Tag Archives: Haaretz

Unfriending the Cousins

I “unfriend[ed]” my Arab Facebook friends, this week.

I had met all half-dozen of them on my half-Jewish, half-Arab tour guides course (which I could not complete). But despite sitting with “the lads” – all Arab, more fun than the nerdy new immigrants – at the back of the coach on every field trip, we have not, other than on Facebook, stayed in touch. And I have become increasingly self-conscious that some of my more un-PC “status updates” might, perhaps, offend their sensibilities. Following the abduction of the three Jewish teenagers in Gush Etzion, a fortnight ago, I felt that being able to be myself, even in a medium as ‘trivial’ as Facebook, was more important than perpetuating these ostensibly futile ‘friendships’.

And the “unfriend[ing]” was also, I think, a gesture. A statement. To myself even. A result, after a decade and a half of life here, of having become totally disillusioned with our Biblical cousins.

No one should have been surprised, however, by the news from the Gush. Following the ‘success’ of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping, it was clear that Hamas would attempt others (see Why Gilad must not be freed “at any price”). Our (continuing) mistake is to judge the Arabs by our own western values (which tell us, in this case, that abducting teenagers is just plain wrong). And we should not be surprised, either, at images of ordinary Palestinians delighting in their ‘victory’. Because to them, that is what it is. And this is a war.

I don’t believe I am a racist. I take as I find. I still go out of my way to find work for Kamel and Rayed, the East Jerusalem Arabs who renovated my apartment, because I like and appreciate them (certainly a great deal more than their dodgy Persian then boss, who, I found out much later, had diddled almost all of my suppliers). And I am in favour, in principle at least, of a “two-state solution”.

But make no mistake: none but an inconsequential number of Palestinians recognise any Jewish claim to this land. They want us out of here. And they won’t rest until we are. The sooner we accept that reality, the safer we will be. And I feel sure that Bibi, oft criticised for political inertia, merely realises that the current state of affairs – total impasse, but (with the Security Wall) without the terror we once knew – is, with neighbours like ours, the best that we can hope for.

On a shiva visit last week, I struck up a conversation with Itamar Marcus, the Director of Palestinian Media Watch, a non-partisan organisation which studies Palestinian society through the monitoring of its media and schoolbooks. Having this piece already in mind, I enquired as to whether there might nonetheless be some potential “partners for peace” on the other side. Marcus’s knowing smile said it all. “Put it this way,” he said, “that is the shortest chapter in our book.”

And joking with a Jewish contractor in my Tel Aviv apartment, last week, that we should lock his Arab worker inside until the teenagers are freed, he replied “The problem is no one there would even care!” And that about summed up the difference between our peoples. The individual is paramount to Jews. The Arabs, on the other hand, use their own children as weapons and shields. We are in a seemingly permanent state of war against a cruel and primitive enemy, a fact now recognised and admitted by increasing numbers on the Israeli Left (aside, of course, from the Anshel Pfeffers of this world – see his latest sell-out here – a conceited so and so no less opportunist or extreme than those he decries on the Right, and yet another reason why I will never resubscribe to Haaretz).

Not many aspects of the Bible “talk” to me, but references to “Good” peoples and “Evil” peoples – which, as a schoolboy, always struck me as Osher Baddiel nonsense – have, in recent years, at least in the collective sense, taken on a certain resonance.

As for my former Facebook friends, I was sorry to hear (I am still on the course e-mail list) that some of them were said to have behaved inappropriately during a recent visit to Yad Vashem . . . though, again, if true, it didn’t really surprise me: even the concept of mutual respect, never mind peace, now seems a pipe dream. There is, perhaps, just too much history.

Shabbat shalom in the meantime . . . and God bless our boys.

Abducted Teenagers

Why I am not full of the joys of Spring

You will forgive me, I hope, for not jubilantly swinging my misbaha over my head in celebration of the Arab Spring.

Israeli Embassy, Cairo, last Friday

After months of endless “Allahu akbars” (can’t they come up with anything new?) and the exaggerated, mindless firing into the air of automatic weapons, I – unlike many others it would seem, especially the depressingly naive correspondents of the western news media and the ever-Muslim-fawning BBC – am filled not with hope, but with concern . . .

