March 18, 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote “that there are no second acts in American lives.” In his particular case poor Scott was right. He died broke and forgotten in his early forties, but at least he expired in his lover’s arms, the beautiful Miss Graham, who went on to become a powerful gossip columnist in Hollywood’s hay day. I thought of second acts the other day when reading an interview of Kimberly Quinn, the Spectator’s ex-publisher who scandalized London a few years ago when it was revealed that alongside selling ads for the most elegant and best British weekly, she was also offering rest and relaxation to the Home Secretary of the time, the third most senior post in the cabinet, the blind minister David Blunkett.

As everyone knows by now, Mrs. Quinn was and remains married to the British Vogue editor, who—as the sleaze oozed out—stood by his woman like no self-respecting macho man would. I remember at the time offering to write an apologia for cheating on one’s husband with a blind man, but friends in the editorial department advised against it.  When I was told that “she’s been trying to get rid of you since the day she joined,” it truly surprised me. Kimberly I saw as a bubbly Jewish valley girl from la-la-land, way over her head in rough and tumble London.  Goes to show how with it I was and am. The reason for her anti-Taki sentiments was Kimberly’s conviction that I was a Nazi anti-Semite who had slipped through the net after the war and landed on the sainted pages of the Speccie, jackboots and all, and she, the bubbly valley girl, would put this right.

So far so good, as they used to say in Buenos Aires as we Nazis disembarked from the submarines. But it ain’t necessarily so. Ten years ago I lunched at Highgrove, Prince Charles’s country house, in the presence of the Queen. It was the King of Greece’s 60th birthday, and our then boss Lord Black introduced me to Lord Janner, head of the British Jewish community, as the “house Nazi.” Janner broke up and we talked about how easily adjectives were attached to people. He assured me he took none of that BS seriously. I left early to play cricket at Badminton (the Duke of Beaufort’s country seat nearby), and when his son Harry Worcester asked me how I could arrive drunk for a match I told him I’d been drinking with the Queen but he didn’t believe me.

But on to Israel, the reason the poor little Greek boy is seen at some quarters as Himmler. Violations of human rights and international law can no longer be hidden behind claims of anti-Semitism and calls for solidarity against a false Iranian threat. It is time for Western leaders to put basic principles ahead of the demands by lobbyists and neo-conservative propagandists. More important, past persecutions of the Jews cannot be a license to subjugate another people, the Palestinians. Nor can the American promise to stick by Israel be a blank check for the Jewish state to undermine American aims. The U.S. objective is a two-state peace.  But every day, inch by inch, the physical space of Palestine is disappearing. Gaza is like a sardine can, and the West Bank a labyrinth laid out by crazed settlers convinced that the Palestinians are sub humans out to get them. And as far as negotiations are concerned, how can one negotiate when the map is changing day by day to Israel’s favor?

Gaza, needless to say, is an ongoing tragedy with no end in sight. The despair and suffering are there for everyone to see, while the deprivations and hardships resulting from the Israeli blockade a blot to everything Israel was once supposed to represent. Following the criminal invasion of Gaza last year, eighty percent of the Gazans live below the poverty line, and only receive the basic rations of rice and milk from UNRWA. Worse, the tragedy of Gaza is turning into a tolerated humanitarian crisis, a Netanyahu plan from the beginning as far as I’m concerned. This is what drives me into an Orlando Furioso. The people doing this come to New York like conquering heroes, and swan around the West Mugabe-like, except that son-of-a-bitch is no longer welcome in European drawing rooms, whereas Netanyahu, Lieberman, and co. are. The EU simply has to increase the pressure on these thugs. It is ironic how many Jewish people are as appalled as I am at this on-going human tragedy, but have been shouted down and called self-loathing Jews by neo-cons such as the Kristols, Podhoretzes, and Perles of this world. 

And all that the illegal and inhuman blockade has accomplished is to enrich Hamas and marginalize even further the voices of moderation. A Palestinian mother seeing her child wither away without food and medicine cries as bitterly as a Jewish mother once did in German concentration camps. Let’s not forget this while the lunatic fringe of Likud has taken over the propaganda air waves. There are medieval siege conditions imposed on the people of Gaza, yet we sit on our comfortable rooms clicking the channels and watching movies of the bad Germans overrunning Europe. It is time we woke up. In the manner of those hundreds and thousands of Israeli Jews who gather weekly in Arab East Jerusalem to protest against the eviction of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in all their lives.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum may sound like a dull cliché, but in the case of the Israeli settlers, I can think of no better description. These fanatics have to be stopped, just as the Muslim holy warriors need to, and I see absolutely no difference between them. I guess that is why the sweet little valley girl used to try and have me fired. She saw a difference between the two, whereas I do not. 


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