I WAS thinking about America last week as the first caucuses to choose the party candidates began in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Actually, I’ve been aiming at the rather lowbrow side of the political debate and wondering whether the Democratic ticket could end up being seized by Bernie Sanders rather than the generally expected Hillary Clinton.
Sanders is being talked of in the American press as the US’ equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn – not least because he’s only been a registered Democrat since 2015. Before that, he was the longest-serving independent senator in US congressional history, with an equally long record as a maverick who has – gasp – socialist tendencies.
However, the crucial difference between Sanders and Corbyn is that Sanders is Jewish (with a brother who lives in the UK, noch!) and that, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t seem to have attracted the anti-Semitic lowlives who have hung around Corbyn and the leadership of the Labour Party, rendering the party well-nigh unelectable and making Jews on the left virtually disenfranchised.
Corbyn was due to meet the leaders of the Board of Deputies this week. By the time this is published that meeting will have taken place, so I can only hope that two things didn’t happen: one, that the Labour leader didn’t just go through the motions by turning up but not really paying any attention to legitimate Jewish concerns; and two, that the Jewish leaders didn’t present themselves as so far to the right that Corbyn doesn’t need to take any notice of our community. Well, we can always hope.
MEANWHILE, AS the anticipation hots up in the States for the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on 28 February, I am enchanted to discover that the most expensive item in the so-called “goody bag” given to the nominees for the top acting and directing categories, is a 10-day first class trip to Israel – costing a whopping $55,000. Deliciously, the freebies have been put together by a man who rejoices in the name of Lash Fary. Just putting that out there for your greater enjoyment.
I understand that even if you don’t win, you can take full advantage of the goody bag gifts, so Israel may yet see Eddie Redmayne and his cheekbones or Charlotte Rampling, perhaps trampling, in the Negev.
Just the same, even with the priciest of Israel’s hotels you’d have to go some to spend $55,000 in 10 days. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but you’d probably have to factor in some helicopter trips and the most private of private tours. What could you pitch for in Israel that the ordinary tourist couldn’t buy? Sara Netanyahu’s secret chicken soup recipe? A front row seat at a Bruce Springsteen concert, provided The Boss does actually go to Israel this summer? Friday night dinner with Bibi, Abbas and Bar Refaeli?
My money is on Ireland’s “third most famous Jew” after Chaim Herzog and Leopold Bloom, director Lenny Abrahamson. Grandson of a kosher butcher, the Dublin-born Abrahamson is up for best director for the much-praised film, Room.
I’m betting that Lenny has probably been to Israel before, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some of the Oscar high-rollers spending their goody bag voucher in Tel Aviv or Tiberias this year. And if Mark Rylance, who stars in Bridge Of Spies with Tom Hanks, doesn’t want his trip (sadly, he’s a BDS-nik), I expect you’ll be able to bid on eBay for it.
PROOF, IF needed, that there are still some creatures living under rocks who feel it’s safe to come out and wallow in anti-Semitic filth: the below-the-line comments in almost any publication these days relating to an article about Jews or Israel.
The most recent victim was Michael Dugher MP, writing what I would have thought was a blameless proposition in the New Statesman, We All Have To Take A Stand Against Rising Anti-Semitism”. Dugher is vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, so he has a dog in the fight, but he really didn’t say anything to have precipitated this charmless comment: “Really!… why don’t we make a stand against Jewish Nazism in occupied Palestine instead?” from a person hiding behind initials.
Comments on Twitter were even worse. It’s too easy, having just marked Holocaust Memorial Day, to kid ourselves that these kind of attitudes belong in the Dark ages. I’m wondering why the New Statesman – or indeed Twitter – think there’s anything appropriate about publishing this stuff. No way, no how.