. Ahmadinejad-loving Chávez is the darling of the Left and a hero to Guardian readers. As Radio Caracas Television prepared to be closed because of its opposition to Chávez, its director, Marcel Granier, said 'This marks a turn toward totalitarianism'.

Let's skip to page 21 (18-19 are taken up by a huge photograph of a ship amidst Arctic ice, 20 is an advert): 'Mugabe ready to seize foreign companies' — 'a move that economists warn would be as damaging as the widespread land seizures in the country'.

Now, it's fair to say that, even if they don't always occur in so concentrated a form, stories like this do feature in the Guardian on a more or less daily basis. So Guardian readers are well aware of some of the unpleasant things that happen in some foreign countries. And they know how some of these things impinge on their own most cherished beliefs (Peter Tatchell was among those beaten in Moscow). I don't doubt they feel outrage when they read such stories. But for some reason whatever indignation they feel doesn't, in Forster's words, 'connect'.

Here's a gay rights parade banned in Moscow (and dubbed 'satanic' by a politician), here's a group of European gay rights protesters badly beaten by neo-fascists. I expect there may be murmurs of protest (in fact, I hope there will be plenty). But over there in Tel Aviv (don't mention the bigots in Jerusalem) they openly hold gay rights parades. They offer sanctuary to gay men and women from Gaza and the West Bank. And Guardian readers proclaim loudly that Israel is an 'apartheid state'. Perhaps one group of gay Guardian readers might like to go to Moscow and another bunch to Tel Aviv, and write a piece for G2 six months later, telling us their experiences.

Here's a country run by yet another Arab dictatorship, a state under one-party rule. One-party rule is anathema to Guardian readers. This dictatorship gives aid to terrorist groups like Hizbullah, who threaten Israel, but clamps down on others (notably the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, the Muslim Brothers) who threaten the Baathist state. When did Guardian readers last march in the streets to protest Syrian clamp-downs on a free press, free elections, or, among others, gay rights? Never, I think. When did they take to the streets to condemn Syrian interfreence in Lebanon, or Syrian support for terrorism? Never. When did they last complain bitterly about Israel, the one democracy in the region, calling it a 'fascist' state? As far as I know, every day of the week.

Guardian readers refuse to say a word about censorship in the Middle East. Two years ago, Human Rights Watch published a report on the extensive clamp-downs in Egyptian universities. Guardian readers on the march? Not likely. An Israel-based agency publishes TV clips and press transcripts showing anti-Semitic material from Iran and the Arab woirld. The Guardian's Middle East editor takes exception to an agency based in Israel and set up by an Israeli, and dismisses all this material out of hand. Who are we dealing with here? Guardian readers? Or Goebbels? And I don't expect to see anyone on the streets protesting about censorship under the increasingly-autcratic Chávez. Though the anti-Israel lobby, many of them Guardian readers, does like to claim that Israel, a country that has no censorship beyond what we have here in the UK, covers up, hides, harasses journalists etc.

I don't suppose anyone will complain about Mugabe, bearing in mind that many of the foreign companies he will take over are multi-nationals, whom Guardian readers hate anyway. But they will be quite comfortable in calling for a boycott of Israeli products, putting at risk, among others, joint Jewish-Arab businesses, solo Arab businesses, socialist kibbutzim, and honest, hard-working Israelis of all backgrounds.

So let me say it clearly. I am a Guardian reader. I love Israel. I am a contradiction in terms. Or maybe not. Maybe I just read what's in there and draw unusual conclusions. Unlike so many of my fellow readers, I am, I believe, consistent.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Few things have damaged Israel's international reputation more than the security barrier it has been constructing to prevent Palestinian terrorist crossing into its territory and commiting outrages against innocent civilians. Invariably — and inaccurately — portrayed as a wall ('The Apartheid Wall'), the barrier has been pillored in the media almost everywhere. I've written at some length about this issue on an earlier blog, so I won't repeat myself here. One of the points I made in that blog was that, although the Israeli barrier is portrayed as egregious, even unique, it is, in fact, just one of many similar barriers around the world. Human rights activists protest about the Israeli barrier, however, yet remain silent about fences and walls that are longer, higher, and, in some cases, deadly. We need to protest this for its imbalance. By a great irony, the Guardian recently published a map of security fences round the world. It won't reproduce easily, so I have tabulated the basic data, which I reproduce below as a resource for anyone who has to talk about this issue.

Security fences or barriers to peace?
Information taken from a map published in The Guardian 24 April 2007

(Reformulated Denis MacEoin 4 May 2007)

US/Mexico Proposed. 3,360km. Several barriers already exist with Mexico (California, Texas, Arizona). This would cover the entire border. Anti-immigration.

Belfast, N. Ireland. Built early 1970s. Average 500m. Number around 40. Anti-terror.

Padua, Italy 2006. 85m. 3m-high, round mainly African Anelli estate. Internal.

Ceuta, Morocco 2001. 8km. €30m. EU-funded. Anti-immigration.

Mellila, Morocco 1998. 11km. Anti-immigration

Morocco/Western Sahara 1987. 2,700km. To keep out W. Saharan (Polisario) insurgents

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt 2005. 20km. Anti-terror

Botswana/Zimbabwe 2003. 500km. Anti-immigration.

South Africa/Mozambique 1975. 120km. Anti-immigration. Carries 3,300 volts. Has killed more people than Berlin Wall

Israel/West Bank Under construction. 703km. Anti-terror.

Adhamiyya, Iraq 2007. 5km. Anti-terror.

Cyprus 1974. 300km. Conflict zone barrier.

Kuwait/Iraq 1991. 193km. Conflict zone barrier.

Saudi Arabia/Yemen 2004. 75km. Anti-terror.

United Arab Emirates/Oman 2007. 410km. Anti-immigration.

Russia/Chechnya Proposed. 700 km. Anti-terror

Kashmir 2004. 550km. Anti-terror (India).

Pakistan/Afghanistan Proposed. 2,400km. Anti-terror (Pakistan).

Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan 1999. 870km. Conflict zone.

China/North Korea 2006. 1,416km. Conflict zone.

Korea Demilitarized Zone 1953. 248km. Av. 4 km wide. Patrolled by 2 million soldiers. Most heavily border in world. Conflict zone.

China/Hong Kong 1999. 32km. Internal barrier.

China/Macau 1999. 340km. Internal barrier.

Brunei/Limbang 2005. 20km. Anti-immigration.

Thailand/Malaysia Proposed. 650km. Anti-immigration.

India/Bangladesh Under construction. 3,268km. Conflict zone.