Very early on Christmas morning I happened to tune in the BBC World Service. I thought there might be something, perhaps King’s College Choir, or the aptly-named Raniero Cantalamessa in Rome, or perhaps someone musing on the fate of Christians in Iraq, other than that moral idiot and historical nitwit, the current Archbishop of Canterbury.
But that would have been a different BBC. This BBC, the BBC of John Simpson and Judy Swallow and Robin Lustig and Barbara Plett of the ready tear for Arafat, is a very different BBC from that of Huw Weldon. And it lived up to my grim expectations. It did not disappoint.
For on the air was someone telling mournfully about “the Wall.” And of course I knew which wall he was talking about. He did not mean the Wall of John Hersey, not the Great Wall of China, not the wall being built by Saudi Arabia for many hundreds of miles right through the desert, though no one threatens Saudi Arabia or its inhabitants with their total destruction, nor any other wall being built or being contemplated. No, this “wall” was the wall being built by the Israelis, as a modest measure forced upon them out of desperation as a way to prevent homicide bombers from easily entering their cities, to there set themselves off on busses, in restaurants, and at Passover celebrations. And this “wall,” the smooth speaker said, was built right through the usual “uprooted and destroyed” olive groves — a staple of “Palestinian” propaganda, those “uprooted olive groves,” and so important to their propaganda machine that they have been caught uprooting their own olive trees, for the world press to come and cover and bewail.
There was not a hint in this lachrymose tale by this teller of tales of any indication as to why the Israelis might have felt it necessary to build such a wall. There was not a hint of the endless terrorism to which Israel’s Jews have been subject, a terrorism of which only now is the rest of the Infidel world is getting a small taste, and which the people of England will be getting a larger and larger taste. There was not a hint as to whether or not this wall was justified in its building. Nor was there any mention made of the fact that it is being built through territory to which Israel has a very large historic, legal, and moral claim. The drawback of this wall is that it appears to lessen this claim. It appears to recognize, although there is no need to do so, the armistice lines of 1948 rather than those of June 1967 as the ones that must prevail.
And the speaker went on. He went on about the travails of the Christians of Bethlehem, with no hint of understanding that the Christian population of Bethlehem, some 80% of the total in 1948, has gone down and down not when under Israel’s control, but when it has been under the control of the Arabs. Never has the situation been more grave than now, under the “Palestinian Authority.” Local Christians seldom speak out. They are fearful. The Christian Arab strategy, long ago internalized, has been to never complain, and always to parrot the Muslim line, to do the bidding of the Muslims, to be good “Palestinians” always, and therefore always, even when it is absurd and seen by all sensible people to be absurd, to blame — with no evidence and no logic — the Israelis, that is, the Jews. To swallow this, one would have to ignore the entire history of Islam, the history of conquest and subjugation of Christians in wide areas of the Middle East and North Africa, and what became of those Christians, and what are the rules, set down clearly in the Shari’a, for the treatment of Christians as dhimmis. The speaker apparently thought he did not have to take note of that. He was under no obligation, he must have thought, to have read or at least to know the contents of The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam or a thousand other possible articles and books that formed the basis for that magisterial study of a major subject in world history. None of that mattered. He longed to go back, to go back one day to see the “Christians of Bethlehem” unoccupied (but they haven’t been “occupied” — even if one were to accept that meretricious and inaccurate word, which I do not — for more than ten years, but have been under the total control of the “Palestinian Authority”).
One longed to ask him what he thought would have happened to the “Christians of Bethlehem” if the Israelis had had the intelligence to insist on retaining Bethlehem as part of Israel, and never surrendered it to the “Palestinian Authority.” He could look around at how the Arab Christians have fared in what is Israel, Israel diminished, Israel dimidiated within the 1949 armistice lines (the Arabs refused to recognize them, as they were once offered, as permanent borders; that offer does not remain open forever, to be accepted whenever the Arabs feel like it).
Well, how have they fared?
Can they worship freely? Are they subject to harassment, persecution, even murder as the Christians of Gaza and the West Bank have been, despite their best efforts to further the “Palestinian” cause? Does this speaker know about this? Does he think it relevant to his teary tale?
And who was this speaker, anyway? I waited to the end, enduring the nonsense of it all just to find out. It turned out to be William Dalrymple. Ah, of course. William Dalrymple, described here long ago, quite accurately, as an up-market Barbara Cartland, whose tales of trans-racial passion at the Mughal Court, or at this or that princely court in the time of the Mughals, has it all: star-crossed lovers, and of course the Splendor That Was India, or rather the India of the Muslim rulers who lived off of their Hindu subjects, the subjects who were killed by the Muslims in numbers without any historical parallel. (The historian K. S. Lal and others estimate that 60-70 million Hindus were killed by the Muslim conquerors and masters). Now a love of luxe, and of luxe combined with heaving breasts, is the kind of thing that the Barbara-Cartlands of this world love, including even the plausible sort who put in a bit more history and a little less of the Romance-novelette lord or duke or Arab prince (see “The Sheik”), who picks up the girl in her swoon at the very end (the promise of sex has always been just beyond what Nabokov calls “the skyline of the page”) — that is, William Dalrymple. He’s as vulgar and stupid as they come, behind the plummy voice and the pretense of being a historian.
And what is funniest about the Dalrymples and their admirers is that these are the same people who find nothing wrong with the late Edward Said’s complaint about Jane Austen in Mansfield Park, the complaint that she does not specify that a main character lives off his revenues from his West Indian plantation, a plantation with slaves.
But here is Dalrymple singing the tale of Mughal India, and its luxe and volupte if not its calme, all of it based on the ruthless enslavement and oppression of the Hindu masses by their cruel Muslim masters. (Of course, there were a few exceptions, such as syncretistic Akbar, his memory revered by Hindus for his temporarily lifting the Jizyah, and his memory despised by the Muslims, for his softness toward Hindus.)
If anyone should be complained about, it is not that subtle miniaturist Jane Austen, who after all was not singing the praises of slaveowning in the West Indies, whereas William Dalrymple has written endlessly about, made his heaving-breast passionate high-toned nonsense out of, nothing but a slave-state.
With his marks — so inapposite, and yet so typical of the current BBC with its current management and current personnel — on the hideous Israelis and the woes of the “Palestinian” Christians, William Dalrymple simply showed he was all of a piece. His love-affair with the Muslims of India, his love affair with the Muslim Arabs, his complete indifference to the plight of the Jews in Israel trying, desperately, simply to defend themselves against terrorists and doing the absolute minimum they can — all this goes together. What does Dalrymple think any other country — Great Britain for example — would do if it faced the same kind of endless torment and threats and attempts on the lives of its citizens and of the state, that Israel does as it confronts what it has so far failed to name, and even to recognize, as a Lesser Jihad?
He, William Dalrymple, singer of The Wonder of Mughal India, so far coheres. He coheres, and he nauseates.