No milk today, my love has gone away.
That is an irreverent opening.
I am thinking and writing about the news.
Were you ever told that ‘news’ stood for north, east, west, and south?
I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
What is new?
Last week, I explained to my daughter the Yiddishism ‘Nu?’
For some, the news is all there is.
Those individuals are avid consumers of facts and topical discussion.
What bad thing happened where and when.
‘Bring out your dead, your lost, your stolen, disavowed… show us the disaster, the earthquake, flood.’
No news is good news.
Yesterday I reflected on ‘Am Yisrael Chai’
‘The People of Israel live’
This is a saying and a song.
In the song you chant ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ repeatedly.
The people of Israel live.
It has become a post-10/7 go-to.
We live because so many of us have been killed.
When talking about the events of the Middle East, it is easy to slip into numerical comparisons,
‘Your suffering isn’t as big as ours, XXXX thousands of our people died, only XXXX thousands of yours,’ and so on.
Suffering as we know from Frankel, is infinite.
It expands to fill the space available.
The toxicity reaches you wherever you are.
And the cliché has become a thing of the moment; it is what the soldiers shout on YouTube and Instagram, it is what I hear listening to the …news.
I have watched Channel 4 News (in the UK) for most of my adult life; it has been a 7pm routine. Turn-on, Tune-in. Krishnan, Alex, Cathy or Jon.
If desperate, and short of alternatives, I’d watch the BBC.
I have been a Guardian reader for decades.
Last summer I travelled through Israel completing Guardian Quick Crosswords on my phone.
I’ve had to turn-off and tune-out.
Whether it is because, objectively, the news they broadcast is so very anti-Israel, whether it is merely old antisemitic rhetoric, is hard to say.
They all play the narrative game.
Events do not happen in a vacuum.
The narrative that is the tragedy of the Palestinian People alongside the demonization of the Israelis. The David’s who became Goliath’s.
I’ve been partially complicit.
I have criticized the Israeli government over the years – mostly personally, occasionally to close friends or family members, and yet, this has been continuous, cycled and re-cycled through the UK news, with more extreme anti-Israel sentiments the further Left you travel.
“The only good Jew is a dead Jew.”
Shout that and there is no headline.
Display 1400 dead Jews (and others) and it’s a one-night wonder. A flash in the pan. Mainstream headlines for a day then gone.
Some celebrated 9/11. Remember who they were?
There were many more celebratory cheers on 10/7.
‘They got what they deserved’.
‘It’s been coming to them for 75 years’.
‘To the river to the…’
The news stayed with the Jews it seemed, for a day, then everything flipped to the tragedy of Palestine.
Which yes, is a tragedy, but not wrought by the Israelis – it is one which is both self-inflicted and cynically deployed by other (mostly Arab) countries.
And so, I’ve turned-off the news.
I’ve not slipped into a vacuum.
I’ve flipped to the Times of Israel, Haaretz and the Jewish Chronicle.
On dog walks, when driving my car or preparing food I am tuned-in to Galei Tzhahal (GLZ).
Israeli Army Radio.
I can’t imagine what the UK Army Radio is like.
I can guarantee GLZ is different.
It is hosted by loving voices, I listen to the evening program, ‘Ha kol shel eema’ – ‘The voice of mother’ I hear the DJs offering hugs and expressions of love, filled with compassion and affection, they have listened, now, for three weeks to the tragedy unfold. The stories of the survivors – the ones who were not murdered or who managed to escape and if not, the reflections of the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters on their relatives who were murdered or taken as hostage to Gaza or deemed ‘missing’ an anachronism for, ‘likely dead, their bodies taken hostage by Hamas for further cynical manipulation or trading’.
This week I heard a father describing the fate of his daughter, an Israeli soldier who is missing – presumed dead. She was due home on Thursday, her bedroom is prepared… The same day, the army cleared-out her belongings and returned them to us in a cardboard box.
He focused on her perfume. That was amongst her clothes, jewelery and other trinkets.
You don’t think of soldiers and perfume.
That is the humanity of people who are drafted to serve.
18-year-old girls are not sent away from their families out of choice; the Israeli army does not exist to make the lives of Arabs a misery – it is a military of necessity, it exists to avoid the bloodbath of 10/7. On that occasion it failed.
