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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Rendered Speechless, Drenched In Tears

This piece was first published as Movie Review: "The King's Speech" on Blogcritics.                                             

 

Silent Newsreel Footage of the wedding day of The Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth)

It’s December 1936 and the little princesses, Lilibet and Margaret Rose spot their father during their last hours at the family’s private London home.

“Your Majesty!” they whisper to the new King George VI  surely among the first of  his subjects to offer such fealty.Young Royal Family

But as their Daddy,  he bends to cuddle them and  the three share a silent loving gaze of such intense,  bewildered, solemn, fearful desperation that my heart breaks and I continue to sob  shamelessly until after the final credits roll.

The cinematic moment may be fiction but it’s small wonder that  The Queen – doubtless the last living eye-witness to these events - also found The King’s Speech ‘moving and enjoyable’ when she watched it during a private screening at Sandringham House.

This is the same warm-hearted woman who reportedly clasped her hands King.George.VItogether on meeting Geordie Greig, editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper and grandson of surgeon, Sir Louis Greig, recalling how the King and Greig had been “so close”.

But this astonishing movie, created with the deepest loving-care over a lifetime by Anglo-American writer, David Seidler is not about that friendship but another that the King developed with an unqualified Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

I have pondered long and hard on the power of this particular film. Why has it been the subject of so much attention and debate? What for example, caused a wholly disinterested  audience at a cinema in Arizona, USA to ‘rise as one and applaud at the finish’?

Is it partly because of the linked scandal about King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson?  Is it the prurient glee caused by watching a monarch swear?

Is it because it is a classic tale of  heroism where  a simple, if royal  personality  becomes great for the hour in which he must accomplish Herculean deeds?

Is it because he is empowered by the very disabilities which he  believes prevent him from fulfilling his duties?

Or have we been touched to the core by the very commonality that may make a humble man a king?

Perhaps it is not one of these but all of them together. Senior members of the real-life Royal Family are blessed with a mutual sense of destiny layered with an exceptional weight of  history that the film textures with   a Shakespearian nobility  and a near-biblical air of service over self.

This can be no accident.  Seidler is the grandson  of Jewish Holocaust victims, whose stutter began on board ship as he and his parents – the survivors - sailed from London to New York to escape The Blitz.

Moreover Colin Firth, who plays the King with understated, unassuming grace, is the son of Christian missionaries. Both of them must be aware of something that to my knowledge has quite oddly escaped general attention.

They – along with The Queen, a most devout Christian -  must  know the stories of Moses The Law Giver who brought the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land without reaching it himself. 

One review has described Firth’s portrayal of the King as “a portrait of that recurrent figure, the stammerer as hero.”

The origins of such popular heroes may well have been propagated by the Bible and according to popular Jewish sources, Moses possibly had a speech defect. Further, like King George VI,  scholars believe he was also  left-handed.

Physician Dr  Henry A Garfinkel writes in the summary of his paper, Why Did Moses Stammer? And Was Moses Left-Handed? (Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, May 1995):

“Moses, the great lawgiver, ‘ … the chief of the prophets' according to Maimonides, probably had a speech defect. 'I am not a man of words ... for I am of slow speech, and of a slow tongue', Moses states, and later he pleads “... I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?’ Most authorities consider these quotations to mean that he stammered.”

Dr Garfinkel bases his conclusions on “the last few sections of the Book of Genesis and the early part of the Book of Exodus” together with stories from the Midrash – Jewish interpretations of Bible stories whose meanings are not initially apparent. He ends:

“Moses probably suffered from a stammer. There are known factors which can produce such a speech defect and a plausible explanation for his stutter is presented. It is reasoned that he was in a deep hypnotic trance brought
about by intense mental and physical turmoil when he was aged three. Associated injury to his mouth and tongue probably resulted in permanent damage to his speech. Moses (Dore Drawing)

“Evidence is also presented suggesting that Moses may
have been left-handed. His prophetic ability as an adult may well have been aided by his skill in achieving a deep trance-like state which he first acquired at the time of his ordeal in Pharaoh's palace.”

 Debates about this film as a work of art and its arguable  flaws will continue for a long time. This is a measure of its strength. I believe it’s the best British movie for 20 years and I add my voice to those decrying the proposed closure of the UK Film Council. Should its abolition go ahead, glorious films like this will no longer be possible.

Historical footnote:

Queen.Mother(Youg)A posthumous endorsement to the marvellous effect Lionel Logue had on King George VI has been found in a recently-discovered handwritten note that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother wrote to Logue after his death during February 1952.