Concern that liberty, democracy and equality, as well as respect for human life, won’t come to these people in a thousand springs.

And the best judges of this are not Ashkenazi, Haaretz-reading liberals – who believe that inventing, dreaming about, and intellectually masturbating over, a false reality makes them, somehow, more worthy human beings – but Jews who grew up in, and subsequently were forced to flee, one of the countries now ‘enjoying’ its Spring.

Sexpot: Ashrawi (on BBC's Breakfast with Frost)

One such, an Egyptian-born relative, would always remark, whenever having to hear Hanan Ashrawi – the Palestinian Christian sexpot – twist and deceive on British television: “If they get their own state, they will cut her hands off.” (And I must confess to having rather enjoyed the image.)

Concern, too, that these people are motivated not by love, or even the longing for a better future, but by hate and the desire to settle old scores.

The ‘new’ (liberated from the yoke of the tyrant Mubarak) Egyptians, outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo last Friday (photograph above), were calling not only for the abolition of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador:  “Jews, remember the Battle of Khaybar, the Army of Muhammad is already here . . . Oh Zionists, please be patient, there’s an Egyptian digging your grave.” Nice.

I was raised in an environment in which the worst intolerance ever encountered was the occasional less than flattering name for “the other,” usually by an elderly relative, in Yiddish.

Another people, on the other hand, raises many of its young to believe that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs, in a conspiracy to control the world (funny that, I have never known a pig to aspire to anything beyond estate agency), and must be destroyed.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Palestinian and Arab schoolbooks and newspapers (the cartoon on the right appeared in the widest-circulating Egyptian daily), listen to some of their delightful clerics (here and here), or enjoy their enchanting version of Sesame Street (and I haven’t even touched upon the latest filth spewing forth from Tehran).

So please excuse me if I am not filled with optimism and joy about the fall of Mubarak, Gaddafi, or even, imminently, of that vile weasel Assad.

Mark my words (though I do hope they prove to be wrong): this is not good.

[Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/mike-isaacson/ . . . only £500 to go!]

Vedding?! . . . Ye call dat a vedding?!

Having ignored invitations to various Anglo-Israeli Royal Wedding bashes – quite apart from my already admitted davka-ness, why would I chance having to share such a uniquely British occasion with Israelis, Americans and, worst of all of course, French? – I watched William’s chasseneh, in Netanya, in the company of the person with whom I witnessed that of his parents, thirty years ago: my mother.

The Duke of Hazard

To be totally honest, I feel rather above such gatherings . . . which of course I am, my late father having served as physician to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Though, for the benefit of the commoners who read this blog, a soupçon of life with the Royals: On the evening before his first visit from the Prince, dad received a telephone call at home informing him of the correct protocol, essentially not to speak until spoken to. This was ironic, really, considering that dad had a very strong sense of propriety, while the Prince, on the other hand, is famed for putting his foot in it at every given opportunity. “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat . . . are you going to ban cricket bats?” was his contribution to the gun control debate following Dunblane; whilst his welcome of the Nigerian President (who was in traditional robes) – “You look like you’re ready for bed!” – was what perhaps precluded a return invite to Abuja.

Anyhow, as for the wedding and immediate aftermath, I was less worried about Will’s and Kate’s rather pursed lip kisses on the Buckingham Palace balcony than I was relieved that Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wasn’t caught – for the few seconds that the TV cameras were on him in the Abbey – joining in with Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (more commonly, though erroneously, known as Bread of Heaven).

Neither royalist nor republican, I recognise the stability that the monarchy brings to the British political process, and believe that the nation would be a great deal the poorer for the loss of occasions such as Friday’s.

"Lionel who?!"

That evening, however, Hanna, an Israeli friend (of Moroccan parentage, if you are reading, Isaac), told me that the excesses of the wedding confirmed to her just how ridiculous the British really are. But it fell on deaf ears, seeming as it did to be akin to Bnei Yehuda’s finest, Pini Balili (right), telling Lionel Messi that he wastes too much time dribbling.

