Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

Ross Kemp: Middle East

If you were disturbed last night by a noise you couldn’t identify, it was probably the wailing and gnashing of teeth of those who would consider themselves proper, serious journalists, having just watched the Ross Kemp documentary on Israel. The programme was screened over two weeks, with last week’s showing the situation in Gaza and last night’s that in Israel. Like those journalists, I confess, I was prepared to be cynical.

Within minutes of the start of the first programme, Kemp was having his bag searched by a member of Hamas at the border, before embarking on a trip to watch terrorists set roadside bombs, which the voiceover assured us were later removed without causing injury. So far, this ticked all the adrenaline-junkie boxes. However, his savoir-faire was further ruffled, and the journalistic corps given additional cause for heart failure, when he interviewed a young lawyer who had decided to become a suicide bomber. Complete with crudely-made face mask and explosive belt, he was a picture out of any bus traveller’s worst nightmare. Even the normally gung-ho Kemp looked stunned. Resolute of stare and sure of voice, the young man set out his reasons for choosing this terrible destiny.

This, for me, was where the documentary jumped light years ahead of Kemp’s usual bullets and glory soirees into dangerous territory.

War brings war

the terrorist told him, taking Israel’s strikes on Gaza in early 2009 as his justification for action. This tied in with a comment from the UN Director of Operations for Gaza, who warned:

if you treat people as hostile, they will become hostile

I was once a 24-year-old lawyer and I knew plenty of others, from all faiths and classes. None, I am certain, had ever contemplated suicide attacks on civilians, unless perhaps on a specific group of recruitment specialists keeping us out of the Magic Circle firms and away from the six-figure salaries therein. When you are young and idealistic, the urge to be a lawyer usually stems from, according to my own unscientific straw-polling anyway, a desire to change a bad situation for the better, to seek to help your fellow humans order their affairs, as well as to bring resolution and be an arbitrator of disputes. The lust for money and terrible taste in ties comes later, while deciding to blow yourself and others up shouldn’t feature at all. If even the lawyers are now militants, we have a serious problem.

It seemed as if Kemp agreed. However, he didn’t go to Israel for the second part of the programme looking to tag them as the perpetrators. Instead, he spoke to people who had lost family at the hands of terrorists and also elicited opinion across a spectrum of Israelis, from those who want to ‘seize every hill’ to others who prefer hanging out in Tel Aviv and shopping. Kemp did an excellent job in resisting the temptation to glamorise or ignore the futility inherent in the conflict. As Palestinian teenagers rained down rocks on Israeli troops and they slung back tear gas, unfortunately our brave lad caught downwind of it, he turned to camera without any of the drama common to news stories on similar confrontations, to ask: ‘what’s the point?’ It was difficult to disagree with the man as his eyes streamed. It was also difficult to disagree with his conclusion to the programme, that:

the majority on both sides must speak with one voice to negotiate a lasting peace

However, it was near impossible to think other than well, nice one, but how does that get us anywhere? In Israel, as in many other conflicts, a refrain has been: it’s a minority causing the problems; ordinary people are the key to peace. How helpful is it? Viewers hoping for an easy checklist of actions to bring peace were surely disappointed. However, Northern Ireland offers one example of two opposing peoples facing down the crazies to bring peace, with a new shopping centre and ‘Titanic Quarter’ where once was bombs and savagery. The inhabitants of Tel Aviv would no doubt approve. So it appears that in Israel, as in Northern Ireland, all that Western governments can do is get out of the way and not do anything to make peace less inevitable. Atrocities must be condemned evenly. Projects like these supported. Hopefully one day Ross Kemp will have to seek out alternative locations in which to get an eye and lungful of tear gas.
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Riot of my own

declaration of intent

declaration of intent

There were riots in Northern Ireland earlier this month.  As the news showed pictures of balaclava-wearing youths with petrol bombs in their hands, I thought ‘how old fashioned’ – as if this kind of thing had died out a long time ago.  You knew that our rulers thought they would never see the like again: a young, disaffected population, prepared to burn their world down over something that irked them.  Meanwhile, on this side of the Irish Sea, business continued as usual: the Government made promises to throw a few more billions after the good ones already lost and we were all too preoccupied with the redemptive death of a former racist to notice.