She said that her husband had owed him a debt of gratitude for helping him not merely with his stutter, but his whole life:

"I think that I know perhaps better than anyone just how much you helped the King, not only with his speech, but, through that, his whole life, and outlook on life …I shall always be deeply grateful to you for all you did for him." Of the King, she added: "He was such a splendid person, and I don't believe that he ever thought of himself at all. I did so hope that he might have been allowed a few years of comparative peace after the many anguished years he had to battle through so bravely. But it was not to be." Queen Elizabeth's letter to Logue was unearthed by the Australian speech therapist's grandson, Mark, among family papers a few months ago.

Trailer to “The King’s Speech”

  • Oscar Results – February 2011:
  • Best Director: Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
  • Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
  • Best Picture: The King's Speech
  • Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler (The King's Speech)

msniw

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Another (Quietly Desperate) Year

This piece first appeared as ‘Movie Review: Another Year’ on Blogcritics

Another.Year.Film.ImageAs the plot of Mike Leigh’s latest film unfurled itself with leisured ease across the screen at Rosh Pina’s Cinematheque, I became increasingly convinced that its central vision is Jewish.

Moreover, while the Manchester-born  film writer and director refuses to visit Israel for political reasons, the audience gave it the sort of mixed reception he may have enjoyed had he been there in person!Mike.Leigh

Another Year tells a story in which nothing – and – everything happens. The central middle-aged characters are the impishly named Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) who have been together since university   and are the embracing focal point for extended family and   friends.

Their relationship with each other and the other characters  echoes Leigh’s familial, repertorial  style of improvisational film-making as we see other members of the regular ensemble like Imelda Staunton in a brilliant cameo role at the beginning of the story and Lesley Manville who unsurprisingly has won prizes for her portrayal of the   miserable, semi-drunk misfit, Mary.

The unfolding story takes place against the seasons of the year as Tom and Gerri tend their classic English allotment (a small piece of land rented for cultivation). Spring  is illustrated by the birth of a baby by one of Gerri’s work-mates while the winter period includes a death.

I sense Leigh’s background in this, not only because I knew his parents and received hospitality from them, but because Tom and Gerri’s effortlessly comfortable, ‘middle England’  home is a refuge for their quietly desperate guests. This type of hospitality is central to Jewish thinking as is the scene where they are shown providing yet more food for the ‘funeral tea’ along with emotional succour at the home of Tom’s bereaved brother and thuggish nephew in their run-down North of  England terrace.

I liked the film very much. I found it lyrical, even elegiac whereas others with me dismissed it as tedious and artificial.

This not only because it is a slow-paced, cyclical drama without a solid conclusion. It is also because Tom and Gerri are not quite real. I know of no-one past a certain age who has not suffered some personal tragedy, yet they are portrayed as wholly contented and fulfilled in stark contrast to the eccentric malcontents around them. I know no-one like them. Neither, I suspect, does Leigh.

msniw

Friday, 18 February 2011

Time For William Hague To Leave The Foreign Office?

I am beginning to wonder if Mr William Hague is the right choice as Britain’s Foreign Secretary.

Granted, he has been in politics since he was in his teens and famously became then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s darling during a party conference.

Further, it is accepted that he has remained in government to help David Cameron gain the Conservative Party leadership, fight the ensuing General Election and then take his first steps as Prime Minister.

But questions must be asked.

First, during March last year Hague  faced demands for his resignation over “his shadowy role” in the muddy tax affairs of top  Conservative donor and former deputy party chairman, Lord Ashcroft. Why didn’t he go then?

Then in September, he was forced to deny media speculation of an alleged gay affair with his 25-year-old special adviser, Christopher Myers who resigned due to the pressure of “untrue and malicious allegations.” Why didn’t he step down then?

After all, it is said that people in public life need to be beyond reproach and that a man who may have betrayed his wife with an alleged adulterous affair  may also betray his country.

As Foreign Secretary Mr Hague puts British interests first, not those of other powers. So why did he take such an odd and unpleasant view of the unfolding revolution in the Middle East by accusing Israel of being belligerent? He recently visited Israel and uttered all the correct platitudes – so what’s gone awry?

Events in the Arab world have nothing to do with Israel whose leaders are merely fearful that despite all present protestations, a new regime in Egypt for example, may not honour the 1979 Peace Treaty.

Earlier this week a hate-filled 40-strong crowd of Tunisian Muslims gathered outside the main synagogue in Tunis shouting anti-Jewish slogans and reportedly screamed ‘death to the Jews’.

