On Post-Referendum Anger

This is my first post, not only post-Brexit, but also post-@GoonerEll (I am now @Labenal1)! This is how I feel.

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Other than the fact that I’m not Welsh, and that I’m not sure I agree with point 1 about the old stuffing the young (I think were all to blame), I will just direct you to this, which absolutely sums up how I feel.

https://eleanorstclair.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/no-i-wont-shut-up/

My (and others) being pissed off at the referendum result is not “anti-democratic”, it’s not “elitist”, it’s not “insulting” to those who voted Leave.

I dont blame most of those who voted Leave (other than the genuinely racist and xenophobic ones). I blame the lying liars in the Leave campaign and the Remain campaign who didn’t do a good enough job of exposing their lies.

Speak soon

Labenal  (no longer @GoonerEll – now @Labenal1)

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On Star Wars v Star Trek

Spock

Most visions of the distant future see the World, or even the Galaxy, as a federal place. Some see this as a blessing (the Federation in Star Trek or Iain M Banks’ Culture), others as an oppression (the Empire in Star Wars*, PanEm in the Hunger Games or Eurasia in 1984).

But I haven’t read or watched a distant future fantasy in which the Earth is not organised in a federal way (other than the post-apocalyptic type, where petty nationalism has resulted in a massive destructive war that leaves everybody fighting for their own lives).

OK – these are fantasies. I’m not suggesting otherwise.But I propose that their contrary perspectives could be the deciding factor in the Great Brexit Referendum (if you want my detailed view of the issues, look here).

What am I on about? I shall explain.

At the outset, people asked to be told the facts in a clear, non-emotive way. As we all now know, that was a vain hope.

Most sane people now concede that there are no certain long-term consequences of Remaining or Leaving – and the further into the future we gaze, the less certain we can be.

So, I believe what will guide people in the voting booth will be their guts. In other words, the question of control vs collaboration will come to the fore.

Those who see the EU as a malicious, greedy, wasteful, establishment plot to rob ordinary people of any say in how they are governed (the Star Wars model) will vote to Leave.

Brexit

Those who view it as a collaborative project which which brings people, businesses and governments closer together so as to settle differences amicably and to tackle cross-border issues collectively (the Star Trek model) will vote to Remain.

It wont surprise anyone who knows me that in this context, I am very much a Trekky.

May you live long and prosper.

Speak soon

Labenal  (@GoonerEll)

* Yes, I am aware that Star Wars is a vision not of the future, but of a long time ago, but it looks pretty futuristic to me!

Why BDS is antisemitic – David Hirsh

Dear readers. I wish I had written this myself. All the more powerful as Hirsh avoids the pit falls of overstatement, hyperbole and emotive language that are never far from the surface in writing on this topic.

Engage

  1.  BDS is a global campaign against Israel and only Israel.  It seeks to foment sufficient emotional anger with Israel, and with only Israel, so that people around the world will want to punish Israel, and only Israel.
  2. We are free to criticize whoever we want to criticize and people attracted by BDS are critical about other human rights abuses too; but this specific punishment, exclusion from the global community, is proposed only against Israel.  BDS cannot be defended as free speech; it goes beyond speech into action.  See this debate for more on the issues of singling out Israel; the debate continues here.
  3. BDS says that it seeks to punish only Israeli institutions and not to silence or exclude Israeli individuals.  This is not true.  Israeli individuals, academics, athletes, artists, actors, film-makers, work inside Israeli institutions; where else could they work?  If BDS demands that Israelis should not be part of institutions then…

View original post 1,950 more words

A Plea to London

Screenshot_2016-05-03-12-40-21~2Dear London

On Thursday, you get to choose your Mayor for the next 4 years. I don’t get a vote, because I live outside London, but nearly every aspect of life outside my front door is potentially affected by your choice, so I have a request.

Please do not blindly go into the poll on party political issues. So Zac Goldsmith is a Tory, and Sadiq Khan is Labour (there are some other people standing too, I have heard). That is clearly AN issue, but it is far from the most important.

Let me explain why.

We Brits are accustomed to voting for a party rather than a person. In a General Election  (which, let’s face it, is the only time most people bother), our vote serves 3 purposes:

It goes toward the election of your MP. It goes towards the election of the leader of the party concerned as Prime Minister. And it expresses your general support for the package of policies or principles put forward by that party.

The London Mayoral election isn’t like that, because the post is not the same as an MP. He (and so far it has always been a he) is a member of a national party, but is not subject to the whip as MPs are, and he can (and often does) make decisions and policies that their party leaders disagree with.