But it was not just Hanna. Sunday morning’s Haaretz was full of cynicism and sneers. On its front page, ‘journalist’ Shai Golden could only sum up the wedding as “a classic case of “Why didn’t you tell us your sister was prettier than you?”,” following that with an equally moronic reference to the newlyweds as “successors” to “the couple regarded as international British royalty,” David and Victoria Beckham.

"Victoria, there's a massive fruit gum on yer 'ead!"

As well as displaying the quality of (what my father used to call) being “well-balanced . . . having a chip on each shoulder,” many Israelis have an infuriating habit of pretending to understand – like they do ‘proper’ football (see Moti, you ain’t no Motty!) – other traditions and cultures (older, if not superior) . . . when, really, they know nothing about them. Golden no doubt watched the wedding on Israeli TV, and, probably only recognising Elton John and “Posh and Becks” amongst the invited guests, had to write about one of them.

“The monarchy has long been dead in Europe,” Golden, now the brilliant constitutional theorist, concluded, seemingly on the basis that “there will never be another like [Lady Diana].” Who could argue with such logic? (Though why am I still expecting anything other than ignorance and arrogance from the writers and pages of Haaretz? See Haaretz: Always hitting us when we’re down.)

As for “trash pop culture and empty celebrity hedonism” – of which Golden brands the Beckhams (of whom, incidentally, I am no fan) “the ambassadors” – he need look no further than his own doorstep for these, so sadly obsessed has this country become with crap reality TV and its inane participants. Indeed, who could expect your average Israeli, whose idea of a “spectacle” is the last night of Ha’Ach Ha’Gadol, to appreciate the magnificent pageantry that we witnessed on Friday?

It is impossible to even imagine Israelis, like the tens of thousands of Britons who lined the wedding route, camping out for days on end with such patience and stoicism: they’d finish their Yediot and garinim, get bored, spread the newspaper over the largest possible area – perhaps, if no one is looking, stealing a few extra inches – and then demand that neighbouring campers save the space until they return in three days’ time! (Anyone unfortunate enough to have shopped in an an Israeli supermarket will know exactly what I mean.)

Who wouldn't want the opinion of this man?

Another report in Sunday’s Haaretz, from the Tel Aviv party attended by the British ambassador, saw fit to quote Israeli singer Tzvika Pik (right), a ridiculous, ageing hippy who once wrote a few catchy pop songs: “I would have had him [Elton John] sing again in the church the way he sang in Princess Diana’s memory. You don’t need more than that.”

And, whilst you’re at it, Tzvika, why not also, after the service, bus all the guests down to the Blackwall Tunnel for a re-enactment of the Paris crash?

Most Israelis just don’t get it. One of the very few who seemed to was actor, Rami Heuberger: “we appreciate the British sense of humor . . . inviting us to an event like this has a lot of humor in it. Because what do we have to do with this? The only blue blood in our veins is the water from the Frishman beach.”

But to my fragrant English Rose, Pippa . . .

Would I . . . !!

Quite apart from your boyfriend (or, rather, momentary aberration) clearly being an absolute dope – who retires at 27 from an extremely promising career as an international cricketer . . . to go into finance?! – I think you will agree that “Pippa and melchett” has a beautiful ring to it.

And you need not worry your lovely legs about what my mum and her Netanya ladies will think/say . . . just the thought of all those hats again – and in real life, this time! – will win ‘em over.

So, Pippa sweetness, you know where to find me. And I am willing to wait if necessary . . . unlike my adopted countrymen, I am extremely patient!

New Yids on the Ramat Hasharon Block

I have real issues with all things Ramat Hasharon: I don’t care for the place, much less its residents.

My contrariness (admitted throughout melchett mike), however, is rarely totally lacking in reason or cause, and this small city – situated between the swanky suburbs of north Tel Aviv and Herzliya – is a sterile, soulless, not especially attractive, haven for largely rich, chiloni (secular) and “white” Israelis.

