31 August 2010
Waiting for the Bus
By Gwynne Dyer
You wait ages for a bus to come, and then three show up at once. It happens to everyone, and journalists are no exception.
When everybody in the northern hemisphere goes away for their summer holidays, the supply of news dries up entirely. The northern half of the world is where most of the criminals and the fools live (because it’s where about 80 percent of the human race lives), and when they’re all at the beach nothing newsworthy happens. Journalists call it “the silly season,” because they end up writing about silly things for want of anything better.
But the drought is over. Everybody is back at work, including the bad people and the powerful-but-basically-loony ones, and they are generating enormous amounts of newsworthy copy. Three buses at once.
Exhibit One: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual adviser to the Israeli political party Shas and a major political player in his own right. His greatest previous notoriety came in 2000, when he explained that “The six million Holocaust victims were reincarnations of the souls of (Jewish) sinners, people who transgressed and did all sorts of things that should not be done. They had been reincarnated in order to atone.” So Hitler was actually doing God’s work.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could not have put it better – and last Sunday Rabbi Yosef outdid himself. He called God’s wrath down on the Palestinians, asking Him to make “all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas), vanish from our world.” He even suggested how it might be done: “May God strike them down with the plague….”
If Ovadia Yosef did not exist, the enemies of Israel would have to make him up. He even forced the United States to criticise him openly, although the Shas Party is part of Israel’s coalition government.
The Israeli prime minister’s office was forced to repudiate the rabbi, saying that his comments “do not reflect the views of Benjamin Netanyahu or of his government.” US State Department spokesman Philip
Crowley said: “These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.” As long as Yosef has a mouth, the course of Israeli-American true love never will run smooth.
Exhibit 2: Fidel Castro. The 84-year-old revolutionary hero and retired dictator emerged from relative obscurity (his 79-year-old brother Raul is running Cuba now) to give a very long interview to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. The interviewer asked him why so many homosexuals in Cuba had been driven out of their jobs, imprisoned, or sent to re-education camps under his regime, and he basically denied all responsibility.
In the best confessional style, he did say “If someone is responsible, it’s me,” but then he immediately forgave himself by explaining that he had just been too busy. “At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems. Keeping one step ahead of the CIA, which was paying so many traitors, was not easy.”
So it was really America’s fault, like everything else. In his heart, Castro was always gay-friendly, but what with having to thwart American plots every day, he never noticed that his colleagues were beating gays up, throwing them in jail, and trying to “cure” them by brain-washing them. Sure, Fidel.
At the end of the 1970s Castro decriminalised homosexuality, and gays in Cuba are now relatively free from persecution. That was when all the “imperialist” countries were starting to clean up their act too, but he still can’t admit that he has been wrong, or ever followed the example of the capitalist countries he so despises.
Exhibit 3: Muammar Gaddafy. On a state visit to Italy last Sunday, the Libyan strongman warned Europeans that “there are millions of Africans who want to come in.” To avoid a “black Europe,” they should pay Libya at least 5 billion euros a year to stop illegal African immigrants.
“We don’t know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans,” said Colonel Gaddafy (who also aspires to be the leader of the African continent). “We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.”
Of course, it’s different if Europe is to be changed in ways that Gaddafy approves of. In a speech the same day to several hundred young Italian women, he told them that Islam should become the religion of Europe and gave them each a free copy of the Quran. They had all been happy to come and hear him (after they were paid 70 or 80 euros each by a local modelling agency), but it’s unlikely that they went home and read them afterwards.
It was vintage Gaddafy: racism, blackmail and naivete all at the same time. Forty years in power, and the man has learned nothing. But from a journalist’s point of view, he is solid gold.
Three buses in a single day. We’re back in business.
To shorten to 725 words, omit paragraphs 6 and 7.