HOWARD EPSTEIN: WHERE HAVE ALL THE POPPIES GONE?
So comforting when you realise how little some things change! The arrogance and chauvinism of the French, for example. In the very week that EU trade commissioner, Mario Monti, proposes that after the UK leaves the EU, the latter should adopt the language of the former, the better to negotiate with the rest of the world, M. le Président de la Belle France, Emmanuel Macron struts around Africa urging that the world become Francophone – starting in Africa. (A flowery language French. The unlovely English is so much more serious and business-like, as Mario Monti appreciates.)
Trafalgar, Emmanuel. The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. That’s what determined that the lingua franca of the entire world would be English. That and Waterloo (1815), another embarrassing defeat of the French at the hand of the English. Oh, and America – and of course the Internet – have had an influence, if one is going to be generous to the Brits’ former colonies. As one should be, since they must surely by now, as an escape from a broken political and fiscal system, be planning an application to join the British Commonwealth, along with Zimbabwe. Now the latter has replaced a blood-thirsty premier with, err, another one (actually the unloved nonagenarian’s Mugabe’s chief enforcer) – in Zimbabwe, it’s a case of tout ça change, tout ça la même chose (as a gratuitous linguistic genuflection in the direction of Paris) – they wish to build bridges with the UK, even as it is derided for going it alone out of Europe. One is sure that there would be a warm welcome for the USA, too, should it feel the need for a spot of back to the future.
In any event, it is odd that Macron should start his campaign – for more French to be spoken – in Africa of all places, given that a small majority of young Africans are hoping to pitch up in Europe and a large minority, in the fullness of time, will. A better place to start would surely have been Canada, where the Quebecoise would seem to need all the help they can get to roll back English. It has been almost 250 years since the British roiled the French in Canada and in all that time the most beautiful language in Europe (apart from Monti’s infinitely more beautiful Italian, of course) has made no headway whatsoever in North America.
It is unclear whether Congresswoman, Michelle Bachmann, did or did not say: “If English was good enough for Jesus when he wrote the Bible, it should be good enough for Coke”. Whatever the truth, she did not suggest that the Son of God used French, and it is obvious that she did not know that Jesus (being Jewish) spoke Aramaic. Even now, we Jews use the language with which Christ was familiar. On Seder night, the passage that is translated as “This is the bread of affliction….” is straight from Aramaic – as is the Ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract.
How many of our Christian neighbours know about, or are interested, in that, one wonders. There is so much more that unites us than divides us (especially since the Catholic Church, in 2011, was good enough to exonerate the Jews for the death of Jesus), it is sad that Christian Europe has so much Jewish blood on its hands and in its soil.
What one wants to know is: when it will end? Europe today is much more concerned to do business with Iran (facilitated by Barak Obama) than to tell it that Israel is a democratic country, like those of the EU, and, within three generations of the Shoah, Europe could not in all conscience continue to do business with those who want to succeed where Hitler failed for much longer, so would Iran please rethink its foreign policy, for if it ends in tears for the Jews (or the Iranians), it almost certainly will for Europe, too.
Some hopes! That is what Europe should have been telling the Palestinians these past fifty years, whilst they were developing street terrorism at the expense of the Jews – in blood – and at the expense of Europe – in silver. The Europeans did not, of course, and now it has come to haunt them in their streets, too. President Macron should note, when he redirects his energies from his language vanity project: the French indulged the Palestinians more than any other nation and it is the French that have suffered the most so far. Sunni street terrorism has progressed from Jerusalem most especially to Paris; and the Europeans, led by the French at each point, are reaping the whirlwind that they sowed. Expect to see them make the same mistakes with Iran, too.
Within a month after another Armistice Day, 11 November, when the British remember their war dead of two world wars, and when they proudly wear the symbolic poppy, redolent of the killing fields of northern France, we are forced to ask: When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
© Howard Epstein – December 2017
The author’s book, Israel at Seventy: In Weizmann’s Image is available now from Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle e-book
As Israel reaches its seventieth birthday next May, it is timely to consider the story of its indispensable founder, Chaim Weizmann. Statesman and scientist, it was Weizmann who saved the British Empire from defeat in World War I, kindled the hope for the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, after an absence of 2,000 years, and was then instrumental in securing what was needed to establish the State of Israel and its future as a technological powerhouse. Weizmann may be said to be the world’s first 20th century – even 21st century – man. If any aspects of modern life became supremely important last century, and remain so in this, they are science & technology and networking. Weizmann’s chemistry, both in the laboratory and with a wide-range of key people, led to his four great political coups, each essential to the emergence of the State of Israel. In addition, he pulled off three crucial educational feats that secured Israel’s future and ensured its success – in his image. In the case of the political achievements, only Weizmann could have wrought them. In the case of the others, only he did. Despite these signature successes, today little is known of him and what he achieved. Why this should be so is revealed in a tale of rivalry between two political giants: Weizmann, the greater talent, but the older, and his nemesis, David Ben-Gurion.
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Amazon UK – Kindle E-Book