And whenever I learn that a potential date grew up in Ramat Hasharon, the negative stereotype (though one reinforced by experience) that springs to mind – of a stuck-up, high maintenance Ashkenaziya – always preempts any thoughts of a loaded father-in-law (unless, of course, his daughter is a “9”). Indeed, give me a Rosh Ha’ayin Yemenitess over a Ramat Hasharon heiress, any day!

Just to be certain that I am not being unduly harsh here, I asked an Israeli friend, Yuval, for his general impression of the women he has encountered from Ramat Hasharon. “Af kashur le’tachat shel Elohim” – nose attached to God’s ass (the Modern Hebrew equivalent, apparently, of nose in the air) – came the immediate reply.

Shkoyach!” was, therefore, my instinctive response on reading the following by-line to an article, New kids on the block, in Sunday’s Haaretz:

“An ultra-Orthodox, right-wing yeshiva set up on the grounds of an old synagogue in Ramat Hasharon is prompting protests from the neighborhood’s well-heeled residents.”

Now it is not like me to celebrate the establishment of “an ultra-Orthodox, right-wing yeshiva” – I am far from “ultra-Orthodox,” and JDate has my “Political Orientation” as “Midway Moderate” (a claim I justify by the roughly equal number of people who consider me left- or right-wing, respectively) – though when that yeshiva is in Ramat Hasharon . . .

The synagogue in question is behind the home of Avi Adler and Sigal Barak, who are clearly determined to prove what a decent, liberal, “mainstream” (their word) couple they really are: “We’ve never had any problem with it. They have celebrations there, and there’s some praying on Saturdays and Yom Kippur. It didn’t bother us.”

How tolerant of them not to object to prayers . . . especially on Yom Kippur, when the comings and goings of worshippers might interfere with cyclists.

But then, three years ago, Sigal says – sounding every bit the English bigot who has discovered that, horror of all horrors, Asians are  moving in next door – “Different sort of people showed up at the synagogue, people who looked different and weren’t typical of the neighborhood . . . We’re not used to having people like this here on a daily basis.”

Ooh no! Different sort of people? And who look different?! Ooh no! You don’t want that.

After they complained to the Mayor of Ramat Hasharon, the director of the yeshiva – who, according to Sigal, “had this sort of permanent smile on his face” (apparently a crime in Ramat Hasharon) – tried to talk to them, even offering to pay for double-glazing for their home. But to no avail: the couple have now issued court proceedings (in progress) to shut the yeshiva down.

I guess that Avi and Sigal are not too dissimilar from the self-hating Hampstead Garden Suburb ‘Jews’ who launched a dishonest, hateful media campaign against the North-West London Eruv in the early nineties, spreading fear that it would create a “ghetto” (“changing the neighborhood’s character” is the preferred language in Ramat Hasharon) rather than just admitting that they didn’t want black-hatted frummers as neighbours (would they have demonstrated the same steadfast opposition against a new church?)

An old Hasmo friend and I were so repulsed by one particularly virulent and vocal opponent of the Eruv that we masterminded (though, sadly, never executed) a campaign of stuffing greasy, used Bloom’s paper bags – the most heimishe symbol we could come up with – through his letter box!

Last week, I had coffee with a journalist friend in Jerusalem. On asking him whether he thought Israel would still be here in fifty years’ time (the subject of a forthcoming post on melchett mike), Matthew replied that prevalent attitudes amongst chiloni Israelis – increasingly large numbers of whom now get out of serving in the IDF (remarkably, just two of the 120 fatalities in the 2006 Lebanon War came from Tel Aviv) – really make him wonder.

Kikar Hamedina: Designer shopping to die for

And it is difficult to be more optimistic: after all, what exactly would such chilonim be fighting for? Their Saturday morning brunch in Tel Aviv Port? The exclusive shopping in Kikar Hamedina? Or, perhaps, their courtside seats at Maccabi Tel Aviv (basketball, of course . . . far too many “darkies” go to the football)?

The recent recommendation by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, meanwhile, that Israeli school children visit Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs – the burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and of their missuses) – was greeted with volleys of derision by Haaretz (with this notable exception) and other left-wing commentators.

