December/January: Letters to the Editor

There needs to be a more balanced assessment of the Israel-Palestine conflict


This article is taken from the December/January 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

Israel maligned

You will not find a better illustration of the decidedly unhinged anti Israel obsessiveness of the Woke Left than this sentence appearing in Janine di Giovanni’s article (“Stateless in Gaza”, November 2021):

“Even North Korea has slammed Israel for turning Gaza into a human slaughterhouse.”

So Israel, by implication, is worse than North Korea, and is supposed to take moral lessons even from that benighted Stalinist dystopia?

Di Giovanni evidently sees the world, and the Israel/Palestine conflict, in Manichaean terms: Palestinians good; Israel bad. You will not find in her article even the hint of a suggestion that perhaps some of the problems in Gaza might be even a tiny bit self inflicted? 

No acknowledgement that the response to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was the election of an Islamist government that demonises Jews, rejects any form of compromise, and is committed to the violent overthrow of the Jewish state; no recognition that when confronted with rockets fired indiscriminately at its civilian population, Israel has no other choice than to defend itself, as any other country would be bound to do in similar circumstances.

But these salient facts that are clearly rather relevant to a balanced assessment of the conflict do not accord with di Giovanni’s narrative. To her, the Palestinians are pure victims of a demonic incarnation of Evil, with no capacity for moral agency, no need to take responsibility, and no ability to exercise choice. 

It is fortunate for the Palestinians, however, that there is after all a choice. The Abraham accords, although dismissed by di Giovanni, does give us grounds for hope. Many Arab governments now realise there is much to be gained by overcoming their long standing hostility to Israel, and forging instead cultural and commercial ties of friendship.

If di Giovanni really cared about Gaza, if as she says, she really wants to see an International Airport built, and the beaches teeming with tourists (as in Dubai), perhaps she should be persuading her Palestinian friends that there are actually better ways to achieve peace and prosperity than by indulging their genocidal fantasies of destroying Israel.

Alan Bekhor

London, NW8

Singing the blues

Nick Timothy (“This Sporting Life”, November 2021) writes that “not many fans like Manchester City, but City are disliked more because they are not deemed a Proper Club. Their success is bought, their history is limited.”

Some facts. It was City who turned Manchester, at the end of the nineteenth century, from what was then a rugby city, to a football city.

For some years into the twentieth century, the FA Cup — and not the league — was the real prize. City were the first Manchester club to win it, around the time United were formed. City also won the FA cup some 60 and 30 years before that history reeking club Liverpool. 

City also won European honours before “Proper Club” Liverpool and were the first English club to win a domestic and European double. We have also had the largest crowd at a club stadium (84,569 in a sixth round FA Cup game against Stoke on 3 March, 1934). 

It is also dispiriting to read that old canard about the Etihad stadium. “But Man City, who inherited their stadium from the taxpayer after the 2002 Commonwealth Games, have lost what little soul they once had,” Timothy writes.

But without City agreeing to take the stadium over after the Commonwealth games, there was a danger of the games either not happening or being hugely diminished. 

We enabled the Commonwealth Games and the huge boost to the local economy they brought about, we pay rent on the stadium and have partnered massive redevelopment of what was, in reality, a vast and decaying scrap yard.

Success was bought. And United and Liverpool and Chelsea and Arsenal did not do the same? Mr. Timothy should take a look at United’s books for Ferguson’s first six season — they made huge loss after huge loss buying up all the best British players. And then won the league. But didn’t “buy it”?

And not even a mention of what has been some of the most extraordinary football the English game has witnessed, changing the way we play the game right down to lower divisions.

Jeremy Poynton

Mells, Somerset

The new puritans

The Taliban tendency within the Church of England, comprising the heirs of sixteenth and seventeenth century iconoclasts, is egging on those with virtue signalling and vandalistic instincts to seek out and remove gravestones, funerary monuments within churches, and even stained glass windows in which any traces of anything of which they disapprove can be detected. 

This is an appalling prospect, as the damage done to our great heritage of ecclesiastical buildings and monuments during the Henrician, Edwardine, Elizabethan, and Cromwellian periods was colossal, and this new upsurge of puritanical loathing could do enormous harm. We urge all who care about such things to do all they can to stop this philistine madness. 

Professor James Stevens Curl

Dr Geoff Brandwood

Patricia Craig

Michael Hodges

John St Brioc Hooper

Dr Christopher McIntosh

Jeffrey Morgan

Dr Barry A. Orford

Dr John Martin Robinson

Listen to the music 

The clickbait “review” of Yuja Wang (“Spare us the skintight sonata”, November 2021) by Norman Lebrecht is a misogynistic opinion and only strengthens the male gaze on musicians who happen to be women. 

If the tables were turned and it was 1844, we could accuse him of “Lizstomania”, and yet, because it was written of a male pianist back then, the mass hysteria sold tickets and was considered to be a good thing.

It’s clear Mr. Lebrecht cannot keep his sexualized opinions in his pants.

His review is offensive to all musicians of every gender. Classical music needs all the fans and supporters it can get, and this article does nothing to help the cause; it weakens it.

Linda Good

Los Angeles, USA

Address the dress

I loved Norman Lebrecht’s article on Yuja Wang last month but I thought it was disgraceful that after commenting sensitively on her wardrobe he feels the need to stray into discussing her music. 

Why does Lebrecht, who is not Yuja Wang, feel like he has the right to talk about her piano playing abilities? Get back to the clothing please.

David Meadows


Muscular federalism

Perhaps I am slightly more cynical than Henry Hill (“Putting Muscle Behind The Union”, November 2021) when I suggest that Labour’s real motivation behind devolution in Scotland was self interest rather than anything pertaining to the wishes of the people of Scotland. 

It was a “two for one”: 1) set up a new institution in which Labour would have a plurality — if not majority — of the seats, with all the patronage that this might bring; and 2) use this to assuage the anti English voters in Scotland
such that they would continue to return plenty of Labour MPs to Westminster, without which the party might struggle to form a majority.

How things have changed: in 2001, Scottish Labour could boast over 110 MPs or MSPs; today they have just 22 MSPs and a sole MP who clearly has a personal following in Edinburgh South. Arrogantly, they never considered to whom they might lose in Scotland, nor did they anticipate being reduced to third place in their former heartlands. 

However, this hubristic failure in New Labour constitutional policy has major repercussions for all of us in these islands who identify as British. If devolution was advocated on grounds of strengthening the Union, then it has failed categorically: it is now surely time to revisit the settlements across the country. 

My personal preference would be a federal model based on the principle that the UK Government holds consistent and identical powers throughout all of its domain. Anything that is devolved to Edinburgh or Cardiff must therefore in England be devolved to the counties and cities, with these sitting on an equal basis with the devolved assemblies. 

This is surely more equitable that the “four nations” approach that requires the Prime Minister to be both player and referee. There might even be a mechanism by which Scottish or Welsh councils could opt out of the remit of the devolved administrations to be treated in the same manner as top level English councils.

Jonathan Galbraith

Rugby, Warwickshire

Please look up

Had David Starkey taken the irritable moment he spent eyeing Madonna’s “65 year old bottom” (“Wake Up to Reality”, November 2021) more constructively to check out the correct reference details of The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise on
the Sociology of Knowledge
(1966) he would have discovered its authors not
to have been his former LSE boss, Lord Anthony Giddens, but Peter L. Berger
and Thomas Luckmann. 

William Keenan

Wollaton, Nottingham

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