Ken Livingstone was no servant of Blair and Boris Johnson is clearly not bothered about what Cameron thinks of him!

This election is far more akin to US Presidential elections. It is not uncommon for a Democratic President to be elected at the same time and by the same electorate that chooses a Republican Congress and/or Senate (and vice versa).

London needs a strong, competent and sensible mayor, irrespective of which party he belongs to (within reason clearly. Membership of Respect is definitely a red line issue).

So here is my plea to you Londoners. For one day, put aside your party prejudices and place your vote for whichever candidate you think is the most credible and will be the best advocate for all the people of that great city.

Thank you.

Speak soon

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

On Ironic Banners

I was having a conversation on Facebook with a Gooner friend last night. I was laughing at Tottenham having choked on their once-in-a-lifetime title challenge (which is surely every Gooner’s right) and he said “the thing”.

The thing that has most bothered me about the second half of this most ridiculous of seasons (not just for Arsenal FC).

He said “Finishing second would be bad in the long run. If we finish second, then Wenger would hang on for another year.”

Now as we all know, there has been something of a ruckus amongst Arsenal fans over the last few years that has reached a crescendo as our own title challenge sadly limped off down the tunnel for an early bath.

At one extreme are those who loudly blame Arsène Wenger for everything from high ticket prices to the weather. At the other, some for whom the sun itself shines less brightly than the emanations exuding from his excrement.

I have placed on record my views on this. I admire and respect Mr Wenger and believe he has given more and achieved more for Arsenal FC than we have any right to expect, let alone demand.

I acknowledge of course that he has made mistakes and has failings. And I get angry, upset and frustrated when we lose games and miss out on silverware, but I take this as part and parcel of supporting a club. Nobody wins all the time, unless you play in a boring one-club league like Scotland or France.

Oh, and the fact that this season it’s Leicester that have won the title instead of Chelsea or Man City doesn’t make it any more or less painful to me that we haven’t.*

Of the banners that have been displayed at the Emirates this season, the one that got me most infuriated was this one:

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So while I was having that conversation last night it struck me.

It’s me (and people like me) who embody that slogan. We support Arsenal and want them to succeed, irrespective of the name of the manager or the members of the playing squad.

I genuinely couldn’t give a flying nipple clamp. If Tony Pulis managed an Arsenal team comprised of Gus Caesar, Piers Morgan and Jeremy Corbyn I’d still want us to win the Title.**

And I will never understand any Arsenal fan who thinks that Spurs finishing above Arsenal is a “good thing”, for any reason at all.

So who is it that actually supports Arsenal FC, and who is obsessed with the name on the manager’s door?

Ironic, isn’t it?

Speak soon

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

* And, by the way, very many congratulations to Ranieri, Leicester and their fans. Enjoy the ride.

** Actually, probably not. Not with Morgan, anyway. But you get the point.

On St. Ken of Livingstone

2016-05-01 01.13.35You may have read, perhaps even seen images, of the alleged devastation apparently caused by a tsunami in South Asia on 26 December 2004.

You may also falsely have been led to believe that the good and kind Dr Harold Shipman murdered at least 218 of his patients.

Perhaps you are labouring under the strange and frankly ludicrous impression that the first half of the 20th Century saw not one, but two so-called “World Wars”?

Well, I have some wonderful news.  None of that is true.  All those people supposedly “killed” by the tsunami, Shipman and the wars are actually alive and are living in a bedsit in Clapham.

How do I know this?  Because, and I think I am safe in saying this…

None of these events occured in the presence of Saint Ken of Livingstone.*

It is about time that the World realised, once and for all, that Saint Ken is the true and unchallenged arbiter of a) whether an event occcured, b) whether antisemitism exists and c) in the unlikely event it does exist, what antisemitism is.

I can sense that you’re sceptical.  I shall have to elaborate…


On the BBC’s Daily Politics on 28 April, Ken Livingstone repeated (1m 30 s in) the phrase he had already said on Radio London earlier that morning that “Ive been a member [of the Labour Party] for 47 years and I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic.”

Andrew Neil, bemused, read out a number of *ahem* questionable quotes from MPs, Councillors, mayors and activists, all of whom were Labour Party members, and asked Ken if any of these were antisemitic.  To his credit, Ken admitted that some of these comments were antisemitic, but stood firm that he personally had never heard any antisemitism.

Andrew Neil (like his other guest Nick Clegg, who was clearly trying to suppress outright laughter at Ken’s awkward wriggling) was by now totally confused. Then followed the key (and most revealing) part of the interview, the true glory of which can truly be seen and marvelled at from 7m 45s into the Daily Politics clip.  Just in case you can’t access it, however, I will quote it in full….


