Monday, 15 August 2011


The police stood by and did very little. 

Not by choice, I'm sure, but due to orders from much higher powers, higher even than Scotland Yard, probably within the halls of Westminster Palace. Well, as they were in recess when chaos hit the streets, probably from the shores of various holiday destinations. Rumour has it that if the police had been given permission to deal with the disturbances harshly, as they should have done, then these disturbances would have been declared "riots" officially, leaving the government with a hefty bill and insurance companies breathing a sigh of relief. 

Still, the police stood by and did very little. 

At least the British government can look smugly towards the Middle East and continue to accuse Israel of using disproportionate force again. I mean, any force, when compared to standing idly by must be disproportionate. 

Never mind the fact that countless businesses have been destroyed or damaged, lives have been lost, police officers (and dogs) injured, some seriously, and dozens of families have been left homeless, and with nothing but the shirts on their backs. 

The government can claim that order was restored with minimal intervention and, should the need arise at any time in the future, self-righteously lecture Israel on how to deal with "disturbances". 

Given the choice between disproportionate force and no force at all, one phrase comes to mind: 

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing (Edmund Burke)

Friday, 12 August 2011

On the London riots

I've had an article about the riots in London published on Arutz7's website. Click here for the article in Hebrew.

I'm more accustomed to writing things in English, and translating them into Hebrew, but this time, it's the other way round:

The riots that broke out here in London caught a city unawares. The police force, partially due to experiences from the not-so-distant past (particularly the G-20 demonstrations), was somewhat restrained and loath to deal heavy-handedly with the mobs and potentially prevent some of the events. Many, however, were unsurprised by the ugly scenes of rioting and looting. 

As an Israeli living in London (for now, at least) and working as a paramedic, I often get to meet the weaker, less fortunate parts of society. Not only immigrants who have failed to acclimatise and integrate, but also those whose families have been English since the year dot. Some of them are third, even fourth generation of unemployed, whose every need is catered for by the state. Housing and regular income from unemployment and other benefits prevent many from wanting to find work on a minimal wage, that will not only never suffice, but would also cancel many of the state benefits that they receive. They would be left in a position where they had to work for a living, rather than staying at home and receiving the same level of funding whilst doing nothing at all. 

A trend has developed here of "If I want it, I'll have it," despite the fact that in many cases whatever "it" is, isn't in any way deserved. In the meantime, they have become used to thinking along the lines of "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine too," a characteristic described as evil in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers - a Mishna - ancient Hebrew scripture approximately 2,000 years old). This characteristic is, at least in part, what's responsible for the sights we have seen over the past few days in London and have been broadcast across the world. 

In the meantime, over the past few days, at least in parts of the city, there has been a feeling of being under curfew, of no-go areas, of almost being at war. Shops, banks, restaurants, even the city's famous pubs have all been forced to close their doors in the middle of the afternoon. Business owners have fled their shops in the hope that they will return to find them unharmed, a hope that has been dashed all too often. London is a big city with over eight million people, and despite the fact that the riots didn't spread city-wide but were only in certain specific areas, there was still a feeling of an entire city under siege. 

The Jewish community in London is in a constant state of awareness, more so recently. Even under normal circumstances, every synagogue, every Jewish school and community centre must have its own security personnel posted outside, something unique to the community. The Community Security Trust (CST) works together with the police to assist and advise in communal security needs, and luckily there have been no incidents in the recent riots that specifically targeted any Jewish premises. This, despite the fact that the starting point of the riots in Tottenham, was less than a kilometre away from Stamford Hill, an area heavily populated by mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

As an Israeli, one of the strangest things about the riots was the reversal of what had become a norm over the past years, even decades. Instead of calling home to Israel after, God forbid, a terrorist attack, or checking that a member of the family had returned safely from their reserve duty army service, phone calls were made and messages sent from Israel to London. Families concerned for the safety of their relatives and friends who suddenly found themselves in an all too familiar war-zone, but in an unfamiliar land. 

After almost a week, now that the tempers are starting to calm down, the physical and economic cost can start to be assessed. The Jewish community can return to its normal state of alert and awareness, whilst many others will start to worry that this Western, developed country, where they had until now felt so safe, may be closer to the Wild West than they ever dared to imagine.