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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The Anti-Bush London Maelstrom

by the Editor of JewishComment.com (UK)
[Editors' Note: As of this writing President Bush has now had to cancel his visit to the Memorial to 9/11 in Grosvenor Square, due to security concerns, as well as his address to the British Parliament due to the 'embarrassment factor' should he have been drowned out by enraged MPs...]



Any sort of incitement and extremism worries me, and at the risk of seeming overly neurotic, I find the current hysteria in London revolving around the visit of President Bush out of proportion to the threat he poses. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has said he will refuse to shake the American President’s hand and adds that Bush is the world’s biggest threat. A compilation of sixty letters from prominent people in Britain that range from calling him vile to ignorant hick to loathsome sounds like the rhetoric in Israel before the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

The difference, of course, is that Rabin was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and was seeking peace in our time whereas Bush and Blair have chosen war to quell despots and terrorists.

In Turkey this past weekend two murderous bombings took place outside major shuls in Istanbul on Shabbat morning. This during Ramadan, not to mention the upsurge in murders in Iraq during the Holy Month. Today in Italy a day of mourning was declared and hundreds of thousands of citizens and Italian leaders flocked to Rome for the State funerals of the nineteen countrymen killed in the cold-blooded attack on their relief headquarters in Iraq.

But no, in London and other major British cities hundreds of thousands of people will be pouring onto the streets to demand that George Bush go home. Some of their placards contain unrepeatable epithets and resemble those displayed across Israel before Rabin was killed. I was one of those who despaired when the United States Supreme Court declared George Bush the winner in the 2000 election debacle. Since then 9/11 has made some of us put aside our resentment of a non-elected leader; unlike Michael Moore and Ken Livingstone I do not waste time fulminating about the threat Dubya poses to my life. How many people can say their lives are ruined since he entered the White House? Are Britons suffering because George W Bush has been President of the United States since January 2001?

Many will say that the prisoners in Guantanemo Bay are suffering, as are senior citizens and the poor across America since Bush came to office. This is a valid point, but tonight I watched a chilling interview with Dr Imram Taheed of Hizbut Tareer, a London-based (natch) Islamic group that produces scary leaflets handed out in my high street, Edgware Road. The host, the BBC’s Tim Sebastian (no friend of Israel or of the USA from his seething demeanour when hapless Israelis or Americans are his on-air victims) was fuming at Dr Taheed. This spokesman for a freely-operating Muslim activist group had appalling things to say about Israel and refused over and over again -- until Sebastian was nearly apoplectic -- to repudiate the Istanbul synagogue bombings of November 15. Would I be happy if this utterly terrifying character spent years in Gitmo ? Yes.

So why are the Brits protesting? Here is one reason: millions of people around the world think Israel is the biggest threat to world peace. I cannot bring myself to join the anti-Bush, anti-war crowd because I have yet to meet a European anti-war activist who does not have some venomous pronouncement to make about Israel. The anti-war groups like to say that the Iraq War was staged ‘to help Israel.’ Mikis Theodorakis, the eminent Greek composer and Bush-hater, last week is reported to have said in a speech that Israel is at the root of all evil and that Jews have contributed little to world culture despite constant boasting of that achievement.

So the British are out in the streets accusing Bush of every imaginable misdemeanour. This past weekend, the Queen Mary 2, the new British luxury liner, suffered a terrible accident in which sixteen people died when its gangplank collapsed whilst docked in France.

Why was the ship docked in France? Well, that is because years ago Britain ceased being the world’s greatest producer of ships. This magnificent liner has not one jot of work done in the UK, not one nut or bolt that has been produced by British hands. Is that Bush’s fault, too? This week the various trade unions to which I belong have been sending me exhortations -- virtual orders -- to assemble this week (during working hours) and protest on the streets of London against the visit by President Bush. We cannot produce a ship anymore but we can whinge about ‘a poxy Yank’ -- to quote a taxi driver of mine this week -- costing British taxpayers millions of Pounds visiting these shores.

Our Mayor will not shake the US President’s hand. Letters to the Editor refer time and again to the way Brits ‘hate’ Bush. Osama and his followers hate Americans, Jews, Israel and Bush too. So, what wonderful company is kept by the demonstrators and the British letter-writers. (They like to go on TV saying they only hate Bush but they love Americans. A few months ago the British novelist Margaret Drabble was given a massive half-page in ’The Daily Telegraph’ to inform us all how much she ’Loathes Americans and America’ , so?…)

How many American mayors would insult a visiting head of state, even if it were Chirac who turned up in New York or Los Angeles? I do not believe the anti-Bush movement is simply a reaction to a Texan ne-er do well; the rhetoric I hear stinks of Jew-hatred and pathological loathing of American culture, topped by a breathtaking disapproval of the very existence of the State of Israel.

I will not be joining the anti-Bush crowds but pondering the ugliness of a city that cannot even clear autumn leaves (three feet high in my neighbourhood and clogging our benighted old Victorian drains ) or get its buses to run on time. This is a city that houses radical clerics calling for death to our own Prime Minister and -- of course -- to Jews and Israel.

Bush is not so stupid: he has already called for American businesses to leave Britain and relocate back to the USA. Imagine that! If the multitude of Yankee companies was to up-sticks and go lock, stock and barrel back to America all at once what impact it would have on the economy and the Pound. All of the Brits who rail at me about American ‘globalisation ruining Britain’ would be gleeful, and would no longer have anything to moan about, but would they still have jobs?

The massive protests in London will culminate in the symbolic toppling of an eighteen-foot papier-mache statue of President Bush in Trafalgar Square on Thursday 20 November. Everyone will have a lot of fun. Al Qaeda and other terror groups will see how much the world sides with them about the Satan USA. The anti-war groups say they are targeting Bush and not America. The 9/11 hijackers did not care who they killed, nor do al Qaeda care that they killed, during Ramadan, more Muslims than Jews in Istanbul on Saturday. I really do fear for the world and am sad that my city, London, will be seen worldwide as a haven of misguided USA-bashing when the real villains are the unelected dictators who do not care whom their bombers kill.

We are hearing tonight that terrorists are travelling the world funded by Iran and Syria. Where are the street protests against Assad and the Ayatollahs? I fear the people who are lining the streets of London with their angry placards could not care less if Assad or the Ayatollahs eradicated Israel.

An elderly Scotsman said to a cheering audience at a recent TV debate I attended, ‘I hope America really gets it in the neck when the next 9/11 happens.’ He did not say ‘Bush,’ he said ‘America.’

OK, so America will be wrecked next time. Fine. Will those of us left behind be able to salvage the rest of the world when that happens?