AN: “maybe you don’t see antisemitism because you set a very high bar for it. After all you’re the man that welcomed Yusuf Al-Qaridawadawi [sic] to London in 2005. You called him a ‘progressive voice’. This is a man who called for Jews and homosexuals to be killed. Is that not antisemitic?”

HHKL: “No. This is the man [Al-Qaradawi] who called on Muslims around the world to donate blood after the attacks of 9/11. When he came to London, I went with him to the Regent’s Park Mosque where I heard him say “no man should hit a woman and you should not discriminate against homosexuals”, so I can’t equate what I heard him say with what (the next bit is a little garbled, but something along the lines of) you’re saying about him”.

AN: “He has called for Jews to be killed. You embraced him. A man who made a clear antisemitic statement. Is that not antisemitic?”

HHKL: “He made no antisemitic statement while he was a … here in London. I mean this stuff has come up more recently, that’s fine, but I’m speaking…”

AN: “Didn’t you know any of this?”

HHKL: “No. All I knew was he was the man who said…”

AN: “Did you do due diligence on him?”

HHKL: “I don’t investigate people.”

AN: “You don’t worry about the kind of people you might be sharing platforms with? I mean you talk about women, he [Al-Qaradawi] also said: ‘To be absolved from guilt, a raped woman must have shown good conduct.”

HHKL: “Well none of that equates with what he said in my presence at the Regent’s Park Mosque.”

AN: “Sure, but Hitler was kind to dogs!”

HHKL: “No. He advoca… he was saying there, at the Regent’s Park Mosque: ‘No Muslim should hit his wife and there should be no activity against homosexuals.’ ”

AN: “And you didn’t know that he thought Jews should be killed?”

HHKL: “No. I mean he didn’t say anything like that when he was there at City Hall or at the Regent’s Park Mosque.”


And there, dear readers, we have it.  If it wasn’t said in the saintly Mr (what IS the Catholic Church waiting for? Why hasn’t he yet been beatified?) Livingstone’s holy presence, then it simply didn’t happen.

Speak soon

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

* To be absolutely accurate, Ken was born before VJ Day, but well after the war in Europe had ended. I am not sure even Ken can claim to remember what was happening on the other side of the globe in his first few months of life!

 

On Brexit

There has been an awful lot written and said on this issue, much of which I find prejudiced (remember that doesn’t necessarily mean “racist”), pointless and petty. So I now intend to nail my colours to the mast.

In June, I shall be voting for the UK to stay in the EU. Here’s my summary of the main issues, with my conclusion on each in pictorial form!

Jobs/Economiczzzzzzz

I have been horribly frustrated that the bulk of the campaigning has focused on this area, where the “facts” are most susceptible and prediction is most dangerous.

If you believe the In Campaign, the UK will lose out massively by giving up its automatic membership of the Common Market and the millions of jobs dependent on that membership would be at risk.  We’d have to pay to access it, and would be weaker in negotiating with the rest of the World without the carrot of EU access to offer.

Alternatively, the Outies point to the huge sums (gross or net) we pay for that privilege, proclaim that we could negotiate better trade deals if not tied down by EU rules, and that the World would in any case beat down our doors to do business with a big economy such as ours.

Frankly, I have no idea if either of these (or even both) is true, and I don’t see how it will ever be possible to prove – one way or the other – whether UK plc will be richer or poorer in financial terms in or out of the EU.  Whatever has happened in the past has been twisted by both sides as evidence to support their view, and whatever happens after the decision is made will be twisted to prove that their predicted best/worst case scenarios have come true.

I’m no economist, but it isn’t even possible to rely on the views of people with much more expertise than I.  Both sides trumpet the support of economists, thinkers, business leaders etc to their cause, and I have not yet found either side particularly convincing.

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So, if the economic issues fail to light my fire, what other factors do?

Personalities

I include this simply as I recognise that I am a human being.  I like to think I am entirely rational and will make my choice on the basis of a careful balance of the pros and cons, but let’s face it, the thought of people like George Galloway, Nigel Farage, Vladimir Putin et al claiming “victory” is enough to make me think very hard about anyone who decides to put their cross in the Out bostay-in-logox!

Are there some unattractive people supporting the Stay campaign?  Of course, but on the whole, they are merely annoying, whereas the Out campaign includes some truly appalling people (in my humble opinion).

Immigration

Another issue on which both sides have employed scare tactics, but in which I don’t believe the decision made will make the slightest difference.