I cannot but help muse that in an echo of first Israeli Premier David Ben-Gurion’s celebrated words, Israel must be determined to keep the peace as though there were no Arab revolution but has to  intensify its security and intelligence as though there were no peace.

Small wonder that Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu has advised that he would "reinforce the might" of Israel and warned the nation to be ready for "any outcome" from the Egyptian protests.

Is it for Mr Hague to reprimand Mr Netanyahu, who has  managed to maintain an uneasy peace with Israel’s Arab neighbours since Operation Cast Lead and has  helped to keep the Israeli economy buoyant while those in Europe are still floundering in noisy desperation?

My thoughts are shared by many in the Anglo-Jewish community including Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen, the renowned former minister of Stanmore Synagogue, London. How is it then that The Times newspaper  - usually a fair and objective Israel-watcher - chose this week not to publish a letter from him on the subject?Rabbi.Dr.Jeffrey.M.Cohen

So I will redress the balance and publish it. Let’s hope some of The Times’s august readership now has a chance to view it:

“The Editor
”The Times

“‘’William Hague and Israel's belligerence’

“Sir

A few weeks ago I quipped to a friend that, somehow or other, a way would be found to lay the blame on Israel for all the upheaval in the Middle East. Your screaming headline ("Hague tells 'belligerent' Israelis to soften line", Feb 9) did not, therefore, come as any surprise. The Foreign Minister has, most unworthily, latched on to the age-old scapegoat and, single-handedly, fanned the Middle Eastern flames and further encouraged Israel's enemies.
“At a time of widespread conflict all around the Middle East, and with so many victims of state brutality, the mind of our Foreign Minister is focused primarily upon "the belligerent language" of Israel's Prime Minister!  He also takes exception to the latter's quite legitimate call to his people to "prepare for any outcome" and his vow to "reinforce the might of the State of Israel". Given the political maelstrom surrounding Israel, any Prime Minister who did not take such measures would surely be remiss in his duty.
“The sooner the popular, yet bitterly misleading and ironic, references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as 'The Middle East conflict' or 'The Middle East peace process', are discarded, the better it will be. They are a disingenuous diversion, whose objective is to obfuscate the true source of all the wider 'Middle Eastern' problems, a source that lies at the heart of the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt.    
Dr Jeffrey M Cohen
London, N2”

msniw

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Real Finkler Question: ‘How Dare They’?

This review was first published as Book Review: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson on Blogcritics.

The Finkler Question.DustjacketTwo wickedly funny jokes run through The Finkler Question.  Both of them are deeply personal to the author.

The first is Howard Jacobson’s satirical look at the many wholly disaffected Jews in public life who make it their life’s work to loathe Israel with quite indecent passion.

The second - whose nuances  may  be absolutely clear only to Jewish readers - is that Sam Finkler’s co anti-hero, Julian Treslove is in the place where Jews have been throughout history:

He is the non-Jewish outsider desperate to be accepted in  Jewish circles. No wonder that in reality Jacobson finds himself forever “to be on the outside of every thing”.

I muse on this in a week in which ‘life has imitated art imitating life’ as  the author was heard twice in six days on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs – the programme on which Finkler betrays Israel as well as a  taste in music which displeases his wife.

Possibly by prior agreement, presenter Kirsty Young did not mention Israel during the real-life interview but whatever the reason I find this strange as Jacobson is a most able, stoic defender of the Jewish State when so many of his Jewish colleagues and friends seem bent on its destruction.Howard.Jacobson(Howard.Barlow)

He is also supposed to be the first comic writer to win the Man Booker Prize since Kingsley Amis. He is certainly the first to do it with a Jewish story.

Is this why so many reviews have used the book  as a platform for airing Jewish jokes? Or is it because the reviewers find the subject too uncomfortable to treat it with real gravity?

It is after all by turns hysterically funny, deeply sad,  very wise, often tedious - and  gratuitously filthy.

But the pivotal scene has personal resonance for me – and possibly for many other Jewish readers. It occurs when the self-hating Finkler addresses yet another anti-Israel meeting and is surprisingly and deeply angered when a non-Jewish woman in the audience accuses Israel of being

“an apartheid country ruled by racist supremacists”.

Suddenly filled with unwonted rage he retorts:

‘“How dare you, a non-Jew . . . how dare you even think you can tell Jews what sort of country they may live in, when it is you, a European Gentile, who made a separate country for Jews a necessity?” Finkler, like Jews throughout history, ran for a while, but ultimately could not hide. He could not continue to repress his Jewish soul permanently’.

