Richard North, 03/08/2014  

000a Booker-003 Gaza.jpg

Israel is one of the very few issues over which Booker and I are not in full accord, but I was nevertheless looking forward to seeing the response to the column this week, telling myself that it was going to get pretty sharp reaction.

So sharp has been the reaction, though, that it has not even been able to get through the editorial filter. At the very last minute, with no time at all to provide a replacement, it has been pulled from the newspaper and will not appear in the print version or online.

Thus, the only place you will find Booker's column this week is on this blog (and now on Breitbart - ed), and I have thus decided to publish it below, verbatim, as it would have appeared in the newspaper and the web page:

The heart-rending events we have seen unfolding in Gaza are only the latest chapter in one of the most extraordinary stories of my lifetime. I am old enough to remember how, when I was a child at the end of the Second World War, we learnt that the Jews had been the victims of the most appalling racial crime in history. I was brought up to see the setting up of Israel in 1948 as an inspiring re-enactment of the story of the Exodus in the Bible, when the "children of Israel" were finally led by Moses out of tyranny in Egypt towards their Promised Land "flowing with milk and honey".

Even though this little, new state was based on expropriating the Palestinians who had lived there for millennia, and had to fight off the opposition of the Arab countries surrounding it, this still seemed recompense for all the unimaginable horrors the Jews had experienced in Europe. Only in 1967, when they occupied yet more Palestinian lands and began to build their "settlements", did I come to see that biblical story in a new light.

The Book of Deuteronomy 7 records the speech made by an ageing Moses, just before his followers crossed into their Promised Land. He begins by reminding them of how he had brought down the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, telling them they must not kill, steal or covet their neighbours' property. But he then goes on to say that this land would not contain only milk and honey – it would be full of all the tribes who lived there, to whom the Jews must show "no mercy". Those commandments, it seemed, applied only to fellow Jews.

And of course the rest of the Old Testament is full of what followed, as the Children of Israel were perpetually at war with the "Philistines" and all those whose lands they had occupied. The lesson then, as it has come to be seen again in our own time, is that the Jews saw their identity as rooted above all in their race. Only with the New Testament came that liberating message from Jesus and St Paul that our human identity lies not in belonging to one racial group but in treating all human beings alike, Jew or Gentile, as equally "children of God".

The central problem faced by Israel is that, for all its astonishing achievements, it has sought fiercely to preserve the purity of its racial identity. It has been unable to allow any real assimilation – beyond a few Arabs in the Knesset – which makes a mockery of Israel's claim to be a proper democracy. It has treated outsiders almost as ruthlessly as Moses exhorted his followers to treat those tribes in his time. And inevitably that has driven the Palestinians in return to ever more desperate and ruthless fanaticism, giving rise to all those pathetically one-sided conflicts we have seen over the past 70 years, culminating in the latest catastrophe in Gaza.

The real tragedy of Israel, imprisoned in its rigid identification of race with right, is that it has accumulated such resentment across the Middle East that, one day, some of those fanatics may somehow be able to call on enough power to lash back in some fearful act of Armageddon. If the ancient story leads to such a terrible outcome, it will be because, uniquely in the world, too many of its people cannot see their neighbours as equal fellow members of the human race.

Energy policy collapsing like a Didcot tower

Hundreds of times travelling by train to London I have gazed up at the 375ft (114m) cooling towers of the coal-fired power station outside Didcot in Oxfordshire, each higher than St Paul's Cathedral. Last week they were no longer there. Few of the thousands of people gathered by 5 o'clock last Sunday morning, to see them being collapsed to the ground in 10 seconds, were aware of how perfectly this spectacle symbolised the collapsing of our national energy policy.

At the time when the plant's German owners closed down Didcot A last year, the 2,000 megawatts of electricity it was contributing to the national grid were only slightly less than the 2,200MW then being generated on average by all Britain’s thousands of wind turbines put together.

Our Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, may wish to see all our remaining, CO2-emitting coal-fired power stations closed down, in favour of the wind farms he wants to see built like there is no tomorrow. Yet the cost of producing electricity from coal, currently £24 per megawatt hour, is only a sixth of the £155 an hour we pay for intermittent power from his offshore windfarms, more than two thirds of it in subsidies.

The owners of Didcot A decided it was not worth paying hundreds of millions of pounds to modify it to comply with an EU pollution directive. Yet our 5,000 wind turbines, up a further 50 per cent in the past two years, have already cost billions, with tens more billions to come, if we are to meet our legal EU target by trebling the amount of power we get from wind within six years.

And, of course, what Mr Davey never likes to tell us is who is going to build and pay for all those new gas-fired power stations, which will increasingly be needed to provide back-up for when the wind drops and his windmills can often be producing virtually nothing at all. Even if we get them, they will have to be kept running on stand-by all the time, not only at vast expense but also chucking out as much CO2 as is theoretically being saved by his wind turbines. Truly is this insane policy of Mr Davey and the EU leading us into a very dark and uncertain future.

At last, unhappy children may have their day in court

One of the more astonishing scandals of our “child protection” system is the way judges, social workers and lawyers routinely conspire to deny children torn apart from their parents their legal right to have their own wishes heard.

So often in recent years I have come across harrowing examples of articulate, unhappy children being told that they cannot come to court to express their desire to be returned to their parents, but that they must be spoken for by court-appointed "guardians" from Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), who work so closely with the social workers who have torn the family apart that they are just part of "the system". Yet this flatly contravenes not just the 1989 Children Act but the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Britain as part of our law.

Now, speaking to a conference on "the Voice of the Child", Simon Hughes, minister of state at the Justice Department, has emphasised that it is time for our family courts to obey the law. He says he will be working with senior judges and other experts to ensure that the voices of children aged 10 and over are at last properly heard as the law intends. He certainly has an uphill struggle on his hands.

I think of one intelligent 14-year-old girl who wrote repeatedly to a judge, explaining that it was her right to come to court to say why she wanted to return to her family. He refused to read her letters, clearly regarding it as an impertinence that she should have sent them. Mr Hughes’s speech showed he is well aware that something has here gone very seriously amiss. Like the sterling efforts of Lord Justice Munby to open up our fetidly secretive family courts to the "glare of publicity", this is another welcome bid to drag our horribly corrupted system slowly back on to the rails.

As comments moderator, I am not going to take any great part in the discussion - in this event it would not be appropriate.  Please use restraint when you comment - excess can only be deleted. I don't have the facility to amend or edit posts. 


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