The only aspect of our immigration policy that is “dictated” by the EU is our agreement to allow the freedom of movement WITHIN the EU that is central to the entire European project.  It is entirely inconceivable that any government re-negotiating our relationship with the EU following an “Out” vote will be able to access the single market (which even the most radical Outies would surely want) without a commitment to honour that principle.

Especially when (at least the early years of) that negotiation will be handled by a government led by a Big Four (Cameron, Osborne, May and Hammond) who have clearly come out in favour of staying in the EU anyway!

We have already opted out of Schengen, so retain some control of our borders – even for British and other EU citizens.  This would no doubt remain either way.

Is there net migration to Britain from these countries?  Of course.  Does that present challenges (housing, education, language provision etc)?  Absolutely.  Do those challenges outweigh the benefits to our culture, not to mention to those low-paid sectors of the economy (and famously the NHS) which are almost entirely reliant on immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe?  Not for me.

As for immigration from countries outside the EU?  Well, we make our own rules on that as it is.  Notwithstanding the wrangle over human rights legislation (see below) that’s not going to change either.  Or if it does, it is by the will of the UK parliament, which is as it should be.

All that being said, I have a natural aversion to the “distay-in-logostrust of the other” that underlies all the points made by the Out campaign on this issue.  So, although I don’t believe it will make any difference, on balance this issue strengthens my support to stay in the EU.

Security/Environment/Defence etc

According to the In campaign, matters that require a transnational approach – such as security, anti-terrorism, environmentalstay-in-logo policy – are necessarily best dealt with by large blocs rather than many small nation states.

This is an area of argument which makes complete logical sense, and in which I have simply seen no rational response from the Out campaign.

Social/Humanitarian Reasons

I take a generally left-leaning approach to political matters.  Central to that is the idea that societies work best where people work together towards a shared goal and the well off support those less fortunate – not because it will necessarily benefit anybody’s financial well-being, but because it will benefit their souls.  In other words, simply because it’s the right, decent thing to do.

This being the case, I am entirely unimpressed by the argument put by some on the Out side that we (Britain) are currently having to prop up the failing economies in parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, and that we will therefore be “better off” if we leave the EU.

Will be better off in terms of £s and pence in this respect?  Almost certainly (at least in the short term – it wasn’t so long ago that we were the “sick man of Europe“.  Who knows what lies around the corner?).

But I would much MUCH MUCH rather live in a country that (to stay-in-logoborrow a phrase) cheerfully embraces the opportunity to practice towards those less fortunate than us that virtue (charity) that we profess to admire so much, than one in which we turn a blind eye and a closed wallet to our near neighbours in Southern and Eastern Europe.

On a similar point, I have read the argument that the UK shares very little in common with countries such as Bulgaria and Romania and even less with Turkey (who are trying to join the club), and that by making ourselves “subject” to  their votes, we are somehow allowing ourselves to be “stifled” or “held back” by them and their priorities.

Well, I fundamentally like the openness of our country, and the opportunities we have to meet and share our lives with people from all sorts of cultures.  Just as we may be influenced by the different priorities of Bulgarians, they will reciprocally be influenced by us, and I detest the arrogance implicit in the idea that “our” way is “better” than “theirs”.

The Jewish/Israeli issue

This may not be of concern to some of you, but it is to me.  There are those who argue that the EU is a crucible for antisemitism, and distrust the fact that the numbers of Muslims in the EU is rising inexorably (especially with the huge numbers of refugees from the Syrian and Lybian conflicts are taken into account), many of whom will not be friendly to Israel (at the very least) and some of whom may have been taught despicable things about Jews and Judaism in general.

They point to incidents such as the fact that Malmö is George Galloway’s wet dream (to all intents and purposes a no-go zone for ZionistsJews) or the banning of kosher slaughter in Denmark and attempts to do so in Poland and other countries, and suggest that we in the UK are more vulnerable to similar occurring here as members of an organisation that encompasses countries that will enforce such restrictions on Jewish life.

They also point out the consistently anti-Israel language and position taken by EU member states – and the EU itself – of its own volition and in international forums such as the United Nations.

I am not insensible to those concerns, believe me I’m not.  I have corresponded with my MEPs (yes, some of them even wrote back) with my concerns over proposed EU legislation on ritual slaughter and other issues.

But I have also written to my MPs (none of whom have yet replied – apart from the terrific Chris Bryant who is MP for Rhonnda, but replied to one of my Twitter rants!) about this and similar issues here in the UK.  British campuses are awash with outright antisemitism, BDS campaigns, enthusiastic participation in “Israel Apartheid Week” and we have members of all the major parties who have recently been outed as holding some extremely unsavoury views about Jews.