Indeed, the only thing such folk – and their tzfoni (good-time, north Tel Aviv area) patrons in Ramat Hasharon and Ramat Aviv (see earlier post) – appear to believe in is antipathy towards Settlers, the right, and all things Jewish.

Who then, exactly, is the “extremist”?

My Sporting Greats XI

[Having a weakness for lists, I compiled the following in response to an invitation from Haaretz sports writer Jerrold Kessel, in his weekend On the Couch column, for readers’ “Dream Teams.” Mine was published in Friday’s paper . . . replete, needless to say, with piss-poor editing – how dare those clowns edit melchett mike! – and typos. The following, with a few additions (essentially photographs and video links), is what I actually sent Mr. Kessel.]

An eleven (plus manager), in more or less chronological order, of sporting characters, events and memories which left their mark on this sports nut . . .

1. Peter Jones  The late BBC Radio football commentator, who always painted the scene so vividly and with such a wonderful turn of phrase, is responsible for my love of the medium (my first career). As a boy, I relished nothing more than listening to Jones’s Welsh brogue, snuggled under the duvet with my ridiculously large first radio. (Listen here to Jones’s report in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, from which it is said he never recovered – he collapsed and died, less than a year later, while commentating on the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race.)

2. Derek Randall  The clown prince of English cricket, and the greatest fielder I ever saw. He will be remembered for his brilliant 174 in the 1977 Centenary Test, featuring his defiant cap-doffing to Dennis Lillee (right) following yet another bouncer. I spotted “Arkle” a few years ago, walking around the perimeter of Lords, and just had to go up and say “thanks.” (View Randall in action here.)

3. World Cup Finals 1978  My ‘first’ World Cup. From the wonderful BBC theme tune, to Peru’s opening game dismantling of the Jocks (whose manager Ally MacLeod had been bigging-up their chances), to Archie Gemmill’s wonder goal against the Dutch . . . everything about the tournament, in Argentina, was pure magic to a 10-year old. And England weren’t even there!

Mario Kempes scores for Argentina against Holland in the 1978 World Cup Final

4. Bjorn Borg  The masterful, ice-cool Swede, who would simply glide across the court, was the nearest I ever came to attraction to a male! And his 1980 Wimbledon final victory over John McEnroe – with its incredible 18-16 tiebreak, lasting 20 minutes, won by the American after he had saved 5 match points – was pure theatre.

5. Miruts Yifter  The Ethiopian, nicknamed “the Shifter,” who won 5,000 and 10,000 metre Golds at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, would sit at the back of the field and only “kick” in the final 300 metres, reducing BBC commentator David Coleman to near-hysteria (listen to final laps in links) and me and my father to tears of joy. Yifter would not reveal his age – guessed to be anywhere between 33 and 42 – telling reporters, “Men may steal my chickens, men may steal my sheep, but no man can steal my age.”

6. Botham’s Ashes, 1981  Dismissed for a “pair” in, and as England captain following, the 2nd Test at Lords (with England one-nil down in the series), his heroics thereafter – including the series-changing 149 not out in the 3rd Test at Headingley, 5 for 1 in the 4th at Edgbaston, and 118 in the 5th at Old Trafford – were the stuff of fairytale.

Ian Botham bags another Aussie scalp, during his spell of 5 for 1 at Edgbaston

7. Rugby League Challenge Cup Final 1985: Wigan 28 Hull 24  If there has been a better match in any sport (never mind either rugby code), I haven’t seen it. Enjoy the highlights, featuring Ray French’s exhilarating commentary (“As they say in the north, he could sidestep a thrupenny bit, this lad!”)

8. Paul Gascoigne  A genius of a footballer (for memorable instance), whose off-field antics – for example (and there are many), telling his new employer, the president of Lazio, that he looked like Russ Abbot – are the stuff of legend. And, of course, he cried in Italy.

Gazza celebrates his goal against Scotland, Euro '96

9. Sid Waddell  The wonderfully entertaining Geordie-born, Cambridge-educated darts commentator. During a match at Frimley Green: “There couldn’t be more excitement in here if Jesus Christ walked in and ordered a cheese sandwich!” Brilliant.