It echoed not only because I now live in Israel but because I used the same phrase some months ago of one of Jacobson’s best known non-Jewish colleagues.

I, too,  felt a surge of ridiculous, unreasonable, contrary anger when I learned that Kingsley’s son, Martin said that he supported Israel and that he felt the Jewish State to be in  his blood largely because his first great love had been Jewish.Martin.Amis.Will.Self

As non-Jews, neither Jacobson’s fictional woman nor the real-life Amis have the layers of history, the atavistic pull from the heart and therefore the inherent ‘knowingness’ of what it means to be Jewish or to have a love-hate relationship with the Jewish State.

It has been suggested that Jacobson should write a ‘Finkler’ sequel. I hope he does not but that he moves on – as I have – and writes of English  Jews who settle in Israel. But that’s another question!

  • I feel duty bound to end this post on two related but different subjects.
  • I am always most distressed when I see the Yiddishised Hebrew word shiksa used with careless ease. Jacobson uses it more than once in Finkler. He should know better. The word is not simply a disdainful, disparaging vulgarism for a non-Jewish girl. That would be bad enough.
  • I was horrified to learn, inter alia, during a recent English language Talmud class,  that a group of Yeshiva (Talmudic Academy) boys had been using the word with quite jolly abandon  to describe anything they decided was not kosher or otherwise offensive to them.
  • The odious word shiksa is derived in part from the Hebrew term שקץ  or שכץ (sheketz) which means "abomination", "impure," or "object of loathing", depending on the translator.  The equivalent term for a non-Jewish male is shegetz.
  • If you are a Jewish reader please refrain from using these words of non-Jews. If you are non-Jewish, please do not allow any Jewish acquaintance to use them of you or any fellow non-Jews.
  • More happily,  it is clear that a select band of budding Jacobsons and Amises intend rushing  to Israel where the general Anglo literatti fear to tread!
  • While Jacobson’s fellow ex-Mancunian, film director Mike Leigh,  changed his mind about visiting Israel, the British Council Israel has a February diary chock-a-bloc with  visitors from Britain. I am republishing it with minimal editing, so I am not responsible for any errors or ambiguities: 
  • London based cutting edge producer/ DJ BOK BOK 
     British Invasion - the selector launch party
    British Council, Radio 106 and Tabac present The Selector launch party featuring DJs Bok Bok, El-B and Rustie from the UK with locals Botanika, Hectik and Kalbata, hosted by Johnathan. Expect to hear some of the best sounds coming out of the UK.  We hope to see you there!
    Date: 25 February, doors open at 23:00
    Venue: Comfort 13, Tel Aviv
    Tickets: 60 NIS in advance, 70 NIS at the door (Mister Ticket, Abu Dubby)
    The Selector radio show is aired on Radio 106.4 Saturdays 19:00-21:00
  • New Writing for Theatre
    Award winning UK based director, writer and translator Jan-Willem van den Bosch will deliver a ground breaking workshop to develop the next generation of playwrights in Israel. The workshop is aimed at emerging theatre writers and is being run in partnership with the Institute of Israeli Drama.
    Dates: 27 February - 3 March
    Venue: Tel Aviv
  • The Shape of Things exhibition showcases the work of 13 international artists who live and work in London. The exhibition will expose the local crowd to the creativity and trends emerging from the London contemporary art scene. The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Ferrate Art Gallery, Tel Aviv and UK based curator Silia Ka Tung.
    Dates: The exhibition runs until 2 April
    Venue: Ferrate Gallery, 6 Habarbanel Street, Ramat Hachayal, Tel Aviv
  • She London UK-Israel Theatre Collaboration.
    This first collaboration between New End Theatre (UK) and Karov Theatre (Israel) invites artists and audiences to see Israel through new eyes via a connection to the female journey. She London transforms the New End's historic building into a series of unlikely performance spaces. This cross culture celebration of International Women's Day is supported by BI ARTS
    Dates: 27 & 28 February
    Venue: New End Theatre, London
    For tickets and more information
  • Connecting Classrooms
    Teachers from ten schools in Israel, participating in the British Council international Connecting Classrooms  project will travel to Bulgaria to take part in an International Coordinators Course. They will meet teachers from partner schools in Bulgaria, Italy, Russia and the UK and will plan future activities.
  • Community Cohesion in Schools professional visit.
    Fifteen teachers from the UK will visit Israel to explore community cohesion within the education system in Israel.  They will visit a number of schools that have programmes around building tolerance among different religious and ethnic groups

