I was first pleased that Kevin Higgins had been given free space to advertise his commercial course on the Voices Israel Group of Poets in English Facebook page as I reflected that those who run the page believe, like me, that they should support all writing. This is about the fraternity of artist(e)s, after all.
However, I believe further that Higgins, who also promotes new writers’ work, has abused our Israeli hospitality by penning a viciously anti-Israel diatribe on his blog, Mentioning the War.
Discussing the recent furore about the the Tricycle Theatre, London and the UK Jewish Film Festival’s funding from the Israel Embassy in London, Higgins writes, inter alia:
“ … it's a pity the State of Israel was ever set up. Surely it would have been better if a state containing both Arabs and Jews had emerged post-1948 in what had been the British run mandated territory of Palestine? Things could hardly have turned out very much worse than they have. The Holocaust may have made Israel inevitable; it was the decisive event in moving the Zionist dream of a Jewish state from the margins to the mainstream. Nevertheless, the Holocaust does not justify even one Arab family being ethnically cleansed, and forced into exile, though it is of course crucial to the context in which such things happened”.
He continues in this vein on and off at some length, somehow comparing the Israel-Arab conflict, not only with the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland but also the recent attempts by barbaric ISIS terrorists to assume control of vast areas of the Middle East uncomfortably close to Israel.
Since I first wrote the above, Wendy Blumfield of Voices Israel has confirmed that the “Voices website is not a forum for any political material whatsoever”.
Whatever my views, perhaps senior V.I. members will debate the wisdom of offering free space to someone whose politics are wholly antithetical to those of its members.
Meanwhile, as I had sent Higgins a link to this post as it first appeared, he responded, making light of the argument, writing that I “rather amusingly” accused him of “‘penning a viciously anti-Israel diatribe’. Hilarious world we live in”.
I don’t share his sense of humour and replied thus (slightly edited here):
“Obviously, Mr Higgins, your idea of humour is different from mine. Today you've asked me to be your F.B. 'friend'. I don't think that's likely to happen as if it were down to you, I'd no longer be living where I do in Karmiel, Galilee, surrounded by middle-class Arab neighbours who use all the same facilities as me. Your humour extends even to expecting the Voices Israel group of English speaking poets to offer you free advertising for your online writing course. If you knew anything about Jewish culture you'd call that 'chutzpah' - the Yiddishised Hebrew word for brazen audacity. (How) would you feel if someone were to suggest wiping either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland off the map? Where, perchance, would you plan on going to settle?”
Higgins feels that I misinterpreted his purpose so I have re-read his original piece. O.K., he does not approve of cultural boycotts. Nor should any real artist(e). But this is insufficient to sway me of his righteous intent as the gross bad-mouthing far outweighs anything that is good. There is nothing he has written there that could otherwise persuade me.
When I established PerfectlyWritePoetry some months ago, I had hoped to encourage other people to contribute either their own verse or essays about poetry. Politics were not supposed to intrude. Now they have and I feel very sad.
No wonder I have a pathological and fearful hatred of Thursday. It has always been a horrible day.
So I conclude most wearily with David Bowie’s
“All of my life I've tried so hard
Doing my best with what I had
Nothing much happened all the same
Something about me stood apart
A whisper of hope that seemed to fail
Maybe I'm born right out of my time
Breaking my life in two
”Throw me tomorrow
Now that I've really got a chance
Throw me tomorrow
Everything's falling into place
Throw me tomorrow
Seeing my past to let it go
Throw me tomorrow
Only for you I don't regret
That I was Thursday's child
“Sometimes I cried my heart to sleep
Shuffling days and lonesome nights
Sometimes my courage fell to my feet
“Lucky old sun is in my sky
Nothing prepared me for your smile
Lighting the darkness of my soul
Innocence in your arms”
© Natalie Wood (21 / 22 August 2014)