10. Geoffrey Boycott  Like French and Waddell, a northerner “worth the entrance money on his own” . . . not for his scientific approach to batting, but his refreshingly outspoken, no-nonsense views (here on Steve Harmison) and “corridor of uncertainty” insight from the commentary box.

11. FA Cup 3rd Round (3.1.2010): Manchester Utd 0 Leeds United 1  Upsetting the Great Satan, then two divisions above, at Old Trafford was a reminder of the special type of joy that only sport can bring . . . and I never tire of watching this.

Leeds players run to Jermaine Beckford following his winning goal at Old Trafford

Manager: Ian Holloway  The Blackpool boss may be considered a strange choice of Sporting Great, but he is a rare beacon of humour and sanity in a sport – now dominated by money – with precious little of either.

I invite readers of melchett mike to add their own Sporting Greats XI – of anyone and/or anything sporting – by comment below.

Getting Their Man: The Katsav Agenda

[To the tune of “Wem-ber-ley, Wem-ber-ley . . .”]

“David Pleat, David Pleat, he’s a pervy wanky bastard and his name is David Pleat . . .”

So Arsenal fans would delight in singing during North London derbies in the late eighties, after it had come to light that the Tottenham manager had been cautioned (three times noch) for kerb crawling.

And with his general awkwardness and scary eyes, over-protestations and public bouts of unbridled rage, it was not too difficult for many Israelis to imagine and label their former President Moshe Katsav (right) – even before his conviction, last Thursday, on two counts of rape – as their very own “pervy wanky bastard”.

And, as on the day after the start of the Carmel Forest fire (see Haaretz: Always hitting us when we’re down), a cabal of Haaretz comment writers – who have been gunning for Katsav, a Persian-born Likudnik, for years – were lining up with glee on Friday morning’s front page . . .

“A rapist in a suit” was Yossi Verter’s chosen headline, alliterating on how “the stomach turns at the thought” of “a punk in the Prime Minister’s Office” (which Katsav apparently aspired to). Then, as the three judges read out their verdict, Mr. Verter’s “stomach churned and nausea rushed up the throat.” (full article)

Perhaps some kind of antacid would be in order, Mr. Verter?

Ari Shavit then waded in even more lyrically (with a touch as delicate as a rapist’s, I thought): “Be gone, Moshe Katsav! In the name of the women you assaulted – be gone! There can be no forgiveness for despicable men like you [omitting the exclamation mark, this time]. There can be no tolerance toward wretched men like you. Your place in history is assured, Moshe Katsav. You will always be remembered as the disgusting person who brought us to the lowest point in our history.” (full article)

What? “Lowe[r]” than the state-sponsored, IDF-perpetrated abuses against an entire people that you and your Haaretz colleagues delight in documenting, and judging, daily? And “lowe[r]” than Operation Cast Lead, in which as many as a thousand innocent Gazans were killed; a war, according to you, without justification or cause?

The words “axe” and “grind” come to mind.

Gideon Levy was surprisingly restrained (though his writing is always more clever and subtle than that of his colleagues), seeming to take perverse pride in the fact that, prior to the verdict, “the only words that came out of [Katsav’s] mouth” were a sarcastic “Good morning to Gideon Levy. A special good morning to Gideon Levy. You are the only one here who deserves a good morning.” (full article)

In his op-ed in Sunday’s paper, Levy speculated as to the cause of the sarcasm. The day after Katsav had defeated his ‘horse,’ Shimon Peres, for the Presidency (in 2000), Levy wrote: “This week . . . many Israelis felt the way they felt the night Yizhak Rabin was murdered . . . For them, hopes have again been shattered, and a nightmare has returned.”

And while admitting that he “didn’t know what [he] was talking about at the time,” and that he had “exaggerated,” Levy – as if not arrogant enough already – clearly now considers himself a prophet (“As it turned out, this week the nightmare reached its climax”), a defence attorney (“I would not appeal the verdict”), and even a judge (“in any case, there’s virtually no chance it will be altered”).