I don’t know if any of these issues can be solved by action by me, the Jewish community as a whole (even if it were remotely possible to persuade all of Europe’s Jews to act in the same way!) or by the UK in general, but I am absolutely convinced that our continued involvement in the political process, whether alone or collectively, is an essential part of the toolkit we will need to counter any tendency towards antisemitism/anti-Zionism/Islamism either locally, nationally, continentally or globally.

And if, indeed, the rest of Europe is sliding as some fear into a hostile place for Jews (again), then surely the UK, whose attitstay-in-logoude has (at least in the last 80 years or so) been more generally positive than some other countries, should use its position in the EU in order to influence others NOT to go in that recidivist direction.  If we leave, we leave the field open for those who wish us ill.

Democracy/Waste

Here the Out campaign definitely have the upper hand.  The EU is undeniably a bureaucratic, labyrinthine nightmare of inefficiency and waste.

Unfortunately, all forms of representative democracy are subject to corruption, NIMBYism, protectionism and stagnation.  Some less than others (and the EU has far from the best record on this front), but it is simply disingenuous to suggest that the UK (or any of the many layers of government here) are free of these evils.

The fragmented nature of the Union and the decision-making process makes it very hard for reforms to be agreed, and even harder to enforce.

Further, the bigger the group of people being “represented”, it cannot is inevitable that the decision makers are more distant from the person on the street.  Town Councillors, who you may know personally, feel (at least in theory) far more accountable than, say, a US senator or a member of the European Parliament.

And then there are the appointed (but not directly elected) EU Commissioners, who have much of the power but very little accountability to the ordinary EU citizen.  That clearly leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, as does the culture of “special advisers” and “tsars” that have taken hold in our domestic politics.

So I concede that this is a good reason to leave the EU,EU_Flag_crossed_x100 but as I say above, I fundamentally believe that most issues are best dealt with in bigger blocs, so the waste and inefficiency is just the price I am prepared to pay (though I understand if others find the price tag too high).

Independence

Possibly the fundamental part of the debate, so I’ve left it to last. Britain is a proud nation that has historically (for better or for worse) hit well above its weight in World affairs.

It is only natural that people are jealous of that status and reluctant to cede any of that power and influence to anyone else – least of all those countries against whom we have had centuries of conflict and distrust (France, Spain, Germany, Italy) or with whom we share very little common history or culture (Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia etc).

Does the EU have “power” over the UK parliament? Well, yes.  We are bound to implement EU Directives in a timely manner, some of which may not have passed if they had been voted on in isolation in the UK.  But

  • We are only “bound” to do so because the British people chose (in the last referendum in 1974) to join the then European Economic Community, and because our elected governments of various stripes have signed on our behalf the various treaties that have amended our relationship with Europe since then.
  • In other words, the very fact that we are having this referendum is direct proof that we have retained the very sovereignty that some complain we have given up.
  • Not all EU “legislation” is directly applicable to the member states.  In other words, each state gets to choose how to implement it.  Much of it is merely “decision” which only applies to the specific circumstances named.
  • When you examine the content of those EU Regulations and Directives that are compulsory, there is actually very little in them that is particularly odious (although I do recognise the strength of feeling that exists about some of it, such as the economic and agricultural frameworks).  Yes, as I say, there are some that may not have passed if left to the discretion of the UK alone, but I am not aware of many that fundamentally and definitively worsen the lives of British people.
  • In fact – as the In campaign are quick to point out – many of them such as employment rights have actually benefited the ordinary person in Britain and may never have been implemented here where it not for the EU.

As for the Human Rights Act*:

  • Yes – it was drafted to make us compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, but the UK did this voluntarily. We were not told to do so by Brussels.
  • Despite this, the HRA has been the cause celebre of many in the Out camp, who see it as a ball and chain about our ankles.
  • But, should we exit the EU (or even had we never been a member of it) I suggest that it is highly likely that we would pass our own version of it – how on Earth could a government in a liberal democracy such as ours justify the denial of its citizens’ rights to life, freedom of expression etc?  OK – we may draft our law slightly differently, but I cannot believe any of those differences would be fundamental.
  • We are, in any event, bound by that nebulous and chameleonic entity that is called “international law”, and much of that is very similar in its  basics to EU law.

Similarly, our Courts are nominally subject to the EU, in that they must consider whether their judgments are lawful and can be appealed (or voluntarily referred) to the European Courts of Justice or Human Rights.  That does not deny any individual (or business) access to justice.