The Guardian proudly shows the wall that stands between Israel and the West Bank. ‘Look at the Imperialists, building walls on ancestral land.’
Why was the wall built?
To stop Hamas sending waves of Jihadi men and women into Israel to blow themselves up on buses, in cafes, restaurants and markets.
Remember the London and Birmingham bombings? How would the UK have reacted if they had continued week after week, year after year? Innocents people wiped out. A wall would have been small change within the overall calculus.
The man whose daughter is missing did not send her away from home for a laugh. It was necessity.
Another interview was a man whose son has been kidnapped, he is an Israeli soldier. The dad was worried about his son’s asthma, his inability to access his inhaler.
One of the politicians reflected, ‘If my daughter says she will be home at seven and she hasn’t shown by five-minutes past, I am desperate. 21 days is unimaginable.’
Imagine your son or daughter was kidnapped by the devil. What would you do? How would you react? How would you cope?
I heard the story of Chaim the driver. In his regular life he drove a bus, On 10/7 he rescued survivors from the Kibbutzim. ‘He saw what he couldn’t see, and what he saw broke him,’ So described his wife (I paraphrase). I listened to the story unfold on the radio, thinking, ‘He must have been wounded, perhaps died of complications in hospital.’
On Thursday (26/10) his body was found in his bus.
Chaim the driver couldn’t live with what he saw.
None of this is reported on Channel 4.
You are more likely to hear the Ayatollah shouting ‘genocide’ than the experiences of those who were massacred.
Let’s not talk sadism. Easier to flip to the binary of Israel BAD, Palestine GOOD. That is not contentious, for most of our readers/listeners.
It is such a perversion of reality that I despair.
In Hebrew they call it ‘Tohoo va-bohu’ = Chaos.
It is when everything good is seen as bad, when right is wrong, when love turns to hate, learning into stupidity and compassion into revulsion.
Go, go young man to Gaza, tell Hamas you don’t agree with them, tell them your sexuality or religious bent is not consistent with theirs and see what happens.
If you do the same in Tel Aviv you will be embraced, you’ll be welcomed.
Say, ‘I believe in pluralism,’ and they will wipe you out. They will chop off your head and dance with your corpse.
These are the people you celebrate.
They will force your daughter into servitude, to create more men.
A 10x of the Handmaid’s Tale.
That’s OK, isn’t it?
It’s Israel that is the aggressor.
It is Israel that manipulates the headlines.
Who bombed the hospital.
Oh, wait, let me correct that, once the story is absorbed, has saturated the international headlines; who did not bomb the hospital, who yesterday did not fire a missile into Egypt, who did not intentionally murder, murder.
Shout a lie a hundred times and people believe it.
Once something is seen or heard it is impossible to un-see or un-hear.
Once the libel is pronounced, retraction is only partial.
They use the blood of Christian babies to make their Matzah; let’s kill a few.
They control the banks, the cinemas, the media, let’s chant for their death.
Perversion, inversion, entangled hatred.
It is draining.
And my Scottish/English/Israeli/Jewish/Humanist brain has struggled to interpret the rapid-fire GLZ Hebrew, which I prefer to the languid narrative of the BBC.
‘If you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe in nothing, you believe in anything,’ supposedly said GK Chesterton.
If you are uninformed, you are not informed by nothing, you are informed by anything.
I wonder what my friends, my colleagues think.
They absorb this biased news and look at me.
‘What is wrong with that guy?’ ‘How can he support Israel? They are the worst.’
Walk through Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa and tell me what you see, how you feel.
I’ll tell you what.
You will feel safety, familiarity, for the values of those around you will reflect your own – those of a liberal democracy (that can complain about its government without being murdered.)
The world doesn’t see this.
It prefers to side with North Korea, Russia, China, Syria, and Iran.
I do not know why.
Words fail me.
You’d rather unite with the darkness than side with the light.
I know life will move-on,
10/7 will turn into a memory,
The war will be talked about in the past-tense and the world will rejoice in some other tragedy or intercontinental disaster.
And I’ll maybe return to Channel 4 or the Guardian, or perhaps not.
Maybe this is it.