Whose private hatred is it anyway?

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The Independent Online

"What in God's name is that ?" said the major.

"What in God's name is that ?" said the major.

From where he was standing at the bar, he could see the pub TV set better than anyone else.

What the major was looking at was a city scene with smoke and rubble and all the usual accoutrements of war.

"It's a new programme," said the man with the dog. "It's called City Makeover. The Americans go in with their tanks and guns, and shells, and bugger a place up, and then ask the inhabitants if they like the new way they've decorated it."

"Is that a fact?" said the major.

"Not exactly," said the man with the dog.

"It's not that far off, though," said the resident Welshman. "We're looking at Baghdad now, but last time round it was Kabul, and then before that it was Bosnia, and they all looked much the same on TV, and it's all pretty grim."

"The only place they've made a special effort," said the man with the dog," is Jerusalem, with the Israelis putting up this amazing new wall. Oh yes, people criticise it because it's destroying Palestinian communities, but seen purely as an art installation it's pretty stunning."

The lady with the red hairdo shifted uneasily in her seat. "I'm not sure you're allowed to say that, are you?" she said. "If we make fun of the Israelis, aren't we being anti-Semitic or something?'

"All you have to remember," said the resident Welshman, "is that the Jews are a special case. For one thing, they are God's chosen people. For the same sort of reason, prejudice against the Jews is also special. Any other kind of prejudice is said to be a phobia of some kind. Francophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia and so on, as if we feared all those people. But prejudice against Jews is not called Judophobia. It's specifically called anti-Semitism, as if hatred, not fear, was involved. I guess it's a name invented by Jews to make it special."

The lady with the red hairdo shivered. "I don't like this sort of talk. I feel we're infringing on other people's private quarrels and hatreds," she said.

"Is there no section of the community against whom you feel unreasoning hatred?"

"No!" she said, angrily.

"Come, come," said the Welshman. "With my own ears in this very pub, I have heard you inveigh against Londoners. And tourists. And Americans. And Germans. And hunt saboteurs. And football supporters ..."

"Well, that's different," said the red lady. "They're all horrible."

There was a roar of laughter.

"The only reason I put up with all your prejudices, madam," said the Welshman, "is that for some strange reason you have never shown any animosity to the Welsh. I appreciate that. Coming, as I do, from Cardiff, I have known terrible hatred and ignorant prejudice levelled against me."

"By whom?" said the man with the dog.

"By the people of North Wales," he said, and we all laughed, even if we weren't quite sure why.

"And yet you might do well to be prejudiced against me," he said. "We Welsh used to occupy the whole of England. After the Romans had left, we were driven out by you invading Anglo-Saxons, and forced to live in the rainy mountains and valleys to the west. Has it never occurred to you we might one day want our homeland back again? Perhaps I am the advance guard of a Welsh army, sent to spy out the land."

There was an awkward silence.

"I'm joking, of course," he said. "And anyway, as the Welsh aren't as good at PR as the Jews, there isn't even a word for anti-Welsh feeling. No such thing as Gallophobia. So we can't really talk about it."

So we didn't, and talked about the horror of the approaching party conference season instead.

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