I look around me at the way that people live and think that either you must all be mad, or I am.  Constantly failing to make choices that would bring happiness, as if afraid of it.  Grinding out a dance towards ruin accompanied by a soundtrack of ‘that’s the way it’s always been’ while humming the refrain ‘what can I do to change things?’ to a backbeat of ‘why should I care?’  Watching my peers at play in the bars and dens of East London, I am afraid for us.  There can’t be enough great jobs, stylish loft apartments and beautiful girls and boys to go around, can there?  Which means that most, if not all, of us are going to miss out, consumed by a sense of failure over an unattainable dream, created in an advertising storyboard and sold to us by a magazine, instead of conjured up inside our own heads.

Yet, I wonder.  If, as Orwell noted, when ‘the comfortable were uncomfortable, the professional optimists had to admit that there was something wrong’, it becomes easier to convince that things can’t go on as before.  For in recent years, the sense that our way of life was crazy hovered in the background, but it seemed disingenuous to point it out while the good times rolled.  Like a dream or a retelling of the Emperor’s New Clothes, to suggest that the bubble could pop at any time seemed the action of a killjoy.  After the Battle in Seattle, the accidental death of an anarchist in Genoa, protest seemed dangerous.  But it must be obvious now our foolishness has been exposed for all to see, that the days of keeping quiet on the sidelines are finished.  The sight of the ruling classes displaying their innate drive to maintain the exact structure and neatly chaotic flows of information and capital that keep 200 pharaohs watching six billion slaves toiling at the pyramid demands a response.

But what?  I can only stand and point at politicians suckling at the foul paps of softly grunting swine, briskly wanking the dwindling cock of an embarrassed banker, murmuring soft words of reassurance and telling them it doesn’t matter, we will soon have their icy black ejaculate streaming over our faces once more.  They leave us to rot without work, signed up to a dazzling array of benefits, happily ignoring the jizz dribbling down our chins so long as they don’t get in the way of our 42” plasma screen.  Watch the telly for any time at all and it is obvious that we are more loyal to corporations than to each other, less likely to change our bank than to cheat on a lover.  ‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’, drowning out all whispers of endearment.

Eighteen years of the Tories plus twelve of New Labour has added up to the creation of a ruling class completely focussed on the lining of its own pockets at our expense, gone even the pretence of contributing to the social weal.  The Home Secretary, caught claiming £116,000 expenses for her second home, breezily asserts that she could have had more, e.g. £40,000 per annum for her husband to fiddle ineffectively with his flies and expenses.  Army personnel purchase their own kit before deployment to war zones, while the Ministry of Defence spends millions on the redecoration of its office building.  Resigning offences once, now politicians on either side are happy to lie to our faces and then, on the rare occasions they are caught, even happier to amend the rules to allow their thievery to become law.  What call for writers when the satire is writing itself?

Reality is only going to alter for Britain when we realise that it is us v them, but not Tory v Labour, asylum seeker v native, British workers v Italian ones.  Not Left v Right, like two football teams in which a victory for your side results in a defeat for the other.  Instead it is us v Mandelson.  Us v Brown.  Us v Cameron.  Us v Osborne.  Time to realise that they do not have our best interests at heart.  They are all in hock to the spread betting billionaires, the formula one team owning billionaires and, er, the steel plant owning billionaires.  Meanwhile us poor, ordinary, non-billionaire folk are ignored apart from during elections, our rulers content to dole out the prolefeed to distract us as the numbers become more meaningless – it is bubillions, cajillions, flabillions, chenkuibodillions of nonsense.  Wherever you mark your cross the outcome is the same: the shafting of our hopes and dreams, until, like an abused cellar-child, we have actually grown used to it.  We have to stop dancing to their tune.  Ignore the opinion polls, the leader writers, the professional soothsayers who want you to believe that a Tory victory is the only true outcome, because it is another victory for them.  We have to hold them to account.  And when there is nothing else left, we have to riot.

Words by Julia and Ampleforth

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