If anything it helps as, in the modern world where borders are less meaningful (and where it is common for a person living in one country but visiting or operating in another to purchase something from a business in a 3rd country which is imported by an agent in a 4th and manufactured in a 5th by a company owned in a 6th), any form of standardisation of the legal rights and responsibilities is surely a good thing in principle!

europe_and_uk-620x264

As it is, I recognise there are valid arguments on both sides here, so have decided I am fairly neutral on this point.


I finish with a parable**.

A man (or woman) living in isolation on a remote island may be entirely free to decide his (or her) own fate, within the limits of his (I’m not going to keep saying “or her” – please take it as read!) abilities and the resources of his island, but as soon as he sails too close to another occupied island, or wants to trade with its occupants, allows another person to live on his island or needs to repel the unwanted colonisation of his island by others, he has to compromise his freedom to accommodate the needs and/or wishes of others.

He can choose not to do that, but then he can never have a companion, never enjoy the fruits of others’ labours or inventiveness, never read a book or listen to a song written by anyone other than himself, never be able to turn to his friends for support in times of sickness or misfortune.

I submit that that would be a very lonely, poor existence.

Speak soon

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

* This section has been amended to remove my erronous reference to a mythical Directive “forcing” us to adopt the HRA. Hat tip to @Barristerblog!

** As ever, any metaphor is imperfect, but I think this one stands up quite well!

 

On the “Jewish Question”

Screenshot_2016-04-03-13-24-18-1There is a decades-long conflict in a small country in an unstable part of the world that has cost thosands of lives.  Following independence from European colonialism, a minority ethnic group demands independence, which the majority have denied.  Allegations have been made of army brutality, excessive force and the targeting of civilians by both sides.

The minority group has used street protests, guerilla tactics, IEDs, guns and bombs. Over the decades, many attempts to find a peaceful solution have been made, ceasefires agreed and ignored. Refugees from the fighting have fled to neighbouring countries with little hope of return.

Where is this conflict?

In Senegal, where since 1982, the Casamance people fought for independence from Senegal, whose majority Wolof people dominate politics and culture.  There is currently an uneasy truce in place.

I would wager that 95% of the people in Europe would not be able to point to the country on a map and have never heard of the Wolof people or the Casamance conflict.

The only thing most Western people know about Senegal is that they are occasionally decent at football.


The BBC has reported a total of 9 times (in a year when presidential elections took place) from Senegal so far in 2016. The BBC West Africa correspondent  (@bbcfessy) has, as far as I can see, never tweeted the word “Casamance”.  A search on BBC News for “Casamance” brings up a total of 182 articles since November 1997.

A search of “BBC Palestine” did (I’m seriously not making this up) crash my computer!

On Twitter, there were 194 tweets containing the word “Casamanace” in the first two weeks of February (and that includes those referring to a French fabric brand of the same name).

There were the same number of tweets referencing “Palestine” in 50 minutes this morning (a relatively quiet one).

As for the blessed UN? The Security Council has passed 7 resolutions mentioning Senegal since its independence in 1960, none of which relate to the Casamance conflict.  In the same period, it has passed almost 200 relating to the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and the General Assembly at least 236.

The UN Human Rights Council has passed more than 60 resolutions about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and none on Casamanace.

And, of course, there has never been a “Senegal apartheid week”, a demonstration for Casamamce on the streets of a European capital, or question in the House of Commons on the issue.


For millennia, dear World, you have struggled with how you should deal with us Jews.  You have, at different times and places, welcomed us in your midst, tolerated us, laughed at (and with) us, distrusted us, hated us, expelled us, demonised us, dehumanised us, killed us and attempted to exterminate us.

The “Jewish Question” is showing no signs of going away.  The recent furore over alleged (and blatant) antisemitism in the Labour party, and the leadership’s approach to it is clear testament to that.

Well, I have a proposal for you.

The one thing you have never tried is simply to ignore us. Not in the way you ignore an outstanding bill in the hope it will go away; not in the sense that you ignore the fly hovering over your food (what harm can it do?); neither in the sense that you ignore celebrity gossip (you know it’s there, and that many people are fascinated by it, but you find it vacuous and distasteful).

There’s only an estimated 14 million of us Jews in the whole world, the vast majority of whom are almost entirely secular. That’s about the same as the number of people from Senegal. If you live in a multicultural metropolis, you may see some Jews around, maybe some Jewish shops – you may even have a Jewish friend or colleague.