Moshe Katsav has, indeed, brought disgrace upon himself, his family, his country, its Presidency and people . . . but, worst by far, unknown suffering to his female victims.

Being contrary, however, I couldn’t help but speculate, on Friday morning, as to the reaction of the three Haaretz ‘judges’ had the court instead found the case against Katsav unproven (having trained in criminal defence law, I know very well that the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to establish guilt is virtually a judicial fiction, more honoured, as it is, in the breach): Would Verter, Shavit and Levy have been as swift to congratulate an innocent man as they were to pillory a convicted rapist?

I somehow doubt it.

Haaretz: Always hitting us when we’re down

I was shopping in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel, late on Thursday afternoon, as news of 40 deaths in a fire in the Carmel Forest started to filter through. And, as is their wont, stallholders were loudly and crudely relaying the first details to shoppers and fellow traders.

But whatever you say about stallholders in the Shuk (and I wasn’t particularly kind about them, last week), their hearts are in the right place . . . something that can’t necessarily be said for much of this country’s (so-called) liberal elite (close relations of its “cultural elite”).

“Israel is a stupid, lawbreaking state. It voraciously devours its own people, and this time devoured them with fire.”

Sarid: Arrogant slaphead

So ranted Yossi Sarid, left-wing political commentator and former Meretz leader, in the following morning’s Haaretz under a headline – Where trees burn… (amended, it would seem, for the online edition) – playing on Heinrich Heine’s prediction pertaining to the burning of books.

“I told you so,” repeats the arrogant bald tosser ad infinitum, delighting in his would-be prescience, while admitting that he knows nothing about the cause of the fire (he couldn’t have, seeing as the deadline for submissions would have been around midnight on Thursday).

You see, Israeli journalists of the far left love nothing more than the knee-jerk response. And while the cause of the fire, together with the obvious lack of preparedness for it, will result in yet another state commission of inquiry, Haaretz’s hyperbole and overkill – Friday’s edition featured two other, similar front page comment pieces (see below) – typifies the kind of gratuitous, tasteless Israel-bashing in which it appears to so delight whenever controversy, hardship or tragedy strikes the country (see, for example, Washing, folding . . . and binning Haaretz?)

While two arrests have now been made, Amir Oren penned Call it murder before any evidence of foul play had come to light. “If [the fire] turns out to be man-made . . . ,” he starts one sentence, before then seeming to forget to amend his stupidly irresponsible title (the online edition adds this qualification as its by-line).

And in The firefighters’ Yom Kippur War – you couldn’t make it up! (title again changed online) – Aluf Benn somehow contrives to use the tragedy to warn “Israel not to embark on war against Iran.”

Can Haaretz really be surprised when, as it has admitted, so many people phone up to cancel their subscriptions? If Israel’s other English language newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, wasn’t quite so lame, I would probably do so too.

Fire raging at Kibbutz Beit Oren

(But moving away from these shameless, self-loathing, journalistic assholes to the people who really count . . . ) There are just so many awful ironies in this continuing tragedy, commencing as it did on the very first day of Chanukah. On Friday evening, for example, Israeli TV broadcast the candle-lighting of members of Kibbutz Beit Oren, one of the places worst hit by the fire. And as a kibbutznikit read aloud the blessing ending “she’asa nisim la’avoteinu ba’yamim ha’hem ba’zman ha’zeh” – Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days at this season – the news anchor commented wryly, “In those days, maybe . . . but I am not so sure about these.”

I save till last (and most definitely least) my favourite (if you can have such a thing!) bête noire: Turkey. Following the contemptible way in which this nation of nauseating hypocrites has turned on Israel – its erstwhile ally and even saviour (during the 1999 Izmit earthquake) – over the last couple of years, I would tell Prime Minister Erdogan to shove the two firefighting planes offered to us right up an ‘alley’ (the Turk’s favourite) where the fires don’t burn (except, perhaps, after a spicy kebab).

We will get through this latest test just like we get through all of them . . . and without help from Turkey, or our own dickheads at Haaretz.