  • Strengthening Ties in Film
    Three celebrated film-makers from the UK will share their expertise with film students and professionals in Israel. Director of photography Peter Suschitzk and film editor Mick Audsley will deliver workshops to students at the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television. Assistant Director Jack Ravenscroft will give a professional workshop at the Israel Association of Cinema and Television Professionals. Visits supported by BI ARTS.

msniw

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Where Shepherds Watched Their Flocks And Wrote Their Verse

This piece first appeared as <a href='http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-the-treasure-of-gods/'>Book Review: <i>The Treasure of God's Word: Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible</i> by Jack Countryman</a> on Blogcritics.

Yesterday the weather was atrocious. But at its spectacular best,  I can stretch my arms and fairly grab the hills that surround us.

“God’s Grace”

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: The Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

Coming from England to live in‘God ’s Vineyard’ deep in the Northern Galilee, it takes little imagination to understand why the biblical Psalmist wrote his heart-stopping verse while tending flocks in the region. Nazareth.Shepherd

It also becomes clear why so many scriptural analogies of Man and God refer to the shepherd and his flock and why indeed the landscape serves as the backdrop to so many of the stories best loved by the followers of the three major monotheistic faiths.

But in our ambiguous era of virtual reality it is a modern miracle that the Bible remains such a source of objective interest, let alone spiritual support.

I began musing on all this when I learned that we were about to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of The King James Version of the Bible.

God’s Mercy

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

In the U.K. where the ‘Authorised Version’ was first published in 1611, the celebrations were marred slightly by secularists  unhappy that BBC Radio 4 devoted almost a full to day to the anniversary.  On Sunday 09 January, a relay of well-known figures gave 15-minute readings of 28 passages over 16 hours from early morning until midnight.

The complainants argued that the allotted airtime was excessive as almost all regular broadcasts were dropped from the schedule to make way for the readings, with breaks only for  King James Version Bible the  most popular Sunday shows.

However, a BBC spokesman said: "The King James Bible is generally accepted to have had a significant impact on our language, the arts and music. A 400th anniversary is a rather special landmark, and we feel it is appropriate that the BBC sets aside part of one day's scheduling to mark such an event.”

But there were no crises of conscience when the first issue of the first edition of the 'Authorised Version' appeared in London printed  by Robert Barker.

Now I have a charming 400th anniversary edition which probably escaped the BBC’s attention.

The Treasure of God’s Word – Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible has been compiled by Jack Countryman and published by Thomas Nelson Inc., in Nashville Tennessee, U.S.A.Treasure of God's Word

God’s Faithfulness

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

This handsome, slim leather-bound gold-tooled edition includes many favourite passages from both the Hebrew Bible (‘The Old Testament’) and The New Testament, showing the exquisite Jacobean translation at its best.

I am unsure that it is a totally accurate reflection of the original Hebrew but I can’t argue with the famous English literary scholar, Sir Arthur Quiller Couch who described the King James Version as “the very greatest” literary achievement in the English language.

Much of the language is sublime and it is no coincidence that Shakespearewho was still living and working when the first KJV Bible appeared – is considered the other major partner in shaping the English language as we know it now.

The Treasure of God’s Word may be aimed at Christian readers but for this Jewish one from a nominally Orthodox background, many of the selected passages from the Psalms, Isaiah and Proverbs are a renewed delight.

I am pleased to see at casual reading, that the passages selected are similar to those in the Hebrew-English version of the Hebrew Bible given to us by the Christian educational but non-evangelical organisation Bridges for Peace shortly after we arrived in Karmiel.

God’s Kindness

“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee,neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” (Isaiah 54:10).

The selected verses are divided into sections named “God’s Love”, “God’s Righteousness” etc. and the book also includes helpful chapters on the origins of the KJV, an explanation of “The Apocrypha of the KJV” and various revisions in 1638, 1769 – when it was standardised – and the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

There are also interesting sections on the KJV’s influence on English writing since the 17th century and its use in everyday life. But it is most intriguing to note that Thomas Nelson was also responsible for the New King James Version  – which replaces archaic pronouns and verb endings with modern equivalents. This appeared in 1980 and 1982. 

 

‘The Treasure of God's Word  - Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible By Jack Countryman is published by Thomas Nelson at $16.99 (approx. £10.55).