The same is true of Senegalese, particularly in France.  There are many Jews in the entertainment industry, its true, but you also may like the music of Okon, or Youssou N’Dour.  Perhaps Patrice Evra or Patrick Vieira played for your team. All Senegalese.

Apart from that, I would wager that the word “Senegal” has not entered your mind in a long time.

Israel?  You might go there on your holidays.  You might hear the name in your bible readings or sing songs of Jerusalem and Bethlehem at Christmas.  The conflict?  Just another one of the myriad of human tragedies playing themselves out around the world, and a very, very, VERY long way from the deadliest.

Please ignore us in the same way you ignore the Senegalese.

Thank you.

Speak soon

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

On Arsenal’s “Fans”

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I wrote about the lack of respect being shown to Arsène Wenger here.  You’d have to be living under a rock on Mars not to have noticed that it has reached a new level in recent weeks.

I have received emails accusing Wenger of “turning our club into a joke” (amongst many other accusations).  Here is my response…

As a wise person put it… (hat tip to @GizaGooner)

Alex Ferguson left United at a time they needed him in order to save his reputation.

Arsène Wenger stayed at Arsenal at a time we needed him to save the Club’s reputation at the expense of his own.

He could have left in 2006 or at any time afterwards – there was no shortage of offers – made a huge amount of money doing the circuit of Europe’s top clubs or managing France, winning Champions Leagues etc like a Hiddink, a Capello, a Mourinho or a Guardiola.

He knew that Arsenal would go through a tough 5-10 years while the stadium was paid for.

He knew that we would not be able to compete in the transfer market or in terms of wages with clubs with no financial restrictions such as Man Utd, Chelsea, Barca, Real, Bayern and, more recently, Man City and PSG).

He knew that it was likely that this meant he would have to sell his best players every year etc.

But he didn’t go. He stayed.

Because he had played a massive part in pushing the Club to build the new stadium and training ground and he wanted to see it through.

And despite all the limitations placed upon him, he has kept us competitive at the top level, not only domestically but also in Europe.

Every single season.

No blips, no Chelsea-style implosions.  No Liverpool-style bad seasons.  Not one Man Utd-style slumming it in the Europa League.

Every single year.

It’s just a crying shame that so many of the club’s “fans” fail to appreciate what he has done for our Club and will jeer the greatest manager in our history out of the door.

As @GarethCMurray pointed out on this week’s Arsenal Autopsy, when Chelsea were battling relegation this season, the fans backed Mourinho to the hilt, singing his name at every match.  And he’s a colossal cunt (sorry kids, but he is).

George Graham was a brown-envelope-pocketing cheat who presided over “boring boring Arsenal”, and left us to manage them, having dragged our proud reputation through the mud.

Arsène Wenger has never been anything but polite (despite enormous provocation), never done anything whatsoever that could call into question the probity, honesty or class of our great Club.  And yet…

If you go to White Hart Lane, Anfield, City of Manchester, Goodison etc – even St James’s Park – you will hear passionate fans getting behind their teams during matches, pushing them to do their best for the Club, despite their often seriously massive failings on the pitch.

As I’m sure some of you did, dear readers, I went to Highbury regularly in the 80s when Arsenal were absolutely awful, and often finished not only below Sp*rs, but mid-table. But the atmosphere was fantastic. Just as good as at all those other grounds. The surge of the North Bank etc. No longer.

Now, all you hear at the Emirates is groans when our team don’t quite play to their potential.  Boos at the final whistle, despite the fact we’re still in the race for the fucking Premier League title for fuck’s sake. People shouting “Fuck off Wenger” and holding up banners telling him so.

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It shames me that no longer can I  proudly say that Arsenal fans (most of the away fans excepted, who are still fantastic) are the best in the World.

It is the spoilt, entitled whingers who call themselves Arsenal fans that are truly the ones who are ruining the reputation of my beloved Arsenal.

You should be ashamed of yourselves, but I know you won’t be, so I’ll be ashamed of you instead.

Speak soon

Labenal ( @GoonerEll)

On Being a DDD

As I have mentioned on here before, I am suffering from depression.  I have also mentioned that I am recently divorced, although have been living apart from my ex for some years now.  I am also a Dad. Hence the triple D – a Divorced, Depressed Dad.

What I haven’t described is just what a perfect storm those three circumstances create.

Depressed, not quite divorced, not a Dad, but you get the point…

You see, depression leads to isolation – or at least it has in my case.  One of the key symptoms is an almost total loss of self-confidence.  I have hidden away behind my front door and my computer screen.  I eat (badly), making me put on weight thereby losing yet more self-confidence.  I rarely (if ever) proactively arrange any sort of social activity and avoid crowded public places where I am likely to see happy families at play.

