Robert Fisk: Some people will do anything to avoid blame

 

Share
Related Topics

I am no happy reader of Canada's National Post, but am driven to report to you that a recent graph in the paper suggests that "the term 'Palestinian' became popularised as a marker of identity after the Six Day War of 1967".

Since Jordan had long ago annexed the Arab West Bank and since Israeli prime minister Golda Meir once claimed that Palestinians did not exist, I guess that makes sense. But it does seem a bit much that we get to recognise a Middle Eastern people only when the victims have been occupied by someone else's army. After all, we recognised the French for centuries before the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. And while it might be said that the Goths, Ostrogoths and Visigoths didn't get much of a look-in until the Romans invaded Germania, no one in Italy doubted that Gauls existed before Vercingetorix.

But wait. The National Post, another journalistic flagship for the Israeli state in a foreign land, doesn't quite say what it appears to say.

The term Palestinian, you will notice, wasn't "recognised" after 1967. It was "popularised". And it was "popularised" not as a "national identity" but as a "marker of identity". This may be due to the ignorance of what is to be found on Google (whence the paper appears to have sucked this tosh) or to its own gutlessness. But you get the point. After 1967, the Palestinians came to be "popularised" as Palestinians in the same way, I suppose, as Walt Disney "popularised" Mickey Mouse. Of course, being "popularised" didn't make him real. It's a new way of using language – not to manipulate in order to lie, but to hide behind it in order to avoid personal responsibility or say things which may provoke others to call you racist, anti-Semitic, uncultured or, an old favourite of mine, "pre-judgemental".

Indeed, as your Middle East correspondent swoops around the world, trying to write reports in decent English, I bring you other bad news from the snowy wastes of urban Canada. I have, for example, just opened my copy of the Toronto Star to discover how a city police officer – a certain Detective Paul Lentsch, whose name must surely now become indispensable to all semanticists – wanted to express his feelings about a probable arson attack. A resident of the burnt-out building, the paper suggested, may have been involved in contract killings in the US. But here comes Detective Lentsch's arrival in linguistic history. "We've put a lot of time into this house this month," he announced. "It's concerning." It's what? Let's have that again. IT'S CONCERNING. Well, blow me down. I always thought to "concern" was a transitive verb that took a plain old-fashioned object. But what is the object here? "It" – ie the burnt-out house – or the reader who perhaps should be "concerned"? But certainly not Detective Lentsch. If he had any feelings on the matter, he would surely have said "I am concerned", although even that might be regarded as a somewhat mild reaction to an arson attack. But nope, our favourite detective simply didn't want to express a personal opinion about crime.

Same goes, incredibly, for the Toronto Star's music critic when it comes to, well, music. Murray Perahia's performance of Brahms's piano music on CD is greeted by critic John Terauds with these words: "Veteran American pianist Murray Perahia compels with crisp, purposeful playing." Yes, but what is he "compelling", for God's sake? Again, to "compel" is a transitive verb. It needs an object. Is it us who are "compelled"? Or Mr Terauds? More likely, Mr Terauds doesn't want to commit himself. No personal views please.

And since corrupted English travels west to east across the Atlantic, let's take a look at the Quebec government's "family minister" Yolande James, who has just banned religious instruction in child daycare centres. Christmas trees are OK, even nativity scenes – providing the kids aren't told the identity of the baby in the manger. Bing Crosby is OK. "Silent Night" is not. Canadian Jews and Muslims are equally offended.

But hark to Ms James's message. "All questions touching the transmission (sic) of faith – that is, teaching religion itself – do not belong (sic) within the publicly funded daycare system."

Ho hum. Religion, it seems, is something that can be passed on, caught, a disease that might infect others. The transmission of Aids, for example, certainly doesn't belong to daycare centres. But religion? And note the "belong". This "transmission" cannot "belong" because it might become a part of school. Culture's great. God's out. But I loved the fact that Ms James was so conscious of her own gobbledegook that she had to explain that "transmission of faith" actually meant "teaching religion". Call Detective Lentsch at once.

But there's no stopping this stuff. Prince Edward Island, hitherto a quiet Canadian Atlantic province, was described in a 1999 government report as suffering from "a strong cultural norm of 'sameness'". Down, readers, down, I know how you feel. Those Canadians in PEI were all bloody whities, weren't they? Wretched descendants of Anglo-Scots-Irish ancestry. But relax, all is OK. Because now, according to Kathy Hambly, director of a local chamber of commerce, "every street you walk down offers a different ethnic experience". The key words, of course, are "street" and "experience". Immigrants tend to settle in areas together – streets rather than homes – while their presence gives us an "experience", something culturally good, no doubt.

I am a strong supporter of Canada's multi-ethnic society. What gets me is the happy-clappy way in which these government apparatchiks force their multiculturalism on the world at the cost of destroying the English language.

I shall end with the worst of all recent linguistic crimes. My old letter-writing chum Max Pieper brings to my attention the outrageous attempt by a liberal Jewish writer, Ilan Gur-Ze'ev to diminish the importance of the Jewish Holocaust in order to explain Palestinian suffering. I give you this key paragraph – do not ask me to explain this, for I have no idea what it means – as an example:

"The Holocaust is not merely a historical episode. It is first and foremost an expression of the fundamental histories of experience taking place in the dialectic between Eros and Thanatos, which we duplicate in an ecstasy that has been domesticated to a state of smug 'normality'."

O reader, this does not compel. But call Detective Lentsch. It's concerning.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Team Leader

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for a Compa...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for a Compa...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an innovative a...

Recruitment Genius: Production Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Production Technician is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September  

Let’s face it, our free museums subsidise tourists

David Lister
Madonna about to take a tumble at the Brit Awards 2015  

Making fun of Madonna for daring to look good in middle age merely shows how envious we are

Janet Street-Porter
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower