Monday, January 10, 2011

A Famous Grouse: January 1

Unedited Weekend Argus column

THIS being that time of year, we were thinking of resolutions at the Mahogany Ridge.

After a few large ones, and in addition to the usual stuff about losing weight, giving up cigarettes and being nice to the less fortunate, there was a consensus of sorts that we needed to deepen our commitment to militant secular humanism by driving from the village, with stones and other projectiles, all manner of religious fundamentalists and extremists.

Said consensus, I should add, was reached mere moments after news reached us here at the Ridge of the letter by the wives of a group of prominent right-wing Israeli rabbis calling on Jewish girls not to have anything to do with Arabs; not to date or work with them, even in an in an official capacity, such as national service.

You may recall the outrageous gist of it, but if not, here it is again, as it appeared in mainstream Israeli newspapers in this week of goodwill to all mankind:

“There are quite a few Arab workers who give themselves Hebrew names. Yussef turns into Yossi, Samir turns into Sami, and Abed turns into Ami.

“They ask to be close to you, try to find favour with you, and give you all the attention in world. They know how to act with courtesy, as if they really care for you, but their behaviour is only temporary. The moment you are in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes.

“Your life will never go back to the way it was, and the attention you so desired will turn into curses, beatings, and humiliations.”

The letter is the latest in a series of anti-Arab initiatives by Israel’s growing lunatic mainstream. And it is the mainstream. Earlier this month, a large group of municipal rabbis signed a petition urging Jews not to rent or sell homes to Arabs. The petition was roundly condemned, but a poll found that 44% of Israeli Jews supported the rabbis’ call. Forty-four per cent? That’s hardly a fringe element.

I’ve been to Israel. I’ve also been to Northern Ireland. It’s all too easy to suggest that the “situations” there defy logic. But they don’t. They’re sectarian-based. Remove religion from the equation, and . . . well, put it this way, you’d think the sooner more Israeli Jewish youngsters dated and had ape sex with their Arabic counterparts, the sooner there’d be lasting peace in the Middle East.

And why not? Despite their intentions, the rabbis’ wives make dating an Arab sound an attractive proposition. By their own admission, they’re kind and courteous. You can almost see their soft eyelashes and moist, full lips, and smell the falafels in those balmy Jaffa nights. And, on top of that, there’s the veiled promise of “curses, beatings and humiliations”, the dark and dangerous delights of doing the Bonobo with one another. Who could resist such temptations?

Growing up in the mid-1970s, we too were warned about such things at school -- although, in our case, it wasn’t Arabs, but the girls at the nearby convent.

At the time I didn’t think about it too much, and put it down to the sort of rubbish that ignorant and superstitious teachers will say. I was at the Catholic boys school across the road, after all.

Do you know the sort of damnation that was in store for me, a 15-year-old boy, just for thinking that sort of thing about the various Bridgets, Dorothys and Kerry-Anns who fell under my curious gaze -- particularly at inter-school swimming events as they emerged, dripping wet, from the pool in their clinging, black Speedos?

I didn’t, and still don’t. This is despite the best efforts of Brothers Malachy, Cyprian, Thomas and John, among others. Their chair-legs, canes, cudgels and leather straps notwithstanding. But I do have an idea of how long one spent in hell.

“Lads,” we were told, in yet another tedious sermon on mortal sin, “imagine the tallest mountain in the whole world. Now imagine the world’s smallest hummingbird. And every thousand years, this hummingbird flies past this mountain, gently brushing it with it with the tip of its wing. Now, by the time that hummingbird has, with the gentle brushing of its wing, ground that mountain into dust, eternity would not even have begun!”

It seemed a very long time to be sent down for, and for nothing other than being held in the sway of a raging hormonal soup. Why fight it? Well, that’s what I thought then, and I still do.

Happy New Year, then. Drive extremism from your lives, and be nice to everyone.

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