I’m fine at football – where we’re all part of one “family”, and you can hug a stranger when Welbeck scores in the last seconds, but I tend to go to Tesco at midnight and I haven’t been to Shul (synagogue) in months.  I have had panic attacks even considering the idea – I can’t bear the thought of the constant “hi, how are you?” “Fine (actually not fucking fine at all thank you very much but I can’t say that can I ‘cos that would be embarrassing)” charade.

So what’s that got to do with being divorced?  Well, I’ll tell you.  In the world in which I live – middle class, Jewish suburbia, almost everyone (certainly in their 40s) is married with kids.  All the people I called my friends before the divorce were (and are) married and have kids of a similar age to mine etc.

Now in this world, it is a universal truth that the wife is the keeper of the diary.  Whether both spouses work or not, she is the one who makes the social arrangements. Let’s face it – how regularly do men call each other up “just for a gossip”?  So when a man is on his own, this pipeline of dinner invitations and evenings out dries up – unless he is proactive and pushy about it (which is something of a problem for a DDD as I explain above).  Oh – for a while, he gets invited – ON HIS OWN – but that soon slows and stops.  GOD FORBID anyone should think he might like to be invited WITH HIS KIDS.

And herein lies the final nail in the coffin for the DDD.  It doesn’t matter how amicable the divorce is (and mine was – largely – as amicable as it is possible to have.  There was certainly no “bad behaviour” on either part), what the shared custody arrangements are, or how much interest or investment the father puts into his children’s lives.  In the world in which I live, a divorce means one thing.  It simply means that the FAMILY goes on with the mother.  The father is perceived as SEPARATE from that family.

So, the mother gets the invitations to Shabbat and Yom Tov (festival) lunch or dinner – WITH THE KIDS (like before).  The DDD gets – if he’s lucky – the odd invite BY HIMSELF. Of course the Dad is at a further disadvantage.  It is far harder for him to reciprocate.  The Mum is (and I’m generalising here) used to working out how to prepare a meal for 10+ people (and when everyone has 2-4 kids, that is how many you have to feed), especially on Shabbat or Yom Tov, when there are restrictions on what you can cook and how and when.

The DDD, on the other hand, has to learn from scratch how to feed himself and keep his kids from starving or, more likely, rioting.  Expecting a depressed person to host a dinner party for his 4 kids and a family of 5 is like expecting Vladimir Putin to dress in pink frilly pyjamas while cuddling a well-loved teddy bear.  Or Chelsea to sign a loveable striker.

Even to arrange such an event, which must be done months in advance due to the clogged diaries of everyone (other than the DDD, naturally) is a leap of faith.  I don’t know about depressed people in general, but I do know that I can’t tell how high or low I’m going to be from one day to the next.  To decide in February that I am going to be together enough in June to put together a Shabbat meal for 10 is simply never going to happen.

And all this isolation means that you are off the social radar.  So when the invitation lists are being put together for that big party?  Yup. You guessed it.  And facebook is full of all my contemporaries saying what a fab time they had for another weekend.  Oh joy.

Now I know this comes across as a bit of a rant.  And I know it comes across as whiney and self-pitying.  And I know that I could have done more to help myself (but that’s the point about depression – it makes you self-destructive).  And I really am not trying to embarrass anyone (in particular).  And I’m sure nobody MEANS it, and everybody loves me really.  And I really (honestly and truly) don’t begrudge anyone else their happiness or their friendships – good for them I say.

But whatever the causes, everything I have written here IS TRUE.  There are people who I would have sworn I would be lifelong friends with (and who live just a few streets away) who I haven’t seen for over a year or spoken to for almost as long.  I have been dying to call to ask them to explain why I have been cut off, but I’m too much of a coward (or a man) to do so.  So I will just write this instead.

And I’ve saved the real zinger for last.  Just over a year ago, one of our sons reached bar mitzvah age.  None of the weekend of celebrations took place in either parent’s home, both parents arranged it and, as far as anyone knows, we paid for it equally).  The mother’s home was festooned with cards, gifts, flowers, chocolates.  The father’s home?  3 cards – 2 of which were from his immediate family.

Can you explain that?  I sure as hell can’t.

Speak soon (if you can be bothered, that is)

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

P.S. You see how I capitalised all that ON HIS OWN and WITH THE KIDS stuff?  Genuinely, in the 3 years of separation I have had ONE invitation with the kids. ONE. Thank you to those friends who issued that invitation – you know who you are.