I forgot to turn off my Internet radio, last night. It’s a fantastic piece of gear, that can broadcast BBC Radio 5 Live to Jaffa . . . if you want to hear it, that is.
Having dozed off to debate about Roy Hodgson’s suitability as new England football manager (horrid that the media and ‘fans’ are already getting on his case), I half woke up, at 5 a.m., to a 30-minute conversation with former Lebanon hostage, John McCarthy, about his new book, You Can’t Hide the Sun: A Journey Through Israel and Palestine.
Now, McCarthy – held by Islamic Jihad for over 5 years, longer than any other Briton in Lebanon – comes across as a perfectly decent and reasonable bloke, without agenda or malice, the type of English ex-public schoolboy with whom you might strike up a pleasant conversation over tea and scones in the Kenwood House café. The journalist and BBC Radio 4 presenter is certainly not – on the face of it, at least – the type to “salute” Saddam, to make “concentration camp guard” jibes to Jewish reporters, or who “might just consider becoming [a suicide bomber].”
The pages in his Haileybury twentieth century history book referring to the 1948/49 Arab-Israeli War, however, must have been torn out by a previous student, because McCarthy, this morning, referred to it as a “civil war” – i.e., between civilians of the same country – when it was, of course, fought between a ragtag Jewish army and a military coalition of seven Arab states and foreign volunteers (of whom McCarthy made absolutely no mention), in addition to native Arabs.
Indeed, McCarthy’s ridiculously one-sided account of 1948/49 made Jewish soldiers sound more like Bosnian Serb and Croat ethnic cleansers than fighters against an alliance sworn to the destruction of their nascent state (mandated by the 1947 UN Partition Plan).
McCarthy’s interviewer, Up All Night presenter Rhod Sharp, didn’t once challenge his account. Perhaps he knows no better. But why couldn’t I imagine the same happening had his guest, instead, been Benjamin Netanyahu or even Shimon Peres?
As it turns out, the only tea I will be sharing with McCarthy is the contents of my pot, over his head . . .
Towards the end of the conversation, describing a card game that he stumbled across in the northern city of Acre (Acco) while interviewing Israeli Arabs for his book, McCarthy told of his surprise at discovering that an Iraqi-born Jew, keen to use his mother tongue, had been accepted into the group. This “common humanity,” McCarthy said, gives him some hope for the future.
“The trouble is,” the Arabs told him, “he takes our money from us every day.”
Indeed. Those clever Jews.
When his agent advises him that Michael Parkinson only interviews people who have actually done things, David Brent, referring to McCarthy, replies:
“He had that guy in Lebanon who spent years chained to a radiator. What did he do? Nothing! He was chained to a radiator!”
With all McCarthy’s shameful disinformation about Israel and Jews, we can only be sorry that he is not still there.
You can listen to the Up All Night interview with John McCarthy here (2:05.48-2:32.45).