    

*[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers programme. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]

msniw

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Elementary – Only Sherlock Holmes Could See The Woods For The Trees!

This piece  first appeared  as “It's Elementary, Only Sherlock Holmes Could See The Woods For The Trees” on Technorati.

Squirrel.LogoIt goes without saying that members of the present UK government would sell their  mothers in a vain attempt to rescue the ailing economy.

It doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes to discover the real villains of the piece. But even if he were more than a magnificent figment of Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination it wouldn’t help.

After all , the council at Wavertree, Essex where the author lived, is attempting to sell his house there instead of having it converted into a proper museum!

So it was heart-warming to learn that on Thursday (03 February)  Members of Parliament from all sides of the House Commons  “pressed ministers to guarantee that the public would still be able to access England's national forests after the land had been sold or leased”.

Indeed, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said ministers had repeatedly given assurances to MPs that access and public benefits would be protected.

But I’m not impressed as I’m among those worried that the attempts to privatise and sell the U.K.’s woodlands “could compromise nature protection and restrict public access to national woodland”.

I am only one of thousands of people who have enjoyed walking in the U.K’s forests and the thought of their being possibly sold to companies like McDonalds is as appalling as it is incomprehensible.

I wonder if such a move is legal and if  in theory, people like myself who have ‘bought’ trees in the names of family members  through The Woodland Trust  are the true owners.

David Babbs of the 38 Degrees social action group which is leading a campaign against possible forestry privatisation, claims that more than 96,000 people have joined the struggle. Certainly, I wrote to Ivan Lewis, MP requesting his support.

I pointed out that  while I now live in Northern Israel very near the scene of the  Carmel Forest Fires, I still have a house in his Bury South constituency.

The irony of the Israeli Government’s struggle to make good the devastation of its vital forests against  the intentions of the Tory administration is shamefully clear.

Instead of selling off the U.K.’s own beautiful and environmentally important forests, the government should consider vastly reducing aid sent to third world countries where it rarely reaches the intended recipients and instead swells the coffers of corrupt tin-pot dictators. Let’s get our priorities straight – please.

 

msniw

Friday, 4 February 2011

Jimmy Carter’s $5M Israel Lawsuit

This piece was first published as ‘Jimmy Carter’s $5M Israel Lawsuit’ on Technorati.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is Jimmy.Carterbeing sued for allegedly defamatory remarks he made Israel.

The ‘historic class action’ has been filed against Carter and his publishers, Simon and Schuster for “deceptions and misrepresentations” in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

The plaintiffs, represented by American attorney David Schoen of  Alabama and Israeli lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner,  of Tel-Aviv claim that the book “contained numerous false and knowingly misleading statements intended to promote the author’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda and to deceive the reading public instead of presenting accurate information as advertised”.

The action, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York  seeks compensatory and punitive damages of at least $5M.

The plaintiffs are members of the reading public who claim they bought the book expecting it to reflect an accurate account of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Instead they say, Carter - who presents himself as a Middle-East expert - and his publisher, intentionally presented untrue and inaccurate information and sought to capitalise on the author’s status as a former President to mislead unsuspecting members of the public.

It is alleged that Carter’s critical misrepresentations of Israel “violate New York consumer protection laws, specifically New York General Business Law § 349, which makes it unlawful to engage in deceptive acts in the course of conducting business.

The plaintiffs acknowledge Carter’s right to publish his personal views but insist that he and his publishers broke the law and thus harmed those who purchased the book.

The complaint notes that even some of the ex-president’s closest aides who  had been personally involved in the events described have alleged that the book as untruthful.

But despite the barrage of irrefutable proof showing  the many falsehoods in the book, the defendants have refused to make  corrections.

In a Press Release issued yesterday (03 February 2011), Mr Schoen said:

    “It is, indeed, a sad day for all of us as Americans, when a former President demeans the dignity of his office by intentionally misstating critically important facts concerning events of great historic significance and public interest, simply to advance a personal anti-Israel animus and to foster the agenda of the enemies of Israel who pump so much money into the Centre which bears his name.”

Nitsana.Darshan-LeitnerMiss Darshan-Leitner, celebrated for her pioneering lawsuits on behalf of victims of terror  added:

    “The lawsuit will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public. He is entitled to his opinions but deceptions and lies have no place in works of history.”

A pdf copy of the complaint is available at

http://www.israpundit.com/archives/33234#more-33234
Technorati Tags: Jimmy Carter,Simon and Schuster,David Schoen,Nitsana Darshan-Leitner,Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

msniw